In my role as Vicar of Huddersfield there is much to be done in the coming days to help my Parish community to grieve the death of Her Majesty the Queen, and to support their service to the diverse communities of Huddersfield as we share that grief.
But I wanted to say something for me and something for the not-very-interested-in-royal out there.
She had character. Not weird, eccentric, “tik-toc that” character. The things I was taught character meant. Dignity, grace, elegance, seriousness, wisdom, humour and a hope we can all aspire to.
Her Majesty was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. So – not the boss-boss – but still in a very real way, my boss. I asked myself when I was ordained if I could in all conscience make a vow of loyalty to a monarch. It’s not a system I would choose if we started with a clean slate.
I found that I could – not out of blind loyalty to an archaic hierarchy – but out of true loyalty and respect for her courage and sense of duty and her deep faith. She knew God comes first. It honestly felt like this vow, this expression of loyalty to her, was an expression of God always being greater than the coincidental structures of state.
I said there was something for the uninterested – congratulations if you’ve hung in this far.
It’s been a terrible few years. Our nation has in recent years been fractious, self-critical and self-righteous. We have been wounded, grieving, scared and scarred. We have lost loved ones without the chance for the common decencies of grief, ritual, support and celebration. We have lost confidence in our democracy to guarantee what we thought we had that went without saying; good health care; good education; safe homes; light, heat, food and a shared understanding of the common good.
We have forgotten how to be together – how to let go of the things that divide us.
We should take this chance to cry, rage and mourn for all that seems lost. For the things we took for granted – as we took her stability, consistency and reliability for granted. We should take this chance to weep for ourselves and our nation. To acknowledge all the hurt we have pushed down.
But we should take this chance too to commit ourselves to serving one another to make things better – as she, our Queen, committed herself.
Whatever your “big picture” view of monarchy – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth has lived a life of service to the common good. She has lived a life of integrity, sacrifice and service that is an example to us all of how to move forward and shape our nation for the better.
I cry for her tonight, even as I rejoice that she is safe in God’s loving care. And I cry for myself. I will truly deeply miss all that she was and all she represented (yes, even the weird hereditary stuff – God knows you can mourn weird stuff that you might not agree with).
I will try not to be afraid that we will never see such commitment to serve again. I will, as she did, found my hope in God’s strength and promises. I hope I will challenge myself and others to aspire to such service (just a fraction would be amazing).
There is more to life than what is convenient, easy or profitable. We have too often followed the example of those who have been driven by selfishness, greed, profit and individualism.
When the scripture adjures us to choose life, it is a life of compassion, morality, abundance, hospitality, attention, neighbourliness, service….. It is a life of love which is bigger than even our closest relationship – a life that is as big as the all-giving love of the God who made us, loves us, and will welcome us all home.
This is the astonishing breath of love in which my Supreme Governor, Elizabeth, put her faith. Even as I weep tonight I put my own faith and hope in that same breadth of love, the love that Jesus gave for her and for me and for you.