Why the Queen's Christianity is defining feature of her reign
Several Irish Church leaders have sent congratulations to the Queen on her 90th birthday, and rightly so. She is one of the most truly remarkable women of our time.
The president of the Irish Methodist Church, the Rev Brian Anderson, noted that the Queen's outstanding contribution has been "shaped" by her deep Christian faith.
He also noted that we in Northern Ireland are particularly thankful for her contribution to building stronger relationships between Ireland and Britain.
"It was hugely significant to lay a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin in May 2011 and then to say that our countries should be 'able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it'," he said
The Presbyterian Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Ian McNie, also paid fulsome tribute to Her Majesty, and described her as "a constant in our time".
The Queen has indeed been such "a constant" that we can hardly imagine what national life would be like without her.
She is reminiscent of a former teacher or senior figure of whom you were in awe, but who helped to set standards which gave you a solid basis for the rest of your life.
I was fortunate to meet her twice directly, and I was impressed by her charm and by the huge personal authority that she displayed.
This sense of respect runs through the many tributes the Queen has received, and we should all pause to reflect on what she has achieved.
She was never trained for the role of monarch, like her son Charles or grandson William. Her father, King George VI, was pitch-forked into the monarchy when his hapless brother, Edward, abdicated and placed the country and monarchy in a crisis.
George VI shouldered the burden courageously, even though he never wanted to be king.
When he died prematurely, daughter Elizabeth entered into a destiny she could not escape.
Many, like me, who watched her Coronation 'live' on grainy black and white television were greatly impressed by the pageantry, but also by this young woman who made solemn vows to God to serve all her people, as the Archbishop of Canterbury placed the crown on her head. The longest-serving queen in British history has never faltered.
She has seen prime ministers and presidents come and go, she has lived through the death of her mother and sister, the broken marriages of two of her sons and the premature death of her daughter-in-law, she has witnessed wars and peace, and political turmoil and violence at home and abroad.
Yet she has always remained a firm rock in the swirling tides of national and family life.
In all of this she has remained true to herself and her strong Christian principles that, unlike others, she does not ram down people's throats.
Instead she has talked quietly in her Christmas messages about her deep Christian beliefs but, even more important, she has gone out and lived them.
In a country where one of her former prime ministers rather timidly chose not to express his Christian faith until he left office, and where one of his senior advisers said, cynically, "We don't do religion", the Queen has "done" religion in the best way possible.
The nation at large, and we as individuals, are in her debt.
We shall not see her like again.