On Christmas Day, 1800, Hugh Bourne led his friend Daniel Shubotham to Christ. Not long after Daniel's conversion, Hugh Bourne became friends with another converted coal miner, Matthias Bayley. These three - Hugh, Daniel and Matthias - formed a trio of earnest evangelists, and the whole neighbourhood soon felt the effects as they spoke on pit banks and in open spaces. Lives were dramatically changed as the impact of the gospel message was experienced.
They also organised a weekly prayer meeting on Tuesday evenings which lasted strictly for an hour and a quarter. This was time constrained, because as working men, they felt it their Christian duty to be fit for work the next day. However, the prayer meetings were so dynamic that they wanted to pray more.
Their frustration at not being able to pray increased amongst the zealous believers. One day in a moment of prophetic foresight Daniel proclaimed ‘You shall have a meeting upon Mow Cop some Sunday, and have a whole day’s praying, and then you will be satisfied’.
These words came true on May 31st, 1807 when thousands gathered at Mow Cop in North Staffordshire for the first English Camp Meeting. This event marked the start of what became the Primitive Methodist movement.
The ripples from this great open-air preaching and praying service went far and wide. A whole new denomination was formed, over five thousand churches planted, and hundreds of thousands of members gathered. By 1907, there were ten Primitive Methodist Members of Parliament, and the movement played a key part in the development of Trade Unions and other social institutions such as homes for orphans, an institute for “working lads”, day schools and Sunday Schools.
All this from three friends who gathered together to pray once a week.