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Remembering Her Majesty The Queen at Down Cathedral

The Diocese of Down and Dromore held a cross–community service of thanksgiving and reflection in Down Cathedral on Thursday 15 September. It was a solemn but uplifting occasion as the diocese, local clergy and civic leaders came together to remember and give thanks for the life and reign of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

His Majesty King Charles III was represented at the service by the Lord–Lieutenant of County Down, Mr Gawn Rowan Hamilton.

The Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Revd David McClay, brought words of welcome while the bidding was given by Revd John Auchmuty, Canon Chancellor (representing the Dean and Chapter). At this point in the service the congregation observed a one–minute silence for personal contemplation, prayer, and reflection.

After the Penitence (Minor Canon Revd Adrian Dorrian), Psalm, and first reading (given by the Very Revd Geoff Wilson) Mrs Margaret Saunders aged 90, was invited to share personal reflections of The Queen.

Mrs Margaret Saunders.
Mrs Margaret Saunders.

Margaret was one of the last young ladies to be ‘Presented at Court’ to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother), the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and Prince Philip.

Margaret recalled, “It was Spring 1949, and I joined a long line of girls waiting to enter the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. I stepped forward and curtseyed to the King and Queen. It was an awe–inspiring experience to be in this throne room and meet the people you had heard about but never met. Afterwards we were served afternoon tea. We were honoured guests and treated as such.”

Margaret’s husband, Teddy, was a vicar in the centre of London, and his parish included the gardens of Buckingham Palace, if not the palace itself. They met The Queen and most members of the Royal Family at weddings, funerals and other occasions during those years. She also recalled the thrill of being personally introduced to the Queen and Prince Philip when they paid a visit to a Church School.

It was, however, The Queen’s deep personal and lifelong faith that made the most impact on Margaret. “It was the most important thing in her life,” she said, recalling Christmas broadcasts filled with “faith, wisdom and strength,” and “a life so well lived”.

The Hymn, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace, was followed by the second reading given by Rachel Norris, a pupil of Down High School, and the Nunc Dimittis, sung by the Choir. The Lord–Lieutenant read the Gospel.

Bishop David in his address, began by urging us to follow the command of scriptures in praying often for the King and those in authority over us – something for which the Prayer Book makes ample daily provision – “that we might live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”.

The bishop went on to draw parallels between Queen Elizabeth and King David who was chosen by God and called to a task. He reflected on the Queen’s remarkable life of service and a faith that sustained her in the challenges she faced.

“The Queen’s life of devotion was a lifestyle that she chose and continued to choose. She also chose to be a bridge–builder and peacemaker,” he said. ‘Her own life circumstances did not shape it but rather her choice and her responses.”

He said, “The Queen, like King David, also understood that Christ alone is the hope of men and women, and Christ alone is the nation’s hope. He was her peace, and he can be our peace too.”

Concluding, Bishop David said, “As we go forward this evening, let us renew, or for the first time make, a commitment to love and follow Jesus with our whole heart and life and to love others as ourselves, that our leadership would be marked by integrity and the knowledge that God will skill our hands for the task to which he calls us.”

Another moment of solemn reflection followed the sermon when piper Samuel Gill walked from the narthex into the midst of the congregation playing Flowers of the Forest, a lament often used in acts of remembrance.

The Piper's Lament.
The Piper's Lament.

The prayers were led by local clergy: the Revds Sabrina Cooke, Curate–Assistant, Owen Patterson, Downpatrick Presbyterian Church, and Rosalind Taggart, Downpatrick Non–subscribing Presbyterian Church, and Canon Bro Eric OSB, Holy Cross Abbey and Ecumenical Canon.

Siona?n Mullan, a member of the Cathedral Choir, sang A Clare Benediction before Bishop David led The General Thanksgiving Prayer after which the congregation joined in the National Anthem.

The Organ Voluntary was Crown Imperial by William Walton, written for the Coronation of King George VI.

Our thanks to organist Michael McCracken and the Cathedral Choir for leading our musical worship.

The Rt Revd Harold Miller, former bishop of the diocese, with Baroness Margaret Ritchie.
The Rt Revd Harold Miller, former bishop of the diocese, with Baroness Margaret Ritchie.

Details of all the hymns and prayers may be found in the Order of Service, downloadable here.

A photo gallery is available at this link.

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