Henry Venn

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Church History

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)

On the 2nd March 1725, one Henry Venn was born in the Surrey town of Barnes. As a son, nephew, grandson, great-grandson and great-grandson of Anglican clergy his future looked pretty pre-determined. In 1747, to what I suppose was a surprise to no-one, he was ordained. Eight years later, he became curate at Clapham. As it happens, in time his son was also ordained and later became Rector of that parish.

Venn was a founder of the ‘Clapham Sect’, a grouping of Evangelical Anglicans which included William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon and the Governor-general of India. They were mocked in their day, and dubbed the ‘Clapham Saints’, but their energy was profound. They founded the Church Missionary Society, and the Bible Society but their most enduring legacy is their relentless campaigning for the abolition of slavery. Spearheaded by Wilberforce, the abolitionist cause finally came to fruition in 1833 with the Slavery Abolition Act.

Venn didn’t live to see the end of slavery, having died in 1797. The family business of producing clergy continued. His son, as we have seen, was Rector of Clapham. His grandson, another Henry, worked tirelessly for the Church Missionary Society. Another grandson - John Venn - was vicar of St Peter’s in Hereford, and was responsible for setting up Hereford City Mission, a corn mill, a model farm, a school, a boys’ home, a library and brought the YMCA to the City!

So much for the men, you might be thinking, what about the women? Well, Henry Venn’s grand-daughter, Charlotte Elliot, penned the popular hymn “Just as I am”. Oh, and the Venn Diagram? That was the product of a great-grandson!

The Sea of Galilee

“but in the latter time [God] has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations … The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone …. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:1, 2, 6) - In ancient times, the sea was known by a number of names. In the New Testament you might find it referred to as the Sea of Chinnereth, Sea of Gennesaret or even the Sea of Tiberias. Many of the early disciples made their living on the sea, and next week we’ll look at the life of the fisherman. For now, we’ll simply note that centuries before Christ this area was earmaked for great things.

Shine Bright!

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14) - Whatever the weather the light would flash around the room, starting on one wall and quickly racing across to the other side. The lighthouse (or was it a lightship?) was sending out its silent warning. You could screw up your eyes, but still it pulsed. Oh that our Christian conduct would shine so bright! The city on the hill can be seen for miles around, as it light twinkles on the horizon. “In the same way” urges Jesus “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

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