The Queen has said “none of us can slow the passage of time” in a message to the Church of England’s national assembly.
Prince Edward delivered Her Majesty’s speech to bishops and clergy at the General Synod after she cancelled her appearance last week following medical advice for her to rest.
Before the address, the Earl of Wessex said the monarch sent her “sincere and deep apologies that she cannot be here today”.
“I think you probably understand why, and she regrets that deeply,” he added.
He then said on his mother’s behalf: “It is hard to believe that it is over 50 years since Prince Philip and I attended the very first meeting of the General Synod.
“None of us can slow the passage of time; and while we often focus on all that has changed in the intervening years, much remains unchanged, including the Gospel of Christ and his teachings.”
The Queen also spoke of the difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“In our richly diverse modern society, the well-being of the nation depends on the contribution of people of all faiths, and of none,” her statement said.
“But for people of faith, the last few years have been particularly hard, with unprecedented restrictions in accessing the comfort and reassurance of public worship.
“For many, it has been a time of anxiety, of grief, and of weariness.
“Yet the Gospel has brought hope, as it has done throughout the ages.”
This is the first time the Queen, who is supreme governor of the church, has missed her five-yearly visit to the Synod since its inception 51 years ago.
The Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England which passes legislation, had not held a full in-person meeting since February 2020, before the pandemic.
The Queen missed the national Remembrance Sunday service at the weekend after spraining her back and is expected to make virtual appearances later this week.
It is understood her sprain was unrelated to the recent medical advice for her to rest.
Her Majesty does not have any major public engagements planned for the rest of the year.