Methodist Central Hall Westminster marks 75 years of the UN

On the 10th January 1946, in a world convalescing from the horrors of a World War, the inaugural meeting of the United Nations General Assembly took place at Methodist Central Hall Westminster (MCHW). This Sunday, 10th January 2021, 75 years later, MCHW's congregation will be praying for, and celebrating the UN's work in its online service.


Revd Tony Miles, Superintendent Minister and Team Leader, said, 'Unscathed by the war, MCHW was the ideal choice to host the UN's General Assembly. The Trustees at the time, however, had to be persuaded by Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin and others that “there could be no better place than a House of God, with the atmosphere of prayer already there”. The Revd Dr. William Sangster and his congregation vacated the premises to worship at the Victoria Palace and then the London Coliseum.  On 26th May 1946, Prime Minister Clement Attlee, and Dr Sangster unveiled a plaque at MCHW to mark the UN's first meeting, which was on Methodist premises.'


Mr Miles will lead the service, ‘live-streamed’ at mchw.live & on YouTube at 11am this Sunday.  The broadcast will be available to watch on catch-up, ‘on-demand’ via mchw.live on Sunday afternoon. The service will include a message from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, and contributions from the President of the Methodist Conference, Revd Richard Teal; Fabrizio Hochschild-Drummond, (Special Advisor to the UN General-Secretary); Sir Peter Marshall, (Former British diplomat) and David Wardrop, (Chair of the Westminster branch of the United Nations Association). There will also be a message from peace-keeping troops currently serving in Mali, West Africa. Revd Lansford Penn-Timity, Deputy Superintendent, will be the preacher, and Deacon Ali McMillan will lead prayers.


In his address to the 75th-anniversary meeting of the General Assembly, António Guterres said, 'The ideals of the Organisation — Peace, justice, equality and dignity — are beacons to a better world. It took two world wars, millions of deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust for leaders to commit to international cooperation and the rule of law. "That commitment produced results," he assured. A third world war — which so many had feared — has been avoided. And never in modern history has the world gone so many years without a military confrontation between the major powers. "This is a great achievement of which Member States can be proud — and which we must all strive to preserve."


President of the Methodist Conference, Revd Richard Teal, said, 'The Methodist Church considers it a great honour to have been able to help facilitate the beginnings of the United Nations by making the Great Hall available in 1946. On behalf of the Methodist Church, I express gratitude for the United Nations' vital work since its inception. We pray for all peacemakers, and may all who serve the UN's objects, be sustained and enabled.’


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1. Methodist Central Hall is a global Christian family following Jesus at the heart of London. With members from over 35 national groupings the church has been based in its historic building since 1912.


2. The trustees of the church were initially against the idea of moving out of their building to allow the UN in. But the British Foreign Secretary and others convinced them ‘there could be no better place than a House of God with the atmosphere of prayer already there,’ for the event.


3. The Great Hall was redecorated, the seating removed, carpets laid and translation booths installed. Tables 40 feet long were put in place for the delegations of the 51 nations attending. (2) A fifth chandelier was suspended from the dome to help the work of the many photographers present. Indeed, 800 journalists covered the proceedings, marginally outnumbering the delegates. (3) It was the first international conference to be broadcast globally and covered by television, then in its infancy.


4. Celebrations marking the 50th, 60th and 70th anniversaries have been held in the building with each serving Secretary General addressing the Great Hall. Celebrations marking the 75th anniversary have had to be held virtually or postponed.