On Friday morning my slumber was punctuated by an unexpected sound: it wasn’t the sound of the railway crossing or the steady thump of pile driving. I got up, gave our youngest son some cornflakes and stepped out into the misty morning. The steady tolling of a muffled bell greeted me. Accompanied by bird song the sound of the bell wafted across the still graveyard from the bell tower. Why was the bell tolled this early in the morning. “The Queen has died!” was the thought that immediately entered my head. “It must be; there couldn’t be another reason.” I went inside and looked for my phone. Indeed, news outlet after news outlet confirmed the sad news. I got my children together and we listened to the bell. I explained what had happened. I think they will forever associate the passing of Queen Elizabeth II with the tolling of that bell. After all, bells announce joyous occasions as well as mourning. The bell ringers have been preparing for this for a long time now, purchasing equipment and discussing plans. I am grateful to the bell ringers for that detailed planning and their dedication.
There has already been an outpouring of sympathy and heads of state and the famous have offered their condolences and memories. I know that many people will feel a sense of loss. After all, Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant figure throughout their lives, a symbol of stability in all the changes of this world. With her we also feel that a way of life is passing.
When I see with how much enthusiasm and joy the Queen was greeted in 1953 when she visited New Zealand, it really seems that an age has passed. How much hope and confidence was there then! After the horrors of the war, this seemed a time of new beginnings, but also a time of humility and a time when there was trust in the old institutions of the state and the monarchy. There was a confidence in family life and community. Since then we have seen tremendous technical advancement and profound social change. But instead of living in a society of peace and goodwill, of happiness and unity, we live in times of doom and confusion. This is not where we expected to be. Some have pushed for changes, but even most of those are disappointed by the discord that now surrounds us. Maybe the Queen represents a time when things at least seemed simpler, when there was more common purpose. Yes, some of that was due to the cracks in society being swept over, but the old-fashioned sense of duty, purpose and heritage that the Queen represented stands in stark contrast to the uncertainty we now live in.
Of course the monarchy and the Queen adapted to the times, but they also held onto traditions that gave many some sense of belonging and stability.
Throughout her life her faith in Jesus Christ was important to the Queen. Her trust in God gave her the stability that so many saw reflected in her. She was the patron of the British and Overseas Bible Society and gave her support to various promotions of the importance of the Bible in Church and our own lives. There is indeed reason to be thankful for the life of Queen Elizabeth. We know her to be entrusted in the care of God, our Saviour.