One of the secrets of Freemasonry is just the same as in any mainstream marketing campaign: it’s to recognise that there’s one question in the mind of the target audience, and to answer it. And as if that weren’t simple enough, the question is always the same. It’s this: 'What’s in it for me?' Finding the answer for dyed-in-the-wool Yorkshireman Mike Rix opened up a whole new vista of Freemasonry, even if he had to cross to border to Lincolnshire to see it. He tells the story here…
'To be perfectly honest, I discovered Royal Arch Freemasonry through a happy accident. I knew nothing about it when a friend from a Craft Lodge in Doncaster asked me if I’d like to visit a Craft Lodge in Crowle. I knew nothing about Crowle either, but I gladly accepted anyway, and was surprised to find just how many people there that I knew; people I’d played cricket with, and against – and I’d even beaten some of them.
The Crowle community was fantastic, and to become part of this happy bunch I joined the Isle of Axholme Chapter. It wasn’t until after I joined that I realised how lucky I’d been – as if being a Yorkshireman wasn’t enough luck for any man – to have joined such a rewarding world.
That’s because there was more to it that just the friendly atmosphere; by joining, I’d discovered companionship; something more than I was getting as a Craft Freemason. And there was yet more to it; what I thought was ‘mission accomplished’ of my exaltation into Royal Arch Freemasonry was merely the starting point. The ceremony mystified me until it dawned on me that it was in two parts, and one of them helped me to understand the other. Not that it was all crystal clear even then. It took a while for it to dawn on me that a lot of other people didn’t understand it either.
It would have been easy to drift along in the same ‘fog of ignorance’, but that’s not my way. I went through the Chairs – of which there are three, but you’ll discover that when you join a Chapter – and was offered the chance to join the Chapter Focus Group. That was set up by Graham Ives five years ago, when he was the Grand Superintendent for Lincolnshire. That’s the equivalent of the Provincial Grand Master’s role, but for Chapter Freemasonry. It’s since been wholeheartedly endorsed by Graham’s successor Dave Wheeler.
The Chapter Focus Group exists to offer other Craft Freemasons help and advice to make sure they don’t miss out on this new and rewarding space that I discovered when I joined. It’s one of more than mere friendship; it’s about companionship and an oasis of peace in a strife-torn and ‘angry’ world; the opportunity to share valuable time with like-minded individuals seeking more from their Freemasonry. That’s the answer to the ‘what’s in it for me’ question. And it’s something you can’t buy in a shop, which might be another reason it appeals to me as a Yorkshireman…
But seriously, becoming a Master Mason in the Craft is through a story that’s actually a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, telling the account of assault, death, and the subsequent manhunt. Can that really be the end? Of course not. If it were on Eastenders, it would be one of those ‘duf-duf-duf’moments; the cliffhanger for the next episode.
In Freemasonry the episode beyond Craft Freemasonry is the Chapter; the happy ending with its story, characters, and hidden meanings of self-discovery.
The Focus Group has sought to shine a light on that for Master Masons in Lincolnshire, where almost half go on to join Chapters. That ought to be more, because if half have joined, it means half are still missing out.
Only four Provinces out of 48 (if you count Metropolitan Grand Lodge as one) have more Royal Arch Freemasons than Lincolnshire as a proportion of their total membership.
Just how the Focus Group has gone about promoting the Royal Arch – ‘the beautiful degree’ – is a story for another time, and I’ll get to it in due course. It’s still ‘work in progress’, but we’re getting the message out, and the response is coming back in terms of the numbers who are making the same journey I did. If you haven’t considered joining yet, perhaps my next article will convince you…'
• As told to Lincolnshire's Provincial Communications Officer Stuart Pearcey