Glasgow City Mission: Pioneer of the Urban Rescue Movement

By Graeme Clark, Former Executive Director, Glasgow City Mission

Glasgow City Mission was the world’s first rescue mission. Established in 1826, it was an interdenominational lay movement. The mission, founded at a time of great poverty and distress in Glasgow, 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 youth, offenders, and the sick and needy.

The latter part of the twentieth century saw a decline in the mission’s fortunes as it became increasingly tied to quasi-church tradition. By 1992, the decline was potentially terminal.

In the early 1990s, Glasgow City Mission was revitalized. A new strategy document was adopted in 1992, taking the original vision and applying it to modern city issues, leading to:

This recovery of values and practices led to great improvements. Resources and income increased fourfold, and the mission’s workers had a renewed commitment to the ministry.
The mission’s caring work is now regarded by many as exemplary. People’s lives are being transformed, and public and charitable resources are being better directed to meet the needs of the neediest.

We believe God led us to that point. With a continuing commitment to change, mission leaders pursued establishing a multi-disciplinary care center in Glasgow’s city center, adding new staff members, establishing a residential crisis care center, and increasing the emphasis on our educational role.

The church faces a crisis of confidence within Europe. Our experience in Glasgow suggests that a revitalized city mission motivates and encourages local churches to reach their cities effectively with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This article was first published in the Summer 1995 issue of City Voices and adapted for Used with permission of International Urban Associates.