… was online within moments of the service ending.
Now, I’d disestablish the C of E tomorrow were that feasible, because I believe the church is meant to be a radical counter-cultural kingdom community. The consorting with power leaves me uncomfortable. All the pragmatic arguments about privilege leading to visibility don’t chime with the Gospel for me. (Besides, what kind of publicity does the Church of England get? You can’t tell me the reporting of Synods, debates and arguments advances the kingdom.)
But I rather liked the way the ABC used that in a subversive way in his sermon. Whatever the Queen’s wealth and privilege, I think ‘dedication’ is a decent word for her. Whatever happens to my pension, I don’t want still to be working at the age of eighty-six.
Then, after all the effusive words, he aims, fires and hits the target in the final two paragraphs:
This year has already seen a variety of Jubilee creations and projects. But its most lasting memorial would be the rebirth of an energetic, generous spirit of dedication to the common good and the public service, the rebirth of a recognition that we live less than human lives if we think just of our own individual good.
Listen again for a moment toSt Paul. ‘We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us … the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness … Outdo one another in showing honour … extend hospitality to strangers … Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another … take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.’ Dedication to the health and well-being of a community is all this and more. May we be given the grace to rediscover this as we give thanks today for Her Majesty’s sixty years of utterly demanding yet deeply joyful service.
At last, someone who understands that Jubilee goes beyond red, white and blue. Dr Williams, I never thought I’d say this when you took up office, but I’m going to miss you when you step down.
So I flitted between repeats of Have I Got News For You on the Dave Channel and whatever was happening at the Diamond Jubilee Concert. It was altogether too ‘mainstream’ in its musical tastes for me (as I would expect). But here’s what struck me: you have the extraordinary visuals for Madness‘ wonderfully cheeky rendition of Our House:
Stevie Wonder got a bit confused between the notion of birthday and Jubilee:
And Paul McCartney certainly gave the gig a spectacular ending, not least with Live And Let Die (no, HRH, don’t take that literally about your mother):
But, but, but. What an embarrassment Elton John was. And I say that as someone who liked his early music. Well, the Seventies stuff, up to about the Blue Moves album. While I’ve posted the full performances above of Madness, Wonder and McCartney, I can’t bear to do that for Elt. The nadir, which epitomised the whole sorry performance, was Crocodile Rock, and it’s telling there are no decent quality clips of that track on YouTube this morning. I have a fondness for that shallow little song, because it brings back certain teenage memories. I used to co-edit a satirical school magazine in Sixth Form, and when our Physics teacher turned up one day in glasses for the first time, we ran posters around the school about Elton Vine and rewrote this song as Crocodile Clip. (I’ll pass on our deeply unChristian rewrite of Your Song as My Song.)
Crocodile Rock last night showed what has been obvious for years whenever Sir E H John has sung in public (at least, going on TV performances). He can’t reach the high notes any more. He tacitly admitted it by delegating the falsetto part not even to backing vocalists but to the crowd. McCartney and Wonder hit some bum notes, but they still had some decent range.
At the end of the set, the compère said Elton was someone who certainly knew how to put on a show.
He does. He just can’t sing anymore. Which is inconvenient but doesn’t get in the way. He’s living on past glories.
And we got something similar with the video montage of the Queen’s reign, set to the orchestral version of U2’s Beautiful Day. It all reinforced the ridiculous ‘Sixty Glorious Years’ slogan that has been repurposed from a 1930s film about Queen Victoria. Not that you’d expect an event like this to highlight Princess Margaret’s wild life, Randy Andy’s supposedly secret trysts with Koo Stark, the annus horribilis or the effect of Diana’s death on the royal family. There, too, like Reginald Dwight Esquire, we can live on past glories.
Not that we’d know anything about putting on a good show and living on past glories in the church. Oh, no.
I bear Her Majesty no malice. Take your pick between monarchies, republics and theocracies: all have serious weaknesses which I’m not going to explore here. And yes, I shall go to our street party and enjoy myself with our friends and neighbours.
But let me defend my opening. Because The Real Jubilee is so much better.
Yesterday, Mark got home from school with a homework project for half-term to research The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. All the usual stuff about what’s going to happen, what the children are going to do and so on. So he finds the official website and started typing away.
“Hold on a minute,” I said, “do you know what a Jubilee originally was?” I knew he wouldn’t have a clue, and I explained simply the Old Testament origination of the fifty year intervals at which slaves were released and land returned. With the incentive that surely no other child in his class would know about this (and probably not his teacher, either) he added this to the beginning of his project. Never have I found Leviticus so useful with a child.
It is put in a more sophisticated way by Nick Spencer in his article The Other Jubilee, posted at Theos yesterday. There, he explains the heart of the problem. We have confused Old Testament Jubilee (from the Hebrew ‘jobel’) with Latin ‘jubilo’, meaning ‘to rejoice’. Hence we have the incongruous notion of a Jubilee without justice. A party (which is fine) but nothing else. How glad I was, then, to see my friend Sally Coleman post a link on Facebook to the Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Jubilee For Justice petition. Now, I know signing a petition only goes so far, I know that it’s easier than ever online and it becomes a substitute for getting our own hands dirty if we’re lazy, but it’s a start. I like the aims of the campaign:
Cancel the unjust debts of the most indebted nations
Promote just and progressive taxation rather than excessive borrowing
Stop harmful lending which forces countries into debt
I’ll put my name to those. And I just wonder whether, with all the talk we’ve had of churches getting involved with Diamond Jubilee Beacons we might have had a more effective witness by grass roots action for something in the spirit of a biblical jubilee. But then I’m a church leader and I’ve been far too slow to connect with what a jubilee originally was. I’m just catching up rather too late, thanks to my son’s homework.