Over 2 billion people across the globe watched the recent Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. On that day, I – as priest and local “Brit” – shared some of my thoughts on the event with my own parishioners and I have been asked to share some of those comments with the wider diocese.
Overall, I felt that the wedding struck a perfect chord: a combination of simplicity, elegance and pageantry. There was nothing “over the top”… but yet it was grand enough to mark the occasion. To borrow the imagery of Siskel and Ebert, it gets an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from these quarters. Let me break it down a bit for you…
The wedding service itself was taken from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer – the Prayer Book of my youth… though not of my era! It is quite similar to the marriage rite in our Episcopal BCP, and those who were married in the Episcopal Church may no doubt have recognized some of the similarities. The reading, taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, was particular appropriate to the occasion, speaking as it did to the qualities of healthy relationships, as well as to the nature of Christian discipleship. As such, it was a good message for a husband and wife as well as for a future king and queen. I thought the sermon – delivered by the Bishop of London – was well done. It was just the right length (10 minutes or so) and addressed, helpfully, the nature as well as the challenges of marriage. I loved the hymns (“Guide me O thou great Jehovah” and “Jerusalem”…#690 and #597, respectively, in our Hymnal …though the latter has different words). The choir was wonderful, as expected. The Archbishop of Canterbury was at his usual grizzled best. Many have asked me why the shorter “Catholic” form of the Lord’s Prayer was used. The answer is that the additional bit at the end is not actually part of Jesus’ original prayer. Honest Guv! You can look it up in the Bible (Matt. 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4). Our longer ending (“For thine is the kingdom… for ever and ever. Amen”) is actually a congregational response that became incorporated into the body of the prayer over time.
The men were dressed, generally, in traditional morning coats; the women in dresses, plus hats! It is a tradition in England for women to wear hats in church as a sign of modesty and of reverence before God. Of course, judging from some of the hats in Westminster Abbey, I’m not sure that self-effacing modesty was the animating spirit! The bride’s dress was lovely: simple, elegant, modern… with a nice touch of lace. As for the question of whether Phillipa Middleton overshadowed her sister by wearing a white bridesmaid’s dress, it is actually traditional in England for bridesmaids to wear white, so despite all the buzz, she committed no particular social gaffe.
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT
In the increasingly egalitarian West, many have questioned the continuing relevance of the British monarchy, especially of late, when so many within the royal family have seemed unwilling to put themselves aside to serve the nation in a particularly sacrificial manner. I think it important to remember that the relationship between the “Royals” and the British people is rooted in a form of an unspoken covenant. The people are happy to support them as visible icons of the spirit of the nation, if they, in turn, are visible examples of self-sacrificial love and service to God and country. It is what the present Queen does so well (and her parents before her) and why she is so well loved. Loyalty is hard to come by when members of the royal family are perceived merely as indolent rich. Hopefully, the wedding represented a new and happy chapter in the relationship between a people and their monarch.
The Rev. Canon James D. Shoucair
Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, North Hills
Photo credit: © All rights reserved by The British Monarchy