I write this letter in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth, after watching the news coverage of the reaction in Britain and around the world, and I am surprisingly sad and moved.
I am no lover of monarchy, and the past few decades certainly revealed that the royal family has all the same problems as any family, and, yet, the Queen captured the imagination of generations of people all around the globe. I admired her dogged devotion to duty and her willingness to shoulder the heavy mantle of a global role that, in the end, has little political power but carries enormous cultural weight. I admired even more her quiet but persistent faithfulness, for the Queen was no mere figurehead as the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England; rather, she was a believer who prayed and struggled with her faith, attended church regularly, and continually offered hope and encouragement to her people.
In many ways, she is the symbol of the Church of England and of Anglicanism worldwide, more recognizably certainly than the Archbishop of Canterbury. And, so, we as Episcopalians mourn, too. And, yet, the traditional proclamation after the death of a monarch–“The Queen is dead. Long live the King.”–was made after Elizabeth’s death, reminding us that the institution is larger than the individual. Even now as Britain and the Church of England plan for the official mourning and funeral for the Queen, they are also interspersing the days with prayers for and celebration of King Charles III.
Somehow, that is a comfort and a reminder that life continues here on earth even as individuals, those we love but see no longer, are now resting eternally with God. Even in the midst of death, there is much in life to celebrate; we often find that joy and sorrow are so joined that we cannot have one without the other.
Tomorrow, at our Celebration, our Renewal of Ministry with the Welcoming of a New Rector, may there be such joy to strengthen us as we walk into the future together.