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Sorry to be late to the party with this item, but it was in our two-week Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Britain’s foremost television (and radio) guide.
In the 17-30 December 2016 issue, the back page interview was with Prime Minister Theresa May, also the MP for Maidenhead. She answered a variety of questions from reporter Michael Hodges. Excerpts and a summary follow.
On Christmas Day, she and her husband Philip go to church. Afterwards, they meet up with friends for a drink, then it’s off to an ecumenical lunch for the elderly, where May takes time to talk with her constituents.
The Mays return home where the Prime Minister roasts a goose for Christmas dinner. They haven’t had turkey for several years. Although others consider goose to be extremely fatty, May points out:
if you keep the fat, it makes wonderful roast potatoes for quite a long time thereafter.
Absolutely. We also have goose at Christmas, partly for that reason, and for the unctuous stock from the wings.
May, a practising Anglican, lent the Radio Times a photo of herself as a girl with her late father, the Revd Hubert Brasier. She told Michael Hodges what Christmas past was like:
Throughout my life I have been going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and church on Christmas Day morning. As a child I had to wait until my father had finished his services before I could open my presents.
It felt like a very long wait. Others I knew would be able to open their presents first thing in the morning.
I’m an only child and my mother played the organ. So I would sit alongside her while my father was taking the service.
The interview did not mention that May’s parents died within a year of each other. Her father died just as she completed her studies at Oxford and her mother several months later. It can’t have been easy for her, especially with no siblings for support:
When you first lose your parents, Christmas is hugely, hugely important. Now I enjoy Christmas with my husband Philip and we keep up the tradition of going to church. But, of course, it does remind me of my parents.
During her childhood, she watched only the BBC, until:
one day, my mother managed to jiggle the aerial and we got ITV and I saw Robin Hood. That music and Richard Greene as Robin Hood really grabbed me.
This is the iconic theme to which May refers:
May’s other television favourites included early series of The Avengers with Diana Rigg, then Joanna Lumley, although:
I have never had a female role model — I’ve always just got on with doing what I am doing.
As an adult, she watched the ‘very evocative’ Das Boot. These days, she enjoys Scandinavian dramas Borgen and The Bridge. Christmas Day favourites include Doctor Who and David Suchet as Poirot.
She doesn’t take recommendations for television viewing:
My advisers don’t tell me what to watch on the television — I watch what I want to watch.
May ended the interview by saying she had no idea a year ago that she would be Prime Minister today.
What follows is her four-minute New Year’s message. If her father was as eloquent a speaker as his daughter is, he must have been a splendid vicar. May speaks of the change that Brexit will bring this year but also of the unity of the four nations of the United Kingdom and the shared values and experiences that make us one people:
This is very similar to the first speech she gave as Prime Minister outside No. 10.
She and Donald Trump will get on well. Of that, I have no doubt.
New Year’s Day was traditionally the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.
The stained glass representation of the event is probably one of a kind. I don’t know the name or location of the church.
The Circumcision represents the first shedding of our Lord’s blood for mankind. Read more about it below in my post from 2010:
My post from 2013 explains that the traditional Protestant denominations recognised this day, along with the Catholic Church:
Today, it is largely ignored — or rededicated, which is what the Catholics did:
In the midst of our celebrations with families and friends, let us remember that New Year’s Day is also
‘Did You Preach on Jeremiah’s Prophecy Today?’ is a short and particularly powerful post about bad shepherds of the flock. Please read it in full. Excerpts and a summary follow. Emphases in the original.
These are the relevant verses:
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
The Gospel reading for that day was about the thieves on the Cross (Luke 23:35-43) which includes this important verse. Jesus told the thief who recognised Him as the Son of God:
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Undergroundpewster says that it is much easier to preach on that verse than on Jeremiah’s. The message is positive and redemptive.
However, bad shepherds ignore Jeremiah at their peril. The post explains how and why. Ultimately:
I pray that the false teachers among us will come to the realization that there are some criminal acts, such as driving away God’s flock, which put them in jeopardy of God’s punishment and that they repent before they wind up like the less fortunate criminal who derided our Lord as he hung beside Jesus.
It is up to laypeople to know how to discuss and explain Scripture when clergy do not. We have many bad shepherds in varying degrees, especially in the Episcopal/Anglican Church. I know. That’s my denomination.
This is partly the fault of seminaries, but also of those men and women themselves who rarely look beyond what they are taught. Unfortunately, their bishops encourage spiritual blindness, which extends to their congregations, not unlike the Pharisees of Jesus’s time towards their faithful.
Pray regularly and study the Bible.
My beloved better half and I are celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary.
It is amazing that we have shared nearly half our lives together in holy matrimony.
Neither of us has ever been bored in each other’s company.
We also found marriage vows to be very true indeed in stating the future.
That said, adversity has brought us just as close together as have our happiest experiences.
We were best friends before we married and we remain best friends today.
We specifically requested the 1662 Book of Common Prayer version, which our celebrant was reluctant to say, however, we pressed on and won.
Feel free to read the prayers in full. For now, here are the salient points (emphases mine):
At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,
EARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
If no impediment be alleged, then shall the Curate say unto the Man,
WILT thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?
The Man shall answer, I will.Then shall the Priest say unto the Woman,
WILT thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?
The Woman shall answer, I will.
Then the Man leaving the Ring upon the fourth finger of the Woman’s left hand, they shall both kneel down; and the Minister shall say,
Let us pray.
ETERNAL God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life: Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy Name; that, as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, (whereof this Ring given and received is a token and pledge,) and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then shall the Priest join their right hands together, and say,
Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
Then shall the Minister speak unto the people.
ORASMUCH as N. and N. have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a Ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be Man and Wife together, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
And the Minister shall add this Blessing.
OD the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.
One of the things that surprised us most about married life is the sudden rapidity of adverse events, whether those related to our jobs, family or health.
We could be fine one day and plunged into emergency mode the next.
This is why it is important to marry your best friend.
I personally know of a few instances where a husband couldn’t cope with an in-law’s illness or he didn’t want to be a father once his children became teenagers. Divorce ensued.
Marriage is more than hot sex on demand.
It is a solemn contract to be honoured every day and in ways one does not expect, some of which might be quite unpleasant.
‘Sickness’ refers not only to eventualities with husband or wife but also their respective families.
Engaged couples should be aware of that beforehand. Married couples would do well in making sure their children are aware of it.
I am reminded of the words to Fiddler on the Roof‘s ‘L’Chaim’:
One day it’s honey and raisin cake, next day a stomach ache
Drink l’Chaim, to Life!
Sanctity of marriage
One of the terms I heard most frequently during my years at Catholic school was ‘the sanctity of marriage’, which no priest, nun or lay teacher ever explained. Nor did my parents.
It’s a bit difficult hearing that expression as a teenager in full hormonal explosion as you make the rounds of older cousins’ weddings to tall, beautiful blondes. It was hard not to look at them in awe and think, ‘Lucky guy!’
Yet, three of those marriages failed. One cousin, twice affected, never remarried and returned to the Church. The other remarried and has enjoyed two decades of happiness to another beautiful woman.
Couples who have been married for a long time never discuss the nuts and bolts of the sanctity of marriage. It’s time they did. I did not understand the full import until several weeks ago when I read a sermon by John MacArthur. I summarised it in July and included the link to what he had to say in full.
This is what struck me the most:
And then finally, marriage is picture. It’s picture and what is it picture of? It is picture of Christ and his what? Church. Ephesians 5, it is a graphic demonstration in the face of the world that God loves and has an ongoing unending relationship with the bride whom he loves. And for whom he lives and dies and I dare say that the whole metaphor of marriage of a symbol of Christ and his church has lost its punch because the church is so rife with divorce and fouled up marriages.
For those who prefer a secular explanation, he has this:
Some psychologists did a study and came up with a theory that you are what you are because you are adjusting to the most important person in your life. Whoever the most important person is in your life, that’s the person you are trying to please.
Both of those explain the sanctity of marriage on a temporal and a heavenly level.
I wish all my married readers many additional years of happiness together.
I also hope that my single readers pray — and wait — for the man or woman of their dreams who will love and cherish them not only on their wedding day but until death do them part.
Tuesday’s excerpted his commentary and advice on Matthew 7:6 — casting pearls before swine.
Today’s post provides more information about the ministry of this pioneer of Anglican ‘evangelicalism’, often criticised by his congregation and Cambridge University students, among whom he ministered.
In 1979, to mark the bicentenary of Simeon’s conversion at King’s College, Cambridge, the Revd Max Warren — formerly General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society and then a Residentiary Canon of Westminster Abbey — wrote a considered essay of this clergyman. Unfortunately, Warren died before he could read it to a group of Anglicans who were to draw conclusions about the lessons of Simeon’s ministry.
Warren’s great-grandfather knew Simeon. This ancestor wrote a memoir which included two letters Simeon had written to him. Warren’s great-grandmother, the man’s wife, kept a diary. She died in 1836, the same year Simeon left this mortal coil. Therefore, Simeon’s life and times no doubt touched him more personally than most.
The PDF of Warren’s paper is available here. A summary follows with page numbers cited.
We can learn much from the way Simeon ministered to people, not only in Cambridge but also around England.
Charles Simeon’s worldview was shaped in part by the French Revolution. He was ordained by the time it took place between 1789 and 1795. He was concerned about possible similar threats to Britain, namely the establishment, including the established Church of England.
He was also a lifelong conservative in his thinking.
He would have been aware that, when he was converted in 1779, that 7,358 out of 11,194 Anglican parishes in England had no clergyman (p. 1).
The nature of conversion
For Simeon, conversion was connected with commitment.
He insisted that that commitment increase over time, particularly for himself but also for others.
He deeply believed that no one could truly be regemerated unless he were experiencing ‘brokenness of heart’ brought about by the profound realisation — ‘self-loathing and abhorrence’ — of one’s own wretched sinful nature.
Only then could the sorrowful — and repentant — convert begin to appreciate the work of sanctifying grace from the most holy God (p. 9).
As I wrote on Monday, Simeon never married.
As he was ostracised for his enthusiastic, evangelical views and preaching, he was a lonely man for many years.
However, this solitude also made him more aware of what clergy faced when they were opposed. This is why he held ‘conversation parties’ with Cambridge students studying for ordination. He wanted them to know what and how to preach when. He also impressed upon these young men that the Bible was both an ‘establishing’ and a ‘converting’ book. Furthermore, they had to practise what they preached. They also had to understand that they were not doing the regenerative work upon their congregation, it was the Holy Spirit. (p. 5)
Even those who ended up not being ordained and who were assigned to far reaches of the British Empire benefited from Simeon’s advice on how to communicate with people. (p. 8)
Solitude also gave him the idea of including clergy wives in lectures for their husbands. (p. 6) The more they knew and understood their husbands’ work, the better they could discuss it with them and support them emotionally.
Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge
Simeon was the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge for 54 years. That was his one and only assignment.
His outlook on ministry was to maintain a balance between being a pastor and an evangelist. He also held to Martin Luther’s dictum of knowing nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (p. 3)
Holy Trinity — then and now — was a congregation of students but also townspeople who will speak their minds about church. It was also — even in Warren’s time as its vicar — the largest in the Diocese of Ely. (p. 3)
Holy Trinity might not have liked Simeon’s sermons and, when they weren’t angry with him, tune them out but they could not easily tune out the way he delivered the liturgy. He actually prayed — not read — the prayers from the Book of Common Prayer. This was new. Most clergy muttered the prayers.
Warren wrote that it was the actual praying of the liturgy which eventually won over his cantankerous and, sometimes violent, congregation. (p. 3)
Outside of church
Simeon also started informal groups, hosting them outside of church. He sometimes hired a room in another parish to accommodate them.
He did this so he could get to know his congregation and also so that they would not see him as being ‘ten feet above contradiction’.
He was also careful to assemble a group of 12 stewards who would manage the parish’s finances and assess the need for charity and relief.
He was a pioneer in involving laity. His Visiting Society volunteers paid visits on poorer townspeople, giving them spiritual instruction as well as food to eat.
He, too, was known for his visits to ill and dying parishoners.
He took the food donation idea further during the bread famine of 1788 and 1789, when he contributed a subscription so that bread could be fairly distributed to the poor in villages around Cambridge. He was known for making his rounds on horseback and stopping in at village bakeries. (p. 4)
Travel in England
Simeon made it his mission to travel to towns and cities around England to spread the Gospel.
If he was rejected by his own congregation, the rest of the country received him warmly. Remember that he had to get around by horse and carriage on long, bumpy rides. There was no railway network in place.
In 1798, he recorded that he gave 75 addresses between May 18 and August 19. He spoke to a total of 87,310 people.
The only other evangelist likely to have spoken to more on a tour was Dwight L Moody — 75 years later. (p. 11)
Simeon was very concerned about the growth of the Anglican church in the Empire.
His missionary initiatives helped to expand the Church in India, New Zealand and Australia.
Charles Simeon was a man who bucked the trend in style and substance. Although discouraged and lonely, he pressed on with the Lord’s work. He encouraged seminarians and young clergymen to do so, too.
He pioneered the way for an evangelical strand in the Anglican Church. It still exists, but less so.
Perhaps it is time for Anglican clergy and seminaries to stop worrying about social justice and put more effort into winning souls for Christ and the life beyond.
Yesterday’s post gave a potted biography of one of the first Anglican evangelicals, Charles Simeon (1759-1836).
(Image credit: Wikipedia)
It is useful in order to glean a better understanding of what he says of Matthew 7:6 (ESV):
“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
This is the King James Version:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Charles Simeon had a very difficult time as vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. The congregation and students actively rejected and persecuted his piety and preaching for 12 years. Even after more than 50 years there, he still received a measure of opposition from the townspeople and some at the university. Yet, he died among faithful friends and left a deep spiritual legacy. His Simeon Trust is still active today.
As Simeon had such an awful time as vicar, he was careful to preach according to his audience. His essay, ‘Caution to Be Used in Reproving’ is on the second half of a very helpful page of insights on Matthew 7:6 at the Precept Austin site.
Although excerpts and a summary of Simeon’s essay follow, please take the time to read it in full. Emphases in bold are in the original; those in purple are mine.
The second half of the introduction discusses judging others rightly, considering their state of mind, and ensuring we do so with a pure heart:
To judge others uncharitably will expose us to similar treatment from them, as well as to the displeasure of Almighty God. Before we presume to judge others at all, we ought to be diligent in searching out and amending our own faults; without which we are but ill qualified to reprove the faults of others. We ought also to consider the state of the person whom we undertake to reprove: for if he be hardened in his wickedness, and disposed to resent our well-meant endeavours, it will be more prudent to let him alone, and to wait for some season when we may speak to him with a better prospect of success. Such is the import of the caution in our text; from whence we may observe,
I. That religious instruction is often most unworthily received—
The value of religious instruction is but little known—
[… A richly-furnished mind, a cultivated taste, a polished manner, are distinctions which the richer part of the community particularly affect: and they are most envied who possess in the highest measure such accomplishments. But divine knowledge is considered as of little worth: though it would enrich the soul beyond all conception, and adorn it with all the most amiable graces, and is therefore most fully characterized by the name of “pearls,” yet has it no beauty, no excellency, in the eyes of carnal men: the generality are as insensible of its value as swine are of the value of pearls, which they would “trample under their feet” as mire and dirt …]
Many, instead of being pleased, are only irritated and offended at it—
[Nothing under heaven has ever given more offence than this. Men may utter lewdness and blasphemy, and create but little disgust: but let them bear their testimony against sin, or proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, and instantly an indignation is excited in every bosom. In the house of God indeed a certain licence is allowed, provided the preacher be not too faithful: but in a private company the mention of such things is considered as a death-blow to social comfort, and is reprobated as an insufferable nuisance. Even in the public ministry those who “labour with fidelity in the word and doctrine” are not unfrequently treated with every species of indignity. No name is too odious for them to bear, no opposition too violent to be raised against them …
The essay goes on to explore various examples from the Bible, especially involving our Lord and later St Paul who suffered from rejection of their teachings, concluding:
there ever have been multitudes who would take offence at the kindest efforts for their welfare, and, like ferocious “dogs, would turn again and rend you.” Reprove iniquity, and you will still be deemed “the troublers of Israel;” and those who are reproved will say of you, “I hate Micaiah, for he doth not speak good of me, but evil.”]
From this aversion which men feel to religious instruction, it appears,
II. That great caution is to be used in administering it—
The direction in our text was given to the whole multitude of those who heard our Lord’s discourse; and therefore may be considered as applicable,
1. To ministers—
[Though it is not to be confined to them, it does not exclude them. Doubtless where numbers of persons are assembled to hear the word of God, it is not possible to suit oneself to the disposition and taste of every individual … He should consider the state of his hearers, and should adapt his discourses to their necessities … we should be content to give “milk to babes,” and to reserve the “strong meat” for such as are able to digest it … we should “search out acceptable words,” and be especially careful to “speak the truth in love.” Our great object should be not to “deliver our own souls,” (though doubtless we must be careful to do that,) but principally to “win the souls” of others.]
2. To Christians in general—
[… in endeavouring to instruct others, we should consider the tune, the manner, the measure of instruction, that will be most likely to ensure success. In particular, we should not press matters when our exhortations are contemned as foolish, or resented as injurious. Not that our concern should be about ourselves, as though we feared either the contempt of men, or their resentment; but we should be afraid of hardening them, and thereby increasing their guilt and condemnation … If, indeed, after all our labour, we find that our efforts are only rejected by them with disdain, we may then with propriety leave them to themselves, and, like the Apostles, bestow our attention on more hopeful subjects. As the priests imparted of the holy food to every member of their families, but gave none of it to dogs, so may you give your holy things to others, and withhold it from those who have shewn themselves so unworthy of it.]
We will now apply the subject,
1. To those who are strangers to the truth—
[From the indifference which is usually shewn to divine things, it is evident that the value of religious knowledge is but little known. If we could inform persons how to restore their health, or how to recover an estate, or how to obtain any great temporal benefit, they would hear us gladly, and follow our advice with thankfulness; but when we speak of spiritual benefits, they have no ears to hear, no hearts to understand: they are ready to say to us, as the demoniac to Christ, “Art thou come to torment us before our time?” …]
2. To those who know it—
[Whilst we exhort you to be cautious in admonishing others, we would caution you also against being soon discouraged. Think not every one assimilated to dogs or swine because he resists the truth for a season; … if God peradventure will give them repentance, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, by whom they have been led captive at his will.”
And whilst you take upon you to admonish others, be willing to receive admonition also yourselves … Watch over your own spirit, therefore, and exemplify in yourselves the conduct you require in others.]
This is such a great essay with so much truth. Although Simeon intended it for clergy and seminarians, Christian bloggers can also glean much wisdom from it.
Tomorrow: more on Charles Simeon
Yesterday’s post concerned separating the sacred from the secular in light of Matthew 7:6, casting pearls before swine.
Tomorrow’s post will look at Charles Simeon’s exposition of that verse.
(Image credit: Wikipedia)
However, it will have more meaning if we find out who this English clergyman was.
Simeon was born in 1759 into an aristocratic family in Reading, Berkshire, in the Home Counties. At that time, London was probably several hours away by carriage. Today, it takes under an hour to reach Reading by train.
The Simeons were Anglicans but of the modernised Church of England in the decades that followed the non-violent Glorious Revolution of 1688. Clergy were no longer firebrands, perhaps necessary to avoid the impression that they wanted to continue religious persecution that had reigned in previous centuries. Moderation was the order of the day in pulpit preaching and spiritual guidance.
Simeon went to Eton, not far from Reading. In his spare time, he absorbed himself in sport, horses and fashion, typical for a young man of means.
In 1779, he went up to Cambridge to study at King’s College. As was the rule in nearly all the established denominations, receiving Communion was mandatory on Easter Day in order for churchgoers to remain in good standing. Cambridge and Oxford stipulated that students — all men at that time — had to receive Communion at least three times before they were able to graduate. Easter Sunday was likewise mandatory. We can see that Communion was still an infrequent practice, not as it is today.
When Simeon arrived at King’s College in January, he was told he would have to receive Communion within three weeks’ time. Most students of that era did not care. They went and received the Sacrament as if it were fulfilling a requirement, not as a means of grace.
Simeon, on the other hand, felt he had to prepare for receiving the Sacrament. He considered himself unfit:
Satan himself was as fit to attend [the sacrament] as I.
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…
After that Communion service, Simeon still felt unfit to receive the Sacrament and set about preparing for Easter Sunday. He read more books in tandem with studying the Bible. By the middle of Holy Week, divine grace and the Holy Spirit enabled him to understand Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice and the need for repentance. An insatiable hope welled up in him. He devoted four hours daily to prayer, rising at 4 a.m. to meet this commitment.
This was highly unusual in Anglicans of the time. Members and clergy of the Church of England were suspicious of the enthusiasm of the Wesley brothers’ missions, which led to the subsequent formation of the Methodist Church, and the Great Awakening which peaked in 1740. Even before Simeon went up to Cambridge, one professor complained of:
certain Enthusiasts in that Society, who talked of regeneration, inspiration, and drawing nigh unto God.
Simeon decided to read Theology at King’s College. He was made a fellow of College and was ordained in 1782, aged 23. Meanwhile, his brothers, John and Edward, entered law (later politics) and finance, respectively.
Charles Simeon was an early ‘evangelical’ low church Anglican clergyman. It is important to be aware of the fact that he was not an independent Evangelical in the way we understand the term today. He was still part of the Church of England. In our time, N T Wright is another clergyman who fits the same description. He is not an independent Evangelical but an Anglican.
Simeon was assigned to Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge. His enthusiasm soon put him at odds with his churchwardens and church members. They had wanted another priest — their assistant curate Mr Hammond — and made that abundantly clear from the moment he arrived.
The congregation bristled at Simeon’s evangelical preaching. Some stopped attending Holy Trinity, leaving the church half empty on Sundays, alarming at the time. Simeon tendered his resignation to the Bishop of Peterborough, but he refused it.
The churchwardens tried desperately to stop Simeon. Simeon’s struggle continued for 12 years. The churchwardens and trustees locked the church to which he had no key. Once he had a key, they locked the box pews, so that anyone attending had to stand. Simeon rented chairs, but they were removed. Other men were brought in to give Sunday afternoon lectures, without Simeon’s permission. College students attended services only to attack him verbally when he was preaching. Some threw bricks through the church windows when he was preaching. On the streets of Cambridge, they harassed him with false rumours about his reputation.
The Simeon Trust site explains the situation:
like most church congregations at the time, they wanted a preacher who would entertain, instead of one who issued serious exhortations to repent and believe, as Simeon did.
Church at this time was a little different than today: the job of priest/curate/rector was often a patronage position, given as a political or social favor, and the churchwardens or vestry really controlled the church.
One day, a student from Clare College walked with Simeon for a quarter of an hour, which surprised him such that he recorded it in his journal.
Simeon carved a Gospel verse into the pulpit. It was visible only to him and subsequent preachers:
the words a group of Greeks spoke to Philip when he and the other disciples were with Christ in Jerusalem before His death:”Sir, we would see Jesus.” (John 12:21)
Amazingly, even though his time at Holy Trinity was dogged by trials, he stayed on for over 50 years.
Eventually, he began to gather his flock by persevering in his work. Those attending his services were not only members of his congregation but also students. He also introduced a Sunday evening service, unheard of at the time.
He also attracted Theology students, future pastors, by giving classes in constructing good sermons. He felt encouraged to do this once he read An Essay on the Composition of a Sermon by the French Reformed minister Jean Claude. His methods were the same as Claude’s.
Through those classes — ‘conversation parties’ — which he held at his home on Friday and Sunday evenings, a group of evangelical young men began to grow. They were known as ‘Simeonites’, or ‘Sims’.
By the time Simeon died, one-third of Anglican clergy active at the time, had studied under him.
Even then, Simeon still faced opposition. When he was 71 and someone asked how he persevered, he said:
My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory.
He preached his last sermon two weeks before his death on November 1836, aged 77. He never married. He had a brief, final conversation with friends at his bedside:
… he said, “Do you know the text that greatly comforts me just now?” Friends asked him which. He replied, “I find infinite consolation in the fact that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth!” That surprised them until he explained, “Why, if, out of nothing God can bring all the wonder of the world, He may yet make something out of me!”
After he died, half of Cambridge University paid their respects to him.
Simeon left a considerable spiritual legacy. Would that we had one today in the Church of England.
He published the lessons from his ‘conversation parties’ and sermon outlines as Horae Homileticae to help future pastors with their preaching.
In 1827, a devout ‘Sim’, William Leeke, and his fellow students from Queen’s College established a Sunday School in Jesus Lane for the children living in the vicinity. On its first Sunday, 220 children showed up.
Another Sim, Henry Martyn, became a well known missionary and Bible translator.
Simeon helped to appoint evangelical chaplains to India, even when the East India Company forbade them.
In 1817, he received an inheritance with which he immediately created the Simeon Trust — which still exists today — which helps to purchase the right to appoint the priest-in-charge of certain Anglican parishes. St Peter’s in Colchester, Essex, is one of them. This was to do away with the patronage system:
Simeon realized that, while there was no shortage of solid Evangelical priests, the patronage system of parish appointments not only made it difficult for Evangelicals to secure parish appointments, but meant that continuity was not guaranteed: a congregation with a good preacher that left would not necessarily receive a good replacement.
Simeon helped to found the Church Missionary Society in 1799 and the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (now known as the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People or CMJ) in 1809.
Today, despite the opposition to Simeon when he was vicar there, Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge continues to be a beacon for Anglican evangelicalism.
The Simeon Trust no longer appears to be active in Britain. It is mainly in the United States these days with different locations overseas. It offers workshops throughout the year, which are hosted by Protestant churches of various denominations.
Tomorrow: Charles Simeon’s exposition of Matthew 7:6
One of my readers, Boetie, a Catholic living in Germany, sent in a thoughtful comment by way of response. He has kindly given me permission to use it as a guest post on the differences between Catholic and Anglican worship.
What he says closely parallels my own experience in the early 1980s and caused me to convert to the Episcopal Church and continue worshipping in the UK as an Anglican. I should emphasise that my conversion came through low church, which also had quite a lot of ritual, rather than high church. That said, I have occasionally enjoyed the freedom and the opportunity to revisit ancient traditions and vestments.
Without further ado, Boetie discusses his results and his own worship journey:
I came out “top of the flame” – not that I was in the least surprised, though. But this liturgical and at the same time humorous approach is what first attracted me to the Anglican Church in her High Church / Anglo-Catholic tradition ever since I was an 11 or 12 year old lad from Germany coming to Britain for the first time in the very early 1970s. Quite visibly the Anglican Church had not been through the devastations Vatican II had brought about in my own church (I’m a “Roman”). Sadly, the Anglican Church has more than made up leeway since.
But for the first time in my life I saw priests who looked like priests with their dog collars and their cassocks/soutanes, who spoke like priests and who acted like priests. Our own RC priests at the time had opted for the “social worker” chic, loathed to be addressed as “Father” and were delighted when you told them: “I would never have guessed you were a priest”.
And, of course, in England I gained an insight into what “liturgy” meant – while in Germany they had already come up with that brilliant idea of happy-clappy services with do-gooder homilies. I had never heard e.g. an “Angelus” prayer in my home parish – the first in my life was in an Anglican church in Hertfordshire.
So, for many years in my youth, the Anglican Church shaped my own Catholic faith.
I noticed differences though, even at an early age.
Right from day one I was impressed by the style of hearty hymn singing – as opposed to many RC churches where people often can’t be bothered and where the singing is lacklustre. Also, I found traditional Anglican services solemn but ultimately more serene than traditional RC Masses. And the difference of the quality of style and language was stunning: introducing the vernacular after Vatican II into RC services didn’t work well: e.g. in Germany it was modern day German while in the Anglican Church the wonderful traditional English had been retained. (Doing away with Prayer Book English I regard as a a major flaw in today’s Anglican worship.) Not least of all, to this day I appreciate the humour that is never far from the surface with High Church priests – which makes it a pleasure to listen to their sermons and homilies.
The demise of the Anglican Church (namely the CofE) I find deeply saddening and I wonder whether the Catholic faith in her Anglican tradition will have a future within the Anglican Communion or whether in the long run it will be just “catholic” in name and maybe ritual but no longer in essence – with lesbians and feminists in fiddleback chasubles and birettas swinging the thurible – during a same sex marriage.
But I do not want to end on a sombre note. If you appreciate the type of humour of the quiz I am sure you will also like the cartoon figure of “Father Jolly” created years ago by the American Anglican priest Fr. Tom Janikowski during his formative years in the seminary. He is now Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Rock Island, Illinois (an ACNA parish). Unfortunately there are only few of his cartoons on the net: the first 4 pictures here:
Here is another one: http://www.thescp.org/documents/jollylovejoy.jpg
Should you come across more in the vein of that quiz – please let us know in your blog. I am sure I’d be not the only one to appreciate this.
You can bet I will, brother!
Thank you very much, Boetie, for your excellent contribution and for the witty (and realistic) Father Jolly cartoons.
It would be edifying if others sharing the same experience as Boetie’s and mine would kindly comment below.
‘How “spikey” are YOU?’ is a short quiz that tests one’s affinity with ritual and ceremony in church.
It will no doubt baffle anyone who is not Anglican, Episcopalian or Catholic.
‘Spikey’ refers to the tall altar candles used in traditionalist churches. The higher one is on the candle in terms of results, the spikier — more high church — one is.
Thanks to my all-too-brief but nonetheless impressive pre-Vatican II upbringing, my result is:
Top of the flame
Congratulations!! After passing this rigorous test you are indeed ‘Top of the flame’ .. .a true all singing, all dancing ‘bells and smells’ Anglo-Catholic! Our videos of Solemn High Mass will have you romping in the Elysian Fields and should you be passing our door.. call in and be assured of a warm welcome! And remember our maxim ‘the only thing that hinders too much ceremonial is the lack of equipment!’
The quiz asks that you enter a name. I merely typed in a random jumble of letters, which was accepted.
You can even save your results to share with others. Therefore, I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!
The quiz comes from the altar servers at Beauchamp (pron. ‘Beecham’) Chapel at the Anglican Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick.
The church’s Norman foundations date back to 1123 and were commissioned by the 2nd Earl of Warwick, Roger de Beaumont.
In the 14th century, a subsequent Earl of Warwick, Thomas de Beauchamp, had the chancel vestries and chapter house extensively rebuilt. His descendants built the Chapel of Our Lady, also known as the Beauchamp Chapel.
Also highly recommended is Warwick Castle, erstwhile home of the Earls of Warwick. It’s a beautiful place and will take the better part of a day to visit.
In the early 21st the worldwide migration situation has produced Church-related anomalies in Europe, including the UK.
One of these has been the marriage of convenience, as a Workpermit.com post from 2006 describes. In 2005, a set of rules was introduced in the UK to put an end to this practice designed:
to get around immigration controls and require immigrants to obtain a special certificate of approval, or COA before they can wed in the UK.
However, Mr Justice Silber overturned these laws in 2006 because they violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Consequently:
The overturning of the marriage laws due to unfair discrimination against immigrants on religious grounds leaves the door open for hundreds of people from overseas getting married in the UK.
The test case involved in overturning by Mr Justice Silber, involved a foreign national from Algeria and an EEA national who was legally living in the UK. Once Mahmaud Baiai and Izabella Trzanska from Poland were refused permission to marry, they launched the challenge.
Mr Justice Silber said the case raised issues under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to marry and found a family.
“The rules were incompatible because they discriminated against immigrants rights subject to immigration control on grounds of religion and nationality,” he declared.
Oddly, the rules overturned did not apply to Church of England members:
even if they are illegally in the UK.
This meant that the Anglican Church could conduct marriages of convenience. By 2008, as The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):
the number of bogus weddings performed by Anglican priests has risen by as much as 400 per cent in some dioceses over the last four years.
Foreign nationals have turned to the Church because it is exempt from rules that require all foreign nationals from outside the European Union to obtain a Home Office certificate of approval to marry in a register office.
That year, Church of England bishops warned their clergy to be vigilant when evaluating immigrants wishing to marry in an Anglican ceremony:
the Rt Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, urged priests to be wary of migrants looking to get married who have obtained a common licence – a preliminary for church weddings involving foreign nationls.
“The new regime does not apply to marriages by banns, common licence or special licence, which probably explains the substantial increase in demand for bishops’ common licenses,” he writes.
“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is significant abuse of the availability of Church of England marriage in order to try to gain some immigration advantage.”
The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, has also written to churches in his diocese with guidance on how to tighten measures.
The diocese of Southwark, which covers Greater London south of the Thames, has seen the number of applications for common licences rise from 90 in 2004 to 493 last year.
In 2013 the Coalition government (Conservative/Liberal Democrat) produced new rules to end marriages of convenience. From page 4 of the PDF:
Notices of marriage following civil preliminaries or civil partnership in England and Wales involving a non-EEA national who could benefit from it in immigration terms will be referred to the Home Office for a decision as to whether to investigate whether the marriage or civil partnership is a sham. Non-EEA nationals will only be able to marry in the Church of England or the Church in Wales following civil preliminaries, except in limited circumstances.
Perhaps something similar should be done in the case of conversions by refugees to Christianity.
On June 5, The Guardian reported that the Catholic bishops in Austria are suspicious of the number of sudden converts to Christianity among refugees from war-torn countries. The paper reported in 2014 that the same phenomenon is going on in the Lutheran Church in Germany.
Clergy with a rosy view of the world will say that this is a tremendous opportunity to revive the Church in Europe.
The Austrian bishops view the situation differently. In 2015:
the Austrian bishops’ conference published new guidelines for priests, warning that some refugees may seek baptism in the hope of improving their chances of obtaining asylum.
“Admitting persons for baptism who are during the official procedure classified as ‘not credible’ leads to a loss in the church’s credibility across the whole of Austria,” the new guidelines say.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Vienna explained:
There has to be a noticeable interest in the faith that extends beyond merely the wish to obtain a piece of paper.
Austrian priests now informally evaluate potential refugee converts during their one-year ‘preparation period’. The Archdiocese of Vienna has recorded that 5% to 10% of potential converts drop out of the process prior to baptism.
In England, however, Anglican clergy are eager to not only ask no questions but to combine the conversion process with helping to ease the refugee application process.
The Guardian interviewed the Revd Mohammad Eghtedarian, an Iranian refugee and convert who was later ordained. He is a curate at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral. Eghtedarian says that refugee status and religious affiliation are intertwined.
Liverpool Cathedral has a process which involves registering refugee attendance, which helps their asylum applications. A candidate for Baptism must attend the five preparatory classes. A baptised refugee seeking Confirmation must attend a dozen courses.
Hmm. It sounds very minimal.
The Guardian asked Eghtedarian about the sincerity of those candidates. Even he acknowledged that ‘plenty of people’ were converting for convenience!
In large part, only a cursory examination exists. The Cathedral will also provide a ‘letter of attendance’ to immigration authorities, if requested.
The article said that the Church of England does not record conversions, regardless of background, because it could be a ‘sensitive’ issue.
It seems the Austrian Catholic bishops have approached the conversions of convenience issue more sensibly than the German Lutherans, who resent that immigration court judges ask refugees to discuss their newly-found beliefs in detail in order to assess their sincerity.
It is the responsibility of clergy to do a thorough examination of heart and mind during the conversion process rather than let false converts through the doors for Baptism and Confirmation.
Church of England clergy should pray for divine guidance on the matter rather than deceive fellow Christians, other citizens of our country and our government.
Admittedly, some of these converts are sincere. However, if ‘plenty of people’ are not, then the whole thing is a sham.
If marriages of convenience rightly rang Anglican bishops’ alarm bells, then conversions of convenience should, too.