Today has been a historic day. The passing of Queen Elizabeth III marks the end of an era. Seventy years on the throne made her the longest reigning monarch in British History.
As someone from England this has a personal resonance but looking at social media and the American news channels I realize that there is a huge amount of sadness both in this country and around the globe.
The Episcopal Church has close links with the Church of England, which is our mother church. Of course, during the War of Independence, official links with the Monarch were severed. Eventually, however, the Churches which came from the Church of England have come together as a family, the Anglican Communion.
In England the Monarch is, officially, the head of the Church. This is mostly ceremonial but Queen Elizabeth always took a keen interest in the affairs of the Church and took this role seriously. She was, by all accounts, a woman of great faith.
Whatever our views on forms of government and monarchy we cannot but mourn the passing of a woman who was so faithful to her task. She had never been expected to be Queen but with the abdication of her uncle, Edward and then the untimely death of her father she was propelled into the role at an early age.
For seventy years she fulfilled her duties. In an age where celebrity rarely comes without scandal she sat apart from the rough and tumble of the media world.
For me, she is a symbol of someone who undertook a responsibility and charge, no matter the cost. She was a person of integrity and faith. I am sure if we had had a conversation we would have found many points of disagreement, but that is not the point. Perhaps something we can all learn from her is that we do not need to get embroiled in factions and arguing. We do not need to plaster our opinion all over the place, simply to have our say.
As a priest ordained in the Church of England (and a British Citizen), I had to swear and oath of allegiance to the Queen. There is a caveat added “according to law” - this,of course, is open to interpretation. Looking back, despite my reservations about this system, I think I trusted that it was OK to be loyal to the Queen. Years later, and perhaps a little romantically, I reflect that, perhaps, this was because she was so loyal. Loyal to the country and way beyond and loyal to me as a citizen of the United Kingdom.
You will all have different memories and reactions. To celebrate a life we do not have to agree with values and motives. To learn from someone else we do not have to take on their opinions. As human beings we are so much bigger than the trenches we tend to dig for ourselves.
One of the things British Prime Ministers have commented on is her wisdom as they met with her week by week. Wisdom goes beyond creed and politics. Wisdom is a divine gift and one which is common to all humanity. Perhaps in our fractured and hurting country, and our divided world, we might do well to slow down enough to notice loyalty and to find wisdom.
Rest eternal grant to Elizabeth, your servant, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her. May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.