Moderator Mardi’s Blog: Dinner with the Queen

I promised you a blog about dinner with the Queen, and am indebted to a new friend, the Moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Rev. Dr. Herb Gale, who will help me enormously with this account. Herb paints a great picture of the evening we shared with her Majesty at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto on July 5th. There’s no need for me to try to do any better than Herb has done with details of the evening.

(I’d forgotten about the spilled wine incident until reading Herb’s description. An amusing moment – though I don’t know how amused  her Majesty was. Not to be forgotten.)

But I have no trouble remembering the Queen herself, and here are a few of my reflections:

The Queen was brilliant. At just about a year younger than The United Church of Canada, she was bright and fully engaged with every one of the hundreds of us who greeted her personally. She spoke – as she always does – to our best selves and deepest values. It’s clear why people flock to see her. We want to be reminded of our best values and best behaviour in days when so much seems to remind us of our failed hopes and actions that don’t actually live up to the values we profess.

Jewish acquaintances that evening highlighted that not so many years ago Jews would not have been invited to such a state dinner. What a foreign notion today!  Of the 350 or so at the event on July 5th, I’d say about 10% of us were official representatives of a great diversity of Canada’s mainstream religious life.

A few short generations ago, no one would have raised an eyebrow had a church participated in a state dinner at which millions of citizens were casually excluded. To be a church of Canada today, though, is to be in respectful relationship with other faith communities, and I’m grateful that the Queen brought so many of us together for dinner.

My taxi driver at the end of the evening offered, I think, the best analysis. When I hopped into the cab, he exclaimed, “Did YOU just have dinner with the Queen?!” “Well, yes, I did.” “Oh, how wonderful!!”

“What has you so excited? What has you saying she’s so wonderful?” I asked.

“She’s like a loving grandmother who visits us and others to let us know that she cares, that she’s interested, that she loves us. She’s not going to get involved in politics. She’ll let us work that out our own, but she wants to encourage us and to let us know that she cares.”

This lovely 50-year-old man from Ghana who proudly wore a red and white maple leaf bandana on his head would have loved to have had dinner with the Queen. She had spoken throughout her visit about values of Canada that she admires, including a commitment to welcoming the newcomer, and she would have loved to meet him, I’m sure!

I continue to ponder the sharp distinction the driver made between the admirable, loving behaviour of this head of state and what he sees as less than admirable behaviour of many politicians. For him, a lot rested on her presence, her deep interest, and her care.

I can’t help but think about Jesus talking about rendering unto God what is God’s and unto Caesar what is Caesar’s – with the strong hint that if we did so, Caesar would be left with very little because everything belongs to God.

Even as the Queen serves as our head of state, she appears to be quite capable of reminding us about what is of God. How appropriate. She is, after all, also the head of a church.

What are your thoughts on the fruits of the Queen’s visit?