Like monarchs before him, back through the centuries to William the Conqueror, King Charles III comes to Westminster Abbey to be crowned. He does so as a twenty-first century Christian King with a clear sense of God’s calling to serve the wellbeing of all within his nations and realms - Christians and people of other faiths, those with no faith and even those not supportive of monarchy.
At the beginning of the coronation service the King makes it clear that he looks to Christ, the King of kings, as the inspiration for servant leadership. Children greet him, saying, ‘Children of the Kingdom of God, we welcome you in the name of the King of Kings.’ To this His Majesty responds, ‘In His name and after His example, I come not to be served but to serve.’
We are reminded of how much service there is to do simply because of the central role of the monarchy, ‘the crown’, in ensuring that the national community works for the good of all. The King promises to govern for the benefit of all. With his hand firmly on the Coronation Bible, he swears to cause law and justice, in mercy, to be executed in all his judgements, and to maintain the laws of God and the profession of the gospel.
We are fortunate in having a king who, drawing on his sincere Christian faith, clearly desires to reign over an inclusive society in which all can flourish, and to see this United Kingdom serve the wellbeing of the global community, not least in defending peace and protecting the environment.
The coronation might appear to be like an ordination service on steroids. The King has a demanding vocation which he cannot fulfil in his strength alone. Central to the service, then, is his anointing with chrism, sacred oil by which the Holy Spirit itself is gifted as the unfailing source of God’s strength. This takes us back through the mists of time beyond even Christ to the kings of the Old Testament. As Handel’s coronation anthem reminds us, ‘Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king.’
The anthem goes on, “And all the people rejoiced and said, ‘God save the King!”’ So we do the same, as King Charles is anointed, accepting God’s strength to serve, following Christ’s example, for the good of all people.