The Metropolitan Lay Mission, operating in London, gained official status in 1871 when its Rules and Regulations were approved by the WM Conference. The first secretaries were the Rev. John Burgess and Mr. T.B. Smithies. Burgess at a Breakfast Meeting in 1873 declared the Mission to be ‘the most powerful anti-Popish agency among the poor, describing its purpose as ‘to reach those whom the ordinary agencies could not reach’. Lay missionaries were employed to visit from house to house, to preach in mission halls and in the open air, and to distribute tracts and copies of the Scriptures, with special attention to the sick and dying. Deaconesses also engaged in house-to-house visitation, held mothers’ meetings and Bible classes and nursed the sick, which was seen as a particularly effective way of reaching the most destitute and disadvantaged. By 1875 nine lay missionaries, fourteen deaconesses and over six hundred volunteer workers were reported as being involved.
A similar Manchester and Salford Wesley Lay Home-Mission, based on Oldham Street chapel, was officially approved in 1873, with ten Districts worked by eight Lay Agents. Open air services, prayer meetings, cottage meetings and visitation were accompanied by mothers’ meetings, girls’ sewing classes and the distribution of tracts. Many conversions and increased membership were reported.
Both Lay Missions came under the aegis of the Home Mission and Contingent Fund.
'The importance of nursing in connexion with mission work could scarcely be understood by those who had not had some experience of it. One of their deaconesses was appointed to a very destitute part of London, where there were not more than five or six houses to which she [at] first had access; she nursed a sick person in a very dangerous illness, and the moral effect of that act was so great that now five hundred houses were open to her, and she had about eighty members at her mothers' meeting.'
Rev. John Burgess, quoted in Bradfield, Life of Thomas Bowman Stephenson (1913) p.174