Thursday, August 26, 2010

Church and State, Here and There

As wonderful as the Edington Music Festival is, one thing that does irk me (which I've also noticed at other churches of the Church of England) is the absence of prayers for the Queen and Royal Family from the Intercessions. Of course it is nice at Evensong to hear the Precentor intone the correct words "O Lord, Save the Queen" rather than the awkward American substitution "O Lord, Save the State," but that's all the acknowledgement Her Majesty gets, with nothing for the rest of her family. This seems strange and indefensible to me, since as an American Episcopalian I am accustomed to hearing prayers for the President (and for the US armed forces, courts, and elected officials) in church every Sunday as a matter of course. As American Christians publicly pray for the President, whether they particularly like him and his office or not, surely British Christians should publicly pray for the Queen, whether they particularly like her and her office or not (not that I have much tolerance or respect for those who don't!). But in my experience, with the exception of Royal Peculiars such as Westminster Abbey, they do not. Why not?

It seems to me that while American Christianity tends toward excessive patriotism, British Christianity errs in the opposite direction. American Christians like to put the national flag in the chancel, where I don't believe it belongs, and too often appear to confuse America's will with God's. But the dominant clerical mentality in the contemporary Church of England appears to be ashamed of the Church's historical links with the Monarchy and the State, reluctant to mention not only the Queen and Royal Family but anything distinctly English. The prayers I've heard in churches here in England generally concern only the Church and the World, with nothing that could not be said in any other country, as if belonging to a universal Church and sharing a common Faith means that Christians should be concerned only for Humanity in general. But this is false and incomplete: as human beings we are meant to relate to God and each other through a particular local reality, and as members of a particular national society we are obliged to pray for those in authority over us, who in Britain and the Commonwealth Realms are all represented by the Queen. Now admittedly I as an American personally have a hard time putting this into practice enthusiastically, since I am hampered by my persistent wish that my "particular local reality" were British rather than American, a dilemma I have not yet resolved. But at least I understand the concept.

I don't think the Anglican clergy who refuse to pray for the Queen are anxious to live somewhere else, or even necessarily republican. But they appear to have been shaped by a globalist, egalitarian, and implicitly anti-patriotic worldview that while couching itself in the language of the universal Church owes more to modern political correctness than to authentic Christianity, which enjoins its adherents to render onto Caesar that which is Caesar's, honour the King, and be subject to the higher powers. Christians should not fall into idolatry of their particular Country, but neither should they pretend that it has no claim on them at all. The national flag should not be placed in the chancel, which ought to be focused on that Kingdom not of this world, but Christians should pray for their temporal leaders, of whom in Britain the Queen is the most important. It is frustrating that on neither side of the Atlantic do we appear to get this balance right.

I mentioned that the clergy of Westminster Abbey do pray for the Queen and Royal Family, but even they no longer use the beautiful florid collects of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, having replaced them with shorter and simpler versions. I wish they would, for it is the classic texts that most perfectly express the ideal relationship of the Christian to those in authority over him. Even if the clergy will not join us, it cannot hurt all English-speaking Christians and monarchists to join me in saying them regularly ourselves.

O LORD, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen ELIZABETH; and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies; and finally, after this life, she may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, the fountain of all goodness, we humbly beseech thee to bless Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Charles, Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and all the Royal Family: Endue them with thy Holy Spirit; enrich them with thy heavenly grace; prosper them with all happiness; and bring them to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


BaronVonServers said...

My copy doesn't have 'Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall' (You can date a Prayer-Book by the royal family collects), nonetheless I pray the collects of morning and evening prayer from the prayer-book, as written in the copy I have, daily.

I also pray for the President, "beseech thee with thy favour to behold our present president, OBAMA; and so endue him with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that he may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue him plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant him in health and wealth to serve his present term; and finally, after this life, he may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

That's how this American reconciles, I pray for the Queen and the Royal Family, and for those above me in the present reality.

M.D.A. said...

I confess I do not really know how this Anglican/ Episcopalian thing works. My understanding, correct me if I am wrong, is that the Anglicans stuck in these United States after the Revolution came to call themselves Episcopalian in recognition of the new state of affairs. What connection does the average Episcopal minister have with the Queen? Do they look at you funny if you substitute “God save the Queen”?

If you will permit a ‘papist who is a poor liturgist a digression, I have always wondered (and am a bit annoyed) that the 1962 missal has a prayer to be said after mass for the British sovereign in the UK but doesn’t mention other places like Canada or Australia. Perhaps it had something to do with the ghastly national Bishops conferences.

If I were to move to Canada, I would pray the prayer after every mass. I even do now, though rarely.

JR said...

Given that the monarchy, particularly the lesser members of the royal family, are largely figureheads today with little direct control of the government, would it not be more in the spirit of the intention to include prayers for DAVID, our Prime Minister? Or perhaps for the Queen and Prime Minister? I often hear American Episcopal churches include the Vice President and the Governor or Mayor as well.

I'm not sure I could say "Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall" with a straight face, at least not until Charles assumes the thrown.

Theodore Harvey said...

The average Episcopal priest in the US has no connection with the Queen, but then I'm currently in England and writing about the Church of England. Ironically, my own Rector in Dallas (who baptised me) is Canadian and probably more sympathetic to my monarchist views than most American clergymen would be--one reason I appreciate him so much. I think most people at my parish who know me know that I would prefer "O Lord, Save the Queen" but since only one person, usually a priest and never me, sings that line it's a moot point.

The Queen is still Britain's (and Canada's, and Australia's, and New Zealand's) Head of State and the fact that she does not in practice exercise political power is irrelevant. All authority operates in her name and so she is the logical focus of prayers for the government. There is of course nothing wrong in principle with also praying for the Prime Minister, and I believe the 1662 BCP includes a prayer for Parliament which would include the PM, but it must be clear that he is ultimately subordinate to the Queen, especially as PMs come and go but the Queen remains.

Theodore Harvey said...

Since it sheds some more light on the topic, I'd like to reproduce here a comment from one of my British monarchist Facebook Friends:

I am a regular chuch-goer and am regularly disgusted by the lack of prayers for the Queen and Royal Family. When I was living in Southend and regularly attending services there and queried it with the Vicar, who told me they were optional and that he chose not to include them because they were "old fashioned" and he didn't want to 'alienate' any potential republicans in the congregation (a ridiculous and lilly-livered argument). Anyway, I did a bit of digging, and sadly it seems the Alternative Services authorised in 1980 curtailed prayers for the Sovereign and made praying for the Royal Family entirely optional, with the result that many churches no longer do this. Needless to say, I became a member of the Prayer Book Society shortly thereafter. I have considered writing to the Bishop of Bradwell about it but must confess that, as yet, I haven't.

BaronVonServers said...

The Prayer for Parliament is "...for the High Court of Parliament, under our most religious and gracious Queen at this time assembled.." and is part of general prayers, to be used when they are in session...