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Archbishop Welby defends people’s homage in the Coronation

03 May 2023

Swearing allegiance to the King is ‘not a command’ but an invitation, he says

ITV news

Archbishop Welby is interviewed in the Lambeth Palace chapel

Archbishop Welby is interviewed in the Lambeth Palace chapel

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the inclusion in the Coronation of the Homage of the People to the King, which was criticised this week, is “not a command” but an invitation.

The people’s homage in the order of service, announced on Saturday (News, 29 April), replaces the traditional Homage of Peers in which hereditary peers knelt to pay homage to the monarch, before touching the crown and kissing his or her right cheek.

Archbishop Welby will issue the invitation during the service at Westminster Abbey on Saturday. The order of service reads: “All who so desire, in the Abbey, and elsewhere, say together: I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”

In an interview with ITV from the Lambeth Palace Chapel on Tuesday, Archbishop Welby said that so many people had contributed to putting together the two-hour-long service, he “can’t honestly remember” where that idea had come from.

He continued: “This isn’t a command; it is to say that anyone who would like to join in and feel part of this is welcome to do so. And if people don’t want to do so, that’s entirely up to them.”

Asked about his participation in an expensive spectacle in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, the Archbishop said that he did not feel guilty “in the slightest. In times of hardship, the answer to that is not everyone going around being totally miserable the whole time: it is finding ways to enable people to support and help each other and draw together with their neighbours.

“The Coronation in 1953 during a time of austerity, post-war, was also a huge and wonderful ceremony. It’s a party: join in.”

Churches and cathedrals are leading the way with celebrations this week and weekend (News, 28 April). Plans include bell-ringing, family activities, picnics on the green, volunteering drives, and fund-raising. Among the hundreds of churches live-streaming the Coronation is the Anglican Church of the Holy Ghost in Genoa, Italy.

Henk Leerin for Salisbury CathedralSwing Unlimited Big Band musicians, who will play over the Coronation weekend, perform outside Salisbury Cathedral in 2019

Ecclesiastical Insurance has released written guidance and a short video to help churches plan for the weekend, keeping in mind health and safety, volunteer support, and emergency response.

Among the more unusual events, Coventry Cathedral, with the UK charity SHARE, is organising a virtual balloon race from Coventry to Transylvania, in Romania, starting on 6 May and ending on 20 May. Participants can name and enter a balloon of their chosen colour. The funds raised will support disabled children in Sibiu, Transylvania.

The Benefact Trust is marking the occasion by issuing special grants in memory of the late Queen: in particular, her “generous and philanthropic nature” and dedication to service. The Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Grants have been awarded to the Norfolk Hospice Tapping House, opened by the late Queen in 2016, for a new Benefact Trust Sensory Garden in the grounds; and the Sandringham Group of Churches, for historic organ restoration projects at Wolferton, Hillington, and Flitcham churches on the edge of the estate.

DIOCESE OF PORTSMOUTHPollyanna Selwood, who is 14, and her brother Maxim, who is ten, started learning to ring at St Mary and All Saints, Droxford, north of Fareham, last year. They will be ringing in the new King on 6 May, as part of a newly recruited band of 17, who signed up as part of the national initiative “Ring for the King” (News, 13 January)

People are also being encouraged to donate their time over the Coronation weekend. This week, 19 UK faith leaders — including the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John; the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols; and the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally — signed an open letter in support of the Coronation volunteering initiative, the Big Help Out.

Hundreds of charities, faith groups, and community centres are taking part across the country, including churches, youth clubs, and the charity Christian Aid. Big clean-ups, donation stations, free health-screening checks, soup kitchens, and coffee mornings are just a few examples.

The faith leaders’ letter states: “Our scriptures and teachings inspire us to get involved in volunteering and charity work. As well as the ethical teachings, we are communities of action. Our churches, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras, temples and other places of worship deploy volunteers to help and support people.”

It continues: “We appreciate the role HM The King has played as a charitable leader and entrepreneur. He has championed volunteering as well as inter-faith harmony. The Big Help Out, over the Coronation Weekend, is a special opportunity to rededicate our communities to volunteering and service. We encourage our communities, along with the entire nation, to take part.”

Archbishop John and the Welsh Bench of Bishops said this week that the Coronation was “a significant and happy occasion for our nation and for the Commonwealth”, and gave thanks to the King for his “long and dedicated service as Prince of Wales, for the people and causes he supported and the friendship he extended, not least to our churches and congregations”.

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