The life of an evangelical community is closely linked to its “past” and to the re-discovery of its own “mission”.
The “past” of the Milanese Methodists is in the labours of the people who saw in our city a centre for the spread of the gospel and recognised the struggle for the unification of Italy as the chance for a great revolution for religious freedom. In fact, the first evangelical church service was held in Milan in 1859. It was attended by members of the humble social classes and by personalities of the Milanese independence movement, persons who had fought on the barricades of the famous “Five Days” (free of foreign rule).
This church’s “mission” has been that of enabling everyone, without distinction, to grow in freedom (as in the literacy schools) and, through the preaching of the gospel, to be freed of the subjection to what was then called “clerical superstition”. This “mission” became deeply rooted in the life of the city of Milan along two different but not mutually exclusive lines:
1) relations with “anti-fascist” Italian culture, maintained extremely competently by personalities of some account (as in the relations of the Methodists of the church in Via Cesare Correnti with Lelio Basso and with the YWCA/UCDG, a women’s lay and ecumenical organisation still active in Italy);
2) relations with the disadvantaged classes of the city through simple structures to offer a real service (such as the “Mutual Aid Societies” and the fight against prostitution). These “roots” are still present. In fact, the Methodist Church today is strongly involved in “cultural” projects both within the Protestant Cultural Centre of Milan (of which it is a founding member) and with its own programmes. It is also committed to helping immigrants from outside the European Community, through the “Diaconia” Evangelical Association (that runs a shelter in Via Ampola), and the children of Croatia through a programme to support family fostering for young victims of conflicts.
The present building of the Methodist Church of Milan was opened on Sunday, the 4th March 1973, in Via Porro Lambertenghi, moving from the historic church sites in Via Cesare Correnti and Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi. What did this change of site entail? At the time, the Methodist Church’s monthly newsletter, Voce Metodista (“The Methodist Voice”), wrote: “The Community is moving from relatively central sites to a decidedly peripheral site, into a quarter with different problems from those of the centre, and where its presence must adopt a style of witness and evangelical service such as will enable it to become a lively part of a lively quarter… This Community proposes to operate and be present… as a participant offering its concrete contribution to solving local problems.”
Commitment to service to free the marginalised from every type of servitude: that is how this church intends to operate. Today this church is multi-cultural and multi-ethnic because within it there is an English-speaking evangelical group (mostly Philipinos and Ghanaians).