By JOHN CROCKER
THE Methodist Philatelic Society was founded in 1970 by a group of people who had an interest in philately and Methodism and wished to marry the two.
Its membership seeks to identify and study postage stamps, postmarks, postal covers and envelopes from around the world which are associated with Methodism and the Methodist Church's contribution to ecumenical initiatives. The subjects studied include anniversaries, events, administration, organisations, and Methodist individuals who have been honoured for their achievements outside the Church as well as within it.
The society provides the means for members from around the world to keep others informed about new issues of stamps of Methodist interest, as well as the background to historical material going back to the beginnings of Methodism in the first half of the 18th century.
It aims to produce some commemorative covers each year, including a cover for the annual Methodist Conference. This year, with the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Wesley, covers will be produced with special postal hand stamps designed and sponsored by the society. In the past few years members have been requesting that the Royal Mail should commemorate John Wesley in its 2003 stamp programme - but alas to no avail.
The Royal Mail did, however, in the 1999 Christmas stamp issue, give us the 19p value with Charles Wesley's "Hark the herald angels sing" and part of a letter written by John Wesley in the design.
The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have done much better with Methodist related postage stamps. For example, Jersey's 1974 stamp for the bicentenary of Methodism in Jersey, with a portrait of John Wesley; Guernsey's issue of five stamps in 1987 marking the bicentenary of John Wesley's visit; and the Isle of Man's issue of four stamps in 1977 commemorating the first visit of John Wesley to the island.
Postal authorities in some of the countries around the world where the Methodist Missionary Society sent missionaries have also issued stamps of Methodist interest: in particular the Caribbean countries, islands in the South Pacific, and Sri Lanka.
The society has a membership of about 300, most of whom are from the United Kingdom, although there are members in the US, New Zealand, Australia and a few from Europe. Some members are interested only in postage stamps, others only in covers, but in the main people collect both stamps and covers.
The current annual membership subscription is £8 (S$23). For this there is a well illustrated quarterly newsletter with much information on what is new, and at times sharing the discovery of much older material.
Personally I have received great pleasure through my membership of the society since 1974, as well as discovering so much more about the "World Parish of Methodism". - Flame. (c) Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes, used by permission of the Methodist Publishing House.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
The Cover Secretary, Mr Ronnie MacMillan, 11 Cullaloe Court, Dalgety Bay, Fife KY11 9NW (Tel: 01383 823302) has a list with prices of all the stock that is currently held. He is also willing to give advice to any church wishing to have a philatelic commemoration of a notable anniversary.