Pause for thought

Having helped oversee the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Second Grand Principal Russell Race now wants to give Craft members enough time to understand the Royal Arch

What have you taken from your professional career?

I did an economics degree at Liverpool and worked initially for British Steel, then for an administrative body looking after the fishing industry. When I was 24, I went into the City as an investment analyst. I was there for the rest of my working life, for the last 20 years in corporate finance, and retired in my early 50s.

I found my enjoyment was in building good working relationships, and ultimately friendships, with colleagues and clients – which, on the corporate side, is crucial. I had around 30 clients and if you did a good job for them, they would not seek to move somewhere else for a quarter per cent on a deal. And relationships take us into Freemasonry. It’s all about working with people, interacting with them and enjoying their company.

When did you find out about Freemasonry?

I was born in Gloucester, and the first 12 years of my life were spent there. My father joined a lodge just after the war and he went into the Chair in 1956, two years before we moved to Kent, where he became a founder of what became my mother lodge in Rochester.

Lodges had a big social calendar and as a teenager I went to many lodge events with my parents. When I came back from university at 21, and was still living in Kent, my father said to me, ‘Well, you know something about masonry and you’ve met many members of the lodge, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know.’ It was a very smart psychological move. Many fathers might have said, ‘Well, I’ve got you down to join at the next meeting, now you’re back in the area,’ but mine didn’t. I took about two years, got settled in a job, and then said, ‘I’d like to join.’ It was very much my decision, rather than feeling any obligation to join.

Did joining the Royal Arch feel like a natural progression?

I was 29 when I joined the Royal Arch, again in the local chapter in East Kent. I didn’t go into it with any preconceptions and I loved the ceremony from day one – despite being on the receiving end of all three lectures on the evening of my exaltation! In those days, the Royal Arch was considered the completion of the Third Degree, which is now an area of debate. But you could also just say it was seen as the natural progression from the Craft, which is something we rightly still emphasise.

The pressure on chapters was rather less in the 1960s and 1970s, because our numbers were higher than they are today, albeit beginning to level out. Chapters were thriving with 30 or 40 members, but it’s when you get below critical mass of 20 to 15 that you suddenly start thinking, ‘What do we do?’ It’s only at this late stage that many chapters try to re-establish links with the mother Craft lodge, which may be too late.

Why did you become involved in Metropolitan?

As a member of London lodges and chapters, I was aware that Metropolitan was being set up as a separate entity, but my move to London was a complete shot out of the blue. As East Kent Deputy Provincial Grand Master, I had met the Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton for the first time at a dinner. A little later, Rex Thorne asked me out to lunch in Long Acre, and when I arrived Lord Northampton was with him. To my surprise, he asked me to move up to London to become the first Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.

I took some time to think about it because it was a new job and I knew the time commitment would be substantial. I asked the opinion of a few close friends who were unconnected with London, and they all said the same: ‘You can’t say no. It’s a great opportunity.’ Which indeed it was, but the workload proved to be quite heavy as well.

How did you feel leaving Metropolitan to become Second Grand Principal?

I think I made it known to people over time that Royal Arch is one of my great loves. Having completed six years as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and six years as Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, I knew it wasn’t a job I was going to do forever. I had a meeting with Peter Lowndes, who asked how I would feel about taking the position of Second Grand Principal, as George Francis was retiring. I paused slightly but, on this occasion, I didn’t ask for time to think about it, I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.’ The best things in life come unexpectedly, don’t they?

For my successor as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, the intention is to perform the role in a slightly different way, which I am sure is right. It was important in the early days of Metropolitan Grand Lodge for the rulers to be seen to be out visiting lodges and chapters on a regular basis and to be visible to all London masons. I was able to do that, but it wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be carried on at the same pitch, because London now has a firmly established base and identity.

‘We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch’

What have you inherited from your predecessor in the Royal Arch?

I think one of the important things that George Francis brought to the job was being visible to companions all around the country, visiting widely in the Provinces and London. There is no substitute for hearing people’s views first-hand. Additionally, he was a keen promoter of making the ritual more dramatic and understandable for all participants.

What I would say is that we now need a slight pause for breath to allow the changes to sink in. We have a number of initiatives going on, following on from the ritual change a few years ago, and we have to get these embedded within each Province. Although there may be minor adjustments, I don’t envisage radical changes in the near term. We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch.

In lodges where there is no active Royal Arch representative, or the Secretary’s not particularly keen on our order, the young mason coming through may have no awareness of the Royal Arch at all. Why should he be deprived of that experience? We need to ensure that all masons have the opportunity to join. I’m not saying you’re an incomplete mason if you’ve not come into the Royal Arch, but rather that your breadth of understanding is not as full as it might be.

Imagine when somebody’s interviewed for initiation and saying to them, ‘You are beginning an exciting four-stage journey.’ If you can get that message across on day one, it’s far easier than going to them after they’ve done their Third Degree and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s another step and here’s a leaflet about it.’

Even if, on a flat Craft membership, we can increase the conversion rate to 45% or 50% across the board, rather than current rate in the high thirties, that in itself will take up our membership to more acceptable levels.

Do you see your role as ambassador or enforcer?

Gareth Jones, the Third Grand Principal, and I are certainly ambassadors. I think it’s about communicating to Superintendents and their Deputies, as well as to all companions, that we’re here to help and guide them in the right direction. I sense a strong desire for consistency across the piece, and that has to come from Supreme Grand Chapter. A Province or a private chapter can’t take effective decisions about the direction in which they are going unless they have the proper information to start with. I think it’s quite compelling if you say to a Grand Superintendent that these initiatives are available, they’ve worked in other Provinces – look at the results, maybe there are lessons for you.

I mentioned before about taking a slight pause, giving yourself the time to think. I saw a very good demonstration in Freemasons’ Hall some years ago. At various stages in the ceremony they stopped and said, ‘Right, we’re about to do this. Somebody tell me why we do it this way.’ And the members hadn’t thought about it. They were just hearing the words. That was in a Craft lodge, but the moral applies equally to the Royal Arch.

Every now and again it behoves us all to stop and think, ‘What do the words mean? Why do we do what we do, for example, in terms of choreography of the ritual?’ I would like to reverse the trend in numbers, which we are beginning to do in some areas, but I believe that will only come through companions having a better understanding, and with it greater enjoyment of our unique order.

Published in SGC

First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent and Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes recognise the progress that is being made in the Royal Arch

I was delighted to be able to appoint and promote so many of you to celebrate my 50 years as First Grand Principal. This, of course, is in recognition for all you have done for the Royal Arch – but it is also, you may not be surprised to hear, in expectation of further services.

Although smaller than the Craft, there is no doubt that the Royal Arch holds a very warm and special place in our affections. Over the course of the last 50 years we have adapted our ritual to make it easier to understand, to remove some of the anomalies and to ensure a greater involvement from the companions. I am very pleased to see the progress that has been made.

While this year has been a great celebration for the Craft, I have no doubt that we too will benefit from the great success it has achieved, and I know that there are measures in hand that will ensure that Freemasonry has a prominent place in society for many years to come. Companions, I am greatly encouraged by all that I have seen this year and I thank you all for all of your hard work.

First Grand Principal
HRH The Duke of Kent

‘Freemasonry will have a place in society for many years to come’ HRH The Duke of Kent

Companions, I had the privilege of speaking at the Royal Albert Hall about the 50 years’ service our Grand Master had given to the United Grand Lodge of England. Those of you who were there, or have seen that remarkable event online, might have noticed that what I said seemed to go down reasonably well.

That took no account of the fact that the job of First Grand Principal and Grand Master run concurrently, and therefore any mathematician could work out that the First Grand Principal has also been head of our order for the same 50 years. I mentioned it as a remarkable achievement; it is even more remarkable when you look at it in that light.

Pro First Grand Principal
Peter Lowndes

Published in SGC

Last Wednesday’s Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter was a special meeting as HRH The Duke of Kent celebrated his Golden Jubilee as First Grand Principal with a special investiture of Grand Ranks

Afterwards HRH The Duke of Kent was photographed with the Pro First Grand Principal, Second Grand Principal and Third Grand Principal to mark the occasion.

Read the First Grand Principal’s address here.

Read the Pro First Grand Principal’s address here.

Published in SGC
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 14:35

First Grand Principal's address - November 2017

Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

8 November 2017

An address by the ME First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent

Thank you ME Pro First Grand Principal, for your exceedingly kind words and, companions, thank you all for your support which I do enormously appreciate.

I was delighted today to be able to appoint and promote so many of you to celebrate my 50 years as First Grand Principal. This, of course, is in recognition for all you have done for the Royal Arch, but it is also (you may not be surprised to hear) in expectation of further services.

Although smaller than the Craft, there is no doubt that the Royal Arch holds a very warm and special place in our affections. Over the last fifty years we have adapted our ritual to make it easier to understand, to remove some of the anomalies and to ensure a greater involvement from the companions, and I am very pleased to see the progress that has been made.

Whilst this year has been a great celebration for the Craft, I have no doubt that we too will benefit from the great success it has achieved, and I know that there are measures in hand which will ensure that Freemasonry has a prominent place in society for many years to come.

Companions, I am greatly encouraged by all I have seen this year and I thank you all for all your hard work – especially the Grand Scribe Ezra, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and their respective teams for their work in ensuring the success of this morning’s Investiture.

Published in Speeches

Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

8 November 2017

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

ME First Grand Principal, companions, over a week ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Royal Albert Hall about the 50 years’ service our Grand Master had given to the United Grand Lodge of England. Companions, those of you who were there, or have seen that remarkable event online, might have noticed that what I said seemed to go down reasonably well.

Companions, that took no notice of the fact that the job of First Grand Principal and Grand Master run concurrently, and therefore any mathematician can work out that the First Grand Principal has also been head of our Order for the same fifty years. It is quite remarkable. I mentioned it as a remarkable achievement; it is even more remarkable when you look at it in that light.

Companions, in a moment I shall ask you to show your appreciation of the service the First Grand Principal has given to this wonderful Order. But I am going to challenge you companions to make it slightly shorter than in the Albert Hall, but I know it will be no less heartfelt companions.

Published in Speeches

Travelling together

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes explains how strong leadership combined with a responsible approach will help to build a successful future for the Royal Arch

I congratulate all the Grand Officers whom I have invested on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I would remind you that with your new ranks come new obligations. 

Appointments and promotions are therefore not just a reward but an encouragement for further participation in the success of the Order, whether providing support for members of your chapters or giving encouragement to those in the vital role of Royal Arch representatives in your Craft lodges. If, indeed, you are not that representative yourself.

It has been a great pleasure to invest Most Excellent Companion Gareth Jones as Third Grand Principal in succession to Most Excellent Companion David Williamson, who was himself appointed in 2010. We owe Companion Williamson an enormous debt of gratitude for his many contributions, both in our Order and in many others as well. This succession, coupled with that of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race in November last year, continues the strong leadership that the Royal Arch has enjoyed for many years and ensures an exciting future for the Order.

I believe that the Royal Arch is in its strongest position for many years. The profile of the Order was greatly enhanced by the outstanding success of the bicentenary celebrations in 2013, coupled with several key initiatives during and since that time, including the Royal Arch participation in the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.

As a reminder, there are two Royal Arch fellows in every five fellowships supported. This is thanks to the incredible generosity of our members and the skilful management of our assets.

I take great pride in the work of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team and want to thank the retiring Grand Scribe Ezra for his work over the past nine years. We have travelled a lot together, although we have not always returned without mishap. But be it Icelandic volcanic ash, Barbadian hurricanes or Heathrow snow, we have made it in the end, one way or another. 

‘Appointments and promotions are not just a reward but an encouragement for participation in the success of the Order.’

Published in SGC

As part of the SVO Team Units Inter-Visiting and Hosting initiatives, The Metropolitan Royal Arch In Camera "Your Chapter in Focus" Presentation Team comprising E. Comps Ian Clark, Harvey Roland and Wayne Hirst visited the hosting Chapter, Kings Cross Chapter No. 1732 on the occasion of the Installation Meeting.

There were 40 Companions present including Distinguished Companions Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent Christopher Clark, PGSN, Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendent Ian Currans, PGSwdB, Metropolitan Grand Inspector John Hubbard, PGSoj, and Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Essex John Webb.

The Metropolitan team delivered a lively and informative presentation, punctuated with humour, which provided guidance on such matters as the RA protocols and procedures that should be observed, the wearing of the RA regalia, the opening, closings and perambulations relative to both the Domatic and Aldersgate rituals and explored some the inextricable links between Craft and Royal Arch Masonry. The Companions were enlightened to some of the RA symbolism coupled with descriptions of the characters represented and their background history, including the relationship to the Ceremony of the Veils.

Kings Cross Chapter then went on to install the Principals for the ensuing year and presented the Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent with a cheque for £500 in favour of the London Air Ambulance Appeal.

The evening was rounded off in good form with a "Burns Night" themed Festive Board with piper accompaniment.

White Ribbon Club formed for younger companions

With the success of Craft masonry in forming junior social clubs for members, such as Light Blue clubs, the Royal Arch Provincial Executive in Leicestershire and Rutland has sanctioned the creation of a similar scheme for the Royal Arch, which has been called the White Ribbon Club due to the white ribbons newly Exalted companions wear on their regalia.

The White Ribbon Club was officially launched at the recent Master Masons’ and New Exaltees’ evening held at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester. A number of White Ribbon Club events are already planned for 2016.

The club has been formed for Royal Arch masons within Leicestershire and Rutland, and will also work alongside the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club for Master Masons who are interested in taking the next regular step and joining the Royal Arch.

The aim of the White Ribbon Club is to promote Royal Arch Freemasonry by raising awareness, encouraging recruitment, retention and the inspiration of members throughout the Province by organising chapter visits and social events as well joining events of the Light Blue Club so that interested Master masons have the opportunity to discuss Royal Arch masonry and ask any questions.

The Grand Superintendent of Leicestershire and Rutland, E Comp Peter Kinder said: 'We were delighted to officially launch our Royal Arch White Ribbon Club at our recent Master Mason and New Exaltees evening in November. The Royal Arch Executive were delighted to approve the idea of forming this new club based on the amazing success of the Craft based Light Blue Club. It is hoped the the encouragement and recruitment of many new Craft members will equally apply to the Royal Arch membership. The new White Ribbon Club will co-exist with the Light Blue Club and we all in the Province of Leicestershire & Rutland are very excited about its future success.'

Comp Dale Page said: 'We are delighted the Royal Arch Executive has given us the opportunity to boost and foster Royal Arch Freemasonry within the Province. Our aim is to stimulate less experienced members of the order as well as encouraging Master Masons to complete their journey in craft masonry by joining the Royal Arch.'

Dramatic aside

With the aim of recruiting more members into the Royal Arch, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent Chris Clark explains how a piece of theatre is successfully demonstrating its principles and history

Why is the Royal Arch a separate Order and what is the Master Mason of the 21st century missing by not being a member? Performed in masonic lodges throughout the country, Talking Heads – The Next Step: Into The Royal Arch is a short playlet that seeks to answer these questions. It depicts an encounter between an experienced Past Master, who is also a Royal Arch Companion, and a relatively new Master Mason eager to learn more. 

The opening scene of Talking Heads begins with two masons chatting in the anteroom as they don their regalia, after which they start engaging with the brethren present. The playlet covers the history of the Order and explains a little about the regalia – especially the jewel that is also worn in lodges – as well as discussing some of the links with the Craft. 

Talking Heads goes on to describe the way the journey of personal discovery continues beyond the Craft experience, as well as the likely time and financial commitments needed to reach completion of pure Antient Freemasonry. The performance is delivered with a great deal of good humour between the players, and occasional off-script asides make the event highly enjoyable as well as educational.

Chapter recruitment

The idea of creating the playlet came after we published the Metropolitan Exaltee’s Guide in 2010. The booklet was given to each new exaltee in London as they began their journey into the Royal Arch. Our thoughts then turned to how we might aid recruitment into Chapter. After looking at several lectures in circulation in the Craft, we decided they were either too long or not very inspirational. So we set about drafting our own text for London. The remit was that it should be presented in a theatrical way, be about half an hour long and be interesting for those masons already part of the Royal Arch, as well as to Master Masons who might consider joining.

Early drafts were assessed by a panel of readers from the Royal Arch leaders in London and a few trial presentations were given before the final text was agreed, and a team of some 20 regular presenters assembled.

The first performances were given in February 2011, and now more than 120 have been delivered by the Metropolitan team, travelling to Provinces across the county, including Cumberland and Westmorland, West Lancashire, and Yorkshire, North and East Ridings in the north; Essex and East and West Kent in the south; and Shropshire and Wiltshire in the west. We always present the Province with a CD of the text of the playlet, too, and offer to assist when they assemble their own groups of players. 

An excellent performance

Some of these Provinces have developed their own acting teams; Essex and Buckinghamshire are leading the way, with several performances given in the past year. By the end of 2016, the Metropolitan team will have visited well over half the Provinces in England and Wales, spreading the Royal Arch message. The text has also been exported to Hong Kong, our first overseas territory, although the team’s bold request for travel expenses was rejected, so there have been no performances abroad (yet).

Talking Heads provides great support to the Royal Arch representatives in lodges, because it makes the Order’s case for them and answers many of the questions they are likely to be asked. Sometimes Master Masons will sign an exaltation form after a performance, sometimes they will bring forward an application they were planning to delay, and sometimes it just goes on their agenda for when they feel they are ready to enter the Order. 

We always make the point that there is no pressure to recruit and that everyone should consider the Royal Arch in their own time and at their own pace. We know that exaltation numbers in London have been rising by over two per cent per annum since the introduction of the Royal Arch representative scheme and the Talking Heads playlet. Added to this, overall membership figures in London suggest that retention levels have also been helped – and we have some dramatic examples of how Talking Heads has been effective in this respect. 

For example, one London chapter had a member who’d been dormant for 14 years, who started attending again after seeing a performance at his lodge. ‘I hadn’t realised there was so much in the Royal Arch ceremony,’ he said, ‘and I now understand much of what I found confusing before.’ And after our first Provincial performance in Essex, one companion who had not attended a chapter since his exaltation 42 years ago immediately signed to rejoin. Encore, indeed.

 ‘Talking Heads provides great support to the Royal Arch representatives in lodges, because it makes the Order’s case for them and answers many of the questions they are likely to be asked.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Sir,

I read with interest the article in the autumn 2015 edition of Freemasonry Today entitled ‘Dramatic Aside’. A similar initiative was introduced several years ago in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

A presentation written by well-known local Royal Arch Freemasons called ‘Why the Royal Arch?’ was frequently delivered in both lodges and chapters throughout the Province. It consists usually of four Craft Freemasons sitting around a table chatting informally with each other, looking into the next step in their masonic journey. 

It has proved to be very successful and is now included as part of a new Royal Arch recruiting initiative recently introduced, entitled ‘Dine a Master Mason’. We hold this at the end of our regular Royal Arch Convocation, when Craft Freemasons who are not yet Royal Arch members are invited to attend.

Both recruitment and retention are very important to the future success of Royal Arch, but without proper and workable recruitment initiatives in place, we may not be left with so many companions to retain.

Philip Berman, Grand Superintendent, Hampshire and Isle of Wight

Published in SGC

Somerset Royal Arch anniversary

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Arch in Somerset, an especial convocation was held in Bath, where the original recorded meeting was held. The Grand Superintendent John Bennett attended and the guest of honour was Second Grand Principal George Francis. Presentations were made to the Bath Masonic Museum by the Grand Superintendent of the now retired Holy Royal Arch Banner and Past Grand Superintendent Denis Calderley.

Published in SGC
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