Portraits of the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II's faith, duty, and life-long service.
When I was a child, a framed portrait of the Queen hung on one wall in our church basement. At the other end of the hall was a large, colourful mural of Iona, an island in Scotland. It was painted by a member of the congregation, and I remember being warned as a child to be very careful around it because the lady who had painted it would be sad to find out the church school children damaged it in any way. Of course, I believed the Queen was the one who painted it, and I did not want to risk her sorrow, though I’d never seen her at church. Maybe she sat behind my family, where she’d be harder to see. All the older ladies I knew at church seemed to have the Queen’s hairstyle.
Much later, and across the Atlantic, I worked at Canongate Kirk, just up the Royal Mile from Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. It is a church with deep royal roots, being the home congregation of the Royal family when they are staying in Edinburgh. The day of my job interview was the day before a “small” royal wedding. Zara Phillips, the Queen’s eldest granddaughter was marrying the England rugby star Mike Tindall, and every inch of the church gleamed. Once I settled into work there, the framed photo of the Queen and Prince Phillip on the church hall wall made me feel at right at home, but the difference was that the Sunday School children in this congregation had met the Queen and when they nervously gave her flowers, she had charmed them with her gentle questions and focused attention. There was no confusion for these children.
How we tell this story
In these days of official mourning since the Queen’s death, everyone has stories to share, from personal encounters and memories to the wide range of ardent political opinions. Living in Wales now, I have found it moving and fascinating to watch this historic moment at close hand.
While most funerals invite us to look back reflectively, this moment gives us a larger, shared story to consider. When we reflect on the death of the Queen and the start of the new King’s reign, we are looking both backwards and forwards and that looking can be telling. How we tell the stories of the past says something about who we believe we are and who we might become.
So, in our collective storytelling, how many voices do we include? What values do we celebrate and what lessons are we learning? What mistakes do we confess and bring to light? What questions do we need to ask? What memories do we treasure?
I heard one commentator describe the Queen as the world’s most popular preacher, alluding to her yearly Christmas message, to which so many people listened. She didn’t often voice her own opinion, but she did at Christmas. She spoke simply about her own faith and showed us how the teaching of Christ brought her strength and comfort. For this, she will be remembered as a woman of faith and duty who sought always to live up to her pledge of life-long service.