St Peter’s is a Simeon Church.
The appointment of the Vicar of St Peter’s or “the gift of the living of St Peter’s” as it was rather quaintly called in the old days, is in the hands of the Simeon Trustees, who take their name from Charles Simeon. The right to appoint had been in the hands of St Botolph’s Priory from its founding in about 1102 to its dissolution in 1536, when Henry VIII granted the patronage to his Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley of Berechurch. In 1807 Revd. Charles Simeon bought the right to appoint the vicar from Mr. S. Thornton for the sum of £850. The first appointment to be made by the trustees was William Marsh, a friend of Simeon, in 1814, and Samuel Carr was the second.
Charles Simeon was born in Reading in 1759. As a young man he went to Cambridge as an undergraduate in 1779, where besides earning himself the dubious honour of being “the first man to carry an umbrella in Cambridge” (he was rarely seen without it!) he also spent fifty-four years as Vicar of Holy Trinity Church. It was during this long and initially difficult ministry, that Simeon made his powerful impression on the whole life of the Church of England.
His particular gift and concern was to prepare men for the ministry and expound the Scriptures so as to “humble the sinner, exalt the Saviour and promote holiness”. This he did by lectures, sermon classes and also by his “conversation parties”, or seminars as they might be called today. Simeon also gave great impetus to the missionary movement of the early 19th century.
However, the particular and practical way in which Charles Simeon’s life and work affects us at St Peter’s Church, is in his safeguarding the continuity of evangelical teaching within a parish by the setting up of a body of Trustees, to whom was committed the responsibility of placing truly converted clergymen (at a time when tradition rather than vocation influenced the choice of profession) to those parishes or livings acquired by the Simeon Trust. Amongst the earliest of the livings acquired by this body of Trustees, was that of St Peter’s, Colchester, on the grounds of it being an important and influential sphere, and since that time the appointment of the Vicar of St Peter’s has been in their hands.
In 2001 the church of St Peter was formed into a United Benefice with the neighbouring parish of St Botolphs, which has the Bishop as Patron. From then until September 2020, the incumbent was appointed by both the Simeon Trustees and the Bishop, acting jointly. 1st September 2020 saw the separation of the benefice back into two separate parishes, the Vicar continuing as vicar of St Peter’s only.
A PRAYER used in King’s College Chapel each year on November 13th, which is the anniversary of Charles Simeon’s death.
Almighty and everlasting God, who by thy holy servant, Charles Simeon, didst mould the lives of many that they might go forth and teach others also; mercifully grant that as through evil report and good report he ceased not to preach thy saving Word, so we may never be ashamed Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ Our Lord, who with Thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God world without end. Amen