Many of you have travelled long distances to be here today, particularly our friends from other Provinces. Some of you have come along to receive an honour, others to support a friend receiving an honour, and some simply because of their interest in and loyalty to our Provincial Grand Chapter. To those in that latter category I extend my greatest thanks, for it is your attendance year on year that makes this Annual Meeting successful.
May 1st was a very enjoyable day at Supreme Grand Chapter, where we saw a First Appointment for Peter Mawer as PGSwdB, Stuart Dick, Jim Massey and Nigel Weightman as PGStBs and Vic Thompson as PAGDC. Additionally, Fred Harrison was promoted to PGStB (applause).
With most Chapters meeting four times a year, there are three evenings to fill and, unfortunately, rarely three candidates for exaltation. On those evenings when there is no candidate, do we do enough to entertain and inform the companions or do we just allow them to become bored and eventually lose interest? You may have noticed I used the word ‘entertain’ and I make no excuses for that.
This is not a new problem companions, it was addressed at the Annual Convocation in 2001 by the then GSupt, the late Gerry Coles. Try to make every evening interesting. He said topics are not hard to find. For example, why is Royal Arch Masonry said to be the completion of the Craft? Why are there four knocks in Chapter Masonry? Why must the signs not be directed towards the Principals? Who exactly were Zerubbabel, Haggai and Joshua and how do they fit into the history of the rebuilding of the Temple? What is the significance of the banners and the rest of the Temple furniture? What is the Triple Tau and how does one define the term ‘Ark of the Covenant’? Whether this is done by short lectures and discussions or by quizzes is less important: the important thing is making sure that Companions are fully engaged and interested.
Companions, it is rather sad that the problems are the same today as they were when Gerry Coles addressed this meeting some 13 years ago. If we fail to take heed, there is little wonder that retention is a problem. There is absolutely no reason why an evening should be boring. I would suggest that your Chapters have members, even some of quite long standing, who do not know the history and meaning of the Order. So there is plenty of scope to put that right in an entertaining way. Enjoyment is key and companions will only enjoy the Royal Arch if they understand it and engage with it.
I am always somewhat reluctant to talk to Royal Arch masons about charitable giving, as they invariably are extremely generous in their Craft lodges. You were however asked to support the Bi-Centenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons when it was hoped that £1million would be raised. The Appeal closed last December with a staggering £2.5million raised and I congratulate you all on playing a full part in that outstanding success.
Remaining on the subject of charity, the total raised and pledged for Festival 2018 has now reached £727,085. The last year has seen a marked slowdown in funds coming in, as might be expected, for the vast majority of Standing Orders were signed in the months immediately following launch. Of the money raised so far, £15,835 has come from Chapters which is a very creditable effort. If you have not yet signed a Standing Order, it is not too late and I would ask you to please consider doing so, as we are still a very long way from the target set by my predecessor.
Companions, in our Craft lodges we have all heard Chapter Reports that provide very little information and absolutely no inspiration, despite the link between Craft and Chapter being pivotal to the success of Royal Arch Masonry. In March at my investiture I announced the opportunity for Craft Lodges to appoint the informal office of Royal Arch Representative to provide that bridge between Craft and Chapter. The appointment of an experienced, but above all enthusiastic, Royal Arch mason with access to suitable material to that Lodge role is imperative.
Where necessary you may need to take the lead in requesting that the Lodges which feed in to your Chapters appoint such Representatives. Somebody who is respected, but with the vitality and enthusiasm to connect with the Brethren to promote an understanding of the Royal Arch. To engage with not only those Brethren not yet Companions, but also with Companions who may have drifted away from the Chapter through disinterest, perhaps the result of a general lack of understanding.
To date only 19 lodges have appointed a RA Representative, but of course many have been in Summer recess. The Appointment of a RA Representative is important – the appointment of the right man is essential and you are well qualified to make recommendations in your Craft Lodges. This is your chance to nominate the right person from within your Chapter to provide that bridge with the Craft Lodge that is essential if your Chapter is to prosper.
Companions, we have sadly lost a Chapter this month and I hope the members of Erimus Chapter quickly find a new home where they can continue to enjoy their Royal Arch Masonry. The Holy Royal Arch has always provided me with a sense of well being and assurance, with the colourful ceremonial being welcome after the darkness of the Third Degree.
I think you all know how proud I am to be your Grand Superintendent and you may rest assured I will do my very best to serve you well over the coming years.
Thank you Companions. ……………………. Jeffrey Gillyon