The Charge To Peter

The Charge to St. Peter ~ Charles E. Kempe, 1905

The Charge to Peter (“Feed my sheep”) is a story from John 21:1-17: “Some time later, Jesus showed himself to his disciples once again, by the sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened. Simon Peter was with Thomas the Twin, Nathaniel from Cana-in-Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. ‘I am going out fishing,’ said Simon Peter. ‘We will go with you,’ said the others. So they set off and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.

“Morning came, and Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, have you caught anything?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw out the net to starboard, and you will make a catch.’ They did so, and found they could not haul the net on board, there were so many fish in it. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he fastened his coat about him (for he had stripped) and plunged into the sea. The rest of them came on in the boat, towing the net full of fish. They were only about a hundred yards from land.

“When they came ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish laid on it, and some bread. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have caught.’ Simon Peter went on board and hauled the net to land; it was full of big fish, a hundred and fifty-three in all; and yet, many as they were, the net was not torn. Jesus said, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared to ask ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish in the same way. This makes the third time that Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection from the dead.

“After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered, ‘you know that I love you.’ ‘Then feed my lambs,’ he said. A second time he asked, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ ‘Then tend my sheep.’ A third time he said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt that he asked him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Then feed my sheep.’” [Latin: Pasce oves meas = Feed my sheep]

Charles Eamer Kempe got started in his field by being a painter of walls, ceilings and woodwork of churches in the 1860’s. The style then in vogue reflected a resurgence of interest in gothic style and a return to high church practices. Kempe’s training served him well when he started his own stained glass company in 1868.

Kempe perfected the use of silver stain on white (clear) glass, which leaves a yellow tint. Depending on the amount of stain used, the shade of yellow could be delicate or deep. His greatest stylistic influences were the stained glass of Northern Germany and Flanders from the 16th century. He took many trips to Europe, often taking the Kempe company artists with him, to study the art there.

This window was given to St. John’s by Schuyler Merritt in memory of his father, Matthew Franklin Merritt (1815-1896). It was commissioned from the Kempe Studios in London on 14 January 1905 (Commission #1260, which commission also included a window dedicated to his mother, Maria Shaw Merritt) and was designed by Ernest Anson-Dyer, who later left Kempe’s to become a film animator for World War I propaganda cartoons. The Kempe insignia, a sheaf of wheat, can be seen at the left of the base of the canopy; this symbol was used from 1895 until Kempe’s death in 1907.

Information about the work of Charles Eamer Kempe is from Master of Glass by Margaret Stavridi (Hatfield Herts UK, John Taylor Books, 1988, for the Kempe Society) and from Philip Collins, Honorary Secretary of the Kempe Society in Liverpool.

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Location: Over the altar in the south transcept chapel.
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