Over the last few weeks, I have found myself reflecting on the nature and importance of service in three very different contexts.
Firstly, the celebrations that have taken place up and down the country to commemorate Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday. In recent years there seem to have been various opportunities for us to acknowledge and give thanks for Her Majesty’s service to her country, and these birthday celebrations are the latest to highlight the extraordinary commitment and dedication she has shown in fulfilling her duties as Queen.
The Queen has served her country as Monarch for 64 years and counting – longer than any other British monarch in history. The press and media coverage of her birthday celebrations have rightly highlighted her tireless commitment to service, and have remarked upon the the fact that she has been a constant in an ever-changing society and world. It is hard to disagree that she has exemplified what it means to do your duty and to serve others.
| We may not always think of the Queen as being the ‘servant’ of others: surely Her Majesty’s various residences are the last bastions of ‘servant’ employment, where staff are employed to serve the Queen and the wider Royal Family. But I would argue that that is too narrow a definition of service. Serving others can take many forms.
The second context in which I have been reflecting on this idea of service recently is in schools. Before becoming a curate here in Uckfield, my only involvement with schools had been going to one or two as a child, and sending my sons to various school as we have moved around and as they have got older. One of the greatest privileges of being a curate in a place like Uckfield is the opportunity to get involved with the local church schools. We are blessed with two in Uckfield of course, Holy Cross and Little Horsted.
As well as leading various acts of worship in both schools and in church, more recently I have been a part of the Ethos Working Group at Holy Cross School that exists to ensure that the Christian ethos and character of the school underpin everything else that happens there. Last week I was involved with the SIAMS inspection (Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools) for Holy Cross Primary School. The deep level of commitment and passion that I witnessed on the part of the staff and governors at the school was very evident, and actually quite moving.
|This experience was quickly followed by a conference that I attended the following week on how churches can forge closer and stronger links with church schools, at which the service of teachers and governors in our schools was once again highlighted. I have seen at first hand the fantastic way in which staff and governors alike seek to serve the children in their care, and to do so with a commitment that is both humbling and hugely motivating at the same time.|
The third and final context in which I have reflected on this idea of service was the tragic news of the brutal killing of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire. It seems that UK politics has lost someone very special indeed. Listening to and reading some of the tributes that have been paid to her by those who knew and worked with her, the overriding characteristic (apart from being a very dedicated mum of two children) was her passion for serving others. Before serving the people of her constituency, she served others in her work for charities around the world such as Oxfam and Save the Children, tackling issues of poverty and discrimination.
| The world needs people like Jo Cox; people who are committed to improving the world in which we live. Their willingness to put the needs of others before their own should humble us and motivate us to do the same.
None of these examples of service are directly connected to the Christian faith, but each of them exemplifies what Christian service looks like. Jesus gives us the model that we should follow. We too are called to tie the apron around our waist and to wash the feet of others, perhaps not literally, but metaphorically this is what Christian service looks like. It looks like 64 years of serving your country as monarch; it looks like teachers and governors utterly committed to the flourishing of every child in their care; and it looks like an elected Member of Parliament faithfully serving the needs of her constituency.
These words from a much-loved hymn remind us of the servant nature of Jesus and that we are called to follow his example by serving others as he serves us:
From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live:
This is our God, The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King