The Queen at church to celebrate Scripture Union’s 150th anniversary

The Queen has attended a service at St Mary’s Church in Islington today, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Scripture Union.

The Queen – who last night hosted a white tie reception for the diplomatic corps – sat at the head of the congregation to hear the service led by The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler.

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The service was filmed for a future episode of the BBC’s ‘Songs of Praise’; it also featured readings by Baroness Floella Benjamin and a performance dramatising the organisation’s history.

Founded in 1867 at  house not far from where today’s service took place, the Scripture Union works to encourage children and young people to explore and understand the bible and the word of Jesus. The organisation is active in over 120 countries and of course, The Queen being head of the Church of England, is keen to encourage such spiritual learning.


In his address, the Bishop told the congregation about the beginnings of the movement, he said: “In the summer of 1867 Josiah Spiers met with 15 children, aged seven to 11, in the home of Thomas Hughes, as we heard earlier, just around the corner from here.

The Queen attends Scripture Union’s 150th Anniversary Service at St Mary’s Church in London. Picture by i-Images / Pool

“At that point un-named, the Children’s Special Service Mission, later Scripture Union, was born. On the 26th August 1868, unplanned, Josiah, whilst on holiday in Llandudno, spelt out the text God is love (in the sand).

“He was helped on that beach by around 50 children to whom he then told stories of Jesus. The work of sharing God’s good news with children was expanding.”

“Helping children, young people and adults encounter the God who is love in Jesus, has always meant helping people read or listen to, meditate on and respond to, the scriptures,” the Bishop continued. “It is never meant about knowing the bible better, it is always about knowing the God of the bible better, through reading and studying it.”

A new hymn was also performed called ‘God of Unchanging Grace’, by the prolific hymn writer Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith.

The Queen met those taking part in the service as well as the Scripture Union’s supporters, including singer Katherine Jenkins.

The Rev Tim Hastie-Smith, national director of the Scripture Union, said: “It was absolutely brilliant The Queen was able to join us, the fact that she found the time to be with us this afternoon, with a whole load of children and people celebrating God’s love, is an incredible thrill.”

The Queen is known to have a deep personal faith, which she often refers to during her Christmas speech to the nation each year. She also ensures she regularly attends church. Of course, the Royal Family will celebrate Christmas Day with two services before returning to Sandringham House for Christmas lunch.

We will inform you when we know the air date of this episode of ‘Songs of Praise’.

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