Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop's sermon from St Paul's Cathedral

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached this sermon at the National Service of Thanksgiving held in St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen (and copied in full below the fold).

In it the Archbishop paid tribute to the selfless dedication of Her Majesty who, he said, ‘has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others’ throughout her reign.

‘Dedication’ is a word that has come to mean rather less than it used to. Those of us who belong to the same generation as Her Majesty’s older children will recall a sixties song about a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’ – as though to be ‘dedicated’ just meant to be very enthusiastic. But in the deep background of the word is the way it is used in classical and biblical language: in this context, to be ‘dedicated’ is to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God.

And so to be dedicated to the good of a community – in this case both a national and an international community – is to say, ‘I have no goals that are not the goals of this community; I have no well-being, no happiness, that is not the well-being of the community. What will make me content or happy is what makes for the good of this particular part of the human family.’

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Sermon for
the National Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate
the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some words from St Paul: ‘Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.’

There will be other occasions to remember the splendour and the drama of the Coronation; today’s focus is different. What we remember is the simple statement of commitment made by a very young woman, away from home, suddenly and devastatingly bereaved, a statement that she would be there for those she governed, that she was dedicating herself to them.

‘Dedication’ is a word that has come to mean rather less than it used to. Those of us who belong to the same generation as Her Majesty’s older children will recall a sixties song about a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’ – as though to be ‘dedicated’ just meant to be very enthusiastic. But in the deep background of the word is the way it is used in classical and biblical language: in this context, to be ‘dedicated’ is to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God.

And so to be dedicated to the good of a community – in this case both a national and an international community – is to say, ‘I have no goals that are not the goals of this community; I have no well-being, no happiness, that is not the well-being of the community. What will make me content or happy is what makes for the good of this particular part of the human family.’

It is an ambitious, even an audacious thing to aim at. It is, of course, no more so than the ideals set before all Christians who try to model their lives on what St Paulsays about life in the Body of Christ. That doesn’t make it any easier to grasp or to live out; but the way St Paul approaches it should help us see that we’re not being encouraged to develop a self-punishing attitude, relentlessly denying our own goals or our own flourishing for the sake of others. What’s put before us is a genuine embrace of those others, a willingness to be made happy by the well-being of our neighbours.

‘Outdo one another in showing honour’, says St Paul. Compete with each other only in the generous respect you show to one and all; because in learning that respect you will find delight in one another. You will begin to discover that the other person is a source of nourishment, excitement, pleasure, growth and challenge. And if we broaden this out to an entire community, a nation, a commonwealth, it means discovering that it is always in an ever-widening set of relations that we become properly ourselves. Dedication to the service of a community certainly involves that biblical sense of an absolute purge of selfish goals, but it is also the opening of a door into shared riches.

I don’t think it’s at all fanciful to say that, in all her public engagements, our Queen has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others; she has responded with just the generosity St Paul speaks of in showing honour to countless local communities and individuals of every background and class and race. She has made her ‘public’ happy and all the signs are that she is herself happy, fulfilled and at home in these encounters. The same, of course, can manifestly be said of Prince Philip; and our prayers and thoughts are very much with him this morning. To declare a lifelong dedication is to take a huge risk, to embark on a costly venture. But it is also to respond to the promise of a vision that brings joy.

And perhaps that is the challenge that this Jubilee sets before us in nation and Commonwealth. St Paul implies that we should be so overwhelmed by the promise of a shared joy far greater than narrow individual fulfilment, that we find the strength to take the risks and make the sacrifices – even if this seems to reduce our individual hopes of secure enjoyment.

Moralists (archbishops included) can thunder away as much as they like; but they’ll make no difference unless and until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together – being glad of each other’s happiness and safety. This alone is what will save us from the traps of ludicrous financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal – and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and within us.

One crucial aspect of discovering such a vision – and many still do discover it in their service of others, despite everything –is to have the stories and examples available that show it’s possible. Thank God, there are many wonderful instances lived out unobtrusively throughout the country and the Commonwealth. But we are marking today the anniversary of one historic and very public act of dedication – a dedication that has endured faithfully, calmly and generously through most of the adult lives of most of us here. We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found. To seek one’s own good and one’s own well-being in the health of the community is sacrificially hard work – but it is this search that is truly natural to the human heart. That’s why it is not a matter of tight-lipped duty or grudging compliance with someone else’s demands. Jesus himself says ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me’, and that’s what is at the heart of real dedication.

This year has already seen a variety of Jubilee creations and projects. But its most lasting memorial would be the rebirth of an energetic, generous spirit of dedication to the common good and the public service, the rebirth of a recognition that we live less than human lives if we think just of our own individual good.

Listen again for a moment to St Paul. ‘We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us … the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness … Outdo one another in showing honour … extend hospitality to strangers … Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another … take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.’ Dedication to the health and well-being of a community is all this and more. May we be given the grace to rediscover this as we give thanks today for Her Majesty’s sixty years of utterly demanding yet deeply joyful service.

© Rowan Williams 2012

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John
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John

And the Daily Mail did not like it!

Father David
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Father David

If the Daily Mail did not like it – then it must be good. Well done Archbishop Rowan for not only giving due honour to the Queen for sixty years of devoted and dedicated service to date but also for exercising a prophetic ministry in front of all those politicians. I had understood that two out of the three leaders of our main political parties were professed atheists – but they all seemed to be joining in heartily in singing the hymns.

Sue Dilworth
Guest
Sue Dilworth

Well done Archbishop Rowan from me too.
And well done the A.B.C’s web-site
I went on-line within minutes of the end of the service to find the sermon’s text there already and people already Tweeting merrily away – looked to me like a 90% approval rating – even from atheists!!

John
Guest
John

Sorry to say that I found Rowan gruesomely sycophantic.

LAB
Guest
LAB

Sycophantic. Really. You mean, sycophantic as in this bit? “Moralists (archbishops included) can thunder away as much as they like; but they’ll make no difference unless and until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together – being glad of each other’s happiness and safety. This alone is what will save us from the traps of ludicrous financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal – and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and… Read more »

robert Ian Williams
Guest
robert Ian Williams

I think the Queen deserved wise counsel and not just praise. I found Rowan Williams’ sermom nearly as crass ( if not as vulgar) as the compares at the jubilee Rock concert. I felt so sorry for the Queen when she was called Mummy by Prince Charles.

God save the Queen

Father David
Guest
Father David

Wonder of wonders – forget the Dail Mail the Church of England comes in for some rare and unusual praise in the Press in the form of an excellent Leading Article in The Times newspaper entitled “Right and Wrong”. The subtitle reads – “Some great institutions rose to the occasion of the Jubilee weekend. Others didn’t”. A contrast was drawn between the BBC’s coverage of the Thames pageant which treated the event as an entertainment rather than history and the risk taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury in using the occasion to preach the social gospel. “Sycophantic” and “crass” Rowan’s… Read more »

Adam Armstrong
Guest
Adam Armstrong

To RIW. You may remember that Charles said the same thing to his mother ten years ago. If you think the Queen is so straight-laced and not human as to think was offended, you are mistaken, but it says a great deal about you. If a mother is offended to be called such by her child, given that it’s not secret that Charles is her son, what kind of person would she be? It’s clear that her family is very important, especially her relationship with Charles and his children. Not only are they the line of succesion, but there is… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

“I felt so sorry for the Queen when she was called Mummy by Prince Charles.” — Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 6 June 2012 at 3:02pm BST I watched the Jubilee concert, tape delayed, on an American commercial TV station in a tidy two hours, commercials included, and it left me wondering what the network left out. The cameras showed ABC Williams several times, and he seemed be having a jolly old time. For a brief interval, he could ignore cheeky Americans and self-righteous Africans (or is that the other way around?), and all the raucous squabbling in the Anglican… Read more »

John
Guest
John

The bits directly about the queen I found sycophantic. I still do. I am glad RIW (like me, not English) felt something the same.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, I thought the bits directly about the Queen were genuine. I know it’s hard to say something truly positive about a public figure without appearing to be sycophantic… so how can it be done? To say that she has fulfilled her vow to dedicate herself to her country, to say that this is truly a difficult thing to do, and to say that it shows in her face and in her smiles that it has not broken her but made her the person she is, is nothing more than truth. Whatever we think of the monarchy as an institution,… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest

Objections to the Prince of Wales calling his mother “Mummy” seem misplaced. If he’d done it during a ceremonial exchange (“I, Charles, Prince of Wales, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship and faith and truth I will bear unto you to live and die against all manner of folks, Mummy”) it would be one thing, but otherwise I’m betting that the Prince is a much better judge of what to call his mother when than anyone else is likely to be.

Richard
Guest
Richard

The Queen called Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother “Mummy”. Why would she object to having her children call her that?

Father David
Guest
Father David

I am sure that I recall the Prince of Wales referring to his mother as “Mama” rather than the more familial “Mummy” in his Jubilee tribute programme to the Queen where he sat watching old cine film of when, with his young parents, he and his sister Anne were shot as children at Sandringham, Balmoral, aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia (surely H.M deserves a replacement as a Diamond Jubilee Present – after all she has done for this nation and Commonwealth) and other locations. However, I think it would have been more in keeping with his image if Prince Charles… Read more »

John
Guest
John

L’eglise, c’est l’etat.

Doesn’t seem quite right, somehow, does it?

‘What would Jesus say?’ Good question: impossible to imagine that he wouldn’t have done a bit better than this.

rjb
Guest
rjb

I’m not English (though sycophantically Anglophile and unfashionably monarchist, I’ll admit). I found the sermon rather moving, and I don’t really think any of it was “directed at the Queen,” though parts of it were *about* the Queen. Archbishop Rowan strikes me as the last person to try to grease up to ER, though perhaps that’s just me being sycophantic again.

rjb
Guest
rjb

“‘What would Jesus say?’ Good question: impossible to imagine that he wouldn’t have done a bit better than this.”

No doubt you’re right, John, but it seems rather a high standard to hold our bishops to…

Tom
Guest
Tom

Fr David, did you notice that when Charles is talking ABOUT her he seems to say “mama” as in “my mama is the queen” but when talking TO her he calls her “Mummy”, or “Your Majesty” depending whether he is speaking informally or formally? But I noticed he did not once call her “Ma’am” (correctly pronounced the American way – “spam”- and not the Cockney way as Barbara Windsor did to rhyme with “harm”; this seems reserved for the way the police address senior female officers). Ma’am is what people are supposed to use after the first use of “Your… Read more »

John
Guest
John

OK, fair cop. I unreservedly apologise to all concerned. Marking makes me grumpy.

Bob
Guest
Bob

As a Brit I thoroughly enjoyed the jubilee celebtations and thought Prince Charles referring to HRH as “Mummy” helps keep the royal family looking genuine. Have to admit am a little bemused by the comments written by my bretheren from other shores – I wouldn’t think to comment on President Obama in this way..

As a clergyman was grateful for talking about the effects of HRH’s faith in her good works etc, very dissappointed that she didn’t talk about the cause of her faith in the LJC! A missed opportunity.

Father David
Guest
Father David

“For HRH read HM” – quite so. Although I did not hear it myself one of my churchwardens reliably informs me that during one broadcast HM was referred to as the “Supreme Governor of the Bank of England”.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

H.M. The Queen has given of herself, selflessly, for the past 60 years. The Archbishop’s address did no more than acknowledge that fact – and was definitely not ‘sycophantic as some might claim. Her Majesty lives in the real world – which has changed and she has had to change with it. Would that the Church of England could be more accommodating to that change, with its acceptance of Women and LGBT people as acknowledged bearers of the Image and likeness of God – no less than Men or Heterosexuals.

John Bowles
Guest
John Bowles

The ‘What would Jesus do,say,think?’ is one of the most absurd and witless rhetorical questions ever coined. It is invariably used when individuals have argued themselves into a corner. The ‘historical Jesus’ was confined to his time and responded to it. The ‘preached Christ’ is perennial and the Gospels are a result of that tradition. It is preposterous to extract from this tradition a weapon to score points that appeal to nothing more than emotion. Given Queen Elizabeth’s strong but quiet faith resulting in her vocational dedication, God would acknowledge her fidelity. Archbishop Williams went to the heart of her… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I am surprised to find myself agreeing with every word John Bowles writes.

david rowett
Guest

Indded. The ‘WWJD’ is all but meaningless. Mind, my Significant Other seeks to subvert this silliness by suggesting bracelets reading ‘WWJacobD’ and ‘WWQD’, which I leave you lovers of the Wisdom tradition to interpret for yourselves.

JeremyP
Guest
JeremyP

Tom –

a propos the books on how to address your “betters”
Crockford still has a delightful two pages on
“how to address the clergy”.
Though it clearly isn’t working – a lot of people just call me “mate”.

john
Guest
john

Sorry to see that, Erika. To my mind there is a world of difference between grumpy exaggeration (duly apologised for) and offensive (‘absurd’, ‘witless’, ‘preposterous’ etc.)ignorance: (1) ‘The Gospels are not biographies.’ On the contrary, majority opinion in NT scholarship is that that precisely is what they are. The view can of course be disputed, but no NT scholar nowadays would accept ‘the Gospels are not biographies’ as a knock-down statement. (2) Since we are all supposed to be imitators of Jesus, ‘what would Jesus say/do?’ could hardly be a more relevant question, especially in this case, because, you will… Read more »

John Bowles
Guest
John Bowles

Clearly ‘John’ has not heard of redaction criticism, nor does he identify any of the contemporary New Testament scholars who believe, he maintain, that the Gospels are biographies. They are theological statements aimed at early Christian communities with specific questions. Synoptics did not aim to write history proper. Although they adopted a biographical literary form their life of Jesus was intended principally as a vehicle for the preaching of the early Church. The Gospels cannot be expected to provide more than a skeletal outline of Jesus of Nazareth as he really was. They present Jesus in theological terms subordinate to… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John,
The valid point John Bowles is making, to my mind, is that we all ask What would Jesus Do and we then all come up with the answer that reflects exactly what we would do.

There is no objective answer to the question, just like there is no objective answer to any of the religious and life questions to which we search Scriptures for answers.

If there was, we would not be as diversified in our personal theology and our different ways of assessing moral questions and our certainty that OUR interpretation is biblical and What Jesus Would Do.

Bill Dilworth
Guest

The answer to WWJD may not be objective, but it can still be a useful moral tool, and doesn’t always give us the answer that reflects what we would like to do. The other day at Dunkin Donuts two extremely sketchy looking young men were asking everyone who went in or came out if they had jumper cables. I gave them an automatic “no” on the way to my car even though I was pretty sure I did have cables because: (a) I had things to do other than help strangers start their cars, (b) they were scary looking, and… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Bill “It’s a moral tool to remind us of our priorities.” I agree, that’s very true and the example you give is a very good one. But it is also one that highlights that the moral priorities WWJD reminds us of are precisely the ones we already have, at least in principle. And then, it helps us to overcome our own laziness or aprehension and do what we “deep down” know we ought to do. I believe, though, that we only ever answer the question WWJD in terms of what is already part of our moral make-up. If I believe… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

“If the Daily Mail did not like it then it must be good” Having criticised the Daily Mail – I feel, now having read Tom Utley’s article, that I must recant for as Mr. Utley points out – Rowan wrongly attributed Her Majesty’s speech of dedication to the time when her father died but in actual fact it was delivered several years before that sad occasion to mark Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday when she was in South Africa at the time. Dear, oh dear – a great academic like Dr. Williams not doing his research properly – whatever next? Nevertheless… Read more »