Today, the 12th of July, is a national holiday in my home land, Northern Ireland. It is the highlight in the calendar of the Orange Order and many Protestants in Northern Ireland as they celebrate their culture and their Protestantism. As a child growing up as a Protestant in Protestant Greenisland I always looked forward to “The Twelfth“. I was a member of the Orange Order. As a teenager, I played in a Loyalist flute band. It was just what you did – at least if, like me, you didn’t belong to a middle class family who would often use the “Twelfth Fortnight” to take themselves off to sunnier climes on holiday.
Later, when I became a Christian (not just on paper, but deep in my heart!) I began to think about what it means to be “Protestant”. When I hitch-hiked my way through Europe from Bangor to Bobbio in Italy, on the trail of 6th century Saint Columban from Bangor, I reflected further about what it means to be Protestant, but even more importantly, what it means to be Christian (Christ-like). I wrote about this in my book which has been published (and already reprinted!) in German (Pilgern auf Irisch). In the autumn I hope to publish it in English as an ebook under the title, When the Saints go Marching. I would like to share two passages with you today. The first passage, taken from chapter one of my book, describes my visits to Bangor with the Junior Orange Order….
The only time I went to Bangor as a child was on Easter Tuesday. In fact I was in Bangor on Easter Tuesday for about five years in a row, because it was the venue for the annual Easter parade of the Junior Orange Order. This organisation, with its annual parades celebrating Protestant culture and religion, was – and still is – an important part of life for many in my community. As a member of LOL 52, I always looked forward to Easter Tuesday, when I would wear my new white shirt, crimson-coloured lodge tie and white gloves, along with the orange sash, clearly identifying me as a member of Loyal Orange Lodge number 52. I was only 10 years old but felt much older, marching with my tribe to th
e beat of the drum around our housing estate before traveling by bus to Bangor, where we joined dozens of other lodges and bands for the main parade. Mehr lesen