The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) marked the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with a prayer service at Christ Church, Her* Majesty’s Chapel Royal of the Mohawk on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. This service signified the end of a long relationship of mutual love and respect between Her Majesty and the Mohawk people, those in attendance expressed.
*Now His Majesty’s, upon the accession of King Charles III.
The non-denominational ecumenical service was led by Bishop Michael Oulton, Anglican Bishop of Ontario; the Reverends Rod BrantFrancis and Lisa BrantFrancis of All Saints’ Church in Tyendinaga; Reverend John E. Maracle of Tyendinaga; Charles E. Maracle, who recited ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in Mohawk; Pastor David Bowbeer of Tyendinaga Mohawk Pentecostal Church; and the Rev. Father Richard Whalen of Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Belleville. Those overseeing the service were invited because of their close ties to the people of Tyendinaga.
The service was solemn, but somehow both nostalgic and hopeful, with many of the celebrants remarking on the deep faith, sense of service, and love exhibited by the Queen throughout her reign, and especially recognizing the regard she had for the Mohawk people.
The words read by Father Whalen from 1 Corinthians 13 seemed almost to embody Her Majesty’s life: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, reasoned like a child, and thought like a child. But now that I have become a man, I have put an end to childish things.”
Elizabeth Windsor was forced to put away childish things at the age of 11 when her father unexpectedly became King due to his brother’s abdication in 1936, and she found herself next in line for the throne. Then in 1952, at 25 years of age, she became Queen after the sudden death of her father. She often cited her deep faith as the backbone of her life of service.
Chief R. Donald Maracle called Elizabeth “a most gracious Queen, and friend of the Mohawks of Tyendinaga,” pointing out that “her long life of service spanning 70 years was always executed with grace, dignity, and concern for the well-being of others.”
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title “Christ Church, Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal of the Mohawk” on Christ Church, Tyendinaga in February 2004 to honour the relationship signified by the 1677 “Silver Covenant Chain of Friendship,” a symbol of peace, trade, and military alliance between the Crown and the Mohawk people. Maracle pointed to the plaques commemorating Indigenous veterans on either side of the chapel as evidence of that alliance.
Maracle recalled that on each of her visits to Ontario — in 1951, 1967, 1984, 2002, and 2010 — Her Majesty always included the Mohawk people, as did then-Prince Charles in 2017. Maracle also pointed to the many gifts the Queen had bestowed upon his people: “A silver chalice and the Canadian coat of arms stained glass panel, handbells in 2010, and in 2019 her father King George VI’s Book of Common Prayer.”
Maracle recalled some of his own experiences with the Royal Family. In 2017, on Canada’s 150th Birthday, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, now His Majesty Charles III, viewed the Queen Anne Silver communion set and chalice. Chief Maracle said, “I told him about the covenant chain and he replied ‘1664 it was’.” Which was a bit off – but proved nonetheless that Charles had an interest in the history between the Mohawks and the Crown.
Maracle laughed, too, about what Charles said when he spied the Queen Elizabeth II chalice: “Is that one Mummy gave?”
In another amusing anecdote, Maracle recalled that, in 2002, the Mohawks visited Her Majesty in Toronto. “When we forgot to ask the Queen to sign the Queen Victoria Bible, Bishop Reid set off on foot to chase her,” Maracle, alarmed, shouted after him, “Bishop, don’t chase her!” Maracle called Rideau Hall and was told, “‘Bring it over and she’d be happy to sign it, following Mohawk tradition.’”
One of Her Majesty’s last public acts was to remember the people of James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan (where a series of violent stabbings, some fatal, had recently occurred) and express her condolences. Chief Maracle observed, “This once again showed her grace, dignity, humanity, and concern for others.”
In his homily, Bishop Oulton quoted an obituary in America Magazine written by Rev. Father James Maven, a British Jesuit: “The key, so often missed by the media but intuitively grasped by her people, was that for her monarchy was not about privilege; it was about vocation. It was not something she had chosen; it had been asked of her, and with her whole life she assented. In that gracious ‘yes,’ whatever the challenges, criticisms and vicissitudes, personal as well as political, the Queen showed us how to convert privilege, whatever its form, into service.”
Echoing again the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” Bishop Oulton urged all present to take the Queen’s example of love out into the world with them.