The Accession of Elizabeth 2
70 years of service
On the eve of my priesting in 1988, I was being tutored in the fine art of doing the Eucharistic liturgy…..how to do the service of Holy Communion. An awesome responsibility. As I went through the detailed motions of how and where and when, movement, the sanctity of trust of this most important right and sacrament, I felt at the time, and with the particular priest, that I needed to question each liturgical move and gesture as we moved through the rehearsal, mostly so that when the day came, I could both do the task and understand what I was doing. As a result, there was much I didn’t adopt, because there was no explainable reason for doing it, and of course making the sign of the cross with my left hand…..a no no, because tradition saw it as sinister, was my one courageous insistence, because, I am left handed. The argument to the contrary was, “What will you do when you become a bishop? Hold your crozier (staff) in your right hand?! ” Yes! Hasn’t been an issue…yet.
The British Royal Family realized early enough in the 20th Century, that to survive in a changing world, that they had to adapt or perish. I say early enough, because two world wars, the rise of liberalism, socialism and communism, vastly different spheres, the fall of monarchies across Europe sent a clear message that authorative, excluding, hierarchical, deferential governance was clearly on its way out. The political struggles and anomalies of these last few decades and the unhealthy political climate of the United States recently, display the last bastion of divide and conquer excluding governance, where the wealthy and privileged are given deference over the hard work and life of the ordinary person, whose contribution, for little return, has caused the sorts of imbalance which have disadvantaged too many and not served the greater good.
King George 6th saw it in South Africa with the horrible rise of Apartheid and reacted proactively in insisting on treating black people the same as white. South Africa stepped away from the commonwealth of nations in deference to their own cruel determining culture which negatively affected the lives of millions for decades.
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, with all the determination of a young woman, living the ideals of her loved and admired father, promises to serve “the great imperial family”, the commonwealth, for the whole of her life, no matter how long or short.
For many of us, her example of service and her reign has been the only example of monarchy, I was born 10 years in, and her image and presence has been a staple in my 60 years of life. Her presence has leant an abiding wisdom, intelligence, encouragement and balance to a world who at times threw the wrong things out, misinterpreted the needs and indeed the will of the people, and failed to offer the sort of hospitality and respect to the diverse dimensions of faith we now know, in what has developed as a global community over the last 70 years. The Queen has transcended all these things and built robust and enduring relations across the world, demonstrating that the great social contract of globalism is much more than money or primary resources, but the spirit of the people, and that service is by far the greatest exemplar of leadership by her demonstration and ministry.
A young waitress, nervous at a function hosting the Queen, did the unthinkable. She spilled the canapés off her tray whilst serving Her Majesty. The host, publically rebuking the waitress was stopped in his tracks, as the Queen bent down to help the waitress and to give her comfort.
The Church is faced with the similar dilemma. To adapt or to perish. Looking to our defender of the faith, we learn from her in her ministry of 70 years, that we have a culture and traditions that are of great value, but that none of these things have much purpose without reason or their relevance to both scripture and the world we live in, in the hear and now.
We have come a long way, however we are weighed down by hierarchies and privilege which still excludes many as though we think it gives those we think are lesser, something to look up to, rather than something to respect and ultimately engage.
We say no too often, we are suspicious of the poor, we wish to be comfortable because we are complacent, and silent which makes us complicit in the injustices which happen around us. We must never see ourselves as a people of entitlement but a people who walk humbly with our God, just as, in faith, Elizabeth 2 has done and who has further pledged for the rest of her life, in service and in love with the one who loved us first.
Bless her in her days and her reign as a servant of God, and as a leader in service.
Long Live The Queen