Some Short Jubilee Reflections
Ovingdean Evensong Homily - June 2022
Today we celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, where we celebrate and give thanks for 70 years of extraordinary service.
The Queen has been an absolute constant throughout my life. In a way she is family and I am grateful for her service, her constancy, her faith - for her example of virtue in every aspect of her leadership.
Her strength and solidarity shown to the nation during the Covid pandemic at the funeral of Prince Philip will always stay with me.
When we are young we find it easy to say yes to all kinds of things that we have no idea what they really mean. What the blessings, the sacrifices and the costs will be in saying yes. When we say yes to marriage for example …or say yes to having children…at each life event we just have no idea of really what it's going to mean. The enormity of the decision we are making.
I often think of the virgin Mary saying yes to the angel Gabriel ….did she know she was not just saying yes to risking her life in becoming pregnant - but also saying yes to all that was to come? As a woman of faith and courage I suspect no matter what she was told about the cost that she would still have said yes.
The Queen, as a member of the Royal family, would have known much of what it meant to be the monarch. She didn't seek this calling. It was a vocation that wasn't supposed to come to her father or to her, but in the end it was the providence of God.
On her 21st Birthday the Queen said: 'I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service... But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it'.
Looking back at the filming of the coronation, and shaped by watching the television programme ‘The Crown’, I am left with a sense of great compassion for that brave young woman. Bereaved and I imagine overwhelmed, not just by the day, but by the life vows of dedication she was making, she showed great courage and faith. She knew something of that great yes she was making to God and the nation.
St Paul writes: ‘Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’ and this is certainly what was asked of the Queen during the coronation service and it is the life of service she has subsequently given. This ‘dedication’ made by the Queen was a commitment to be absolutely removed from other uses, to be completely available to the nation, commonwealth and to God. Rowan Williams describes this dedication as being intrinsically linked to the good of the community – in this case both a national and an international community – it is to say, ‘I have no goals that are not the goals of this community; I have no well-being, no happiness, that is not the well-being of the community. What will make me content or happy is what makes for the good of this particular part of the human family.’
I had the pleasure of meeting the Queen and Prince Philip when they visited a regeneration project I was responsible for in Edmonton, North East London. We thought the Queen would walk past our project as we were off the beaten track. We weren’t as big and shiny as the other projects being visited that day. We hadn't built a shopping centre, or an office block or new road - but we had worked in a ground up way with the community - to clean up the abandoned brook that ran through the area so that it was becoming a much loved place to walk and watch the wildlife. The Royal party saw the children in our group from quite a distance and made their way to us at some speed, causing much consternation by the security folk and those who thought they were running the visit.
We hastily got into position and spent an amazing 15 minutes with them both. The Queen I have to say was everything I had expected, intelligent, active, engaged and curious - but she was also playful with the children and relaxed. She was demonstrably loving and warm with Prince Philip, sharing a little joke and pointing at things they both liked and appreciated. They loved the song the school children had composed and sung for them (‘Let's go down to Salmons Brook’) and left laughing and giving their very genuine heartfelt thanks for everything that had been done to protect and conserve the river. When they had gone we all just stood there - in silence - overwhelmed by the experience and then some of us laughed, some cried with sheer emotion - but we were all enriched - feeling supported, recognised and appreciated by the visit. This experience of commitment to duty and service has always stayed with me.
This year has already seen a variety of Jubilee creations and projects to give thanks for the Queen’s life of service and we have many lovely plans for the Jubilee weekend in Ovingdean. I hope and I pray that the most lasting memorial from this time will be the growth and encouragement of a generous spirit of dedication to the common good and to public service throughout the land. That we join with the Queens yes in helping the world to be a better place. That we really recognise and understand that our lives and the world are fuller, happier and more meaningful when we dedicate ourselves and work to support the common good.