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Home Who's who Bishops The Bishop of Sherborne Sermons, articles, and media Sermon for Evensong commemorating the death of HRH Prince Philip, April 2021

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Sermon for Evensong commemorating the death of HRH Prince Philip, April 2021

by Michael Ford last modified 17 Apr, 2021 11:02 AM

Sermon preached on Friday 16th April by Bishop Karen at a Special Evensong commemorating HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

We are here today, in a way, on behalf of the whole County of Dorset, to commemorate the long life of a unique, extraordinary, and exceptionally humble person, the Duke of Edinburgh, and to pray for her Majesty, the Queen and all the Royal Family on the Eve of his funeral tomorrow. So much has been written about Prince Philip in recent days that even to list all his many achievements would I am sure miss many of them out. For all of our lives he has simply always been there, we have never known Her Majesty, the Queen, and our nation without him, however there is a hidden richness in every life and over recent days we have discovered more and more about the amazing man the Duke of Edinburgh was.

He wrote books, flew helicopters, was a crack shot, rode carriages, played polo and cricket, sailed boats, painted pictures, and took a keen interest in many many subjects about which he was well informed and had an opinion. Many here and across our County will have related him to a particular conversation or topic, be it a window in Sherborne Abbey, the architecture of Poundbury, industrial or naval establishments, a nuclear reactor at Winfrith, tanks at Bovington, or as young people in the award scheme which he as Duke of Edinburgh established in his name. In his long life he paid many visits to Dorset meeting people of all ages, in schools, prisons, places of work and amongst local communities.

Princess Anne, in her comments about her father also said that he has always been there. For the Royal Family and most importantly for Her Majesty, the Queen. Their long marriage being testimony to a deep love, shared interests, and the willingness to put others first. It was this and a deep sense of duty which enabled Prince Philip to take a step back and to serve, selflessly and unstintingly, at the Queen’s side.

He shared her interest in people and he shared her faith. I recall a number of clergy who having preached at Sandringham, shared that the Duke would enjoy debating their sermon with them afterwards. I am sure it was not just to catch them out, but because he was genuinely interested, as he was in interfaith dialogue and learning amongst people of different backgrounds. He established St George’s House, in the grounds of Windsor Castle for this purpose, which in turn gave birth to the Windsor Leadership Trust which I have had the privilege of being part of.

The Duke of Edinburgh as well as being committed to a life of service, was also a man of great vision. Many in recent days have talked about his interests in technology, mechanics, and the environment. He wanted to make a difference, not for his own purposes, but for the common good.

The following Bible verse can be found in St John’s Gospel. John the Baptist had come to make way for Jesus, he had a role to fulfil, however when he observed Jesus’ ministry, he said ‘My joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.’

That to me sums up the life and example of Prince Philip. He was always there for the Queen, and for joy to be found she needed him to enable her to fulfil her role. He set aside much to become as many would say the greatest consort the world has ever seen.

John the Baptist’s words, as he took a step back, inaugurated the development of Christ’s own ministry and as we recall it was a very upside-down ministry – where those who were outsiders were included, where those who were low were raised up, where those who followed were called to leave things behind, to give things up, to go the second or third mile; where the master washed feet as an act of service, where the hope of resurrection life meant that death was not the end.

As we give thanks and remember today a great life, we can also draw to mind how the gospel has been enacted. It is the Triumph of the Outsider as the Sunday Times headline read last week, and the life of the Duke of Edinburgh can also become an example to us all.

Prince Philip leaves a rich legacy in so many ways. As true and important as it has been, seeing him always being there alongside the Queen and in the life of the nation seems almost inadequate because hearing about his life in recent days in all its fullness has been so inspiring.

We gather today also as representatives of a County, at a time when our Country slowly makes its way out of the most significant pandemic we have ever experienced, and those words of John the Baptist and the example of Christ’s upside-down kingdom are for us too. Words like commitment, service, generosity, interest in others can have a hollow ring in a modern age but need to be on our lips and seen in our lives too. To have a desire for a better world, a willingness to step back to enable others to shine, to make a difference humbly and uniquely is the calling of all of us to ensure the flourishing and well-being of our relationships, our communities, and the life of our nation.

The words of St Ignatius of Loyola are fitting for all of us this day:

Teach us, good Lord to serve thee as thou deservest,
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward;
except that of knowing that we do thy will.

Finally, we gather also in church today aware of the grief that we carry on behalf of so many who have lost their lives this last year. We pray for Her Majesty the Queen and all those who have lost loved ones. Yet too we are comforted. As we meet in the Easter season, our hope can also be in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The deep faith of the Queen and many of us who meet here today brings reassurance that we can indeed pray that the Duke of Edinburgh, along with all those living and departed may rest in peace and rise in glory.

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