|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on September 21, 2022 at 9:55 AM|
I was able to watch some of the wall-to-wall coverage of the various events related to the Queen Elizabeth II’s death. The pageantry, always done with such precision and dignity by the Brits, was truly something to behold. The mix of poignancy and gratitude exhibited by the participants and gathered crowds was palpable, even for those of us watching the events unfold on TV. It was hard not to be moved.
Our Anglican heritage as Episcopalians provides us with a deep historical connection to the British monarchy. It was during Henry VIII’s reign that the seeds of the Church of England were sown, the result of political, theological, and ecclesiological realities. Those seeds came to fruition during the reign... of Elizabeth I, when the Church of England made it’s final, irrevocable break from Rome and the Papacy and the British monarch became the “Head of the Church”. By the time the first British colonists came to the Americas, Anglicanism as a unique way of being Christian had been firmly established.
These historical connections to the British monarchy are undeniably a mixed bag. We cannot deny that our origins as Anglicans were intertwined with the machinations of power politics. Nor can we deny our ties to imperial colonialism and its disturbing treatment of indigenous peoples and their lands. And of course, there are mixed feelings among many today, both in the UK and world-wide, about the moral value of maintaining what is largely a figure-head monarchy, with all its privileges and the financial realities it entails.
With all this being said, we can also recognize in Queen Elizabeth II a remarkable life of servant leadership that was clearly rooted in a deep and abiding Christian faith. She was a flawed human being, like all of us, but she modeled in various ways a devotion to something larger than herself.
During our time working on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff, our first experience of the Queen came in the days following the events of 9/11. She immediately called for a memorial service to be held at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, to which the Archbishop made sure Julia and I got an invitation. It was a profoundly meaningful experience for us in those days when we felt so far from home.
Later, we had the privilege of actually meeting the Queen, when the Archbishop hosted a garden party for the Queen to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. It was a brief but meaningful encounter in which she asked about our work with the Archbishop and, when she realized we were American, expressed genuine sympathy to us about 9/11.
During the Queen’s funeral, the current Arcbbishop of Canterbury said, “People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten.” While we shouldn’t gloss over the less savory aspects of the British monarchy and our Anglican history, we can still acknowledge the ways the Queen did indeed provide loving service to many over the seventy years of her reign. May God grant her eternal rest in the land of light and love.
Yours in Christ,