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Charles Simeon's Long-Term Leadership

Even before finishing his degree, and still lacking pastoral experience, Charles Simeon put his name forward for the pastorate of Cambridge's Holy Trinity church. This was unheard of. Amazingly Simeon was given the parish and would labor there the rest of his life.

The church was less than pleased to receive this blustering minister who insisted that those who called themselves "Christian" be truly saved by grace and live lives more closely conformed to Christ. They distrusted his ivory-tower background—they were largely artisan's families, or more bluntly, in Simeon's words, "very poor church folks," and they were wary of his fervor.

Opponents harassed Simeon by locking the family-owned pews, forcing those who wished to hear the new minister to find standing room as best they could. When Simeon brought in benches, church council members tossed them out into the churchyard, but he was undeterred.

Simeon was also determined to provide the Cambridge undergraduates with decent training in theology and pastoral ministry. In 1790 Simeon began holding informal seminars for ministerial students on Sunday evenings. In 1812, he instituted weekly "conversation parties" in his rooms, essentially theological and pastoral Q&A sessions. By 1823, some 40 students were attending. By 1827 the number was closer to 60, straining the room's capacity and keeping two servants busy distributing tea. Along the way, the eager participants acquired the labels "Simeonite" and "Sim," which they wore as badges of honor.

Of the undergraduates Simeon trained during his 54 years at Holy Trinity, some 1,100 became effective—and many, distinguished— parish ministers, chaplains, and missionaries.

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