November 12, 2013

Remembering Charles Simeon

Today we remember Charles Simeon, who didn't stray too far in his life from the place of his college days until just before his last days. He found out as a newly admitted Cambridge student that reception of Communion was required. He later reflected:
On 29 January 1779 I came to college. On 2 February I understood that at division of term I must attend the Lord's Supper. The Provost absolutely required it. Conscience told me that, if I must go, I must repent and turn to God.
This business of Communion was the defining moment for him.
John Stott and Simeon's tea pot.
Taken 19th January 2006
by Rev. Rupert Charkham,
Holy Trinity Church,
Satan himself was as fit to attend as I; and that if I must attend, [to receive Holy Communion] I must prepare for my attendance there. Without a moment’s loss of time, I bought the old Whole Duty of Man, (the only religious book that I had ever heard of) and began to read it with great diligence; at the same time calling my ways to remembrance, and crying to God for mercy; and so earnest was I in these exercises, that within the three weeks I made myself quite ill with reading, fasting, and prayer… 
Simeon famously became attached for almost the whole of his life to Holy Trinity, Cambridge, where he was misunderstood, derided by church leaders and Oxford faculty alike, and generally disavowed because he valued tenets of Enthusiasm. On the (inside, privately seen) pulpit of his testing, he carved the Greek of John 12:21, found at the head of this blog entry: "Master, we would like to see Jesus."

I contacted Rev. Rupert Charkham, Vicar of Holy Trinity, to see if the old carving was still around. He wrote back that there was no longer a Simeon-touched pulpit to be found. But a few moments later he sent a photo of renown late Evangelical Anglican John Stott visiting Holy Trinity in 2006, and looking at Simeon's tea pot.

From Simeon we learn a lot (if nothing else, his influence on Henry Martyn and William Wilberforce alone), but I am particularly impressed today by the weight of what it means to be able to stay in one place for many decades when plying a craft/trade/art/alchemy - the life of a pastor - which we tend to think of as being so temporal in nature.

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