March 29: John Keble, Priest, 1866

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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.


Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Romans 12: 9-21

Matthew 5:1-12

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.

* * *

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?

To post a comment, your first and last name and email address are required. Your name will be published; your email address will not. The first time you post, a moderator will need to approve your submission; after that, your comments will appear instantly.

31 thoughts on “March 29: John Keble, Priest, 1866

  1. I’m surprised at how airy this is. The write-up seems desparate for something to say. The opening is as general as possible, with a verse about when you wake up you start thinking again — it’s certainly doesn’t say anything about the Christian year. The 3rd paragraph makes no effort to explain why England’s going industrial entailed fewer bishops in Ireland, or if Keble’s opposition met success. The 4th paragraph says nothing about the content of said sermon, and names two colleagues not commemorated today. It doesn’t elaborate on “sacramental heritage” at all, nor what “recalling” the church to it meant. The last paragraph offers no hint at what “bitterly attacked” means, or by whom — then mentions naming a college for him. In all this, there is no center of gravity, no real “theme.” The scripture selections, not surprisingly, are generic: everything has its time, a vindication psalm, a list of proverbially approved behaviours, and Matthew’s beatitudes. The collect expresses a grim determination to tolerate life obediently no matter how bad God makes it. I’m shocked, this commemoration is so vapid. If we can’t do better with Keble, perhaps we should combine him with Pusey and Newman, focusing on the Oxford movement contributions per se. This one is a flop.

  2. If Keble’s preaching truly was “the spark that ignited the Oxford Movement,” then I hope he makes it into the Calendar. Obviously, anyone who worships in a parish centered on the Eucharist owes something to the Oxford Movement . Putting Keble and John Henry Newman together on the same day sounds like a not a bad idea.

  3. New Hebrew Scripture reading: This reading is ‘ok’ … but a stronger one probably could be found.
    Bio: He needs a “He died in 1866.’ statement.

    Notwithstanding ‘that John Lavoe’s’ comments above … I like the pen and ink drawing of Father Pusey very much. 🙂

  4. I agree with John LaVoe on this one. It’s vapid and unorganized. Rather than start with the vague snip of poetry, how about an old fiashioned thesis statement about Keble that the rest of the entry will support? What is the most significant thing about him that commends him to us?

  5. I too agree with John LaVoe, Start this one all over. I would support combining a commemoration of Keble and Pusey, who remained faithful members of the C of E all their lives. As was much discussed on Feb. 21, when HWHM commemorates Newman, I’m not sure we need to commemorate JHN at all, since he left us for Rome in mid-life and spent the rest of his life not exactly looking on Anglicanism in a kindly light.

  6. This entry has not changed since I wrote it for the first edition of Lesser Feasts & Fasts that carried biographical notes. It does, of course, assume a rudimentary knowledge of ecclesiastical history to make the connections (e.g., to understand that societal change involved parliamentary reform that touched naturally upon the Established Church; or that the “Assize Sermon” was the “spark” that set off the Oxford Movement; or that Keble’s poetry as enshrined in a familiar hymn might make a connection between the reader and the subject of the commemoration; &c.), but that cannot, alas, be assumed among contemporary Episcopalians it woiuld seem. Perhaps Mr LaVoe should be commissioned to write something weighier and less “airy.”

    • Bill’s response has brought to the fore a whole passel of issues, some relatively simple and straightforward, others not.
      (1) It would be very useful, particularly during this interim period of calendar development, to include a statement “Keble was first included in the calendar in Prayer Book Studies XIII” and this biography was taken from LFF 1980″ or “Joe Schmoe is new in HWHM.”
      (2) I don’t know why Keble is in our calendar. I only know of one church dedicated to him, and it’s in England. I do know why Keble would be in in my calendar, by the way. Virtually none of the bios answer this simple question.
      which gets us to the real issue:
      (3) As one looks at the history of the calendar of the saints, it is fairly clear to distinguish “people who we want to remember us in the day of our death” from “people we want to remember on the days of their deaths.” As Episcopalians, we (and our proxies, the SCLM) have not done the hard theological work to answer why and what we are doing in HWHM and commemorations. This shows up most clearly in the bios of people for whom it isn’t clear into which box they fit. Bill’s “Keble” is pretty good for one of these, because I might hazard a guess as to where he might want to put Keble. But the most vapid of these bios are reserved for those right in the middle.

      So, could I ask SCLM to please do some real heortological and hagiological work? We need to come to some sense of what time is about and what our connection to our forebears in the faith is about before we slap a meaningless collection of church history vignettes or a calendar more onerous than that of Trent (or even worse, a mixture of both) into the calendar of the church.

  7. Here’s the problem about “a rudimentary knowledge of ecclesiastical history,” at least for Americans. If I set aside what I learned of church history at seminary, and revert, so to speak, to a pre-seminary state of knowledge, I would only know about Keble, the Oxford movement, and Newman because I took an undergraduate course in English history, majored in English, and earned a doctorate in English literature, with my primary course and research work in English [i.e., not American] studies. A semester course in 19th century English non-fiction prose was one class that informs my reading of the entry above.

    If you see your primary audience as seminary trained lay people and clergy, then they will be able to make the connections. Most well-educated people in the pews, I venture, would not.

  8. I am a lay person, and not seminary-trained, although working on an MA in Theology. I have a pretty fair knowledge of the Oxford Movement, and I agree that the bio here assumes knowledge that just isn’t there by-and-large (anymore? really?). Let us remember that many of the people in the pews may not be well-educated, at least not in the Humanities.

    I’m going to side-step Walter’s well-taken points about Theology here. I don’t think the distinction was much of an issue until the well-meaning broadening of the net in HWHM. Seldom have I struggled with why XYZ is in LFF. If not part of our tradition in TEC, it’s usually someone important to the larger Anglican perspective– and Keble, Pusey, and the Oxford Movement certainly qualify there. (I too have issues with including JHM, period, and poor Hurrell Froude died too early, I guess.)

    Specific to the observance today– would it help to combine at least Keble and Pusey into a day remembering the Oxford Movement? Politics aside, they very much helped to re-ground the Anglican Churches into the Catholic portion of the great Anglican Compromise. And I think that affects our worship today in many parishes– certainly my own.

    I really like adding a line of provenance: “Keble was first included,” or “Joe Schmoe, etc.” And John Morrell, you did earn at least an eye-roll for “kindly light…”

  9. If Keble and Pusey were to be given a combined commemoration, might I suggest July 14, since it was on that day in 1833 that Keble preached his “National Apostasy” sermon.

  10. Comment.

    The SCLM has provided this blog for comment on the Trial Use of commemorations, and additional (or substitute) readings authorized by General Convention 2009.

    Because many of you do not have a hard copy of HWHM you are unable to distinguish a commemoration that is already included in the calendar from one that is offered for Trial Use this triennium. And, you cannot know if a reading has been added or substituted.
    I urge the ‘blog-masters’ to bracket Trial Use Commemorations, and substituted or added readings, for clarity. Even in the hard copy only the commemorations are bracketed (or underlined in the calendar pages).

    The biographies are not part of General Convention legislation. The biographies of the Trial Use Commemorations were not even available to General Convention 2009 when it was adopted. SCLM is entirely able to change, add, edit, delete, etc. biographical information.
    Given the frequency of our comments on previously included biographies – perhaps SCLM regrets, maybe not, giving us the already included bios for comment, too. 😦

    However, this is the first time – ever – that SCLM (or its predecessor SLC) has offered the bios for comment to the world. Let’s hear it for transparency! 🙂

    • One major advantage of offering biographies for review is the identification of factual errors. See the blog for Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador as an example.

  11. To judge from the readings and the collect, Keble was of all the saints the most persecuted. Ignatius may have been fed to the lions, Laurence grilled alive, and Perpetua mauled by a savage cow, but poor Keble, after being “bitterly attacked” in print and pulpit by those he had gently and respectfully accused of apostasy, was denied preferment!
    If ever there were saints who should share a date, surely Keble and Pusey qualify. It’s really hard to assess the impact of either without mentioning the other. The discussion would necessarily include a mention of Cardinals Newman and Manning, which might satisfy their groupies without actually including those worthy apostates in the calendar. And the logical date for them to share is July 14, the date of Keble’s “National Apostasy” sermon of 1833.
    As noted in the comments above, some knowledge of the conditions that gave rise to the Oxford Movement is required to put Keble and company in context. As Hugh Trevor-Roper warned in his biography of Archbishop Laud, it’s hard to see very far when you approach your subject on your knees.
    While the suppression of the Irish dioceses – which served few souls, drained the Treasury, and annoyed the Irish – was the straw that broke the camel’s back, there were weightier issues in the background. Chief among them was the Catholic Relief Act of 1829, which allowed Roman Catholics to sit in Parliament. Keble and his colleagues correctly foresaw that a similar toleration would in due course be extended to Dissenters and even Jews, raising the specter that someday a Jewish prime minister might be selecting bishops for the Church of England. Just because the monarch served as its head and it was funded by His Majesty’s Treasury was no reason to treat the Church as though it were subject to the whims of His Majesty’s Government.
    Another thread worth following is how what had begun as an anti-Roman Catholic movement which sought to restore the practices and independence of the primitive (pre-Constantine) Church became during the active life-time of its founders a campaign to restore the imagined glories of the Roman Church of the High Middle Ages, albeit with an English rather than a Latin mass. I suspect the Victorian fascination with that mythical medieval era inhabited by Malory’s King Arthur, Ivanhoe, Ossian, and Tannhauser had at least as much to do with it as a scholarly appreciation of the architecture, theology, and liturgy of the pre-Reformation Church.

  12. I consider myself a reasonably well educated Episcopalian, yet I found John Keble’s biography confusing. But then, I only took 2 English courses in college, and only one of them dealt with English literature. My English history dates to high school when I took “history after the Treaty of Westphalia.” So I need a lot more foundation to begin to understand this celebration. It is NOT a proposed celebration. It is already IN the CALENDAR. I came to the end of the biography without any real understanding as to why the commemoration of the Rev. John Keble was important besides his being one of the founders of the Oxford Movement.

    A bit of history would have been helpful. England and Ireland were incorporated in 1801 and the (Protestant) Church of Ireland become part of the Church of England (C of E). Up until 1833, the tiny island had 22 Anglican bishops and archbishops for a population of about 800,000 persons, considerably fewer than many single bishop sees in England. The “Irish Church Measure” of 1833 would have reduced the number of Anglican bishops and archbishops by ten by amalgamating the sees and saving money which was needed at the parish level. This was the bill which the Rev. John Keble called the “National Apostasy.”

    So I read the Rev. Keble’s sermon entitled, “National Apostasy,” which is also called the Assize sermon of 1833. []

    Reading the sermon did not really help. It seemed as though Keble was sounding a loud alarm by denouncing a prudent cost saving measure as well as railing against electoral reforms and civil rights which allowed reasonable and long over due expansion of civil rights. Among other things, the reforms allowed Roman Catholics in Great Britain to sit in Parliament (The Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829) though the law raised the amount of property a man must own before he could vote to at least 40 shillings and thus disenfranchising other men. This was followed by the Reform Acts of 1829, 1830, and 1832 which extended the vote to more men, including non-CoE Protestants permitted to serve in Parliament. The seats in the House of Commons were somewhat redistributed more fairly to represent the population by increasing representation by cities and decreasing the number of seats for boroughs with little population, the so-called “rotten boroughs.” There was also a move in the 1830s to redistribute the income of the Church of England more fairly among the bishopics or sees and fund the building of churches in urban areas. These “reforms” certainly do not seem shocking to the citizens of the U.S. But Keble saw the steps which separate Church and State as a repudiation of God, a fundamental act of betrayal, disobedience and rebellion against God:

    “The case is at least possible, of a nation, having for centuries acknowledged, as an essential part of its theory of government, that, as a Christian nation, she is also a part of Christ’s Church, and bound, in all her legislation and policy, by the fundamental rules of that Church—the case is, I say, conceivable, of a government and people, so constituted, deliberately throwing off the restraint, which in many respects such a principle would impose on them, nay, disavowing the principle itself ; and that, on the plea, that other states, as flourishing or more so in regard of wealth and dominion, do well enough without it.”

    Keble has some legitimate concerns about a Parliament which is composed of non-Anglicans legislating the affairs of the Church of England. But Keble does not take the American approach of separation of Church and State, which Great Britain still does not have. Keble railed against political reforms as though they would bring “hell, fire, and brimstone” wrath of God on the British people.

    Later in the sermon Keble wrote: “Should it ever happen (which God avert, but we cannot shut our eyes to the danger) that the Apostolical Church should be forsaken, degraded, nay trampled on and despoiled by the State and people of England, I cannot conceive a kinder wish for her, on the part of her most affectionate and dutiful children, than that she may, consistently, act in the spirit of this most noble sentence ; nor a course of conduct more likely to be blessed by a restoration to more than her former efficiency… The Church would, first of all, have to be constant, as before, in INTERCESSION.”

    Praying “for the State, and all who are in authority” is not that shocking at the beginning of the 21st century. But I might not follow with the next step that Keble insists upon, REMONSTRANCE. Keble uses it in an different way that some of us who might protest against those acts of civil government which seem counter to the teachings of Jesus.. Keble’s concerns are less for the State than the Church of England. Keble’s words are: “REMONSTRANCE, calm, distinct, and persevering, in public and in private, direct and indirect, by word, look, and demeanour, is the unequivocal duty of every Christian, according to his opportunities, when the Church landmarks are being broken down.” This sort of language would seem to support the various splits in the Episcopal Church, for example.

    Toward the end of the sermon, Keble wrote: “On the same principle, come what may, we have ill learned the lessons of our Church, if we permit our patriotism to decay, together with the protecting care of the State. ‘The powers that be are ordained of God,’ whether they foster the true church or no. Submission and order are still duties. They were so in the days of pagan persecution ; and the more of loyal and affectionate feeling we endeavour to mingle with our obedience, the better.”

    It is this sermon which J. H. Newman thought was the spark of the Oxford Movement. Yet the sermon pulls together concepts and concerns which seem alien to the Episcopal Church. Perhaps there is something I am missing, but the other comments posted above have not added anything to my enlightenment. A better understanding of the Oxford Movement certainly would have been helpful since I live in North Carolina. Bishop Levi Stilliman Ives, like Newman, converted to Roman Catholicism though he did so as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. As I have said before, as a fundamentally low-church Episcopalian, I do not understand the strong appeal which the Oxford Movement had in the Episcopal Church.

    Thus, I would second the recommendation of pulling together the leaders of the Oxford Movement into a single celebration. Then the impact of the Movement could be better explained since it is more than candles and flowers and other trappings of liturgy. I would also second the proposal to drop Newman from the celebration.

    • One of the Points of the sermon is that the Church may do better to become disestablished than allow an increasingly secularized Parliament control it’s fate. It’s kind of buried in the midst of the Victorian tendency to never say anything right out.

      • The tendency apparently preceded the Victorians, since the sermon on national apostasy was delivered during the reign of William IV.

  13. I’m delighted that some group didn,t decide to takr Keble odd the calendar. His life as well as his hymns and poem are an important part of our Anglican heritage.

    • “The Hymnal 1982 has two texts by Keble, including stanzas one and three of “Blest are the pure in heart” (Hymn 656) and “New every morning” (Hymn 10).”

  14. Line 1, third paragraph: add “on April 23” after “born”.

    Line 2, sixth paragraph: add “at Bournemouth, in Hampshire, on March 29, 1866” after “death”.

  15. Though I felt I was familiar with, and a fan of, the Oxford Movement, I can state that the first time I ever heard of John Keble was when he appeared in the “Matthew Hervey” series of military and historical fiction, written by Allan Mallinson.

  16. I find it of interest that the Collect is the same as for John Mason Neale (Aug 7) with only the name
    changed. Keble seems to have thought he was protecting the COE from Parliament but my sense is that
    he was a reactionary trying to keep the COE free of influences he distrusted (non-COE members in Parlia-
    ment). Never mind that the system was in drastic need of reform, and it did happen – as Ms Sauter’s notes
    tell us. A mixed message . Not sure he belongs except in a combine observence with others who
    formulated what became the Oxford Movement.

    • Great catch. They are ‘almost’ identical.
      Keble’s: … we may accomplish with integrity and courage what you give us to do …”
      Neale’s: … we may with integrity and courage accomplish what you give us to do …”

      I will leave it to ‘that John Lavoe’ to dissect the difference.

      Plus ça change, I suppose.

      • Okay. Ready for this acute analysis? One says “may accomplish” and the other doesn’t.
        Whew, that was hard.

        Now, what I want to know is where you found a c cedilla on your keyboard!

  17. You do ” ç” on a MAC keyboard by clicking on “option”, holding it down, and then clicking on “c.” I wish incorporating what “Anglican heritage” means to our whole communion into HWHM were as simple as that. So far the only person I thought warranted a strong “caveat” in his biography was the person at Sewanee during Reconstruction who let things happen that made rights for freedmen more difficult to come by. It seemed to me that a person in his position should have had convictions on this matter that he was willing to act on. –The thing is: more than once our “HWHM” people are on opposite sides of controversial historical issues, and sometimes on the “losing side,” especially on issues so important to us today, like separation of church and state (and civil rights). –But England STILL doesn’t have separation of church and state.

  18. Continuing the above: I really love the hymn that begins “new every morning is the love….” that’s quoted in the bio. Also, although I’m not an Anglo-Catholic (I’m more in the “evangelical” tradition), one of the best rectors I ever knew, the Rev. John W. T. Wiese, was a Nashotah grad (I’ve talked about him before) and his “mix” of Anglo-catholicism, evangelism, and liberalism (in some ways) plus his own personal devotion to Christ and to his body, the church) turned our parish into a truly “Christ-centered” one (his goal) for most of the years he was there. I think it’s important that we have plenty of Oxford movement people, “great awakening” people, those who spread the Gospel through their hymns, those who carried the Gospel into “foreign parts” through their outstanding mission work, etc., leaders in the Reform movement, etc., etc. in HWHM because it shows who we really are as a fairly diverse Communion. What unites us is a sense that we are part of the body of Christ, despite our diversity.

  19. As for the combination of Keble and Peusy into the same feast, I have to disagree. To follow that logic we would have to put Luther, Calvin, and Cramner all on the same day. Like wise we would have to put Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross together since they’re both Carmelites of the Reform, or even toss Ignatious Loyola since they are all counter Reformation figures.
    This is a prime example of how badly written many of these “Biographies are.” I am becoming increasingly convinced that this entire book needs to be scrapped and restarted – by someone other than the SCLM.

  20. I agree with the first paragraph above–strongly–but equally strongly disagree with the second paragraph.
    I’m very grateful to the committee for its work, and for presenting it to us in this fashion. The whole point of this blog, I think, is to suggest improvements, and I imagine the committee will follow many of the suggestions, stylistic and otherwise. I’ve very much appreciated most of the comments, even when I’ve disagreed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s