This summer, Eton College hosted a multi-faith service at Dorney Lake in honour of Covid-19 victims and their families in the Thames Valley. Organised by the High Sheriffs of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, this Interfaith Thanksgiving Service featured readings, silent reflection and beautiful music that centred on themes of remembrance, reflection and hope.
The service, a recording of which can be watched here, remembered those whose lives have been lost during the pandemic, sufferers of long-Covid and those affected by mental stress during the pandemic. This remembrance was coupled with messages of thanks and hope, reflecting on the selfless work of the NHS and care sector, other front-line workers and volunteers across the globe.
Imam Monawar Hussain, the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Eton College’s Muslim Faith Tutor, said, “I love bringing people and communities together through creating shared spaces. In this instance, I wanted to create a shared space for prayer, reflection, beautiful music from across different faiths and cultures, interspersed with moments of silence in remembrance of victims and their families of the Covid-19 pandemic, from across the Thames Valley.”
The message of shared values and unity of purpose between different religious communities was poignantly at the forefront of the service. Reflecting on the power of collaborating with a shared voice in response to the global pandemic were representatives from all the major faiths, including a reading from a no faith perspective by Professor Graham Upton. Other speakers offered their own moving perspectives on the pandemic, included Sam Foster, Chief Nurse at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and The Countess Howe, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire.
Reflecting on the event, attendees commented that, “Whilst there have been interfaith meetings before, there has never been one which has brought people from different faiths together in such a comprehensive and all-encompassing way.”
Imam Monawar Hussain added that, “It was a hugely moving and deeply reflective occasion. We’ve received so many wonderful messages from attendees and the strand that runs through them all is the sense of unity, love, compassion and hope, that has helped us all pull through this – one of the most difficult times in living memory. As we move into the recovery phase, it is precisely these values that will enable us to rebuild our lives and communities across the Thames Valley.”
Delivered in partnership with the Lord-Lieutenants of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, the service took place on 22 July 2021 at Dorney Lake.