On Monday 11 March, a group of students travelled to London to join 700 children and young people from across the UK in celebration of Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey as part of a congregation of 3,000 people.
The event is the largest annual multi-faith Service in the UK and was attended by Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, senior members of the Royal Family, The Prime Minister, Commonwealth Heads of State and specially invited guests.
Richard Nihill, the schools chaplain said: “The students and I were very excited about being given this wonderful opportunity. We had an amazing day in London, meeting people from across the Commonwealth and seeing members of the Royal Family at this unique event. It surpassed all our expectations and was unforgettable.”
Before the service, the group had a guided tour of the Renaissance paintings of the National Gallery and saw some of London’s most famous sights.
The Service, broadcast live on the BBC, celebrates the unity and diversity of the modern Commonwealth and aims to foster a greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s role and achievements. This year’s theme of ‘A Connected Commonwealth’ speaks of the determination of the culturally diverse and widely dispersed family of nations to cooperate and work together in friendship and goodwill.
Attendees at the service were treated to performances from Tropical Flowers Séga Dancers, The Hertfordshire Commonwealth Choir, The Dionysus Ensemble, The Dhol Foundation, Clean Bandit, William Barton, Alfie Boe, B Positive Choir and the Choir of Westminster Abbey. The principal reflection was given by UN Patron of Oceans, Lewis Pugh.
Student Emma Beale said: “For someone who loves learning about other cultures from our own, this was a great chance to learn about some of the other countries in the commonwealth, and their religions. We had a really memorable experience and it was beautiful to see 53 countries and many religions coming together to be a ‘Connected Commonwealth’; the theme of the service”
Emma Pomfrett strongly felt that: “Of all the opportunities school has given me, none has been as exhilarating, rewarding and unique as our trip to Westminster Abbey to be a part of the congregation in the 2019 Commonwealth Service.”
Archbishop Holgate’s Head Girl Maia Garcia summed up the collective feelings of the group saying that no sooner had the service begun than it was drawing to a close: “I realised that the service was over and they were ushering everyone out, but instead of disappointment I remained elevated as we did not just attend the Commonwealth Service, we were part of it.”
Commonwealth Day is marked annually on the second Monday in March. It is a celebration of the Commonwealth’s rich diversity and an opportunity to promote understanding on global issues, international cooperation and the work of Commonwealth civil society organisations.