Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes discusses the mechanisms that have been put in place to promote the Royal Arch within Freemasonry
As we move towards the bicentenary 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.
PROMOTING THE ORDER
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, as well as several Provinces and Districts are already presenting a letter to the newly made master mason on the merits of the Royal Arch. Efforts to improve the profile of the Order in website contexts is also underway.
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 among all companions, 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.
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. I encourage you to keep up your efforts.
Today the formation of a Grand Chapter would be widely reported. As John Hamill explains, such was not the case for the Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter of England
As I wrote in the last issue of Freemasonry Today, the Royal Arch was brought into being by the signing of the document now know as the Charter of Compact on 22 July 1766, although the date was later tampered with. Strangely, there is no mention of that charter within the minutes of the chapter, which turned itself into the Grand Chapter. So exactly how did events pan out?
1765: The signing of a manifesto
On 12 June 1765, a group of twenty-nine companions met at the Turk’s Head Tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho and signed a manifesto by which they constituted themselves into an independent Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. The manifesto – a set of rules to govern the operation of the chapter – was copied into the minute book in an illuminated style and was signed by those present and then by every brother on his exaltation within the chapter.
1766: Grand Chapter catalyst
Among those who joined were many of the major figures then involved in the running of the premier Grand Lodge. Exactly a year after its formation, the success of the chapter was crowned by the candidate at the meeting on 11 June 1766 being the then Grand Master – Cadwallader, Lord Blayney. It would appear that this event was the catalyst for the formation of a Grand Chapter, although the minutes are silent on this matter, any discussion of the Charter of Compact, or even to its signing. The only reference in the minute book is in the accounts where it is noted that a Mr Parkinson was paid two guineas for engrossing the charter.
1769: Just a private chapter?
The chapter continued to work as a private chapter, regularly exalting new members and it is not until 1769 that the minutes begin to show evidence of it acting as a Grand Chapter. In that year it began to issue charters to form new chapters. Of these foundations five are still in existence today. It would appear from the minute books that the chapter continued a dual role as both a private chapter and a Grand Chapter until it evolved into Supreme Grand Chapter in 1817. From 1795 it began to function on a regular basis as we would expect today.
1778: Spreading the message
In 1778, the chapter began to organise Provinces with the appointment of Grand Superintendents, whose main function appears to have been to stimulate the formation of new chapters. Thomas Dunckerley, who did so much to promote the Royal Arch in the late eighteenth century between 1778 and his death in 1795, was appointed Grand Superintendent in no less than eighteen counties.
1795: Grand Lodge softening
Despite many of its leaders being involved in the Grand Chapter, the premier Grand Lodge consistently refused to acknowledge the Royal Arch as part of its system. By 1795 that attitude had softened and the premier Grand Lodge announced, rather condescendingly, that it had no objections to the Royal Arch as a separately organised society.
1809: Royal Arch an integral part
With HRH The Duke of Sussex becoming both Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge and First Grand Principal of the Grand Chapter, the latter body gave him full powers to negotiate on their behalf whatever settlement could be achieved as to the position of the Royal Arch, once the of the two Grand Lodges had been carried through. It was as a result of that, and his position as Grand Master, that a compromise was achieved and the Royal Arch was accepted as an integral part of pure antient masonry.
1817: Birth of the Supreme Grand Chapter
The Grand Chapter continued to exist until 1817 when, with the Craft arrangements being almost completed, The Duke of Sussex turned his mind to the Royal Arch. The Grand and Royal Chapter merged with the former members of the Antients Royal Arch, with the Supreme Grand Chapter coming into being. Surprisingly after 1817, the dual nature of the original Grand Chapter – acting both as a regulatory body and a private chapter – continued with men of eminence being exalted within the Grand Chapter itself.
1832: Last exaltations
The last occasion the Grand Chapter acted as both regulator and private chapter was in May 1832 when the Marquis of Salisbury, the Marquis of Abercorn and Lord Monson were exalted at an emergency meeting of Grand Chapter.
At the April meeting of the Essex First Principals Chapter No.3256, over 200 members and guests went on to see a demonstation of the 'Ceremony of the Veils' given by the Essex Provincial Stewards Chapter No 8665. The chapter was particularly honoured by the presence of many distinguished Royal Arch masons which included: ME Comp George Pipon Francis, 2nd Grand Principal, ME Comp David Kenneth Williamson, 3rd Grand Principal and our own ME Comp John Michael Webb, Grand Superintendant.
This Ceremony had been authorised by the Committee of General Purposes of Supreme Grand Chapter solely for demonstrations at a Provincial or District level held under the authority of the respective Grand Superintendent.
The basis of the current Royal Arch ceremonies worked in England was established and agreed by Supreme Grand Chapter in 1834. There is some evidence that before the 1834 changes the ceremony of Passing the Veils was practised as a preliminary to the Exaltation ceremony. This was particularly true in Lodges under the former Antients Grand Lodge which worked the Royal Arch within the Lodge, but there is little evidence of it being worked in Chapters under the original Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter.
Today in England the ceremony is solely authorised for use in Chapters in Bristol but it is still very much part of the Royal Arch system in Ireland, the United States of America and in Scotland - where it is known as the Excellent Master Degree. For those wishing to see the Bristol ceremony, the Province and its Chapters are always delighted to receive visitors.
This demonstration is not the ceremony as practised in Bristol, Ireland, Scotland or the USA but necessarily includes material which appears in the ceremonies worked in those countries. It has been compiled from manuscripts in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry and published sources such as Carlile and Claret.
Following the demonstation the 1st Principal, E. Comp Edward A Hilburn, PGStB, presented a cheque on behalf of the Chapter to E Comp Keith Huddlestone, PGStB, PAPrGP, the Essex Provincial Stewards Chapter 'Demonstation Team' represntative, who announced that the very generous donation of £500 would be going to the The Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for 'The Royal College of Surgeons of England'.
As the bicentenary of the inclusion of the Royal Arch chapter into ‘pure antient masonry’ draws near, John Hamill examines the mystery behind its formation
On 22 July 1766, the first Grand Chapter in the world came into being when members of an independent chapter met in London to draw up what is now known as the Charter of Compact, converting their chapter into the Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter, with Cadwallader, ninth Lord Blayney, at its head. We know this because the chapter’s minute book, which commences with a meeting held on 22 March 1765, stills exists. Until as recently as the late forties, however, masonic historians believed that the Grand Chapter had been formed in 1767.
The mystery can be traced back to the charter itself, which concludes with the statement that it was signed at the Turk’s Head tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho, on 22 July 1767. It wasn’t until masonic historian J R Dashwood examined the document in 1949, while preparing a paper on the first minute book of the original Grand Chapter, that evidence of tampering was discovered. Dashwood noticed that at the top of the document, in the recitals of the styles and titles of Lord Blayney, a capital P (standing for Past) had been inserted clumsily before the words Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons. At the other end of the document, it was equally clear that the original final digit of the year had been scraped off and been substituted in all cases, except the Anno Lucis (AL) date, with a seven. In the AL date the final digit had become a one.
One explanation is that despite the fact that many of its senior members were involved in the Royal Arch, the Premier Grand Lodge was not well disposed towards it and would not recognise it as part of its basic system. Dashwood argued that it would have been a huge embarrassment to them to have their current Grand Master, Lord Blayney, as a member. As head of the order, Blayney would have been one of the prime movers in turning a private chapter into a governing body as well as being the principal signatory to its founding document. On 22 July 1766, Blayney was still Grand Master, but by 22 July 1767 he had retired from that high office. Hence, Dashwood argued, the alterations were made to suggest that the events all took place after Blayney ceased to be Grand Master.
That theory appeared to meet with general acceptance until, in 1998, Freemason Yasha Beresiner gave a short talk on the charter in Supreme Grand Chapter. He queried whether, as most of them were involved in the chapter, the hierarchy of the premier would have been embarrassed by the events in July 1766. Beresiner theorised that it was more likely that once news got around that a new masonic order had been formed, and the Grand Master was at its head, their members would have flocked to join it.
A pious fraud
Another mystery is the twenty-one signatures on the left of the charter who attested that they accepted the terms documented ‘on the Day and Year above written’. Dashwood described this as ‘a pious fraud’. He had good reason for doing so as of the twenty-one signatories only the Earl of Anglesey was present in the chapter on 22 July 1766, having been exalted that evening. Of the remainder, more than two thirds had not been exalted at that date. The majority of them were exalted between 1767 and 1769.
While it is always satisfying to solve a mystery, in the great scheme of things does it really matter that the document was tampered with? Surely what is important is that the events of July 1766 took place and gave birth to the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter, enabling members of the premier Grand Lodge to become involved in the Royal Arch.
Had it not existed, it could be argued that the ‘antients’ would not have had the numerical strength to persuade the premier Grand Lodge, in the negotiations leading to the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, to accept the Royal Arch as a part of ‘pure antient masonry’. Had that not happened we would not have had our indissoluble link between the Craft and Royal Arch. And, very importantly, would have no reason to have a party in October 2013 to celebrate its bicentenary.
Dr Cliff Jones, resident at RMBI care home Connaught Court in York, has celebrated 60 years in Freemasonry. His home held a sherry morning to celebrate the event, which was attended by Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, Jeffrey Gillyon, and members of Humber Lodge No 57.
Jeffrey presented Cliff with a certificate and jewel to commemorate his masonic career. Cliff started his career in Freemasonry in 1951, aged 22, after being inspired by the headmaster of his school. He became Third Provincial Grand Principal in the Royal Arch and was a founding member of Mitre Chapter of York No.7321.
The Deputy Provincial Grand Master concluded, ‘Cliff is a true gentleman.’
With mentoring high on the agenda, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes takes the opportunity to give clarity and perspective to what it means for Freemasons
You have all heard that the Mentoring Scheme is designed to eventually mentor members at all stages of their masonic progress. Initially this is especially for candidates – the next generation – during the three degrees and then to encourage them to continue their progress into the Royal Arch. London and all Provinces now have a Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Mentor who currently is responsible for liaising with the lodge mentor. For the avoidance of doubt, the lodge mentor is responsible for coordinating and selecting suitable brethren to be the personal mentors. It is most certainly not the intention that the lodge mentor should carry out the task himself – the personal mentor is best described as a friend and guide.
We all have our own ideas about what mentoring is and, for that matter, what it is not. Indeed, some believe there is no need for mentoring and some believe they are already mentoring perfectly satisfactorily. These sentiments are understandable without an explanation of what we actually mean by mentoring and what we are trying to achieve. In an ideal world, mentoring would happen naturally, everyone would be looked after as a matter of course, and this, in turn, would take care of issues such as recruitment, retention and retrieval – the three ‘Rs’.
Whatever your idea of mentoring might be, one of the aims we should all keep in mind is the promotion of an environment of belonging, understanding, involvement and enjoyment within the lodge. The skill will be to achieve this with a ‘light touch’.
But first, let’s look at the word ‘mentoring’, which is translated in so many ways – rather like our masonry. Let me be quite clear: mentoring is not just about the Lodge of Instruction, valuable though that is for advancement in masonic ritual. Rather, it is mostly about pastoral care: seeing that the candidate is looked after, kept informed and that that support and care remains throughout each member’s masonic life.
In terms of the mentoring scheme, I see pastoral care being eighty per cent of what mentoring is all about. Put simply, the real test is how you would like to have been welcomed when you first joined and how you would like to have been supported from then onwards. I do not want to have a complicated or onerous scheme but rather one that is as natural as possible yet, at the same time, allows consistency of advice and support.
Mentoring has essentially three stages. The first two are straightforward as they cover logistics, basic ritual meaning and developing a sense of belonging. The third – how to talk about our Freemasonry to the non-mason – needs more explanation as it links in with our overall communications strategy that supports an external-facing organisation and underpins our new ambassadors’ scheme.
The first stage is for each candidate to understand the basic logistics that are involved in becoming a Freemason. Essentially, they should get a proper welcome. A candidate should never feel under-briefed and should be made aware of his financial and time commitments. During this stage the personal mentor answers any questions the candidate may have for him to gain a sense of belonging. In other words, there should never be any surprises.
The second stage is to understand the basics of the ritual, especially after initiation and then passing and raising. But this understanding should be about the ability to answer questions about the myths that non-masons have. Right from the start, members can counter the questions about the so-called funny handshakes, the nooses and trouser leg being rolled up. The questions need to be answered accurately and without embarrassment – I am not talking about an in-depth knowledge, but more a common understanding. The mentor can, of course, point them in the right direction for this additional and important information as they require it. It is not, however, part of the new mentoring scheme.
We all understand the need to look after candidates, but it is the third stage of giving them the confidence from the very outset in order that they can speak to family and friends about Freemasonry. This is vital to ensuring our future. A candidate needs to understand how to talk to the non-mason about what Freemasonry means and we aim to have as many members as possible being ambassadors for Freemasonry. An ambassador is not a rank or office, it is a mode of behaviour. On the fundamental understanding that we recruit only people who live up to our principles, an ambassador will not only understand the basics of ritual but will also talk to others about their Freemasonry.
To quote the Grand Master: ‘Talking openly about Freemasonry, as appropriate, is core to my philosophy, central to our communications strategy and essential to the survival of Freemasonry as a respected and relevant membership organisation.’ It is with these three stages in mind that the Grand Secretary’s working party is producing succinct mentor guidelines. I see mentoring as a ‘light touch’ resulting in everyone enjoying their Freemasonry even more and feeling comfortable in talking
to their family and friends in an informed and relaxed way.
Letters to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.18 - SUMMER 2012
I believe the one-to-one relationship is essential between candidate and mentor and it is good to see the lodge mentor’s role described as ‘co-ordinating and selecting brethren to be personal mentors’. Freemasonry proved to be a strong bond between my father-in-law and myself and I have always been appreciative of the shared interest, as well as the support he gave me.
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.
In 1872, the Lodge of Harmony, No. 1411, was consecrated in ValparaÍso, Chile. It is the only English Lodge meeting on the west coast of all the Americas and comes under the immediate supervision of our District for South America Southern Division. It was formed with the agreement of the Grand Lodge of Chile, then just 10 years old, and has always had happy relations with that body and its lodges.
There was no tradition of Royal Arch Masonry in Chile, where Master Masons who wished to extend their masonic experience joined the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of 33 degrees. That changed last year when the Grand Lodge of Chile agreed to its three lodges being able to work the Royal Arch. The Lodge of Harmony immediately contacted one of their initiates, now resident in England, Nicholas Bosanquet, Grand Sword Bearer and a former Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, and asked him to liaise with Grand Chapter on their behalf.
Nicholas contacted the then Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent for London, Charles Grace, who put him in touch with Wandle Chapter, No. 2699. This Chapter was in the sad position of being about to close only two years short of achieving their centenary. The Wandle companions were delighted that their Chapter would be able to continue, rather than dying, albeit many thousands of miles from London. They readily agreed to be taken over, and on 15 February 2011, 15 companions from South America Southern Division became joining members of Wandle Chapter. The first meeting was held in ValparaÍso, with great celebrations, on 16 May.
The chapter was founded and named after Rowland George Venables, who became the first Grand Superintendent for Shropshire when the Royal Arch Province was formed in 1913. The day was marked by the exaltation of Kevin Gwilliam, bringing chapter membership to 50.
First Principal David Griffin presented inscribed centenary whisky tumblers to those gathered, while a raffle raised funds for The Royal Arch Masons Bicentenary Appeal 2013 for the Royal College of Surgeons, adding to money already raised from the alms donations for the same cause.
On 16th May 2011 one of the most far-flung lodges of our English Constitution realised its dream of over a century to establish a Royal Arch chapter attached to it.
In 1872 Lodge of Harmony No. 1411 was consecrated in Valparaiso, Chile, the principal port and trading post of the country, dominated at the time by English merchants. It still meets in the same building where it started life, in a side street off one of the main thoroughfares and under the steep hills (cerros) of this rather scruffy but enchanting typical port city. It is the only Lodge under the jurisdiction of UGLE on the West Coast of all the Americas and falls within our District of South America Southern Division, which has its headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
So, why has it taken so long for the Royal Arch to reach Chile?
Lodge of Harmony was formed in the days before the current convention was agreed between Grand Lodges of the World, that no foreign Grand Lodge should form a lodge under its jurisdiction in a country with a local Grand Lodge already established. By 1872 the Grand Lodge of Chile had already been in existence for 10 years: so their support was needed by the Harmony founders to form an English lodge under the jurisdiction of UGLE, which was duly given.
The Grand Lodge of Chile works the first three degrees under the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, which enables brethren to pass on to ‘higher degrees’ after reaching the final Craft degree of a Master Mason. Under this Rite, the Royal Arch is neither recognised nor required as a completion of the Third Degree, principally as the story of the Royal Arch is covered in ‘higher degrees’, particularly the 14º to 16º, albeit differently. Consequently, in Chile, particularly owing to this difference, there has been long resistance to allowing the very few Chilean lodges (3) that exceptionally practise the Emulation or York rites to attach a Royal Arch chapter to their lodges. Several appeals were made to the Grand Lodge during the 20th Century by these lodges to grant them leave to form Royal Arch chapters, even under foreign jurisdictions. It was not until June 2010 that the Grand Lodge of Chile, acting under the initiative of its outgoing Grand Master, Juan José Oyarzún, eventually passed a decree permitting Chilean lodges that practise the Emulation or York rites to form Royal Arch chapters.
Lodge of Harmony, as an English lodge, has never been under the same restrictions, a fact that was recognised under treaty between our respective Grand Lodges. However, as Harmony owes its formation to support from the Grand Lodge of Chile, lives isolated from other English lodges making inter-visiting only possible with Chilean lodges and consequently has not wanted to risk any potential offence to the Grand Lodge of Chile, with whom UGLE has been in amity since 1862, the Lodge has hitherto refrained from pursuing this course out of respect for Chilean masons. That self-imposed restraint was released with the issue of the decree from the Grand Lodge of Chile last year.
Knowing of the intentions of the Chilean Grand Master and in anticipation of realising the Lodge’s dream, 6 members of Harmony were exalted together into Lomas Chapter 2517 in Buenos Aires in April 2010 with another member, already a RA mason (exalted in London), joining at the same time.
The members of Harmony, supported by the District Grand Superintendent, E Comp Jock Rodger, lost no time in setting about establishing a RA chapter for the Lodge with the objective to be the first in the country to do so, after the issue of the Chilean decree. Having aborted an initial idea to consecrate a new chapter, the decision was taken for expediency to take over an existing chapter from England. As the only member living in England and best placed to make the necessary arrangements, E Comp Nick Bosanquet PDepGDC initiated the process last autumn and with strong support from Metropolitan Grand Chapter and the then Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent, E Comp Charles Grace PGSN, in particular, a struggling London chapter was soon found as a potential candidate for transfer out to Chile.
After hearing the story and attracted by the historic nature of the project, the members of Wandle Chapter No. 2699, persuaded by their charismatic Scribe E, E Comp Alan Linton, readily agreed to the transfer, encouraged by the fact that their Chapter would not now sink into oblivion within just two years of celebrating its Centenary, but play a leading role in establishing the Royal Arch firmly in Chile. On 15th February this year, 14 Companions joined Wandle Chapter from the District of South America Southern Division – 8 from Chile (including E Comp Bosanquet) and 6 from Argentina, including the GS, the 2nd District Grand Principal, the 3rd District Grand Principal, the District GDC and District Scribe E. Meeting in a small chapter room at Clerkenwell Masonic Centre, it was perhaps fortunate that not all of these joining members could attend. The South Americans were represented by E Comp Bosanquet, who was elected Scribe E of the Chapter during this last meeting in London, a very sad occasion for the stoic ‘old’ members. In recognition of and gratitude for their magnanimous generosity, the South Americans subsequently elected all the London members to Honorary Membership.
There then followed a frantic period of sourcing chapter furniture and regalia as none existed in Chile. Following appeals to Provinces by E Comp Bosanquet, many generous Companions responded promptly to the call. Some items could be made up locally, for which copious specifications with supporting photographs from a chapter room set up in Duke Street, St James’s, were sent out to Chile. The most difficult items to find were going to be Banners and Ensigns, as these typically belong to Masonic centres rather than individual chapters, with Robes and Sceptres likely to prove challenging too. Furthermore, everything had to be in Chile well before 16th May, the day set for the first meeting of the Chapter in its new home.
Out of the blue and to enormous relief, through assiduous action by Provincial Grand Officers in Shropshire, Fitz Alan Chapter No.1432 in Oswestry, which had commissioned new Banners and Ensigns in 2010, most generously donated their old set. These were delivered to an exceedingly grateful E Comp Bosanquet by E Comp Mike Parry PPrGSN of Fitz Alan Chapter within days before a large box of kit was shipped out to Chile with everything else acquired from England.
Supreme Grand Chapter presented the Chapter with a fine set of Robes and surplices, whilst a set of long-forgotten Sceptres was discovered still in good condition in Buenos Aires during refurbishment of the District Grand Lodge premises earlier in the year and donated to the Chapter by the District Grand Chapter together with tools and an engraved trowel, the latter a personal gift of the Third District Grand Principal, E Comp Neville Glynn.
The day of the first meeting in Valparaiso fell on a Monday. So, in true South American fashion, the weekend before was fiesta time to celebrate the historic event. Six members of the District flew over from Buenos Aires to join the Harmony brethren for three days of parties, lunches and dinners in Valparaiso and along the coastal resort towns nearby, indulging in copious quantities of Chile’s famous seafood, wines and, of course, pisco sour – pisco being a 40-proof local liqueur made from grape. Between the partying, just enough time was squeezed in with the help of wives, girlfriends and even sons and daughters to provide finishing touches to the furniture and rig the temple for the momentous meeting.
The Masonic Hall in Calle Wagner is owned by Harmony along with two smaller lodges – one American, one German. The building has been ravaged by several earthquakes in its time and was largely rebuilt in the 1970s, like a ‘bunker’, with the help of funding from UGLE, after a particularly violent quake. As a consequence, the building was able to withstand the second most violent earthquake in the country’s history, in February 2010, without suffering too much serious damage. The last of the repairs (to damaged lavatories), again assisted by funds from UGLE, were being completed as the temple was being rigged for the first Chapter meeting. Miraculously, the large temple, with its magnificent entrance columns and painted wooden ceiling of the night sky, has survived these natural disasters and looked magnificent in its new livery as a Royal Arch chapter
The first meeting of Wandle Chapter in Chile conveniently coincided with its annual Installation meeting. Sadly but understandably none of the London members were able to make the long journey out. However, besides the 14 members, 9 guests attended to witness the historic occasion, mostly Chilean RA masons who were members of an Argentine chapter in Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina just across the Andes from Chile’s Capital City, Santiago.
E Comp Jock Rodger, District Grand Superintendent, accompanied by E Comp Philip Thompson, Second District Grand Principal, and E Comp Neville Glynn, Third District Grand Principal, opened the Chapter soon after 8 in the evening. After important administrative matters to deal with the transfer from London to Valparaiso, a short ceremony was performed to reconfirm the dedication of the temple to include Royal Arch masonry, before installation of the new Principals – E Comps Philip Thompson as MEZ, Neville Glynn as H, and John MacGregor as J. E Comp Nick Bosanquet handed over as Sc E to Comp Francisco Díaz, only to find the Principals with typical local humour appointing him at the end as Steward, a task that he will find difficult to administer from over 7,000 miles away. Other offices were taken by Comps Dragutín Paic as Sc N and Fernando Bórquez as Treasurer, E Comps Dennis Crisp (DGDC) as DC and Ernesto Marcer (DGScE) as Principal Sojourner, Comps Germán Buchheister and Enrique Cánepa as 1st and 2nd Assistant Sojourners, Erwald Finsterbuch as ADC and Kurt Baum as Janitor.
Proceedings were completed by 10:15, when members and their guests, after viewing a display of Wandle Chapter artefacts brought out from England, retired downstairs to the bar with a roaring fire (being winter in the Southern Hemisphere) for Scotch and pisco sours before dinner of traditional Chilean fare and wines. Toasts as usual were not proposed until after midnight.
It is gratifying to see English Freemasonry leading the initiative to establish the Royal Arch properly in Chile. The determination and dedication of the Harmony brethren has enabled this. However, with a lack of experienced companions in Valparaiso, the commitment of the six members from Buenos Aires to fill key offices and enable the Chapter to function is nothing short of heroic, especially without the benefit of an EasyJet or RyanAir in South America.
The Chapter expects most, if not all, MM of the Lodge of Harmony to join and hopes also to attract Chilean masons in the future … but they will have to speak English.
Since this first meeting in Valparaiso, there have been two further meetings with double Exaltation ceremonies at each. The first of these, in early July, took place soon after the volcanic eruption in Southern Chile cast a dense ash cloud across the Argentine halting flights out of Buenos Aires. This prevented the Argentine members of the Chapter from flying across to Chile for that meeting. Without these senior experienced companions the meeting would have had to be abandoned. The MEZ of the Chapter sent a message to the Chilean members - “maybe The Almighty is testing us to see if our Chapter is strong enough; look for Plan B”. An SOS was sent to the Chilean companions of the Mendoza chapter, who had attended the May meeting, for help. In a display of true Masonic fraternity they appeared in force to assist - in itself another historic moment for RA Masonry in Chile. Since these events these Chilean companions have been given permission by the Grand Lodge of Chile to move the meetings of their Chapter from Argentina to Chile.
Overall a great result!