Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Bourne

24
Feb
17

A Window on early Primitive Methodist Meetings

While reading Hugh Bourne’s History of the Primitive Methodists (1823) at the Rylands library last summer I came across this interesting set of “advices” for leading meetings.  The context, as Bourne relates it, was that some in the PMC were allowing preaching to go on too long, thereby not allowing enough time for prayer.

There are several aspects of these outlines that I find interesting. One is how much attention is given to technique, and keeping things moving along. Not only is long preaching excluded, but so are long speeches from members in the class meeting.  I also find it interesting that, although these outlines are 200 years old, one can still recognize some features of these services in the routinized revivalism of many evangelical denominations (the “song sandwich” approach, for example, that many of us grew up with). Another noteworthy feature is the lack of attention to scripture. For several years now I have been quite concerned about the disappearance of the public reading of scripture from evangelical worship services. However, reflecting on these outlines causes me to think that the neglect of scripture readings is very deep-seated in the revivalist stream of evangelical worship.

Advices for Meetings

Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1819

Source: Hugh Bourne, History of the Primitive Methodists Giving an Account of Their Rise and Progress up to the Year 1823. (Bemersley: Printed for the author, at the Office of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, by J. Bourne, 1823), 59-60.

Outline of a Preaching Service.

“Let all the exercises, in general, be short. The preaching whenever it can, should be followed by a prayer meeting. From the beginning of the service to the end of the sermon, should up about three quarters of an hour; and the prayer meeting should continue about half an hour; the whole to conclude in about an hour and a quarter. After the conclusion, prayer must be made for mourners; or the society may meet for about twenty minutes. Long preachings generally injure both the preachers’ constitution and the cause of religion.”

Outline of a Prayer Meeting.

  1. Open with singing for about four, five, or six minutes.
  2. Spend four, five, or six minutes in prayer, ending with the Lord’s Prayer.
  3. Sing about two, three or four minutes.
  4. Let the members of the society prayer in quick succession, for two, three, or four minutes each.

When mourners are in distress, or in any other particular cases, the exercises may be lengthened. But, in general, long exercises in public, are improper and injurious; and should be carefully avoided. And if any one trespass by attempting to drag out to an improper length, the next meeting of the society may determine what remedy shall be applied to such impropriety.

  1. Let a little singing be occasionally intermingled to vary the exercises.
  2. If exhortations be given, they may be for two or three, or from that to six or eight minutes. Short exhortations are useful.
  3. Conclude in an hour or an hour and a quarter.
  4. On suitable occasions, prayer may again commence, and especially if there by souls in distress.
  5. This outline may be judiciously varied at any point, as circumstances may require.

Outline of a Class Meeting.

  1. Open with singing for about four, five, or six minutes
  2. Let for or five minutes be spent in prayer, ending with the Lord’s Prayer.
  3. Sing about two, or three minutes.
  4. Leader speak one or two minutes, chiefly to his own experience.
  5. Let fifteen, or from that to twenty minutes, be spent in conversation of the leader with the members.

In speaking to one, the leader, in effect, speaks to all; and it will on some occasions, be found difficult to keep up the attention of the whole meeting for twenty minutes together. But the leader passing from one to another in quick succession will be a great means to keep the attention alive. Also the leader may give out a verse and sing in the midst of the work.

If a class have fifteen or sixteen members, the average time of speaking should be under a minute with each member. If there be twenty or thirty members it should be still less. In particular cases, more time may be spent with any of the members.

If a member have acquired or be acquiring a habit of long speaking, then, the leader, after dropping a few words, must immediately pass on to the next, and begin at once to speak to the next. If this be not attended to the meeting will soon be injured.

  1. When the speaking is concluded, sing for two, three, or four minutes.
  2. Then let the members pray in quick succession, for about two or three minutes each. The leader must take care that none of them trespass upon time.
  3. Intermingle occasionally a little singing to vary the exercise.
  4. Be careful and exact in settling the class paper.
  5. Conclude in an hour, or an hour and a quarter.
  6. This outline may be judiciously varied in any point, as circumstances may require.
21
Oct
16

Reflections on my time at the Manchester Wesley Research Centre

It was a privilege to spend six weeks at the Manchester Wesley Research Centre as a Visiting Research Fellow for the summer of 2016. My work focused on early Primitive Methodism.

I am interested in the development of Wesleyan ecclesiology, especially as related to issues of renewal, unity and division. The Primitive Methodists are of interest as the first major revivalistic breakaway from Wesleyan Methodism. I focused my time primarily on the unpublished and published writings of Hugh Bourne, co-founder of the Primitive Methodist Connexion.  While his colleague William Clowes was the more charismatic personality and a more compelling preacher, it was Bourne who did most of the writing for the movement, particularly through his long tenure as editor of the Primitive Methodist Magazine.

Nazarene Theological College

Bourne and the other Primitive Methodists were very keen to clear themselves of the charge of schism. In doing this they stressed both their continuity with early Methodism and the novelty of their movement as a body of newly-evangelized people. In my ongoing work on this subject I am looking at the arguments Bourne used to defend against the charge of schism, and the theology of the church that underlies those arguments.

I am also considering the interesting mix of influences that can be seen in Bourne’s theology. As was the case with many later nineteenth-century Wesleyan revivalists, Bourne was strongly influenced by John Fletcher. But he was also shaped by his contacts with the Quaker Methodists of Warrington, the “Magic Methodists” of Delamere Forest and other Independent Methodists and revivalists such as Lorenzo Dow. His spirituality had a strong pneumatocentric focus, leading to a very participatory and egalitarian view of church and ministry. Bourne is a fascinating and complicated person, who certainly had his faults. Yet he was also ahead of his time on questions of lay representation and women in ministry.

John Rylands LibrarySome of Hugh Bourne’s writings are only available at the John Rylands Library, and those that are available elsewhere are still quite rare and difficult to find. I was very grateful for the opportunity to spend several weeks at the Rylands through the MWRC Visiting Fellow program, as it gave me access to numerous sources that I would not have been able to find at home in Toronto. I also appreciated the many connections I was able to make with other scholars from the UK, as well as those visiting from North America. At the MWRC and Nazarene Theological College I found a welcoming community and ideal base for doing research on the Wesleyan tradition. All in all it was a wonderful experience – I hope I’ll be able to go back and do further research in Manchester in the future.




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