Chapter Chat: Spreading the Gospel to sir knights across the Atlantic

Imperial Grand Lecturer, Ian McCafferty (standing fourth from right), pictured with sir knights in Connecticut during a recent visit to the United States. There are currently five active preceptories in America
Imperial Grand Lecturer, Ian McCafferty (standing fourth from right), pictured with sir knights in Connecticut during a recent visit to the United States. There are currently five active preceptories in America

As the Imperial Grand Lecturer of the Royal Black Institution, Ian McCafferty’s primary aim is to spread the Word of God to a wider audience.

Recently, the senior sir knight flew as part of a local delegation to Connecticut to assist with the development of the loyal order in the United States.

The Imperial Grand Black Chapter is well established in Northern Ireland, the border counties of the Republic, Scotland and England – however, what is not so well publicised is its ongoing presence worldwide, albeit on a smaller scale.

Similar to the Orange Order, such countries include Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America.

Mr McCafferty maintains the institution is making “good strides” across the Atlantic, with now over 50 members, having been reconstituted only five years ago. Sir knights are now registered with five different preceptories in Philadelphia, Virginia, Carolina, Arizona and Chicago respectively.

“Four preceptories were opened in 2011 with a fifth preceptory opened in August 2014. Numbers have increased year on year with 13 new members joining last year alone – which is significant. Another four joined during our trip, including a Baptist pastor,” he said.

Mr McCafferty said among the sir knights are many professionals; including lawyers, lay preachers, school teachers, law enforcement officers, and programme analysts.

Given it can take several years to train incoming members, and the distance involved, the grand lecturer admitted that a certain amount of “cramming” was required on this occasion.

“As the old adage says: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.”

Commenting on the process of dramatising Bible readings to US sir knights, Mr McCafferty added: “Our aim is to empower them; giving them ownership.”

Indeed, it is hoped as well as American members travelling to the annual conference due to take place in England next year, there is also an invitation for consideration to host the event itself in 2022 in the USA.

Mr McCafferty said: “The conference has only ever been hosted in the British Isles, so this would be commendation of all the work going on in the United States. Our ultimate aim is that the Americans will be self-sufficient in doing the full work of the institution.”

The Aghadowey man, who works as a civil servant, has served as imperial grand lecturer since 2009. He describes the role as “vital” within the institution.

“People cannot join without receiving their initial tuition which has to delivered by trained members. My job is to ensure the standard of tuition is at a level which will engage candidates when they join, and the message of God’s word is relayed across in a meaningful manner.

“Wider society may view it as perhaps quaint, but I believe the oral aspect of tuition is a fundamental component of the institution.”