Henry Venn was born in Surrey in 1725. After his education at Cambridge, he was ordained and served several parishes in the area. In 1750, he became a curate in Surrey, where he developed the evangelical principles for which he became known. He moved to London in 1753, becoming curate of Clapham the following year, and his son John was born there in March 1759. Later that year, Henry moved his family to Huddersfield, where he served as vicar until 1771, working himself assiduously to the point of exhaustion. At Huddersfield his piety and zeal made a great impression, and his The Complete Duty of Man (1763), written against William Law’s The Whole Duty of Man, became popular among Evangelicals. After ill health forced his retirement from Huddersfield, he ministered to the end of his life in the living of Yelling, Cambridgeshire, where he influenced the great Evangelical priest and preacher Charles Simeon.
John Venn was educated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and became rector of Little Dunham in Norfolk, and eventually of Clapham in 1792. He was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society in 1797. It was at Clapham that he became a central figure in the group of Christian philanthropists known as the Clapham Sect. John was also an active participant in the movement for the abolition of the slave trade.
John’s son, Henry Venn the Younger, was born at Clapham in 1796. After his education at Cambridge, he was ordained and held various livings, eventually devoting himself in 1846 entirely to the work of the Church Missionary Society. He was secretary for thirty-two years, and his organizing gifts and sound judgment made him the leading member of the Society. His aim was that overseas Churches should become “self-supporting, self-governing, and self-extending”. He was instrumental in securing the appointment of the first African Anglican bishop, Samuel A. Crowther, in 1864 (see the entry for December 31).
The elder Henry Venn died on June 24, 1797, at his son’s rectory in Clapham. John died at Clapham on July 1, 1813; and his son Henry died at Mortlake, Surrey, on January 13, 1873.
compiled from Celebrating the Saints
and The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servants Henry Venn, John Venn, and Henry Venn the Younger to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.