Glasgow City Mission: Pioneer of the Urban Rescue Movement

In 1826, David Nasmith, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, had a vision for pioneering a method of Christian care that would meet people’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. He started Glasgow City Mission, essentially the world’s first rescue mission.

Glasgow City Mission was an interdenominational lay movement. Founded at a time of great poverty and distress in Glasgow, it practiced and proclaimed the gospel among the city’s poorest. The mission also devised creative partnerships with churches and civic agencies to provide spiritual and practical care for young people, juvenile and adult offenders, and the sick and needy.

Glasgow City Mission realized that to share the Christian message one had to help the whole person. The ministry responded to high illiteracy rates by being one of the first charities in the world to provide evening literacy classes for adults in the 1830s. They had an equal concern for young people and provided groundbreaking evening “Chimney Sweep Schools” for children who had to work to pay for their education.

As living standards in Glasgow improved, Glasgow City Mission was careful to meet the changing needs of the city. It always focused its work on supporting people who were on the very fringes of society.

Nasmith went on to start city missions throughout the United Kingdom. From his model, the city mission movement spread around the world.