The Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Preceptory has said that the upcoming marches on Saturday August 28 will offer loyalists a sliver of joy after a “dispiriting” 18 months of coronavirus and lockdowns.
Traditionally, the “Last Saturday” demonstrations involve upwards of 17,000 members of the Institution on parade.
But this year it has been organised on a more localised basis, with a greater number of smaller processions, to mitigate any risks of Covid.
It is the second year in a row that the order has eschewed its traditional large-scale gatherings.
This year the order said that “around 350 preceptories, most accompanied by bands, will take part in 28 separate, smaller, local parades, organised at district level... each of the “Local Last Saturday” parades will involve a short religious service – and will also be an opportunity for participants and supporters to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland”.
The Royal Black Institution has urged everyone attending a parade to comply with Covid-19 health regulations and guidance, and must follow the directions given by police and event marshals at all times.
Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson, who will be joining with Sir Knights in Desertmartin on the day, said: “I am really looking forward to our ‘Local Last Saturday’ parades this year.
“Throughout this terrible pandemic, the Royal Black Institution has played a responsible role, cancelling meetings and processions in a bid to help curtail the spread of the virus.
“As a civic-minded and Christian organisation, many of our members played active roles in helping the sick and shielding.
“Last year, our ‘Last Saturday’ demonstrations were cancelled, and the day was marked with wreath-laying events at war memorials, or drive-in services.
“We know that Covid is still with us, but thankfully the improved circumstances this year will allow us to have ‘Local Last Saturday’ parades.
“Admittedly, they will not be the large-scale events we are used to. However, considering the tumultuous and, at times, dispiriting last 18 months, I am sure these local parades will bring huge joy to participants and spectators alike as we witness for the Reformed Christian Faith and celebrate the centenary of our beloved country.
“I would encourage everyone going to a parade to play their part by ensuring that their conduct helps to look after their own health and the health of others - and we look forward to the full return of our traditional ‘Last Saturday’ parades in 2022.”
The resolution to be passed on the day will be as follows:
“Given the uncertainty of the times we live in today, the Royal Black Institution would remind our members of the need to turn to God and follow His ways as we read in Holy Scripture from 2 Chronicles 7:14: - ‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’
“It is only through having a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, underpinned by our daily prayers, the dedicated reading of God’s Word and by living a consistent Christian life that we can have certainty and peace for this world and the next.”
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