Letter from Aaron Kennedy – Vicar of Otley Parish Church
All of us have a different relationship with the monarchy, and there is a wide spectrum of views, and that’s OK. But as Christians this is a moment in our national life – whether you are dyed in the wool lover of the monarchy, a republican anti-royalist, or something in between – to pray for the United Kingdom; for God’s blessing on us, and for wisdom for the King in his new reign.
The coronation itself is also a moment where the somewhat wobbly relationship between church and state really comes to the fore. The King will be crowned at Westminster Abbey as part of a service of Holy Communion. While the establishment of the Church of England is also for some a divisive issue, for Christians this event undoubtedly represents a precious and not-to-be scorned opportunity to preach the Good News, pray for all who witness it, and for the future of our nation. This is not a Christian country. It never was, in my view. It was partially Christianised, at best. But whether or not you can agree with me onthat, we must all agree that the influence of Christian faith in public life is waning.
So many divisions! And yet, at the heart of the service of Holy Communion we have a coming together. A comm-unity in and through the person of Jesus Christ. In Jesus the world sees the vast and wonderful love of God; before Jesus we acknowledge his holiness, his breath-taking goodness, and our sin; and through Jesus we are reconciled to God, and one another. The words “Though we are many we are one body, because we all share in one bread” encapsulate this reality perfectly.
And this, of course, is the kind of King that Jesus is. It is the nature of earthly Kings to lord it over those they rule, but it is not so with Jesus (despite his being the Lord of all), and it is not to be so with his followers. Jesus is enthroned on the cross. On the cross he is revealed in all his strange and wonderful majesty: the Creator of the world, who defeats death and sin and opens the way for all people to re-enter the garden of God’s holy presence… hangs dead, beaten and bloodied and naked for the love of us. Let us pray, whether we like the monarchy or not, that King Charles III will be this kind of King. That he will love and serve with self-sacrifice and love – as all Christians are called to do.
And let’s also pray for this wonderful country we live in. As Christians we should celebrate the reign of Elizabeth II, and her quiet, faithful Christian witness over so many years. I don’t think we can fully appreciate the positive influence she had on us (imperfect though she was); let us pray that King Charles may have absorbed more of her way of life and faith than we may guess. Our national life, while deeply blessed and privileged, is nonetheless at times fraught with division and injustice. And as Christians, while giving thanks for all that is good, we should always be calling politicians to the standard of the highest law of love.