You are here: UNA Canterbury: The UN Peace Service- Canterbury Cathedral 29th Oct. 2017

At the UNA-UK conference 3 years ago, Natalie (Samarasinghe) spoke passionately of not only concentrating on much needed new membership, but also in holding events for larger numbers of people to stimulate more awareness among the general public of the work of the UN, and the UNA.

30 years before, Maddy Webster, a stalwart member of UNA-Canterbury, first begun the UN Peace Service at the Cathedral on a Sunday closest to UN Peace Day. It began modestly in the Crypt. And from that time on, the UNA has always organised this service.

In more recent years Sheila Kesby, then Secretary, was a very active in promoting the Service and it moved to the Choir 4 years ago. I was the Events Coordinator, and the following Year the Dean had been impressed by the growing congregation, and it moved to the Nave. A more prominent Service now had a Procession of Peace Makers of 50 people, the Lord Mayor in attendance and a congregation of 400.

This year's 2017 service

Maddy Webster passed away this year, and the service was dedicated to her legacy, and further enlarged.  And by the good office of the national trustee, Dr Carl Wright, our guest speaker was: Rt Hon Helen Clark, former head of the United Nations Development Programme 2009-2017 and Prime Minister, New Zealand 1999-2008.  Ms Clark made a major speech from the pulpit concerning the plight of refugees.


SUNDAY OCT. 29th. At 6.00pm  there’s a general buzz as the congregation begins to arrive, acquaintances are renewed, and various VIP’s, Councillors, town dignitaries, University people etc., begin to take their seats. And at 6.25, the Vice Dean Processes down the Nave, as the Lord Mayor and Chaplain are verged to their seats, and welcomes us all to this Year’s UN Peace Service. 

The procession of 17 Organisations is led by Simeon Onaji, vice-chair of YUNA70 (UNA youth wing) and President of MUN Kent University, carrying the UNA Standard. Their banners all displayed along the back of the Alter.

 The introductory speech is made by the Chair of LaSER, Catherine Pluygers, giving us chapter and verse of the UN, and South-East UNA’s. She also later enchants the congregation with her superb playing of the Oboe with a remarkable piece of music: Peace in the World (Jose Azevedo Souza).

Two young teenagers speak and cause quite a stir. Beatrix 13 spoke with her own words of the complex nature of the movement of refugees. And her counterpart, Jonty, really mixes it up with his remarkably forthright comments about young men made soldiers, and how they were cruelly controlled by older men.

Then we are all in the swing with a thrill from a young woman soloist, Brenda Tutani-wason with the Gospel Choir, as she improvises a Zulu song: I will walk with Jesus until the end (in native Shona language).

High notes swirl and echo around this great Cathedral, over 1000 years old, and we remember it’s history, the pilgrims, the age of Magna Carter; and then the Choir sings Troubled Waters, and we are back to the world we live in now.

And the Rt. Hon Helen Clark climbs the stairs to the Pulpit and delivers a remarkable speech concerning the movement and plight of refugees and displaced people through the ravages of war, and the work of the UN. There are many students new to UNA, and now part of YUNA70, who have come to hear her speak and they listen intently.

We all stand to say the Preamble of the UN together.

A bucket collection was held at the end and £1,000 was collected for the UNHCR

Written by Nigel Gregory -Events Coordinator -UNA Canterbury.

For further info. or a wish to help, contact Nigel Gregory – We are also looking for Patrons and help in finding funding for next Year.