It is not surprising that so many people are saddened by the death of Her Majesty The Queen. She was a constant figure in our lives, a visible public face in every aspect of life in this country, and around the world, and whatever your personal view of the monarchy, she represented continuity and longevity, and, for many, a solid ‘anchor’ to the ups and downs of regular existence. It was then an especial honour to attend the funeral in Westminster Abbey on behalf of the RSGS, and to witness such a moment of history first hand.

It is understandable that so many people feel sadness, not just for The Queen as an individual, and also for the era she represented, but because living so much in the public eye, she was a thread in the tapestry of so many people’s lives. So there is a reflective sadness for some, as our own tapestry – our own lives, already stretched by the anxieties of this difficult age – feel a little more frayed.

At times of political division in the UK, and the current era feels more fragmented politically than at any time I can recall, I think the monarchy can represent unity. Look at the way in which HM King Charles, on his ascendency to the throne, has immediately visited and received proclamations across the whole of the United Kingdom. The Royals have always made grave efforts to respect the integrity of the four nations of the UK in a way that many politicians neither cared nor tried to do.

However not everyone is a fan of the monarchy and to some they represent disunity too, though perhaps economic more than geographical. To many the monarchy represents a system of privilege, wealth and exceptionalism, an anachronism and a reminder of inequalities in our society. Right now, with twelve years of austerity and a looming cost of living crisis, these inequalities are more painfully exposed than ever, so it is inevitable that some are unable to see past this.

Within Westminster Abbey itself I felt the mood was not sad, as I had expected, but rather respectfully uplifting. In amongst the pageantry, the prayers, the hymns and the beautiful music were some thoughtful reflections which cast the spotlight more on the legacy of The Queen and the other leaders present.

“People of loving service are rare…” the Archbishop of Canterbury told the congregation, “…Leaders of loving service are rarer… those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privilege are long forgotten.”

I am sure one or two of the political leaders present were shifting uncomfortably in their seats.

Her Majesty The Queen understood the importance of charities in our society, and they played a huge part in her day to day interests. As a representative from one of the many charities that enjoyed her patronage, it was the reading by the Reverend Canon Helen Cameron, who’s words struck the greatest chord for me:

“Grant to [this nation’s] citizens grace to work together with honest and faithful hearts, each caring for the good of all.”

It may not sound like much, but I don’t think we, as a society, are currently anywhere close to “each caring for the good of all.”

I say this because exactly one week prior to sitting in Westminster Abbey, I was sat in Perth Foodbank. I was speaking to the manager Eleanor Kelleher, hearing about the operational challenges and experience of front-line staff. It was uncomfortable listening. Why, in one of the richest nations in the world, have we forced some of our citizenry to rely on foodbanks? It is a national disgrace - when did we become so uncaring? The foodbank needs new premises, more food, and more help. But the issue needs a large-scale strategic response – the staff were under no illusions that they were merely a sticking plaster. But here we were, before the looming cost of living crisis even kicks in, and the foodbank was already a tonne of food a month short of demand. In Glasgow they informed me, foodbanks are shutting – not because of a lack of demand, but because they just can’t secure enough food!

In Perth & Kinross the council estimates that 5,155 children in the area are already in food poverty. That is nearly a quarter of families. And that is before the energy price hikes in October. I know some other council areas are in a more desperate state.

I was at the funeral to represent RSGS and charities more generally. Charities often end up picking up the people and pieces that fall between the cracks in our society. But the cracks are growing daily, and with many businesses still reeling from covid, our public services starved of funding, and our charities over-stretched, there is no slack in the system to provide a suitable safety net. Many organisations will struggle to meet their own existing costs, let alone expand their services.

Of course, I hope government will intervene meaningfully – that is surely what governments are for, although I fear some of the measures being discussed are indirect at best, inequitable and risk yet further saddling future generations with the bill. I know councils and public bodies are battling behind the scenes to make preparations, but I also think it needs every one of us to consider how we can help. How can we rebuild some of the critical social ties, reach out to those in need and promote and enact kindness?

Whether you are motivated by The Queen’s charitable example, or by simple humanity, we need to face this social and economic storm together. So to unashamedly repeat the Rev. Canon Cameron’s words, as fellow citizens, we need to find ‘the grace to work together with honest and faithful hearts, each caring for the good of all.” Now there’s a legacy to be proud of.