Church of England releases list of rules for parishes as nation mourns Queen Elizabeth II

Church of England, Queen Elizabeth II
People sign books of condolence at Canterbury Cathedral, in south-east England on Sept. 11, 2022, as people of the Diocese and throughout the Communion express their affection and gratitude as they mourn the death of the late Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. - Queen Elizabeth II's coffin will travel by road through Scottish towns and villages on Sunday as it begins its final journey from her beloved Scottish retreat of Balmoral. The Queen, who died on Sept. 8, will be taken to the Palace of Holyroodhouse before lying at rest in St Giles' Cathedral, before travelling onwards to London for her funeral. |

The Church of England has published guidance for its parishes that are expected to “play a key role in the life of the nation” during the period of national mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. 

The guidance is not prescriptive but should be seen as general advice on what parishes might want to do over the next few days after the longest-serving monarch in British history died Thursday at her holiday home at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96, the Church of England said. 

The document calls for a hybrid or online service for reflection, or an informal time of prayer, in the local churches “as soon as it is practical,” and making “books of condolence” available both physically and online until the day after the funeral.

The state funeral of the queen, who was the head of the Church of England during her reign, has been scheduled to take place at Westminster Abbey at 11 a.m. on Sept. 19, according to a statement by the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, The Telegraph reported.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II arrives with for the opening of the sixth session of the Scottish Parliament on October 02, 2021, in Edinburgh, Scotland. |

The queen’s oak coffin, which was placed in the Ballroom of Balmoral Castle in Scotland after her death, departed Sunday morning by car on a six-hour journey to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, BBC said.

It will be transported slowly by hearse through Aberdeen, Dundee and by Perth before lying in the palace’s Throne Room until Monday afternoon. King Charles III and members of the royal family will then accompany the coffin in procession to St Giles’ Cathedral, where a service will be held, and the coffin will lie at the cathedral until Tuesday, allowing the public to view her coffin, BBC added.

The coffin will then be flown back to London, and the queen will lie in state in Westminster Hall for four days before her funeral, allowing members of the public to file past and pay their respects.

On the two Sundays until the funeral, worship services should be held as normal but parishes will be given special material that they can choose to add to existing forms of service, or they might choose to hold official commemorative services during this time, according to the guidance.

Next Sunday, which will be the day before the funeral, parishes have been advised to plan for a hybrid or online local church service in the evening, and the CofE will provide a model order of service and additional resources.

Further, as per a request by the royal household, or the collective departments that support members of the royal family, parishes should toll their bells for the hour immediately prior to the time of the funeral service, which is to be declared later.

“Weddings, funerals and baptisms may continue as planned through the national period of mourning,” the guidance says. “Clergy should check with those planning these events whether they wish them to take place during this time. Particular sensitivity should be taken when reviewing those which are planned to take place on the day of the funeral.”

The King’s Printer, Cambridge University Press, has published templates for the services during the time of mourning.

KIng Charles III
Charles III was declared king at St. James Palace in London, England, Sept. 10, 2022. |

One of the prayers, which now refers to the king, reads:

“Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting, and power infinite: Have mercy upon the whole Church; and so rule the heart of thy chosen servant Charles, our king and governor, that he, knowing whose minister he is, may above all things seek thy honor and glory; and that we, and all his subjects, duly considering whose authority he hath, may faithfully serve, honor, and humbly obey him, in thee, and for thee, according to thy blessed Word and ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Charles III was officially proclaimed king by the Accession Council in a ceremony at St. James’ Palace in London on Saturday morning. “I am deeply aware of this great inheritance and of the duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty which have now passed to me,” he said in his speech. 

A prayer to be used during a Holy Communion service in the period of mourning, as per the guidance, reads:

“O God, the maker and redeemer of all mankind, grant us, with thy servant QUEEN ELIZABETH and all the faithful departed, the sure benefits of thy Son’s saving passion and glorious resurrection; that in the last day, when all things are gathered up in Christ, we may with them enjoy the fullness of thy promises; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.”

The guidance also calls for schools to use collective worship “to enable children to remember the life of Her Majesty the Queen and pray for the rest of the royal family at this time.”

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