Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
9 November 2016
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you here both from our Districts overseas and from our Provinces, including sixty companions from Cambridgeshire. Since our last meeting in April the Most Excellent First Grand Principal has been pleased to appoint Comp Willie Shackell as Grand Scribe Ezra and we wish him well. He was, of course, formally invested as Grand Secretary at the June Quarterly Communication.
This meeting, companions, always falls near to 11th November, Armistice Day, and as you are well aware this marvellous building is a peace memorial to all those who gave their lives for us during the First World War. It is worth, therefore, drawing your attention to two events taking place next year.
The first is on 18th April 2017 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, when the newly constructed Masonic Memorial Garden in memory of all those masons who gave their lives during conflict in the service of our country will be opened. You are all invited.
The second is the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Memorial by the Grand Master on 25th April 2017. It will be placed on the pavement in front of the Tower Entrance of this building and will take the form of a number of paving stones with the names of the 63 Victoria Cross holders who were awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I and who were members of UGLE. Of these, 17 were also companions in the Royal Arch.
Companions, this seems to be an appropriate time to say a few words about Comp Denis Beckett who was one of the companions we stood in memory of earlier in the meeting. Comp Beckett was a very remarkable man and I had the good fortune to know him well. Indeed he was President of the Committee of General Purposes when I joined it in 1987. He was a Craft mason for 71 years and a Royal Arch mason for 59 years. He was initiated immediately after World War 2 in which he served with such distinction. He was awarded the DSO for his extraordinary courage during the battle of Monte Cassino. There were those who felt a VC would have been more appropriate.
Companions, we were privileged to have him as a member and particularly so that he presided over the Committee of General Purposes for 7 years.
Companions, whilst it is clearly important to remember the past, we must also look to the future. I am therefore very pleased that the successor to the Membership Focus Group, the Improvement Delivery Group, is composed of both Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, with our Third Grand Principal, Gareth Jones, as its Deputy Chairman. It will be designing and delivering the future direction of both the Craft and Royal Arch.
Companions, you may have seen that, after my address at Quarterly Communications in June, I have been accused in the national media of suggesting that masons are all grumpy and boring – a misrepresentation, companions. At least I consider it to be a misrepresentation, but, if any of you think otherwise, I apologise. I said that if an amusing incident occurs at one of our meetings, it should not be frowned upon as had sometimes been the case in the past. It is not a capital offence to smile during meetings. Whilst I was not suggesting we should turn our meetings into a pantomime, there is no harm in us being seen to enjoy ourselves.
I believe this to be particularly so in the Royal Arch, as our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest and, in my experience, candidates derive great enjoyment from it. I think this is particularly so when the new format of the ritual is used which involves more of the companions and has the benefit of changing the voice that the candidate hears which I always feel refreshes his interest.
Finally, since Supreme Grand Chapter arranged the refurbishment of our magnificent organ, we have been treated to a number of superb concerts in this temple and I congratulate the Organ Committee on its achievements to date. I am very keen to draw your attention to the next concert at 5.00 pm, on 14th December, after the Quarterly Communication, to be given by the international concert artist, Jane Parker-Smith. The concerts are free, companions, and, so far, they have been wonderfully entertaining, and I am quite certain that this will be no exception.
Companions, I have no doubt that after our closing, you will enjoy listening to a team from the Royal College of Surgeons led by Professor Neil Mortensen, RCS Research Board Chairman at Oxford University, who will enlighten us on what has been achieved through your most generous support.
Thank you, companions.
Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter
29 April 2016
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I know that you would want me to congratulate all of the Grand Officers whom I have invested today on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I would remind you that with your new ranks come new obligations. Appointments and promotions are therefore not just a reward, but an encouragement for further participation in the success of the Order whether providing support for the members of your chapters or giving encouragement to those in the important role of Royal Arch Representatives in your Craft lodges. If, indeed, you are not that representative yourself.
It has been a great pleasure to invest today Most Excellent Companion Gareth Jones as Third Grand Principal in succession to Most Excellent Companion David Williamson who was himself appointed in 2010. We owe Companion Williamson an enormous debt of gratitude for his many contributions, both in our order and in many others as well. Today’s succession coupled with that of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race in November last year, continues the strong leadership that the Royal Arch has enjoyed for many years and ensures an exciting future for the Order.
Companions, I believe that the Royal Arch is in its strongest position for many years. The profile of the Order was greatly enhanced by the outstanding success of the bicentenary celebrations in 2013 coupled with several key initiatives during and since that time, including the Royal Arch participation in the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research. As a reminder, there are two Royal Arch fellows in every five fellowships supported. This is thanks to the incredible generosity of our members and the skilful management of our assets.
Finally, companions, I must, on your behalf and mine, thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team and the Grand Scribe Ezra’s staff for the success of today. Somewhat naturally I take great pride in the work of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team, but on this occasion I want to thank, particularly, the retiring Grand Scribe Ezra for his work over the last nine years. We have travelled a lot together, although we have not always returned without mishap – be it Icelandic volcanic ash, Barbadian hurricanes or Heathrow snow, but we have made it in the end one way or another. I am sure he would agree with me that these were testing events and we were both extremely grateful for the calming influence of his PA, Louise, back at base.
Thank you companions.
1 May 2014
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Companions, this is a very special day for those that I have had the pleasure in investing and I congratulate you all.
Grand Rank does come with responsibilities. For example, you have a duty to be mindful of both recruitment and retention in the Order. On recruitment, I would first ask – who among you does in fact recruit and, to those of you who do recruit new members - are you sensitive to the right time to approach each potential exaltee? This sensitivity is also a challenge to Royal Arch representatives in Craft Lodges and emphasises the reason why this is such an important appointment. Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge about a subject of which they are already partly aware and enjoy, not introducing them to something completely alien.
On retention, you can help by actively showing your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the Order. Also, by guiding the new Companion through the various stages of his progression, making sure that, wherever possible, the work is shared, so that the ritual is enjoyed by him and does not become a burden to him.
As many of you will know, in October last year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch. The First Grand Principal announced then that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had exceeded £2m and that the Appeal would remain open until the end of 2013. Companions, as you have already heard from the President of the Committee of General Purposes, the figure is now £2.5m. This is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to the Royal Arch. Well done to those of you who have given so generously.
The First Grand Principal also took the opportunity to announce his intention to make additional appointments this year to past Grand Rank to Companions who have carried out significant work for the Appeal or had made a significant contribution in some other way to last year’s Bicentenary celebration. Grand Superintendents were responsible for making the recommendations based on this criteria and I again congratulate those of you who received these special appointments which celebrate the success of the Bicentenary.
I turn now to the Grand Temple organ restoration project, already briefly mentioned by the President, which is a Royal Arch initiative using existing funds. Designed and built by Henry Willis and Sons the Organ has been in place since this building was opened by the then Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught in 1933. It is possibly the largest complete unaltered Willis instrument in full working order after eighty years. It was, however, in need of substantial restoration. English Heritage and Camden Council have agreed to the restoration plans with full completion in early 2015 – in good time for the Craft’s tercentenary in 2017. Not only will this fine Organ be restored but the Royal College of Organists will be approached to investigate the possibility of encouraging young organists to use the Grand Temple Organ, as well as conducting organ recitals that are open to the public.
Finally Companions, great ceremonial events such as this take an enormous amount of planning for and direction on the day. I thank the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for all their planning and the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of this memorable event.
Royal Arch Investiture
28 April 2011
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, this is a special day for those of you who have been appointed to Grand Rank or have been promoted. Grand rank is sparingly awarded and I congratulate you on your achievement. In recognising that the Royal Arch is the completion of pure ancient masonry, exaltation into the Order should neither be hurried nor obligatory, as not all Craft Brethren will wish to take this final step immediately upon being raised. However, it is hoped that you as Grand Officers will be able to communicate something of the colour, enjoyment and essence of the Royal Arch to committed members of the Craft.
As we move towards the bi-centenary of the Order in 2013 we have taken the opportunity to further ensure the long term future of the Royal Arch. In raising the profile to achieve this, it is important to make sure we are seen as appealing, inspiring and relevant.
To that end, a strategic working party, under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, reported their nine recommendations to me in March. The first of these recommendations in their Report was that the strap line ‘initiation to exaltation’ be adopted to promote the Order.
The working party looked at mentoring and how it should align to the work being done on this in the Craft. Here it was suggested that the Craft Personal Mentor and the Royal Arch Representative actively guide a new Master Mason towards membership of the Royal Arch at an appropriate point in his Masonic journey. Also that once exalted the new Companion has a knowledgeable Royal Arch Mason to help him better understand the ceremony and meaning of the Royal Arch and how best to become involved in the Chapter.
The role of the Lodge Royal Arch Representative is fundamental to the promotion of the Order and it is recommended that Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges continue to encourage Craft Lodges to make this appointment and to develop the role. It is also considered important that the adoption of the permitted ritual variations, introduced by the 2004 Royal Arch Strategic Working Party be encouraged in Chapters.
I am aware that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and several Provinces and Districts are already presenting a letter to the newly made Master Mason on the merits of the Royal Arch. This practice is highly recommended by the Working Party. Efforts to improve the profile of the Order in all website contexts is underway and will help the potential exaltee to have a better understanding of the Order he is about to join.
Two clear outward ways to promote the Order are emphasised. First, the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at selected Craft Festive Boards and secondly, that the wearing of the official Royal Arch tie be further encouraged. The final recommendation is that Chapters be encouraged to re-engage with Lodges from which they have traditionally derived members.
In order to encourage a greater participation amongst all Companions, as well as lending clarity to the Royal Arch teachings, the Working Party looked at the layout of the ritual books so that the Revised and Permitted Alternative variations adopted in 2004 be encouraged as the standard. I emphasise that nothing is now being suggested which in any way enforces or changes what was introduced by Supreme Grand Chapter in 2004.
A wider participation in the ritual is clearly beneficial in encouraging a deeper understanding of the teaching and by giving the permitted variations of 2004 a greater prominence in the various printed and authorised rituals – for example, Aldersgate, Domatic, Perfect and Metropolitan – I trust more Chapters will be encouraged to adopt them and benefit accordingly. For your interest, all these are likely to be reprinted in the next eighteen months.
The celebration of the bi-centenary next year will be held on Wednesday 16 October. This earlier date will replace the November Convocation – for that year only. The planned events of the day will begin with a demonstration by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter Demonstration Team – in the Grand Temple – to encourage the use of the Permitted Alternative Variation that I have just referred to. This will be followed by lunch in the Grand Connaught Rooms. The main celebration will take place in the afternoon - again in the Grand Temple, followed by a dinner at the Savoy. You will appreciate that these events will be restricted by numbers. The Grand Scribe Ezra will be briefing Grand Superintendents and Provincial Scribes Ezra on the detail in good time.
The 2013 Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons is progressing well – with over half a million recorded so far. This means that we are well on our way to exceeding our target, so that we can then further help the research fellowship scheme, run by the College, by financially supporting additional fellowships. I encourage you to keep up your efforts.
Finally Companions, on your behalf I congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the excellent way in which today’s meeting has been conducted and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for their hard work in ensuring a successful Investiture.
Since the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons was launched last November, close to £200,000 has been donated. As we move towards the bicentenary in 2013, I encourage you in your fundraising endeavours to continue to request presentations from a Royal College team. These presentations could be at your annual Provincial meetings, for example, so that the companions in your Province can fully understand the important work that the research fellows can undertake as a result of our continued support.
The First Grand Principal summed up the importance of the appeal with great clarity when he wrote, ‘This campaign gives us an excellent opportunity to contribute further towards something that is helping to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and grandchildren.’
While the appeal is a highly visible external contribution from the Royal Arch, there are other areas that we all ought, as members of the order, to be looking at to give the Royal Arch a higher profile. For example, it is critical that we encourage new members towards exaltation as this will be the completion of the pure ancient masonry that they have discovered during the ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising in the Craft – most particularly the latter. I like to use the analogy of a four-part TV drama: what is the point of watching the first three episodes and then ignoring the fourth when all is revealed?
ENSURING maximum involvement
This is not just about keeping member numbers up, it is also about making sure there is enough work at each meeting to keep the members’ skills honed. Remember, of course, to share the work out as much as possible so as to achieve the maximum involvement of the companions in your chapter. That way companions will become far more interested in the beauty of the ceremonies as well as keeping up their interest.
We have two important weapons in our communication armoury: our house magazine, Freemasonry Today, and the new members’ website launched in September. The strap line refers to the magazine as The Official Journal of the United Grand Lodge of England but the editorial policy is predominantly to cover stories and news about both the Craft and the Royal Arch. This is also the case with the website, which will be timely in getting news to you. The editor of Freemasonry Today is keen to receive more stories on the Royal Arch for consideration and possible inclusion. The Provincial Information Officers also have a key role to play here and are well briefed on the process for submission for both the magazine and the website.
We are now starting to work on the new website for the Royal Arch to bring it both up-to-date and in line with all the other communications initiatives that have been recently launched. Grand Scribe Ezra, as Grand Secretary, is chairing a working party on mentoring in the Craft with the aim of seeing what elements of this are relevant to import to the Royal Arch.
Royal Arch representatives are already in many of our lodges and one of the key decisions is in determining when it is the right time to brief the newly joined mason on the Royal Arch – to have him understand the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry. But is this best done after they have been raised and how does their mentor brief them? And how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place? These are some of the conundrums that the working party are grappling with. Fundamental is establishing the relevance to prospective candidates of the order that all who have already been exalted enjoy.
9 NOVEMBER 2011
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
I am delighted to report that the Royal Arch Masons Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons, launched last November, is progressing well. I am informed that very nearly two hundred thousand pounds has been donated to date. Thank you to those who have generously donated. As we move towards the bicentenary in 2013, I encourage you, in your fund raising endeavours, to continue to request presentations from a Royal College team for example, at your annual Provincial meetings so that the Companions in your Province can fully understand the important research work that the Research Fellows can undertake as a result of our continued support.
The First Grand Principal summed this up with great clarity when he wrote, “This campaign gives us an excellent opportunity to contribute further towards something that is helping to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and grandchildren”.
Your Provincial Appeal co-ordinators know the procedure for requesting these presentations and for ordering donation leaflets for distribution when those presentations take place. I also remind you that the information for donating to the Appeal is on the Grand Charity website. As a minimum target we are aiming for one million pounds and as I said a moment ago, we are well on our way.
The Appeal is a highly visible external contribution from the Royal Arch. However, there are other internal areas that we all ought, as members of the Order, to be looking at to give the Royal Arch a higher profile.
The first is encouragement by you, to bring in new members for exaltation, understanding that this will be for them the completion of their pure ancient Masonry that they have discovered during the ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising in the craft – most particularly the latter. Companions, I like to use the analogy of a four part TV drama. What is the point of watching the first three episodes and then ignoring the fourth when all is revealed.
This is not just about keeping member numbers up, it is also about making sure you have enough work at each meeting to keep the members’ skills honed. Remember, of course, to share the work out as much as possible so as to achieve the maximum involvement of the Companions in your Chapter. That way Companions will become far more interested in the beauty of the ceremonies as well as keeping up their interest. I note that we had three thousand nine hundred and thirty exaltations last year.
Companions, I have mentioned before that I, along with many other companions, find the lay out of the current ritual books to be confusing and difficult to follow. A new lay out with the new version, currently known as the “permissive” version, as the main text and the former version printed separately at the back. The ritual organisations are updating the books and it is likely that all the major rituals will be reprinted in the next eighteen months to two years.
Secondly, we have two important weapons in our ‘communication armoury’. Our house magazine, Freemasonry Today and the new members’ website launched in September. The strap line refers to the magazine as the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England but Companions, the editorial policy is predominantly to cover stories and news about both the Craft and the Royal Arch. This is also the case with the website which will be timely in getting news to you. I know the Editor of Freemasonry Today is keen to receive more stories for consideration and possible inclusion on the Royal Arch. The Provincial Information Officers have a key role to play here and are well briefed on the process for submission for both the magazine and the website.
For your interest, we are now starting to work on the new website for the Royal Arch, to bring the current one both up-to-date and in line with all the other communications initiatives we have recently launched.
Many of you will know that Grand Scribe Ezra, as Grand Secretary, is chairing a working party on mentoring in the Craft with the aim of seeing what elements of this are relevant to import to the Royal Arch. We already have Royal Arch representatives in many of our Lodges and one of the key decisions, as I am sure you can all appreciate from your experience, is when is the right time to brief the newly joined Mason on the Royal Arch – to have him understand the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient Masonry. For example there are questions such as, is it best after they have been raised, how does their mentor brief them, and how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place? These are some of the conundrums that the working party are grappling with and I look forward to briefing you on their suggestions early next year. I am sure, however, that many of you have been debating these issues for some time! Fundamental is establishing the relevance, to prospective candidates, of the Order all of us who have been exalted so enjoy.
Since the beginning of the year we have installed six new Grand Superintendants in our Provinces and I have also installed the new Grand Superintendant for North Island New Zealand. This is, together, of course, with the South Island, the furthest of our Districts and our visit was seen as both supportive and a real sign of our commitment. We also met the Grand Superintendent from South Island who explained the continued havoc in Christchurch. Much of the damage from the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and the multitude of aftershocks had come from liquefaction, when the soils are shaken and turn into a liquid form, undermining buildings and other structures. There is little chance of buildings being replaced in Christchurch as a result. What brought it home for us was when we learnt that the Hotel we stayed in for District’s 150th Anniversary, at the end of 2010 had crashed to the ground, not that long after we had left. Aftershocks continue to this day, illustrated by the fact that Christchurch was rocked by a 5.5 aftershock last Friday – the biggest they had had since June. Our continued sympathy and support goes out to our Companions in these tough conditions.
It is good top see so many of you here today and it is also appropriate that I take this opportunity to remind you that all Companions are eligible to attend this Supreme Grand Chapter meeting.
Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes discusses Freemasonry rituals and important charity funding projects
Last year I announced that as part of the Royal Arch celebrations in 2013 it had been decided that a donation be made to the Royal College of Surgeons. The Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal was launched at the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter. Our donation will help to fund the College’s successful surgical research fellowship scheme, which supports surgeons to undertake a surgical research project.
Freemasonry has had a long and close association with the College and we are their major benefactor. We were pleased to have several surgeons – who had been beneficiaries – come and present to us at the Convocation. Although I was unable to be at that meeting, I have heard from many companions how fascinating it was to hear about their research in surgical care for current and future generations. The Grand Scribe Ezra has written to all Grand Superintendents informing them how to request similar presentations from the College in their Provinces.
The information for donating to the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal is on the Grand Charity website and donation leafl ets are available by request. We are grateful to those who have already donated.
Companions, as you are well aware changes were made to the general practice of the Royal Arch in 2004 affecting the ritual, together with certain permitted ritual alternatives. As a result, I wonder how many of you are like me and get thoroughly confused when deciding which version of the ritual to use. With this in mind, it is proposed to use 2013 as the catalyst to publish new ritual books, which would have the permitted alternatives as the main version and the original version printed out separately. For clarity, this is not a change to the ritual. It is intended to be helpful to Chapters by simplifying the printed material and to avoid any confusion the 2004 changes may have caused.
The aim is also to encourage those Chapters who have not yet made the change to the alternative form, to more easily adapt what is already widely practised and enjoyed. This alternative ritual involves more companions in the ceremony and I believe encourages greater delegation of the work. Interestingly, the 2013 Committee is proposing that a demonstration of the alternative exaltation ceremony form part of the bicentenary celebrations, to be performed by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards demonstration Team in the Grand Temple on the morning of the special celebration Convocation in October 2013.
This is an excerpt from ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes' address at the Annual Supreme Grand Chapter Investiture on 28 April 2011. To read the speech in full, press here.