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The Queen’s death touched us on a deep level


The Queen’s death has touched us all deeply. I have not met anyone in whom this did not cause a deep sense of loss. Monarchists and republicans, believers and non-believers, rich and poor, large and small, are all strongly affected. Whether people have met the Queen or not, they still feel – perhaps to their surprise – as touched as if someone very close to them had died. So many people were unexpectedly moved to tears.

Why is it? The Queen was on the throne before I was born, and for the vast majority of the lives of everyone living today. She was a constant in our lives and represented, in Jungian terms, something very significant, akin to what he called an archetype. She was deeply rooted in our psyche: most of us will have dreamed of having tea with her, even if we didn’t have the opportunity.

She was a powerful symbol of steadfastness and security amid the changes and chances of this life. His passing is a stark reminder that nothing in this life is constant or sure. His death therefore connects us on a deep level, bringing back to us our own mortality and resonating painfully with the loss of those we have loved.

The Church and the nation were taken by surprise by the enormous outpouring of grief that followed the death of Princess Diana. I think it had to do with the fact that this life cannot contain the hope that is placed in it. That a young, beautiful, wealthy, and glamorous princess could be shot in her prime demonstrated this powerfully. So it is with the hopes of permanence and security in this life which, usually unconsciously, we place in the Queen.

This is an opportunity for the Church. When asked about the purpose of the Church, I always answer that it is to prepare people for their death. The Queen’s death demonstrated the inevitability of death – much like the pandemic – to a world that tries to ignore it. What we have to offer as Christians in the face of this harsh reality is hope — a hope that extends beyond this life and into all eternity; hope in a God whose love is stronger than death.

How do we communicate this hope? Above all, it seems to me that we are called to accompany people in their mourning, their perplexity and their anguish. We can do this, in part, by leaving our churches open to prayer and reflection. Our churches have stood square as symbols of Christian hope for a very long time – in many cases for centuries. We need to reconnect people with the hope of our ancestors.

We can also connect with people’s sense of loss of loved ones. Many people respond on Twitter to the image of Paddington leading the Queen to Heaven. Some might call this “under Christian”, but it demonstrates a reasonable desire to reunite with loved ones.

We know next to nothing of the nature of the afterlife, any more than we knew in the womb what life would be like in the outside world, but we know that God’s love will hold us and us together forever. those we love. One of the best funeral sermons I have ever heard uses the gathering together of 12 baskets of fragments after the feeding of the 5000 (Matthew 14.20) to demonstrate that in God’s economy nothing will be wasted.

Scientist-turned-theologian John Polkinghorne used to observe that it was a perfectly reasonable hope that the patterns of our loves would be held in God. So the image of Paddington leading the queen to heaven is not out of place. It articulates a spark of faith which, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, can be kindled into the fullness of faith in the resurrection, which Polkinghorne also felt was a perfectly consistent belief.

I FINAL with a quote from my late wife Denise’s book, published posthumously, A tour of the bones (Books, January 2, 2015): “Resurrection is a hope that I believe Western society has largely lost. It is at the very least a hope of which we know little, and therefore of which we hardly dare to speak with conviction. . .

“To a lot of people it’s the resurrection mechanic that seems incredible, but strangely enough it’s not the ‘how’ question that bothers me. All of human history is littered with things that were once considered impossible. We know so much about matter and energy, but there is also a lot we still don’t know and our knowledge is constantly changing. Five hundred years ago, no one imagined light bulbs, space travel or genetic engineering. A decade or two ago, saying we’re made of stardust would have sounded like a fairy tale, and now it sounds like particle physics. I don’t therefore have no difficulty in imagining the possibility of a bodily resurrection.

Dr John Inge is the Bishop of Worcester.