October 2022 Circuit Link - Letter from our Superintendent Minister
In the year that Queen Elizabeth II died….
In a message from the President of the Methodist Conference last week, the Reverend Canon Graham Thompson made reference to the beginning of Isaiah Chapter 6: ‘In the year that King Uzziah died…’ King Uzziah’s death served as a significant marker in time because so many people had known only one king. The late Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for so long that many of us have only known one monarch.
She probably never expected to be queen, and probably never really wanted to be. She was born in 1926, and it was not until 1936 that her father became King George VI, after his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated. That means that for the first 10 years of her life, Elizabeth grew up with her little sister Margaret Rose, her dogs and her horses, and largely out of the spotlight. No, she probably never expected to be queen … and probably never really wanted to be.
And yet in 1947, on her 21st birthday, with her father as King of England, when she had an insight into the destiny that was to be hers, she said: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’
And in those words we are able to see how Elizabeth, the future Queen, was ready to put aside all the privilege of being free to make her own choices, the privilege of her own privacy, the privilege of being able to follow her own interests, to take on a mantle which she was to wear for the next 70 years. Her life became all sacrifice, all duty, as she lived her life in the spotlight, shared and owned by everyone.
And over the years, through the Queen’s Christmas broadcasts, in particular, we have had an annual reminder of the way that this servant Queen chose to build her life on the example of our Servant King and made her life to be about his business. In those broadcasts, as she spoke into our living rooms, she was able both to proclaim the Gospel, and to hold up for us, through the examples she used in her addresses, the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the humble and the great.
In those broadcasts, we saw the humanity of someone who was not saying – ‘look how different my life is from yours’ – but who was able to demonstrate empathy. ‘She reflected our humanity back to us’ as Archbishop Justin Welby said on the eve of her funeral. Particularly when she spoke of those painful events within her family – the breakdown of her children’s marriages, the loss of those close to her, the disaster of the fire at Windsor – each of these showed her vulnerability and her relatedness to the rest of society, even as the Queen. She has been called the mother, the grandmother of the nation, and it is her compassion, kindness, and gentle leadership that earned her that love and honour.
The role of the monarch, and the role of faith in our society, has been redefined considerably since her coronation in 1953, but over the years, it seemed that the less ‘power’ the Queen has held, the more she has been able to stand out as an extraordinary figure on the world stage, and the older and frailer she became, the greater her stature and dignity and influence.
She never forgot that she was anointed to serve her country, to serve her people, but most of all, to serve the God whom she found in Christ Jesus.
• I wonder what you think was her most important quality.
• I wonder what God said to her, as he welcomed her home.
Peace for our own journeys, Deborah