I had the week all planned; my reflection was written early with a real sense of excitement as I sought to share something the Holy Spirit was placing on my heart; this will now have to wait for a few weeks. When the news of the concern by the Queen's doctors was announced, I knew this was more serious than perhaps we might first fear. Nevertheless, I was surprised and saddened by the news, which quickly followed of her passing. In just a few moments, life in our country has again profoundly changed. For so many of us, the Queen stood for stability in a world of change. She was the constant through political upheaval, war, and the pandemic, often offering well-timed words of comfort, insight, and wisdom. I heard a young person being interviewed on Radio 4 referring to the Queen as the nation's grandmother; I think that, for many, is a helpful picture. I lost my grandparents a number of years ago, and from time to time, I am struck by how much I miss them. With the sad passing of her Majesty, many of these memories have returned. I am sure I am not alone in the painful memories of the passing of a relative, a friend, or a colleague, resurfacing by the devastating news of the Queens' death. Many in our nation are now mourning, their emotions perhaps amplifying past loss and hurt, and being surprised at the depth of their feelings at this time.
As a church, I believe it is our role to provide space and time for this grieving and gently remind others of the much bigger picture of God. A God who knows the suffering and pain of death and offers such a picture of hope for the future. Our Queen was a lady of deep faith, with her Christmas messages often more attended to than many of the sermons we have offered in our churches. I was encouraged this morning in listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury talk about the Queen's faith and how she was not afraid of death because of her faith; she was a lady of hope because of her faith in Jesus. Perhaps the best way that each church can respect the memory of Queen Elizabeth II is to emulate some of her characteristics going forward. For example, serving our communities with humility, working between groups and peoples who don't always see eye to eye, and not forgetting the little people (I recall her gentle words to the young girl who was meant to present Her Majesty with flowers on her trip to Ireland back in 2011), and being an encouraging voice of peace. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers in our communities.
Our national story will now change, but our collective work as Christians together, to make the country a better place, continues. In this, we need to be sensitive to so many who will feel the fear of uncertainty at this time of change; this is especially pertinent to those in the rural context who may mourn her passing and the ties with the past. We need to stand with our communities, offering our prayers and condolences for the Royal Family and opening our buildings as a place of reflection, lifting our country and the Commonwealth in prayer. We need to be the non-anxious presence that is so much needed now. And we need to gently, sensitively, remind those around us of the hope that our faith brings us, perhaps using the words of Queen Elizabeth II from her Christmas broadcast of 2002:
“Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.”
May God bless the memory of Queen Elizabeth II, and may God grant King Charles III wisdom, insight, gentleness, and the gift of humility in even greater measure than that He gifted his mother.
CEO, Rural Ministries