Queen did not want ‘long, boring’ funeral, says former archbishop of York

John Sentamu says ‘hearts and people’s cockles will be warmed’ by Westminster Abbey service rooted in 1662 Book of Common Prayer

The Queen’s plea to avoid a “long, boring” funeral service will be answered on Monday with a relatively concise but stirring send-off that includes familiar hymns and traditional Bible readings.

John Sentamu, the former archbishop of York, revealed on Sunday that the Queen “did not want what you call long, boring services. You’re not going to find boredom, but you’re going to be lifted to glory as you hear the service.”

Sentamu, who had first sight of plans for the Queen’s funeral in 2005 when he became an archbishop and a member of the privy council, said the service would be rooted in the Book of Common Prayer.

“What you’re going to expect is the best of funeral services, the prayer book service, the words which were an inspiration to Shakespeare,” he told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

“You’re going to hear this wonderful English at its best. Also you’re going to hear angelic voices of the choir of the abbey plus the Chapels Royal … voices that are singing to the glory of God.”

Monday’s hour-long service will include the main hallmarks of a traditional Anglican funeral, including the hymns The Lord Is My Shepherd – said to be a favourite of the Queen’s – from Psalm 23, Love Divine All Loves Excelling, and The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended.

The Very Rev David Hoyle, dean of Westminster Abbey, will open the service with the words: “In grief and also in profound thanksgiving we come to this House of God, to a place of prayer, to a church where remembrance and hope are sacred duties.

“Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth, and from the nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service, and in sure confidence to commit her to the mercy of God our maker and redeemer.”

The sermon will be given by Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury.

Liz Truss will read Jesus’s words from John: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

A procession of faith representatives will be led by Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Representatives of Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Jain and the Bahá’í communities will take part in the procession.

Representatives of churches in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will join those from different Christian traditions in England, including the Roman Catholic church and black-majority Pentecostal churches.

After the Queen’s coffin has been taken by road to Windsor Castle, a committal service will be held at 4pm in St George’s Chapel, led by the dean of Windsor and with a congregation including the royal family and some of the Queen’s personal staff.

There, the choir will sing the Russian Kontakion to the Kyiv Melody, an ancient chant with its origins in the Russian Orthodox liturgy that expresses the sorrow of grief while reminding people of the Christian hope of everlasting life.

The Russian Kontakion was also sung at the funeral of Prince Philip last year.

A final, private burial service for close family members will be held at 7.30pm.

In a meditation broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday evening, Welby underlined the Queen’s personal faith as well as her role as monarch and head of the church.

Her calling was “not simply as a monarch. She was called, first and foremost, as a disciple of Jesus Christ and as a person loved and cherished by God.”

He added: “She reflected our humanity back to us: she belonged to a complex family whom she loved; she worked and strove to discharge her duties to the best of her abilities; she was bereaved and grieved for those she loved; she responded to life around her, to people and events; and over time, she came to embody the frailty that comes with age.”

As well as those reflecting on the Queen’s life before the funeral, Welby made special mention of “many who work tonight, caring for others, because life goes on, and hospitals and care homes and many other parts of our life still need attending to”.


Harriet Sherwood

The GuardianTramp

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