As the United Kingdom mourned the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, chaplains on the ground were there to console those at Buckingham Palace and beyond.
More than 20 chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team were deployed to Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse following the news of the queen’s passing on Sept. 8, according to Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) spokeswoman Christine Batchelder.
The passing of the longest-reigning British monarch at 96, has left many Brits with a “deep sense of loss,” according to Nigel Fawcett-Jones, who serves as the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team manager and assistant head of the ministry in the U.K.
Fawcett-Jones was among those on hand who ministered to folks at Hyde Park, where hundreds of thousands gathered to watch the queen’s state funeral.
“The mood that I have seen within the tens of thousands attending Hyde Park on the day of her funeral was respectful and contemplative,” he told The Christian Post in an interview following the late monarch's funeral that was broadcast on large screens for mourners watch together. “There was a real sense of coming together as a community and a nation to honor Her Majesty one last time.”
After reigning for 70 years, the queen’s death, according to Fawcett-Jones, marked the “passing of an era” amid a wave of changes for Europe and Britain, in particular, with a new prime minister, the war in Ukraine, and the specter of rising inflation all fueling fear and anxiety.
But despite the solemn moment, he said the queen’s faith in Christ Jesus has proven to be a useful starting point for conversations about some of life’s biggest questions.
“The sense of loss that the nation is experiencing has been, for many, a reminder of their own personal grief. … The very public process of national mourning, the national two-minute silence and all the traditions of a state funeral can, for some, be a trigger for the remembrance of their own loss,” Fawcett-Jones said.
“Our role is to be present in that moment with people, to let them know that they don’t face it alone and to be the very presence of Christ in that moment with them.”
One of those mourners, Fawcett-Jones said, was an older gentleman in his 80s who approached the chaplains and talked about how the queen’s death had made him think about his own death.
“The funeral service had just finished, and the chaplain reminded the man of many elements of the service that had just been broadcast and indeed the queen’s own faith,” Fawcett-Jones recounted.
After the chaplain “gently explained that the faith that the queen so boldly confessed was available for everyone, “the man acknowledged that he needed Jesus and made the decision to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior,” he added.
Fawcett-Jones shared another encounter Monday from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains who were approached by a family of four as the televised coverage of the funeral service in Hyde Park came to an end.
Holding the hand of his 8-year-old son, the father told the chaplains the queen’s death was the first that his daughter had experienced, according to Fawcett-Jones.
After discovering the mom and dad were Christians, the chaplains offered some practical guidance to help their daughter work through her feelings of loss. The chaplains then asked if they could pray for the family and they said “yes.”
“The chaplains prayed that, as a family, they would work through this grief together and they would experience the peace that only Jesus can bring,” said Fawcett-Jones.
In addition to being queen, Elizabeth II was also the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, an international voluntary association of many former holdings of the British Empire.
“The queen’s role carries no formal functions, but has great symbolic significance and has helped to underline the sense of the Commonwealth as a family of nations,” explained the Commonwealth Network.
News of the queen’s passing came shortly after Buckingham Palace announced that the queen was under medical supervision at Balmoral Castle in Scotland due to health concerns, though they noted that she was comfortable.
The queen appointed the new Prime Minister Liz Truss as her last public duty.
Earlier this year, Elizabeth II had missed multiple ceremonies, including Easter Sunday worship in April and a few events tied to her Platinum Jubilee celebration in June, due to health and mobility issues.
Born April 21, 1926, in Mayfair, London, Princess Elizabeth was the first child of King George VI, who ruled from 1936 after his brother King Edward VIII resigned, until his death in 1952.
During World War II, Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service of the British Army, where she served as a mechanic and rose to the rank of junior commander.