A coronation with Christianity at its heart

(Photo: Alamy)

King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey today in a dazzling coronation that is by its very nature a Christian act of worship, with the Gospel-inspired theme of humble service to God and people at the heart of its liturgy.

Bridging a millennium of coronation tradition with new elements that reflect his desire to be a monarch for all in modern Britain, King Charles will be crowned in front of 2,300 guests inside the abbey and millions more watching on TV and online around the world.

The King and Queen will process into the Abbey to I Was Glad, a version of Psalm 122 set to music by composer Sir Hubert Parry.

In keeping with the theme of the coronation, 'Called to Serve' - and a new addition to the service - the King will be welcomed to the abbey by the Child of His Majesty's Chapel Royal, 14-year-old Samuel Strachan.

The King will say to him, "In his name and after his example I come not to be served but to serve," paraphrasing Mark 10:45, in which Jesus tells his disciples, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Reflecting the King's commitment to ecumenical and interfaith relations, the procession into Westminster Abbey will include faith Leaders and representatives from the Jewish, Sunni and Shia Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Bahá'í and Zoroastrian communities, as well as the leaders of other Christian denominations and traditions.

Lambeth Palace said, "This represents the multi-faith nature of our society and the importance of inclusion of other faiths whilst respecting the integrities of the different traditions."

In an unprecedented break from past coronations, multi-faith leaders will play an active role in the service, delivering a greeting to the king at the end of the service.

The service is being conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who has selected a new Epistle for the coronation, Colossians 1:9-17, "to reflect the theme of service to others, and the loving rule of Christ over all people and all things, which runs through this coronation liturgy," Lambeth Palace said.

The passage will be read during the service by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The Gospel reading is taken from Luke 4:16-21, which records Jesus worshipping in the synagogue and reading from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."

Expressing his hopes for the coronation, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "The coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla promises to be a beautiful, joyful and historic occasion.

"People can certainly expect to be struck by the majesty and sacred wonder of the service, but also to be invited to pause and reflect.

"To reflect on our past, our future and, as we pray for our new sovereign, on our own lives and how we too are called to serve others."

Before taking his oath, the King will be presented with a specially commissioned Coronation Bible, handbound in red leather and decorated in gold leaf.

The Bible will be presented to him by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, who will say, "Sir, to keep you ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, receive this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God."

Before the oath, the Archbishop of Canterbury will, in new wording, say that the Church of England "is committed to the true profession of the Gospel, and, in so doing, will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely".

The King will place his hand upon the Bible when he takes his oath, solemnly promising and swearing to govern the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and His Majesty's other realms and territories.

Kneeling at the Coronation Chair, the King will be asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury, "Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?

"And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?"

The King will promise to do so and place his hand on the Bible, saying, "The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God," before kissing the Bible.

The King will then say, "I Charles do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law."

The King will then say a prayer at the altar: "God of compassion and mercy whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth. Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

The sermon will be preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury, following which King Charles and Queen Camilla will be anointed with oil that was consecrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem earlier this year.

The oil will be presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, and the King and Queen will be anointed in the form of the cross on their palms, breast and head.

Placing the Royal Orb in the King's right hand, the King will be asked to "remember always that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our God, and of his Christ".

The King will then take hold of the Sceptre with Cross and the Sceptre with Dove, and the Archbishop will say, "Receive the Royal Sceptre, the ensign of kingly power and justice; and the Rod of equity and mercy, a symbol of covenant and peace. May the Spirit of the Lord who anointed Jesus at his baptism, so anoint you this day, that you might exercise authority with wisdom, and direct your counsels with grace; that by your service and ministry to all your people, justice and mercy may be seen in all the earth."

Placing the crown upon King Charles' head, the Archbishop will say, "King of kings and Lord of lords, bless, we beseech thee, this Crown, and so sanctify thy servant Charles, upon whose head this day thou dost place it for a sign of royal majesty, that he may be crowned with thy gracious favour and filled with abundant grace and all princely virtues; through him who liveth and reigneth supreme over all things, one God, world without end. Amen."

This will be followed by declarations of "God save the King".

In further comments ahead of the coronation service, Archbishop Justin Welby said, "This service reaches deep into our nation's Christian history. From the ancient and sacred act of anointing monarchs, to the use of the sixth-century St Augustine Gospels, the service will link us in a profound way with our national story.

"But this is not simply history: I hope the service offers people an opportunity to hear the living words of God, which bring good news to every person in every generation.

"I also hope and pray that the Coronation will serve as a powerful reflection and celebration of who we are today, in all our wonderful diversity.

"So I will be praying that everyone who shares in this service – in the Abbey, across the country and beyond – will find ancient wisdom and new hope. I pray that it inspires us all, like the King and Queen, to live our lives in service to others."