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  • Chris Williams

Pastoral Letter - 16 September 2022

Dear Friends, What a week we are coming to the conclusion of. Her late Majesty`s coffin has been taken from Balmoral to Holyrood, from Holyrood to S. Giles`, from S Giles` to Edinburgh airport, from there to RAF Northolt, then to Buckingham Palace and from there to Westminster Hall. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands have seen this small wooden box, covered in bright colours and crowned with flowers. It is strange to think we will not see that smile again, save on page and film and in our memories.

And now, before her Funeral, her body Lies in State, and this for me is the most extrordinary moment of them all. After the pageantry and the pomp and the playing of the band, now a stillness and a silence surrounds her. Here in a hushed Westminster Hall, complete with crown, she occupies another throne: isolated, lifted up, spotlit, available to each who comes, who`s queued for hours, she offers a moment just for them, a Subject with their Monarch.

Some come in gratitude, others in grief. Old, young, fit, well, stumbling, frail. All unique, each with their own experience of life. Some obviously in pain, yet determined to pay homage, show respect by bowing or even blowing a kiss. Many in tears. One girl with severe physical disabilities, in a wheelchair, whose mother flicked the girl`s frock in imitation of a curtsey. Bleak faces, blank faces, faces showing emotion, others not. Some looking as though they have had a hard life, but battled on regardless, others appearing to have had a lifetime of disappointment and rejection, craving the company of their Queen. Ex Soldiers, perhaps reliving the trauma of when they fought for Queen and country, revisiting the things they saw, reviewing their role and even rededicating themselves to making a positive difference in the future. Some saluting, others making the sign of the Cross upon themselves. Some come, yes to be with their Queen, but holding on still and crying for other lives, other loves, now lost to them behind the curtain of time. Some come in couples, others as a whole family, parents with children, clusters of colleagues, though mainly, most are alone. Some have come straight from work, others are obviously on holiday. Some have travelled miles, have made a pilgrimage to be here and have not slept for hours. Well dressed, not so well dressed. Good looking, not so good looking. Many dressed in black, others in bright colours. So many different nationalities, cultures, faith communities represented.

This one person, Her late Majesty the Queen, seems to have been a presence, played a part in so many people`s lives in such a personal way, despite the fact that she probably never even met them. Still they feel they know her, that she was part of their story, part of their lives. This, for me, these days and nights with streams of people flowing in through Westminster Hall, having waited hours for but a moment with their Monarch, these are the most powerful, profound, mezmerizing, magnificent, moving and majestic of her reign.

And were I to be there, standing for but a moment beside her coffin complete with crown, perhaps I would want to say:

Majesty. Ma`am,

Like thousands, millions, across the world, l pray for you, give thanks for you, express my love, appreciation and gratitude to you.

For someone so small in physical stature, you were seismic in significance and made an extraordinary difference in the seventy years of your reign. Your so called "soft power," your ability to easily relate, your courtesy, your kindness, your warmth, your empathy, broke down barriers, melted hearts and brought about reconciliation, the setting aside of past hurts, the finding togther of fresh paths.

We are in awe at the collective force of all that you have done: so many ships to launch, bridges to name, hospitals to open, Acts of Parliament to sign, Prime Ministers to appoint, Prime Ministers to meet with and treat with each and every week. Audiences to give, posies to accept, honours to present, travels to undertake, red boxes to read, hands to shake, broadcasts to record, tea parties to host, confidences to keep, smiles to give and dogs to walk.

You have been at the beating heart of our nation`s life, a constant, steadfast, watching presence, praying for us all, prompting us through the transitions. Encouraging us when things were looking bleak, promising better times ahead and thanking people as only someone in your position could, for the sacrifices and service they and their loved ones were making.

And now, as I stand beside your coffin, I simply pray for those things, for those people, for those values, which were core to your being and close to your heart:

For the soul of Philip, your companion and confidant. For the reign of Charles, your son and heir. For your family and for the family of nations. For the people of the Ukraine and for peace in Europe. For the Armed Forces who protect us. For the Emergency Services who keep us safe. For Parliament in its deliberations and decision making. For the Commonwealth and its potential for doing good. For environmental issuses, the future wellbeing of our planet and in thanksgiving for the beauty of the natural world. For those who warm society and make it a kinder and more tender place through volunteering and supporting charities. For all those who work in our amazing National Health Service. For all those who strive tirelessly and committedly to bring about greater freedom, justice, equality and peace. For the young people of our world, especially those whose gifts of leadership need nurturing and encouraging. For stability and empathy in society. For a greater spirit of togetherness and good neighbourliness, to make communities feel more compassionate and cohesive. For the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the whole Church of God throughout the world. And in thanksgiving for horses, Corgies, Dawgies and last but not least, Labradors.

Ma`am, you were a shining, smiling presence amoung us, more dazzling than the jewels which you wore. You were one who never sought power and who saw her role as servant to us all. We know what personal strength and inspiration you found through your relationship with Christ the Servant King.

So, may the One who anointed you at your Coronation, anoint you now with His peace. May the One you placed your trust in, reach out to you with His love.

May the one you craved communion with, embrace you and fill you with Resurrection power.

We take heart Ma`am from what you reminded us of so memorably in the midst of the Pandemic, that we shall indeed meet again, by God`s grace next time, in another Kingdom. Until then we offer you our humble duty, our blessings, our thanks, our love.



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