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Congregations around the country celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

06 June 2022

Churchgoers turn out in their hundreds for four days of celebrations


The Red Arrows fly in formation over St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, on Thursday, after the Trooping of the Colour

The Red Arrows fly in formation over St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, on Thursday, after the Trooping of the Colour

EVENTS organised by more than 1000 churches over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend varied from the extravagant to the simple, the exuberant to the sedate, the exotic to the sombre.

From concerts to corgi trails, tea parties to tree-planting — congregations from Cornwall to Cumbria turned out in their hundreds for four days of celebrations to honour the monarch’s 70-year reign.

The Trooping the Colour ceremony on Thursday of last week launched events nationally, followed on Friday by the service of thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral, where the Archbishop of York drew smiles by linking the Queen’s love of racing with a plea that she remain “in the saddle” for years to come.

Duncan Lomax PhotographyA jubilee garden party in the Deanery Garden at York Minster, hosted by the Archbishop of York and the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire

On Saturday evening, a star-studded concert was staged outside Buckingham Palace, drawing an enthusiastic response from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been sidelined by a positive Covid test. He posted on Twitter: “Every moment perfect. . . Fantastic speeches by Princes Charles and William. What a great country, what an amazing reign!” The four-day weekend finished on Sunday afternoon with a two-hour pageant.

Prominent in the pageant at the head of a group of 50 bikers was the Revd Sergiy Diduk, the Ukranian-born Priest-in-Charge of All Saints’, Hanworth, in west London. He saw his involvement as a way of expressing gratitude for British support for his homeland. “Being part of this, I can say ‘Thank you,’” he said.

Also to be seen in the pageant, helping to carry a giant rainbow flag, was the LGBT campaigner and General Synod member Jayne Ozanne.

The crowd was delighted when the Queen, who had missed several of the main events, appeared on the Palace balcony. In a thank-you message, she said: “I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets. While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all.”

Many churches began their long weekend with a pealing of bells and lighting of beacons. Gloucester Cathedral’s ringers performed a patriotic tune, based on the “Round Britain” medley that was used daily between 1973 and 2006 to open BBC Radio 4 broadcasts. At Bradford Cathedral, a vertical light-beam was pointed into the night sky, while in the city, a torch was passed between faith leaders before igniting the beacon in Bradford’s City Park.

Exeter was one of many cathedrals at which there were special services. Evensong on Saturday was followed by a drinks reception in the adjoining Bishop’s Palace garden, an area normally closed to the public. The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, used his sermon to describe the Queen’s constancy in times of pressure and difficulty, as well as in times of joy, as “exemplary”. He continued: “Public service, duty, and a devout Christian faith continue to be hallmarks of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Her trust in Jesus Christ is central to her life.”

St Mark’s, Upper HaleA jubilee barn dance at St Mark’s, Upper Hale, on Friday

The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Richard Jackson, used his palace grounds on Saturday to stage a classic-car show and tea party. He is a keen biker, and his own Harley-Davidson was among the exhibits.

Blackburn Cathedral unveiled an 18-metre-long tapestry by Jamie Holman, telling the story of the Queen’s reign. An accompanying soundscape records the experience of it by the people of Lancashire, recounted by 70 70-year-olds. The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, in a message of thanksgiving, pointed out that most British people had never known another sovereign in their lifetime. “For 70 years, Her Majesty has provided continuity, stability, and example to the UK, the Commonwealth, and the world,” he said.

Among events at Gloucester Cathedral is a trail around the building signposted by corgis — the Queen’s favourite dogs. It runs until 20 June.

A floral display for St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in Suffolk, was created by Harald Altmaier, a London florist who has worked with the royal family. His arrangement uses English flowers known to be the Queen’s favourites.

At Carlisle Cathedral, a choral evensong included Sir Hubert Parry’s Coronation anthem “I was Glad”, as well as “In Our Service”, the anthem commissioned for the Jubilee by the Royal School of Church Music and written by Thomas Hewitt Jones (News, 27 May).

Peterborough has an exhibition of portraits of the monarch by schoolchildren, and at Ely Cathedral last week, the Princess Royal unveiled an unusual table crafted for the Queen from a 5000-year-old black oak recovered from a fenland peat bog. It is also exhibiting the replica of the Queen’s Coronation dress, worn by Clare Foy in the Netflix drama series The Crown.

Chelmsford Cathedral made a replica of Buckingham Palace from recycled materials, and children created Jubilee-themed Lego models. Lichfield launched a Big Jubilee Lunch food-donation point inside the cathedral for those less able to celebrate the event. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said: “On this joyous occasion, as we all celebrate in our own ways, it should be at the forefront of minds that there are thousands of households in the UK who are struggling to put food on the table.”

Durham invited the public to bring picnic lunches into its normally private cloisters, and Truro organised craft and story-telling activities for children from flag-making to dance workshops.

At Wells Cathedral, people were challenged to abseil 124 feet down the north-west tower in royal attire to raise money for SOS Africa and other charities.

Royal Foundation of St KatharineCakes laid out at a tea hosted by the Royal Foundation of St Katharine at their Retreat, Conference, and Community Centre in Limehouse, east London, last week: the former home of the Sisters from the BBC series Call the Midwife

On Friday, Ripon Cathedral held a tea party with guests among whom was someone born in every June of the Queen’s reign since 1952.

Two Devon churches — St Mary’s, Kentisbeare, and St Thomas of Canterbury, Thorverton — opened an exhibition of wedding dresses from the past 70 years. The show also includes wedding music from the past 70 years. Also in Devon, St Andrew’s, Tiverton, combined an outdoor service with a tree-planting ceremony and afternoon tea. Ide Parish Church organised a Jubilee trail through the churchyard with a corgi as a guide. The service at St Andrew’s, in Sampford Courtenay, on Sunday, used hymns and music from the Coronation.

In Hampshire, events began early with a concert at St Luke’s, Southsea, on Monday of last week, performed by refugees and and asylum-seekers sharing words and music from their own cultures. One young Iranian, Arshia Javadian, aged 15, gave his first public piano performance, and his mother, Behnoosh, recited poetry. “I’ve never performed to an audience as large as this, and my hand was shaking beforehand,” he said. “I get a sense of freedom in my mind when I do it.”

Churchgoers at All Saints’, Denmead, created bunting by knitting and crocheting about 2700 red, white, and blue flowers to decorate their church, before a street party on Saturday. Similarly, the tower of All Saints’, Middleton Cheney, was draped in a cascade of 4300 multi-coloured woolly flowers.

AlamyA 70-ft cascade of more than 4300 woolly flowers hang down the tower of All Saints, Middleton Cheney, on Friday, in celebration the Platinum Jubilee

In Kent, King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells — one of the few churches in the country to be dedicated in honour of a British monarch — held a flower festival depicting decades from the Queen’s reign. A similar event at St Mary’s, Kemsing, used themes including the Commonwealth, Balmoral, corgis, and the royal yacht Britannia.

Christ Church, Beckenham, planted a tree. The party at St Barnabas’s, St Paul’s Cray, featured fancy-dress and a knobbly knees contest.

On a different note, Christian demonstrators sat down in the road in front of the band at the Trooping the Colour to draw attention to the climate crisis. One protester, Benjamin Buse, said: “The royal family and the Crown estate own large areas of agriculture land, and, as many reports have shown, we need to shift from livestock and crops for feed, freeing up land for rewilding and nature carbon sequestration. By adopting plant-based food systems and rewilding land we could have a real jubilee moment.”

Paul Vallely: Platinum Jubilee held up a mirror to the nation

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