King Charles III’s coronation will be a Christian ‘call to serve’ while including multifaith leaders

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted May 5, 2023

King Charles III is expected to arrive at his coronation in his military uniform, which would break tradition. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Pool via REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] Millions of people of various faiths are anticipated to watch King Charles III’s coronation on May 6, nearly six months after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died at the age of 96. While many traditions and Anglican rituals will remain the same, Charles’ coronation will have significant differences, among them being the inclusion of non-Christian faith leaders to deliver a greeting to the king at the end of the ceremony.

“I think [multifaith representation at the coronation] is great because it reflects a modern Britain,” said the Rev. Clarke French, interim rector of St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “It’s pretty representative of the fact that Britain and the Commonwealths around the world are in fact very multifaith environments and that people of different faiths contribute to society.”

The non-Christian faith leaders will represent Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, serving as a reflection of the Commonwealth of Nations’ diversity. Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic leaders will also be in attendance; Charles’ coronation will be the first one Catholic prelates will participate in since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

Pope Francis gave Charles two relics of the True Cross from the Vatican Museums as an “ecumenical gesture.” The relics will be integrated into the new Cross of Wales that will be carried ahead of the coronation procession.

Charles’ coronation will also be the first where female clergy will participate.

The Rev. David Peters, vicar of St. Joan of Arc Episcopal Church in Pflugerville, Texas, said he’s going to pay attention to the way clergy will operate at the coronation when he watches the ceremony, which will be broadcast live on multiple news stations and streaming channels starting at 6 a.m. EST with coverage starting at 5 a.m.

“I’m always looking for ways to remind myself of the calling God put on me, and I like to watch other clergy to see how they act and talk and [what they] say. It renews my sense of calling and to do what I’m doing in that context,” Peters told Episcopal News Service. “The clergy at this coronation will say, ‘What does God speak for me to tell this king what really matters in life?’ Every human deserves a clergy person who cares about them, their job, where they are, and also speaks the word of God’s good news of Jesus to them.”

The coronation will be both a religious and symbolic ceremony that starts with a procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, where Charles will be greeted by United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and representatives from some Commonwealth countries, as well as faith leaders. The ceremony will begin with music selected by Charles, including Greek Orthodox music in memory of his father, Prince Philip, who was born in Greece and who died in 2021 at the age of 99.

The liturgy’s theme is “Called to Serve” to emphasize Charles’ commitment to serve God and “the people.” To highlight the theme, at the beginning of the ceremony, Charles will say aloud, “In His name and after His example, I come not to be served but to serve.” During the ceremony, Sunak will also read Colossians 1:9-17, which will reflect the theme of service and Christ’s rule over all people and things, according to a Lambeth Palace press release.

Once Charles is presented to and acclaimed by “the people,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, will emphasize the U.K.’s religious diversity and specify that the Church of England “will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths may live freely.” Welby will then administer the Coronation Oath, which is the only part of the ceremony that’s required by law. Charles will place his hand on a King James Bible and pledge to uphold the law and the Church of England, then pledge that he’s a “faithful Protestant.”

Following the recognition and oath, Welby will anoint Charles with chrism oil that was pressed from olives reaped from the Mount of Olives and consecrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. A screen will conceal Charles and Welby from public view, including the press, during the anointing, as it’s the most sacred part of the coronation and considered an intimate time between sovereign and God.

“By his anointing in this service, His Majesty King Charles III is set apart to fulfill his vocation of service and duty to us all,” Welby said in the press release.

“[The anointing] is a very public commitment of Christian faith and trust in God,” French told ENS. “It’s a marking sign of God’s constancy and faithfulness, and it’s an ancient act that stretches back to the oldest parts of the Old Testament. So, I think it’s a great way to see faith in action.”

After Charles is anointed, he will be presented with the regalia consisting of the royal robe, Coronation Ring, Sovereign’s Orb, Sceptre with Cross and Sceptre with Dove. The Sovereign’s Orb consists of a cross mounted on an orb to symbolize Christianity; the Sceptre with Cross symbolizes the reigning monarch’s temporal power and justice; and the Sceptre with Dove symbolizes the reigning monarch’s spiritual role, with the dove representing the Holy Spirit. Queen Camilla will be presented with the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove and the Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross. At this time, Charles will wear St. Edward’s Crown for the first and only time in his life; St. Edward’s Crown is only worn when a new monarch is crowned. Once crowned, Charles will ascend the throne and multifaith leaders will enter the abbey to pay homage. Camilla will then be anointed, crowned and enthroned as Queen, followed by two minutes of abbey bells ringing, gun salutes and trumpets blaring across the U.K.

After the homage, Charles and Camilla will receive communion and then descend from their thrones. At this point, Charles will remove St. Edward’s Crown and replace it with the Imperial State Crown. Charles and Camilla will then begin one final procession back to Buckingham Palace and will be greeted with a royal salute from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Armed Forces upon arrival. Celebrations will end with a fly-past of British military planes and helicopters.

“The Coronation is first and foremost an act of Christian worship,” Welby said in the Lambeth press release. “The signs, symbols and language we use remind us that our God is the Servant King.”

Peters, in conversation with ENS, echoed a similar statement, saying he hopes the coronation will remind viewers that there is only one king in heaven.

“Ultimately, all power here on Earth is on loan from God,” Peters said. “While we’re here temporarily, we need to do good things.”

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at