Hazel McHaffie

Catherine Middleton

In sickness and in health

In all the pomp and pageantry, emotion and style of Friday’s royal wedding, one of the most telling moments for me was when the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, read out the prayer composed by the young Prince William and his bride, Catherine Middleton.

Having given thanks to God for their shared love and happiness, they asked for help
– to keep their ‘eyes fixed on what is real and important in life
– ‘to serve and comfort those who suffer
and
-to ‘be generous’ with their ‘time and love and energy’.

Wow! If they stick to the intention, what a force for good they could be. After too many years of sorry royal shenanigans, this country could do with a fresh start based on sound godly principles and genuine human compassion.

Interestingly, long before the wedding date was announced, I was booked to attend a weekend focusing on just how Christians could reach out to embrace and support others, valuing and working with diversity. It necessitated travelling on Friday 29 April. Honour dictated I respected the prior booking, of course; I went to Manchester not London! And there we were picking up exactly the issues encapsulated in that prayer: love in action.

But since we’re talking of spiritual and practical matters, how about a little parable to illustrate where my mind was going as I watched the wedding highlights in my hotel room on Friday night.

Drag your mind away from spring blossom, blue skies and warm sunshine, and back to the big freeze of January. Ruined railingsBlack ice coats the road. A car skids completely out of control, demolishing an ancient boundary wall and ornate railings. A flowering almond tree escapes with a scored trunk, but a beautiful dissected-leaf red maple (OK, acer to you horticultural experts) is broken off completely, leaving only a bare stump.

The site is left untouched while insurers and loss adjusters crank their wheels ever so slowly. Time passes. Nature rests. But with the coming of spring the temperatures creep higher, sap rises in the trees, and lo and behold, that sorry neglected stump is discovered to have sprouted vigorous new growth just inches from the rubble! What a triumph of hope over expectation.

I wonder, did Her Majesty feel a similar sense of renewed hope as she listened and watched in the Abbey on Friday? Certainly a fair old swathe of her subjects did, if news reports are anything to go by. I hope – and yes, pray – their confidence is justified.

I’ll keep you posted on the tree. Will it one day once again vie with its near neighbours for vigour and beauty, I wonder?Young maple treeEstablished maple tree

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