I never had the opportunity to meet the Queen, but when I started out in ministry, it was like living in close proximity to her. She had lived in the village in which I served after my ordination when she was first married. To thank the church for their welcome and prayers, she had gifted a pew for the renovated side chapel. We used to walk our youth group through her garden on all night hikes (Windsor Great Park still belonged to her I think). Several of her grandchildren went to school in the village and attended the church (with parents) at start and end of term services. When we needed to fund raise to build a larger hall for our children and young people’s work, she was a willing donor.
Many people who knew her will speak in the days to come, I’m sure, of her dedication to her role, and the devotion she showed to the places she ruled. This was God’s calling on her life, and she would walk the path with utmost faithfulness, talking the words of Jesus to heart and picking up her cross and following him. Particularly in these latter years she has talked how much of an inspiration her faith in Jesus was to her, and the importance of prayer as a real solace, particularly when facing hard situations or circumstances.
Looking back, it would be easy to dismiss her gifts to our village church given her wealth and the expectation around being the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Yet what I see instead is someone who cared for the local church, wanting it to be a place of welcome and seeking to encourage its vital work among children and young people. She knew that the local church mattered and wanted to support it.
Of course, she had advisors to help make good decisions, secretaries to write the letters of support, and countless others to ensure that the right things happened. Yet these are also reasons why different decisions could have so easily been reached. We were insignificant, there would have been countless other requests; plenty of other worthwhile and deserving causes.
Isn’t that so often the case in life? There are always reasons why we should do things, yet there are so many ways in which we can avoid or opt out of the decisions required of us. There are always good reasons to be found to justify saying no, often other people we can pass the responsibility on to.
Yet if I learned one thing above all else from the Queen it is the way she embraced the Lord’s calling on her life and her determination to serve Him through serving others. There was no looking for someone else to take on her responsibility, nor idly wishing that she could be someone else or do something else, no matter how preferrable that might have seemed at times. It is that willingness to pray the words that Jesus prayed “not my will but yours be done” and then to live them out totally and utterly that is what inspires me and teaches me how I ought to live for Jesus. I am so glad that I know her, even though I never knew her.