Clergy, congregation and curious passers-by gathered on London Bridge for the annual Blessing of the River ceremony, writes Herbie Russell…
Proceedings on Sunday, January 9 began with the 11am eucharist, after which processions left Southwark Cathedral and the Church of Saint Magnus the Martyr simultaneously.
The processions, led by Bishop of Croydon, Reverend Jonathan Clark and Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon respectively, convened on London Bridge.
Reverend Jonathan Clark said: “By praying for the people who work on and use the Thames, we’re there to pray for the whole world.”
Once on the bridge, as the bells of St Magnus and Southwark Cathedral rang, bible passages were read, and prayers offered to bridge and river users.
Finally, a wooden cross was thrown into the river by the two bishops, representing God’s blessing on the Thames.
Traditionally, the highest-ranking cleric throws the cross but, this time, with two bishops present, the two clergymen shared the honours.
The Southwark Cathedral website highlights that the Medieval bridge is not just a roadway, but a spiritual causeway where people have worshipped for centuries.
The ceremony only began in the early 2000s, but nods to the ancient Orthodox ceremony of throwing a cross into the waters on the Sunday after Epiphany.
Nowadays, the ritual has special poignancy due to the London Bridge terrorist attacks of 2017 and 2019 which saw fourteen people killed.
On Sunday January 23 at 6pm, Compline and Benediction, a night-time prayer, will take place in a dimly lit nave, illuminated by candlelight, at Southwark Cathedral.