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'An Unabashed Trust in God'

'An Unabashed Trust in God'

Saturday September 10 2022

The Rev Professor David Fergusson, Dean of the Chapel Royal, says The Queen's life was rooted in her deep faith.

In these days of mourning, much has rightly been made of the length of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, its historic moments, and distinctive characteristics.

We have recalled that 15 Prime Ministers have served under her since 1952.  The events that have punctuated her life have been recited: her enduring commitment to the Commonwealth; the cultural and political changes that have swept through the country; her encounters with Nelson Mandela, Martin McGuiness, and successive US presidents. The vital support of the Duke of Edinburgh through their 73 years of marriage cannot be forgotten.

There were times of crisis, especially the annus horribilis of 1992. Silver, golden, diamond, and platinum jubilees were marked. The tragedies in which she shared have been brought to mind – the assassination of Mountbatten, the lost children of Aberfan and Dunblane.

We have celebrated The Queen’s commitment to Scotland, perhaps more than any monarch displayed since James VI took the road south to unite the crowns in 1603. She spent several months each year at Balmoral, her love of the land and its people apparent in her easy acquaintance with the ways of the local community. It seems fitting therefore that her reign should have ended so quietly and peacefully in her Scottish home. All this we recall with gratitude.

Some constant features of this long reign may often go unnoticed, especially those qualities that exemplify a quiet and practical wisdom which underlay an extraordinary performance that outlasted so many movements, trends and fashions in our national life. Seemingly urbane, these habits were remarkable for their enduring nature and effectiveness. We should celebrate them in the days ahead and make them our own.

The Queen always turned up and stuck to the programme. This might seem easy with staff to organise and plan ahead, but it required a discipline to adhere steadfastly to a schedule that was demanded and often dictated by others. Those around her appreciated this. Her work was conducted without seeming murmur or complaint. If ever resented or found wearisome, it never showed. She embodied that great hymn of Charles Wesley, ‘Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go.’

The task thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfil.
In all my work, thy presence find
And prove thy good and perfect will.

Looking forwards was also a characteristic attitude displayed by The Queen. It seems that she didn’t dwell long on the past or reflect nostalgically on what was once the case. There was an unsentimental focus on the task at hand. Neither the distant future nor some idealised history were allowed to interfere with the work of today and tomorrow.

Paying attention to other people was another hallmark of this long and happy reign. Every teacher, healthcare worker or counter assistant knows how demanding this can be. We speak of ‘emotional labour’ – the effort involved in listening, reflecting, and responding in the right way to different needs, circumstances and personalities. The Queen gave her undivided attention, however briefly or however long, to those around her. She practised this to perfection whether it was a president or an unknown member of the public who stood before her.

Whether this practical wisdom derived from her parents, her temperament, her experience of the war years or the responsibilities imposed by office are matters of speculation. But one thing seems clear. These habits of a lifetime were rooted in an unabashed trust in God.

On the affairs of politics, The Queen always remained discreet. But on one matter she was anxious to tell us what she really thought. Since the turn of the millennium, she became increasingly explicit in her festive broadcasts on the significance of Christian faith for her own life. There was acknowledged a dependence on the grace of God to fulfil her work, a dependence that was strengthened by daily habits of devotion. And there was also a determination to think on the example of Jesus Christ as a way of living. The theme of service was never far away from these Christmas reflections, nor was the sense that other faiths also stressed the importance of loving God and one’s neighbour above all else.

These are days of mourning for our longest serving monarch whose presence has been a constant in our national life. Her years have been marked by qualities for which she will be forever remember and celebrated. And yet she herself would insist that we continue to look forwards. As we give thanks to God for the reign now ended, we commend our King to God’s care and guidance as he assumes the responsibilities of the throne.

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"A Giant in the Land": A tribute from the Very Rev Dr James Simpson