This year marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, and Monday members of the Royal Family and the Commonwealth community joined at Westminster Abbey to celebrate.
Attending the annual Commonwealth Day Service were The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the Duke of York.
The Royal Family joined about 2,000 guests including leaders from around the Commonwealth and more than 800 young people and schoolchildren from different 76 school groups. Sixty per cent of the Commonwealth’s population is under the age of 30.
The theme of this year’s service was “A Connected Commonwealth.” According to the 2019 programme, “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 so many member countries.”
The annual service, as presenters mentioned during the BBC broadcast, “has an atmosphere unlike any other regular event here at the Abbey.”
It is designed to appeal to a wide range of people from different faiths and cultures and features a mix of secular musical performances along with the more traditional hymns. Faith leaders representing multiple religious communities read prayers during the service.
The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, opened the service with some thoughts on the theme of the connected Commonwealth before reading The Lord’s Prayer, and asked for the congregation to “pray that we dwell together in peace and that our mutual friendship and support may be for us all a source of strength.”
The performances kicked off with a high-energy drum reel from India’s The Dohl Foundation, followed by Grammy-winning group Clean Bandit. They performed the number-one song “Symphony,” which had Prince Harry smiling and bobbing his head.
UN Patron of the Oceans, swimmer Lewis Pugh, gave a reading talking about the alarming change of the world’s oceans and said that “three things have come together to create this perfect storm: climate change, overfishing and plastic pollution.”
The Prime Minster Theresa May delivered a reading of 1 Corinthians 12: 14-26 before dashing back to the House of Commons. She was due to answer an Urgent Question by MPs on Brexit, but a Junior Minister was forced to stand in when she didn’t arrive in time.
Additional performances included Australian aboriginal musician William Barton on a didgeridoo, renowned English tenor and actor Alfie Boe, who performed a stunning acapella version of Snow Patrol’s hit song, “Run,” and finally, the B Positive choir who sung “Rise Up.” The choir’s members have all been impacted by blood donation.
Commonwealth Day has been celebrated on the second Monday of March since 1977. The service is arranged by the Royal Commonwealth Society and is the United Kingdom’s largest annual interfaith gathering, according to the Royal Family’s Twitter account.
The Queen is the current head of the Commonwealth, and the Prince of Wales was appointed Her Majesty’s designated successor at the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.