Our Barbara's Inspirations.
And it is a chilly one. This week I have been into Byers Green and Kirk Merrington Primary schools and taken an assembly about our late Queen. It was lovely to talk with the children about what the Queen meant to them, what they would do if they were King or Queen for a day and who they thought would miss her. Some deep answers and some not so deep but all heart felt. I think the reign of the late Queen was heartfelt and reading Morning Prayer I was struck by the last words of David:
The God of Israel has spoken,
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly,
ruling in the fear of God,
is like the light of morning,
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.
It is true. HM ruled justly, and her presence was like the sun shining: her smile lit up a room, her visits changed places, changed people's lives. I'm not sure ruled in the fear of God but she did rule with God at the centre and it showed. Perhaps as her whole life was a quiet evangelism of her faith, her legacy will be that people will talk openly about faith, people will see how it was the rock on which she built and will come with open and enquiring minds. We can but pray. Her legacy could be millions of seeds being planted, faith rekindled and sparks turning into flames.
In the name of Christ, and following the example of Queen Elizabeth, let us pledge ourselves to live out our faith responsibly, dutifully and courageously.
GOD SAVE THE KING.
I am writing most this on Friday so that I too could watch the Coronation. I admit I have not been too enthusiastic and so as I wrote this, I hoped it would change, and that it would change as I deliver this. I have always respected the role of Monarch and separating that from the individual is what I hoped Saturday would bring. I was nervous but not for their majesties, but for Bishop Paul. His chaplain always says his first comment was stout shoes and don’t stand on the robes!
Not many houses were decked with union flags. Talking to people with small children, they are making crowns and baking cakes. The schools are doing quite a bit. I listened to the buzz of some people and saw the stuff they were buying in Asda and thought boy, they are going to party. When did I become bar humbug? I don’t think I am. Charles, like all of us, has flaws. Sadly, most of his have been lived under the glare of the press. We have put pressure on him. We have revelled in the headlines. Still do. Do we know too much about him and the royal family. Do we judge them too harshly or unfairly? No on really knows too much about the people sitting around them. Certainly, less than we think we know about Charles.
But as promised we had all the pomp and ceremony we could wish for. Troops, all in their splendour marching. The coaches and the horses, seriously even in the poor weather it looked fabulous. I thought it was marvellous. No doubt there were one or two points that didn’t go according to plan but to us commoners it was as good as it gets. There is a swelling in national pride, and it’s true, no one does it like us.
There are always detractors. They question how much did this all cost in times of such hardship. Is the monarchy relevant to the 21st century. Is it an outdated concept. People, probably including me, do not hold the King in the same esteem as I did her late majesty the QEII. I know it is early days for him and I am hoping he is able to come out from under her shadow and develop the role his way.
There were a number of things about the day that struck me. Firstly, we know that the true King, rode a donkey. Now, those around him would probably want their king to arrive in a carriage, gold possibly, with or without suspension. Horse drawn certainly and surrounded by troops, with all the banging drums, shouting and cheering would add to the moment. Instead, there was Jesus on a donkey. Okay his ride into Jerusalem sparked a good response. People crying Hosanna, save us. His ministry had grown, Jesus gathered followers and they would either travel with him or people came out because they were curious. One thing is for certain, Jesus’ procession will not have been so well choreographed. The was no rehearsal or sergeant major shouting the odds. No analysis.
I wonder if the events yesterday have changed minds? Does a good excuse for a party change what we feel about a thing?
Listening to the various speakers they all said one thing: that Charles works tirelessly but not for himself, always for others. He is not working to improve his election chances, or his salary but for the benefit of others. He was anointed but as a servant, not a master. I didn’t realise that the reason we bow to a King or Queen, is in recognition of whose authority they have, not to the individual. Same as we pause and bow to the altar as we cross it.
Some say that the monarchy is an out-dated institution and so are we, as church, facing the same apathy from people? Do they see us as outdated and not relevant in the 21st century? Do they see the riches and think we could spend our money better? Do we really need a building to worry about? Yet those who question our place in the 21st century like us to be here baptisms, funerals and occasionally weddings, their equivalent of a ceremonial event. People like the big events in their lives done well, church is known for doing things well, and we certainly did ourselves proud yesterday. But then that can be it, till next time.
The metaphorical coach and finery are boxed off and left there. As the church door closes, there is an assumption it will be there for next time. Sometimes I feel like a citizen of Brigadoon - a village that comes to life once every 100 years. Our part in their day and their celebrations is played. So, what is our legacy? What part does faith play in their lives going forward. We may never know. Will a short service in their church influence their lives? Will they let it? Here we have another comparison with King Charles and the coronation.
The royal family do not really influence the life of many people day to day or overtly don’t anyway. We will no doubt all get excited at stamps with the king’s head on it or when the first coins and bank notes appear. But again, that will soon lose its magic.
We like to see the ceremony continue. Deep down I think a lot will be dispensed with for King William. I think he will be more functional than ceremonial. But for now, we followed the traditions. The coronation, a wedding and a baptism all have traditions that go back millennia. I think that is what people subconsciously like. That at a baptism it has been the same throughout the years. The font is probably the same one as family members were baptised in. Families often asked to be baptised in the church where their grandparents were.
I admit that some of the traditions have lost their relevance and some are a complete mystery for new people in church. I was glad that they explained so much of what yesterday was about. Some aspects were deeply personal to Charles, cuttings from beech trees planted by QEII and Prince Philip. Closer to home, music chosen for services such as funerals and weddings can be personal. More people want music and not hymns, although occasionally I am surprised.
Deborah and I explain all the way through baptisms the meaning of the 4 symbols. The oil, blessed by a Bishop; the water, representing the River Jordan; the white cloth, representing new life in Christ; and the candle, showing the light of Christ shining brightly. Weddings have declarations, vows, the lifting of the veil is necessary#; there are rings and the choice of music will be very important to everyone.
I am sure we all enjoyed yesterday, it brought the nation together in the main, it may well have brought the world together. I look forward to TVs and newspapers having good news spread across them. Some will still manage to find something to pick on, probably Harry, or a fidgeting Louis.
We know Charles is a man of faith. He is known to pray and meditate each day. Deep down I am sure he will serve loyally and I pray, humbly. Deep down I am sure the majority of people would not like to see the monarchy or the church disappear. We have both been around far to long to go. We have both with stood the same onslaughts: rebellions, wars, plagues and apathy. But if we are to succeed and to continue, we need to stay relevant, to meet people where they are.
This coronation was an all-inclusive occasion. All faiths. As one wit said, if you want to hear the Epistle read properly, ask a Sikh.
The previous coronation one was empire based, yesterday was commonwealth. It recognised the changes in our society.
People no doubt did throw insults on Saturday, and I think there was an arrest of an anti-monarchy protester. There was too much joy as the processions went by and insults were drowned out in the main by cheers. It is however, the price we pay for living in a free society and I for one feel it is a price worth paying. Am I disheartened by society’s feelings towards the church and Monarchy? No.
46.3% of the population say they are Christian. (8.3% are catholic, 15% say Anglican), the rest are either free church or searching; 36.7% have no religion; Islam is 6.7% and 4.4% make up Hindu, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Judaism.
I will keep doing what I do, we will keep doing what we do. I am sure yesterday left a warm feeling inside for most people. It did me, actually. I am sure, I know, we do the same for people who come through our doors. We can but plant the seed and God will do the rest.
So, my pray for new King and Queen, Charles and Camilla as they wake, crowned and having sworn and pledged such oaths is that they stay relevant, stay real and realise that they are privileged by birth as we all are. It is by God’s grace alone and in his power, that they stood on the balcony of Buck house and wave to the crowds. It will be in His strength alone that they complete the tasks set before them and it will be to him that they and we will answer one d