Celebrating 300 years


28 APRIL 2011

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes



I know that you would want me to congratulate the Grand Officers whom I have invested on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I remind them that their new ranks are not the culmination of their Chapter careers. In accepting appointment or promotion, they have committed themselves to increased activity in the Royal Arch, especially with regard to recruitment and retention.

 At this investiture meeting 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 November 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 November 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 leaflets 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 bi-centenary 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.

Finally, Companions, I must on your behalf and mine, thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for conducting today’s proceedings so successfully and the Grand Scribe E and his staff for all the arrangements for this important day. Most of you will be aware that the Grand Scribe E and his Secretary were working here on Monday to ensure the smooth running of yesterday and today.

Published in Speeches

Regular Convocation 
12 November 2008 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal 

Companions, I announced in Grand Lodge in September that I have decided to step down as Pro Grand Master next March and that the Grand Master has been pleased to appoint the Deputy Grand Master to succeed me. He will, therefore, also succeed me as Pro First Grand Principal. I wish Companion Lowndes every success in his new role and I will support him in any way possible.

As this is the last Grand Chapter over which I shall preside as Pro First Grand Principal, I would like to say a few words about the Royal Arch. I have tried over the past eight years to encourage Masons to think of the Order as the climax of Craft Masonry, which it is, but it has been difficult to devote as much time to it as I would have liked when so much of my job as Pro Grand Master has been concerned with Craft Masonry worldwide. That was one of the reasons I was keen to separate the roles of Deputy Grand Master and Second Grand Principal, to make the latter a Companion who would be dedicated solely to the Order. I think Companion Francis is doing an excellent job and I am sure he will continue to devote himself wholeheartedly to the Royal Arch. I have likewise been very fortunate to have Companion Collings as the Third Grand Principal, and there have been many occasions when I have sought his wise counsel. Sadly, he has just had a major operation so he was unable to be with us today. We all wish him well, and a speedy return to full health. Companion Bryce was also a great support to me when he stepped down as Deputy Grand Master but continued as Second Grand Principal.

His knowledge and experience were invaluable during a time of much change.

But for all the efforts that so many Companions have made and continue to make for the good of the Royal Arch, we have to ask ourselves why some of the other side Orders are growing substantially, while the Royal Arch is not. I fully accept that it is not for everyone being a more mystical Order, but that does not explain why much less than half our members join it. I think one of the reasons that it is less popular is that its ritual is profound and few Companions really understand its meaning and purpose. When I chaired the Working Party which I set up to look at ways of making it more intelligible and user-friendly we spent more time discussing the detail of what existed than exploring the possibilities of what, in an ideal world, it might become. There is always a danger that by being too radical one ends up destroying what one is trying to improve, but I think we could have gone further with the revisions and made even more of the important parts of the ceremony for the benefit of our exaltees.

However, the alternative ritual has been adopted by many Chapters and is helping more of us take an active part in the ceremony. Sharing the work with as many Companions as possible is vital for the health of a Chapter. It makes the ceremony more enjoyable for everyone.

There are of course other measures we can adopt, following the report of the Second Grand Principal’s committee. I think it would be a positive step to have a Royal Arch representative in the Lodge who can encourage Brethren to complete their pure Antient Masonry, always bearing in mind that this Order is not for everyone and no undue pressure should ever be exerted. I see no reason why we could not also develop a stand-alone Royal Arch Orator scheme, with short papers on the meaning and relevance of the ritual, but it may be preferable to wait until any teething problems with the Craft equivalent have been resolved.

I do believe we should consider importing the mentoring scheme from the Craft as soon as possible. It must make sense to have a mentor for every exaltee – someone with more experience in the Chapter who can offer guidance, introduce him to the other members and help him to bond with them. Because our Chapters are traditionally smaller than our Lodges, this should make it easier and quicker to get to know everyone.

I hope before long we may also have a Royal Arch tie, which can be worn by Companions in their Lodges. Whatever means we use to promote the Order it is clearly important to maintain strong and close links between the Craft and the Royal Arch, and encourage as many Brethren as possible to complete their pure Antient Masonry.

Companions, I have two people to thank, without whom my tenure as Pro First Grand Principal would not have been possible. The first is my wife, Pamela, who has encouraged me at all times to enjoy my Masonry to the full. Her love, support and commitment to me, and to Freemasonry in general, have made my job that much easier and enjoyable.

The second is of course the ME First Grand Principal for allowing me the opportunity of serving the Craft and Royal Arch as his Pro. He takes a keen personal interest in all things Masonic and his wealth of experience spanning over forty years has been invaluable. We are indeed fortunate to have him as our head and, like him, I believe also that Masonry, above all else, must be enjoyable. And finally Companions, I thank all of you who have supported me in any way.

Published in Speeches

Annual Investiture 
1 May 2008 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal 

Companions, I welcome you all on this happy occasion and congratulate those that I have had the pleasure of investing with their new ranks. As Grand Officers you have responsibilities to Supreme Grand Chapter. Not least is the responsibility for recruiting and helping to retain new Companions. I impress on you the importance of being able to explain the Royal Arch to potential exaltees as well as demonstrating a clear understanding of the ritual. Your support and encouragement to Companions in your own Chapters, at whatever stage of their progress, will be a key factor in retaining them.

Members of the Craft, who are not members of the Royal Arch, still need a greater awareness of the indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.

Last year I set up a working party under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal to look into the questions of recruitment and retention. One of the recommendations was the appointment of a formal Royal Arch representative in each Lodge. I am pleased to hear that where this has been implemented positive results are being achieved.

Any published figures are a snapshot at the time, but I was delighted to see that there has been an increase in Grand Chapter Certificates presented in 2007. It is encouraging also to see on the Paper of Business that, on this occasion, there were more exaltations during the year than the number of Chapters on the Roll.

The Committee of General Purposes is proposing to publish a booklet on the Royal Arch for new members to explain what the Royal Arch is, a little of its history, how it is organised, how it forms part of “pure antient Masonry” and how it fits into the Masonic system as practised in England and Wales. This was planned originally as part of the changes to the ritual and will soon be finalised. The Committee is also looking at designs for a Royal Arch tie.

The immediate Past Second Grand Principal has just attended the inauguration of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia. We are delighted to have played a part in introducing Royal Arch Masonry into Estonia. This developed when a London Chapter, in difficulties, was approached to be a host Chapter to enable a number of Estonian Brethren, including their Grand Master, to experience the Royal Arch. The influx of Estonians saved the Chapter, warm friendships developed and they were delighted to be included as one of the founding Chapters of the Estonian Grand Chapter. So much so that some of them are going to continue their membership in Estonia.

Most Excellent Companion His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent was installed as First Grand Principal in November 1967, just over forty years ago. Our heartfelt thanks go to him for his contribution throughout those forty years to enhancing the dignity of this beautiful and impressive Order.

I take this opportunity to remind you that all our Companions are entitled to attend Grand Chapter and I hope to see as many as possible at our November meeting.

Finally, Companions, I thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the efficient way they have run the ceremony today and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for organising this successful meeting.

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


26 APRIL 2006

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

I welcome you all here today for this special meeting and congratulate all those Companions I have invested with their new ranks. Whether you have been promoted or appointed this morning your new rank brings with it certain responsibilities. 

Chief among these is to promote the Order to Master Masons and encourage new Companions to understand and enjoy this new dimension to their Masonry. You can see from the paper of business that the number of Grand Chapter certificates issued last year has fallen by twelve and a half per cent in the past ten years.

Published in Speeches



An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

we have had a busy morning so I will keep my remarks short. I am sure you enjoyed the talk given by E Comp the Rev Elkan Levy and it will have given you much to think about. No-one can be in any doubt that recruitment and retention are the keys to the future prosperity of the Holy Royal Arch. 

I have decided therefore to set up a working party under the chairmanship of the 2nd Grand Principal to look at this matter in some depth and report back to me by the end of April.

Published in Speeches


27 APRIL 2006

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

I welcome you all here this morning for what is surely the highlight of the year for Royal Arch Masons and I congratulate all those I have invested with their new ranks. Those of you who have just been invested for the first time will realise that the honour of being appointed a Grand Officer brings with it certain responsibilities. 

The most important of these is to promote the Order to potential candidates. The Craft initiated 8,862 men last year and all of them will soon be eligible to join the Royal Arch. The number of Grand Lodge certificates issued since the millennium has fallen on average by less than 1% per year. Unfortunately, the figures for the Royal Arch are not so good.

Published in Speeches


28 APRIL 2005

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

I offer my warmest congratulations to those Companions whom I have had the pleasure of investing with Grand Chapter Rank today. The attainment of Grand Rank is not just a reward for past services to the Royal Arch – it brings the opportunity and the responsibility of putting even more of your time and energy into Royal Arch Masonry. 

Grand Officers have an important role to play in explaining the Royal Arch and the lessons it teaches to newer members and potential members. This has always been the case, but never more so than now, following the introduction of the changes to the Royal Arch ritual. We have the opportunity of using these changes to promote a better understanding of and a greater interest in this very special Order.

Published in Speeches


10 NOVEMBER 2004

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

I have little to add to what I have said on previous occasions and what has been said today. I hope this new alternative ritual will be adopted by many Chapters, and that the spiritual message of the Royal Arch will be better understood as a result. 

I would like to thank the members of the main Committee and the ritual sub-Committee for their deliberations over the past two years; E. Comp Richard Sandbach and others who played a major part in the creation of this alternative ritual and the Grand Scribe Ezra for his efforts in answering individually a very considerable number of letters from concerned Companions.

I would also like to thank the President and other members of the Committee of General Purposes and E Comp. Elkan Levy for their support culminating in the vote today. I have been very impressed by the contribution of the members of the Royal Arch and the obvious devotion they have for this unique Order. Companions, we must now concentrate our efforts on introducing those brethren who will be able to benefit from its profound message.

Companions, the President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP) of the Craft has asked me to make a statement on his behalf on the matter of asbestos in Freemasons' Hall.

Companions, Freemasons' Hall is nearly 75 years old. Built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to commemorate those who gave their lives in the First World War, there was a determination by the Building Committee that only the highest quality materials and latest technology would be used in its construction. Unfortunately for us today, one of the high tech materials much used at that period was asbestos, mainly as a lagging material.

In the summer of last year a problem was discovered under the floors of the balconies of the Grand Temple, and dealt with. The BGP commissioned an asbestos survey, and at the end of this September another major project was started, in accordance with current best practice, to seek out and remove any residual asbestos in the building. That work is being carried out by one of the leading specialists in the field under stringent safety conditions. 

As part of those safety conditions, the normal air exchange and heating systems in the building have been switched off and temporary heating is being installed. 

Constant tests have been, and will continue to be, carried out, and the levels of asbestos dust are significantly below the limits allowed by Health and Safety Regulations.

Although the work will take some time, well into next year, and will inevitably disrupt the normal routines of the building, plans have been made to keep that disruption to a minimum. However, Freemasons' Hall will unfortunately be closing a week earlier than usual at Christmas, as a stage in these works, and will remain closed during the first week in January. 
Those Chapters and Lodges who are affected at that time will have to make arrangements with other venues, or change their date, and the Grand Secretary's office is already in touch with them and will do what it can to assist. Any dispensation fees that arise as a result will be waived.

Companions, there is no danger to anyone working in or using the building, but it is a legal requirement that we deal with the problem now. The atmosphere is being regularly monitored as part of the removal project, and although the work is complicated, disruptive, and, I am sorry to say, expensive, we shall, when it is all completed, have the satisfaction of knowing that we have fully complied with all the Health and Safety Regulations and the law.

Published in Speeches


12 NOVEMBER 2003

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

most of you will be aware that a Strategic Working Party (SWP) which I formed in 2002 has been considering whether the traditional Ceremony of Exaltation and other aspects of the way in which the Royal Arch functions are still appropriate, after some 175 years.

Published in Speeches
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