Before we leave the 18th Century Methodists we ought to venture into another of their meetings, this time in America.
The period we are looking at is late 18th and early 19th century, so we’re fast forwarding slightly and entering the exuberance of American Methodist revivalism.
The Shouting Methodists!
In a fascinating article that appeared in ‘Encounter’ Magazine in 1968, Winthrop S. Hudson wrote of the ‘Shouting Methodists’.
These fervent American converts were less concerned about appearing sophisticated than they were about celebrating their new found freedom in Christ.
Clearly, some of their exuberance sounds a little over the top, and, perhaps of more concern, the spontaneous expressions of praise may have become expected behaviour.
Hudson, quotes from a variety of sources, including Alexander Campbell who ‘declared that the Methodist church could not live without her cries of “glory! glory! glory!” And he reported that “her periodical Amens dispossess demons, storm heaven, shut the gates of hell, and drive Satan from the camp.”’
“Shout, shout, we’re gaining ground,” they sang. “We’ll shout old Satan’s kingdom down.”
The ‘Shout Song’
Hudson’s somewhat technical attempt to describe the phenomena of worship during these highly charged meetings make for comical reading:
‘”Shouting” was praise or, as it was often called, rejoicing. Both its practice, including the clapping of hands, and its meaning was partly shaped by Old Testament texts.
‘Initially “shouting” was probably no more than [sudden utterances] of praise. But it quickly became…a type of singing, a type of song, a “shout song,” or just a “shout.”
‘If a “shout” was an [expresion] of praise and a song of rejoicing, it also became the name of a religious service, a service of praise, a praise meeting.
‘People spoke of going to “preaching,” of going to a “class meeting,” and of going to a “shout,” a praise meeting. “When we get home,” they sang, “we’ll have a shout in glory.”
The Dancing Methodists!
‘Finally, for some, a “shout” became a dance, a shuffling of the feet, a jerking of the head, a clapping of the hands, and perhaps an occasional leap.
‘Most often it was a circular march, a “ring shout.” Thus Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines “shout” as “to give expression to religious ecstasy, often in vigorous, rhythmic movements (as shuffling, jumping, jerking) specifically, to take part in a ring shout.”’
More next time….
© 2010 Lex Loizides