Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Charles Simeon

Today being a Wednesday, I was curious to see who was up to be remembered in the calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts and was pleased to see it was someone I did not know at all: Charles Simeon. Interesting fellow and one I doubt I would have the courage or perseverance to emulate.

In the late 1700's, just after finishing his training at Cambridge, Simeon was appointed the "curate-in-charge" at Trinity Church, Cambridge. Oooh, much unpleasantness ensued: parishioners refused to come and locked the doors of their pews so visitors didn't have any place to sit. When Simeon rented chairs at his own expense, the churchwardens threw them out. Students hurled bricks through the windows.

What I'm still not sure about is exactly what Simeon did to merit such opprobrium. It's especially odd, since he ended up staying at Trinity for over 50 years "gradually winning over his parishioners and making a great impact that reached well beyond Cambridge." At his death, over half the university came to pay their respects.

Simeon, in other avenues, founded the Church Missionary Society in England, and the University and College Christian Fellowship, also known as the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in the United States and Canada, and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students elsewhere. He established a trust, later known as the Simeon Trust, to purchase the "livings" or "advowsons"—the right to appoint the priest-in-charge—of various parishes. And, if that weren't enough, "His magnum opus is his twenty-one volume Horae Homiletica— a collection of expanded, sermon outlines from all sixty-six books of the Bible."

Sounds like a good, hardworking guy. So what exactly did he do that got people so riled? Maybe nothing. And maybe that's a good lesson: just because people are throwing bricks through your window doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong.

This seems to me an excellent example of turning the other cheek. For a long time I've thought that turning the other cheek in no way means backing down. It means staying in place, neither apologizing not attacking. God knows I don't think I'm called to do what Charles Simeon did, but apparently Charles Simeon was, and God bless him for it.

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