In one of the January columns I spoke warmly of the Christian content of the Queen’s Christmas message, and said that in this Jubilee year we should pray that other occasions might arise when she could speak equally firmly about the Christian faith. Last Wednesday (15th Feb) she was present at a multi-faith reception at Lambeth Palace, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was, as the Archbishop said, one of her first public engagements to celebrate her Jubilee year. She met with and addressed representatives of eight non-Christian religions – groups from the Baha’i, the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Zoroastrian religions. This inevitably was going to be a difficult challenge for her to negotiate. The speeches were short; one from the Archbishop, a response from the Queen and a thank-you from the Archbishop.
I mentioned a fortnight ago that my local church is engaged in a month of prayer over January. My own involvement has been in leading prayer for the world. The research and reading behind that world prayer (much of it from “Operation World”) has given me a fresh sense of spiritual hope as we walk into a very uncertain year ahead. Two of the areas of the world we have majored on in prayer have been China and Africa (China having the larger population!). When we look back over the last century we find that, from the point of view of the gospel and the growth of the church, both these areas show something quite staggering, something that releases a deep joy.
I listened to a sermon on Sunday last which reminded me very forcibly of how impressed I was listening to the Queen’s speech to the nation on Christmas Day. I remember sitting up sharply at the overt nature of the Christian message which she gave toward the end of her speech. I think it well worth repeating in this column. It was so heartening that the monarch of the Realm and the Head of the Church of England should so simply yet so pointedly give honour to Jesus and to the message of forgiveness that he brought.
So here is her last section:
I do apologise for this column being posted rather late in the day. The reason is that Tuesday has become a day in which I am particularly involved in leading some prayer in the church throughout the month of January. The church in which I worship has set aside the whole of the month for prayer and cancelled all its normal midweek meetings so that people may engage specifically in prayer. I have been leading a series of sessions called “Praying for the World”.