Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:57

MAKING exaltation RELEVANT

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes explains the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry


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.

Published in SGC
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:10

Milestone for Shropshire chapter

The centenary of Venables Chapter, No. 611, Province of Shropshire, was held at The Clive Pavilion at Ludlow Racecourse and attended by more than 100 members including Grand Superintendent Peter Taylor.

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.

REGULAR CONVOCATION
9 NOVEMBER 2011
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes


Companions

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.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 16 September 2011 16:19

BICENTENARY APPEAL TO FUND SURGEONS

The Royal Arch is to mark its bicentenary in 2013 with an appeal to help fund research by The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS).

The scheme, which relies entirely on voluntary donations, enables surgeons to explore treatments for conditions and injuries that affect millions of people worldwide. Surgical research has already provided signifi cant advances in:
  • hip and knee replacements
  • the prevention of strokes
  • reconstructive surgery for trauma and war-wounded victims
  • less invasive surgery and quicker recovery times
  • skilled operations to improve hearing and sight
  • cancer survival rates

Currently in the UK, less than two percent of funding for medical research is given to surgical projects. It is hoped that the 2013 appeal will provide the RCS with a significant boost, enabling the continuation of existing projects, and supporting advancements in surgical care for future generations.

Further information, including how to donate, can be found on the Grand Charity's website.
Published in The Grand Charity
Friday, 16 September 2011 12:22

Investing in the future

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.

Published in SGC

The long-standing association of the United Grand Lodge of England with the Royal College of Surgeons has taken another step, this time through the Royal Arch. Full information was provided by George Francis, Second Grand Principal at Grand Chapter in November.

The Royal Arch has launched an appeal through a Relief Chest with the Grand Charity into which all donations will go. The aim over the next three years or so is to raise a minimum of £10, plus Gift Aid from every companion.

Published in SGC
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 15:31

In Conversation with the Second Grand Principal

Matthew Scanlan talks to George Francis about the Royal Arch

For the last five years George Francis has been Second Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Chapter, the governing body of the Royal Arch. And at the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting held on 10 November at Freemasons’ Hall, London, he officiated as Acting First Grand Principal and spoke about the order’s upcoming bicentennial celebrations as well as the creation of a bicentenary research fund appeal for The Royal College of Surgeons. Consequently, Freemasonry Today decided to catch up with him to discuss his involvement with the Order at an interesting moment in its history.

George Francis was born in March 1947 and was educated at Eton College and the Universities of Aix-en-Provence and Birmingham. A solicitor by profession, he joined Freemasonry in April 1992 and rose quickly through the ranks. And after serving as both Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies (2001-4) and Senior Grand Warden (2006-2008) in the Craft, he was installed as Second Grand Principal in November 2005 by the then Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton.
     Five years on, almost to the day, I sat down with him in one of the spacious offices at Freemasons’ Hall, London, and it quickly became apparent that he clearly enjoys his role as one of the rulers of the Order, despite the not inconsiderable demands on his time; for as he explained, he has visited no fewer than forty-six provinces during his five years in office.
     I began by asking, what motivated him to become a Freemason in the first place?
     ‘I was always vaguely curious about Freemasonry’, he replied, ‘my grandfather was a mason, but my father was quite anti’.
     Therefore, I queried, what made you make that final leap of faith?
     ‘It was a personal thing and my involvement began through my school connection. I was always interested in deeper stuff and I was interested to know if Freemasonry held any answers to the meaning of life. As soon as I was initiated I felt comfortable and I liked the language; I have always found the thought provoking side of it most alluring’.
     Do you remember your initiation?
     ‘Yes, very well. I was initiated in Old Etonian Lodge, No. 4500 in a ceremony held in the chapel at Castle Ashby, the ancestral home of the former Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton. It was interesting because the Wardens were in the West of the lodge as they once used to be. It was a very impressive ceremony and Lord Northampton was in the Chair’.
     He was subsequently passed in Lancing Lodge, No. 6352, raised in Old Etonian Lodge, and, two and a half years later, exalted in United Studholme Chapter, No. 1591, a chapter that was once the haunt of Edward VIII when he was Prince of Wales (latterly the Duke of Windsor).
     What was your initial impression of the Royal Arch?
     ‘Well, I first heard about the order after I had taken my second degree and someone mentioned said there was a sort of optional bolt-on degree at the end of the three Craft degrees. But I didn’t hear about it properly until I was relatively far down the track, as it were. When I was finally exalted I found the ceremony very impressive, although since that time I have often felt that the beginning could be a little more dramatic as I don’t remember much about it. Perhaps it could be held in the dark, but that’s just a personal view.’
     Did the degree make any sense to you?
     ‘Well, the Royal Arch is not an easy concept to understand. It has been described as the keystone of masonry because it emphasises the existence of a higher power, i.e. God. And whereas the Name of God is more implicit in the Craft, in the Royal Arch it is more explicit. You are thus made to realise that there is an all-powerful Supreme Being, a power larger than yourself, and this should hopefully remind the candidate to be humble and not let one’s personal ego obscure or obstruct one’s relationship with this omnipresent force.’
     It was evident from talking to Companion Francis that he is keenly interested in the Order’s history, most especially its enigmatic origins and its true relationship with the three Craft degrees, two key aspects of the Royal Arch which are still hotly debated by historians of Freemasonry today.

Historical background

The precise origins of the Royal Arch, rather like the Craft itself, remain something of a mystery. Nevertheless, several pieces of evidence strongly suggest that either it, or something like it, was being worked by the second quarter of the eighteenth century.
     And somewhat intriguingly, the most important early references to the Royal Arch all appear to point toward Ireland.
     Therefore it is not entirely surprising to discover that when, on 17 July 1751, five lodges assembled at the Turk’s Head Tavern in Greek Street, Soho, and founded a new organising body called The Grand Lodge of England according to its Old Institutions, they were almost entirely composed of Irishmen. Styled the ‘Antients’ they quickly became rivals to the premier Grand Lodge (who they successfully dubbed the ‘Moderns’) and attacked them for several alleged changes and non-observances, most particularly for not practising the Royal Arch which they considered to be ‘the root, heart, and marrow of masonry’.
     For the next sixty years or more an uneasy relationship existed between the two grand lodges as the Antients continued to promulgate the Royal Arch much to the chagrin of the premier Grand Lodge, who steadfastly refused to recognise the degree despite the widespread interest of many of their own members in its mysteries.
     However, their rivalry came to an end in 1813 when a union of the two grand lodges was achieved under the leadership of the Duke of Sussex in 1813, a move that saw the creation of the United Grand Lodge of England. And within four years of this celebrated union, the Royal Arch was recognised as an integral part of pure ancient Freemasonry, and ever since its chapters have been attached to Craft lodges in both England and Wales.

The Royal Arch today

History aside, I asked George Francis about the current state of the Royal Arch; was the Order in good health after more than two centuries?
     ‘Overall, the decline in our membership has slowed and the number of exaltations is rising in some places. Across the country about forty percent of Craft Freemasons join the Royal Arch, around 100,000 members, and that figure may hopefully rise to around fifty percent In Lincolnshire, where there is a much more ingrained tradition of Royal Arch masonry, the percentage of Craft masons joining is high at around fifty-five percent and West Lancashire is another very strong province in this respect, whereas in London only about thirty-two percent of masons are exalted.’
     ‘However, the Order is currently doing well in most rural areas and the decline in membership has flattened out and we are now building a good new base of many new exaltees. Therefore I am confident about the future provided that we all keep working on the retention of existing members as well as bringing in new and younger members. With that in mind, I would like to see that every new initiate is informed about the existence of the Royal Arch at a much earlier stage, so that the newly initiated candidate clearly appreciates both its place in importance within the whole ritual schema’.

Bicentennial celebrations

The focus of our conversation then turned to the coming bicentenary of the Royal Arch in 2013, a date which marks the official recognition of the Royal Arch as ‘the completion of pure and ancient Freemasonry’. ‘We will then celebrate our official birthday’, he said, ‘or to put it another way, the full emergence of the Royal Arch as we know it, 200 years ago.’
     As he explained, the Supreme Grand Chapter is planning to hold a lunch at the Connaught Rooms next to Grand Lodge on 16 October 2013, and this will be followed by a celebratory convocation in the grand temple and an evening dinner at The Savoy, both hosted by the First Grand Principal, HRH the Duke of Kent.
     Another important element of this milestone event will be a fund-raising exercise which will take place over the next three years, which is intended to provide a permanent memorial of the anniversary. The sum raised will be used to create a Research Fund for the benefit of the Royal College of Surgeons which will be administered at no extra cost alongside the Craft’s 250th Anniversary Fund for the purposes of research by the Royal College.
     ‘Grand Lodge has supported the Royal College since its foundation in 1800 and, more specifically, since the 250th Fund was set up in 1967 to provide support for the Fellowship Scheme. And as the Royal College is a registered charity and receives no direct funding from the NHS, it relies heavily on private donations and therefore our appeal will help reinforce our support for this highly important work’, he said.
     To help to meet this goal the Supreme Grand Chapter has recently opened a Relief Chest with the Grand Charity into which all donations will go, and, as George Francis enthusiastically explained, ‘the aim is for every Companion to give a minimum of £10 plus Gift Aid, i.e. little over £3 a year, and this will hopefully raise more than one million pounds, although it would be fantastic if we could exceed that amount, as this is a unique fund-raising event for the Royal Arch and it would be wonderful to mark the Order’s bicentenary with a generous contribution to a really deserving cause’.
Published in SGC
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 14:57

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2010

2010 was a busy and exciting year for Freemasonry. We are continuing to work on several initiatives, designed to ensure the future of Freemasonry, particularly on our public relations. You will hear a great deal about this next year but as an example, this issue will be the last one in the present format. Freemasonry Today will have a new look designed to be truly representative of the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England. We want it to be a potentially award-winning magazine and one that your families and friends will enjoy as well as you. The approach will be entirely supportive of our outward-facing ethos – a magazine that you will be proud to have on display in your home.

In this issue you will find an insert for the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. Equally you can find the detail of this and the donation form on both the Supreme Grand Chapter and Grand Charity websites. To quote the First Grand Principal: ‘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’.

The Pro Grand Master referred to our visit to the eighth regional conference of the District Grand Masters of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic in Barbados in his speech at the December Quarterly Communication. He also mentioned that we were caught in Hurricane Tomas – the first time that the island has been hit since 1955! I write this column in Chennai in the fervent hope that the monsoons will not delay my return for Christmas.

I wish you all, on behalf of the Grand Lodge team, a happy and enjoyable 2011.

Published in UGLE
Report Of The Committee Of General Purposes
Supreme Grand Chapter
Wednesday 10 November 2010


The Minutes of the Regular Convocation of 29 April 2010 were confirmed.

Meetings in 2011: The dates when the Committee of General Purposes will meet in 2011 are 22 March, 27 September and 6 December.


PETITIONS FOR NEW CHAPTERS
The Committee had received the following petitions for new chapters: For a new chapter to be attached to Royal Albert Edward Lodge, No. 906, to be called Calderley Chapter of Union, No. 906, Burnham-on- Sea (Somerset); and for a new chapter to be attached to St Anthony Lodge, No. 4684, to be called St Anthony Chapter, No. 4684, Montserrat (Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean). The petitions were granted.

CHARTERS OF CONFIRMATION
The Committee had received petitions for Charters of Confirmation from the following chapters, the original Charters having been stolen and destroyed by fire respectively: Stephens Chapter, No. 3089 (Buckinghamshire) and Elopura Chapter, No. 7545 (Eastern Archipelago). The petitions were granted.

CENTENARY CHARTERS
Members of the following chapters have been authorised to wear the Centenary Jewel:

Venables Chapter, No. 611, Shropshire, from 8 July 2011; Goderich Chapter, No. 1211, Yorkshire, West Riding, 6 January 2011; Ferrum Chapter, No. 1848, Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, 22 February 2011; London Irish Rifles’ Chapter, No. 2312, London, 20 January 2011; Barry Chapter, No. 2357, South Wales, 23 May 2011; Kinta Chapter, No. 3212, Eastern Archipelago, 21 March 2011 and Corona Chapter, No. 7446, London, 20 May 2011.

TRANSFER
The Committee had received a Memorial from Star of Hackney Chapter, No. 7272 (London) that it be detached from Star of Hackney Lodge and attached to Somersetshire Lodge, No. 2925 (London) and be known as Somersetshire Chapter, No. 2925. The Memorial was granted.

AMALGAMATIONS
The Committee had received reports that the following chapters had resolved to surrender their Charters: Bold Chapter, No. 7583, in order to amalgamate with St Paul’s Chapter, No. 5459 (West Lancashire) and Pele Tower Chapter, No. 4435, in order to amalgamate with Perseverance Chapter, No. 1643 (Durham). A recommendation that the chapters be removed from the register in order to effect the respective amalgamations was approved.

ERASURES
The Committee had received reports on ten chapters: Creaton Chapter, No. 1791 (London), Cyclist Chapter, No. 2246 (Surrey), United Temperance Chapter, No. 3107 (Cheshire), West Lewisham Chapter, No. 4298 (West Kent), East Croydon Chapter, No. 4667 (Surrey), Trinity Chapter, No. 5179 (London), Walton Priory Chapter, No. 5992 (West Lancashire), Finchley and Hendon Chapter, No. 6089 (Middlesex), Fleur de Lys Chapter, No. 6479 (London) and Forest View Chapter, No. 6588 (Essex). These chapters had surrendered their Charters and a recommendation that they be erased from the register of Grand Chapter was approved.

ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS
After Grand Chapter was closed there was a presentation by the Royal College of Surgeons of England on the work of its research fellows.

GRAND CHAPTER CONVOCATIONS
Future Convocations will be held on 28 April 2011, 9 November 2011 and 26 April 2012.
Published in SGC
Page 5 of 5

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