Those who serve “will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privilege are long forgotten,” said Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his sermon at the Queen’s funeral.
Welby’s address to the congregation at Westminster Abbey and the global audience beyond focused on eternal life after death, the central message of traditional Christian funerals.
The service was taken from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the official prayer book of the Church of England, renowned for its beautiful and archaic language, but widely displaced in recent decades by those seeking a style of worship more modern.
The Queen was said to be devoted to the Book of Common Prayer, as well as the hymns and readings personally chosen by the late monarch for her funeral.
Welby opened his short sermon, which came a third of the hour-long service, with the words: “The pattern for many leaders is to be exalted in life and forgotten after death.”
He continued, “The pattern for all who serve God – famous or obscure, respected or ignored – is that death is the doorway to glory.”
The Archbishop recalled the Queen’s pledge on her 21st birthday to dedicate her life to service. “Rarely has such a promise been so well kept. Few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen.
Addressing the congregation of 2,000, which included royalty, world leaders and members of the British establishment, he said: “People who serve with love are rare in any field. Leaders of loving service are even rarer.
“But either way, those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privilege will be long forgotten.”
Her family was “in mourning like all families at a funeral…but in this family’s case, they were doing so in the brightest spotlight.” May God heal their grief, may the emptiness in their lives be marked with memories of joy and life.
Welby ended his sermon by echoing the Queen’s words in her Covid lockdown address to the nation. “We will meet again,” were words of hope, he said.
“We will all face the merciful judgment of God: we can all share the hope of the Queen who, in life and death, inspired her servant leadership.
“Service in life, hope in death. All those who follow the Queen’s example and inspire confidence and faith in God can say with her: “We will meet again”.
The procession that opened the service included religious representatives, led by Marie van der Zyl, chair of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Jain and Baha’i communities were also represented.
Church leaders from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have joined those of different Christian traditions in England, including the Roman Catholic Church and predominantly black Pentecostal churches.