CHURCHES in the UK and across Europe held services of thanksgiving over the weekend for the life and Christian faith of the late Queen.
From tiny village churches, where prayers were offered during regular Sunday worship, to specially arranged civic services in the nations’ cathedrals, congregations honoured her 70 years of duty, and offered support to the new King. Many held vigils, or rung the church bells, shortly before the national one minute’s silence at 8 p.m. on Sunday, the eve of the funeral.
Like many churches, the bells of Worcester Cathedral were rung fully muffled — an honour only performed for the death of a monarch. At Sunday’s vigil in St Asaph Cathedral in north Wales, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, gave members of the congregation a special edition of St John’s Gospel — the Faithful Servant Gospel. In a letter to churches across the diocese, he described the late Queen as “perhaps the most influential leader of modern times”, whose example, he hoped, would shape the future.
Durham Cathedral was lit purple, and at Lichfield Cathedral an installation artwork — Light of Hope by Peter Walker — illuminated the evening sky with three beams of light during the silence. Afterwards, a bell tolled 96 times: one for each year of the late Queen’s life. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said: “We felt it important to give people a chance to reflect in a unique way by standing with the nation in silence. It also reflects the light of faith that was Queen Elizabeth’s strength and inspiration.”
Gloucester Cathedral was one of many that live-streamed its service of commemoration and thanksgiving before the vigil. The Interim Dean, Canon Andrew Braddock, said that this was an opportunity to “share our profound sense of loss. . . and give thanks for a life fully lived”.
Durham County CouncilDurham Cathedral is lit purple on Sunday in memory of the late Queen
A civic service in Coventry Cathedral, on Sunday, was also live-streamed. The Dean, the Very Revd John Witcombe, said that the building had a “special closeness” with the late Queen. “Her Majesty laid the foundation stone at the Cathedral in 1956 and returned for the consecration service six years later. She has been on the throne throughout the history of the new Coventry Cathedral.”
In Exeter Cathedral, more than one thousand people attended the Sunday service of commemoration, which included a reading by Lucy Ashton of the RNLI, one of the many charities under the late Queen’s patronage (News, 16 September).
Hannah, a 10-year-old chorister, said: “I feel very proud that I get to be in this moment — this one amazing, massively important fragment in all of history.”
The Canon Steward, the Revd Cate Edmonds, took up the theme of the Queen’s Jubilee meeting with Paddington Bear by preparing a marmalade-sandwich tea for the girl choristers, to thank them for their efforts during the period of national mourning. “It was just something to bring a bit of a smile,” she said. “They didn’t know a thing about it. It went down extremely well — one even tried to sneak a sandwich into choir practice.”
Ten civic services were also held in churches across Devon on Sunday, including St Andrew’s, Plymouth and St Paul’s, Paignton. The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Jackie Searle, who led two, said that these were an opportunity for people who could not get to London to pay their respects locally.
Other churches went further to mark the moment. In the parish of Goring and Streatley with South Stoke, which is split by the River Thames, people lined its unifying bridge, holding lanterns, during the minute’s silence. It was a sombre re-working of their celebrations for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee ten years previously, which earned them a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest street party in the UK. It was, the Vicar, the Revd Ben Phillips, said, a “simple, but symbolic way” to pay their respects.
At Holy Trinity, in Rudgwick, West Sussex, the Vicar, the Revd Martin King, offered to take the book of condolence to anyone who was not able to get to the church. “It is a medieval building, built when cars were not much of a consideration, up a hill, behind a pub and another building and along a narrow uphill path,” he said.
On Monday, all eyes and ears turned to Westminster Abbey for the state funeral. Many cathedrals and churches heeded a call from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on Friday to ensure that no one was left to grieve alone, by setting up big screens so that people could watch the funeral together. The call was organised by the Together Coalition and backed by dozens of organisations, including faith groups, charities, and cultural bodies.
Exeter CathedralFlowers placed outside Exeter Cathedral
The Archbishops wrote: “Grief is a natural process. Something we must endure in order to come out of the other side. But we know it can also create huge pain and if not managed well can lead people towards isolation and depression. That’s why we are asking everyone to do their bit this weekend to make sure that no one has to grieve alone.”
At Peterborough Cathedral, tea and coffee was served before and after the screening. The Dean, the Very Revd Chris Dalliston, said: “I know many people have been surprised by the strength of their grief at her passing and, whilst some will want to be at home, for others this is a time to draw comfort from one another, to be able to chat before and afterwards, and to be in a shared sacred space.”
The Priest-in-Charge of St Matthias’s, Plymouth, the Revd Olly Ryder, said: “At such a significant moment in the life of our country, we felt it was important to open the church for people to watch and participate in the funeral together. There is something very special about being together during historic times and drawing strength from God and each other.”
About 50 people gathered in Kendal Parish Church, where the Vicar, the Revd Shanthi Thompson, said: “Some people wouldn’t want to be alone, some people might not have a television; so it’s good to be able to come into this holy space and feel you are worshipping alongside those in Westminster Abbey.”
Across Europe, church and state leaders also paid tribute to the late Queen. Prince Albert of Monaco and his wife Princess Charlene attended a memorial service in St Paul’s in the principality. In an address the British Ambassador, Dame Menna Rawlings, described the late Queen as “Britain’s number one ambassador to the world”.
In a personal note of condolence to the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, and the Archbishop of Paris, Laurent Ulrich, said that the late Queen had been well-loved in France. In Tangiers, a member of the Anglican community at St Andrew’s, Pin Affleck, described how the church’s Muslim caretaker had found a Union flag in the marketplace and raised it to half-mast before tolling the church bell.
In Stuttgart, the bells at St Catherine’s were rung daily until the funeral. There were also special services held in St Mary’s, Rotterdam, and in the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest, whose chaplain, Fr Nevsky Everett, said that it had been “extraordinarily touching to see how many Romanians have come to offer their condolences and leave flowers”.