Letter to parishioners, 16 September 2022

A reflection on the life and service of our late Queen Elizabeth II, and the source of her inspiration, consolation and strength

Dear Friends in Christ,

Just one week ago our country was rocked by the news that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had died. As the days have passed we have heard many tributes to our Queen and we have witnessed many scenes of grief and pageantry. We now find ourselves in limbo, in a period when thousands of people will file through Westminster Hall to pay their respects to a person who so many honour for having played a major part in the life of our country, as well as in the wider world. On Monday, Her Majesty’s passing will be marked with all the pomp and ceremony of a state funeral. A Bank Holiday has been declared, shops will shut and millions of people will step away from their normal routines to watch the end of an era on television. But, what then? What will happen on Tuesday as the period of national mourning comes to an end? Will it be back to ‘normal’ or will we allow ourselves to be changed by the events of the previous ten days or so?

Some two thousand years ago a great man walked this earth. In those earlier, less technologically advanced days, his sphere of influence was very small indeed, and especially when considered alongside the international reach of our late Queen. However, that great man, whose public ministry spanned just three years, was to start an avalanche that would change the history of humanity for ever. His teaching was simple; it could be summed up in just two basic principles. But that teaching … love of God and love of our fellow human beings before all else – was destined to inspire and to anger, to console and to challenge, to strengthen and to divide. For many great people throughout the history of the modern world, including our late Queen, the teachings of Jesus Christ were the source of their inspiration, consolation and strength, whilst others looked inward, placing themselves and their own interests above all else. As a nation, and as individuals, we see a new page turning. We see the beginning of a new and unfamiliar era. We see the challenge of following the example of our Queen as we are invited, once again, to follow the Lord and Saviour of all humankind by putting love of God and neighbour before all else.

The death of our Queen has caused us to face up to the challenges that confront the world in the here and now. There is violence and warfare in many areas of the world, just as extreme poverty, injustice and oppression continue to be daily realities for so many. As we reflect upon the long life of service that was offered to our nation and the world at large by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, let us not forget that the care, compassion, dedication and humour that we continue to recall and celebrate were founded in a life of faith. Let us not forget just how many far-reaching changes there have been in the lives of human beings since that crown was placed upon her head seventy years ago. Let us not forget how the Queen embraced those changes and moved forward in faith.

In the coming few days the tributes will continue to be offered; we will hear many words of appreciation and gratitude. Then, by Tuesday morning, it will stop and people will be going about their daily routines once again. But … will we allow ourselves to be changed by all that we have experienced during these days of mourning? Will we find the strength to pray for the courage to step out and proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ and to make a difference in his name, just as Her Majesty did over the last seventy years? Or, will it just have been a time of national pomp and ceremony that we can recount to those yet unborn as we carry on the same paths that distance us from the man whose short public life, humiliating death and glorious resurrection really changed everything for ever?

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen