Some years ago, when a member of the church where I served died, the family gave money in her memory with the request that I should buy a book to be dedicated to her. I chose ‘Exciting Holiness’ and they liked it so much that, despite not being churchgoers, they asked for their own copy. Its subtitle is:
Collects and Readings for the Festivals and Lesser Festivals of the Church of England.
It honours what might be termed as the ‘lesser saints,’ giving a brief summary of each in addition to prayers and readings. Today it recalls Charles Simeon, described as an ‘Evangelical Divine’. He was born in Reading in 1759, educated at Cambridge University, 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. There are one or two memorable comments about him; one describes how, preparing for Holy Communion on his entrance to College, he became aware of the redeeming love of God, an experience he regarded as the turning point in his life. Another comment describes how many of the parishioners at Holy Trinity did not welcome him, since he had been appointed through his own family links, but his care and love for them overcame their antipathy and his preaching greatly increased the congregation. Also Charles had carved on the inside of the pulpit, where only the preacher could see, the words from John 12:21, when Philip brought the Greeks to the Lord, and they said, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’ – a constant reminder that people did not come to gaze on a great preacher or to admire his eloquence, but to seek Jesus.
Charles became a leading Evangelical influence in the church and was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society – what we now know as the Church Mission Society (CMS), so it is appropriate to finish with the prayer for CMS highlighted by Beryl Lavender:
Loving Lord we ask you to bless the Church Mission Society and to help all their mission partners as they dedicate time and effort to bringing your love to all people everywhere, particularly to those who struggle at the edge of society. Give the missionaries strength and courage in their commitment to bring justice, organisation, meaning and purpose to the poor and marginalised, even here in Britain, where too many hover on the fringes of society, and too many, in this secular age, no longer know how to speak to you in prayer. We pray for all those who have been led astray and do not know you, and for all those who have never heard of you, and for all those who have been prevented from hearing about you, and we pray especially for the CMS partners who are reaching out to draw them into your love.