Trees of life service takes place at the Abbey

Tuesday, 11th October 2022

Trees of life service takes place at the Abbey

A Service of Remembrance with the blessing of saplings for a living memorial to honour those who served and died in the COVID-19 pandemic was held at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 11th October 2022.

Representatives from the NHS, the emergency services and other key workers were in attendance, along with members of the public.

About the service

The service was led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who said in his Bidding:

‘We gather in the Abbey as others have gathered here to measure the significance of our experience and to summon up remembrance and hope. In a pandemic that is now woven into the fabric of our lives we recall what has been and imagine what is to come. This is a moment of complex feelings. We measure the loss of over 200,000 lives, each one precious and particular. We bear that grief. We know that suffering continues amongst those dealing with long term symptoms, those newly taken ill and those for whom other treatments were delayed.
Yet we also gather to give thanks for the courage, skill and selflessness of so many different people who put the needs of others before their safety and before their comfort. We recall both the isolation the pandemic imposed and the communities of common purpose that sustained us.’

Philippa Rawlinson, Managing Director of the National Memorial Arboretum, gave a testimonial.

John Everitt, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company, read Isiah 61: 1-3, 11, and the Rt Hon The Baroness Morgan of Cotes read Revelation 21:22 - 22:5.

The Dean gave the Address.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Mark Birch, Minor Canon and Precentor, and said by:

  • Richard Webb-Stevens QAM, London Ambulance Service Motorbike Response Unit
  • Becky Warren, The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (Reserve)
  • Rose Morgan BEM, Supermarket key worker
  • The Venerable Tricia Hillas, Canon in Residence

Writer Michael Rosen, who spent 47 days in intensive care with COVID-19 in 2020, read his poem, These are the hands. The service concluded with a Blessing from the Dean.

The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist. The organ was played by Matthew Jorysz, Assistant Organist.

Blessing of the saplings

The Dean led the blessings of the saplings which were positioned around an alder tree in the lantern. Words of blessings were said by representatives of Communities of Faith.

The representatives were:

  • Dr Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi (Shi’a Muslim community)
  • Mrs Trupti Patel (Hindu community)
  • Mr Vinay Shah (Jain community)
  • Mr Malcolm Deboo (Zoroastrian community)
  • Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra (Sunni Muslim community)
  • Rabbi Mark Goldsmith (Reform Judaism)
  • Mrs Annabel Djalili (Baha’i community)
  • Rabbi Charley Baginsky (Liberal Judaism)
  • Dr Parmindar Kaur Sahni (Sikh community)
  • The Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala (Buddhist community)

Trees of life glade

The alder and the blessed saplings will form part of the Trees of Life glade at the National Memorial Arboretum in the National Forest.

Order of service

Trees of Life: A Service of Remembrance with the blessing of saplings for a living memorial to honour those who served and died in the COVID-19 pandemic – order of service (799KB, PDF)

Further information

National Memorial Arboretum

National Forest Company