Camp Meeting - Camp Meetings in British Methodism

Camp Meetings in British Methodism

On Sunday 31 May 1807 the first Camp Meeting was held in England at Mow Cop. The Wesleyan Methodists disapproved and subsequently expelled Hugh Bourne "because you have a tendency to set up other than the ordinary worship" which led eventually to the formation of the Primitive Methodist Church.

Lorenzo Dow brought reports of Camp Meetings from America during his visits to England. Hugh Bourne, William Clowes and Daniel Shoebotham saw this as an answer to complaints from members of the Harriseahead Methodists that their weeknight prayer meeting was too short. Bourne also saw these as an antidote to the general debauchery of the Wakes in that part of the Potteries, one of the reasons why he continued organising Camp Meetings in spite of the opposition from the Wesleyan authorities.

The pattern of the Primitive Methodist Camp Meeting was as a time of prayer and preaching from the Bible. In the first Camp Meeting, 4 separate "preaching stations" had been set up by the afternoon, each with an audience, while in between others spent the time praying. Their emphasis on the Bible is a clear distinction from the spiritualist strand of American camp meetings.

From May 1807 to the establishing of Primitive Methodism as a denomination in 1811, a series of 17 Camp Meetings was held. There were a number of different venues beyond Mow Cop, including Norton-in-the-Moors during the Wakes in 1807 (Hugh Bourne's target venue), and Ramsor in 1808.

After Hugh Bourne and a significant number of his colleagues, including the Standley Methodist Society, had been put out of membership of the Burslem Wesleyan Circuit, they formed a group known as the Camp Meeting Methodists until 1811 when they joined with the followers of William Clowes, the "Clowesites".

Camp Meetings were a regular feature of Primitive Methodist life throughout the 19th century, and still have existence in other forms today. The annual late May Bank Holiday weekend meetings at Cliff College are one example, with a number of tents around the site, each with a different preacher.

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