It’s over—we have celebrated the Platinum Jubilee in style, we have seen Her Majesty extract marmalade sandwiches from the royal handbag and Prince Louis winning the hearts of many by doing what all bored three year olds do. Rain and chill did nothing to dampen spirits. The Archbishop of York preached a sermon about horse racing which went down well in some quarters but less well in others. How good after the years of lockdown, social distancing and mask wearing.
But what have we learned from all this public jollity? What will we take with us as we move into the future? Firstly, I would suggest, an increased awareness of what public duty means, evidenced by the Queen’s seventy years of exactly that; serving others without complaint, making countless other lives that bit happier simply by waving and smiling, and sometimes exchanging a few words with people. By doing her homework on who is who so that she says the right thing on meeting someone for the first time. By never showing how tired she is because she knows people have waited hours to catch a glimpse of her.
Secondly I think we have all come to value our freedom. It’s something we take for granted until a pandemic comes along or a foreign country decides to conduct a ‘military operation’ by shelling and bombing a city until nothing is left of it. Freedom is fragile and must be cherished.
And finally I think we should all learn to embrace progress and change. It’s easy as we grow older to cling on to the familiar and reject change without taking time to evaluate the change and to see that it can be for the better. Small Royals would once have been left at home with Nanny, or allowed just a brief peep from a window at the ceremonials taking place. Now we see Prince Louis sitting on Prince Charles’ knee and being told by his big sister to stop waving from the royal carriage. We see Prince William laughing with the crowds waiting to see him and his wife talking about the difficulties of rearing three small children because she is very much a hands-on mother.
I think the church can learn from this, too. I don’t know enough about horse-racing to emulate Archbishop Stephen, but I do know that we need to embrace diverse forms of worship and to deliver them in a relaxed but appropriate manner. And we need to emulate the Queen’s sense of service to others, continuing to reach out to all, not just to the regular worshippers.
I am approaching my retirement from these parishes, though have been unable to work for some time due to my inability to walk unaided or to drive. The PCCs will shortly be drawing up a parish profile and the recruitment process for my successor will begin. I’m sure that he or she will love our three churches as I have done, and will embrace change as well as upholding tradition. So I leave you with something else Archbishop Stephen said
For me, the best leaders – like Paul, like Jesus – are those who know how to be led. People who lead for others, not themselves. People whose heart’s desire is to serve the common good and build up the common life; who don’t try to do it all themselves, or act in their own strength alone; people who take a longer view; and who seek out places of replenishing, even places where they might learn the mind of Christ… Faith in Jesus Christ is a fountain, and it is a well. It is the well from which we draw deeply and replenish ourselves through all the challenges, joys, and vicissitudes of life. And it is a fountain, overflowing with immense joy. Joy, that we can live in the assurance that we are loved; joy, that God has a purpose for our lives; and, joy, that through Christ’s dying and rising we have the promise of life eternal.’
Rev Jo’s Letter