“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2.1-2)
Quite incredibly, this is one of the readings set for this Sunday. How utterly appropriate and apt, given that we are, as a nation and Commonwealth, mourning the death of the monarch who has defined an era, and was the second longest-reigning monarch in the world.
Our churches have been open for prayer and reflection, for public and private grieving. I’ve had many conversation with people over the past week about Queen Elizabeth, how incredible she was, what she brought to us all.
But looking at the readings for this Sunday, one conversation in particular came to mind again.
Politics, across the world, are febrile and divisive, and becoming more and more so with each passing year and election. Churchill once said that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others which have been tried from time to time”. It’s the best we’ve come up with to date. However meaningful and effective democracy crucially hinges on the need for rational debate and the willingness to listen to one another, not merely see who can shout loudest and score the most points off their opponent.
The person I was speaking with commented that having a monarchy gave us, as a nation, a sense of continuity and of peace and stillness in the depths, regardless of the storms crashing above, which republican nations did not usually have. The all-too-often puerile and petty storms which occupy our headlines, from every part of the political spectrum, do nothing to build us up. In fact they tear us down, causing increasing division and irresponsibility. The more that those in authority have scant regard for rules and the massive responsibility their elected office entails, the more the rest of us wonder what’s the point in obeying those rules ourselves. The very inequity and unfairness of it all sticks in our collective craw.
But Queen Elizabeth provided the exact opposite. Her sense of duty and responsibility, coupled with a self-deprecating humour and dry wit to which many attest, has provided a very real example to us all – most poignantly at the funeral of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, where due to Covid restrictions she sat alone, at a time when she most needed the comfort and presence of her family.
We have prayed for the Queen in church services for seventy years, on Sundays and in many places daily. We will now pray for the King. May King Charles give us that same sense of stability, of deep calm as a nation, so that below all the chaos and division of Westminster politics, beneath the trials and tribulations of our daily lives, there is a common thread or spine which holds us all and gives us balance as a nation, so that, to use St Paul’s words, “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”.
Image courtesy of the Press Association