The founding of what used to be known as the Methodist Laymen’s Association coincided with the election and induction of the Rev. Gaddiel R. Acquaah in 1949 into as the First African Chairman and General Superintendent of the Gold Coast-District of the British Methodist Conference.
Before then the Synod of 1948 had appointed a commission under the chairman of the Rev. M. B. Taylor (Chairman and General Superintendent of the District) to investigate all aspects and problems of the church’s life, and offer recommendations on how it could be improved. The tittle of the report was “I will build my Church”. The report was a motivation to Synod to fight for the autonomy of the Methodist Church in the Gold Coast from the British Conference. It was therefore no accident that Brothers I. K. Agyeman M.B.E., J.C. de Graft Johnson, S.H. Amissah O.B.E, K.G.B. who were also members of the M. B. Taylor Commission met to consider forming an Association that brought together lay people of the church.
Those who helped to nurture the new association included Brethren: A. Crakye Denteh, A. E. Chinbuah, J. S. Annan, J. B. Odunton, Henry Mills Robertson and Sophia Moore, all of blessed memory.
Originally the Association’s main objective was to help better the living standards of superannuated ministers. A fund was to be set up to cater for retired ministers who were left on their own after superannuation, having spent the productive part of their lives in the service of the Church. The lay in this regard, showed concern for the plight of the Clergy in particular, but also for the church as a whole. The concern of the laity also included how to spearhead evangelism and also promote the concept of the autonomy of the Church from the British Conference.
Laymen from the very inception of the Methodist Mission had made diverse personal sacrifices. In the late 1890’s for instance, when there were scarcely any funds to pay salaries of tutors of Mfantsipim School, John Mensah Sarbah single-handedly offered to recruit teachers whose salaries he paid for nearly six years.
Mensah Sarbah also donated his own harmonium Organ to the school for purposes of school worship. He sacrificed his resources, time and talents in the service of the church’s development and programmes. Then, William Sey (Kwaa Bonyi) bought the Kwabotwe land which he gave to the church for the establishment of the Mfantsipim School.
The 1955 Sekondi Synod was an epoch making one. Members of the just six years old Laymen’s Association attended as observers to support Synod in her programme for evangelistic outreach to the Northern Region. I recall some of the individual members including the following women who were all products of Wesley Girls’ High School: Mrs. Margret Amissah, Mrs. Grace Bart Addisson, Mrs. Jane Gaisie, Mrs. Carlis Paitoo, Lady Charlotte Quarshie-Idun M.B.E. and Miss. Comfort Peregrino Aryea M.B.E., an old girl of Accra Methodist High School; the others were Mrs. Gladys Dagadu and Sister Jane Noom. The men and women of the Laymen’s Association met at the Methodist School, Sekondi. They returned to the Representative Session of Synod with a resolution to the affect that, “If any African Minister would offer as a Missionary to the North, the lay would also contribute funds to support him”. The Rev. Paul Adu who had been transferred to Tamale from Agona Swedru was moved further northwest to Wa, to start pioneering work. The Rev. Adu Badu from the Akyenakrom Circuit in Ashanti took his (Paul Adu’s) place in Tamale.
When the resolution was carried the Representative Session of Synod was instantly turned into a fund-raising congregation. Bro. Emmanuel Kusie from Sunyani Circuit offered Ten Guineas (about thirty Ghana cedis) in cash immediately. One missionary (anonymous) donated Ten Guineas, while another Layman promised sixty thousand pounds a year for five years. Rev. K. R. Kedward promised to give one pound for every two pounds raised locally to a maximum of thousand pounds subscription.
Furthermore, the following laymen voluntarily constituted themselves leaders for fund-raising committees in the premier circuit of the District in support of the Northern Mission. Sekondi - A.E. Chinbuah, Cape Coast - Paa Kwamena Awotwe (circuit steward), Accra-Comfort Peregrino Aryea and Kumasi - Paa I.K. Agyeman. By God’s grace some of us have joyfully lived to tell the story of how the Laymen’s Association of old, rose up to the occasion of supporting financially, the church’s outreach programme to the North.
The stated function of the Association included the following:
1. To develop and promote programmes that will help cultivate and adequate understanding of the Bible and the life and work of the laity.
2. To respect the independence, objectives and freedom of operation of each organization.
3. To provide support and direction for the work of the adult, young people and inter-generational organizations.
4. To coordinate and report on all organizations of the church at all levels.
5. To develop and promote stewardship of time, talents, and resources of members of the church.
6. To endeavor to investigate, mediate or resolve disputes that may arise among organizations within the church, and also between church members and ministers.
7. To develop and promote training programmes and activities to cater for the welfare of the members of the church and ministers.
8. To complement, but not to compete with the Leaders’ Meeting in all aspects of work in the church.
9. To whip up the commitment of church members towards development.
10. To promote a healthy relationship between church and state.
11. To identify potential human resources in the church, and help in training and developing such resources.
12. To support the church in its quest for development programmes.
IMPACT AND ACHIEVEMENTS
In addition to other achievements, the Connexional Lay Movement has built a great edifice “The Alpharoyal Hostel” at the Methodist University Campus, Accra, to reflect the untiring efforts and sacrifice of the lay, both dead and alive.
SLOGAN OF THE CHURCH
“I will build my church”, which is the tittle of the Maurice B. Taylor Commission Report, as mentioned above.
The Lay Movement Anthem is sung by all congregations at divine worship. The lyrics are as follow:
I will build mu Church
With all my mind and strength
Wherein Thy honour dwells
To glorify Thy name.
With a right good will
And a right good heart
I will build my Church.
(by E. C. Bilson)
The Lay Movement