People and communities across the UK and the Commonwealth will celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee next month. In February this year, HM the Queen became the first British monarch to reign for 70 years.
To mark the Jubilee, a new book has been produced, focussing on the monarch's 70 years of faith and service'. Written by journalist Catherine Butcher, it examines the Queen's Christian faith and the role it has played in her years on the throne.
'Our Faithful Queen' draws on prayers, Bible verses and the Queen's speeches to show how the Queen's Christian faith enabled her to prepare to reign, and how that faith has sustained her in the life that followed.
Shortly before Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in June 1953, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, wrote and gave to the Queen 'A Little Book of Private Devotions'. This slim volume of daily Bible readings and prayers was provided for the Queen to use in the weeks leading up to the powerful Westminster Abbey Service.
Fewer than a dozen copies of the 'Devotions' book were printed, and 'Our Faithful Queen' draws on the book to examine the Queen's faith. The focus of 'Devotions' was the deep symbolism of the coronation service, with the Archbishop highlighting the different stages in the ceremony.
Next month's celebrations, from Thursday 2 June to Sunday 5 June will include a birthday parade, beacons across the UK, a 'platinum party' at Buckingham Palace, a pageant and thousands of street parties and lunches.
Many churches will be holding special services and events, and the publishers of 'Our Faithful Queen' – Hope Together and Biblica, the International Bible Society – are encouraging churches to use the 64-page colour book to help their outreach. Copies are just £1 each if more than 50 are purchased.
A centrepiece of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations will be a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on Friday 3 June. It's fitting that the service will form a key part of the Jubilee, as the Queen has been vocal in speaking about her Christian faith in many high-profile broadcasts.
In her Christmas Day broadcast in 2016, she said: "Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives.
"I am one of them, because Christ's example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe."
At Christmas 2002, the Queen said: "I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try and do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God. Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel."
Catherine Butcher explains: "The Queen Mother subscribed to daily devotional Bible reading notes. She regularly read Bible stories to the young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret and taught them to pray. Both girls started their weekly school lessons with half an hour of Bible reading, under the guidance of their governess, and weekly church attendance has been a lifelong pattern for the Queen, who is said to keep a well-read Bible by her bedside."
Butcher also recalls how US evangelist Billy Graham wrote in this autobiography, 'Just as I am', about meeting the Queen on several occasions. He said: "I always found her very interested in the Bible and its message."
The Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England but her interest in faith goes well beyond this title. Her strong Christian faith is exemplified by her lifetime of dedicated service.
Rev Peter Crumpler is a Church of England minister in St Albans, Herts, UK.