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It’s hard to know where to begin with this year’s Christmas news, much of which is disappointing, to say the least.

That said, there is a bright Christmas message here, so please read on.

Scotland legislation latest

On Thursday, December 22, the Scottish Parliament — or Assembly, as I still call it — passed legislation for Gender Recognition Reform, specifically to grant Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs).

The bill passed in the SNP-controlled government 86-39 with no abstentions. Only two Conservative MSPs voted for it. The rest were SNP (Scottish National Party), Scottish Greens (SNP coalition partners), Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs.

The final contributions were largely made on the basis of feelings. Wednesday’s transcript shows that every Conservative motion proposing greater controls over who can apply for a GRC and under what conditions was defeated. Debate had also taken place on Tuesday in an attempt to rush this through before Christmas break.

The Scottish Parliament thought this so important that it even cancelled their annual Christmas carol service, which, this year, was to feature Ukrainian refugees living just outside of Edinburgh.

A pro-independence — though not a pro-SNP — Scot who lives in England, the Revd Stuart Campbell, summed up the legislation in one of his Wings Over Scotland posts, ‘On the hush-hush’ (emphases mine):

The last few days have been perhaps the most turbulent in the entire history of the modern Scottish Parliament. Proceedings have been suspended repeatedly, members of the public thrown out and threatened with arrest, filibusters attempted, carol services cancelled, tempers frayed and sittings going on until the wee small hours.

All of this has happened in the service of the policy that the SNP has made its flagship priority for the last two years and more – the destruction not only of women’s rights, but of the very CONCEPT of a woman

So you’d imagine the party would have been tweeting about it constantly, keeping its supporters informed about all the dramatic events and the progress of the bill, if only to reassure them that they were determined to get it passed before the Christmas break come what may …

But there wasn’t one solitary word about the thing it just spent three solid days forcing into law. And since it was a thing that most of its own voters, and indeed a huge majority of all Scots, were opposed to, readers might be forgiven for thinking that they just wanted it all kept as quiet as possible, as if they were ashamed.

We suspect, and very much hope, that their wish may not be granted.

The Revd Mr Campbell means that the Secretary of State for Scotland in Westminster might refuse to present the Bill for King’s Assent. Let’s hope so.

Another Wings over Scotland post explains what the Bill actually does:

… one of the most regressive, dangerous and frankly absurd pieces of legislation the modern world has ever seen. Last week, [First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s] government successfully managed to get the word ‘woman’ redefined from an adult human female to anyone to who has a piece of paper that says they are one.

Should obtaining this piece of paper involve a rigorous, measured process that takes psychological and criminal history into serious consideration and prioritises the safety of women and children, this would be permissible to the socially liberal. Alas though, the new GRA has shamelessly scrapped all safeguarding measures. For a man to legally become a woman now – and be entitled to access all female-only facilities, be it changing rooms or prisons, all he has to do is ‘live as’ a woman (whatever the hell that means) for three months followed by a three-month ‘reflection period’.

TRA-adjacent politicians have nowhere to hide with this now. They can no longer deny that sex-based rights will be grievously compromised and that predators and fetishists now have ease of access to women (and children’s) spaces, from bathrooms to sports teams.

In another post, Campbell linked to Tuesday’s proceedings where a Conservative MSP tried to raise an amendment calling for greater scrutiny of sex offenders wishing to change gender. Unfortunately, 64 SNP/Green/Lib Dem MSPs voted it down. In ‘The Disgraces of Scotland’, Campbell wrote:

The events marked simply and unquestionably the most shameful and contemptible moment in the history of the Scottish Parliament since 1707.

1707 was the year when the Act of Union was established between England and Scotland.

He also pointed out that voting down the amendment resulted in:

ceding the moral high ground to the Scottish Conservatives

Anyone who knows the Scots knows that anything Conservative is unpopular there. That said, the Scottish Conservatives are the official opposition party in Edinburgh.

It should be noted that anyone aged 16 1/2 and over can apply for a GRC. It would appear that no formal medical diagnosis will be required with this new legislation.

Campbell’s readers have much to say on the matter. Some say this is a deleterious influence from American pressure groups. Others say that women will be in great danger.

Both are likely possibilities.

None of the MSPs supporting the Bill thinks that women will have any problem with sex offenders or deviants. However, a British substack begs to differ. ‘This Never Happens’ is a lengthy catalogue of gender-changers around the world who have committed horrific crimes, many of a sexual nature. Another site with a similar catalogue can be found here.

It is ironic that a woman is in charge of Scotland and she has overseen this legislation. In fact, she has supported it from beginning to end.

Scotland, like Canada, was such a beautiful country once upon a time. When I say ‘beautiful’, I’m referring to people. Another spirit — the devil — is moving through both nations.

One positive outcome is that the Scottish Conservatives can use this legislation to their advantage during the next election cycle. Unlike the SNP, Scottish Labour and Scottish Lib Dems, they alone voted en masse against it, showing that they are the true defenders of women and girls.

An UnHerd columnist, Joan Smith, says that this will come soon to England, should Labour win the next general election:

The man sitting next to you on a tram in Edinburgh, or turning up for a women-only swimming session, may self-identify as a woman — and the law will support him every step of the way. Centuries-old assumptions about what is real, about what people see in front of them, are being overturned. And it’s coming to Westminster as well, if Sir Keir Starmer follows through on his proposal to ‘update’ the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

We have less than two years before a Labour government comes to power, weighed down by promises to import the idiocy (I’m being polite here) of self-ID to the rest of the UK. Two years, in other words, to watch what happens when politicians reject biology, common sense and the imperative to protect women against male violence. 

In the meantime, prisons, hospitals and refuges outside Scotland will face the headache of what to do when a man with a Scottish Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) — obtained with far fewer safeguards than elsewhere in the UK — demands access to women-only spaces. The prospect of expensive litigation is terrifying, but women’s organisations on both sides of the border are already preparing for the fight of their lives.

So crazed are MSPs by this ideology that on Tuesday evening they voted down an amendment that would have placed barriers in the way of convicted sex offenders who seek to apply for a GRC, complete with a new female name. They even rejected an amendment — proposed by Michelle Thomson, an SNP MSP who has waived anonymity to reveal her own experience of being raped when she was fourteen years old — that would have paused the process of acquiring a certificate for men charged with sexual offences.

This is an extremely troubling development. Let’s not forget that the SNP-Green government has pressed ahead with the legislation even after Lady Haldane’s judgment established last week that a GRC changes someone’s legal sex for the purposes of the 2010 Equality Act. Scottish women are now expected to accept that any man standing in front of them, waving a piece of paper, is a woman — even if they’re in court and the man is accused of raping them. 

It’s clear that a bill that was supposedly purely administrative has hugely expanded the number of individuals who can apply for a GRC, with catastrophic effects on women’s rights.

The rest of the UK is about to find out what it’s like living alongside a country in which observable sex no longer has any meaning. Welcome to Scotland, where the word ‘woman’ will now soon include any man who fancies it.

Conservatives in England and Wales can take heart from this for the general election in two years’ time, pointing to their colleagues north of the border. Who are the great defenders of women and girls? It certainly won’t be Labour.

Woman arrested for silent prayer

On December 6, a pro-life supporter from Worcestershire was arrested for praying silently in Birmingham in an exclusion zone around an abortion clinic.

Here is the video of her arrest:

A fundraiser is open for her:

BirminghamLive filed their report on Tuesday, December 20:

A woman has been charged with breaching an exclusion zone outside a Birmingham abortion clinic. Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, aged 45, from Malvern in Worcestershire, was arrested near the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton on December 6.

She was later charged with breaking a Public Space Protection Order, said by Birmingham City Council to have been introduced to ensure “people visiting and working there have clear access without fear of confrontation”. Vaughan-Spruce will appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on February 2 next year.

A West Midlands Police spokesperson said: “Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, aged 45 from Geraldine Road, Malvern, was arrested on December 6 and subsequently charged on December 15 with four counts of failing to comply with a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). She was bailed to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on February 2 2023.”

The police must feel threatened by prayer, especially that of the silent sort.

On Friday, December 23, UnHerd ‘s Mary Harrington gave her thoughts on the arrest:

It’s customary in these situations to decry the breach of liberal norms involved in arresting someone not for doing something wrong but merely thinking. But if, as I’ve suggested elsewhere, all politics is now post-liberal, that means it’s once again explicitly the case that state power is aligned with a widely-shared moral order

This is a drum I’ve been banging for a little while, for contra the fond imaginings of some liberals we never really stopped ordering power to sacred values. After all, it’s not really possible to have a functioning polity otherwise. This, I argued shortly before the pandemic, is why hate crime laws appeared a scant few years after the abolition of blasphemy laws: they are blasphemy laws. We’ve just updated what we considered blasphemous

…  Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest makes it clear that the zone surrounding an abortion centre is treated as sacred in a way that’s evidently no longer meaningfully the case (at least as far as the European court is concerned) of a church. She is an activist and director of March for Life UK, and has been previously arrested for protesting against abortion. But this in no way diminishes the growing sense that the activity being protected is also increasingly treated as sacred …

We have sacralised autonomy to such an extent that laws uphold women’s right to it, even at the cost of another radically dependent life. And the issue is growing ever more moralised, as evidenced by the fact that even thinking disapproving thoughts about this radical commitment to individual autonomy is now treated as blasphemous, in zones where its most extreme sacrifices are made

Wherever you stand on the practical issues surrounding abortion, this is indisputably a profound statement on the relative values we accord to freedom, care and dependency — one with profound ramifications for how we see the weak and helpless in any context. That the practice is taking on sacramental colouring, for a religion of atomisation, should give us all pause.

Indeed.

House of Lords Archbishop of Canterbury debate on asylum

On December 9, the House of Lords gave the Archbishop of Canterbury his annual debate. This year, the subject was the UK’s asylum and refugee policy.

I hope that readers will understand if I do not excerpt his speech here. They are free to read it for themselves.

We have taken in a record annual number of illegal migrants crossing the Channel this year, expected to be over 50,000.

We have also taken in large numbers of legitimate refugees and asylum seekers. We have also given visas to many thousands of legal migrants this year, particularly from Africa and Asia, namely India and Hong Kong.

UnHerd had a good analysis of what Welby said and our current predicament:

The Archbishop says he aims to support action that would “prevent small boats from crossing the channel”, but he also stresses that the UK is not taking many refugees and should take many more. 

Astonishingly, he dismisses the provision our country has made to welcome Hong Kong residents — well over 100,000 to date and many more to come — by saying “and that, by the way, is not asylum but financial visas”. It may not involve an application for asylum as such, but it clearly involves flight from oppression. Welby also draws the wrong conclusion from the fact that developing countries host many more refugees than developed countries. This is much cheaper than settlement in the West and makes return more likely. Developed countries should help pay the costs, and the UK leads the way in this regard.

The control Welby claims to support does not presently exist. The small boats cannot safely be turned around in the Channel and France will not accept their immediate return. The Rwanda plan is a rational (if imperfect) attempt to address the problem, removing asylum-seekers to a safe third country, where they will be protected, yet the Archbishop decries the plan on the grounds that it outsources our responsibilities. This makes no sense, for the UK not only accepts that Rwanda must comply with international standards, but also commits to funding the protection of those who prove to be refugees. Welby asserts that the plan has failed to deter. Indeed, because it has not yet been tried at all. 

The UK has good reason to resettle in safe third countries those who enter unlawfully on small boats, which would discourage others from (dangerous) unlawful entry and restore control of our borders. The historic tradition on which the Archbishop relies is alive and well in the provision our government has made, with wide public support, for temporary protection for Ukrainians escaping Russian aggression and for resettlement of the new Huguenots, the Hong Kong residents seeking to escape the oppressive reach of the Chinese Communist state

Lord Lilley — former Conservative MP Peter Lilley — posed the conundrum of loving one’s neighbour and not being able to accommodate everyone, especially those who arrive under false pretences:

This issue raises very difficult dilemmas for Christians. Being a very inadequate Christian myself, I take up the challenge from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop with trepidation: to try to formulate principles for governing our policy on asylum and migration. Not having direct access to the mind of God like the most reverend Primate the Archbishop, I seek those principles in the Bible.

I recall that our Lord said that the essence of Christianity is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. When asked who our neighbour is, he gave the parable of the good Samaritan, when a Samaritan helps a Jew—from which I deduce that our neighbour is not just the person next door to us and not necessarily a member of our own nation; it can be anyone. The first principle I therefore deduce is that, although charity begins at home, as a lot of my constituents used to tell me, it does not necessarily end at home. I am at one with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop on that.

Secondly, the Samaritan did what he practically could. We may be called on to help anyone we practically can, but we cannot help everyone. Again, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop recognised that and it is important that we recognise that our responsibilities are finite, in this respect.

Thirdly, when the Levite and the Jewish priest reached their destination, I have no doubt that they deplored how, owing to years of austerity, there had been insufficient spending on police and the health service to prevent the problem arising in the first place or to treat the person, instead of leaving it to the passing Samaritan. Therefore, my third principle is that, to be a good Samaritan, you have to give care, help and so on at your expense. We, as politicians, may have to take decisions on behalf of others but, in doing so, we should have consideration for the impact we are having on others and not imagine we are being virtuous when we do good at their expense.

The first principle is that charity begins at home, in how we treat people who have come to settle here. When I was a child, mass immigration into this country was just beginning. The parish in which I lived asked each family to link up with a migrant family, many of whom were lonely, isolated and, at worst, facing hostility. My family was linked up to a delightful Mauritian couple, whom we would invite to supper every few weeks. We became good friends. That was done by parishes across south London. I would love to hear from Bishops who have not yet spoken about what the churches are doing today to help integrate those who are here in our society and to be the good Samaritans to our neighbours from abroad.

But charity does not end at home. I pay tribute to those tens of thousands of people who opened their homes to families fleeing the bombing in Ukraine, while their menfolk remained to fight for their country. We should not imagine we are sharing in being good Samaritans if we throw open the doors of our country to everybody because, if we do that, we are doing good at others’ expense. We are, in effect, saying that migrants, be they legal or illegal, asylum seekers or otherwise, through housing benefit and social housing, will have access to rented and social homes. We all have our own homes, so we will not be affected. Therefore, more young people will have to wait at home or live in cramp bed-sitters for longer, because of what we, as legislators, think we are doing generously, without taking the impact on others into account.

The second principle is that our neighbour can be anyone, but it cannot be everyone. Millions of people want to come here. Look at the impact of the green card system the Americans operate, when they make 30,000 visas to the US available to certain countries and say, “Anyone can apply; there is a ballot.” Some 9% of the population of Albania applied when they heard about that being offered to them, as did 11% of the Armenian and 14% of the Liberian populations. These were only the people who heard about it and responded. The potential number who would like to come to America or Europe, if we open these so-called direct routes, would be enormous. Will we say to those who apply, at an embassy or some place abroad, that they would have the same legal rights, and opportunities to appeal or for judicial review if things are turned down? If so, potentially millions of people would join the queue. It would not shorten but lengthen it, so we have to restrict and to prioritise.

I submit to noble Lords that the priority should not be the boat people. They are not coming by boat from Basra, Somalia or Eritrea; they are coming from France, Belgium and Germany. Why are they coming here rather than staying in those safe countries? They are three or four times as likely to be rejected there. France, in the last year before the pandemic, forcibly repatriated 34,000 people. I find some strange double standards being applied here. There are no criticisms of France for being much stricter than us or of us for being much laxer than them, but one or the other must be the case.

I am coming to an end. If it is morally and legally right for the French to try to prevent people leaving their shores, and for us to pay and support the French in so doing, it should be morally and legally right for us to return them. If they cannot be returned, it is reasonable to try to deter them by saying, “If you come here, you will go to Rwanda. You always have the opportunity to stay in France.” I submit that we do not always consider these opportunities.

Later on, the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke, an excerpt of which follows. The transcript hardly does his indignation justice. He ripped right into Lord Lilley:

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, that everyone is our neighbour. Of course, we cannot take everybody, but that makes it even more important that we have a fair system for everyone.

Dehumanising language promotes fear. Threat of destitution is used as a deterrent. Children are treated as if they are adults. Yet in our own country, among our own people, in our churches, other faith groups and communities, some things have gone well, such as the Homes for Ukraine scheme, where many people have found a home, other family members have joined them, and people have been able to get work. This is really good.

But why has our response to people fleeing other conflicts been different? Currently, the definition of family in our asylum system would not allow someone to join their sibling even if they were the last remaining relative, and being able to work and contribute is a long way off. The tragedy of our system lies in its exceptionalism, meaning that people receive differential treatment usually because of their country of origin. That underpins the Nationality and Borders Act, and I fear that further legislative action will be the same.

But we could learn from what is happening in our communities. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, asked us directly about integration. I do not know where to begin. In hundreds of parishes and schools, and in other faith communities up and down our country, that is what we are doing—in English language classes, in befriending and in teaching people. I would be the first to admit that there are lots of things about the Church of England that could be better, but that is something that we are doing, alongside others, and it shows the best of British.

We need a system that will simply provide safe and legal routes for everyone to have equal opportunities to apply for asylum. All I am saying is that I think that would be good for us, as well as for the people who are fleeing unimaginable conflict and evil.

Finally, when it comes to being able to work, the Church of England, alongside the Refugee Council and the Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee, is a long-standing supporter of the Lift the Ban campaign.

I say all this—like many of us, I would wish to say more, but the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said most of it—as winter arrives, and it is cold, and a cost of living crisis will inevitably affect the British people’s capacity to be hospitable. I say simply that a functioning asylum system is not a threat to our social cohesion as some fear or predict, but a dysfunctional, unfair one is.

As every small child knows at this time of the year, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, mentioned, Mary and Joseph came looking for somewhere to stay, but there was no room at the inn. Saying no, accusing those who are being hospitable of being naive, or passing the buck are easy, but saying yes, with a fair and equal system for everyone, opens up blessings for everyone.

A week later, Cottrell featured in an article in The Telegraph: ‘Forgive my “predictable leftie rant” on asylum, says Archbishop of York’.

It seems he knew he was out of order with Lord Lilley, who deserved the same courtesy as the peers agreeing with the Archbishop. It was good for Lord Lilley to speak politely on behalf of the British public.

Britons are paying upwards of £7 million a day just to house those crossing the Channel.

GB News’s Mark Steyn and his guest hosts have been covering the topic nearly every night:

Taxpayers are deeply upset, especially during our cost of living crisis, which is causing many to choose between food and fuel.

Combine that with taxpayers’ personal expenses for Net Zero, and we are heading for disaster:

Red Wall Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis tried unsuccessfully to raise a Private Member’s Bill to get illegal migrants to Rwanda sooner rather than later:

Hotels across England are being taken over by companies working for the Home Office to house the Channel-crossers:

Hospitality workers in those hotels are losing their jobs as the aforementioned companies install their own staff to manage them:

The December 22 show also featured the seemingly intractable problem:

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie then swung by to weigh in on how much migrants are costing Britons.

The Home Office — read ‘civil servants’ — must do something now.

It’s obvious people are watching GB News, because they beat BBC News for the first time ever on December 14:

Onwards and upwards!

House of Commons recess debate

On Tuesday, December 20, the House of Commons held its Christmas recess debate.

Normally, these are rather jolly affairs where MPs air wish lists for their constituencies for the New Year. However, this year’s contributions were rather grim, including those from Conservative MPs.

Once again, providentially, I tuned in at the right time to hear the member for Don Valley, Conservative MP Nick Fletcher. He closed his speech saying the following, the first part of which came as news to me:

Finally, Christian friends across the House tried to secure a Backbench debate on Christmas and Christianity, but by all accounts we were not successful. While I have this moment, I want to remind those in this place, and anyone who cares to watch, that although Christmas is celebrated in many ways across the world, the real reason is the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ. He was sent as a saviour, and with the promise that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. I do not want anyone ever to forget that. Merry Christmas everybody.

Jim Shannon, a Democratic Unionist Party MP (i.e. from Northern Ireland), was one of the last MPs to speak. A devout Anglican — yes, they still exist — he gave a beautiful speech on the meaning of the season, most of which follows:

It is no secret that I love this time of year—I may have mentioned that a time or three in this House. There are so many things to love about Christmas: time with family; good food; fellowship; and, for me, the singing of an old Christmas carol as we gather in church. But the most wonderful thing about Christmas for me is the hope that it holds. I wish to speak this year about the Christ in Christmas, because, too often, we miss that. It would be good this year to focus on what Christmas is really all about. I ask Members to stick with me on this one.

The message of Christmas is not simply the nativity scene that is so beautifully portrayed in schools and churches throughout this country, but rather the hope that lies in the fact that the baby was born to provide a better future for each one of us in this House and across the world. What a message of hope that is; it is a message that each one of us needs. No matter who we are in the UK, life is tough. The past three years have been really, really tough—for those who wonder how to heat their homes; for those who have received bad news from their doctor; for those whose children have not caught up from the covid school closures; for those who mourn the loss of a loved one; for those who mourn the breakdown of a family unit; and for those who are alone and isolated. This life is not easy, and yet there is hope. That is because of the Christmas story. It is because Christ came to this world and took on the form of man so that redemption’s plan could be fulfilled. There is hope for each one of us to have that personal relationship with Christ that enables us to read the scriptures in the Bible and understand that the creator, God, stands by his promises.

I want to quote, if I may, from four Bible texts. To know that

“my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

That is from Philippians 4:19.

To trust that

“I am the Lord that heals you.”

To believe that

“all things are possible.”

That is Matthew 17:20.

We can be comforted by Psalm 147:3:

“He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds.”

Isaiah 41:10 says:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

The strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow come only when we understand who Christ is. One of my favourite Christmas passages is actually not the account of his birth, but the promise of who he is. We all know this:

“For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder, And His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In a world where our very foundation seems to be shifting, how awesome it is to know that this our God is only a prayer away. A group of people come to the House of Commons two or three times a week, and pray for Parliament. I have to say how important it is to have those prayers.

As we think of this passing year—something that many of us do—we think about what has happened and perhaps look forward to 2023 with renewed hope for the future. I think we should look forward with hope; we have to do that. We should always try to be positive. In this passing year, my mind goes to the loss of Her Majesty the Queen. Many of us felt that so deeply, and yet her passing also carried the message of hope, because of Christ. I quoted this when we had the tributes to Her Majesty. It is important, I think, to put it on the record again.

The wonderful message that the Queen gave in one of her cherished Christmas messages—this one was in 2014—was crystal clear:

“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.”

That was Her Majesty talking.

“A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”

It is my firm belief that this true message of Christmas is what can bring hope and healing to a nation that can seem so fractured. When I look at the headlines, I sometimes despair, but that is also when I most enjoy my constituency work, and getting to see glimpses of community spirit and goodness that are done daily and yet are rarely reported. Her Majesty’s speech in 2016 reflected that, when she said:

“Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me to see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.”

At that point, Conservative MP John Hayes intervened:

It is heart-warming and refreshing to hear the hon. Gentleman’s plain and confident affirmation of his faith, and our faith too. By the way he speaks, he encourages all of us to reflect on the Judeo-Christian foundations on which our society and our civilisation are built, and I just wanted to thank him for that.

Jim Shannon thanked John Hayes before continuing:

The right hon. Gentleman is most kind. I am giving just a slight reminder of what Christmas is about. I think we all realise that, but sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of it. The example of Christ is one of humility, coming to the earth as a vulnerable baby, and of purpose, as we see the gold given that symbolises royalty, the frankincense to highlight his deity and myrrh to symbolise his purposeful death to redeem us all.

I am a strong advocate in this House for freedom of religion or belief, as the Leader of the House knows. She is always very kind; every week, when I suggest something that should be highlighted, she always takes those things back to the Ministers responsible. I appreciate that very much, as do others in this House. I am proud to be associated with that wonderful cause, and as long as God spares me I will speak for the downtrodden of my own faith and others. I speak for all faiths, because that is who I am, and so do others in this House with the same belief.

At the same time, however, like Her late Majesty, I am proud to be a follower of Christ. At this time of year I simply want the House to know the hope that can be found in Christ, not simply at Christmas, but for a lifetime. The babe of Bethlehem was Christ on the cross and our redeemer at the resurrection, and that gives me hope and offers hope for those who accept him and it.

From the bottom of my heart, Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you in particular, since you have presided over this speech and the past few hours. I thank Mr Speaker and all the other Deputy Speakers, with all the things that are happening to them, the Clerks and every staff member in this place for the tremendous job they do and the graceful spirit in which everything has been carried out in the last year. I thank right hon. and hon. Members, who are friends all—I say that honestly to everyone.

I thank my long-suffering wife, who is definitely long-suffering, and my mum—

At that point, Shannon broke down in tears.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt stepped in quickly and graciously while Shannon composed himself:

The hon. Gentleman has often summed up how people feel, particularly at this time of year. I know he has had losses over the past few years, and he always manages to sum up the feeling of this House. Many Members in this debate have spoken about constituents or family they have lost, and we appreciate his bringing up these issues, as I appreciate all Members’ doing so. There will be some people thinking about spending Christmas apart from family they are not able to see, or having suffered those losses. I thank him and we are all willing him strength as he continues his speech.

After a pause, Shannon resumed and concluded:

I thank the Leader of the House for that. I mentioned my long-suffering wife; we have been married 34 years, so she is very long-suffering, and that is probably a good thing, because we are still together. My mum is 91 years old and I suspect she is sitting watching the Parliament channel right now to see what her eldest son is up to and what he is saying, so again that is something.

I also thank my staff members. I told one of my Opposition colleagues last week that I live in a woman’s world, because I have six girls in my office who look after me and make sure I am right …

Lastly, I thank my Strangford constituents, who have stuck by me as a councillor, as a Member of the Legislative Assembly and as a Member of Parliament in this House. This is my 30th year of service in local government and elsewhere. They have been tremendously kind to me and I appreciate them. I want to put on record what a privilege it is to serve them in this House and to do my best for them.

I wish everyone a happy Christmas, and may everyone have a prosperous, peaceful and blessed new year, as we take the example of Christ and act with humility and purpose in this place to effect the change that we all want and that is so needed in our nation—this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, always better together.

Mr Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans said:

Your mother and wife will be as proud of you as we all are, Jim. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!] As a person of faith, I thank you very much for putting the Christ back into Christmas in your speech. We come now to the wind-ups.

When acknowledging MPs’ contributions in the debate, Penny Mordaunt said:

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) should never have to apologise for mentioning Christ in this place—especially at Christmas. We are in a place where the architecture is designed to turn our faces to God. I thank him for his Christmas message.

And, finally — best Christmas wishes to Mark Steyn

In closing, hearty Christmas wishes to Mark Steyn who is recovering from two successive heart attacks:

He is recovering in France but told viewers more on December 19. Incredibly, the first heart attack happened before he presented one of his nightly shows on the self-styled People’s Channel. He presented it anyway. Wow:

The GB News host suffered the first one “without recognising” the symptoms, before hosting his show on The People’s Channel.

Speaking on his current absence from GB News, Steyn said: “I’m too medicated to manage artful evasions.

“I had two heart attacks. Because I didn’t recognise the first one, as such, the second one was rather more severe.”

The experienced broadcaster spoke about the shocking ordeal, saying he “doesn’t look right”, looking back at images of himself presenting the Mark Steyn show during the first heart attack.

Speaking on SteynOnline, he said: “The good news is that the first one occurred when I was in London. If you get a chance to see that day’s Mark Steyn Show, with hindsight, I don’t look quite right in close-ups.

“By not recognising it as a heart attack, I deftly avoided being one of those stories we feature on the show every couple of nights about people in the UK calling emergency and being left in the street for 15 hours before an ambulance shows up.

“I had a second heart attack in France. With Audrey [his wife?] helping me in the ambulance, she told me I was 15 minutes from death.”

The presenter also revealed he would remain in France over Christmas and New Year as he is unable to leave medical care and return to New Hampshire.

GB News viewers will be sending Mark every best wish for a speedy recovery — and a healthy, happy New Year! We look forward to seeing him on the airwaves soon!

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A few weeks ago, a fellow Anglican and I were chatting about the peculiar archbishops in the Church of England (CofE).

‘They’re rather political, aren’t they?’ the woman asked.

I agreed and said, ‘Their job is to save souls.’

She looked at me, wide-eyed, as if this were some sort of revelation.

Apparently, it is a revelation as the results of the 2021 census show that the last time there have been so few Christians in Britain was during … the Dark Ages:

In just ten years, the percentage of British Christians has decreased from 59.3% (33.3 million) in 2011 to 46.2% (27.5 million) in 2021:

Proportionally, Wales on its own has a higher percentage of unbelievers than England:

This is an interesting video about religion in London:

Some people will rejoice at the news. However, the online editor of The Critic, Sebastian Milbank, warns of what happens in secular societies:

On Saturday, December 3, 2022, the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, wrote about the census for The Telegraph: ‘Christianity is not in terminal decline in Britain, whatever the census might say’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

He writes:

Some commentators have responded to the census data about religious affiliation released last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) by predicting the terminal decline of Christianity in our nation or declaring this as a statistical watershed moment …

Though the most common response to the voluntary question of religious affiliation remains “Christian,” there was a 13.1 percentage decrease from 2011 to 2021.

The ONS clarifies that these figures are about “the religion with which [respondents] connect or identify, rather than their beliefs or active religious practice.”

I do not find the trend in the responses to this particular question surprising: we have left behind the time when many people almost automatically identified as Christian.

Cottrell says that some British churches are very successful:

There are fewer people in the pews on a typical Sunday morning than a few decades ago but, at the same time, some of our churches – of all traditions and styles – are growing significantly …

It’s hard to know what churches he speaks of, but I would assume Evangelical ones that have nothing to do with the established church, the CofE. After all, the CofE rolled out local church growth programmes this year.

He posits that people are doing Christianity differently:

These apparently contrasting statistical snapshots inform a more complicated, though incomplete story, which is not one of terminal decline for religious faith nor Christianity, but more about how individuals in our ever-changing nation and culture choose to express their identity.

Hmm. I’m not so sure. In any case, that is a characteristically watery and woolly excuse, so prominent among today’s Anglican hierarchy.

He says:

the story that defines our identity has never been one of overwhelming numerical growth nor fear of extinction. Amid the complexities of identity, values and nation, Christians strive to live by the story of the Good News of Jesus Christ – a story notable for the absence of success by the world’s usual standards.

Yes, but, all the same, the CofE archbishops — York and Canterbury — are presiding over a diminishing church.

The Right Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, went to Ukraine last week. While many Anglican priests applauded his trip there …

… I wonder why he isn’t putting the same energy into getting those living in England back to church:

Personally, I think Welby went because it was a political mission for him.

Cottrell recounts the Christmas story, which also involves a census:

A watershed moment in that story happened when “Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The events that then unfolded will be shared by millions of people in the UK this Christmas.

They will hear the baby Jesus described as a light that shines in the darkness. His story is not a tale of linear success, but about how that light shines through the difficult realities of our lives and finally overcomes all darkness.

A baby is born helpless in a stable to a very young mother in an occupied country. The family is threatened with murder and flees as refugees.

As he grows, Jesus will reject worldly power and wealth. He will feast and celebrate. He will weep and mourn. He will sit with the lonely. He will sit with his enemies. He will be loved and hated, cherished and betrayed.

He will suffer injustice and die a criminal’s death. And – as Christians believe – he will rise on Easter Sunday, and secure light rather than darkness as the very final word.

That’s the fundamental story that shapes Christian identity.

And it is why I am full of hope …

That hope started with a census.

Hmm.

For me, the Christmas story starts with the Annunciation, with the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, telling her that she would bear a child whose name would be Jesus.

Mary then visited her ageing cousin Elizabeth, also with child. Her son was John the Baptist, the prophet who heralded Jesus and His ministry. Mary’s words to Elizabeth are known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which begins as follows:

1    My soul doth magnify the Lord :

and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

2    For he hath regarded :

the lowliness of his handmaiden.

3    For behold, from henceforth :

all generations shall call me blessed.

4    For he that is mighty hath magnified me :

and holy is his Name.

5    And his mercy is on them that fear him :

throughout all generations.

Cottrell ends by expressing Christianity in a very secular manner, although as with any wonky way of expressing it, there is always a germ of truth. Christians are the mainstay of combining practical and spiritual support:

… right now, across our nation Christians are offering practical help and spiritual support to anyone in need.

This winter, perhaps more than ever before, food and warmth and companionship are being made available by Christians.

We offer this to all – entirely irrespective of any census answers they may have given. And this dedication and service will continue, whatever the statistical trend.

Christians in our nation are part of a global faith: the largest movement on Earth, which is its greatest hope for a peaceful, sustainable future.

I can’t say that Cottrell’s article was particularly compelling. If I were an unbeliever, I certainly wouldn’t feel moved to attend church because of it.

As the Revd Marcus Walker, the rector of St Bartholomew The Great in the City of London, asks how we got here. As is so often the case, the laity offer informed answers, i.e. blaming the hierarchy:

This woman is right in saying that Anglican churches must return to focusing on God:

Advent is a great time for Anglican churches to attract converts. Most have choral concerts and quite a few offer Evensong:

For some attending, music goes straight to parts of the soul that liturgy or a sermon cannot reach:

I like Marcus Walker a lot and am glad that he is in charge of London’s oldest church that is still operating. St Bartholomew the Great was founded in 1123.

Another priest I like is the Revd Giles Fraser, who used to be the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. He is now the vicar of St Anne’s in Kew, West London.

Giles Fraser rightly objects to the CofE hierarchy telling churches not to hold their carol services on the day of the World Cup final this month:

An even worse CofE idea is to show the final in church instead. Horrible:

Fraser says that we are called to be faithful, not successful:

It does not sound as if he is big on the church growth strategy:

In an UnHerd article, Fraser gave his suggestions on how Christianity can flourish again in the UK:

Excerpts from ‘Secularisation is leading Britain astray’ follow:

The results of the 2021 census, announced this week, tell us that we are a minority Christian country, with just 46% self-defining as Christian. The humanists are gleeful. And the treasurer tells me we are again set to lose tens of thousands of pounds next year. Churches in poorer areas may not survive the coming storm. Ones set in the leafy suburbs may be able to reinvent themselves as fancy conference venues — but both will be subject to a kind of death.

Of course, the universal church isn’t in this situation. It remains the largest movement on earth, despite a little local difficulty in this part of the world. It just goes to highlight the woeful parochialism of so much of our media coverage. The narrative of secularisation, and of its inevitability, is linked to that dodgy old Enlightenment idea of progress — which is as much a matter of wilful faith as anything said from the pulpit. Numerically speaking, the 20th century was the Church’s best since its creation

Despite the success of the church worldwide, we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful. The central image of the Christian faith is of a man being strung up on a cross, mocked for his claims to royal authority. Whatever the outcome of this cosmic interruption, whatever its meaning, triumphalism has little place amongst the detritus of spears and spit that attended His gruesome end. For Christians, victory is claimed in the manner of His failing. A smaller church is not a failed church any more than a satsuma is a failed orange, as one bishop rightly put it.

He points out where the CofE has gone wrong over the decades:

Generally speaking, however, the leadership of the Church of England is still gripped by the debilitating fear of numerical decline. It nervously responds at every turn with cheesy new initiatives bent on making us relevant and popular. These often have the very opposite of their intended consequences: cathedrals … turning themselves into fun parks of crazy golf or helter skelters. “Please like us,” they plead, desperately, with all the panache (and success rate) of spotty teenagers dousing themselves in cheap aftershave in a bid to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex.

Fraser rightly thinks that people want spiritual gravitas in their lives, something that only the Church can provide:

In part, we have to meet people where they are. But nevertheless, our core mission is responding to a deeper seriousness in people. And chumminess with the divine is not the answer. Where the church is failing its parishioners is how thin our offer can so often be. People don’t want weak jokes from the pulpit — they want fire. And too often we have been short-changing people by simply reflecting back to them an undemanding slate of soft-Left progressive values that they already have.

That is true. Many agnostics have told me that.

These are Fraser’s suggestions to CofE bishops:

There are three things the church leadership needs to hear: the uppermost among them is to stop being so afraid. “Fear not,” is the message of the Christmas angel. If God is in charge then, ultimately, we cannot fail ... We will not be saved by better management, or by a more compelling social media strategy: we will be saved by God or not at all. To say this is not to give us an alibi for inaction or laziness or lack of creativity — simply, to insist that we live or die by our theology.

You’d think we’d have learnt by now that relevance is an unappealing evangelistic strategy. We should be doing the very opposite of proclaiming our faith through the lens of popular culture. A minority church has the freedom to be defiantly culturally different, more learned even. It can be unapologetically serious about those things secular culture shies away from, like death and our need for salvation. We do not need to speak to God as if he were our mate. And we shouldn’t be so scared of people sometimes being a little bored in church: the silence of the monastic cloister is terrifying to a generation weaned on the internet and video games, but it is here that something deeper can be mined. The Church has to stop trying to satisfy every fidgety urge of its visitors.

Finally, we must fight to reclaim that particular strand of English Christianity — associated especially with the Church of England — that regards belonging as preceding believing. Going to church is a little like going to the pub. People speak of “my pub” or “my local” in the way they used to talk about “my church” — or at least they used to. This is a place where you expect to feel at home, where you belong. Here you are welcome whoever you are.

He says there will always be times when the Church waxes and wanes:

… as with all churches that concede to a market model, it is forever subject to the logic of boom and bust. As the Parable of the Sower has it, some seed falls on stony ground and springs up quickly but soon withers because there is no depth of soil.

The latest census has triggered a great deal of doom-mongering. I am merely adding to this, of course. Bishops do an impossible job and mostly do it pretty well, despite all the brickbats they receive. And the church will, of course, survive despite its diminished circumstances.

Fraser concludes by saying that we have much more to fear from a Godless society:

Ironically, I think the secular imagination has far more challenges in store. For once it has finished piggybacking on the inherited deposit of faith, it will have to work out what it believes and why. Not believing in anything, which is the fastest growing position, has nothing to offer as a foundation for many of our moral concerns. As Tom Holland has observed, human rights, for instance, borrow substantially from a Christian worldview. When that worldview disappears from sight, secular culture will be walking on little but thin air. Without a meaningful moral story to underpin it, might will be right and power supreme.

I could not agree more. People will not like what’s coming down the pike in the years ahead.

Marcus Walker was the guest preacher for Evensong at Fraser’s church on Sunday, December 4:

The two priests shared dinner afterwards:

In closing, here is the 2022 welcome to attend an Anglican church this Christmas season. It traces a woman’s Christian journey throughout her life. Fictitious though it is, I am glad the CofE were honest enough to show full pews when she was a little girl and empty seats once she entered widowhood:

The message is that church members will support each other through each stage of life.

I guess it will do.

The Queen’s funeral on September 19 made a much more powerful statement, the closest glimpse of heaven that we will see here on earth. Fortunately, more than 4 billion people around the world watched it.

I hope that the music, the readings and the liturgy bring some of those billions to the light and truth of Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever.

The UK experienced a busy and historic weekend as Operations London Bridge and Unicorn became reality after the Queen’s death on Thursday, September 8, 2022.

The nation is now in a 10-day period of mourning, which continues through Monday, September 19, the day of the Queen’s funeral in Westminster Abbey. King Charles III has declared the day to be a bank holiday. The Royals, including their staff, will mourn for an additional week.

Before going into the weekend’s events, I have a few items to add from the end of last week.

Wednesday and Thursday, September 7 and 8

Last Wednesday, possibly having been busy preparing for her parliamentary statement on the energy crisis on Thursday, Liz Truss’s office cancelled the weekly update on Operation London Bridge, the funeral plans for Queen Elizabeth II. However, Simon Case, the civil servant who is Cabinet Secretary, informed the Prime Minister of the Queen’s decline early on Thursday morning.

Former Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu told GB News that Operation London Bridge was originally planned in the 1960s and has been regularly reviewed since.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s — Prince Philip’s — plans were Operation Forth Bridge, so named for the magnificent bridge that links the Scottish capital to Fife.

Operation Unicorn involves funeral plans for Scotland in the event the Queen died there.

As my post on Friday explained, the Prime Minister found out about the Queen’s death during the energy debate in the Commons.

On Friday, September 9, Conservative MP Michael Fabricant told GB News that the note she received at lunchtime might well have said:

London Bridge is down.

At that point, the Queen was receiving medical attention and her closest family members were on their way to Balmoral.

The Times reported how Thursday afternoon’s events unfolded (emphases mine):

The six hours that followed brought together a fractured royal family and seemed to unite a nation in apprehension. At 12.32pm, moments after the first signs in the Commons, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision.”

It was immediately clear the news was more significant than previous announcements about the Queen’s health. Newspaper websites swiftly reported the announcement …

… At 12.45pm the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall announced that they were travelling to Balmoral. They were already in Scotland after hosting a dinner at Dumfries House in Ayrshire the previous evening. A minute later the Duke of Cambridge, 40, announced that he would be travelling from London. It was now clear that the situation was grave.

The Duchess of Cambridge, 40, remained at their Windsor home and drove to collect Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis following their first full day at their new school to tell them of the news. At 1.30pm the Duke of York, 62, who was stripped of his royal duties after the scandal surrounding Jeffrey Epstein, said that he would also be flying to Scotland. Six minutes later the Earl and Countess of Wessex confirmed that they would also be travelling to Balmoral.

The Princess Royal, 72, had been on the Isle of Raasay on Wednesday and stayed at Balmoral overnight. The Duke of Sussex, despite his long- running troubles with the monarchy, announced at 1.52pm that he was also travelling to Scotland, separately from other senior royals but “in co-ordination with other family members’ plans”. He arrived at Balmoral almost two hours after the announcement of his grandmother’s death. He had flown into Aberdeen airport alone, and his wife remained in Windsor.

Prince Harry, 37, happened to be in the UK anyway, and had been due to attend a charity event in London last night.

The first signs of serious concerns about the Queen’s health had emerged at 6pm on Wednesday, when it was announced that she had “accepted doctors’ advice to rest” rather than attend a virtual meeting of the privy council that evening.

That would have been only an hour after I’d heard a long pealing of bells from Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, which I mentioned in my post on Friday.

More of the timeline continues, including the hour when the Queen’s death was announced:

Soon after the announcement of concerns of the Queen’s doctor, Charles, 73, was seen clutching a large briefcase as he boarded the royal helicopter from Dumfries House with Camilla, 75, for the journey to Balmoral.

The flight carrying William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Sophie took off from RAF Northolt in northwest London at 2.39pm. Royal Air Force flight KRF23R landed at Aberdeen airport at 3.50pm. A short while later, at 4.30pm, the prime minister was informed of the Queen’s death by Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, according to her official spokesman.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge was driving his two uncles the 40 miles from Aberdeen airport to Balmoral, arriving just after 5pm. William was behind the wheel of the Range Rover, with Andrew in the passenger seat and Edward, 58, and Sophie, 57, in the back

The Palace said in a statement: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

Charles had acceded to the throne immediately.

The flags in Downing Street were lowered to half mast at 6.36pm. BBC One played the national anthem following the announcement of the monarch’s death, showing a photograph of the Queen, followed by a royal crest on a black background and the words Queen Elizabeth II …

The double rainbow, which I also referenced on Friday, appeared as soon as the flags were lowered to half mast, not only in London but also in Windsor.

On Friday afternoon, The Telegraph reported that only Princess Anne and Prince Charles made it to Balmoral in time to see the Queen before she died:

The King and the Princess Royal were the only two senior members of the Royal family who made it to Balmoral before Queen Elizabeth II’s death, it is understood

As for Prince William and his uncles and aunt:

Royal Air Force flight KRF23R took off shortly after 2.30pm, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24.com, landing in Aberdeen at 3.50pm.

Prince William drove the quartet from the airport to Balmoral and they were pictured sweeping into the gates of the castle shortly after 5pm.

It is possible they had known they would not make it, perhaps even before their plane took off.

In the event, by the time they arrived, it was too late.

Prince Harry’s flight was delayed and he did not arrive until 8 p.m.:

he is believed to have been mid-air when Buckingham Palace announced at 6.30pm that the Queen had died, arriving at Balmoral an hour and a half later.

The Duke’s Cessna had been due to land at 6.29pm, a minute before the historic statement. But it was 20 minutes late taking off at Luton Airport, meaning he did not land in Aberdeen until 6.46pm.

The grief-stricken Duke was photographed as he was driven into Balmoral Castle just before 8pm to join other members of his family.

That evening, France paid the Queen tribute by turning off the lights on the Eiffel Tower at midnight and on Friday, at 10 p.m.:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-2ce0bcad-ca7c-47b3-bd29-f5e95920369e

Friday, September 9

On Friday morning, the Telegraph article said that Prince Harry left Balmoral early:

Prince Harry was the first to leave Balmoral on Friday morning, driven out of the gates at 8.20am.

He had to take a commercial flight back to Windsor:

He later boarded a British Airways flight from Aberdeen to Heathrow and is thought to have returned to Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, where the Duchess of Sussex was waiting for him.

Later that morning, the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) head, Mick Lynch, announced that the rail strikes planned for September 15 and 17 were cancelled.

Guido Fawkes said that a postal strike was also cancelled (emphases his):

The Communication Workers Union has also called off a planned Royal Mail strike, with General Secretary Dave Ward saying “Following the very sad news of the passing of the Queen, and out of respect for her service to the country and her family, the union has decided to call off tomorrow’s planned strike action.”

Fair play to both Lynch and Ward, whether they’re genuinely in mourning or its cynical comms, they made the right call…

England’s three main political parties suspended campaigning during the mourning period. This is fine, except that Parliament is adjourned until after the Queen’s funeral, at which point it will continue to be adjourned for three weeks’ worth of annual political party conferences.

If Liz is smart, she will find a way to get the Commons, at least, to reconvene during conference season. There is no justification, especially this year, for every MP to attend these rather superfluous events. Furthermore, the evening events are also times of revelry, which seems inappropriate at this time.

Guido‘s Friday post says:

With King Charles instituting 17 days of mourning, the death of Queen Elizabeth will certainly cast shadows over all three of the major parties’ conferences. Guido understands the Tories are having conversations about how to proceed with their Birmingham gathering in light of the news. With politics grinding to a halt, it’s going to be difficult for PM Truss to enjoy the full political dividend from yesterday’s energy policy announcement…

Parliament is not due to reconvene until October 17. October is the month when the new energy ‘price cap’ — i.e. a dramatic increase — comes into effect. This will affect everyone and a policy really needs to be finalised before then. Conservative MP John Redwood tweeted:

As I write on Monday afternoon, GB News’s Tom Harwood says that a ‘fiscal event’ — an energy policy announcement — could be made on one of the four consecutive days after mourning and before conference recess. He says that his sources tell him that separate legislation would not be required. Let’s hope he is right.

Friday is not normally a day when either House of Parliament meets. However, both MPs and the Lords met to pay tribute to the Queen. The sessions, which also included taking the Oath of Loyalty to King Charles — optional, as the Oath includes successors — continued into Saturday. Every MP and Lord who wanted to speak was able to do so.

The Commons session on Friday afternoon began with a minute’s silence:

Afterwards, the Prime Minister began the tributes:

Guido has the video and pulled out the key quote from her address:

The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her, the Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her.

Hansard has the full transcript of Friday’s and Saturday’s tributes from MPs. I commend them to everyone, because many MPs mentioned that the Queen visited their respective constituencies more than once during her reign. Only a handful had never had met her. The contributions reflected a monarch with not only dignity but also good humour. Everyone who met her said that she knew how to put them at ease.

Truss pointed out other historical highlights in her address:

In the hours since last night’s shocking news, we have witnessed the most heartfelt outpouring of grief at the loss of Her late Majesty the Queen. Crowds have gathered. Flags have been lowered to half-mast. Tributes have been sent from every continent around the world. On the death of her father, King George VI, Winston Churchill said the news had,

“stilled the clatter and traffic of twentieth-century life in many lands”.

Now, 70 years later, in the tumult of the 21st century, life has paused again.

Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. She was the rock on which modern Britain was built. She came to the throne aged just 25, in a country that was emerging from the shadow of war; she bequeaths a modern, dynamic nation that has grown and flourished under her reign. The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her. The Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her. She was devoted to the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. She served 15 countries as Head of State, and she loved them all

Her devotion to duty remains an example to us all. She carried out thousands of engagements, she took a red box every day, she gave her assent to countless pieces of legislation and she was at the heart of our national life for seven decades. As the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she drew on her deep faith. She was the nation’s greatest diplomat. Her visits to post-apartheid South Africa and to the Republic of Ireland showed a unique ability to transcend difference and heal division. In total, she visited well over 100 countries. She met more people than any other monarch in our history.

She gave counsel to Prime Ministers and Ministers across Government. I have personally greatly valued her wise advice. Only last October, I witnessed first hand how she charmed the world’s leading investors at Windsor Castle. She was always so proud of Britain, and always embodied the spirit of our great country. She remained determined to carry out her duties even at the age of 96. It was just three days ago, at Balmoral, that she invited me to form a Government and become her 15th Prime Minister. Again, she generously shared with me her deep experience of government, even in those last days.

Everyone who met her will remember the moment. They will speak of it for the rest of their lives. Even for those who never met her, Her late Majesty’s image is an icon for what Britain stands for as a nation, on our coins, on our stamps, and in portraits around the world. Her legacy will endure through the countless people she met, the global history she witnessed, and the lives that she touched. She was loved and admired by people across the United Kingdom and across the world.

One of the reasons for that affection was her sheer humanity. She reinvited monarchy for the modern age. She was a champion of freedom and democracy around the world. She was dignified but not distant. She was willing to have fun, whether on a mission with 007, or having tea with Paddington Bear. She brought the monarchy into people’s lives and into people’s homes.

During her first televised Christmas message in 1957, she said:

“Today we need a special kind of courage…so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future.”

We need that courage now. In an instant yesterday, our lives changed forever. Today, we show the world that we do not fear what lies ahead. We send our deepest sympathy to all members of the royal family. We pay tribute to our late Queen, and we offer loyal service to our new King.

His Majesty King Charles III bears an awesome responsibility that he now carries for all of us. I was grateful to speak to His Majesty last night and offer my condolences. Even as he mourns, his sense of duty and service is clear. He has already made a profound contribution through his work on conservation and education, and his tireless diplomacy. We owe him our loyalty and devotion.

The British people, the Commonwealth and all of us in this House will support him as he takes our country forward to a new era of hope and progress: our new Carolean age. The Crown endures, our nation endures, and in that spirit, I say God save the King. [Hon. Members: “God save the King.”]

Labour’s Keir Starmer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition, spoke next. Guido has the video:

The highlight of his speech was this:

She did not simply reign over us, she lived alongside us. She shared in our hopes and our fears, our joy and our pain, our good times, and our bad.

Interestingly, when they were younger, both Starmer and Truss wanted to abolish the monarchy.

Boris Johnson spoke a short time later, declaring the Queen:

Elizabeth the Great.

Historian David Starkey would disagree and did so on GB News on Sunday, September 11. He said that ‘the Great’ has applied exclusively to monarchs who waged war, e.g. Peter the Great.

Guido has the video. Boris began by saying that the BBC contacted him recently to speak about the Queen in past tense:

I hope the House will not mind if I begin with a personal confession. A few months ago, the BBC came to see me to talk about Her Majesty the Queen. We sat down and the cameras started rolling, and they requested that I should talk about her in the past tense. I am afraid that I simply choked up and could not go on. I am really not easily moved to tears, but I was so overcome with sadness that I had to ask them to go away.

I know that, today, there are countless people in this country and around the world who have experienced the same sudden access of unexpected emotion, and I think millions of us are trying to understand why we are feeling this deep, personal and almost familial sense of loss. Perhaps it is partly that she has always been there:

a changeless human reference point in British life; the person who—all the surveys say—appears most often in our dreams; so unvarying in her pole-star radiance that we have perhaps been lulled into thinking that she might be in some way eternal.

But I think our shock is keener today because we are coming to understand, in her death, the full magnitude of what she did for us all. Think what we asked of that 25-year-old woman all those years ago: to be the person so globally trusted that her image should be on every unit of our currency, every postage stamp; the person in whose name all justice is dispensed in this country, every law passed, to whom every Minister of the Crown swears allegiance; and for whom every member of our armed services is pledged, if necessary, to lay down their lives.

Think what we asked of her in that moment: not just to be the living embodiment, in her DNA, of the history, continuity and unity of this country, but to be the figurehead of our entire system—the keystone in the vast arch of the British state, a role that only she could fulfil because, in the brilliant and durable bargain of the constitutional monarchy, only she could be trusted to be above any party political or commercial interest and to incarnate, impartially, the very concept and essence of the nation.

Think what we asked of her, and think what she gave. She showed the world not just how to reign over a people; she showed the world how to give, how to love and how to serve. As we look back at that vast arc of service, its sheer duration is almost impossible to take in. She was the last living person in British public life to have served in uniform in the Second World War. She was the first female member of the royal family in a thousand years to serve full time in the armed forces.

That impulse to do her duty carried her right through into her 10th decade to the very moment in Balmoral—as my right hon. Friend said—only three days ago, when she saw off her 14th Prime Minister and welcomed her 15th. I can tell you, in that audience she was as radiant and as knowledgeable and as fascinated by politics as ever I can remember, and as wise in her advice as anyone I know, if not wiser. Over that extraordinary span of public service, with her naturally retentive and inquiring mind, I think—and doubtless many of the 15 would agree—that she became the greatest statesman and diplomat of all.

She knew instinctively how to cheer up the nation, how to lead a celebration. I remember her innocent joy more than 10 years ago, after the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, when I told her that the leader of a friendly middle eastern country seemed actually to believe that she had jumped out of a helicopter in a pink dress and parachuted into the stadium. [Laughter.] I remember her equal pleasure on being told, just a few weeks ago, that she had been a smash hit in her performance with Paddington Bear.

Perhaps more importantly, she knew how to keep us going when times were toughest. In 1940, when this country and this democracy faced the real possibility of extinction, she gave a broadcast, aged only 14, that was intended to reassure the children of Britain. She said then:

“We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well”.

She was right

It was that indomitability, that humour, that work ethic and that sense of history that, together, made her Elizabeth the Great.

When I call her that, I should add one final quality, of course: her humility—her single-bar-electric-fire, Tupperware-using refusal to be grand. I can tell the House, as a direct eyewitness, that unlike us politicians, with our outriders and our armour-plated convoys, she drove herself in her own car, with no detectives and no bodyguard, bouncing at alarming speed over the Scottish landscape, to the total amazement of the ramblers and tourists we encountered.

It is that indomitable spirit with which she created the modern constitutional monarchy—an institution so strong, so happy and so well understood, not just in this country but in the Commonwealth and around the world, that the succession has already seamlessly taken place. I believe she would regard it as her own highest achievement that her son, Charles III, will clearly and amply follow her own extraordinary standards of duty and service. The fact that today we can say with such confidence, “God save the King” is a tribute to him but, above all, to Elizabeth the Great, who worked so hard for the good of her country not just now but for generations to come. That is why we mourn her so deeply, and it is in the depths of our grief that we understand why we loved her so much.

Theresa May’s speech was the funniest. I do wish she had shown this side of herself as Prime Minister. Her comic timing was impeccable:

Guido has a video of most of her address:

Arguably one of May’s most poignant speeches. Some needed light relief for the day...

Here’s the best part:

This excerpt follows:

Of course, for those of us who had the honour to serve as one of her Prime Ministers, those meetings were more frequent, with the weekly audiences. These were not meetings with a high and mighty monarch, but a conversation with a woman of experience, knowledge and immense wisdom. They were also the one meeting I went to that I knew would not be briefed out to the media. [Laughter.] What made those audiences so special was the understanding the Queen had of issues, which came from the work she put into her red boxes, combined with her years of experience. She knew many of the world leaders—in some cases, she had known their fathers—and she was a wise and adroit judge of people.

The conversations at the audiences were special, but so were weekends at Balmoral, where the Queen wanted all her guests to enjoy themselves. She was a thoughtful hostess. She would take an interest in which books were put in your room and she did not always expect to be the centre of attention; she was quite happy sometimes to sit, playing her form of patience, while others were mingling around her, chatting to each other. My husband tells of the time he had a dream: he dreamt that he was sitting in the back of a Range Rover, being driven around the Balmoral estate; and the driver was Her Majesty the Queen and the passenger seat was occupied by his wife, the Prime Minister. And then he woke up and realised it was reality!

Her Majesty loved the countryside. She was down to earth and a woman of common sense. I remember one picnic at Balmoral that was taking place in one of the bothies on the estate. The hampers came from the castle, and we all mucked in to put the food and drink out on the table. I picked up some cheese, put it on a plate and was transferring it to the table. The cheese fell on the floor. I had a split-second decision to make: I picked up the cheese, put it on a plate and put the plate on the table. I turned round to see that my every move had been watched very carefully by Her Majesty the Queen. I looked at her, she looked at me and she just smiled. And the cheese remained on the table. [Laughter.]

This is indeed a sad day, but it is also a day of celebration for a life well spent in the service of others. There have been many words of tribute and superlatives used to describe Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but these are not hype; they are entirely justified. She was our longest-serving monarch. She was respected around the world. She united our nation in times of trouble. She joined in our celebrations with joy and a mischievous smile. She gave an example to us all of faith, of service, of duty, of dignity and of decency. She was remarkable, and I doubt we will ever see her like again. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Saturday’s session in the Commons was another marathon.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle opened it with this:

I now invite the House to resume its tributes to Her late Majesty. I expect to conclude tributes at 10 o’clock, when I shall invite Ministers to move the motion for a Humble Address to His Majesty. A hundred and eighty-two Members contributed yesterday, and many want to contribute today. I hope Members will therefore keep to the informal time limit of three minutes.

An excerpt from John Redwood’s speech follows.

On Friday, he pointed out how historically significant three of our Queens were in British history and for women:

On Saturday, he said:

What always came across to all of us was just how much she respected every person and every institution that she visited. She showed that respect by impeccable manners and great courtesy—always on time, always properly briefed, always appropriately dressed for the occasion.

But, as so many have said from their personal experiences, there was something so much more than that. She was not just the consummate professional at those public events: there was the warm spirit, the personality, and above all the understanding that everyone else at that event was terrified that something was going to go wrong, that they had not understood the protocol, or that there was some magic way of doing it—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) was explaining—that they had to get right. At those public events, the Queen always relaxed people and showed them that there was no right way, because she was there for the people; she was there for the institution; she was there for the event. That is what we can learn from.

Of course, she was also Our Majesty. She was the embodiment of the sovereignty of people and Parliament; she represented us so well abroad and represented us at home, knowing that as a constitutional monarch, she represented us when we were united. She spoke for those times when we were gloriously happy and celebrating, or she spoke for those times when there was misery and gloom and she had to deal with our grief and point to the better tomorrow. That was why she held that sovereignty so well and for so long—a constitutional monarch who did not exercise the power, but captured the public mood; who managed to deal with fractious and difficult Parliaments and different political leaders, but who was above the politics, which meant that our constitution was safe in her hands. I wish her son, the new King, every success in following that great lead as he has told us he will do, and I can, with others, say today—“God save the King.”

Redwood later tweeted that he had omitted an important part of his speech:

Indeed.

The Queen attended only two of her former Prime Ministers’ funerals, those of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

These are links to Friday’s (continued here) and Saturday’s (continued here) tributes from the Lords, both Spiritual and Temporal.

On Sunday, our vicar said that the Church of England lost her greatest evangelist, the Queen.

I cannot disagree with that.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke earlier on Friday afternoon, excerpted below.

He recalled her deep faith, something I wish more CofE clergy had:

… What has been said already today has been extraordinarily eloquent. I do not intend to repeat it but to say something about the Queen’s links to faith and to the Church of England. First is her assurance, her confidence, in the God who called her. At her coronation, so long ago, conducted by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher—the first of seven Archbishops of Canterbury who had the privilege of serving her—the service began with her walking by herself past the Throne, where she would very shortly be seated, and kneeling by the high altar of Westminster Abbey. The order of service said, “She will kneel in private prayer”—and so she did, for some time. The next thing to happen was that homage was paid to her, starting with the Duke of Edinburgh. What that said about her understanding of her role was that she pledged her allegiance to God before others pledged their allegiance to her. She had this profound sense of who she was and by whom she was called.

Then there was her profound, deep and extraordinary theological vision. Many years ago now—seven or eight years ago—I was travelling abroad, and someone who had no knowledge of these things said, “Well, of course, she’s not really got that much intellect, has she? I mean, private tutors and all this—what can she know?” Well, what ignorance. In 2012, she spoke at Lambeth Palace on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, and the speech she made there is one we return to very frequently, because she set out a vision for what an established Church should be. It was not a vision of comfort and privilege; it was to say, put very politely, “You are here as an umbrella for the whole people of this land”. The subtext was, “If you are not that, you are nothing”. That is a deep vision of what it is to be the Church—of what it is to be not an established Church but a Christian Church. That came from her deep understanding of faith. Every five years, at the inauguration of the Church of England’s General Synod, she came with messages of encouragement and assurance of her prayers. In 2021, her message was,

“my hope is that you will be strengthened with the certainty of the love of God, as you work together and draw on the Church’s tradition of unity in fellowship for the tasks ahead.”

Publicly, Her late Majesty worshipped regularly and spoke of her faith in God, particularly in her Christmas broadcasts, with quiet, gentle confidence. Privately, she was an inspiring and helpful guide and questioner to me and to my predecessors. She had a dry sense of humour, as we have heard already, and the ability to spot the absurd—the Church of England was very capable of giving her material—but she never exercised that at the expense of others. When I last saw her in June, her memory was as sharp as it could ever have been. She remembered meetings from 40 or 50 years ago and drew on the lessons from those times to speak of today and what we needed to learn: assurance of the love of God in her call, and then humility. It would be easy as a monarch to be proud, but she was everything but that. It was her faith that gave her strength. She knew that, but she knew also her call to be a servant, the one whom she served, and the nation she served, the Commonwealth and the world. Over the last 24 hours, I have had so many messages from archbishops, bishops and other people around the world, within the Commonwealth and way beyond it—from China, Latin America and many other places—in a deep sense of loss.

It has been the privilege of those on these Benches to be intimately involved with momentous occasions so often throughout Her late Majesty’s life. As has been said, she has been a presence for as long as we can remember. Jesus says in the Gospel of St Matthew:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

May God comfort all those who grieve Her late Majesty’s loss, and may God sustain His Majesty King Charles III in the enormous weight and challenges that he takes on immediately, at the same as he bears the burden of grief, and those around him in his family. May God hold Her late Majesty in His presence, firmly secured in the peace that passes far beyond our understanding.

The Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke in the first of Saturday’s sessions in the Lords. He added some light relief:

My Lords, like most Bishops from these Benches, I have stories to tell; stories of doing jigsaws in Sandringham on Sunday evenings and of barbeques in the woods at Sandringham in the middle of January—I even have a slightly scurrilous story about healing the Queen’s car. Perhaps I will tell it.

I had preached in Sandringham parish church. We were standing outside and the Bentley was there to get the Queen. It did not start. It made that throaty noise cars make in the middle of winter when they will not start, and everybody stood there doing nothing. I was expecting a policeman to intervene, but nothing happened. Enjoying the theatre of the moment, I stepped forward and made a large sign of the cross over the Queen’s car, to the enjoyment of the crowd—there were hundreds of people there, as it was the Queen. I saw the Queen out of the corner of my eye looking rather stony-faced, and thought I had perhaps overstepped the mark. The driver tried the car again and, praise the Lord, it started. The Queen got in and went back to Sandringham, and I followed in another car. When I arrived, as I came into lunch, the Queen said with a beaming smile, “It’s the Bishop—he healed my car”. Two years later, when I greeted her at the west front of Chelmsford Cathedral, just as a very grand service was about to start and we were all dressed up to the nines, she took me to one side and said, “Bishop, nice to see you again; I think the car’s all right today, but if I have any problems I’ll know where to come.”

When I became the 98th Archbishop of York, during Covid, I paid homage to the Queen by Zoom conference. I was in the Cabinet Office; everyone had forgotten to bring a Bible, including me, but there was one there—which is kind of reassuring. Just as the ceremony was about to begin, the fire alarm went off.

The Queen was at Windsor Castle, but we all trooped out of the Cabinet Office, on to the road, and were out there for about 20 minutes until they could check that it was a false alarm and we could go back in. When I went back into the room, there was the screen, with Her late Majesty waiting for things to begin again. I do not know why I find myself returning to that image of her, faithful watching and waiting through those very difficult times. That was a very small part of a life of astonishing service.

The other thing I have noticed in the last couple of days is that we are all telling our stories. Yesterday, I found myself sharing stories with somebody in the street. I at least had had the honour of meeting Her late Majesty; this person had never met her, but we were sharing stories. I said, “Isn’t it strange how we need to tell our stories? It’s not as if she was a member of our family.” Except she was. That is the point. She served the household of a nation. For her, it was not a rule but an act of service, to this people and to all of us.

I remind us, again and again, that that came from somewhere: it came from her profound faith in the one who said,

“I am among you as one who serves.”

The hallmark of leadership is service, watchfulness and waiting. It was her lived-in faith in Jesus Christ, day in and day out, which sustained, motivated and equipped her for that lifetime of service. How inspiring it was last night and this morning to see the baton pass to our new King, King Charles, in the same spirit of godly service to the people of a nation.

I had not thought of this, but the Archbishop of York pointed out the important feast day that coincided with the Queen’s death, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Her Majesty the Queen died on 8 September, the day on which the blessed Virgin Mary is remembered across the world and the Church. Another Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, said of her when she knew she would be the mother of the Lord:

“Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her would be fulfilled”.

Shot through all our tributes in this House and another place, and across our nation, is that which we have seen, especially as it was only on Tuesday—I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, for reminding us—that the Queen received a new Prime Minister. Can it really be possible? She served to the end—a life fulfilled.

I will finish with a handful of her words. This is what the Queen wrote in a book to mark her 90th birthday, reflecting on her faith in Jesus Christ in her life:

“I have indeed seen His faithfulness.”

I am not supposed to call noble Lords “brothers and sisters”, but dear friends, we have seen her faithfulness too, and we see it now in our new King. May Her late Majesty the Queen rest in peace and rise in glory. God save the King.

Friday, September 9

At 6 p.m. on Friday, two significant events occurred.

The first was an hour-long service of prayer and reflection held at St Paul’s Cathedral:

This service was for people who work in the City of London along with a limited number of members of the public who could apply for wristbands — tickets — to attend. St Paul’s posted a page on how to obtain a wristband and how to queue on Friday afternoon for admittance.

Cabinet members attended and sat in the choir stalls. Prime Minister Truss and her Cabinet Secretary Simon Case sat in the front row. On the opposite side were Labour’s Keir Starmer and other Opposition MPs.

This was an excellent service. The Cathedral helpfully posted the Order of Service, which can be downloaded from the aforementioned webpage.

Truss read Romans 14:7-12:

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live
to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

This prayer in memory of the Queen is beautiful:

Eternal Lord God,
you hold all souls in life;
send forth, we pray, upon your servant, Elizabeth,
and upon your whole Church in earth and heaven
the brightness of your light and peace;
and grant that we,
following the good example of those
who have faithfully served you here and are now at rest,
may at the last enter with them
into the fullness of eternal joy
in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen.

Meanwhile, King Charles III addressed the nation for the first time as monarch:

He spoke for ten minutes, first discussing his late mother then pledging his service to the people of the United Kingdom.

He ended his address by saying that Prince William would become the new Prince of Wales and that he had much love for Prince Harry as he and Meghan continue building their life together overseas.

The Telegraph included the following blurb. The last line comes from Shakespeare:

The broadcast was recorded in the Blue Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace, after the King and Queen greeted crowds of mourners outside the gates.

In a final message to his mother, the King said: “To my darling Mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late Papa, I want simply to say this: thank you.

“Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years.

“May ‘flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest’.”

The walkabout the paper refers to involved much emotion from members of the public, especially women. One lady kissed him on the cheek and another shook his hand. Historically, one does not touch the monarch. That also applied to the Queen, even if a few people did touch her.

Another similar walkabout by the new King and Queen Consort occurred on Saturday afternoon outside the Palace.

The Accession Ceremony took place on Saturday morning. More about that tomorrow.

On Thursday afternoon and evening, I watched GB News’s wall-to-wall commentary on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It has been excellent.

GB News is available worldwide, live and on video.

Nigel Farage was in London for Trooping the Colour and said that the parade and the enthusiasm of everyone he met elsewhere was very moving, indeed:

Retired Royal correspondent Michael Cole, who had watched the Coronation in 1953 as a little boy on his family’s brand new television set, told Farage that he felt the same way:

Continuing on from Thursday’s post on the Platinum Jubilee, likely to be a one-off event in British history, here is the marvellous flypast that took place after Trooping the Colour:

That evening, the Queen symbolically set off the beacon lighting around the UK and Commonwealth nations:

This video shows how the lighting unfolded at Windsor Castle …

… and here we can see them lit up around the world:

On Friday morning, June 3, a Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s 70-year reign took place at St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.

The evening before, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen would not be attending, having suffered ‘discomfort’ after Trooping the Colour. She made a second appearance on the balcony to acknowledge the military personnel and officers participating.

However, the BBC commentators told us that she was watching the broadcast as it unfolded on television.

Interestingly, Queen Victoria arrived for her Diamond Jubilee at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1897 only to find out that she could not exit her carriage because of ill health. When everyone inside found out, they all — clergy included — went outside to conduct the service there:

The Times‘s Valentine Low wrote the following about Elizabeth II:

The Queen may not have been able to take part in the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horse Guards, but she takes her role as Colonel-in-Chief very seriously. Her decision to make that extra appearance was prompted by the same motivation that saw her make a last-minute appearance at the opening of the Elizabeth line: her unwavering sense of duty.

The Queen will be extremely disappointed at not going to St Paul’s. She has a sincere religious belief, and takes her role as head of the Church of England seriously too …

For the moment, the jubilee remains all about the Queen: wherever she is.

Personally, I would have had the Service of Thanksgiving at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The Queen returned to the castle after lunch with the Royal Family following Trooping the Colour.

The Sussexes attended the lunch at Buckingham Palace. They did not appear on the balcony as they are not working members of the Royal Family.

However, once at Windsor, where Archie and Lilibet stayed while their parents were in London, the Queen finally got to meet her newest great-grandchild:

The Daily Mail article has the order of the Service of Thanksgiving, which was traditional and dignified in all the best Church of England ways. Why can’t more C of E services be like that?

St Paul’s Cathedral also has the Order of Service as it was printed for those attending:

Crowds had gathered outside by 6 a.m. in the limited space Paternoster (Our Father) Square affords:

Attending these services as invited guests or military guard requires a bladder of steel and optimum decorum. Waiting for everyone to arrive takes longer than the actual service.

Today’s service welcomed as guests the charity sector, military cadets, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Commonwealth dignitaries, the military, politicians past and present as well as the extended Royal Family.

The public sector were there, too:

Outside were a military guard as well as military representatives from the Commonwealth nations. They had to stand perfectly still as the guests filed into the cathedral.

Here is another set of guards inside:

Musicians played traditional music. The Royal Marines provided the brass accompaniment. The Royal Air Force played the closing fanfare introducing the National Anthem, which concluded the service. Everyone sang his/her heart out. I’ve never heard anything like it:

Former Prime Ministers were in attendance: Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Brown and Cameron brought their respective wives, Sarah and Samantha.

Members of the Cabinet, including Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Home Secretary Priti Patel, attended.

Opposition leaders Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey were there, along with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her husband.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his wife also attended.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson got a huge and prolonged cheer when he arrived at the cathedral, accompanied by wife Carrie.

These photos show Boris and Carrie in the main photo. On the top right are the Camerons and on the bottom right are the Blairs, Tony and Cherie:

The only others who got louder cheers were the Sussexes …

… and the Cambridges:

I have read media reports that the Johnsons and the Sussexes were booed. I watched the proceedings on television. What I heard were most definitely cheers for both couples.

A royal expert commenting on the service said that, where the Queen is concerned:

nothing happens by chance.

Therefore, we can conclude that the fact that the Sussexes arrived by private car and got their own mini-procession down the aisle of St Paul’s was an instruction from the Queen (see second tweet):

The couple sat near the front, next to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who were with their husbands.

The minor Royals arrived in a large black coach (bus). It took ages for them to file in, as they shook hands with a long line of Anglican clergy, including the Bishop of London, the Right Revd and Right Hon Dame Sarah Mulally, who had a lucrative career prior to entering the priesthood.

The clergy wore elaborate crimson and gold copes which were created for George V’s Silver Jubilee service in 1935. Most of them looked as good as new.

Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) from the Tower of London stood behind them. They were on official duty guarding those inside the cathedral.

You can see both below:

Prince Edward and the Duchess of Wessex brought along their children. I really like Sophie. So does the Queen:

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were the last to arrive:

By now, readers might be wondering who the gentleman wearing ermine is.

He is the Lord Mayor of London — the City of London, that is. This is a rotating one-year position and the new Lord Mayor assumes his responsibilities beginning every autumn at the Lord Mayor’s Show, a parade in the City, which is the oldest part of London and still serves as the financial district.

The Lord Mayor of London is in charge of the City and, in that district, is second in power only to the Queen. Therefore, Prince Charles is subordinate to him while within those boundaries.

For centuries, until the Great Fire of 1666, that part of London was the capital, outside of Westminster, which was some distance away.

Everyone lived and worked there unless they had responsibilities at the heart of government in Westminster, which was most easily accessed by boat along the Thames.

Everywhere else that is now very much a part of the capital was a rural suburb until a few hundred years ago.

From that, we can better understand the importance of the Lord Mayor of London’s historical role.

The Lord Mayor has several swords, now ceremonial, that he uses. However, each sword has its own role. Today’s was the sword of state. If the Queen had been in attendance, he would have worn his most important sword.

The Lord Mayor’s assistant also carries a sword and wears a mink hat for ceremonial occasions:

You can see him outside the cathedral, hands resting on the sword, just immediately to the left of the main entrance:

Returning to the service, these chairs were for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall:

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge sat right next to them in ordinary chairs:

Here is a view of what the congregation saw — the main altar, the choirmaster and the men and boys choir:

Boris Johnson delivered the New Testament reading, Philippians 4:4-9, which one can imagine that the Queen selected personally, as it truly gave us a message about our present circumstances and the transition of the monarchy. We are to think on higher things — and not worry:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, gave the sermon, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has coronavirus, along with Prince Andrew.

The Archbishop of York’s sermon began with a brief discourse on how seriously the Queen took her Christian duties and ended on a lighter note with references to her favourite pastime, horse racing, particularly apposite as the Derby is on Saturday. Her Majesty is not expected to attend:

Children from the Commonwealth took turns in giving the prayer intercessions.

After the service, guests went to the Guildhall for lunch:

Meanwhile, Britons up and down the land gathered for street parties:

Thankfully, it was another reasonable day in London, dry and partly cloudy.

On Saturday evening, another spectacular concert in the style of those for the Golden and Diamond Jubilees will take place in front of Buckingham Palace.

On Sunday, a celebratory pageant will take place in the same location.

I plan to have more posts next week on the importance of the Queen’s 70-year reign as well as the many social and political changes during that time.

On May 15, 2022, the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C) was from John 13, wherein Jesus gave the Apostles a new commandment at the Last Supper:

13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When I returned home from my local Anglican church that day, I read about two rather sad situations in the Church of England involving senior clergy.

The way the bishops handled these situations made me wonder how Christlike they are.

Loving each other the way Christ loves us demands a lot of concessions on our part, the very same that He showed towards His disciples, making allowances for human misunderstanding and weakness. Above all, He forgave those faults time and time again, with loving patience.

The Save the Parish network has been doing much heavy lifting in trying to get bishops to become more responsive to and respectful of parish churches across the country.

What follows are two examples of their efforts.

Cornwall

A conflict has been growing between Anglicans in Cornwall and their bishop, the Right Revd Philip Mounstephen, over the axeing of clergy, meaning the potential closure of historical churches in that beautiful county.

The Diocese of Truro prefers to spend money on administrative positions, as the following Save the Parish letter to the bishop makes clear:

The bishop sent back a terse reply, saying that, as the group had gone to the press with the story, he would not be meeting with them, as they had requested:

Given that you have taken this route I’m afraid I will not be offering you a meeting.

Rather, I encourage you to engage seriously in the On the Way process in your local community.

If you have continuing concerns these should best be raised in your PCC and by the normal synodical processes by which we work.

That sounds so petty and so corporate. Would our Lord have responded in such a cold and unforgiving way? Certainly not.

A Catholic chimed in to say that the same thing is going on in the Diocese of Plymouth. Very sad:

The Catholic Diocese of Plymouth is in serious decline and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that my Bishop (and the entire episcopate of England & Wales) and your Bishop are sharing & comparing notes on this planned ‘reconfiguration’. Very best wishes to you in this.

Other Anglicans were also unhappy with the direction the C of E has taken over the past few years:

I agree with the next tweets that say the rot started around 30 years ago:

Without churches, how will the faithful gather together to worship? Please don’t say via a Zoom call with self-consecrated sandwich bread and a glass of whatever juice or wine one has to hand. We are not Evangelicals.

Where is the Great Commission (Matthew 28) in this plan?

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Budget

Earlier this month, on May 11, the C of E issued its triennial budget, channelling £3.6 billion into parishes and social action.

Some people, like the Revd Giles Fraser, were happy but others wondered how much money would actually be going to parishes. Pictured is the Archbishop of Canterbury:

The Revd Marcus Walker of St Bartholomew in London, who chairs the Save The Parish network, was guardedly optimistic about the budget and its allocation to individual churches:

Interestingly, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York will not deliver the budget to the General Synod until July — with no vote.

Why wasn’t it presented to them upon release?

Someone noted the irony and hypocrisy of the Archbishops going to the press to announce the budget. Hmm:

On May 12, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that the hierarchy ‘got it wrong’ in ignoring parish churches, especially those in the countryside:

If it hadn’t been for Save The Parish, would the hierarchy have admitted their mistake?

Would Jesus have ignored the humble faithful? No, certainly not. The people the disciples tried to shoo away, Jesus invited to approach Him. He never turned His back on anyone.

The Guardian‘s account of the budget emphasised its social action aspects (emphases mine):

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, admitted the C of E had been heavy-handed in concentrating funds on urban churches in recent years. “Allocating money in the past was perhaps, if we’re honest, a bit too driven from the centre. Now we’re trusting the dioceses much more,” said Cottrell.

Rural parishes have complained that they have been starved of cash, which has been diverted to inner-city churches. As a result, churches have closed and clergy jobs have been lost, according to a campaign group, Save the Parish.

Welby said: “Over the last few years, the priority has been very much for the more heavily populated areas. Having listened carefully to what people were saying, this [funding] is for everyone, including the rural areas.”

The core of the extra funding will be used for programmes that focus on young and disadvantaged people, deliver social action work, address racism and cut the church’s carbon footprint.

It will support churches in the poorest areas of the country and fund more clergy in frontline ministries, including chaplaincies. “This funding will help the C of E raise its game in its service to the nation,” said Cottrell.

The Telegraph‘s article focused more on individual parish churches, the ones that Save The Parish is concerned about:

The Church of England’s Archbishops have admitted that they “got it wrong” by not prioritising rural parishes over city churches, as they announced new funding worth £3.6 billion …

In an online press conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, announced the plans and reiterated their commitment to rural church communities, saying that rural parishes “really matter” …

Furthermore, in December, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of Christians in England is close to falling below 50 per cent for the first time, as atheists now account for more than a third of “faith” groups in an increasingly secular society.

Do we think the bishops and two archbishops care about that statistic? They should, given that they, too, must follow the Great Commission. It wasn’t meant only for the Apostles.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell said:

I don’t think we don’t need to be embarrassed by saying we’ve learned, we’ve listened. We’ve changed our mind. It’s not that what was done in the past was bad and this is now good. It’s: that was good and we think this is better.

The money which was distributed in this kind of way in recent years, was much more focused on populous areas. And of course populous areas, they really matter. But so do rural areas, and there’s a lot of hidden rural poverty, and it just meant that they didn’t meet the criteria. So we’ve changed the criteria and that’s a good thing to do

We do want to move to try to decentralise it a bit and work much more closely with dioceses and parishes.

I think the game changer has been that we’ve now much more clearly got a set of owned priorities as a church and that therefore provides the criteria for spending.

And it might be in very small ways in rural communities or in so-called larger ways.

It’s the ‘or’ that bothers me in that sentence, but I could be reading too much into it. Why not say ‘and’ instead?

Save The Parish gave a level-headed response:

Following the press conference, Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, of the Save the Parish campaign group, said: “We welcome the recognition of the pleading from Save The Parish and similar organisations that are fighting against cuts in clergy and the formation of mega-parishes.

“It is very pleasing that rural and small parishes will be able to apply for the new funding, having been deliberately excluded from the previous three-year round.

“The proof of the pudding will be whether these new funds are genuinely accessible in a way that eases the huge burden of the parish share which is a struggle for so many parishes.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Conclusion

The two illustrations above show how pharisaical the C of E senior clergy are.

They remind me of the Sanhedrin in the Gospels: haughtily lording their position over those they considered to be inferior — the faithful.

I do hope this new plan works out, but, on a wider note, senior clergy must really do better to be more Christlike in the way they deal with priests and laity.

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