Janet`s May 2021 Letter to the Community

Janet’s May 2021 Letter to the Community

                                                                                            HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, R.I.P.

As I write, the death of The Duke of Edinburgh has been announced but his funeral has not yet taken place.  His was an extraordinary life; in one sense a life of comfort and privilege, but including, in his early years, considerable instability and loss.  A great deal has already been written and there will doubtless be much more, but one article, on the BBC website, particularly made me think.  It is reported that Prince Philip, in a speech to the boys of Ipswich School in 1956, spoke of “the importance of the individual” as the “guiding principle of our society”. 

Mmm.  “The importance of the individual”.  What does that mean?  Because it has seemed to me that “individualism” has been responsible for a great deal of harm in modern western society.  During the coronavirus pandemic, it has led to people putting others at risk by all sorts of thoughtless and inconsiderate behaviour simply because they want to do what they want to do – and think they have a right to do it.  A focus on “individualism” so often leads to people claiming rights while refusing any responsibilities.

So what did he mean?  I think we must see this statement in the context of another.  In Ghana in 1958, Prince Philip said that “the essence of freedom is discipline and self-control”.  His was not an individualism that promoted people doing whatever they wanted.  Rather, it was about the responsibility of the individual to make good moral choices, and so to contribute to a better society.  It is notable that the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme includes an element of volunteering – giving time to help others – alongside individual personal development.

The Christian faith teaches that each individual human person has infinite worth.  Each of us is created by God, is sustained by God and is overwhelmingly loved by God.  That is the message of Easter, the season of the Church year that we are still experiencing.  But it also teaches that we are members of one another, with responsibilities towards one another, and especially towards the vulnerable and marginalised.  We stand or fall together.  This was one of the key themes of the life of The Duke of Edinburgh for which we can all give thanks.

As we emerge cautiously from the pandemic, let us continue to be mindful of our responsibilities to work together for a better world.  Individually – and working together – we can make a difference.  Thanks be to God.


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