[ACNS, by Lucy Cowpland] Senior members of Britain’s royal family, led by Queen Elizabeth II, attended the annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey yesterday (Monday). The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 independent and equal sovereign states, all of whom were represented at the service. The Commonwealth traces its origins to the former British Empire and much of its territory is mirrored by the Anglican Communion. Clergy and faith leaders from across the Commonwealth were present and active during the service.
The Tropical Flowers Sega Dancers performed as guests entered the Abbey for the service, and there were contributions from members of the Commonwealth throughout the service, including The Dhol Foundation’s performance of a Drummer’s Reel; Clean Bandit singing Symphony; William Barton playing Kalkadungu’s Journey; Alfie Boe singing Run; and B Positive singing Rise Up. Prayers were read by representatives of a number of faith communities.
Each year, the Commonwealth chooses a theme to provide a focus for its activities. This year, the theme was “A Connected Commonwealth”. The theme encourages collaboration to protect natural resources and the environment – particularly, with the adoption in 2018 of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, of the ocean which connects many member countries. Lewis Pugh, UN Patron of the Oceans, gave a reflection at the service. He noted that when “we protect our environments, we foster peace.”
As almost every Commonwealth member is a maritime nation, he invited those in the service to ask themselves the question: “what can we do together, to restore the health of our oceans and to build peace?”
He said: “The Commonwealth is the home of the polar bear, the Commonwealth is the home of the African penguin, the Commonwealth is the home of the humpback whale, the blue fin tuna and the Great Barrier Reef. Our common wealth is our ocean.”
In her message for Commonwealth Day, the Queen noted that there was special significance this year as “we mark the 70th anniversary of the London Declaration, when nations of the Commonwealth agree to move forward together as free and equal members.
“The vision and sense of connection that inspired the signatories has stood the test of time, and the Commonwealth continues to grow, adapting to address the contemporary needs.
“Today, many millions of people around the world are drawn together because of the collective values shared by the Commonwealth”, she said. “In April last year, I welcomed the leaders of our 53 nations to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and we all witnessed how the Commonwealth vision offers hope, and inspires us to find ways of protecting our planet, and our people.
“We are able to look to the future with greater confidence and optimism as a result of the links that we share, and thanks to the networks of cooperation and mutual support to which we contribute, and on which we draw. With enduring commitment through times of great chance, successive generations have demonstrated that whilst the goodwill for which the Commonwealth is renowned may be intangible, its impact is very real.”
Anglican Communion News Service, March 12, 2019