On the weekend of my 6th birthday we had a street party. There were games and treats and a fancy dress parade. I was ‘Little Bo Peep’ who’d fortunately lost her sheep! I was convinced it was all for me. However, it was actually to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. You can get away with it at six but for my 41st birthday, when the Queen was marking her Diamond Jubilee, I knew who it was really all in aid of!
However, in the same way that as a child I was unaware of the broader context to the festivities I was enjoying, I wonder if we too have missed the wider implications of the concept of jubilee. I was constantly reminded of a biblical understanding of this idea while doing Ruach card readings at the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival in Earls Court over the Bank Holiday weekend. As the Queen celebrated the anniversary of her coronation with river pageant, pop concert, parade and fly-past, people at the fair were choosing from a set of cards that included the number 50. This number represents jubilee. A God ordained season that ensured his people every 50 years wrote off any outstanding debts, released slaves and returned land that had been bought and sold to its original owner. Leviticus, chapter 25, verse 10 says, “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you…” It was in effect going back to the default settings and restoring justice to the community.
While I am not a royalist, I recognise that the Queen took seriously the vow she made before God and has been faithful to live in accordance with that for the 60 years of her reign to date. In our quick-fix, commitment phobic culture, that is definitely something to celebrate and hold up as worthy of admiration and emulation. It was a shame that Prince Philip could not be at her side during some of the activities over the Jubilee weekend. I don’t think she would have been able to do this alone and imagine it must have been hard for him to humble himself and always play the supporting role. But at the same time would a more appropriate way to mark the occasion have been with some act of restorative justice rather than yet more opportunities for the privileged to display their elevated status to an already celebrity obsessed public?
I think it’s great that people up and down the country were able to reclaim their streets and party with their neighbours. But how many others were excluded because of poverty, poor health, lack of access to education and basic community services as well as being overwhelmed with hopelessness due to lack of work and a safe and clean environment in which to bring up their children? The reality is the Queen rules over a divided and unequal nation. While it is good to celebrate her loyalty and faithfulness in serving her country, who will question the role monarchy plays in a system that is intrinsically unfair? It heaps rewards on those who already have too much and insists on taking even the little those at the bottom have to survive on. A jubilee that seriously addresses these issues, is one I can participate in with a totally clear conscience.