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Letters to the Editor

16 September 2022


Of happy memory: thoughts on Queen Elizabeth II

From the Revd Dr Ian K. Duffield

Sir, — As we reflect on the life Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II — on her steadfast dedication for 70 years to her vocation in the world; her public witness to her Christian faith and reliance on her Lord, Jesus Christ; her wisdom and grace, humour and humility, in her relationships with people throughout the Commonwealth and the world; her sense of duty and selfless service — we would do well in the Church of England to honour our late, great Queen in many ways, not least as an outstanding model and exemplar of what it means to be a missionary disciple.

Director of Research
Urban Theology Union
Victoria Methodist Hall
Norfolk Street, Sheffield S1 2JB

From the Revd Andrew McLuskey

Sir, — The death of the Queen is a momentous event. She was a great lady and rightly respected the world over. Now, inevitably, as a nation (and indeed as church people) we have to look to the future — for the monarchy, but also for our country, which until recently has been in prolonged and unhappy turmoil.

In the current context, and with no disrespect to Her Majesty, it is clear that both the royal regime and other aspects of our national life need reshaping. The new King has in the past talked about a “slimmed-down” monarchy. That would certainly suit the current Zeitgeist, in which automatic deference to hereditary privilege has practically disappeared. In addition, recent press stories have highlighted anachronistic privileges exercised by the Head of State which are a matter of concern and need addressing.

Also, there has now to be reflection on how we “induct” the new head of state. Coronation is a largely outmoded concept. Hardly any other country in the world, even among those with hereditary monarchs, practises it. Some of us felt that the recent St Paul’s Jubilee service was far too Anglo-centric (and indeed Anglican) with no mention for example of the Celtic nations, or indeed their particular religious heritages.

There now needs to be a national conversation about how King Charles should be welcomed: a conversation in which all the voices of our multicultural nation can be heard.

70 Stanley Road
Ashford, Middx TW15 2LQ

From Canon Nicholas Turner

Sir, — Her late Majesty’s extraordinary life of service was founded on her faith in, and service to, our Lord Jesus. She served so graciously because, in the Prayer Book phrase, she knew whose servant she was.

Though the Church of England has no formal procedure for canonisation, is it not certain that she will some time (soon?) be revered as a saint? And rightly so.

There is, however, one serious question for our bishops to resolve, namely, a date. The day of her death is the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary; so another day must be chosen if she is to be properly and formally remembered.

Perhaps her birthday, 21 April? St Elizabeth of England.

31 Raley Drive
Barnsley S75 1FL

From the Revd Dr Godfrey Kesari

Sir, — Although I hold the Queen and this nation in high regard, and although I was deeply saddened by the passing away of the Queen, I should candidly admit that I don’t have the same emotional attachment as most people in this country have. This could be because, as a child, I grew up not in this country, but in India. Perhaps, I believe, this stands me in good stead to analyse these times more objectively.

Church leaders reflected passionately on the faith of the Queen and commented on it in detail and in glowing terms. They heaped praises on her for piety that formed a good and intrinsic part of her legacy. This was something that we expected them to do. She deserved all the encomiums; she earned them.

What struck me most, however, was the words used by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to sum up our response to her final moments. He said that the Queen and the Royal Family were in our “thoughts and prayers”. His words were simple, but profound; they reminded the nation that we can turn only to God in prayer at times like this.

It is interesting that it is not only the Church but also the socio-political secular world that realises that in the face of death the only place to turn to for peace and hope is God. In moments like this, we are inclined to ponder on life beyond this worldly life. We believe that the departed soul is now in a better place than we are; this is what offers us the hope of eternal life. Just as light shines brighter in darkness, faith shines brighter in grief. There is no need to be despondent about the inevitability of death. Queen Elizabeth II lived a life full of “abundance and hope”; we can model ourselves on her.

Looking ahead, in his eloquent and emotional address to the nation, the King has vowed to serve with loyalty, respect, love, and empathy “throughout the remaining time God grants” him. His acknowledgement that it is God who grants us the years that we live has reminded us all the source of our life. It is reassuring to be told by the new King himself that he shares his mother’s commitment to the Church and to matters of faith. It is a great encouragement that he has declared that his faith is rooted in the church.

We are confident that King Charles III will be able to reign in a manner worthy of his mother, who is looked up to for her long and illustrious reign. We pray to God to give the King the strength and wisdom to reign with dedication and devotion in the service of our great nation.

The Vicarage, Church Lane
West Sussex RH13 9BT

From the Revd Charles Stewart

Sir, — Last Friday evening, just when I thought I had put to bed the order of service for the Service of Commemoration that we held in Christchurch Priory on Sunday afternoon, one of our organists sent me an email. It contained a hymn by one of his long-standing friends. I decided to use it as the final hymn. It made a huge impact on the congregation.

The Revd Dominic Grant has given me permission to circulate the hymn more widely; it is set to Thaxted (the tune we know better to “I vow to thee, my country”). The hymn, as you may appreciate from the words, is indeed for these days. The words, plus appropriate copyright notice, are given below. As long as it has the copyright notice, the author is content for it to be sung (the full copyright notice is on his website).

Parish Office, Priory House,
Quay Road, Christchurch BH23 1BX

We stand to mourn a sovereign,
a nation’s guide and friend,
who through long years of tumult
was faithful to the end.
We offer our thanksgiving
for all that she instilled:
her constancy of service,
her lifetime’s vow fulfilled.
Now from our world departed —
though never from our hearts —
receive her in the peace, Lord,
your love alone imparts.

And as we mark a passing
of sceptre, orb, and throne,
we’ll find in her compassion
a pattern for our own:
that all who stand in mourning,
or languish now in fear,
may know again your promise
to wipe away each tear.
With her we’ll join in witness,
Christ’s mercies our refrain:
great Sovereign of the nations,
eternal is your reign!

Words: © Dominic Grant, September 2022

WCC provides a unique forum for difficult issues

From the Revd David Haslam

Sir, — Having just returned from the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Karlsruhe, Germany, I concur with Canon Jeremy Morris that the “WCC is not a costly irrelevance” (Comment, 2 September). The 4000 participants from 350 member Churches from all over the world gave a sense of the breadth and depth of the Christian faith in today’s world which could not be experienced in any other way. To participate in worship with elements from several continents and a wide range of traditions, with song, drama, chanted prayer, and impassioned preaching, was a unique experience.

In other ways also, Canon Morris was right. It is likely little will come out of Karlsruhe which “is likely to change fundamentally the basic challenges which the Church of England faces” or, indeed, any other Church here, for that matter. What it did convey is that Christianity has some vital things to say about the crises facing our planet, not least because some of the indigenous Christian communities are coming to the fore on the international church scene, and the Churches are one of the few forums in which their voice can be heard.

Their message at Karlsruhe, repeating that the world cannot sustain the lifestyle of Western society, and that it is essential that we focus ourselves to ensure “reparations for loss and damage” to the global environment, especially in the South, was one which the Churches of the North — West and East — are now conscience-bound to convey, with all the discomfort that may ensue.

The voices of many smaller Churches, in their situations of oppression or conflict, were also heard. The prayers of more fortunate and secure participants must remain with them. It was positive also to see Christians from Russia and Ukraine able to sit down together and debate, even though clear tensions remained.

Canon Morris was correct also in predicting that the threats to Christianity in the Middle East and the situation in Israel/Palestine were a matter of serious controversy. Pleas from the Churches in Iran, Iraq, and Syria were heard.

Nevertheless, it was in the extreme resistance of the German church hosts to being willing to hear any breath of criticism of the State of Israel which caused the deepest rift. It had clearly been conveyed to the WCC leadership before the Assembly that they should seek to nullify any such censure, and this came through in the addresses of German President Steinmeyer and Professor Traub of the Jewish Central Council that any criticism of Israel would be regarded as anti-Semitism. This angered the Palestinian Christians present, who insist on distinguishing between anti-Semitism and justified condemnation of Israeli state policies.

The deep disagreement could not be papered over, and, despite an impassioned overlong appeal by a leading German bishop that the term “apartheid” should not appear in any final statement, it did so, with the message that, although some found the use of the term unhelpful and painful, others — including people in South Africa, Palestine, and among Churches in the US and Scandinavia — found that it described the “reality of the people in Israel/Palestine and the position under international law”. It was agreed that the WCC would “continue to struggle with this issue”, while continuing also on a journey of justice and peace.

One may also ask where else in the world there is a forum for those of such differing opinions within and among faiths for such an urgent and essential dialogue to happen. The WCC still has much work to do, and needs our support and prayers.

59 Burford Road
Evesham WR11 3AG

Jesuits’ enabling of ministry with a disability

From Jane Sigrist

Sir, — I echo Mark Cooper’s response (Letters, 2 September) to Naomi Lawson Jacob and Emily Richardson’s reflections (Feature, 19 August) on disability access in church, in particular for those, like him, discerning a call to ministry. Yes, this should be an ecumenical matter, and it need not be complicated.

Why not take a leaf out of the Jesuit book? On 6 December, it will be the second anniversary of the death of the much-loved Fr Stan Dye MAFr, priest and spiritual director, whose ministry will be remembered with gratitude by many retreatants and staff at St Beunos Spirituality Centre. The stoicism, quiet dignity, and, yes, humour with which he bore the long, drawn-out illness contracted as a missionary, and which left him using a wheelchair, was inspiring to see.

While I do not gloss over his sufferings, his disabilities emphatically did not prevent his exercising a full part in the life of the community. Who can ever forget the whirring of the chapel stairlift in the silence, Stan’s kindly presence at the back of the chapel, his role as celebrant behind a specially adapted communion table? This is not to forget the many day-to-day acts of compassion and wisdom for which he was known.

The next step to inclusion and the steps beyond that may not be easy, but they can be done.

The Gables, Enborne Grove
Newbury RG14 6BJ

Commissioners’ buying power could promote solar panels for churches

From Susan Stokes

Sir, — I was heartened to read the Revd Carl Chambers’s letter (2 September) suggesting the Church Commissioners’ using their buying power to procure solar panels for clergy houses, church halls, etc. What would be even better would be to extend such a scheme to ecclesiastical buildings. Virtually every church or cathedral in the country will have a (more or less) south-facing roof, ideal for capturing solar energy.

No doubt diocesan advisory committees, historical societies, etc., will have a fit at the idea of replacing roofs with solar panels, but objections become academic in the face of the loss of buildings to fire, flood, etc., as a consequence of our failure to address climate change. At least some churches are already paving the way (News, 19 August); let’s hope that many more will follow.

40 Camlet Way, St Albans
Hertfordshire AL3 4TL

Communion continues

Sir, — ­­Your relevant editorial (“Un­­covered in the summer”, 26 August) did not mention holy com­munion by extension.

Before depart­ing on holiday, our Vicar arranged for a retired priest to celeb­rate. Having had a fall, how­ever, she was no longer available. At our church­wardens’ pleading, the dio­­cesan Bishop reluctantly author­ised the elderly Reader to conduct holy com­munion by extension: to administer pre-consecrated wafers.
The services were well attended, and the congre­gation on the second Sun­day in­­cluded the Area Bishop, on his return from holiday!

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