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The Exeter Investiture, October 2014

Visiting the Grand Priory of England and Wales

On Friday 24 October after a long journey, I arrived in the ancient city of Exeter to attend the Vigil and the Service of Investiture of the Grand Priory of England and Wales hosted by the Commandery of Avalon.

The small medieval church of Saint Olave’s - one of the six churches making up the Parish of Central Exeter – played host to some 30 members of the Order from all over England and Wales.

The service was conducted by Rev P Louis Baycock ECLJ, Deputy Chaplain-General of England and Wales, supported by four clergy. During the 40-minute service, one postulant took his vows to dedicate himself to the service and work of the Order.

Afterwards, Order members retired to Chaucer’s Bar for a very welcome light supper – and this gave me the opportunity to chat to a number of my fellow members about how the order operates in England and Wales. The evening was rounded off with a dozen members enjoying a social drink in the hotel in which we were all staying.

Pictured: Colin Russell OLJ (on the right),  with Bailiff HE Chevalier Charles Holloway GCLJ KMLJ, Mrs Holloway, and the new Commander of London and Westminster (behind).

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, I joined some 80 members of the Order gathered in the impressive Guildhall for robing, and we then processed behind the Lord Mayor of Exeter to Exeter Cathedral for the Service of Investiture. As the procession wound on the short walk to the Cathedral I had a great sense of pride; this was the first time that I had processed in my mantle as an Officer of this ancient Order.

Inside the cathedral, those processing took their seats just in front of the altar. I was very fortunate that my seat was in the front row and so I had an excellent view of the proceedings. The service was led by Rev Louis Baycock; the preacher was Rev Canon Brendan D Clover ChLJ MMLJ, Senior Provost at Woodward Schools; while the  Investing Officer was the Bailiff, His Excellency the Chevalier Charles Holloway GCLJ  KMLJ.

With over 120 members in the congregation plus the cathedral choir, the singing was excellent; the first reading was read by a postulant and the second by one of the clergy. The sermon was thought-provoking and had the theme “Service to Others”. At the point of the actual Investiture, the Bailiff took his place at the front of the altar and with honour and dignity invested one postulant as MLJ; three promotees to OLJ; two to CLJ; three Knighted; and one lady made Dame. Then followed awards for service: one bronze and one silver medal, one silver cross, and one 20-year service medal.

Following the singing of the National Anthem, we formed up to process back across the square, along the street and into the Guildhall (pictured left).

This magnificent building is the oldest civic building in England still used to hold council meetings and was the venue for a drinks reception hosted by the Lord Mayor before a very enjoyable and filling luncheon. At lunch, the Bailiff presented the Lord Mayor with a cheque for £500 for the chosen charity, Exeter Leukaemia Fund.

For me, this proved to be a weekend that was both enjoyable and uplifting, as well as allowing me to make new friends in this ancient Christian Order of ours.

Colin Russell OLJ