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  Hallo again to all.

Carlisle 1978This year is the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, an event marked by many readers of Anglicans Online with varying degrees of religious seriousness as the Diamond Jubilee. As the world's most famous lay Anglican, Elizabeth has been queen through a period of remarkable changes in the Church and in the world. One would look in vain among the staff of this website—as, certainly, among British subjects or citizens of Commonwealth nations—for a consensus about the best role of the British monarch with respect to her current role as Defender of the Faith and temporal head of the Church of England.

This being said, Elizabeth Regina is today the head of state in a surprising number of nations where Anglicanism retains a strong degree of cultural and religious influence. She is Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada (including Nunavut), Great Britain and Northern Ireland (including Scotland and Wales), Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu (as well as Duke of Normandy and Lord of Mann).

She has participated in the appointments of an astonishing number of Anglican bishops during the last six decades. She has dedicated countless church schools, parish halls, church hospitals, and other institutions through which Anglicans serve the world's physical and spiritual needs. Her annual broadcast Christmas Message has been a noteworthy ongoing commentary representing the sincere Christian reflections of a serious Anglican woman on the affairs of the world, her country, and her family. For the length of her witness and the reach of her Christian activity, we can think of few individuals whose gentle, regular, worshiping presence has done so much for so many in such positive ways.

This week, however, our minds are on an annual ceremony conducted each year on Holy Thursday. It is called the Royal Maundy, and it is a remarkable occasion during which the sovereign of Britain and its many related realms incarnates the evangelical dictum that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Most of us miss it entirely, because we're in church or engaged in the intricate planning of Holy Week services that can consume so much energy in the final run-up to Easter each year. It is the only annual occasion on which the king or queen goes to a church to give honour to other individuals, rather than having those individuals come to her in a palace or castle to receive something in the way of recognition or rank.

Carlisle 1978During the Royal Maundy, the reigning monarch meets with a group of elderly or poor persons, and distributes to them in special coinage the number of pence corresponding to the years of her or his age. One man and one woman are chosen for each year during which the monarch has lived. The present service does not include the washing of paupers' feet by the sovereign—though in some periods this has been the case—and the sovereign also no longer gives a portion of beef, fish, or clothing to the recipients of Maundy money. Yet it is an event during which the highest-ranking person in society meets with and does a deed of honour and kindness toward persons who have not previously received such benefits.

Without any comment on the rightness of the queen's continued juridical and canonical roles as Head of the Church and Defender of the Faith, we think this ceremony a meet and right, and good and joyful thing. It is a moment when Elizabeth, as a lay Christian woman, has met regularly with a substantial number of other lay Christian men and women, and showed them the example of Jesus Christ's servanthood, even whilst retaining her own primary role as Head of State. We can think of no other example of the head of any state doing a regular act of service for the common people of any country. The persistence of this good event through the very long tenure of Queen Elizabeth makes us proud to be Anglicans.

We wish the queen many more years of emulating Christ's New Commandment through the Royal Maundy, and we're sure that you do, too. Vivat Regina!

See you next week.

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20 May 2012

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