President’s Blog: 12th April 2022
April 3rd was the 250th anniversary of Hugh Bourne’s birth. Hugh Bourne was the co-founder of the Primitive Methodist Movement along with William Clowes. Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum of Primitive Methodism have been celebrating his birth and will continue to do so this year. There is to be a Methodist Heritage Conference at Mow Cop where it all began with Camp meetings when vast crowds of people congregated to hear the evangelist, Lorenzo Dow, preach in the open air. And so, the Primitive Methodist movement began because it spoke to the working classes, allowing them to worship in their own way and to get back to basics. Services were held in homes, farm houses and barns where all were invited to contribute, to pray and to preach. Chapels were soon built as the movement grew and preachers, men and women alike, walked miles on a Sunday to take church services. Often services were held in the open air to the consternation of the authorities
Hugh Bourne was an educationalist and scientist, though he left school at an early age and believed that everyone, no matter what their station in life, should be given an education. Sunday Schools were set up and ordinary working people and children were taught to read and write. The working people began to have a voice and to protest about the way they were treated. This led to the formation of Trade Unions , which in turn, led to better working conditions. Hugh Bourne is buried in the graveyard at Englesea Brook and it is said that ten thousand people went to his funeral.
A special lecture to celebrate the 250th anniversary was held in Rylands Library, Manchester where many Methodist archives are kept. This was followed by, a service to commemorate the event at Englesea Brook on the Sunday.
If you are coming to Swanwick, this month, you will be able to see an exhibition about Hugh Bourne and to hear the story of Sarah Smith, one of the first women preachers, by Elizabeth Morris, who is the Learning Officer at the museum and a talented storyteller. It is fascinating to learn of the importance of women and how they were encouraged in their faith and how they taught their children to read and write. These were men and women of courage. Our Primitive Methodist roots are deep and still influence our worship today. They had the courage to change and to move with the times as God called them. I wonder, how is God calling us to change now?