Rt Revd Paul Butler, one of the bishop assistants to the King, shares his thoughts on this historical event
With a week to go until the King’s coronation at Westminster Abbey in London on Saturday 6th May, final preparations are now taking place. Television cameras are being set up to beam the service from the abbey to a huge world-wide audience.
One person who is taking part in the service is Rt Revd Paul Butler, the bishop of Durham. Bishop Paul spoke to Premier’s Northern correspondent Ian Britton about his role on the day of the coronation.
I’m one of the two bishop assistants to the King, along with the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Historically, these are the two bishops who have escorted the sovereign. So, we meet him at the West door, we escort him all the way up. And in essence, our responsibility is to make sure that the King is in the right place at the right time. And that as things are being passed to him, if robes might get in the way, we just we ease them away. Our task is to make it go smoothly from the King’s point of view.
In that sense, we’re being taken back to being Deacon servants, which is actually a really good thing. Because I know that the King wants the theme to be that he is the servant of the people. In the midst of all the grandeur and the pomp, he wants that theme of service to come across. So hopefully, we’re going to demonstrate that.
There are quite a lot of rehearsals, trying to make sure we get it right. And they’re quite long, because the service itself is quite long. So, there’s long rehearsals, mainly in the last few days beforehand, when Westminster Abbey can be closed to the public. Some of those rehearsals will include the King and Queen in person.
We have been using prayers that the Church of England has produced leading up to the coronation, and I have found them really helpful. I know that lots of people have been using those in their homes and schools. During the service, I will be praying for the King and the Queen and for the wider royal family as well. But obviously, the focus on the day is the King and the Queen. Prayers will be said, probably the odd one for “please make sure we get it right”!
This coronation is not simply a religious service, it is a clearly Christian service, it is in the context of Holy Communion. Towards the end of the service, the King and Queen will be served Holy Communion. So, it’s very much a Christian service. The King makes Christian commitments and Christian promises.
Yes, we are in a society that has people of many faiths and none, but the heart of the coronation is a reminder that the King serves as a king in the name of Jesus Christ. He serves the King of Kings, by serving the people.
This service is very important for the Church of England, because it’s one of the opportunities for us to say to the nation: “The good news of Jesus Christ really does matter and really does have significance for personal lives and for the life of the nation.”
So, I hope people will watch, I hope they’ll join in and that they will have cause to reflect not simply on the coronation, but on Jesus who is the King of Kings.
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In the lead up to the coronation, let’s pray for the King and Queen as they prepare. It’s a very solemn occasion for them, but let’s pray that it is a day of joy and rejoicing. And a weekend of joy and rejoicing, because our hope is that on the Sunday there’ll be lots of community meals and parties celebrating, and then on the Monday, with The Big Help Out, that people will be out serving their communities. That’s the King’s own idea, because he wants people to really have a vision for volunteering to serve one another and to serve our communities well.
A prayer for the coronation:
“Loving God, King of Kings. Thank you for King Charles and Queen Camilla and we pray for them as they prepare for the day of coronation. We pray for them in their responsibilities. We pray for us as a nation, that we might keep you as our King, that we might be servants of you and serving one another, that we might be a loving caring nation that supports and encourages one another. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Rt Rev Paul Butler is bishop of Durham and was speaking to Premier’s Northern correspondent Ian Britton about his role on the day of the coronation.