Celebrating 300 years
Sunday, 19 April 2009 16:26

Supreme Grand Chapter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Arch to Adopt Hybrid System of Appointments and Promotions

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

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

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

Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia is Set Up

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

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

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

Published in SGC

Four good reasons to join this Order are put forward by John Hamill

In line with the fashion of the day, I should perhaps begin with a declaration of interest. At the age of 23, and only three months after becoming a Master Mason, I was exalted into the Royal Arch. That is something I have never regretted.

On joining the Grand Lodge Library staff in August 1971 like all keen young historians I looked for a subject on which little work had been done. Knowing the seniority of the Royal Arch and its indissoluble link with the Craft I was amazed to find that little was available on its origins, history and development and I spent a fair amount of my 28 years in the Library and Museum trying to repair that loss.

In the best sense of the word, I am an enthusiast for the Royal Arch and find it difficult to understand why more brethren do not seek membership in it.

Why should anyone join the Royal Arch rather than any of the other Masonic degrees and Orders available to us? My first reason would be that indissoluble link, which is peculiar to English Freemasonry.

For historical reasons, when the two Grand Lodges came together in 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England they adopted a definition of “pure ancient Masonry” which stated that it consisted “of three degrees and no more, viz., those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme order of the Holy Royal Arch.”

As a result the two became indissolubly linked administratively and thematically.

Unfortunately that definition was open to misinterpretation and until relatively recently the general view was that the Royal Arch was the completion of the Master Mason degree. Indeed, so widely held was that view, that in the ritual the candidate was informed that he must not think that he had taken a fourth degree but that he had completed his third.

I always had a problem with that statement. It was both illogical and rather insulting to those who remained solely in the Craft. Illogical, because the Third Degree is complete in itself, and insulting in that it implied that those who did not go into the Royal Arch were somehow incomplete or second class Master Masons.

Completion in a different form would be my second reason for joining. Our progress through Freemasonry is a journey of selfdiscovery and self-knowledge. In the Craft we are presented with eminently practical principles and rules which, if we follow them in our lives, we would hope to live a life of service to our fellow man and pleasing to God, however we worship Him.

But we are not simply practical beings.

We have a vital spiritual aspect to our natures which is addressed in the Royal Arch. In essence the Royal Arch, without transgressing the bounds of religion, invites the candidate to consider the nature of God and his relationship with Him.

In that way the Royal Arch completes the man by leading him from the practical to the spiritual, and the Craft and Royal Arch form “pure ancient masonry”.

My third reason would be the ceremony and the ritual itself. Done well, the exaltation ceremony is one of the most beautiful and thought-provoking in Freemasonry.

More dramatic than the Craft, the climax of the ceremony forms a vivid memory for all who go through it. Done “by the book” the ritual lays a heavy burden on the principal officers. Sadly, that has been used in the past to deter candidates from coming forward, suggesting that they should concentrate on getting through office in the Craft before joining the Royal Arch.

That should no longer be the case, as for more than 20 years Supreme Grand Chapter has been encouraging Chapters to share the work. This has three advantages: it lessens the burden on the principal officers, it enables more Companions to take part in the ceremony rather than sitting as spectators, and it allows newer members to learn the ritual at their own pace and to fit in with what they are doing in the Craft.

My fourth reason would be companionship and enjoyment. It is rare for a Chapter to draw its membership from only one Lodge. By joining a Chapter you will increase your Masonic acquaintance beyond the membership of your own Lodge, which, in turn, can lead to an increase in your Masonic experience and knowledge.

But, above all, joining the Royal Arch should increase your enjoyment of Freemasonry. It brings with it new experiences, new insights and new Companions, all of which add to our pleasure and our enjoyment of Freemasonry.

Published in Features

They key role played by John Knight in the Royal Arch in Cornwall is outlined by John Mandleberg

For speculative Freemasons, times have always been a-changin’, and the erection of the Premier Grand Lodge by ‘Four Old Lodges’ in 1717 was itself a novelty. When, in 1722 the Grand Master, the Duke of Wharton, laid down the procedure for constituting a new Lodge, this was almost revolutionary.

Not only had it not occurred to anyone before this that a special ceremony was needed to do such a thing, but it was the first time since 1717 that the detailed ritual for any ceremony had been written down. When, during the next 30 years the Royal Arch emerged from the shadows, many brethren in the Premier Grand lodge considered this not only a novelty, but an outrage – it was not ‘Pure Ancient Masonry’.

Those who founded the Grand Lodge of the Antients in 1751 took the opposite view – they regarded the Royal Arch as “the heart and marrow of Masonry.” However, by the end of the century the Premier Grand Lodge – the Moderns – had not only recognised the Degree, but had set up a Grand and Royal Arch Chapter, something which the Antients never effectively did.

Often too little thought is given to how Masonic developments taking place in London affected Brethren and Companions in the rest of the country. The “collective wisdom of the tribe” to use Galbraith’s phrase, is that communications in England were so poor at the end of the 18th century that it is a wonder that changes made in London ever filtered down to distant communities. And where was more remote than the north coast of Cornwall, 300 miles from London, the other side of Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.

Here, Freemasonry flourished in many towns, including Redruth, where for some 40 years before his death in 1828 John Knight was the leading Masonic figure.

In fact, Knight was to correspond at considerable length with leading London masons – Thomas Dunckerley, Robert Gill and Edward Harper for example – with little more difficulty than he would have experienced today.

Weekly at 2pm each Friday the mail coach left neighbouring Truro for London, where it arrived on Monday morning, and weekly it left London at mid-day on Tuesday and returned to Truro on Thursday. In 1791 Dunckerley, “the Grand Master of Royal Arch Masons”, could reply from Hampton Court on 15 July to a letter written in Cornwall three days earlier.

Parcel post took no longer, for packages of regalia, Books of Constitutions and Lodge and Chapter furnishings travelled on the same mail coach. Cornish Freemasons could be made aware of developments in London as they occurred, little more slowly than would be the case today.

The letter which Dunckerley wrote on 15 July 1791 provided a Dispensation to open the Druids Chapter of Love and Reality in Redruth – at the time there was a tradition in Cornwall that the Ancient Druids had brought Freemasonry to the country.

It was a Dispensation and not a Warrant or Charter “as the Grand Chapter will not meet til the last Thursday in Oct.” Dunckerley wrote it out in due form in his own hand on the back of the letter. John Knight was named as the First Principal Z., an office which he was to occupy for the rest of his life.

Consecrations differed somewhat from what we are used to today. A senior Companion would be delegated to install the three principals, who appointed their officers at the following meeting.

For example, in 1810 John Foulstone, the Grand Recorder, was delegated to travel to Falmouth to install the principals of the newly Warranted Valubian Chapter. He took the Chair of ZX, with John Knight acting as H. Foulstone “opened [a Chapter] in Ample form the several Comps who had not passed the Chair of Zerubi being duly passed with the proper Signs & Words.”
In other words, all those present were made Passed Zs so that they could witness the installations. [To have been Exalted, a Brother would already either have presided over a Lodge as it Master, or have been through a ‘Passing the Chair’ ceremony.]

When the Druids Chapter of Love and Liberality had been founded in 1791, Knight had evidently wanted the Companions to be properly clothed. He wrote to Dunckerley in August 1792 wishing to obtain “proper Royal Arch Masons Aprons”, but received the reply that “Royal Arch aprons were directed to be worn by the old Chapters, but to have been discarded for several years, & Sashes being deem’d sufficient.”

Dunckerley omitted to point out that the reason why sashes had been “deem’d sufficient” was because Grand lodge had refused to allow Companions to wear their red-bordered aprons in Craft Lodges, with the result that in a fit of pique Grand Chapter ordered them to be discarded.

In the early 19th century new regalia was designed for Royal Arch Companions, so that John Knight could write to London in 1803: “You mentd. in your last letter that patterns of Jewells & aprons to be worn by officers and companions of the order were to be fixed on & when ready shall be glad to know what they are.” The new aprons had the indented red and blue border with which we are familiar today.

But these were minor changes compared with those imposed by Supreme Grand Chapter when it was formed in 1817, four years after the Union of the Grand lodges.

For example, while each Antient Chapter worked under the Warrant of the lodge from which it had sprung, a Modern Chapter such as Love and Liberality had been granted its own separately numbered Warrant.

Now, every Royal Arch Chapter had to be sponsored by a regularly Warranted lodge, the number of which it assumed.

Supreme Grand Chapter then issued Charters of Confirmation” to each Chapter which complied with this instruction, those formerly Modern and Antient alike. For some reason this gave John Knight particular concern. He involved himself in considerable correspondence to ensure that the new Charter would fit exactly into the frame which surrounded the former Warrant.

John Knight then summoned the Companions of his Chapter to an especial meeting “for the purpose of framing Bye- Laws, entering into Annual Subscription, Electing members for the Better Regulating & Support of the Royal Arch Chapter.”

Up to this time there had been no well defined ‘Membership’ of a Chapter. Now, in accordance with the new Regulations of the order, all those who had previously been Exalted in the Chapter had to make the decision whether they should formally become members of it.

This would involve them in paying an annual subscription and adhering to its bye-laws – which had yet to be written – or being excluded from it except as visitors.

Several Companions who had formerly considered themselves part of the Chapter declined to become subscribing members.

However, John Knight was elected to continue as First Principal.

The records of how John Knight and his Companions reacted to the further changes which were made in his lifetime have not survived, and Love and Liberality Chapter itself did not long survive his death in 1828. His 35-year reign may have made it impossible to find anyone to follow him.

Redruth was then without Royal Arch Masonry for nearly 40 years.

John Mandleberg is Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the premier Lodge of Masonic research

Sources

Royal Arch Masons and Knights Templar at Redruth, Cornwall, 1791–1828, C J Mandleberg and L.W. Davies, QCCC Ltd.

Published in Features
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