A couple days ago (June 10), marked the anniversary of the deceased Prince Phillip’s birthday, which brings me back to the Netflix series, The Crown, which Sarah and I spent way too much time consuming. In Episode 7 of Season 3, entitled “Moondust,” Prince Philip is fascinated…no, obsessed, with the American astronauts’ mission to the moon in the summer of 1969. However, as he’s hanging on every word of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin in a televised press conference leading up to the launch, the Queen reminds him of worship the next morning, leading to the Duke scoffing under his breath, knowing he’s about to endure yet another Sunday listening to a rather…veteran priest, the Dean of Windsor. As Prince Philip is sitting next to the Queen in their usual front pew, he remarks, “It’s not a sermon, it’s a general anesthetic” (of course, whether he said such a thing is up for debate, but it’s wonderful writing by the people behind the scenes, nonetheless!).

The Duke of Edinburgh’s frustration and irritation only intensifies as the story continues, as he remains latched onto the television coverage of Apollo 11. Amidst all this, a new Dean of Windsor arrives in Robin Woods, who approaches Prince Philip in requesting one of the un-used buildings nearby to create a space for clergy to be spiritually renewed amidst their respective crises of ministry. Again, the royal giant scoffs under his breath for such a worthless venture, in his mind, but goes along with the new Dean’s desire anyway.

Soon enough, as the astronauts take on a worldwide tour upon returning to Earth, including a stop at Buckingham Palace, part of that itinerary is a sit-down with the Duke of Edinburgh. He’s hoping for something more than just in-depth knowledge of the inner-workings of NASA technology (being a pilot himself). He’s looking for some sense of spiritual ecstasy from the much younger astronauts. He’s craving for some soul-filled enlightenment from the men who saw the universe from a vantage point that no one had before. Except, the younger men do not have what he was most desperate for, that most coveted…something to fill whatever void in the royal giant’s life. Prince Philip has hit his own personal identity crisis (again…as depicted by the show’s producers, at least).

Now, he must return to the one he scoffed at for attempting to help others in their own respective seemingly bottomless pit of life. In doing so, the Duke of Edinburgh brings up his mother, who had recently died, and she asked him, “How is your faith?” He continues, in a room of several crisis-engulfed priests,

I’m here to admit to you that…I’ve lost it. The loneliness and emptiness and anticlimix of going all that way to the moon to find nothing but haunting desolation, ghostly silence, gloom. That is what faithlessness is. As opposed to finding wonder, ecstasy, the miracle of divine creation, God’s design and purpose. What am I trying to say? I’m trying to say that the solution to our problems, I think, is not in the ingenuity of the rocket, or the science or the technology or even the bravery. No, the answer is in here (points to his head) or here (points to his heart) or wherever it is that faith resides. And so, Dean Woods having ridiculed [what] you…were trying to achieve here in St. George’s House, I now find myself full of respect and admiration and not a small part of desperation as I come to say…help…help me.

Yes, this entire episode, not to mention the entire series is up for much debate in terms of its historical accuracy, including whether Prince Philip endured some kind of mid-life crisis (we could also debate whether or not you can actually “lose” faith, but that’s for a separate discussion). Quite honestly, I don’t care whether such moments occurred word-for-word. Regardless, the story is true to our ground level of the human condition.

We may have our moments of physical, mental, spiritual crises, to say the least. Some of which we are willing to recognize, some…we would much rather not at all. No matter what, though, the church’s role remains just as much needed today as it ever has been before: to create the holy space, the personalized loving and compassionate space, to allow the beloved child of God (royal or not) to say, “Help.” knowing full well that such an honest plea takes its own level of bravery that may just rival others embarking to the moon.

And yet, what may be the best part of the entire episode is that after the royal giant caves into accepting his personal crisis (in a group setting, at that), Dean Woods, sitting across from him, does not come up with an easy-fix solution right there and then: some perfectly-timed Scripture verse, or some poetic wisdom from a church giant centuries before. No, he simply smiles and affirms with eye contact to the Duke of Edinburg, no…actually, to the precious child of God. It sets the stage for an extensive journey of hope and new life, as the Resurrection is intended to do for all of us, at all stages of life. The episode concludes with words appearing on the screen (that seem to be historically reliable):

Prince Philip and Dean Robin Woods became lifelong friends.
For over 50 years St. George’s House has been a centre for the exploration of faith and philosophy.
Its success is one of the achievements of which Prince Philip is most proud.

For the ones who are more than willing to jump down into whatever pit with us, to join us in whatever crisis, including the One who was, and is, most willing to become one with our humanity, we most certainly give thanks to God, indeed!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad