God, the Queen, football: what a stellar line-up

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You will have heard about the rare and tricky configuration of planets which is likely to cause irregular behaviour patterns in humans and wildlife over the next few weeks. Now it appears that another, more terrestrial accident of timing is about to occur – and its effects, while undeniably more local, are likely to be every bit as dramatic.

You will have heard about the rare and tricky configuration of planets which is likely to cause irregular behaviour patterns in humans and wildlife over the next few weeks. Now it appears that another, more terrestrial accident of timing is about to occur – and its effects, while undeniably more local, are likely to be every bit as dramatic.

On 2 June at 10.30am, churches across the country will be thanking the Lord for the great gift of the 50 years that Her Majesty the Queen has reigned over us. At precisely the same moment, thousands of miles away, 11 English lads will be kicking off for their first match in the World Cup finals, a key fixture against Sweden.

God, the Queen, football: it is a stellar configuration that will cause such an orgasm of national excitement that our island may just come adrift from its moorings and float off blearily into the Atlantic. Some of our most greatest patriots – Richard Littlejohn, Tony Blair, Anthony O'Hear, the Professor of Good, Old-Fashioned Common Sense at the University of Bradford – will be in serious danger of spontaneous combustion.

But how will ordinary believers manage to offer thanksgiving and prayers to that great trinity of Her Majesty, Beckham's boys and the creator of all mankind, all at the same time? Modern-minded vicars, it turns out, are already on the case.

The Rev Rick Fillingham, a West Ham fan and the parish priest of Eccleshall in Sheffield, has arranged for a giant television and licensed bar to be set up in the vicarage garden. "Both events are very important to the community, so we decided to combine the two," he has explained. In Scarborough, a Methodist minister is making similar plans, though perhaps without the licensed bar. "Football is all about a crowd experience but not everyone will want to watch it in the pub," says the Rev Mark Haynes.

Since not all churchmen will have been this forward-looking, it seems sensible to work out some kind of balanced Order of Service for 2 June.

9.30 Warm-up. The church is all about family so, rather than expecting people to sit in pews listening to organ music, a kickabout for the kiddies and the young at heart can be arranged in the vicarage garden. In recognition of the jubilee, goalposts should be constructed from cardboard cut-outs of the more laughable members of the Royal Family – Princes Andrew and Edward at one end and the Princess Royal with Zara at the other. The ball should be Princess Michael of Kent.

10.15 Prayers. Words of thanksgiving for the Queen's glorious reign, the astonishing recovery from injury of David Beckham and Kieron Dyer, rounded off with some religious stuff.

10.25 The National Anthems. As the players come on to the pitch, the congregation should be encouraged to join in to sing "God Save the Queen" very loudly, out of tune and half a beat behind the accompaniment while swaying with their arms in the air. When the Swedish national anthem is played, worshippers should boo, hiss, make various gestures involving one or two fingers, or sometimes even a whole hand, and follow the vicar in a rendition of that old favourite, "What a load of rubbish".

10.30 First half. A quiet rendition of "Bread of Heaven" may be played on the church organ, allowing the congregation to sing "Who's the Wanker in the Black" or "You're Not Singing Any More", as appropriate.

11.15 Half-time sermons. Texts may vary according to the progress of the game. In the event of an equal scoreline: "Her Majesty, the good samaritan and the big lad Keown in central defence – they are each different yet, in a very real sense, they are all in our thoughts this morning. It is their common humanity..." etc etc.

In the event of England leading: "Did you hear what they were singing out there in Japan? 'Beckham walks on water'. It's not true, of course. However, at times like this, we all – including, perhaps, Her Majesty watching the match at home – turn to the Church and to the greatest dead-ball specialist of them all..." etc etc.

In the event of England getting a thumping: "Dunkirk, Devon Loch, the death of the people's princess – today, of all days, it worth recalling how the Queen, and her beloved mother, whom we miss so much, have recovered from adversity in their lives. They, too, were three-nil down at half-time and yet their faith helped them..." etc etc.

11.30 Second half. Prayers to a greater deity – for example: "Jesus, Sven, get that useless donkey Heskey off now" – should be encouraged.

12.15 Closing address. Parish notices, including plans for future worship at England's games against Nigeria and Argentina.

terblacker@aol.com

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