Yesterday, I began to talk about celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. As promised, here’s why I don’t intend to make a big thing of the so called Jubilee Sunday.
The first thing to say is that my position doesn’t arise out of some passionate republicanism although my sympathies lie increasingly that way. I’m inclined to think that we’d do well to call it quits after the Queen and then maybe elect a president. I doubt there’ll be the same affection for a future King Charles or William. But I’ve no major problem with a constitutional monarchy and I’ve no problem with a nation being thankful for someone giving a life time of service.
In that respect, I disagree with my friend Steve Kneale. If the Queen was ruling as a dictator, unelected, unchallenged then I think Steve would be right. We couldn’t celebrate such a system. I think our stomachs would turn at the thought of being compelled to put up the flags and participate in enforced jovialities to mark a Putin like figures’ time in power. And that’s not just to do with democracy. If Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair had managed to win further elections, maybe doubling their time in office, we wouldn’t have been having bank holidays to celebrate their silver Jubilees.
I don’t think that’s what is happening here. Rather, there is I think a genuine affection for the Queen and a recognition of service. There’s also a sense of events playing their part in national life and of communities coming together to celebrate. Though, I’m not sure that the interest is as great this time round. Perhaps, that reflects my personal circumstances. Bank Holidays don’t really affect teachers like my wife or people like me who plan our own working hours and we are pre-occupied this week with plans for an imminent move. So I’ll be celebrating with a trip to the tip.
However, whilst I’ve no problem with the events themselves. I do have a problem with Sunday being taken over by it and particularly church services. I remember the shock I felt when at the end of the Remembrance Sunday service at our staunchly evangelical Anglican church at University, the National Anthem was sung. It felt very out of place. Indeed, whilst I value the observation of Remembrance, I much preferred it at Bearwood when we marked this outside of the two morning services as a stand-alone event.
We gather on Sunday to worship Christ, to hear Scripture read and the Gospel proclaimed. We will gather as people from all different backgrounds. There will be monarchists who love the Queen and Republicans who don’t. There’ll also be a fair few people from different cultures and countries, some of whom will be British citizens but maybe not all. For those who observe the Church Calendar, this Sunday happens to also be Pentecost Sunday which marks the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Church.
I choose not to make Sunday about the Queen’s jubilee in part because I don’t want there to be stumbling blocks for people who would either be against the monarchy or culturally simply just not get what the fuss is about. More importantly I choose not to because we have more important business and greater joy to celebrate.
Further, as I outlined yesterday. I don’t think that this is some great evangelistic event. Generally speaking, people aren’t going to flock to your church service on Sunday because you are giving out books about the servant Queen, though if you host a street party today they might. People aren’t going to follow Jesus because of a few phrases the Queen used in her Christmas speeches that encouraged evangelical Christians.
So, our priority on Sunday is different. Our priority is to worship the risen King of Kings. We have six days in the week to honour and celebrate the Queen, including two specially set aside for the task. The Queen has talked often about her faith in Christ. I am sure she would want the attention to be on him alone on Sunday. But actually it doesn’t matter what she thinks. As believers in Jesus, that’s where we should want the attention to be.