Hear from Lucy Winkett as she ponders the Platinum Jubilee weekend & Pentecost.
It’s one of the curious things about living in the centre of London, that I get to see the huge amount of preparation that goes into an event like the Platinum Jubilee weekend. The park I normally walk my dog in is full of hoardings, and rehearsals for the concert in front of Buckingham Palace have been in full swing for days. I keep wondering if I’m going to catch sight of Alicia Keys or George Ezra, but what I really hope is to see Brian May on the roof again as he was in 2002.
It occurs to me as I walk around the parish that all these preparations wouldn’t be needed if the crowds weren’t going to be so big. And I can’t help remembering very recent months during lockdowns when the Mall was full of, not people waving flags, but pelicans and squirrels who took over the streets in the absence of any traffic at all.
The church is celebrating the feast of Pentecost on Sunday, one of the major moments in the church’s year, marking the story in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles when a great crowd was suddenly able to understand each other better across differences of language, ethnicity, religious background. People’s empathy for one another was expressed in a new way; language was no longer a barrier, and the list of nationalities given as part of the story is varied and diverse. At its birth, the church was inspired by a spirit of belonging that infused people regardless of nationality, background or experience.
Whatever your views on the principle of monarchy, and there will be as many views as people reading the newsletter, it is an unusual moment in a fast changing world that values the immediate and the new, to be celebrating someone’s promise made 70 years ago that has been lived out and kept for all that time.
And the whole concept of Jubilee is one with spiritual and religious roots in any case. An anniversary, in the ancient world celebrated every fifty years, that presented everyone in a society with a chance to re-set, to forgive debts, to restore what is lost, to free what was confined.
Daily life is very, very hard for many people at the moment, and much is being written about the polarised nature of our political and social discourse, especially when amplified by social media. A spirit of Pentecost that provokes us to empathy for one another, and reminds us we have much more in common than what divides us is badly needed. As is a spirit of jubilee that provokes a call for equality of opportunity in a just society, and an economic re-set.
And so I hope that the crowds come and have a good time, that some much needed relief from the last 2 years feels like a good thing for many, and that a society that sometimes seems quite obsessed with a cult of youth and perfection, finds meaning in celebrating the wisdom and staying power of a woman whose 96 years on the planet have been spent in a way she didn’t choose, but which she has embraced as her vocation.
And the church? Our building will be open, as always, throughout, with an invitation to come and be still and contemplate the meaning of living in this world. A world that both hurts and celebrates, parties and grieves even while the Spirit of God, as it says in Scripture, moves over the face of the waters, inspiring, always the creation of something new.