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Order of the British Empire marks centenary in the presence of HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire celebrated its centenary in a service of dedication at St Paul’s attended by Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. 

The service on Wednesday 24 May 2017 was attended by 2,000 people from across the UK and Commonwealth who are holders of the Order awards, the GBE, KBE, CBE, OBE, MBE and British Empire Medal.

The Queen, who is the Sovereign of the Order and Prince Philip, who is the Grand Master, were met by the Lord Mayor of London and greeted by the Dean of St Paul's, the Cathedral Chapter and Officials of the Order.

In his Bidding Prayer, the Very Reverend David Ison, Dean of St Paul's, thanked God for the lives of members of the Order, "for the adventure and courage, idealism and diligence, contributed to the life of our world." Following the attack in Manchester, he prayed "we commend to God's love those who suffer at the hands of others in Manchester and elsewhere."

In his sermon, in which he looked at the work of the Order and its award holders, the Dean said: "Jesus Christ reminds us that honour is due, not to those who think highly of themselves, but to those who think highly of other."

READ THE FULL SERMON

Hymns included Ye holy angels bright and Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, and the Cathedral Choir sang a number of anthems including Lo! God is here! with words written by Methodist founder John Wesley, who with his brother Charles is celebrated throughout the Anglican Church on 24 May each year.


The Order of the British Empire

Instituted by King George V in 1917 initially to recognise the considerable civilian contribution to the war effort during the First World War, the Order of the British Empire was a pioneering honour, being the first five-class Order for national distribution and the first to admit women to membership. Until then no woman had been eligible for an award, although an exception was made for Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

In 1918 the Order was separated into military and civil divisions and these awards have continued to this day. Announced twice a year, on the Queen's birthday and at New Year, these five classes honour all people in society, from lollipop ladies to sports stars; musicians to charity workers.

In increasing order of seniority, the awards are:

MBE   Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
OBE   Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
CBE   Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
KBE/DBE   Knight/Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
GBE   Knight or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

The association with St Paul's stems from the Cathedral's long consideration, by many, to be the Nation's Church and a place of great state occasions, including state funerals and memorial services. It therefore was a natural location to be the spiritual home of the Order of the British Empire.

On 20 May 1960, The Queen and Prince Philip came to St Paul's as the Bishop of London, Henry Campbell, dedicated the newly created Chapel of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (commonly known as the OBE Chapel) at the east end of the crypt of St Paul's.

The Order's chapel is also known as St Faith’s Chapel. The original St Faith's was a parish church attached to the old Cathedral destroyed in the Great Fire of London. During the rebuilding of St Paul's, this chapel was dedicated to St Faith close to the foundations of the former church and offered parishioners their own place of worship in the building.

Today, the OBE Chapel is one of the busiest spaces within the Cathedral. Every week, the Chapel is used for educational work, including the OBE Organ Outreach Programme, which introduces organ music to thousands of children, thanks to the generous support of the Order. One of the privileges of receiving an award within the Order is to marry (holders and children of holders) or be baptised (holders, children and grandchildren of holders) within the Chapel and these special services are held on nearly every weekend of the year.

Discover more about the British honours system (British Monarchy)