CTE General Secretary, Bishop Mike Royal, writes…
The Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla has been an important moment in the life of the nation. It’s not only that it’s the first Coronation for 70 years but it demonstrated that the religious and ecumenical landscape has changed beyond recognition in Britain during that period. In 1953, at the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Roman Catholic Cardinal remained outside Westminster Cathedral. In 2023 Cardinal Nichols stood alongside Protestant and Pentecostal leaders and blessed the new King.
It was wonderful to see such broad ecumenical church representation at Westminster Abbey for the Coronation on 6 May 2023. At the front of the procession of Christian leaders were two Pentecostal friends from CTE Member Churches, Pastor Agu Irukwu from Jesus House Redeemed Christian Church of God RCCG and Pastor Glyn Barrett, from !Audacious Church and National Leader of Assemblies of God. A former President of CTE, Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church, was also in the procession.
It was a particular delight that Cardinal Vincent Nichols representing the Catholic tradition, H.E. Archbishop Nikitas representing the Greek Orthodox tradition, Rev Canon Helen Cameron the Moderator of the Free Churches Group and me, as General Secretary of Churches Together in England, joined the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to pronounce a blessing on His Majesty the King. It was a poignant moment in the service that demonstrated how far we have come on our ecumenical journey together.
There was great camaraderie behind the scenes in the week leading up to the Coronation. As we went through numerous rehearsals, one in full regalia, we shared personal stories, encouragement and cough sweets. Relationships deepened as we walked together through this unique experience. These are precious moments not only for us, the individuals concerned, but for the Church of Jesus Christ in the United Kingdom.
Inter faith involvement
While waiting for ‘our bit’ in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster Abbey, we also had a welcome opportunity to mix and mingle with leaders from other faith traditions. It was so fitting that representatives from the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jewish faiths were first in the procession and presented significant parts of the coronation regalia to His Majesty during the ceremony. Other religious leaders were also present as guests. I welcome the fact that His Majesty has committed to be a defender of faiths, all faiths including the Christian faith, in the United Kingdom.
May we all strive together as people of faith to come together in harmony and seek to be a force for good in our communities.
From the CTE Presidents
The day after the Coronation, at Sunday Mass in Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Vincent Nichols spoke about the privilege of taking part in what was, in many ways, an ancient service with rituals that are very familiar to Catholics.
He said it was, “An unforgettable experience. Never in my wildest dreams , when I think back to 1953 and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, never did I dream that I would have a part in a coronation.”
The Moderator of the Free Churches Group, Rev Canon Helen Cameron said, “Being invited to participate in the Coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla as Moderator of the Free Churches Group was a great privilege. To share the moment of blessing the newly crowned King with dear ecumenical friends and colleagues was a complete joy. It is important, I think, to remember that the Coronation Liturgy is a liturgy of the Church of England and sharing this moment of blessing with leaders of other denominations was a sign of profound generosity by Archbishop Justin and a recognition of the diversity of Church life in the UK.
“To process into the Abbey and to sit close to faith leaders from other faiths in the Abbey was a reminder to me of who we are, neighbours. To be able to greet the Chief Rabbi as he arrived at Westminster Abbey having walked there with a greeting “shabbat shalom” was another particular joy for me. There was grace and generosity at the heart of the Coronation which I am the richer for. In blessing, I was blessed.”
CTE’s Orthodox President, H. E. Archbishop Nikitas, said, “The Coronation was an expression which echoed the traditions of centuries past and it also reflected the realities of our world and society – a world of diversity of faiths, ethnicities and peoples – but all sharing a special moment in time and history. Everything else seemed to disappear for a moment – joy and gladness filled the air.”