The Orange Institution approached 2021 as a year of celebration that had been long in the making.
The Centenary of Northern Ireland has been viewed for some years as a real cause for major celebrations – an event to be marked throughout the entire 12 months.
Instead, the Orange Institution – like the rest of the world – finds itself slowly emerging from the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sadly, we reflect on the loss of 52 members and remember their families, to whom we commit our prayerful and practical support.
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After more than a year without our main parades, without our meetings and having to endure many long months in various stages of lockdown, we now begin to look towards the future with positivity.
We have our Twelfth of July parades – all be it slightly different to our traditional parades – but they are a stepping-stone on the road to normality.
It is our aim to have the traditional Twelfth parades in 2022.
High on the agenda in the coming weeks and months is celebrating the Centenary of Northern Ireland.
For the rest of 2021, the Orange Institution and wider Orange family will be marking this momentous milestone for our country in many ways.
Plans – some of which have been in the making for several years – will at last be fulfilled.
Sadly, the major parade from Stormont, something on the scale of the Covenant Parade of 2012, will probably have to be postponed to a date in 2022 as we wish to ensure we can hold an event of the scale our centenary warrants.
There are those who will say the Centenary of Northern Ireland means nothing or that it is not worth marking in any way.
That is simply not the case, and the Orange Institution will play its part in ensuring it is appropriately celebrated.
Private lodges and Districts have already held smaller events, planted trees, and even climbed mountains to mark the centenary.
Much more is expected in the second half of 2021 as the celebrations continue.
As we look forward, we do so from a position of hope and enthusiasm for our Institution.
We want to come out of this pandemic stronger as an Institution, and I have been greatly encouraged by the number of lodges who have been welcoming new members in recent weeks.
There is much work to be done as we celebrate the Centenary, support the removal of the Protocol, defend the rights of innocent victims, and also prepare to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee.
As an Institution we continue rely on the strength of our Christian faith and Protestant heritage and put our trust in God Almighty, Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
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