Elizabeth remembered…. September 11th 2023 – In the name of the loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen
I am very conscious of the events and activities of this time last year as we marked the death of our beloved monarch – her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In our national consciousness this week, was the picture from Balmoral on the Tuesday – when greeting the outgoing and incoming prime minister. I read somewhere this week, she said it was her job to do this despite the evident frailty only the closest aides and family were really aware of at the time.
After the announcement on Thursday lunch time that the Queen was seriously ill, I felt a real sense of foreboding. Not the kind of thing royal authorities say unless really pushed into it. I had a couple of conversations, hoping for the best but fearful of the worst. I still had the lingering sense I have described before from the Sunday of the Platinum jubilee of these times are passing in my heart, and the full stop hat pin in the emerald green outfit on what turned out to be her final balcony appearance.
Obviously at 6pm, we knew the worst had happened, and Her Majesty had died. I rushed about a bit and getting things in place, phone calls about flag lowering etc and prayer focuses to both churches, and cancelling choir practice.
I re-read what we did, opening Wincanton church for prayer on the evening of the day she died. Then in the next days Churches open longer for prayer, with a prayer focus from the Friday and a book of condolence for the town and village followed by a quiet evening service of prayer and reflection in Wincanton. Bells were tolled.
The flags were lowered and then raised again on the Saturday morning, in Wincanton this was during the coffee morning to mark the accession to the throne of King Charles III. Then a Sunday service of thanksgiving on the first weekend in both churches. I also prayed at the town proclamation of the new King. The next Sunday we had a communion in a time of mourning in both churches, followed by a memorable and frankly miraculous vigil service on the eve of the funeral – with candles, taize, flags, silence, and a really, really misbehaving ipod (on the day I most needed the technology to behave itself!!). The timing of the national silence at the end of the service was perfect too! Which only happened by the working of the Holy Spirit.
Like many on the Monday, I watched the funeral over several hours, with all the different moving parts and poignancy as we formally marked her Majesty’s passing.
In the stuff we did there were hastily and heartfelt reflections I had written. I was and I still am a huge fan of her late majesty and it was a mix of wanting to absolutely get it as right as I could and feeling rather overwhelmed by the task… As a person who has to say something helpful whatever the circumstances, the pressure is not insignificant. I was particularly heartened by the one written on the first Friday after the Queen had died, and I am going to repeat a bit of that now – as it still works.. The original is obviously abit raw and I will leave shorter silences than I did first time around. This very much concentrates on the loss of Elizabeth our late Queen as we mark her year’s mind as I said we would today.
In those words of Jesus, I am the way, the truth and the life, No one comes to the Father except through me. We have the reassurance and hope we need for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second’s eternal rest, after a life of explicit and implicit Christian devotion and faith, now reunited in a new way with those who have gone before her especially, her beloved Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and ‘us four’ her family their Royal Highnesses King George the sixth, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and her sister the Princess Margaret.
The guidance for this service suggests I address three questions in these reflections as we come to begin to understand the enormity of our loss today, as we mark the Queen’s rest in peace in the heart of our loving God.
And as I answer the three questions in turn for and with this community, please think of how you would answer them, and I will allow a pause for reflection (of about 30 seconds at the end of each question). So the first question is What stands out in your memory about The Queen?
For me this has to be her deep sense of calling from God to her role as our Monarch. It was thrust upon her at 10 years old and then her own accession to the throne so much sooner than she might have wished for after her Father’s early death. I also know from the conversations I had before the Platinum Jubilee. We may remember I asked people in both the communities where I serve as priest here in Wincanton and gathered at the beacon lighting ceremony in Pen Selwood, the answer to the question – what do you most admire about Her Majesty the Queen. People produced a selection of daunting characteristics which we would aspire to model in our lives too
- Her loyalty (this was the thing most repeatedly said!) and commitment
- Her strength of character and resolve
- Her integrity and steadfastness
- Her devotion to our country and dedicated service
- Her fortitude and resilience
I am going to leave some silence now (about 30 seconds) to ponder What stands out in your memory about The Queen? SILENCE
The second question – was What will you always remember about her? Obviously all of those things we have already thought about. But there are others. One that has really struck me today is her courage and determination. Becoming our monarch at 25 year’s old, with a young family must have been pretty daunting and reasonably terrifying. She was a young woman leader in a society that was very much a man’s world back in1952.
Her dependence on God gave her the strength she needed for each step of her long, long reign over us.
She has remained resolute and steadfast in the face of good times, and like all of us, not insignificant adversity over these many years, always with a heart to serve and a strong sense of duty and particularly her constitutional purpose. Our country in particular and the commonwealth of nations owe her a huge debt of gratitude for the sacrifice and service she has given to us.
We will also remember the human characteristics she was blessed with that gracious smile, her passions in life particularly for her family, her horses and dogs, and her sense of fun, with a definite twinkle in her eye with James Bond 007 and more recently with Paddington Bear. I am going to leave some silence now (about 30 seconds) to ponder – What will you always remember about her? SILENCE
The final question (and it is a big one) is What did you learn through her life and death, including about God in Jesus Christ? We have learnt a huge amount through Queen Elizabeth’s life and now her death. We have seen a shining example of a Christ centred way to live. A way based on the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in her heart and life. The way of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. The way (in Church of England speak) of seeking the common good and treating everyone graciously, and with dignity and respect. We have a lot we can continue to learn from our late Queen in how she lived her life.
In her death, as I said earlier we have the reassurance of her eternal rest in the heart of our loving God in heaven. Gathering in this good and faithful servant of God’s and our country. Queen Elizabeth knew the way, and the truth and the life that Jesus spoke of. She knew it through God’s amazing love for her. This amazing love for us too won through Jesus’ death on the cross and rising to new life for us all.
I am going to leave some silence now (about 30 seconds) to ponder this final question What did you learn through her life and death, including about God in Jesus Christ? SILENCE
To conclude these reflections I will play a piece of music called Elizabeth Remembered which was used around the BBC coverage over the days of mourning. And at the very end of this service, we will have the set prayers for the accession and we will sing the National Anthem – praying for our new King and Queen as we do it and the future of our country and the commonwealth.
Here is Elizabeth remembered written by Debbie Wiseman played by the BBC concert Orchestra. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIsWjPfLjOE
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible 1989, 1995 (c)