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On Sunday we prayed for the King, in the little Anglican Church in Sharbot Lake, Ontario. During the Intercessions, Mark, a farmer and one of our vestry, prayed for “Charles, our King,” and we all said, “Lord, have mercy.” It was the second Sunday in September, the Fourteenth after Pentecost, the first Sunday in the reign of Charles III, the Sovereign of Canada.
It was charming how it happened. For thirty years, as long as we’ve attended this parish, Mark has prayed for “Elizabeth, our Queen,” and that’s what he said at first. Then he stopped, and added, “and for Charles, our King.” He didn’t have to undo the first part, because Anglicans pray for dead people, “the faithful departed,” not to mention “St. Andrew (our patron) and the other saints.”
It was the first time our parish prayed for King Charles. I don’t think our parish has prayed for any king since 1952. It’s the first time I ever prayed for a king in church. Well, St. Paul did admonish Timothy to “pray for kings and all others in high positions.” I do pray daily for President Biden and Senator Schumer. Whenever I lead services I always include in my intercessions “our president, our governor, and all in authority among us.” (Privately I fault my colleagues who do not do this, as if the Intercessions were a list of the sick and shut-in, and yes, I’m an Enneagram 1.)
I admit I had second thoughts about praying for Charles III. Like praying, as I did, for “Donald, our president.
I have always liked praying for Elizabeth. She seemed a decent sort, and over thirty years I had developed a sort of intercessory affection for her. But I don’t like her son, Charles Windsor, though that ought not deter my prayers. I doubt that St. Paul liked whoever was the Roman emperor.
I could say it is required of me when I’m in Canada, as a Christian who is also a citizen. We became Canadian (dual) citizens in 1990 and I had to “swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors.” Native Canadians never have to say that, but naturalized immigrants all do. (How did Mennonite immigrants deal with this?) Citizenship comes with obligations, Christian citizenship has extra obligations, and Charles III is Elizabeth’s “heir and successor.” So there it is.
It doesn’t help that he’s a “Charles.” If there are any kings a Calvinist would loath, it’s his predecessors Charles I and Charles II. The whole House of Stuart is distasteful, despite James the First’s patronage of the Synod of Dort. So praying for a king named Charles is an exercise in me carrying my cross. Having “unchristian feelings” for someone is irrelevant to my Christian obligations.
I am not an Anglican officially. We are only “associate” members of our Anglican parish. (Of course Anglicans don’t regard “church membership” like the Dutch Reformed.) If I were truly an Anglican I might share that proprietary feeling that Anglicans have for the royal family. The Windsors belong to the Church of England. I suppose that when Charles is residing at Balmoral he’s Presbyterian, but Elizabeth was confirmed and will be buried as Church of England. It’s not uncommon for Canadian Anglican churches to have memorial windows for the veterans of the First World War, with the inscription, “For King and Country.” Many Anglicans have felt a seamless religious unity in these things that I do not, and frankly do not want to.
My grandfather, an immigrant from Amsterdam, was a socialist, but he also honoured Queen Wilhelmina. I can remember him taking my mom to see Princess Beatrix when she first visited New York. I prefer the House of Orange to the House of Windsor. But we don’t get to choose our royalty the way we choose our presidents (although there’s something to be said for having an unelected Head of State). I confess that I’d rather have Willem Alexander as my king than Charles III, and who wouldn’t take Queen Maxima over Camilla the Consort? In fact, I’d rather just have a Queen and no king at all. If some of our nations are going to have monarchs, wouldn’t we all rather have queens? Don’t they generally do better than kings? I’d rather pray for a queen.
On that Sunday, September 11, Mark also prayed for “all the innocent victims of that tragedy in New York.” He’s done that before. Canadian civility at work in church. So, as an effort in both civility and charity I guess I can pray for Charles III. Who do I think I am, to harbour such second thoughts!