The United Reformed Church in Yorkshire shares in the grief of the nations following the death of Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II.
Following the death of her father King George, Her Majesty succeeded the throne on 6 February 1952, but was officially crowned in 1953. Queen Elizabeth was the world’s longest-reigning living monarch and was a much-loved and popular royal figure.
Many United Reformed churches (URCs) will be open for times of prayer and reflection over the coming days.
The General Assembly of the URC, the church’s governing body, sends a loyal address to the Queen each time it meets. At the 2022 General Assembly, the Assembly wrote to the Queen noting that in this year both Her Majesty and the URC are marking a jubilee.
The Assembly thanked Her Majesty for her “steadfast and faithful service” over the seven decades of her reign.
Praising her example of “duty, integrity and public service”, the Assembly placed on record its appreciation of Her Majesty’s public witness to her Christian faith and the way in which she has sought to live her life as a servant of Christ.
The Revd Dr John Bradbury, URC General Secretary, said: “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II lived the most remarkable life of dedicated Christian service.
“As a devout Anglican and Presbyterian her faith shone from her words and deeds. Her contribution to the life of our nations, the commonwealth, and beyond will be remembered with gratitude for generations to come. She inspired respect from across the political spectrum and from monarchists and republicans alike.
“The United Reformed Church has always been aware that as each General Assembly presents a loyal address to the throne, we have been addressing a fellow baptised sister in Christ. We give thanks for her life and uphold in prayer all who mourn for her. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.”
The following Bible readings, reflection and prayer are offered for individuals, groups or churches to use.
Isaiah 6: 1-5
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’”
This year will be known by many as, ‘the year that Queen Elizabeth died’. Whatever we think about the institution of the monarchy, the death of our Queen has a huge impact upon us.
Her face, her presence, her being there have been part of all our lives for so many years. For most of us, she has been the only monarch we can remember. She has been part of our lives, our imaginations, our sense of who we are.
The writer of this Bible passage from the book of Isaiah shared this experience of the death of a monarch, after a reign of many years. It is probably no co-incidence that it was in this year, the year that King Uzziah died, that he had an experience of the ground shaking beneath him, when the Temple shook and he felt lost.
Many of us now will also feel dislocated and shaken up, in ways we can’t quite describe and perhaps hadn’t expected.
But the monarch whose reign has just ended in our own land would be the first to say that the God whom she worshipped, and to whom she committed her life in service, the God in whose name she was anointed in a holy place, this holy God, is with us, and the whole earth is filled with God’s glory.
There are those who would say that what she provided above all was a kind of stability and reassurance. When times were painful and difficult for us as a nation, she was there. She always sought to comfort the suffering and to steady the anxious.
Above all, her own faith in God was sure and strong. She spoke with increasing depth, in her many Christmas broadcasts, about her own reliance on God. In the face of her death, we can depend on the God who is always with us, filling not only the temples of this world, but also our families and communities, with love and hope.
In the year that Queen Elizabeth died, we give thanks for a life of dedicated service to our nations and commonwealth. We give thanks for God’s faithful servant, Elizabeth. We pray for her family and closest friends, for those who will mourn and miss her most.
We grieve for what we have all lost. And we also take heart and hope from the faith that we shared with her and that she shared with us, remembering that death is defeated and that God reigns above all.
Other suggested readings
Esther 4: 12-17 (the story of a good Queen who protected a people in danger)
1 Peter 2: 9-10 (about a people becoming a royal priesthood, a holy nation)
Revelations 21: 1-4 (the new Jerusalem, death will be no more)
John 11: 20-27 (a woman witnesses to faith in the resurrection)
O God, our rock and our redeemer,
we come to worship you
and to give thanks for your servant Elizabeth.
We thank you for her long life
and her dedicated service to commonwealth and nations.
We thank you for what she has meant
to each one of us…
We treasure memories
of meeting her ….
of celebrating and marking moments in her life,
of the opening of parliament,
of her presence at significant times in our history,
and of her speaking to us on radio and television.
We rejoice that she lived and shared
the faith we hold
and that she followed her vocation,
hearing a call to serve.
We pray for those who will miss her most deeply,
that they may find comfort and hope.
We celebrate and affirm our faith
that death is defeated,
that new life awaits your children,
and that creation is renewed in Christ.
We pray for our nations at a time of change
and for our new King.
May he follow his mother in faithful service
and may your blessing rest on him.
We pray too for our elected representatives in parliament,
for our public servants
and for all citizens, of all faiths and none.
And, in this day and time, we pray,
as we are always glad to pray,
may your Kingdom come. Amen.
Quote from The Servant Queen, a book published on the occasion of her 90th birthday
“Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.”
Queen Elizabeth II