As the lark was still slumbering and dreaming of catching flies during the forthcoming daylight, 27 companions of the Provincial Stewards’ Chapter No 8516 of West Lancashire, Demonstration Team were already on the road and heading for Shrewsbury, in Shropshire.
They had been invited to the Masonic Hall in Crewe Street to perform ‘The Re-building of a Chapter’, by the Shropshire First Principals’ Chapter No 6262 after correspondence between their secretary Eric Booth and the head of the demonstration team Bill Smith.
After a long journey the team was thankful for a hearty breakfast which was served soon after arriving at the hall at 7.30 am, but a fully organized chef and his team were more than able to match even the most voracious of appetites.
The name of the host chapter is self-explanatory and was consecrated in 1987 and since permission was granted by Supreme Grand Chapter, has like many, chosen to dispense with the wearing of gloves. It meets in what is now the Shrewsbury Masonic Hall, which was the former parish church of St Michael and it was pleasing to see the war memorial within the grounds fully renovated and adorned with flowers.
The church was consecrated on 24 August 1830, being designed by John Carlisle in the Grecian style and includes an octagonal tower. The church was built in brick and the chancel was added later in 1873, the church served the local community until it was closed in 1976.
It was within this fine building that the demonstration team spent their early morning in setting out the room and having the necessary practice to assimilate with the unfamiliar surroundings. When all were satisfied that everything was ready there was just enough time to change into regalia before the Shropshire companions arrived and the chapter opened. Present on the day were the Grand Superintendent of Shropshire Peter Taylor, accompanied by Roger Pemberton, (Second Provincial Grand Principal) and John Williamson (Deputy Grand Superintendent).
The past first principals of the chapter were introduced and escorted to their places, this was followed by the First Principals of Shropshire Royal Arch Chapters being individually announced and escorted to their respective place by a Provincial Steward from West Lancashire. The chapter was then placed in a state of darkness and a synopsis of the historical events and of the proclamation of Cyrus King of Persia leading up to the ‘re-building’ was delivered by David Harrison.
The chapter resumed its illumination as Barry Elman described the purpose and cause of the individual pieces of furniture which were brought in by the members of Provincial Stewards’ Chapter. When this was complete the chapter was opened by its three Principals and after two matters of chapter business had been dealt with the demonstration was resumed. The chapter was also at this time re-dedicated by Reverend Graham Halsall.
There then followed a reminder to the companions of what the six lights within the chapter represent. This was delivered by Bill Smith and his conclusion of the form of a triangle which represented the Supreme Being and/or an aide memoire, as the triangle could be reconstructed by using one piece of material or matter that was totally portable. Furthermore as it was a geometrical figure, was geometry itself the powerful superior knowledge that set aside the intelligent being, man? Robin Andrews Morris then presented the acting candidate to the first principal and proceeded to inform him on what the floor furniture represented.
Bill then introduced David Harrison, who had with him an extremely special gavel which may be described as a true Masonic gavel for a number of reasons, which David explained most eloquently. It is made of three differing woods; elm, ash, and oak.
On conclusion of the talk, David and Bill presented the gavel to the chapter on behalf of the Provincial Stewards’ Chapter, suitably inscribed onto an adorning plaque. First Principal, David Joyce assured them both that it would be treasured by all of the members of the Shropshire First Principals’ Chapter and become a respected artifact within the chapter.
On conclusion of the meeting, all descended to the ground floor for a very agreeable festive board at which twocheques were made out from the alms collection at the ceremony, for an equal three figure amount, one for the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, the other was returned to David Joyce to be used for the benefit of the Midland Air Ambulance Service.
In the next available post, Bill Smith received a letter of thanks and appreciation from David Joyce, part of which said: “It has been a lovely experience and it is clear that the companions of our chapter and our Province were deeply impressed with the choreography, the detail and the ethos of your presentation. Would you please pass on to your team our enormous appreciation of the efforts they made, each and everyone? Thank you, again.”
It had obviously been a successful day for all concerned and it must be remembered that the demonstration team carry out their work voluntary and in their spare time, but such dedication brings its own reward at the satisfaction gained spreading knowledge to those that attend a chapter to see the team at work.