For the last week or so I have been thinking about what present, or presents, we Anglicans might give the Queen for her ninetieth birthday.
Her majesty after all is doubly important for us, for not only is she the monarch but also the C of E’s ‘Supreme Governor,’ and her life has been, and continues to be, a living apologetic for the Christian faith.
She has been in many ways our evangelist ‘par excellence.’ Who can forget her 2012 Christmas day address in which she suggested that we might like to consider giving Him (Jesus) our hearts?
I think we could give the Queen two very real gifts:
First, we could make sure that we continue to reflect on the role of the Church of England in our national life, and make sure that the C of E genuinely exists for the common good.
It strikes me Her Majesty has a very clear understanding of what might be meant by ‘Anglican Identity.’ This was clearly stated in her opening address to the 2012 Lambeth Conference:
‘The concept of the 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. It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents. But, also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely. Woven into the fabric of this country, the Church has helped build a better society – more and more active in co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths.’
Wow! What a model:
Established and secure in its own identity and spirituality, ‘evangelical’ yet always hospitable, gentle and inclusive, dutiful and co-operative, irrevocably committed to the common good. A church built on these values would be a genuinely national church.
Does this list of characteristics describe the C of E as is? Maybe in parts, but I would suggest with plenty of room for improvement?
Would such a C of E be a fitting tribute to Her Majesty, a real legacy, a wonderful ninetieth birthday present? I think so.
The second present we could give to the Queen would be the promise of our continued prayers, each and every week. This, I am sure, is the gift she would most appreciate for as the Queen has recently written (in the Foreward to ‘The Servant Queen’):
‘In my first Christmas Broadcast in 1952, I asked the people of the Commonwealth and Empire to pray for me as I prepared to dedicate myself to their service at my Coronation. I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers. and to God for His steadfast love.’ She then adds, ‘I have indeed seen His faithfulness.’
This is not a trite, well meant, statement. It is instead a straightforward testimony to the efficacy of prayer.The Queen believes, beyond doubt, that our prayers have both shaped and strengthened her.
So what prayer might we offer, as a present? Surely something from the C of E’s own distinctive liturgy? Perhaps, the Prayer for the Queen from BCP Morning Prayer:
‘O Lord our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne behold all dwellers upon the earth: Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favor to behold our most gracious sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth; and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may alway incline to thy will, and walk in thy way: Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies, and finally after this life she may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.’
So, there you have it two presents we in the C of E could give to Her Majesty:
A commitment to reflect on and build (or do I mean rebuild?) a national Church based on the values she advocates and, an ongoing commitment to pray for our Supreme Governor and her life and witness.