Long to reign over us, God save the Queen

The Queen’s long reign is like a tune, like a melody line running throughout our lives. She has been a constant. Her visage instantly recognisable, her voice and mannerisms easily identifiable.

Queen Elizabeth II

Of the melodies we know, apparently globally the tune we are all most familiar with, and share in signing together most, is – Happy Birthday. In the UK, probably the next most familiar song we know the words of and sing together, is God save our gracious Queen. Or it has been until we now all try and remember to sing King. But it is not just this tune I mean when I speak of the Queen’s reign running like a melody. It’s more about the Queen herself. Her life, as a musical metaphor. 

…let the sounds of music creep in our ears…

In music, a tune or theme returning and overlapping is called a canon. Perhaps our most familiar examples are the likes of Frère Jacques and Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  Even a melody as simple as these can be transformed using this repetition, creating some complex chords. Where the theme returns on a different note of the scale the form may be called a fugue. Other, different, musical lines may also play along with the original melody. They may be alternative melodies, or harmonies. The main melody will still remain the dominant theme.  

There are many other musical ‘variations’ and metaphors. However, it is the main melody, the Queen Elizabeth melody, that is the important one for us here. Her theme: a solo, a chorale, building to a symphony, and reducing back down to a sole piper. Her theme has elements of so many musical styles – drawing on classical and spiritual musical themes, pre-dating Elvis or the Beatles, loving the sparkle of the stage musical and the military band, the musical performances at Her Majesty’s pleasure that have touched the heart and raised the spirit over so many decades.

The Queen’s tune has led our country these 70 years. Some have followed her theme, joined in her theme, harmonised and improvised – and perhaps some contrasted dissonantly. Her theme remains memorable, with a musical hook that many will be humming for generations after this second Elizabethan era. Sounding now a rich harmony, with variations added – the original theme remains central.

Just as I was appointed archdeacon, but before I had left my Sussex parish, the Deputy Lieutenant kindly asked if he might arrange an invitation for me to a Royal Garden party. I was really touched by the thought, but knew that bishops – and probably deans and archdeacons – got invitations regularly, I suggested that perhaps my long-serving curate/assistant priest colleague in the parish was a more appropriate recipient of an invitation.

The American theologian William P. Merrill said “There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is”, and music and prayer have been twin active faith elements throughout the Queen’s life. 

On meeting the Queen

Continue reading “Long to reign over us, God save the Queen”

St Matthias :: the lottery-chosen apostle.

So, “Judas went out and hanged himself”. There was a gap for an apostle. They held an election. By lottery: the lottery-chosen apostle.

St Matthias
The Apostles cast lots to choose the replacement apostle

The story comes in Acts 1:20-26, where Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias were two who’s names were put forward as potential replacements. They were undoubtably both part of the ’72’ disciples. Lots were chosen to decide between them. St. Matthias was chosen.

I have long had a soft spot for Matthias. For a while, back in 2000, I was priest in charge of a church dedicated to St Matthias. And as 14 May is St Matthias Day in the CofE calendar, it brought him to mind.

Yet, in other places, St Matthias is celebrated on 24 February. Like in the calendar of Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. And it was on 24 February 2000, St. Matthias’ Day, that I was licensed to St. Matthias, Panmure, Auckland, NZ by the then bishop of Auckland, the Rt Rev’d John Paterson. It was a significant day for Bishop John too, as he had been consecrated Bishop of Auckland on the feast of St. Matthias in 1994; and he preached that day on the saint, his election, and ‘filling in’.

St Matthias - Panmure - Auckland, NZ
St Matthias - Panmure - Auckland, NZ

There is something wonderful about being chosen – even by lottery – to be part of something special.

My feelings are even more with Justus, Joseph Barsabbas, though. To be -almost- chosen as one of ‘The Twelve’. But not. To have been “one of those who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us”, and then only recorded as an also-ran. Like one of those left standing, one of the last chosen for a team on the school playing field.

We hear no more of Justus. But then, we hear no more of Matthias either. Both had been close to Jesus throughout his ministry; both were considered worthy of consideration. One was chosen: one wasn’t. That is just how the lottery can go. However that didn’t actually change what went on before. Or afterwards. For either of them. Don’t get too worried about the lottery. But do rejoice in God’s unexpected surprises.

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Rome says “Welcome…”

Cross-posted from my entry on the General Synod blog on The Vatican offer of special Anglican ordinariates – what in Anglican terms may be called something similar to a Third Province, or the Church of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s ‘tikangas‘.

The General Synod blog
The General Synod blog

Well, there was a surprise! Yesterday’s unexpected hurriedly put together press conference in London, responding to the Vatican’s scheme for special Anglican ordinariates appears to have put cats amongst pigeons.

I am seriously struggling to understand what all this is about, where it is going, and I await the ‘details’ with interest.

It feels a little like we are being told: ‘You know where the door is to come in, but here is a window you can climb in through, too’. Except I’m not one that feels I am standing outside, needing to come in. Continue reading “Rome says “Welcome…””