Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more


15 September 2022

It's the end of the second Elizabethan era. For the royal family, of course, a time of great sadness. But what has struck me over the last few days, watching the endless TV coverage, is the public grief, the weeping of many in the crowds - and I wonder about the source of that grief.

After all, the vast majority of folk in this country have never been within sight of the Queen, and probably of other members of the royal family as well. They occupy a place in the life of the United Kingdom that is remote from the daily life of its citizens. There is an element of the fairy-tale about kings and queens living in palaces that enables us to glimpse at least an imaginary vision of how life might be in such a magical world.

A few days ago I caught part of several interviews of those who had been in daily contact with the Queen and other members of the royal family, discussing aspects of their various functions in different departments of the palace. One after the other, they offered glimpses of their work, and - here's the bit that intrigued me - every one of them was a Lord. High responsibility and high office seemed to require recruitment from among (male?) members of the aristocracy who would bring to their role an appropriate gravitas and an unimpeachable background.

Much has been written and said recently about the contribution made by the Queen in search of national unity, especially with regard to Northern Ireland. We cannot underestimate the value of seeing again the Queen shaking the hand of Martin McGuiness. Such a natural human act but with such political import. But here, the Windrush revelation must not be forgotten - not just those who arrived but somehow, it seems, never quite became citizens, but also those from the (dreadful word) colonies, for whom Great Britain was the conquering power and the monarch the symbolic head.

However, much as we may recognise the monarchy as precious and however much we may have admired the Queen, the ugly fact remains that this is a deeply divided country. The current debate about the cost of living crisis brings home the sheer chasm between those who have too much money and those who have none - those for whom tax reduction will go unnoticed and those for whom it will simply feel like an insult. But, I sadly suppose, not much will change as the new king settles into his new role. The monarch is in some mysterious way above (party) politics, despite having to sign off new legislation emerging from the House of Commons. It would be so interesting to be a fly on the wall as monarch meets prime minister in weeks to come. Perhaps things might be said - walls may have ears but they speak not.

Today we tuned in to a webinar on the subject "The Prophetic Voice of the Church". It would be good to be assured that there is one, but the three speakers seemed to agree that the Church - all denominations included - are over-concerned with not offending anyone, not saying anything provocative. We're just too nice when we should be banging the table. I don't remember Jesus being worried about causing offence or provoking angry responses - being prophetic is all about speaking truth to power, and if the powerful don't like it, tough!

I'm clinging to the hope that King Charles III will continue to offer his often unfairly ridiculed comments on matters of importance, and that he won't be constrained by conventions that really ought to be discarded.


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