The Evangelical City Missionary Society was established in 1829 by Worcester industrialist and philanthropist Ichabod Washburn who was also a founder of Memorial Hospital, Mechanics Hall, and WPI. The Society’s purpose was to furnish benevolent, spiritual, and educational aid to immigrants working on the Blackstone Canal. In 1883 the organization was reincorporated as the Worcester City Missionary Society by the city’s Congregationalist clergy and industrialists. The organization planted churches and provided benevolent services to immigrants arriving to work in the city’s flourishing factories. Recognizing its greater scope and organizational affiliation with the Central Association of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, the organization was later renamed as the Worcester Area Mission Society.
Some Key Facts:
- WAMS was the first organization in the country to be recognized for “best practice public ministry” by the National Council of Churches, the nation’s largest ecumenical group
- WAMS has sponsored and/or supported several important initiatives related to housing and community development including 1) the development of Colony Retirement Homes (a pioneer in the field of congregate care), 2) the first Habitat for Humanity program in Massachusetts (55 King Street in Worcester), 3) the Neighborhood Forum (a gathering of diverse persons and organizations to strengthen Worcester neighborhoods undertaken in partnership with the Greater Worcester Community Foundation), and 4) the Housing Task Force for the Pathways to Progress initiative undertaken by leading Central Massachusetts institutions
- WAMS developed 1) the first housing program in the state for families with HIV/AIDS, 2) the first comprehensive initiative in the country sponsored by a religious institution (Greater Elm Park Project), and 3) the first church program in the country to promote outer space sustainability
- WAMS organized the Worcester Housing Summit that created working relationships among the political, banking, and non-profit sectors that are used today to develop affordable housing, and and served as the lead institution in creating the Worcester Community Loan Fund which plays an indispensable role in developing housing and stabilizing neighborhoods
Some Other Imporant Milestones in the History of WAMS
- Participated in the bi-partisan National Summit on Youth Violence in Washington D.C. following the Columbine shootings
- Represented Central Massachusetts on the panel for a gubernatorial debate at Fanueil Hall.
- Coordinated hurricane recovery efforts for the Massachusetts Conference following Katrina that included construction and Teacher-to-Teacher teams.
- Received the extraordinary gift of 6 Institute Road in Worcester and significant financial endowment from long time partner, United Congregational Church.
- Renovated 6 Institute Road to become home to WAMS, United Congregational Church, and Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance.
- WAMS became the first religious or social welfare organization selected by the trustees of Mechanics Hall to receive the Master Mechanic Award (See Award Acceptance Speech Here) that honors individuals and organizations that are creating a culture of excellence and growth in Central Massachusetts.
- In September 2018 WAMS’ longtime (34 years) Minister and President The Rev. Robert S. Bachelder retired.
- WAMS hired The Rev. Sally E. Norris to lead WAMS into its next phase of making a difference in the lives of greater Worcester residents.