Called to serve

Bishop Emeritus Thomas McMahon, who was Bishop of Brentwood during a large part of the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth II, has talked to BBC Essex about her faith.

He writes:

In the many tributes paid to the late Queen Elizabeth 11 during the ten days of mourning last month the word ‘ service’ featured most prominently.

How faithfully the Queen kept the vow she made at the age of 21 that however long or short her life may be it would be wholly dedicated to the service of her people. She was indeed a Servant-Queen. The vast crowds that lined the streets or spent hours queuing to witness the lying in state showed the people’s appreciation of such dedicated and steadfast service. It was significant that the last public action of the Queen was to see the outgoing and incoming Prime Minister. The word ‘Minister’ means ‘ one who serves.’ And so, in effect, the Prime Minister is the one whose chief task is to serve others.

This is exactly how Jesus saw it. He noticed how some leaders sought to make their authority felt, but he warned those around him that they were to follow a different path and see any kind of office or responsibility as a form of service.

He stressed that he himself had come ‘ to serve rather than to be served.’

Writing in Stock Press during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, I shared the four principles that the Queen said had governed her life.

1) To do what is right

2) To take the long view.

3) To give of my best in all that the day brings.

4) To put my trust in God.

These principles we can all seek to live by. The Queen knew the rock on which her life was built and that rock was Christ. Her Christian faith was a constant throughout her long life and she wasn’t afraid to speak about it.

We now have a new monarch, King Charles III, and he, too, in his broadcast to the nation has pledged himself to follow in his mother’s footsteps in devoted service to his people. In this spirit of faith and service it would seem fitting to end with the lines the new King used drawn from Hamlet but inspired by an ancient prayer of the church:   ‘May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’

"The qualities of integrity, truth, honesty and duty - in short supply in our society - were a constant in her life."