Bishop's coronation role: 'My name was on the order of service before I'd received my invitation'

·3-min read

One of three female bishops taking part in the coronation of King Charles says her name was on the order of service before she had received her invitation.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Right Reverend Guli Francis-Dehqani, will be carrying the King's chalice during the procession and administering wine during the holy communion to both the King and the new Queen.

She told Sky News: "It's obviously a huge honour and a privilege and a great surprise to me, but something I'm looking forward to tremendously and feel really honoured to be a part of."

She said she had found out that she was to be involved in the coronation "in a roundabout kind of way".

She said: "Some months ago, the archbishop asked me just in passing what I was doing on 6 May, so that was just a small hint that there might be something coming, although I absolutely didn't take anything for granted.

"Then a fellow bishop - a colleague who is also playing a role in the service - attended a rehearsal that I wasn't able to be at, and saw my name on the order of service before I had actually received the invitation myself.

"So he told me that it was likely coming - so a slightly roundabout way, but nonetheless a real joy."

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First for female bishops

The Church of England announced its first female bishop in December 2014.

This was well after the last coronation - of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 - meaning this will be the first time female bishops can participate in the event.

Bishop Francis-Dehqani said she believes there are 10 Church of England bishops - three of them female - taking part alongside representatives of other faiths.

She added: "It is an extraordinary experience to have the opportunity to go through and to then be able to share it with my family and tell my children about it and so on.

"It becomes part of our family history as well as part of the broader history of the life of this nation and indeed of the Church of England."

The inclusion of other faiths is "quite right and proper," she said, adding the service will represent the multi-cultural and multi-religious society we live in.

She said: "It is, of course, essentially a Christian service of worship, but within that there is plenty of opportunity to have representation from those who are from different faith communities.

"And although the King himself will make his oath as defender of the faith, as it were, the Archbishop of Canterbury will make quite clear that as those who represent the Church of England, we want to make sure always that we create space and welcome for people of all faiths and in that sense want to represent them as well."

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King Charles will also pray in public during the service, something the bishop described as "really important".

She said: "What I do know is that he is a man of profound faith and it will be really important to him - the opportunity to pray - the religious significance of the whole service, the symbolism, will absolutely not be lost on him."

The following religious leaders will take part in a greeting to the King at the end of the coronation service:

• Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis, KBE (Judaism)

• The Most Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala (Buddhism)

• The Rt. Hon. The Lord Singh of Wimbledon, CBE (Sikhism)

• Radha Mohan das (Hinduism)

• Aliya Azam, MBE (Islam)

The leaders will tell the newly crowned King: "Your Majesty, as neighbours in faith, we acknowledge the value of public service.

"We unite with people of all faiths and beliefs in thanksgiving, and in service with you for the common good."

The King will acknowledge the greeting.