In an early statement and a sermon at Durham Cathedral this evening, Bishop Paul offers his congratulations and reflections on the reign of the Queen whom today becomes the Nations longest serving monarch. In a statement issued early today he said: “Her Majesty has served our nation phenomenally well as monarch. As a diocese we send her our heartfelt congratulations on becoming our nation’s longest reigning monarch. Her life of duty, service and care is exemplary. We thank God for her, and the Duke of Edinburgh, who has served alongside her so faithfully. We continue to pray that God will bless Queen Elizabeth II. “
A full transcript of his sermon in Durham Cathedral.
THANKSGIVING FOR HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
The second “Elizabethan” era of our nation has been a period of extraordinary change in our nation and world. When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne, on the death of her beloved father, George VI, rationing remained in place; most of the African Empire nations were still under some sort of direct rule and the TV and telephone were not to be found in every home. Specifically here in the North East coal mining was still in full swing, as too was shipbuilding on the Tyne, Wear and the Tees.
The social fabric of our nation is now very different. Yet through all the upheaval and transformation there has been this one constant, Elizabeth has been our Queen. She has shown remarkable grace and wisdom in adapting herself and the monarchy to this rapidly changing world. She has grown old gracefully, remaining remarkably healthy, fit and above all ‘in touch’. She is a quite remarkable woman; an outstanding human being; a faithful Christian. Her Majesty has been extraordinarily skilful in avoiding controversial statements, and expressing her own personal preferences about people or situations.
As Charles Moore put it in the Telegraph, ‘Elizabeth II… has no favourites, no factions, no tantrums, no one who has to cover up for her mistakes’. She may be very private but she is also (with the Duke of Edinburgh) the longest-running example in public life of the phrase “What you see is what you get.”
Yet at the same time we are all clear that she stands firmly, and deeply principled for truth, goodness, kindness, care, humility, courtesy and service. These mark her out. She continues to serve by visiting places, and engaging with people. She serves by taking a deep interest in the affairs of our state, the Commonwealth and the Church. She serves the nation in helping to create healthy relationships with the leaders of the world’s nations. Service marks her out. What she has been willing to be quite public about, notably in her Christmas messages, is her own personal faith and how this is the rock on which she stands; the river of life that flows through her. In our daily prayers for the Queen we pray, “and so replenish her with the grace thy Holy Spirit that she may alway incline to thy will, and walk in thy way” (BCP).
We pray God’s blessing on her. Her own faithful engagement in daily prayer and attendance on Sundays at her beloved BCP Mattins, not only keep expressing her faith to us all, they also sustain her. For here she constantly recognises that she reigns ‘under God’ that being Queen of the United Kingdom and of the Commonwealth, is God’s call on her life. She knows that she can only fulfil her calling by God’s grace and in His power. She stands therefore as a beacon to us all of living our lives ‘under God’. She exemplifies to us all that prayer and worship matter. It has been my privilege as a bishop to meet her majesty on a number of occasions, even spend time with her whilst serving her for a weekend at Sandringham. I am therefore in the deeply privileged position of being able to say from first-hand experience what a wonderfully gracious, humble person she is. She truly seeks to mirror the God whom she serves in Jesus Christ.
Today is a day for thanksgiving to the Queen herself for her outstanding life of service and care as our monarch for over 63 years. But it is a day too to be thankful to the God whom she herself loves and serves. The God who has answered our prayers for her and granted ‘her in health and wealth long to live’. And may our Lord continue to ‘save the Queen’. God bless her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, our nation’s longest ever reigning monarch.