The leader of the Royal Black Institution has praised healthcare staff and other key workers for “all their sterling work, which remains ongoing in these dangerous days of coronavirus”.
Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson made the comments as he admitted it would be “highly unusual” not to be attending a Last Saturday demonstration this weekend.
However, Rev Anderson said the Loyal Order’s decision earlier this year to cancel all its summer processions – including its traditional Last Saturday demonstrations – was the right decision, taken with the health and wellbeing of members, supporters and wider society in mind.
Under normal circumstances, upwards of 17,000 members of the Royal Black Institution would have been on parade this Saturday at six locations: Ballyclare; Dromore, Co Down; Bangor; Raphoe, Co Donegal; Killylea, Co Armagh; and Castlederg.
These major demonstrations will not, of course, take place. Instead, some individual preceptories may choose to mark the day with an Act of Remembrance at a cenotaph or war memorial, adhering to the 15-person outdoor protocols announced by Health Minister Robin Swann last week, and also abiding by all social distancing guidelines.
Rev Anderson said: “It will be highly unusual not to be attending one of our Last Saturday demonstrations this weekend.
“I had been due to attend the Bangor demonstration but instead had the pleasure of speaking at their religious drive-in service on Sunday past (August 23).
“A number of drive-in services were held around the country on Sunday, and this weekend some preceptories may decide to mark the Last Saturday with an Act of Remembrance at a war memorial, which will be done within all coronavirus guidelines, including the 15-person outdoor protocols.
“It’s clear that coronavirus remains with us, and everyone in society must stay vigilant, avoid complacency, and abide by Government regulations.”
The Sovereign Grand Master added: “The coronavirus pandemic has brought much pain and sadness to homes all over the country, and the prayers of the Institution are with everyone who has lost a loved one.
“We also pay tribute to all our healthcare staff and other key workers for all their sterling work, which remains ongoing in these dangerous days of coronavirus. These workers put themselves in danger to help society overcome this terrible disease, and we owe them a great debt.
“The Loyal Orders also deserve great credit for the tremendous community spirit they have shown throughout the pandemic, including members of the Royal Black Institution who raised thousands of pounds and made numerous donations of PPE to healthcare staff and food to the vulnerable.
“I know there is sadness and disappointment amongst our members and supporters that there will be no Last Saturday demonstrations this weekend, but I am confident they understand we need to play our part, as a responsible, Christian and civic-minded organisation, in helping prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“I also understand there must be great disappointment in our bands community, who provide such wonderful music at our processions. They, too, will miss taking part in our Last Saturday demonstrations and displaying their musical talents – for those who have organised an event this weekend, I urge them to follow all coronavirus restrictions and guidelines.
“As coronavirus circulates in our community, we continue to pray to Almighty God for His mercy and protection, in the hope that society will overcome this disease, return to full normality, and our Institution will once again publicly witness for the Reformed Christian Faith and Him who is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’”