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Call to serve: Archbishops back plans for volunteering to mark the Coronation

30 March 2023

An exhibition in Lambeth Palace Library to mark the Coronation will open on 12 April

Sipa US/Alamy

King Charles III and the Queen Consort at a state banquet in Berlin on Wednesday, part of their first state visit

King Charles III and the Queen Consort at a state banquet in Berlin on Wednesday, part of their first state visit

THE Coronation is a chance to bring the nation together in a commitment to service, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said, as charities around the country hope for a boom in volunteering.

In a pastoral letter published on Wednesday afternoon, Archbishop Welby and Archbishop Cottrell shared their “hopes, desires, and prayers” for the Coronation of Charles III.

“The Coronation will be a historic moment in the life of our nation; a time to reflect on our history, reflect and celebrate something of who we are, and look forward,” they write.

“It is, of course, part of every Christian’s witness to commit joyfully to a life of service to God and one another; a commitment the King has exemplified throughout his life. We pray this would be a moment for all to encounter afresh the person of Jesus Christ — the servant King — and be renewed in our calling to serve Him by serving others.”

On Thursday, representatives from faith groups joined a webinar about the Big Help Out — a volunteering initiative led by the Together Coalition — to learn about how organisations can use the Coronation as an opportunity to increase engagement and showcase the work they already do in the community.

Brendan Cox, who is a co-founder of the Together Coalition, said that it was important to make sure that the Coronation “isn’t just a one-off event, with golden coaches and street parties”, but that a legacy emerged from it that would “make a difference for communities in the long term”.

The Bishop of Bradford, Dr Toby Howarth, was one of the speakers in the webinar. He encouraged religious leaders at all levels — from the local to the national — to promote the Big Help Out, adding that schools could also get involved.

Dr Howarth encouraged organisations and individuals to sign up to the Big Help Out app, on which they can share and sign up to volunteering opportunities. According to the Together Coalition, the app had 50,000 downloads on the day it was launched.

The founder of the social activism and interfaith initiative Mitzvah Day, Laura Marks, emphasised the importance of preparing in advance for actions that would take place over the coronation weekend.

“We need to start early to build the relationships and build the projects,” she said, emphasising that “it’s all about the relationships”. Mitzvah Day is holding an interfaith tea on the day of the Coronation, with a showcase for local charities.

Saci Rani, a member of the Hare Krishna Temple, Watford, said that it was valuable to encourage a culture of volunteering for all ages; and the philanthropist Maurice Ostro outlined plans to hold dozens of community walks around the country under the banner “Coronation Walk of Faith”, following on from the success of similar events for the Platinum Jubilee last year.

Along with the Big Help Out, the Archbishops’ letter highlighted the Coronation Big Lunch, which seeks to bring communities together to share a meal.

“Lovely service, Vicar”

In the letter, the Archbishops outlined the theological significance of the Coronation service: “The Coronation is steeped in this country’s traditions and filled with great symbolism. It is essentially a consecration to service.

“Happening within a Eucharist, the most basic and the central act of Christian worship, it includes oaths, regalia and crowning. Through it we receive from Jesus the one who comes to us as a servant; the one who is the king of Kings.”

In January, details of the Coronation, which is to be held on 6 May, were released by Buckingham Palace (News, 23 January).

An exhibition in Lambeth Palace Library to mark the Coronation will open on 12 April, and run until 13 July, showing material relating to previous coronations, stretching back almost one thousand years.

Alongside the exhibition of written materials — which includes the Coronation Charter of Henry I from 1100, and the notes that the Most Revd William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1716 until 1737, made in preparation for the coronation of George II — will be a display of artefacts used at previous coronations.

The display of artefacts runs until 14 June, and features the cope and mitre worn by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher at the coronation of Elizabeth II.

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