What is it that makes this country?
There are of course a number of answers to that question, and none of them are mutually exclusive. Our history and our geography play a large part. Those features have been in part responsible for shaping our institutions of government nationally and locally. Together they have contributed to the formation of our national character, the values we so often say that we treasure: freedom, justice, fairness, democracy, hospitality and care for the poor, alongside the opportunity to develop our full potential. I am sure you could add more and then we could discuss how well we live these values, for our history also tells us the times we have fallen short.
All of this will be sharply on display and open to examination as we come to celebrate the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camila in just over a week’s time. There will be plenty of history, but that history will be played out in contemporary society.
Just as at all coronations over the last thousand years, there will be tradition and innovation, as the times and the way we live as a society are always changing. Since we live in freedom, some will participate enthusiastically, and some will no doubt ask challenging questions. Some may of course also attempt to let it pass them by, but this is not so easy since the government, police, and prison service are styled in his name which sits at the heart of so much of our national life. Like it or not, we are involved as citizens of the United Kingdom.
It is important therefore to remember that King’s coronation takes place within the context of an act of Christian worship with representatives of the diverse communities of our nation present and participating, and this is helpful because it tells us something about the nature of what that kingdom is to be. The Church is the body of Christ, called to work for the coming of God’s Kingdom of which we, not strangers and aliens, are fellow citizens with the saints. (Ephesians 2). As fellow citizens, we have our part to play and the God’s kingdom marked by the fruits of the spirit are the values we should seek in this kingdom .
This means that for national life to thrive it is not just for the King, or government, or those with recognised authority, or indeed for bishops and priests to lead. The formation of our society needs the participation of us all and as disciples of Christ we have a responsibility to play our part and share the life that we find in Him.
A key element of this will be to seek out those not at the table and to encourage them in. We seek to moderate the loud voices and give confidence to the quiet, helping them to know that they too are named, known, and called.
What makes our country? It is the values we live by in our institutions and our homes, and it is the inclusion of all. The Coronation of our new King then becomes not simply a spectacle to watch, but a deep challenge, to not just play our part in leadership and service, to seek out those who have been excluded, whose voices have not been heard. We seek to shape society, and the Church, with the values of God’s Kingdom, which call us all to participate.