Saturday, 11 February 2012


The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, writes the First Person column each Saturday in the Leicester Mercury. Here's the one that appears in today's paper.
A symbol of unity and nationhood
The Bishop of Leicester looks forward to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee visit to Leicester
In the midst of harsh weather and bad economic forecasts, we have all received good news this week. Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh will be visiting Leicester on March 8 at the beginning of their series of regional visits throughout the UK to mark the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
This will be a day of rejoicing for us all in the city and the county and we are honoured that Her Majesty has chosen to visit us as the first of their many visits during the spring and summer of this year.
All of us, whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, other religion or those of no particular religion, feel a common loyalty as British citizens and what better place could there be to demonstrate that than the city of Leicester?
In particular, there seem to me to be three reasons for us to honour this very special figure in our nation's history. First because she so evidently demonstrates in her life and character the concept of public service and duty. It is hard to imagine what it must have felt like as a young woman in her 20s taking on the responsibility laid upon her at her coronation when her father had died so suddenly. For Christians, that sense of duty is symbolised in the coronation service when the Sword of State is laid on the altar at Westminster Abbey.
Secondly, the Queen has been an example of continuity through change. Her presence represents to us our long history of monarchy which has changed and adapted over the years and allowed stable democracy to flourish.
Thirdly, the Queen has embodied the human face of the nation with extraordinary effectiveness. Those who greet her along the road here in Leicester and those who strain forward to see her do so because they sense a connection with this human being who represents the whole nation. Wherever she goes in the world, that same reaction is to be found. We saw it last year in particular in Ireland where the Queen made history by her enormously successful visit. Her office has been nicknamed "the Department of Friendliness". It is a department of government unlike any other. It transcends politics and breeds friendship. Friendship between nations, friendship between generations, friendship between faiths, friendship between the different nations of our United Kingdom.
These are values beyond price. The Queen has reigned for the greater part of all our lives, even the very oldest of us, and for the whole of the lives of the vast majority of our people. Millions of us have reason to be grateful to her. Most of us will pray for her on the day of her visit. And all of us will want to be part of a special, memorable and historic day in which Leicester and Leicestershire shows the world how much we value this symbol of our unity and nationhood.

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