At 11.30am tomorrow the Platinum Jubilee Service from St Paul’s Cathedral will be broadcast onto a 13-foot screen in the Great St Mary’s chancel. I’m enormously grateful to Dave Richards for his generous gift of time, treasure, and talent to make it possible, to Lorna Atwell for the idea, and to Margaret Johnston and all her crew for organising festive coffee & cakes afterwards. I do hope you’ll be able to come to church to join us!
Three years ago, the idea of livestreaming services was limited to a few churches such as Hillsong. Seventy years ago, the idea was a radical one. Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation 69 years ago was the first to be televised in full; the BBC's cameras had not been allowed inside Westminster Abbey for her parents' coronation in 1937, and had covered only the procession outside.
For an immigrant like me, the Platinum Jubilee is still a bit difficult to translate. Presidential inaugurations happen every four years, and the bonfires and fireworks of Guy Fawke’s Night have nothing on the flag-waving, country-music-blasting, pyrotechnical extravaganzas that even the smallest American town bursts into every Fourth of July. Of course, a Jubilee is more than a patriotic or nationalist event; it’s somehow tied into the person of the Queen and her lifetime of service, and to complicated questions about what it means to be a subject of the Crown.
I’m noticing that it’s also a bit difficult to parse in modern Britain. Among other things, this weekend marks the 69th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation — for although we are celebrating her 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth, the start of her reign is also the date of her father’s death, making 6 February a rather more subdued occasion.
We don’t hold grief and joy close together any more easily than we hold the old and new — livestreaming services from the storied stones of St Paul’s (even if their building is far newer than ours). But we need both grief and joy in order to be able to fully experience what it is to be human, and to be able to enter into conversation with God in our prayer. And we need old and new in our life of faith, and our life as a community and a nation: ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’ (Matthew 13:52).