The leader of the Royal Black Institution has hailed a recent international gathering of sir knights as an “undoubted highlight” of his term in office to date.
Rev William Anderson made the comment after his return from the 76th International Lecturers’ Conference in Manchester.
The event brought together members of the loyal order from across the UK, plus there was also a delegation from America in attendance.
Rev Anderson, who was elected to the Royal Black’s top post in June 2018, said: “This was undoubtedly a highlight for me since I took up the position as sovereign grand master.
“It was wonderful to be able to meet and greet sir knights from throughout Northern Ireland, Scotland and England together with three sir knights from America, making it a truly international gathering of sir knights.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank the large number of sir knights who made the effort to travel to Manchester for the weekend of events that had been so well arranged for us by the Provincial Grand Chapter of England.”
The conference on Saturday, September 21 represented a trio of “firsts” for the institution:
• It was the first time the conference was held in Manchester;
• The first time the conference was held in a church;
• And the first conference in which sir knights from the United States took part.
The American presence was a particularly heartening development because it was only eight years ago that numbers had dwindled so low that the institution was almost completely lost in the US.
But today there is a renewed interest in the Royal Black across the Atlantic, with membership growing rapidly to the extent that the US will host the International Lecturers’ Conference in 2023.
The majority of conference delegates and their wives travelled to Manchester on the Friday. After breakfast the next day, delegates were transported by bus to Alkrington & Providence United Reformed Church, kindly granted, where the conference got under way at 10.15am.
Degrees were exemplified by teams from England, Scotland and the US.
The Imperial Grand Lecturer, Sir Knight Ian McCafferty, congratulated all participating sir knights and thanked them for their dedication and commitment to the Royal Black Institution. He said the three teams had given their presentations to a very high standard.
The sovereign grand master also thanked all the sir knights for the excellent standard of lecturing exhibited at the conference. In particular, he congratulated the team from Scotland – it was, he said, the most moving explanation and presentation of a portion of Scripture he had ever witnessed.
Past Assistant Sovereign Grand Master Sir Knight Alan Goody said he had been attending the conference for the last 32 years but this was the best he had ever experienced.
In his closing conference remarks, Rev Anderson reminded sir knights that the institution was based on Biblical teachings and the degrees were an expression of the Reformed Christian Faith. The conference was closed with prayer and the National Anthem.
Later that evening, the delegates were joined by their wives for a meal.
Addressing those present, Rev Anderson took as his theme that of “teamwork”.
Manchester, he said, was renowned for two football teams, one in red and one in blue. But they achieved their individual success over the years by teamwork. He encouraged all present to find out God’s purpose for their lives and in doing so to work with Him to achieve what He required of them.
Rev Anderson also encouraged all present to share their concerns and experiences with one another. So many people today are struggling with issues in their lives. “We need to reassure them that God loves them but most of all He desires that they turn to Him and follow in His ways,” said Rev Anderson.
On Sunday, the sir knights joined with the congregation at Alkrington & Providence United Reformed Church for morning worship, during which Rev Anderson was the guest preacher.
The sovereign grand master took as his text a verse from Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”.
He reminded the large congregation of the need for people in the outside world to see and witness how God had changed their lives through their actions and words.
Many sir knights left the hotel on Sunday afternoon to make their way home, however a few extended their stay until Monday afternoon.
Next year’s International Lecturers’ Conference will be held in Co Monaghan, with the 2021 conference in Tyrone. Scotland will host the event in 2022 before the conference goes to the US in 2023.
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