I’ve been working with London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC) on a project called Changing the Soundtrack. We’re trying to sing songs in church that fully reflect our theology, so we don’t forget about our 9-5, the context we live in and the rest of our lives outside of Sunday morning. 'We seek your kingdom’, which was released last year, and was certainly an attempt to do that.
I was talking to Mark Greene, who wrote The Servant Queen ten years ago, and we thought: It will be a very painful time when the Queen passes - actually quite a wobbly time, both psychologically and spiritually, for the nation. We decided it might be good to create something that would give voice to people’s feelings and call them to prayer.
'Tears and celebrations' is not just a song about the Queen, but a hymn to God in praise and worship of him, thanks to him, and then grieving and lament to him.
It was quite strange to think of writing something that, to be honest, might only be sung by people for two or three weeks, but we felt it would do a really important job in the moment we’re in right now.
Many people will know the beautiful melody we’ve set the words to, as it is the famous Welsh tune of 'Here is love vast as the ocean’.
I was just sitting at the piano one day playing that tune, and these words started to form:
We see tears and celebration,
For this life so dignified,
Bearing thanks and hearts of sadness,
To the God of death and life.
As he takes her to his promise,
Of an audience with the King,
We remember all she gave us,
Wreaths of gratitude we bring.
In these days of change and trial,
Be the rock on which we stand,
When we fear in this new season,
Hold us firmly in your hands.
May we rise to her example,
To be humble, kind and fair,
Swift to pray and slow to anger,
Choosing faith and not despair.
In the midst of coronation,
She once knelt in silent prayer,
Oil was poured in Christ’s commission,
Called to lead her people there.
May we know that same anointing,
Move in royal authority,
Then speak liberty and healing,
To a world in need of peace.
Lord forgive, when pride and envy,
Leave our nation bruised and stained,
Turn us back towards our calling,
To make your name great again.
May we rise above divisions,
Lord, our brokenness we bring,
That a more united kingdom,
Would give glory to the King.
When our days are at their dimming,
And our work on earth is done,
May we hear as does our sovereign,
‘Faithful servant, welcome home.’
May we rise with Christ to witness,
A new heav’n and earth displayed,
Ours a robe that will not tarnish,
Hers a crown that will not fade.
Alternate Verse 4 for Commonwealth:
We beheld her sure compassion,
For the last and for the least,
Straddling races, tribes and nations,
Forging bonds of family.
May this commonwealth now echo,
The wide kingdom of our King.
Reconciled through Christ who suffered,
All our stories we will bring.
We had to make some calls pretty quickly after hearing the news of the Queen's death last Thursday. But this incredible, stellar list of professionals came together: the world-renowned singer Katherine Jenkins, an amazing filmmaker Andy Hutch, the wonderful maestro Jazz pianist Mark Edwards and the producer who has worked on much of what the Church has listened to over the past 30 years, Neil Costello.
When we all arrived in Wiston Chapel to record the audio and make the video, it was a very profound moment; it was like a turning of the seasons.
I think all of us are experiencing different things right now. Mark Edwards, who arranged the track, did so through the night in the 12 hours after the Queen's death. So for him, it was an incredibly emotional, responsive act.
This song calls us all to our knees at this time - to ask for God’s favour and blessing, and to seek his forgiveness for when we, as a nation, have gone away from what he’s called us to.
I’m reminded of the scripture that says: "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves…” (2 Chronicles 7:14) As a nation, we’ve not always been great at humility. And I wonder whether this season might call us to a greater level of humility? If the events of the prayer breakfast are anything to go by, it shows that actually, sometimes there’s a response when we come in humility.
Andy Flannagan was speaking to Maria Rodrigues on Premier Christian Radio