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/ 8 September 2022

A message from the Bishop of London

A message from Bishop Sarah following the sad announcement of the death of Her Majesty the Queen.

‘To live in the service of others is not a popular thought in our society today. However, to serve others is one of the greatest things in life. It is precious and almost as rare. And like all precious things, it is costly. Service requires not so much physical strength as a strength of character. Her Majesty The Queen is an extraordinary example of a life lived in the service of others.

Under the intense and relentless scrutiny of ever vigilant media, she has demonstrated a consistency of character, a commitment to service, a concern for others, and a clear deep Christian faith. She is after all known for many other things, for being head of state, mother, grandmother, formidable rider, wife of the Prince Philip, and a senior citizen who still worked over 40 hours a week.

Even on her 21st birthday, she spoke to the Commonwealth and said, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be short or long, shall be devoted to the service and the service of our great family, to which we all belong.” Her Majesty The Queen has exemplified this life of service in the dedication with which she has served this country over the whole of her lifetime. And she has served this country as a queen longer than any other monarch in history and has done so with utter dedication.

Her Majesty was a truly remarkable person, with a remarkable Christian faith, about which she had increasingly been able to speak in recent years. In 1952, in her first Christian broadcast, looking forward to the coronation, she said this, “I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me that on that day- to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making and that I may faithfully serve Him and you all the days of my life.”

She was a woman of faith. In her 2014 Christian broadcast, the queen described Jesus Christ as ‘an anchor in my life and a role model’. In a nation where faith is often contended and sometimes despised, she made no excuse for her own faith. And she did not hide it. On the contrary, it was the engine of her devotion to service.

In an age that is, on one hand, increasingly secular, and on the other, fraught by religious conflicts, her approach was winsomely inclusive. She was the head of the Church yet in her speeches, she never tells anyone to go to church. Rather, she pointed to Jesus and how he expanded her capacity to love people with different beliefs. Overall, her approach has been testimonial, not argumentative. She told the world about the inspiration that Jesus had been for her in her own life and left others to decide if they were interested in being inspired themselves.

And maybe her Majesty’s other rock was the Prince Philip, whom she described as her constant strength and guide. The two enjoyed the longest marriage in the history of the Commonwealth. The queen avowed her love and gratitude for Philip in 1997, in her golden wedding speech, saying, “He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments. He has quite simply been my strength and my stay all these years. And I and his whole family, and this and many other countries owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”

Wonderfully, Her Majesty The Queen’s example to the world has not been a dour, dutiful drudge, but of a woman who seemed to enjoy life – riding and horses and dogs and family. She didn’t have to invite a different Christian minister every weekend of her six-week Balmoral holiday to spend time with her family, but she did. She didn’t have to drive herself to the Sunday service in church on the Sandringham Estate when she was there, but she often did. She didn’t have to find out the names of the Sunday school prize winners and choose and present their prizes, but she did.

A life lived in the service of others is a rare jewel. It is a jewel that she wore as a crown. We owe her much and Her Majesty will be greatly missed. My prayers are with the royal family at this time, and I pray that they may know God’s comfort and peace.’

About Sarah Mullally

The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE is the 133rd Bishop of London. Before ordination, Bishop Sarah was Chief Nursing Officer in the Department of Health. She trained for ministry at the South East Institute for Theologian Education.

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