Celebrating 300 years

Varsity scheme is 10

Universities Scheme President David Williamson, Chairman Edward Lord, and past and present members of the committee came together in January with Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes and many other senior Freemasons to celebrate the scheme’s first decade of existence and hard work.  

With the initiative having grown from two lodges to 62 since its inception, and currently expanding into the Royal Arch, it has achieved much, with some lodges now being specifically consecrated as Universities Scheme lodges. Its fifth National Conference will be held in Leicester in November.

Published in Universities Scheme
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00

Assistant Grand Master's address - December 2013

Quarterly Communication 
11 December 2013 
An address by the RW Assistant Grand Master David Williamson

Brethren, the more observant among you may have noticed that I acted as Deputy Grand Master at the last two Quarterly Communications, in September and June. However, you should not infer from the fact that you see me in this chair today, that this is a portent of what the future holds for me!

You will remember that at the June Quarterly Communication, the Pro Grand Master announced that the Grand Master had appointed VW Bro Sir David Wootton to succeed me as Assistant Grand Master. He is a man of great quality, and I wish him every success in his new role; he will be installed on 12th March next year. Thus today is my last appearance as Assistant Grand Master at Grand Lodge, and the Pro Grand Master, with the collusion of the Deputy Grand Master, has contrived to be otherwise engaged today, to permit me the extraordinary privilege of presiding over Grand Lodge, for the first and last time, for which I am deeply grateful.

By the time I retire next March, I will have served thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master, during which time I have visited every continent, for a variety of purposes; to Install District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors, to attend landmark meetings of private lodges, and to represent the Grand Master at other Grand Lodges. Here at home, I have installed Provincial Grand Masters, attended Charity Festivals and lodges in their Provinces, and in Metropolitan London; I have always received a warm and generous welcome, for which I thank them all.

There are many other people to whom I owe personal debts of gratitude for the support and encouragement they have given me during my term of office, not least the several Rulers I have been privileged to serve under, two of whom, I am delighted to see here today, MW Bro Lord Northampton, and RW Bro Iain Bryce. I am also very grateful to so many people here at Freemasons' Hall, who have helped smooth my path with their advice and support.

Over the years I have witnessed many changes and exciting initiatives, not least the formation of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, in which I was privileged to play a part. Nine years ago, with Lord Northampton’s encouragement, I started the Universities Scheme, which now has fifty nine lodges around the country, many of which I have visited. I am proud of what those lodges are achieving, and very grateful to successive members of my organising committee for the time and effort they have devoted to promoting the Scheme.

Parallel with the growth of the Scheme, I have seen the mentoring initiative take an increasingly positive effect in making masonry meaningful to new masons and aiding overall retention. One of the biggest changes has been in the development of the way we portray ourselves to the outside world, through websites, social media, and our publications, all of which contribute to what we know as 'openness', and in helping us regain, what the Grand Master has called, 'our enviable reputation in society.' 

Finally, brethren, as I reflect on the last thirteen years, it is with all humility I can say that it has been a great honour to have had the opportunity to contribute to English Freemasonry; I have enjoyed every moment. My grateful thanks to all of you who may have made a special effort to be here today; it is wonderful to see the Grand Temple so full!

My sincere thanks too to the many masons it has been my pleasure and privilege to meet, in London, in the Provinces, and overseas. I will always remember the collective and individual encouragement you have given me over the years. Brethren, thank you all.

Published in Speeches
Thursday, 05 September 2013 01:00

Michael Baigent obituary from John Hamill

Independent voice

Past editor of Freemasonry Today, Michael Baigent was a successful author and influential mason whose writing sparked debate and created a loyal following. John Hamill looks back at his career

It is with real regret that we have to announce the death of Michael Baigent who was editor of Freemasonry Today from the spring of 2001 until the summer of 2011, when increasing ill health forced him into partial retirement. He continued as consultant editor until his untimely death from a brain haemorrhage on 17 June 2013 at a Brighton hospital.

Born in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1948, he was educated at Nelson College and the University of Canterbury, at Christchurch, reading comparative religion and psychology and graduating in 1972 with a BA. In later life he earned an MA in the Study of Mysticism and Religious Experience from the University of Kent.

After graduating, Michael spent four years as a photographer in India, Laos, Bolivia and Spain. Coming to London in 1976, he worked for a time in the photographic department at the BBC, which brought him into contact with Henry Lincoln and Richard Leigh, who were filming a documentary about the medieval Knights Templar. Their mutual interests and enthusiasm ultimately led to the publication in 1982 of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a controversial bestseller and still in print after more than thirty years.

Embracing the craft

The success of the book enabled Michael to concentrate on research, writing and lecturing. Writing with Leigh, he produced works on such diverse topics as Freemasonry, the Dead Sea Scrolls, magic and alchemy, the Stauffenberg plot to kill Hitler and the Inquisition. His solo works covered the ancient mysteries, the early Christian church and the influence of religion in modern life. 

Michael’s interest in the history of ideas and the esoteric tradition led him to the Craft, becoming a Freemason in the Lodge of Economy, No. 76, Winchester, near his then home. He later joined the Prince of Wales’s Lodge, No. 259, London, and was nominated by them as a Grand Steward and appointed a Grand Officer in 2005. 

Freemasonry brought Michael to the notice of Lord Northampton, who invited him to become a trustee of the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, which he was setting up as a focus for research into the more esoteric aspects of Freemasonry. Equally, Michael became involved in and greatly shaped the early years of the Cornerstone Society, which Lord Northampton had established as a forum for those interested in exploring the deeper meanings of the ritual. When the Orator Scheme was being discussed in 2006, Michael was the obvious candidate to draft the early Orations.

Leading from the front

When Michael became editor of Freemasonry Today it was still ‘the independent voice of Freemasonry’. He greatly extended its coverage beyond the Craft and Royal Arch and attracted a new audience to the magazine, including a growing number of non-masons. He not only sought out contributors and edited their pieces but was responsible for the page design and seeing the magazine through the presses. He employed his old talents and provided many of the photographs that illustrated the content. It was something of a departure for him when in 2007 the magazine merged with Grand Lodge’s then house organ, MQ Magazine, to become the Craft’s official journal. Yet he rose to the occasion and continued to produce a magazine that combined news with interesting, and sometimes challenging, articles.

Michael would have been the first to acknowledge that his work fell outside the normal run of academic historical research, but he believed completely in what he did. He was not writing for other academics but for the general reader, and he had a loyal following. Whether he worked on his own or with Lincoln and Leigh, Michael’s writing was never ignored and always provoked discussion – which is all any writer seeks.

His last years were, sadly, marked by increasing ill health, including an initially successful liver transplant, and financial problems caused by the unsuccessful case he and Leigh took against the novelist Dan Brown’s publisher, claiming that Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code was both a plagiarism and infringed the copyright of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. A gentle, courteous man, Michael was always a pleasure to meet and talk to and will be greatly missed by many. Our thoughts go out to his wife, daughters and stepson and stepdaughter.

Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Right Place, Right Time

Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft

How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.

Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.

What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.

How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’

Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.

Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.

What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.

What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.

 

 

Published in UGLE

Burlington Lodge, No. 3975, hosted a momentous event at Bridlington in the Province of Yorkshire North & East Ridings in November, when Past Deputy Grand Master Iain Ross Bryce celebrated his 50 years as a mason.  Joining him for the event were Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson and Past Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton.

Sunday, 19 April 2009 16:26

Supreme Grand Chapter

Fresh Look at Status of the Royal Arch to Encourage Recruitment and Retention

A fresh definition of the status of the Royal Arch is to be considered by Grand Lodge following the publication of the report of the working group set up last year under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, George Francis.

The announcement was made by Lord Northampton, Pro First Grand Principal, to the November meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter following publication of the report into the recruitment and retention of Royal Arch Masons. The report was going to Grand Superintendents, who would make it more widely available in Provinces. 

The report covers neither the Metropolitan Grand Chapter, as they are to bring out their own report, nor Districts overseas. 
Lord Northampton said that overall numbers had been dropping steadily, broadly in line with the falls in membership in the Craft generally, but as a proportion of the total membership of the Craft, they have been rising very slightly over the past ten years. However, there was much to do. 
The first conclusion of the report related to the additional paragraph to the 1813 Declaration in the preamble to the Book of Constitutions, relating to the status of the Royal Arch. 

This was added to by Grand Lodge in December 2003, and described the Royal Arch as ‘an extension to, but neither a superior nor a subordinate part of the Degrees which precede it’. 
Lord Northampton commented: “There is no doubt that the Royal Arch is not the completion of just the third degree, but the 2003 declaration has not been entirely satisfactory.” 
Neither did it help to describe the relationship of the Royal Arch to the three degrees, so had not been helpful to those joining or those seeking to recruit new members. 

Lord Northampton added: “I am minded to request Grand Lodge to give careful consideration to replacing the 2003 paragraph with a fresh definition. A number of companions will be assisting me in trying to find a more suitable form of words for consideration. 
“We should all seek to describe the Royal Arch as the next step in Freemasonry after the Craft degrees and the final step in pure ancient masonry. It is, of course, both an integral part of Craft masonry as well as being its completion.” 

The other important conclusion of the report was a recommendation to that a Royal Arch representative should be appointed in each Craft lodge. Lord Northampton said that this representative, at least until further research and consideration, would not be a lodge officer, but would have the responsibility of promoting the Royal Arch within the lodge. 

He added: “Where this role has already been implemented in some lodges, it has had a dramatic effect on the levels of recruitment and retention. Representatives need to be carefully chosen and the report gives advice and guidance on this matter.” 
Lord Northampton said the report made a number of recommendations, and pointed to the dangers of allowing Chapters to become smaller and smaller to the point where they will no longer become viable. 

There was a recommendation to look for ways of holding joint meetings with other chapters from time to time – with a possible view to encouraging amalgamation rather than inevitable closure. 

He added: “The sharing of work is made much easier by the new ritual, but greater efforts are needed to include as many Companions as possible in ceremonies. This is to prevent boredom on the part of experienced companions, and fear and trepidation among newer Companions.” 

Royal Arch to Adopt Hybrid System of Appointments and Promotions

The Royal Arch is to follow the Craft and revert to the principle of first appointments to Provincial and District Grand Ranks being based on the number of Chapters in a Province or District, and not as currently, on the number of Royal Arch Masons in such areas. The existing scales of acting ranks, based on the number of Royal Arch Masons, will, however, be retained. 

The change was announced at the meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter in November. In addition, the working party headed by Past Second Grand Principal Peter Lowndes – who is also Deputy Grand Master in the Craft – has recommended that there be no formal restriction on the number of promotions that may be made. The changes will also apply to Metropolitan and Overseas Grand Chapter Ranks. 

A notice of motion to amend the Royal Arch Regulations was given at the November Convocation of Grand Chapter, but as the retention of the existing scale of acting ranks was only decided on after the paper of business had gone to press, the formal motion will be subject to amendment when it comes before Grand Chapter on 1 May. 

Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia is Set Up

A Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia is expected to be formed in early April 2008 with Hackney Brook Dependable Chapter No. 7397 of London planned to appear, without number, at the head of the register. 

The London Chapter is currently meeting by dispensation in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and is to retain its original charter, after cancellation, as an integral part of its history and that of the new Grand Chapter. 
Subject to the Estonian Grand Chapter being constituted on or after 1 April, Hackney Brook Dependable Chapter will be erased from the register of the English Supreme Grand Chapter. 

Two Chapters under the Grand Chapter of Finland have been exalting brethren from lodges under the Grand Lodge of Estonia with a similar view. All three Chapters will form the new Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia.

Published in SGC
Sunday, 01 March 2009 14:02

Lord Northampton's Legacy

The Pro Grand Master Speaks to the Editor About Freemasonry 

Lord Northampton has been a much admired ruler and charismatic leader of English Freemasonry for fourteen years, first as Assistant Grand Master from 1995 and since 2001 as Pro Grand Master. He has worked tirelessly and travelled extensively throughout the Provinces and our Districts and lodges overseas as well as to other Grand Lodges on behalf of the Craft. He has been a great ambassador for English Freemasonry all over the world. It was then, with a sense of loss and sadness that we learned of his decision to retire next March. ‘The Craft is now going through a time of consolidation,’ he explains, ‘and I will have been in high office for fourteen years. It is time to give someone else a chance.’

Lord Northampton has helped usher in a new way of defending and advancing Freemasonry with the introduction of changes to its corporate structure and augmenting the experience of its ritual and the understanding of its profound philosophical side which arise from the deepest meaning of those central masonic principles, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. 

Vision and Management

Under his guidance the management of the Craft was revised: Lord Northampton explains: ‘You cannot have a vision without a strategy. This is pointless. The vision needs to be grounded.’ 

In the past the Rulers came up with ideas, the Board of General Purposes devised the strategy and the Grand Secretary implemented it; this did not always work. Now those at the top of Freemasonry meet on a regular basis to consider the vision, the strategy and implementation together. The strategy is then proposed to the Board and, if agreed, passed to the Grand Secretary for implementation. Thus vision, strategy and implementation operate on a more integrated and consensual basis. 
The daily management of Freemasonry too received his attention; the aim has been to introduce corporate business practices into a smaller, more accountable, Board of General Purposes bringing efficiency of practice and transparency of decision making. At the same time he started business meetings each December with Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to discuss the direction he thought the Craft and Royal Arch should be taking. 
All Provincial Grand Masters have direct access to the Rulers in the case of any problems. 
The role of the Grand Secretary has also changed. In the past he was an often remote and powerful figure and this attitude, coupled with the undue secrecy Freemasonry pursued, had a negative effect on both members and the public. Today the Grand Secretary concentrates on our brethren in England and Wales; our relations with other Grand Lodges is the concern of the recently appointed Grand Chancellor. 
There is, of course, a healthy overlap since the Grand Secretary is still responsible for Grand Lodge’s Districts and lodges overseas. 
Lastly, Lord Northampton has encouraged more integration between the Centre and the Provinces through better communication. He believes strongly in the sovereignty of each lodge and encourages them to introduce changes that will enhance the enjoyment their members get out of freemasonry. ‘We place too much importance on the form our meetings take and not enough on their content’. 

Research into Freemasonry

Academic research too has received Lord Northampton’s attention. He helped found, and personally helped to fund, the academic centre at Sheffield University which offers Doctoral and Masters degrees in masonic research. He also was instrumental in the formation of the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre which holds lectures and organises annual international conferences and the Cornerstone Society which aims to increase knowledge of the Craft amongst Master Masons. He encourages too the growth of organisations of younger masons which involve their friends, girlfriends and wives. He is concerned that the important support of Freemason’s families should receive recognition. He has been very lucky to have the support of his wife Pamela who understands the transformative nature of the Craft and has been a great source of strength and advice. ‘I could not possibly have carried out my role as Pro Grand Master without her love and support’. It is important that younger masons and especially their partners ask questions about the Craft so that they can understand the symbolic nature of its teachings. The Mentoring and Orator programmes which have recently been introduced will aid this. 

The Wisdom of Freemasonry

Lord Northampton was first initiated into Ceres Lodge No.6977, Northampton, in 1976. His enthusiasm has never diminished and as anyone who has heard him speak will know, he is eloquent and inspiring on Freemasonry and is a strong advocate of its importance to our often troubled modern society. 
‘I don’t think that any other Order could do what Freemasonry does,’ he explained. ‘A moral system which can transform a shy and insecure man into a confident and compassionate, kind and trusting person; and all this within everyday life. Freemasonry teaches social conscience and brings leadership qualities; it breaks down the barriers raised by religion and politics.’ 
In an important move the Royal Arch has been brought into closer communication with the Craft. It is no longer considered as the completion of the Third Degree but as a completion of all the Craft degrees, the apex of the masonic journey. 
‘Why,’ I asked Lord Northampton, ‘in the twenty-first century, should anyone become a Freemason?’ 
‘The idea of “becoming a Freemason” is something of a misnomer. I think that you are born a Freemason. There is something within you which leads you to want to develop in an integrated way, to seek self-development to become a better person. And part of this search involves considering the major questions about life and death. You should join Freemasonry if you are looking for moral and spiritual values in a world which is predominantly focussed upon material concerns.’ 

Values of the Heart

Why are spiritual values so important within Freemasonry? 
Lord Northampton is clear: ‘Our basic precepts of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, by their very nature, invoke spiritual values. Brotherly Love or compassion is a value of the heart: if the mind deals with reason, the heart is concerned with the spiritual values of compassion and clarity. And nothing could be more archetypal than truth but it is difficult to explain: we can view it as that which integrates, as the oneness of all reality, but there are many different ways of looking into reality and we get many different perceptions of truth. The ritual and symbols reveal signposts on your personal journey of experience.’ 
‘Absolute truth is outside time and place; it is a constant from which all things flow. This has to be the highest state of integrity possible. We can best explain this symbolically and one very good symbol is that of Jacob’s ladder which is depicted on the First Degree Tracing Board. This ladder reaches from earth to heaven; as you climb higher on the ladder you can see further. You can see how you are connected with, and contribute to, the whole, you can see that integrity, truth and freedom are all connected.’ 
‘Just before we take our obligation in the first degree we are told that “Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination.” That is, we must try and put aside any preconditions. This is not easy as we are so dominated by our culture from birth; we are encouraged to think from the mind not from the heart but the Craft needs more humanity, more heart.’ 
‘We are all on the level and we need to be able to talk to anybody. I have always enjoyed conversations with less experienced brethren. Everyone has something interesting to say. I will always seek out the young masons and encourage them to question what we do and why. The Orator scheme’s importance is very much found in the discussions which take place after the Oration is delivered.’ 
‘I think Freemasonry is the most wonderful male life-changing experience and we could make so much more of it. And that is the challenge faced by each one of us from the moment that we freely begin our personal journey by stepping into the lodge for the first time.’

Published in UGLE
The first national conference for Mentoring Coordinators was hosted by Grand Lodge at Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street on Tuesday, 24th February. Almost every Province was represented, as was the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, with a turnout of nearly 80 delegates for the busy day. By the conclusion of the conference there was popular demand for the event to be repeated early in 2010.

Proceedings were opened with an address from the M W Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, who spoke about the role of mentoring in both nurturing and tutoring Masons. The opening address was followed by presentations from Toby Jones, who iintroduced of the 3R Library to delegates, and then an interactive session from Nick Cripps on mentoring skills and techniques, during which small groups of delegates considered aspects of effective mentoring. A working lunch, led in to the afternoon plenary session on “the way forward”, considering questions such as the role of Provincial Mentors, central support, indicators of success, the introduction of the Holy Royal Arch and other topics, all under the watchful eye of the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown.  The day concluded with a thoughtful presentation from Hugh Stubbs on the national Masonic charities, their activities and introduction of this important part of Masonry to mentees. After the close, delegates described the conference as a great success: new relationships had been made with fellow Mentoring Coordinators and interesting ideas shared.
Published in Mentoring Scheme
Wednesday, 10 December 2008 11:10

Pro Grand Master’s address - December 2008

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

10 DECEMBER 2008

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master The Most Hon The Marquess of Northampton, DL

Brethren,
As this is the last Grand Lodge at which I shall preside I would like to take the opportunity to put on record some of my thoughts about English Freemasonry. Looking back over the past 300 years it is clear that Freemasonry has adapted to fit the society of the day from which it draws its members, and to ensure its future will have to continue to do so. In fact the cause of many of its recent problems was that it lost touch with a changing society and stopped communicating with the popular world. It shows the resilience of the Craft and the strength of its ethos that in so short a time it has been able to adjust itself to a new openness without in any way compromising its basic tenets.

Published in Speeches

Regular Convocation 
14 November 2007 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal 

Companions I welcome you all to Grand Chapter today and it is good to see so many of you attending. I am pleased to announce that the working group set up last year under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, has now published its report into the recruitment and retention of Royal Arch Masons. The report is in the process of being sent to all Grand Superintendents. I hope that they will make it more widely available in their Provinces. This will assist more Companions to understand and help meet the challenges facing the Royal Arch.

As you will no doubt be aware, our overall numbers have been dropping steadily.

That is broadly in line with the falls in membership which are being experienced in the Craft. One more welcome development is that the Royal Arch
membership – as a proportion of the total membership of the craft – has been rising very slightly over the past ten years. However, there is much to do; both in attracting Master Masons who are not in the Royal Arch and then, almost more importantly, retaining their interest and involvement once they have joined us. That, in turn, will encourage further recruitment.

As part of their brief the working group has consulted nearly all our Provinces in England and Wales, but this report does not cover the Metropolitan Grand Chapter, as they are shortly due to bring out their own report on recruitment and retention in London. And neither does it cover our Districts overseas. Having said that, I am sure the report will be useful to both London and our Districts.

The first conclusion of the report relates to the additional paragraph to the 1813 Declaration in the preamble to the Book of Constitutions, relating to the status of the Royal Arch. This was added to by Grand Lodge, in December 2003. In short, this describes the Royal Arch as ‘an extension to, but neither a superior nor a subordinate part of the Degrees which precede it’. There is no doubt that the Royal Arch is not just the completion of the third degree. But it is not felt that the 2003 declaration, as to the status of the Royal Arch, has been entirely satisfactory. Or, that it helps in any way to describe the relationship of the Royal Arch to the three Craft degrees. The result is that it has not been helpful to those joining or those seeking
to recruit new members.

I am minded to request Grand Lodge to give careful consideration to replacing this 2003 paragraph with a fresh definition. A number of Companions will be assisting me in trying to find a more suitable form of words for consideration. I feel that, in general terms, we should all seek to describe the Royal Arch as the next step in Freemasonry after the Craft degrees and the final step in pure Antient Masonry.

It is, of course, both an integral part of Craft Masonry as well as being its completion.

The other important conclusion of the report, in relation to recruitment, is a recommendation to Grand Lodge from Supreme Grand Chapter, that a Royal Arch representative should be appointed in each Craft Lodge. This representative, at least until further research and consideration, would not be a Lodge officer. But he would have the responsibility of promoting the Royal Arch within the context of the Lodge. Where this role has already been implemented in some Lodges, it has had a dramatic effect on the levels of recruitment and retention. Representatives need to be carefully chosen and the report gives advice and guidance on this matter.

On the subject of retention, the report makes a number of recommendations. It draws attention to the dangers of allowing Chapters to become smaller and smaller to the point where they will no longer become viable. And to look for ways of holding joint meetings with other Chapters from time to time – with a possible view to encouraging amalgamations rather than inevitable closures. The sharing of work is made much easier by the new ritual, but greater efforts are needed to include as many Companions as possible in ceremonies. This is to prevent boredom on the part of experienced Companions, and fear and trepidation among newer Companions.

I wish to thank all members of the working group, for their time and efforts in producing this practical report. And although their work as such is finished, I trust that the channels established by individual members with Provinces will continue to remain in place informally, in order to improve and maintain communication with the centre.

Companions, you will have seen in the Paper of Business for this meeting that one of our Chapters has been erased for a good reason. It is to be one of the founding Chapters of a new Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia. Those of you who were present in Grand Lodge in September and heard the Grand Chancellor’s talk will no doubt remember his comment on the huge growth of regular Freemasonry in Europe over the last twenty years and the establishment of new or revived Grand Lodges. A number of those Grand Lodges now feel settled enough to consider completing “pure Antient Masonry” within their jurisdictions by including the Royal Arch and have approached us for advice and assistance.

Such is their keenness that they are not only willing to travel to England on a regular basis to be exalted into failing Chapters, but they are making huge efforts to learn the complex ritual in what is to them a foreign language.

One project was completed last year when two of our Chapters were transferred to the authority of the Grand Lodge of Andorra to form the basis of a Grand Chapter there. Another two of our Chapters are meeting by dispensation in Budapest to form the nucleus of a Grand Chapter of Hungary and one Chapter is meeting in Belgrade to exalt members of the Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia. Added to which, senior members of the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria are already members of two Chapters in London. Last week Grand Lodge hosted the largest gathering of European Grand Lodges ever held, with forty-four European Grand Lodges represented. Whilst the Royal Arch was not on the formal agenda, during the lunch and coffee breaks we were approached by a number of other Grand Lodges who are now seeking to complete pure Antient Masonry in their territories with our help.

This is surely positive news as we help to spread the message of the Royal Arch more widely.

Finally Companions I wish you and your families peace and happiness as we approach the festive season and I look forward to our next meeting in April.

Published in Speeches
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