Family Lessons 52: Seen at Southwark

Southwark Cathedral has bishops not especially known for their evangelical doctrine. It is not a Cathedral in which I could regularly worship, nor a diocese in which I would like to serve in holy orders. Nevertheless its website has a section on Christian beliefs which, while not exemplary, is far more than many churches offer the surfing public. Southwark was a parish church (St Saviour's) and before that a priory and convent, just south of the City of London, the other side of London Bridge. Associated with it are many famous and august persons, such as John Gower, the early English poet; William Shakespeare, who made a payment of 20 shillings for his brother’s burial here "with a forenoone knell of the great bell"; John Harvard was baptised in there, whose name is remembered by the famous Harvard University in America; Bible translator and Bishop of Winchester, Lancelot Andrewes, is buried in its grounds; Charles Dickens has links, too, to name but a few. The great and the good, the famous and the infamous…and Matilda Salter, my 3x great-grandmother (died 1888). She was a woman of no account, little standing and zero reputation. This is likely the only place she receives a mention on this entire world wide webbage. For a living, she was a laundress, perhaps cleaning the clothes of the well-to-do whose memories and achievements posterity is pleased to record and preserve.

I do not know if she was a real follower of Christ. She lived in a religious age when it was harder to distinguish believers from unbelievers. Yet I would venture that her connection to St Saviour’s was as notable to Almighty God as those of the celebrated. Not many of the Corinthians were noble or wise by the world’s standard, but God knew them. Few of us will have biographers poring over our papers or plays written about our lives, but the good God of heaven sees even a sparrow fall and a hair removed. Hagar, though despised and rejected, could say

“Thou God seest me.”

Remember this.