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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, April 08, 2004
    Quotes for Holy Week - 4 - In the crowd looking on at royalty
     
    Dwelly, in charge of ceremonies at the Consecration of Liverpool Cathedral, 1924, on hearing that the King had arrived too early for the ceremony, asked Lord Derby, "Can the King wait?" The reply he got was explosive; but his response was priceless: "My Lord, this service is not for The King but for Almighty God." (From the booklet for The Office for the Royal Maundy, Liverpool Cathedral, today)

    Today I have been in the crowd looking on at royalty, as the Queen visited Liverpool to give out Royal Maundy money. My republican pretenses, already enfeebled after all those oaths I've been swearing at bishops lately, were pretty much demolished after the churchwarden booked me a seat in the Cathedral for this annual act of royal charity.

    It was good to be there - after all, it's a one-off occasion; she goes to a different cathedral each year so we won't be seeing her here again in Holy Week. And I can't pretend I wasn't impressed by the colour and movement and music and symbolism of it all: "Accept this symbol of self-giving which she pays to Thee, the giver of all good things."

    But more than all that, it was good to be there because, of the 78 men and 78 women who received her gift in recognition of their years of Christian service to their communities, I knew four. When we stood up, craning to see what was happening, for what seemed an age, as the Queen distributed the coins I told myself I was standing up for Stella, for Ray, for Ruby and for Bob. Honouring them, honest-to-goodness folks who've quitely enriched my life and the lives of many others. It was worth being there for that.

    In the crowd looking on at royalty - feeling critical (why don't they do the foot-washing bit anymore? Makes a mockery of half the liturgy), proud (what a ceremony, what a great British celebration), confused (should I be enjoying this or not?), defiant (I will NOT sing the National Anthem in an act of worship), hungry (it's 12.15 and all I've had today is a yoghurt)...

    In the crowd looking on at royalty - like they were in Jerusalem that week, I'm sure, equally ambivalent, equally moved.