There were Methodists in the first party of freed slaves from Nova Scotia which landed in Freetown in 1792. Melvill Horne served briefly as chaplain to the Sierra Leone Company at Freetown in 1792-1793 and in 1796 Thomas Coke organized a mission to the Fula people of the interior which proved abortive. But the settlers' pleas for missionaries were at first unavailing. The Company failed in 1807, and it was not until 1811, after Sierra Leone had become a Crown Colony in 1808, that a fresh start was made. George Warren died within months, but the work survived. Disputes between the Freetown congregations and with missionaries led to a period of fragmentation from 1821, as a result of which several different kinds of Methodist Church were still in being in the Freetown area at the end of the twentieth century.
In 1896 the hinterland was proclaimed a Protectorate and Methodist work among the Mende and Kissi people gradually developed. Colony and Protectorate became an independent nation in 1961 and in 1967 the Sierra Leone District became an autonomous Conference, with extensive educational, medical and agricultural work. In the civil strife and turmoil of the 1990s many congregations were dispersed and the Church struggled to care for refugees in Guinea and displaced people in Freetown and Segbwema, where the Nixon Memorial Hospital continued its ministry in spite of repeated looting. In 1956 there was a reported membership of 9,500 with a community roll of 15,000. By 2002 these totals had risen, according to the World Methodist Handbook, to 38,758 and 2,100,000 respectively - figures that must clearly be treated with circumspection.
Entry written by: JRP
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