The Bishop of Worcester tribute to Queen Elizabeth II: ‘Her devotion to service was unparalleled’
It is impossible to overstate the sense of loss that is felt across the globe following the death of our late Queen Elizabeth II.
Like millions of others, I was desperately sad to learn that she had died. She had been on the throne for all my life and for me, like so very many others, she was a source of security and stability. Her devotion to service was unparalleled and, as has been often remarked, she fulfilled her vow to devote her life to her subjects when she was 21 in an exemplary fashion.
Besides being a fount of wisdom, the Queen had a great sense of humour and fun
For the past 10 years it has been my privilege to be Lord High Almoner to the Queen. It’s an esoteric title for an ancient role: Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was one of my predecessors. Traditionally, the Royal Almoner looked after all the monarch’s almsgiving. Nowadays, my duty is to take overall responsibility for the Royal Maundy Service.
At the Royal Maundy Service, the same number of men and women as the monarch’s age - so, 96 men and 96 women this year – receive the Maundy money in recognition of their Christian service to their communities over a lifetime. It was very moving to accompany the Queen, whose Christian service over her lifetime was so extraordinarily impressive.
The Queen saw the Royal Maundy Service as one of the most significant fixtures in her diary. I think that is because it symbolised so well what motivated her: she served because of her faith in Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, and in doing so she was an inspiration to millions.
The Queen was Supreme Governor of the Church of England and a committed Anglican but, like most Anglicans, did not see that as an exclusivist position. As the Queen herself said at the time of her Diamond Jubilee: “The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.” The Queen’s Christian commitment, symbolised in the Royal Maundy Service, inspired her to serve her people of all faiths and none, and to seek the flourishing of all her subjects.
The Royal Maundy Service is a serious matter, but by the constant twinkle her eye and her radiant smile the Queen managed to put people at their ease, immensely nervous though they were. I would tell them beforehand to just bow and say “Thank you Ma’am”, but one year a recipient couldn’t resist pressing a pot of marmalade into the Queen’s hand as a return gift. As might be expected, she dealt with the unexpected development with great dignity.
As all those who were privileged to know Her Majesty can attest, besides being a fount of wisdom, the Queen had a great sense of humour and fun. Only latterly did James Bond and Paddington make that plain for all to see.
In grieving, it is worth remembering that the Queen was a person of deep Christian faith who believed in a God whose love, in Jesus, is stronger than death.
As we give thanks for the life of this remarkable monarch and commend her to that God in whom she believed, I pray that we shall all come together as a nation. That would be the most fitting tribute to the late Queen who was, through her faith and service, the glue that held us together. May that glue continue to stick as we pray, too, for our new King.
The Bishop of Worcester, Lord Spiritual.
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