A Celebration of Faith and Relationships
Canon Ann Easter, former Chaplain to the Queen, reflects on how the Christian faith can help to build good relationships. Live from the Garrison Church in Windsor.
Ahead of the Royal Wedding next weekend, Canon Ann Easter, former Chaplain to the Queen reflects on how the Christian faith can to help build good relationships. As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle prepare for marriage and a life of public service together, Canon Dr Edmund Newell, Principal of Cumberland Lodge, leads this service of celebration from Holy Trinity, the Garrison Church in Windsor. The Choir of Royal Holloway, University of London will sing familiar music of love and praise. Director of Choral Music and College Organist: Rupert Gough; Organ Scholar: Liam Condon. Producer: Miriam Williamson.
This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.
It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.
Opening Announcement [from Continuity] (For programmes on Radio 3, 4 and 4 Extra)
Now on BBC Radio 4, it’s time for Sunday Worship which comes live from Holy Trinity Church in Windsor. Canon Dr Edmund Newell introduces the service which begins with the anthem “O Sing Joyfully”
CHOIR: ‘O sing joyfully’ – Batten [1’45”]
ED NEWELL: [0’40”]
Good morning. Next Saturday, the world’s attention will turn to Windsor as Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle just up the road from here in Windsor Castle.
As they prepare for their big day, and for their life together as a married couple, so too are people in Windsor busy making preparations. The wedding is not only an international event, it’s a local event, with Windsor very much the family home of the Royal Family, and there’s a buzz of excitement around the town.
Much of the excitement will focus around the service itself, shared with the world from within the Castle walls. And it’s a privilege to welcome you to worship this morning from the nearby Garrison Church, which was founded in the 1840s by Queen Victoria to provide for the spiritual welfare of both the soldiers based in Windsor and the town’s expanding population.
We gather in preparation now, as we come together to offer our worship to almighty God on this Sunday after Ascension Day.
Canon Ann Easter, former Chaplain to the Queen, is our preacher this morning and will lead us now in prayer.
Oh God, you have exalted your son Jesus Christ to your kingdom in Heaven, and we look for the coming of the Holy Spirit; help us to watch and to wait and to expect to be surprised by joy, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
God of wonder and of joy:
grace comes from you,
and you alone are the source of life and love.
Without you, we cannot please you;
without your love, our deeds are worth nothing.
Send your Holy Spirit,
and pour into our hearts
that most excellent gift of love,
that we may worship you now
with thankful hearts
and serve you always with willing minds;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
ED NEWELL: [0’30”]
Also with us this morning is the Choir of Royal Holloway from the University of London, and they lead the congregation now in a favourite wedding hymn that also picks up the theme of Jesus being ascended to heaven – Praise my soul the King of Heaven.
Hymn: Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven
ED NEWELL [1’30]
Many marriages begin with a lavishly planned wedding in a beautiful setting. We’ve had glimpses of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding plans, and they’ve certainly chosen a wonderful venue in St George’s Chapel.
For Meghan Markle, though, there’s been an extra dimension to her preparations. As well as planning for a wedding and married life, she’s also been preparing for becoming part of our Royal Family – something that brings with it all sorts of responsibilities and expectations and a very public life of service. So it’s particularly appropriate that they’ve chosen to get married in St George’s Chapel. Its very stones are steeped in Royal history, and speak of the nature of the life they’ll have together.
The bedrock of any marriage – royal or otherwise - is love. Love is a small word that can mean so many wonderful things. At the outset of married life there’s likely to be a strongly romantic dimension to that love.
Then, in time, hopefully a deeper, more profound form of love will develop, when a couple become so much more than two individuals.
The Bible has much to say about love, including that extraordinary book, the Song of Songs. Some people interpret the Song of Songs as an allegory about God’s love for us, and our love for God. Others see it as a celebration of human love. Whatever the case, it certainly celebrates those passionate feelings we have when we fall in love.
The Rector of Windsor, the Reverend Ainsley Swift, reads for us now two passages from the Song of Songs.
READING: [[Song of Songs, Chapter 2 verses 10-13 & Chapter 8 6-7]]
CHOIR: ‘Set me as a seal’ – William Walton [3’30”]
ED NEWELL - [1’45”]
William Walton’s anthem ‘Set me as a seal’ – a setting of one of the verses we’ve just heard from the Song of Songs, which speaks of the powerful, enduring nature of love.
The castle may be the most obvious symbol of the royal presence in Windsor. Castles were first and foremost projections of power, but walking around the town you can see reminders of the Royal Family’s public service and their commitment to charitable work. The headquarters of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is based here; there’s the King Edward VII and Princess Margaret hospitals, and Helena Road is named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s third daughter, who was a founding member of the British Red Cross.
Her Majesty The Queen, has continued the Royal link with charitable work and is patron to over 500 charities. She has dedicated her life to public service and has spoken openly about how her Christian faith influences her role.
Our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians picks up this theme of service, and is read by Joanna Scott Palmer.
READING: (Philippians, chapter 2 and verse 1-11)
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
HYMN: Love Divine, all loves excelling (tune Love Divine) (3’30)
The Royal Household includes a team of Chaplains to the Queen. One of those former chaplains is Canon Ann Easter, who is our preacher this morning.
ANN EASTER [5’0”]
While many of us love a wedding, marriage itself has had a bad press. It would appear that, in a modern, liberated, thinking world, a construct described as being designed to maintain traditional gender roles in order to prevent true equality would have very little to commend it.
And the church sometimes has not helped. The inclusion in the well-known traditional version of the Marriage Ceremony of a woman’s promise to obey her husband – in spite of his response to worship her – all a bit vague if you ask me! - together with the tradition of the bride being ‘given away’ in the long-established belief that women were the possessions of men, has not endeared the institution to modern people.
And, it’s a high risk venture. If 40% of the children going down a slide in the park fell off it, we’d remove that slide immediately, but, the amazing thing is that, with about 2 in 5 of marriages failing, people still want to get married. Thinking, intelligent people like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and thousands more every year, do it – and they want us all to celebrate with them too.
All of us would surely agree to the principle that making the world a better place is a good thing and, as Christians especially, we are committed to creating happy, inclusive communities in which all sorts of people can flourish and grow, and marriage, it seems to me, is an essential strengthening knot in the fabric of those communities.
Two people setting up home and putting down roots in a neighbourhood is an element of constancy in a bewilderingly changing world and it’s a gesture of hopefulness and generosity worthy of our support.
Marriage is also very good for the two people concerned. It speaks of complementarity and reminds us that we are social beings, better together and that we can accomplish more than the sum of our individual efforts when we collaborate with others.
I wouldn’t want to go as far as Jerry Maguire in the film of the same name when he says to the woman he’s fallen in love with ‘You complete me’ – I’d want to say that it takes a whole load of people, and God, to do that – but there’s no doubt that the right partner can bring out the best in us. And, while we’re at the cinema, a song from Les Miserables reminds us that ‘To love another person is to see the face of God’ and certainly I’d want to witness to the fact that there can indeed be a glimpse of the Divine at all sort of moments, happy or sad, in a marriage. But it’s not all sweetness and light.
I went as Chaplain on a BBC Radio pilgrimage to the Holy Land back in 1995 and we visited the Marriage Chapel in Cana where Jesus is said to have changed water into wine at a wedding, his first miracle. In our group were a Roman Catholic couple whose children had given them the trip as a Golden Wedding present and several other happily married people and there was a great temptation for me to talk about the joys of wedded bliss - but there were also people with us who were married but not happy, others who desperately wanted to be married and weren’t, a few cheerful singles who said they weren’t bothered one way or the other and one or two people who were widowed and some of them feeling very sad. I had to try somehow to encompass all those different human states and experiences of marriage in my prayers in that sacred place and, in the heady run up to the Royal Wedding celebrations next week, we must not forget the many people for whom the merriment and romance will sting like salt in a wound.
And, having had an unhappy first marriage, I can understand something of the pain. I had three small children and never thought that I would marry again – why risk the upset? – but then, at a garden party at our Bishop’s house, I was introduced to a friend of a friend and someone in our group had a camera and said ‘ Look, you two - bride and groom!’ and took a photograph of us. Everyone laughed as we’d only just met but somehow I knew straight away that this man was the one. It took him another four years or so to realise that fact but we celebrated thirty years of marriage to each other last year and it was still ok when I saw him yesterday.
At our wedding, Christopher chose some of the verses from the Song of Solomon which we heard earlier, that say ‘Winter is past’ as he felt that he and I had together moved into a new season in our lives. And we heard another part of that very passionate book in our anthem this morning.
Together, in the unique and ordinary way that each couple does it, or apart, in community or alone, ultimately, we are responsible for ourselves and we each have a duty and a joy to grow, and keep on growing, into the person God has made us to be, and I think we do that best when we have others around us to love, support, challenge and comfort us through the triumphs and the tragedies, the grief and the glory that is our life here on earth.
And for many people, and for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in particular, that means being married to each other. Their wedding will be witnessed by millions and we wish them every richest blessing; courage and clarity of vision to live out their commitment to each other which will inevitably be in public as well as in private and we wish them thousands of days filled with love and laughter.
CHOIR: Jubilate in B Flat – Charles Villiers Stanford [3’00”]
PRAYERS – Royal School
One of the things that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been keen to do is invite members of the public to their wedding. Among them will be children from the Royal School in Windsor Great Park, who will lead us now in prayer.
Let us pray.
Dear God, we pray for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they prepare for their wedding. We thank you for the love they have for each other, and the love they share with their families, friends and the people they help through their charitable work.
Choir: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (Poston) verse 1
We pray for Her Majesty The Queen and all the Royal Family. We thank you for their service to this country and the Commonwealth, and for all that they do in our community here in Windsor.
Choir: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree verse 2
We thank you for the way that your gift of love helps us to care for one another. Help us to show that love in our lives, especially to those we know who are facing difficulties at this time.
Choir: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree verse 3
We pray for peace in our world, and for all who suffer because of war. We think of the many children who live in refugee camps. Help us, Lord, to do what we can to make things better for them.
Choir: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree verse 4
We pray for those who are suffering at this time, including those we know who are unwell. We thank you for the skills and dedication of doctors and all who care for those who are ill.
Choir: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree verse 5
Possible topical prayer:
And let us say together the prayer that Jesus taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
One of the most powerful metaphors for life is that of a journey, or pilgrimage. As Ann reminded us earlier, in one context or another we are made to share our pilgrimage with companions – maybe with a partner. And on that pilgrimage, Christ calls us to serve one another, to be Christ to one another. So we draw this service to a close, with a hymn sung at Prince William and Katherine’s wedding, which is a prayer that God will guide us as pilgrims, so that we may support one another in love and service.
HYMN: Guide me O thou great redeemer
BLESSING – Ed Newell [0’30”]
Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.
Organ voluntary [1’45”]
Allegro maestoso e vivace” from Sonata II by Mendelssohn