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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Cherish and respect our Christian roots

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MUCH of the commentary about the Queen’s funeral has observed that the spectacle was a superb advert for ‘Brand UK’. Certainly one might reasonably assume that there will be at least a short-term boom in tourism and perhaps even international trade/business as a result. However this period since our Queen’s death has also been a fantastic ‘advert’ for Christianity. Of course the Queen’s whole 70-year reign, in which she demonstrably and consistently put duty and service over her private needs, was an advert for the Christian faith that was her rock. Yet whilst Queen Elizabeth was grounded in Christianity, the idea that the UK is still a Christian country in any meaningful sense has dwindled over the years along with church attendance. You will struggle to find a politician who dares talk about ‘Christian values’. Even the idea of ‘British values’ has been drained of all real meaning. The obsession with viewing the queue to see the Queen lying in state as the ultimate representation of Great Britain is telling. No other nation loves an orderly queue as much as we do but it’s hardly the basis for national identity and community. The very different spectacle in Leicester, the daily street fighting between groups of Muslim and Hindu men with various national affiliations, has shown us that the UK is painfully fractured underneath sporadic, temporary plasters of communal spirit.

Surprisingly, it has been two people who have previously threatened the status of Christianity in the UK, Archbishop Welby and King Charles, who have eloquently reminded us of why our nation must remain a Christian one. A while ago our new King raised alarm in Christian circles with his statement that he would like to be ‘defender of faiths’ rather than ‘the faith’. However in his first address to the nation he made it clear that his Anglican faith guided him as it did his mother. Moreover he rowed back from any notion that he would seek to represent all faiths. As to whether this resolve lasts only time will tell. When it came to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s funeral sermon, it is true that the biblical reading, John 14: 1-6, gave him little room to avoid mentioning the core of the Christian faith. However to be fair to Justin Welby he did not fudge it. ‘Her late Majesty’s example was not set through her position or her ambition, but through whom she followed.’ As that reading from the Gospel of John tells us, Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.’ The Bible is unfashionably uncompromising. Christianity however gives us the values of tolerance and freedom, as well as service to others and care for the vulnerable, that our modern nation needs.

Of course people claiming to be Christians or to represent one particular Christian denomination have often failed to uphold the values of their own faith. But just because the veneer of Christianity has been used and abused to enact evils doesn’t change the fundamental goodness and truth at its heart. In our world of many diverse beliefs, it is not Christians who are arguing to censor, cancel or hound people out of jobs, as some extreme Muslims did at Batley Grammar School. Indeed when we see Christianity lived out, as in the life of our Queen, we see love and compassion for all alongside an uncompromising personal faith. It is also the life being lived by conservative commentator and free-speech champion Fr Calvin Robinson. The Church of England’s refusal to ordain him on account of both his orthodox Christian values and conservative views shows how the established church has lost its way. Yet while our national church has declined there is growth in the non-established churches who are sticking to authentic Christianity. That should give us hope.

King Charles concluded his first address to the nation as King with the words to his ‘darling Mama’, ‘May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’ This quotation from Hamlet reminds me of Westminster Hall, recently omnipresent on our TV screens and in our thoughts. The awe-inspiring hammerbeam roof commissioned by Richard II includes 26 beautifully carved angels, depicted as though they are almost holding up the roof. Richard’s kingship was under attack and he clearly felt an ostentatious reminder of the Divine Right of Kings would be useful. Yet the symbols of godliness without the substance thereof arguably proved to be his downfall. Likewise Christian pomp and spectacle will not be enough for a strong nation.

Being a vicar’s daughter when there is no vicar’s spouse can often feel like an official job. If I neglect to attend one of my mother’s eight churches for a few weeks or I miss a village fete, questions are asked! It also affords me the great privilege of sometimes helping with ideas for sermons. This week I was tasked with joining two great events for our villages in one punchy sermon; the death of our Queen and harvest festival. The answer was ‘roots’. Harvest produce is obviously intimately connected with roots and the need for us individuals to be well rooted in the right type of soil is a famous Biblical parable, (Matthew 13, verses 1-23). Elizabeth II was rooted in a Christian faith which enabled a reign of service that blessed countless people, our country and even other countries too. It has never been more important for us as the United Kingdom to nourish our Christian roots so we can grow into a strong, free, tolerant, compassionate and cohesive nation that bears much fruit.

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Romy Cerratti
Romy Cerratti
Romy Cerratti is half German, a quarter Italian and a quarter Peruvian but is proud to be British. She has a masters degree in medieval history from Oxford and is a passionate campaigner on issues of mental health and NHS reform.

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