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The Queen attends multi-faith reception at Lambeth Palace

Wednesday 15th February 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams hosted a multi-faith reception for Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Lambeth Palace.

His Grace The Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Williams received Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh at the Main Doors of the Blore Building at Lambeth Palace.  The Archbishop accompanied Her Majesty, and Mrs Williams accompanied His Royal Highness, to meet guests first to the State Drawing Room and then to the Pink Dining Room.

The royal couple met representatives of the eight non-Christian religions - the Baha'i, the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Zoroastrian communities - as well as Christian representatives.  Each group of faith leaders was gathered around a sacred object selected by them for display at the Celebration as an object of particular significance to the faith or practice of their community, or their life in the United Kingdom. Read more about the sacred objects here.


Archbishop Rowan made the following address [watch video above or listen here].

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness,

Fellow Religious Leaders,

Honoured Guests:

We are delighted and privileged to be able to welcome you here today, Ma’am, for one of the first public engagements to celebrate your Jubilee Year.  I know that I speak for all present when I offer our warmest congratulations and gratitude to you, and promise our prayers and affectionate support during this historic year.

All communities of faith know that the bonds that hold communities together are various and complex, often so deep as to be invisible.  It is one reason why communities of faith are in a good position to understand how and why monarchy matters to the life of the United Kingdom.  Ladies and gentlemen, Her Majesty The Queen has always been explicit in her public declarations – more than ever in recent years – that her personal commitment to her office as a call from God is at the heart of her understanding of her role, and she has not hesitated to be explicit about the Christian grounds of that commitment.  But she has exemplified very clearly something that continues to be essential to the thinking of the Church of England, of which she is Supreme Governor.  A clear and explicit commitment to Christian doctrine does not mean an anxious or arrogant spirit that seeks to exclude the commitments of others.  Instead it is a reason to be generous, to seek to exercise responsibility for the good of an entire national community, made up of very diverse parts.  Our Christian faith tells us that no-one flourishes unless all flourish; and this ought to turn us away from any attitude of superiority or partisanship as Christians.  Strong Christian faith should be a guarantee for the well-being of all.

And this is exactly what you have demonstrated, Ma’am, both in your own person and as the Supreme Governor of a Church that seeks to use its position in order to convene and support the diversity of faith communities in our society.  The personal faith to which you have so regularly alluded entails the conviction of a calling from God to do what you do and to be what you are; it also means a full understanding of what makes communities work.  You are well aware that communities are united not by law alone but by a common language of affinities and symbols, signs that are not necessarily derived from a narrow functional reasoning, but have evolved over time as communities learn how to manage their own life with their neighbours and their environment. 

Thus you have been able to show so effectively that being religious is not eccentric or abnormal in terms of the kind of society we claim to be: on the contrary, if we take seriously the way our constitution works, the United Kingdom is society where we might expect people to grasp the importance of symbols and traditions, not as a sign of mere conservatism or nostalgia but as a sign of what holds us together, what commits us to each other.  And in this sense, Your Majesty’s commitment in the name of God to your vocation and so to the wholeness and harmony of the nation is a crucial factor in strengthening our commitment to each other.  As Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, has often reminded us, we need to work hard at sustaining a true sense of ‘covenant’ in our society; and our celebration of this Jubilee year is a way of acknowledging gratefully the part played in this by the faith and dedication of our Queen.


HM the Queen speaking at Lambeth Palace

Her Majesty the Queen made the following speech in reply: [see video above or listen here] 

Your Grace, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Prince Philip and I are delighted to be with you today to pay tribute to the particular mission of Christianity and the general value of faith in this country.

This gathering is a reminder of how much we owe the nine major religious traditions represented here.  They are sources of a rich cultural heritage and have given rise to beautiful sacred objects and holy texts, as we have seen today.

Yet these traditions are also contemporary families of faith.  Our religions provide critical guidance for the way we live our lives, and for the way in which we treat each other.  Many of the values and ideas we take for granted in this and other countries originate in the ancient wisdom of our traditions.  Even the concept of a Jubilee is rooted in the Bible.

Here at Lambeth Palace we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life.  The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated.  Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions.  Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country. 

It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents.  But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely. Woven into the fabric of this country, the Church has helped to build a better society – more and more in active co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths.

This occasion is thus an opportunity to reflect on the importance of faith in creating and sustaining communities all over the United Kingdom.  Faith plays a key role in the identity of many millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging.  It can act as a spur for social action.  Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves.

Your Grace, the presence of your fellow distinguished religious leaders and the objects on display demonstrate how each of these traditions has contributed distinctively to the history and development of the United Kingdom.  Prince Philip and I wish to send our good wishes, through you, to each of your communities, in the hope that – with the assurance of the protection of our established Church – you will continue to flourish and display strength and vision in your relations with each other and the rest of society.

Archbishop Rowan addressing HM the Queen at Lambeth Palace

The Archbishop then responded: [listen here]

Ma’am, thank you for your gracious words and even more for your presence with us this morning. 

It is, for all of us, an immense encouragement that the first major public occasion of this historic year should be an occasion celebrating the contribution of faith to our society.  And all of us would wish to commit ourselves, in this year and hereafter, to honouring that covenant with our society which we have spoken about in different ways; that promise to be there for the common good, inspired by your words and your example. 

Your Majesty, thank you.  We are deeply honoured to have you with us.


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