All Brits naturally fall at points on a spectrum when it comes to royalty. Some are outright republicans, who think the whole business is a medieval survival that should be decently put of our collective misery. Others are rabid royalists who even fly Union Jacks outside their houses (pretty rare in the UK, where patriotism is more muted than in the US). Most of us fall somewhere in between, clustered towards the ‘vaguely approving’ end.
On a day like today, though, it’s the approvers who are in the vocal majority.
And Christians have a particular reason to be deeply grateful that this wedding was what it was, where it was, and led by who it was.
Weddings are always lovely, especially when they are full of pageantry. No one really seems to begrudge them the cost, apart from the aforesaid republicans (£45 million is one figure I’ve seen).
What the nay-sayers don’t really get is that while this is obviously the union of two people, it’s more than that. These royal occasions are national events, in which we can all share. It’s not just for them, it’s for us. The royals, whether we like it or not – and some of us don’t – represent us.
Is it fair? No, of course not – and as well as being enormously privileged, the royals must all occasionally wish they’d just been normal, without the great weight of responsibility that the hereditary principle has laid on them.
But watching the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – now the Duchess of Sussex – it’s impossible to wish them anything but well. They have started out on a wonderful journey together, and they have done it in the sight of God and in the context of Christian worship. Both of them appear to take that very seriously. They have not just used the church as a stage set – it means something. And the words of the assembled bishops and archbishops have been broadcast around the world.
In a powerful sermon, TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said, ‘We were made by a powerful love, and our lives were meant to be lived in that love.’
He said, ‘Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history, grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world.’
He said: ‘Imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families where love is the way Imagine neighourhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine businesses and commerce where love is the way, and this tired old world where love is the way.’
That, he said, would be a ‘new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family’.
It was a potent gospel message – and it’s because it was this particular wedding that so many millions of people heard it.
Millions of people heard the hymn ‘Lord of all hopefulness’ by Jan Struther – herself a lukewarm believer at best, but catching something something profound about Christ’s loving involvement in every part of our lives. They heard the great words of ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer’, evoking the presence of God in the dark and barren wilderness times – and both Harry and Meghan have known some of those themselves. They heard the Coptic Archbishop Angaelos and Rose Hudson-Wilkin pray for God’s blessing on the couple, asking that ‘their marriage be long and life-giving, enriched by your presence and strengthened by your grace’, and that they ‘discern in your word order and purpose for their lives’.
They watched as the archbishop of Canterbury, no less, led them in life-long vows of commitment and faithfulness to each other.
And the very, very public nature of this is a blessing and a witness to the nation. It hasn’t just been for them – though it’s their day above all – it’s been a chance for the church to speak the gospel to the world, not least in mediating such joy. So – republican or royalist – we should pray for them, and be thankful for this opportunity; and pray for the watching world, too.
It’s a God-given coincidence, perhaps, that this wedding falls on the final weekend of the 2018 Thy Kingdom Come initiative, in which Christians all over the world are praying for people to come to know Jesus. This wedding has been a great witness to the gospel.