March 29: John Keble, Priest, 1866
March 29, 2011 31 Comments
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New ev’ry morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove:
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.
These familiar words of John Keble are from his cycle of poems entitled The Christian Year (1827), which he wrote to restore among Anglicans a deep feeling for the Church Year. The work went through ninety-ﬁve editions, but this was not the fame he sought: his consuming desire was to be a faithful pastor, who ﬁnds his fulﬁllment in daily services, conﬁrmation classes, visits to village schools, and a voluminous correspondence with those seeking spiritual counsel.
Keble, born in 1792, received his early education in his father’s vicarage. At fourteen, he won a scholarship to Oxford and graduated in 1811 with highest honors. He served the University in several capacities, including ten years as Professor of Poetry. After ordination in 1816 he had a series of rural curacies, and ﬁnally settled in 1836 into a thirty-year pastorate at the village of Hursley, near Winchester.
England was going through a turbulent change from a rural to an industrial and urban society. Among the reforms of the 1830’s, Parliament acted to abolish ten Anglican bishoprics in Ireland. Keble vigorously attacked this action as undermining the independence of the Church.
His Assize Sermon of 1833 was the spark that ignited the Oxford Movement. Those drawn to the Movement began to publish a series of “Tracts for the Times” (hence the popular name “Tractarians”)— which sought to recall the Church to its ancient sacramental heritage. John Henry Newman was the intellectual leader of the Movement, Edward Bouverie Pusey was the prophet of its devotional life, and John Keble was its pastoral inspiration.
Though bitterly attacked, his loyalty to his Church was unwavering. Within three years of his death at age 74, a college bearing his name was established at Oxford “to give an education in strict ﬁdelity to the Church of England.” For Keble, this would have meant dedication to learning in order “to live more nearly as we pray.”
I Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know thy presence and obey thy will; that, following the example of thy servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage that which thou givest us to do, and endure that which thou givest us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Romans 12: 9-21
Psalm 26: 1-8
Preface of a Saint (I)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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