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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The Coronation challenge

Tomorrow, King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey.

This is an historic moment in the life of the nation and Commonwealth. Charles will be the 40th monarch to be crowned at the Abbey since the Coronation of William the Conqueror, on Christmas Day in 1066.

The Coronation service is explicitly Christian, a powerful reminder of the way in which the Christian story has profoundly shaped our culture. The essential elements date back to the crowning of King Edgar at Bath Abbey in 973, when he became the first King of All England. In that service, as with tomorrow’s, there was a procession, oaths, anointing, and investiture, followed by Communion.

The tradition of anointing kings with oil is grounded in the Old Testament where Samuel anointed Saul (1 Samuel 10:1). In tomorrow’s service, following the invocation of the Holy Spirit, Charles will prepare for his anointing in the middle of Handel’s great anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’. During the anthem, the King will be divested of his robes and ornaments of state. He will then move to King Edward’s chair where he will put on a sleeveless white garment and be anointed with holy oil by the Archbishop of Canterbury, as Solomon was anointed by Zadok.

The act of consecration is the most sacred part of the service. The King, like Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, has asked that the cameras turn away. This will give him a private moment to reflect on the significance of the events taking place.

We might not be a king or queen, or even support the idea of monarchy in a modern democracy, but the Coronation gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own relationship to God. Firstly, before God, we stand alone and are divested of all worldly goods. We play to an audience of one. We are ultimately accountable to ‘God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth’, not the world’s media, a nation, a boss, customers, or shareholders.

Secondly, all disciples of Jesus are anointed by God, ‘sealed with the Holy Spirit’ (Ephesians 1:13) for a task: to make the invisible God visible by what we do and the way we do it, to show the world there is a better way of being human, and that looks like Jesus, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16).

Paul Woolley



  1. I was forwarded your piece on the coronation which I found helpful that we are all anointed by the Holy spirit when we are His children. We all have responsibility to care for one another in love whether privileged or not
    I know I am His Princess!!

    By Morven Wiggins  -  5 May 2023
  2. But whereas Saul was identified as King by God making it known to Samuel, what was the discernment process for Charles, and who were the others considered. How was God’s will made known in this case?

    If God did not speak into this situation, then how on earth (and in Heaven) can Charles said to have been called by God for this role? In which case, to proclaim that he has been, is presumably not an accurate reflection of the situation.

    It seems to me that the reality is that Charles is king, just because others were in the past, and we have very little evidence that God ‘chose’ his predecessors for this role. So we need to be very careful attributing this to God if it is not. The history of ancient Israel makes it clear that some hereditary kings walked in God’s ways, but many did not.

    In the ordination of people to the C of E, their call is tested by a number of people, and only those where the call is confirmed are so ordained. Why not use such a process in this case?

    By David Cockburn  -  5 May 2023
  3. Thanks.

    By John Guy  -  5 May 2023
  4. Dear Mr Woolley,

    When I write your surname with a small – lower case – w, a thin red line appears underneath the name, directing me to correct the lower case w to an upper case W.

    Why is that?

    I am placing a thin red line under the name “almighty” that you have written in your article.

    Why is that, do you think ?

    By Janet Haskett  -  7 May 2023

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