November 12, 2020
Tomorrow, November 13, 2020 or November 14 in the USA, the Church celebrates the Feast Day set aside for Charles Simeon, Evangelical Divine, whose writings and priestly ministry have been a great inspiration to me over the years.
Born in Reading, UK in 1759, Charles Simeon was educated at Cambridge University and spent the rest of his life in that city. He became a fellow of King’s College in 1782 and was ordained priest the following year, when he became vicar of Holy Trinity Church nearby. He had evangelical leanings as a boy but it was whilst preparing for Holy Communion on his entrance to College that he became aware of the redeeming love of God, an experience he regarded as the turning point in his life.
Many of the parishioners of Holy Trinity did not welcome him, since he had been appointed through his own family links, but his patient care and love for them overcame their antipathy and his preaching greatly increased the congregation. Charles had carved on the inside of the pulpit in Holy Trinity Church, where only the preacher could see, the words from John 12:21, when Philip brought the Greeks to our Lord, and they said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” These words were a constant reminder to him that people came not to gaze on a great preacher or to admire his eloquence, but to seek Jesus.
Simeon became a leading Evangelical influence in the Church and was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society. He also set up the Simeon Trust which made appointments to parishes of fellow Evangelicals. He remained Vicar of Holy Trinity until his death on November 13, 1836.
I first came across Simeon and his influence in the Church of England when I studied theology and ministry at Oak Hill College in north London prior to my ordination in 1995. As the College was considered one of the bastions of the evangelical wing of the Church, Simeon was regarded as one of the college’s heroes. His ministry of patient care and love of his congregation has stayed with me as example I have tried to follow in my own ministry.
Prayer of the Day:
Eternal God, who raised up Charles Simeon to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and inspire your people in service and mission: grant that we with all your Church may worship the Saviour, turn in sorrow from our sins and walk in the way of holiness, through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.