Saturday, 23 June 2007

Venerable Order of St. John Service at St. Paul's Cathedral

Yesterday saw the Roman Catholic Order of St. John (Order of Malta) celebrate the Feast of its patron with a Mass at the London Oratory, and today was the turn of the "Protestant" Order.

The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem held its Annual Service at London's historic St. Paul's Cathedral. In the splendour of Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece Bailiffs and Knights and Dames of St. John gathered with Chaplains, Commanders, Officers, Serving Brothers, Serving Sisters and Esquires as well as with members of St. John's Ambulance Brigade to give thanks to God.

The Order is composed of almost thirty thousand members and four hundred thousand volunteers working in its worldwide ambulance brigade, hospital and clinics. The Most Venerable Order is the only one of the Orders of Saint John which does not have a denominational restriction on membership; it is open to any suitable candidate professing one of the major Christian faiths or who is ready to sustain the tenets of "this Christian Order".

The work of the Order covers two principal activities. Firstly support of the St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, secondly the Saint John Ambulance Brigade. The Eye Hospital mainly serves the Palestinians living in the Israeli occupied territories, who are not entitled to receive Israeli free medical or hospital aid.

Although inspired by the more ancient Hospitaller Order that preceded it, the modern Venerable Order of St. John, as a Royal Order with the Monarch as "Sovereign Head", dates from 1888. The Grand Prior of the Order is HRH The Duke of Gloucester. The Order's head quarters are in Clerkenwell and the Order retains the use of historic "St. John's Gate" (pictured). (I have been busy today and consequently the text in paragraphs 3 and 4 is courtesy of Guy Stair Sainty) :

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