Service the central theme of Coronation Liturgy
Published on 29 April 2023 5 minutes read
The theme of service is at the heart of the Liturgy for King Charles' coronation next weekend.
The Liturgy for Westminster Abbey service, which has just been published by Lambeth Palace, will highlight King Charles' steadfast commitment to continue to serve all the peoples of the UK, as he has done as Prince of Wales.
It will also reflect His Majesty's longstanding commitment to ecumenical and interfaith relations.
Unique elements of the service, which takes place on Saturday 6th May, will include the use of Gaelic for the first time in the Coronation of a British monarch.
The Coronation service will also include other languages associated with the British Isles – with a prayer in Welsh and the hymn Veni Creator sung in Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Irish.
Scotland's contribution will also see a number of Scots involved in the ceremony, including the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields.
Dr Greenshields will present a Bible to the King in a tradition which dates back to the joint Coronation of William III and Mary II in 1689, but it was only at the Coronation of the late Queen Elizabeth in 1953 that the Moderator of the Church of Scotland took part in the ceremony to symbolise the unity of the Christian family.
The Moderator is delighted that he will share being a part of this historic occasion with other Scots, including our ecumenical friends, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland and the Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen, and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness.
Dame Elish Angiolini, the former Lord Advocate of Scotland, will take part in the act of recognition when the King is presented to the congregation at the start of the service, as a representative of the Order of the Thistle, the highest order of chivalry in Scotland and second only in age to the Order of the Garter.
Joining them in the procession to Westminster Abbey will be other Scots including the Earl of Erroll, the Lord High Constable of Scotland, and the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry.
A celebration of service and diversity
The theme of the Liturgy is "Called to Serve", reflecting the commitment that His Majesty will make to serve God and the people, and will be a Christian act of worship that honours the ancient tradition of anointing and crowning monarchs.
The Coronation Liturgy has been produced in close consultation with King Charles and with His Majesty's Government, and will include several new elements recognising and celebrating the contribution of diverse communities to the nation and the changes the country has seen in the 70 years since the last Coronation.
The first new element will see His Majesty welcomed by one of the youngest people present, a chorister from the Chapel Royal to whom the King will say the words: "In His name and after His example, I come not to be served but to serve."
This establishes from the beginning of the ceremony the theme of serving others, as His Majesty's response echoes those words of Jesus who came, not to be served, but to serve, and at the same time underscores the importance of young people in our society.
In another unique moment in Coronation history, the King will pray aloud in the Abbey using words specially written for the occasion that reflect the duty and privilege of the Sovereign to serve all communities.
As well as involving female bishops for the first time, the service will see members of other faiths play an active role. Peers who belong to the Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Sikh traditions will join other members of the House of Lords and senior bishops of the Anglican Church in presenting the Royal Regalia, and following the final blessing, King Charles will receive and acknowledge a spoken greeting from representatives from the Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist communities.
Despite these unique additions, the Liturgy will follow the traditional structure of a service of Holy Communion, including prayers and Bible readings, and will use traditional language and texts from the King James Bible.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has selected a new Epistle for this Coronation, Colossians 1:9-17, which has again been chosen to reflect the theme of service and will be read by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
In another Coronation first, the homage of peers has been replaced by a Homage of the People. Those watching and listening at home and elsewhere will be invited to make their homage by sharing in the same words, enabling a chorus of millions of voices to participate in this solemn and joyful moment.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: "The Coronation is first and foremost an act of Christian worship. The signs, symbols and language we use remind us that our God is the Servant King. By his anointing in this service, His Majesty King Charles III is set apart to fulfil his vocation of service and duty to us all. This is the character of kingship today. In this weighty responsibility, the King will be supported by the loyal service of his wife, Queen Camilla.
"I am delighted that the service will recognise and celebrate tradition, speaking to the great history of our nation, our customs, and those who came before us. At the same time, the service contains new elements that reflect the diversity of our contemporary society. It is my prayer that all who share in this service, whether they are of faith or no faith, will find ancient wisdom and new hope that brings inspiration and joy."
Special moment in history
Dr Greenshields said it was a great honour and privilege to represent the Church of Scotland at the Coronation.
"It will be a very special moment in history when we see the Archbishop of Canterbury, anoint and crown His Majesty and Queen Camilla," he said.
"The Crown has very close ties with the Church of Scotland and signing an historic oath to uphold the Presbyterian system of Church governance in Scotland was His Majesty's first act after being officially proclaimed King following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth, last September.
"Like his mother before him, King Charles is an ordinary member of the Church of Scotland while in Scotland and regularly attends Crathie Kirk near Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire while in residence. His Majesty also worships at Canisbay Parish Church in Caithness when he is staying at the Castle of Mey near John O'Groats."
You can find out more about the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla in the Worship section of our website.