Sue Ward, who is a churchwarden at Portsmouth Cathedral, is one of 190 people receiving Maundy money today, as part of the Maundy Thursday tradition dating back to the 17th century.
The tradition saw the 77-year-old given two small leather purses, which are given to men and women because of their Christian service over many years. The red purse contains £5 and 50p coins, while the white one contains silver coins specially minted by the Royal Mint, amounting to the same number in pence as the Queen’s age.
The Queen would normally present the Maundy money to individuals at a service in a cathedral or high-profile church, but this year that hasn’t been possible because of Covid restrictions.
Reacting to the news, 77-year-old Sue said: ‘I’m astonished and delighted to receive Maundy money from the Queen. I don’t really feel as though I deserve it, but it is an honour and I’m very grateful.
‘I’ve found being a churchwarden a joy, and a wonderful introduction to the whole of diocesan life, not just the local community. In a cathedral, you are very much a logistics person, making sure that everyone is being looked after.
‘It is a shame that I won’t be receiving the Maundy money alongside the other people who have been honoured in this way, as it would be good to meet others who are also Maundy recipients this year.’
Sue has been churchwarden at the cathedral for 10 of the past 13 years, in two separate stints.
She trained as a teacher, and has worked in the UK and as a Voluntary Service Overseas volunteer in Pakistan.
She actively supports the local Fairtrade Forum, Landport’s Roberts Centre, interfaith initiatives and Christian Aid through fundraising and awareness-raising events, as well as personal advocacy. She is also a member of a local choir.
The Very Rev Dr Anthony Cane, Dean of Portsmouth, said: ‘I am absolutely delighted that Sue Ward is to be honoured for her lifelong commitment to practical action in serving others, both in this country and internationally.
‘Her contribution to the life of Portsmouth Cathedral is immense, not simply through being an exemplary churchwarden, but also for her constant encouragement to look outwards with compassion and a commitment to justice, seeking to make a positive difference to lives of those most in need.’
Maundy money was originally presented by King Charles II, and symbolised a gift from the sovereign to those who were in need. It derived from the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper that his followers should love and care for each other.
In the Middle Ages, English monarchs washed the feet of beggars and presented gifts of money to the poor, imitating the way Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.
The custom of washing feet died out in the 18th century, but the presentation of coins has continued each year on Maundy Thursday.