musings on the church calendar from one who seldom doubts
Earlier Believing Thomas columns on Edward Pusey (Believing Thomas, September, 2011) and John Henry Newman (Believing Thomas, February, 2016) have been written about those involved in what has been known as the Oxford (sometimes called the Tractarian) Movement. On March 29th, our liturgical calendar honors the memory of the important English poet who is often credited with the start of that movement. John Keble is best known for a sermon he preached entitled “National Apostasy” on the occasion of the opening day of British Courts in 1833, discussed more fully below.
The son of an Anglican priest also named John Keble, our subject was born in Fairford, Gloucestershire, to the Vicar of Coln St. Aldwyn’s on April 25, 1792. Emerging as a brilliant student at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Keble rose to become a fellow at Oriel College, Oxford, tutoring and examining students there. In 1815 he was ordained an Anglican cleric, first serving as Curate at his father’s church. Later he served as Curate at St. Michael and St. Martin’s Church, Eastlich Martin, Gloucestershire.
Keble first became widely noted for his publication of The Christian Year, a daily way to follow the Anglican liturgy using much poetry. It was first published anonymously in 1827, but soon his authorship was revealed due to its immense popularity. This resulted in Keble’s appointment to be the Poetry Chair at Oxford as which he served until 1841. By the time the copyright expired, more than 375,000 copies of The Christian Year had been sold and 156 editions had been published.
His fame, however, is firmly rooted in the positions he took in his sermon of 1833 in which he scolded those who had strayed from revering the sacraments of the church, regarded the church more as something social, and did not properly respect the priests of the church. This, in his view departed from consideration of the church and its priests as the prophetic voices instituted by the Lord God. The movement brought new emphasis on rituals of the Church of England, including weekly Holy Communion and practices sometimes later characterized by those in disagreement with those called tractarians as “High Church.” Those in agreement with him included Edward Pusey and John Henry Newman, the latter publishing a series of tracts in support of the movement and finally converting to Roman Catholicism.
Keble remained an Anglican, however, and was appointed Vicar of Hursley, Hampshire and settled in as parish priest of All Saints Church. He remained in that post until he died March 29, 1866 at one of his favorite places, The Hermitage Hotel, Bournemouth, Hampshire.
Some of Keble’s lyrical poetry can be found in the Episcopal Hymnal of 1982:
Hymn 10 which starts, “New every morning is the love…” and Hymn 656 which starts, “Blest be the pure in heart…” Another hymn containing his poetry begins, “Sun of my soul, thou Savior dear…”
However the debate over the movement he started strikes the reader, one must acknowledge the sincerity of his faith best represented in the beautiful poetry he left us. +
©2016 by Thomas H. Peterson
Sources: Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.,https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_of_saints (Episcopal Church); John Keble, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Keble; The Hymnal 1982 According to the Use of the Episcopal Church, Copyright © 1985 by The Church Pension Fund; James Kiefer’s Christian Biographies http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/jek/