The Scottish Episcopal Church Mission Association was formed in 1875, at the behest of the Board of Foreign Missions, who resolved that
“….a Ladies’ Committee should be formed in connection with the Board for the purpose of obtaining funds and circulating information through Diocesan and Congregational Ladies’ Committees, and for the purpose of forming and aiding Working Parties.”
Since then the organisation has changed name twice.
Initially formed as the Church Women’s Association, we became the Christian Women’s Missionary Association in 1922.
In 1987 the name changed to the one in current use – the Scottish Episcopal Church Mission Association, and at the same time men were admitted to membership for the first time, although we had stalwart male supporters for some time before that.
Other things have hardly changed at all since 1875. We still have a system of having 14 Diocesan Representatives and Correspondents, two from each of the 7 dioceses of the Scottish Episcopal Church, although these are now augmented by an Honorary Treasurer and a Provincial Secretary. These together form our decision-making body, the Central Committee.
Then as now, the Diocesan Representatives and Correspondents are supported by a network of Church Correspondents.
When the charity started, the main activity was running work parties.
These work parties produced garments to help “clothe the naked”. The local people served by the missions in Africa wore their traditional dress of skins, but, when offered an alternative they apparently found tweed skirts to be a very acceptable. The work parties also raised funds to help to purchase any necessary items requested by the priest on the site; woollen socks, vestments, altar linen, hymn books, newspapers, magic lanterns (the ancestor of the slide projector) etc.
In 1875, the Scottish Episcopal Church restricted itself to three fields of mission, and so the Scottish Episcopal Church Mission Association did likewise:-
- The Diocese of St John’s, Kaffraria, South Africa
- Chandra Mission, near Nagpur in South India
- British Columbia.
The output from the working parties was sewn into large canvas bales and sent by sea, and finally up the river by boat to the mission.
This way of doing things lasted until the advent of WWII, when, with materials scarce and shipping very uncertain, the work parties ceased. Even at the end of the war, it was impossible to restart the work parties. Cloth and wool was still rationed and in some cases, our previous missions were now better supplied than the UK.
The focus changed to fundraising, and gradually SECMA’s outlook widened to include all countries where there is need.