Celebrating Our Servant Queen
Eastbourne, my home town, is celebrating the Queen’s birthday with a carnival along the prom. The carnival is a highlight in the town’s calendar and up to 25,000 people line the 2.5 mile route each year. This year’s theme is the Queen’s birthday and Churches Together for Eastbourne will be part of the parade. Members of the local churches will walk together behind the float, dressed in red, white and blue. They will be giving away 6,000 copies of The Servant Queen and the King She Serves
to carnival-goers – and there will be enough of us to stop and chat to people about why we are giving them a gift rather than collecting money.
The next day my church is holding a thanksgiving service and a street party for local residents. We’ve worked together with local community groups and the town council. The bunting’s been bought, street closure notices are up, choirs and musicians are booked, and invitations have been delivered to hundreds of homes. Tesco is supplying food for 400. There’s a giant cake being baked by the Brighton University catering team and the event is to be graced by the Deputy Lieutenant of East Sussex, the town’s MP, the Mayor and local councillors. And of course, we are giving away copies of The Servant Queen
. There’s been enormous goodwill as local businesses and the borough council have worked together to make this happen. As a church it’s meant we are building bridges with the community, developing links made through the lunch club, toddler group and other ways in which we serve our parish.
As co-author of the book with Mark Greene, it’s been the project of a lifetime. (We are pictured above at a lunch to celebrate the Queen’s birthday in the Speaker’s house in Parliament.) It’s wonderful that the Queen wrote the foreword, but best of all, nearly a million copies are in circulation. Churches and their communities in villages, towns like Eastbourne and cities across the country will be celebrating the Queen’s birthday this weekend. Like many people, I’ve been able to give away dozens. In my case to neighbours, the local residential care home, my old school, our doctor, dentist, optician and hairdresser, the van driver who delivered the 6,000 copies for the carnival and many others. Sometimes the gift has been received with little response. Sometimes it has led to a discussion, and when it’s been a gift to someone I see regularly, it is part of an on-going conversation about faith and what that means.
Together with HOPE, Bible Society and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity I am praying that this project will lead to thousands of conversations about Jesus. I’m praying specifically for five people as part of the Archbishops’ Thy Kingdom Pentecost prayer challenge. And I’m praying that this weekend will be significant in bringing local churches together at the heart of village, town and city celebrations, giving Christians an easy way to serve communities and talk about the king the Queen’s serves.