What is a “Ranter” Service?
What I wanted to do was simply to announce that
To mark the 200th Anniversary
of the first Primitive Methodist Camp Meeting
held at Mow Cop on 31st May 1807
there will be a Ranter Service
in Ramsor (Ramshorn) Primitive Methodist Chapel
at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday 31 May 2007
Preacher – Pastor Fred Howell of Mow Cop.
But that includes a number of points which may need explaining to 21st century folk. The word
“Ranter” for a start.
When the Primitive Methodist movement spread around Britain, like many such works of God, they
came in for ridicule. At Belper, in Derbyshire, their open air gospel preachers were called “Ranters”
as a term of abuse. Not only did the name stick, but the Prims informally adopted the label. It
suited the Scripture which was on the first Primitive Methodist Class Ticket. “But we desire to hear
of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.”
Perhaps I ought to explain “Primitive Methodist”. After the death of John Wesley, in 1791, the
Methodist movement officially separated from the Church of England. Wesley had tried to keep it as
a revival movement within the C. of. E. During the following 20 years, a number of groups split
from the main Wesleyan group. (In the 18th century, there had been at least two other Methodist
movements, one in Wales under Hywell Harris, and one supported by the aristocracy, the Countess of
Huntingdon’s Connexion under George Whitfield.) Around 1800, the Wesleyans were weary of
persecution and wanted to become more respectable. But the work of God was not to be restricted,
and many people continued the revival.
Hugh Bourne grew up on a farm in a remote part of the moors north of the Potteries. After a long
search, he found his peace with God in 1799. Although very shy, he led some companions to the
Lord, and started founding churches in the Burslem Methodist Circuit. In 1804, at a meeting in
Knutsford, he and his friends entered into their Pentecost. They found new power in evangelism.
Some in the church complained that the prayer meetings were too short. A day’s praying on Mow
Cop was promised to satisfy them.
This day’s praying took the form of the Camp Meeting on Sunday 31 May 1807, soon followed by
others including Norton that August and Ramsor (Ramshorn, near Alton Towers) in October 1808.
Some of the hymns in Redemption Hymnal, such as “Come brethren dear that love the Lord,” come
from a special Camp Meeting Hymnal from this time. But the Wesleyans did not view Camp
Meetings as respectable, and Hugh Bourne and his friends were disfellowshipped.
In 1812, a group of leaders met and formed the Primitive Methodist Connexion. A Ramsorr man,
Frances Horobin, paid for the Class Ticket. Oh, yes; a Class Ticket, issued every three months, was
the Methodist membership ticket. And a Class was a small group who met in homes for Bible Study
and prayer. From this beginning came a Revival which lasted half a century and had an important
impact on Britain.
Three years ago, a group of us with Methodist interests thought we would mark the Camp Meeting
Bicentenary with a walk from Mow Cop to Ramsor. To finish the day, we hoped to hold a Service in
Ramsor. The Chapel is now in private ownership, and in December 2006 was reopened for worship.
Arrangements have now been made to hold this evening Service in the early Primitive Methodist style
with hymns they would have sung. The Preacher, Pastor Fred Howell, is both a man of God and a
mighty preacher as well as having greater knowledge of Primitive Methodism than perhaps anyone
else in this country. So come and worship God with us on this historic anniversary.
Robert Higginson March 2007