Her Majesty The Queen attends a Service of Celebration
Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, led the gathered guests at the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London on Monday, 9 March 2020.
Her Majesty was joined by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
Organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth Service is the largest annual inter-faith gathering in the United Kingdom and provides an opportunity to focus attention on this voluntary association of 54 countries and their commitment to promoting democracy, human rights, the rule of law and equality for its 2.4 billion citizens.
The theme for this year’s Service, ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’, sought to highlight the many ways in which the 54 diverse countries of the Commonwealth connect.
The 2,000 strong congregation included the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson; the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland; High Commissioners and Ambassadors; senior politicians from across the UK and the Commonwealth; faith leaders; and more than 700 schoolchildren and young people from across all four corners of the UK.
With the UK as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, guests were welcomed to Westminster Abbey by the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the renowned Scottish military and cultural act who are committed to celebrating and promoting Scottish art forms, such as piping and drumming, fiddle playing, and highland dance. On this occasion, they were represented by performers from Pipers Trail, Hjaltibonhoga, and Tattoo Dance Company.
Once inside, schoolchildren within the Nave were entertained by Commonwealth Games Medallists, the Griffin Schools Commonwealth Choir, and the Purcell School’s Brass Quintet who also played The Commonwealth Chorale to the Procession of the Flags. Each of the 54 Commonwealth member nations was represented by a young person nominated by either their High Commission, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, or the Pacific Islands Society of the UK and Ireland for contributions to their local communities.
Following the bidding by the Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, One-Drum, a collective of Londonbased African master drummers, dancers, musicians and performers opened the Service with ‘Intore’ – a combination of Rwandan and African drumming as a nod to Rwanda’s incoming period as Chair-inOffice of the Commonwealth.
Anthony Joshua OBE, British world heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medallist, read a reflection in which he spoke of his Commonwealth heritage. Suli Breaks, spoken word poet, also delivered a reflection titled, ‘All It Takes Is One Idea’, in which he sought to inspire achievement amongst the gathered youth, no matter their personal circumstance.
Attendees also experienced performances from Alexandra Burke, who sang ‘Ain’t No Mountain’, from three-time Ivor Novello winner Craig David, who sang his song, ‘Unbelievable’, as well as the Melodians Steel Orchestra who played ‘Commonwealth Melody’. In their 33-year history, the Melodians have performed in as many countries and have focused on providing opportunities for young people from diverse social and racial backgrounds to develop musical skills.
Faith leaders representing the Greek Orthodox Church, the Muslim Community, the Buddhist Community and Liberal Judaism, led the prayers during the Service. The Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP, UK Prime Minister, gave the Bible Reading from Luke 10: 29-37, and Commonwealth SecretaryGeneral, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, led the Commonwealth community in the Act of Affirmation to the Commonwealth.
Commenting on the service, Chair of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Dr Linda Yueh, and President of the Society, The Right Honourable the Lord Howell of Guildford PC said in a joint welcome message:
‘The Royal Commonwealth Society is honoured to organise this great occasion in the Commonwealth calendar each year and is deeply grateful that, once again, the most dedicated and constant champion of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty The Queen, our Patron, is with us for today’s service. By her presence, with many of her family, The Queen reminds us all of the unending readiness and dedication required to serve great causes, and the Commonwealth of peoples and nations in particular.’
The Service was broadcast live on BBC One and the BBC World Service, and is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer in the UK for one year and on the BBC YouTube channel in perpetuity.