A history from 1832 – 2010

By Paul James-Griffiths

On the 1st March 1832, eight gentlemen met together in the shop of Messrs Young and Miller, 375 High Street, to confer with David Nasmyth in regard to the formation of a City Mission in Edinburgh.

Annual Report, 1895, p.101

Thus began Edinburgh City Mission. It was probably the 19th city mission to be formed by Nasmith, the first having been in Glasgow, the second in Dublin, and probably 16 city missions before Edinburgh City Mission (ECM) in America (ibid., p.10). However, ECM is ranked now as the second oldest surviving city mission in Britain.

As with all city missions, Nasmith set out a clear vision for ECM, because “without a vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

The ECM Vision

Attached to every Annual Report was a clear constitution, parts of which read:

Article II: The design of the Society shall be to carry the Gospel, irrespective of denominational distinction, more extensively among the inhabitants of this city, by visits for religious conversation and reading the Scriptures, by meetings for prayer and Christian instruction, – by stimulating all persons to a regular attendance upon the preaching of the Gospel, – by increasing Scriptural education, through the medium of Sabbath or Infant Schools, or otherwise, – by the formation of loan libraries, – and adoption of such other means, as the Managers may judge important to attain the designs of the Society.

Annual Report: 1834 – 1835, p.3

Instructions to the Agents (missionaries):

1st: Your business is to visit the inhabitants of the district assigned to you, for the purpose of bringing them to an acquaintance with salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, and by doing them good by every means in your power…..the sole object of the Mission being to bring sinners to the Saviour.

Your work is awfully important: you have to deal with immortal souls, many of whom may never have an opportunity of hearing the Gospel but from you, and whose eternal destiny may depend upon the message which you deliver to them: Be faithful, be simple, keep the Lord Jesus continually before your own mind, and commend Him and His finished work to the people. Never forget the awful possibility suggested by the Apostle, – that after one has preached the Gospel, he himself may ‘become a cast-away.’

Go forth daily to your work with your hearts lifted up to God for the assistance and direction of His Holy Spirit, relying upon his promise for wisdom and strength, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. Let the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, be your chief – your only end.

ibid., p.4


You can read more about the Edinburgh City Mission from the articles listed below:

Edinburgh City Mission history timeline

Founder: David Nasmith (1799 – 1839) 1832: "On the 1st March, eight gentlemen met together in the shop of Messrs. Young and Miller, 375 High Street, to confer with David Nasmyth in regard to the formation of a City Mission in Edinburgh." (Annual Report, 1895)City...

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The Stirring of the Churches

By 1839 the churches were well aware of what God was doing through ECM, as it spearheaded outreach in the city: In regard, indeed to the whole operations of the Mission, its indirect effects are at least equal to all the other good which it produces. Of these the most...

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The Early Days: 1832 – 1859

In the first year six missionaries were salaried by private individuals and the city was split into 30 districts. The vision was to have missionaries from ECM in all those districts. By 1834, seven of those districts were covered. The first report on ECM in 1834...

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The Influence of ECM on the City Authorities

God gave a promise to Abraham: ....I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the...

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The Great Revival: 1859 – 1861

In 1859 Christians were stirred to pour out their hearts in united prayer across the city, and God answered them with a deep revival: A spirit of fervent prayer and of earnest 'waiting for the promise of the Spirit', has of late years pervaded, in a remarkable manner,...

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The First Revival: 1841 – 1843

The first wave of revival and awakening hit Edinburgh in 1841. The Shelter, in the Grassmarket, had been set up by some Christian ladies in 1840, for the purpose of providing a rehab house for young women who had been involved in crime and prostitution. ECM...

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The Peak Years and the Moody Revival: 1865 – 1900

In 1865 ECM moved its HQ from the High Street (first 375 High St., then 126 High St.) to 5 St. Andrews Square and in this period the number of missionaries either being salaried by ECM, or working in conjunction with it, grew to 33, which was the highest number on...

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Thirty Years On: 1864

ECM celebrated its 30th anniversary with this glowing report: When the Edinburgh City Mission was formed, not one congregation in the city was known to employ and support a missionary; there are now at least forty congregations in town that have a salaried missionary...

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1900 – 2000

The 1898 Report concluded that "Multitudes have been lifted out of the degradation into which they had fallen, and larger numbers have been prevented from falling." (p.10) It had been a glorious time of harvesting; particularly between the years 1840 and 1880. Now ECM...

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The War Years: 1914 – 1945

Amidst the carnage of the First World War, the ECM workers were kept very busy, counselling and encouraging many who had lost loved ones. The 1915 Report says: "Never before have our City Missionaries won and held the confidence...

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Post War Years and into the Swinging Sixties

In 1958 effective work began in the Inch, meetings being held in a primary school, and much District Work was done to reach the locals. Hospital visitation was blessed by God in an extraordinary way, as many elderly people gave their hearts to the Lord Jesus. One ECM...

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The Modern Age: 1970 – 2010

In 1970 there were only four missionaries left running five Mission Halls (Abbeyhill; Dumbiedykes; Broughton; Hay Drive and The Inch), and reaching the Special Classes of Hospitals and Eventide Homes (Retirement Homes), Lodging Houses and Prisons, the Post Office and...

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All Change: 1980 – 2010

A growing God-given desire seemed to grip the hearts of a number of Christians for an outreach to begin on the new West Pilton estate, and so, a new missionary, W. Bullin, was appointed there in 1981 to visit homes. The work became effective and the West Pilton...

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Drunkenness and Poverty

Over and over again the reports tell of multitudes in abject poverty, usually caused by alcoholic addiction. The subhuman existence of people in these places was horrendous: In looking over the names of those I have visited, I believe that one out of every five, is...

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