We live quite near to the Wiston Estate where the Big Church Day Out, renamed Big Church Festival, has become an annual fixture since 2009. Apart of course for 2020 and 2021.
It was good to be there over the past weekend which was a combination of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holidays and the Pentecost weekend. Being a bank holiday in England, we did have some rain. There are no sermons at the Festival but the artists performing did have a message. I was particularly struck by how the rappers, with their complex verbal gymnastics are able to pack a whole truckload of truth into a 3–4 minute-song.
Rappers have a remarkable ability to make connections by stringing together a range of words and concepts that appear to be random but form a distinct message.
The force of these spoken word pieces is that they have a impact upon the whole person.
During the two days a number of words surfaced many times: “passionate”, “impact”, “loss”, “pray,” “give,” “serve.”
It is that last word that has been picked out so many times when people have spoken about the Queen over the past few days. As part of a Jubilee celebration service at St Paul’s Cathedral the Archbishop of York summed it up well by saying,
“What I see in Her Majesty the Queen is someone who has been able to serve her nation because of her faith in Jesus Christ.”
The Queen has been able to lead with soft power because she is being led by another. Her frequent mentions of Jesus point to a model of leadership that was willing to take a bowl and a towel to wash his disciples’ feet.
Jubilee has been a time to reflect on an unprecedented 70 year reign by a remarkable woman. Both Christian and secular commentators have sought to wrestle with the significance of this.
Matthew Parris, writing in The Times, suggests that “an instinctive need to be part of something bigger than ourselves draws us toward the ideas of a dutiful monarch.” He adds that “...we witness the absence of any real passion among republicans.”
I think that Parris is right about the desire to have a reliable and enduring centre at the heart of national life. This has been more important in a time where the flaws of leadership in church, government and society have been so apparent.
It brings us back to what Dan Strange describes in his book Making Faith Magnetic about magnetic points. We are drawn with magnetic force to things that mirror the central realities of the creator that have been embedded into our world.
We admire the enduring centre that is represented by the Queen because we are all looking for a centre that will hold. 70 years is the longest reign of a monarch in British history, but in the light of eternity, it is a tiny ripple. Yet it is a ripple that reflects the huge eternal wave of God’s dependable faithfulness and generous grace.
We preach and pray “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”