On Thursday September 8th I set sail on a small cruise ship from Spain, with 60 other guests, to explore the history and archeology of the islands of the Western Mediterranean.
As we boarded the ship in Malaga we heard the news that the Queen was unwell and that her family were travelling to Scotland to be with her. When we sat down to dinner that evening, the Queen’s death was announced. There was a great sense of shock and grief and eyes were dabbed as the news sunk in.
Fortunately, I had internet connection and almost immediately started receiving emails from the Archdeacon, John Kiddle and from the Diocese with details of the London Bridge Guidelines and prayer resources. After a discussion with the cruise director, we decided to offer a short service of prayer and reflection the following day. The atmosphere was quiet and thoughtful as we prayed and remembered Her Majesty and the Royal Family as we sailed between mainland Spain and Majorca.
On the following Sunday, following a day visiting the prehistoric archeological sites on Menorca, I conducted a service of Holy Communion which about 40 passengers and staff attended. One of the passengers, a Reader from a parish in Bolton, assisted with the prayers and another passenger, a member of the congregation of Southwark Cathedral, read the Epistle.
It was a privilege to share with those who attended -Church of England, Non-Conformist, Roman Catholic and no faith – and the liturgy was a source of great comfort. During the following days, there were many conversations about faith, service and loving kindness.
On the last day of the cruise, before leaving Malta to fly home, we gathered together round the television to join the 4 billion watching the processions and the services in Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel.
None of us could have predicted where we would be when her Majesty’s long life of faithful service would end but those 12 days together proved precious and meaningful, in part thanks to the timely provision of resources that enabled us to experience God’s love and comfort at a time of great sadness.