Today we gather in worship of God and in gratitude to the Queen – giving thanks for her 60 years of unstinting and devoted service as our Monarch.
It is very appropriate that we do so both in this Church of St Luke, Kingston, and in the presence of HRH Princess Alexandra. The Church was consecrated on 14 December 1889 and the foundation stone was laid by Princess Mary Adelaide (Duchess of Teck) who was very supportive of the parish in its early days. She was the great grandmother of both the Queen and HRH Princess Alexandra – so we thank you, Your Royal Highness, for your presence today. I should also like to thank Her Majesty’s representative, Colonel Geoffrey Godbold, Deputy Lieutenant of Kingston, for being with us.
It is also very appropriate that this Act of Worship is in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, which has so many royal links, not least several coronations in Saxon times. These included, in the 10th Century, King Athelstan, who has been called “the first English monarch.” It is good to have here the Mayor, Councillors, MPs and representatives from so may local organisations, especially our schools and young people. We are also fortunate to be joined by Mayors, Mayoresses and Consorts from so many other places across London and Surrey.
So we have people from a very wide range of backgrounds and ages represented here today – and rightly so, for the role of Queen is very important in our sense of common identity and purpose.
Sixty years doing any job, let alone a role as demanding as the Queen’s is a very long time. Its 3½ years longer than my entire life! (Here’s a challenge for you if you’re under 11: How old am I?)
There have been vast changes during that time. On the political and economic front we were still in the aftermath of World War II in 1952; this involved the Cold War and the nuclear threat; more recently we have seen the collapse of communism and the impact of 9/11.
In science we watched televisions in black and white in 1952, and I well remember getting my first radio, one of the millions of transistors which we bought during the 1960s and 1970s and which for the first time meant that people could listen to music anywhere they went. There has been the space age and the development of computers, resulting in the growth of the internet and iphones. Those of you who are under 20 are sometimes known as “digital natives” – you’ve had digital technology around all your lives.
Global travel has developed since 1952 and as a result we are a much more mixed society. People from all kinds of different background live in the same communities and their lives are thoroughly intertwined.
There are now people of many different faiths here in Kingston, but there have been other vast changes here too. Bentalls, built in the 1930s as a big department store, has developed into the Bentall Centre, a major shopping centre. I remember cycling down Clarence Street – it’s now a pedestrian precinct. Kingston University has developed. In 1952 it was Kingston Technical College, in 1992 it became Kingston University and it now has nearly 25,000 students. It bought its first computer (costing £50,000) in 1996; now it has 2,000 of them.
The key questions through all these years of change have been,
- What binds us together? What is our identity?
- What directs us? What are our values?
- What gives us hope and purpose?
It is obvious from the Queen’s speeches and actions that she has thought deeply about these issues. In 1947, on her 21st birthday, she made a famour broadcast to the British Commonwealth, acutely aware, as a young adult in the aftermath of the 2nd World War, of her responsibilities to work for the good of her country and humanity and of the need for everyone to play their part too. Towards the end she says,
“If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage and a quiet heart we shall be able to be a powerful influence for good in the world. To accomplish that we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors – a noble motto, “I serve”. I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”
Much of the Queen’s fortitude and strength to serve are drawn from the wellsprings of her faith in God. The first reading spoke of the importance of wisdom. This can be described as the profound understanding of the deepest realities, a life lived in awareness of God – the source of all goodness and love – and in whose image we are made. Wisdom involves having a right attitude to God leading to a right ordering of life.
The second reading spoke of Love as the fulfilment of all God’s Laws. We heard that Love is supremely expressed in the self-giving love of Christ, and that lives of love and service are the highest good.
Today we give thanks for the Queen – for her inspiring example of faith, duty and service. We pray for her, and for her county, that her example may encourage us to live lives of loving service for the good of all.