Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
14 November 2018
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, it is a great pleasure to see so many of you here this morning, and I wish to particularly welcome those of you who are attending Supreme Grand Chapter for the first time.
Our journey through Masonry can be thought of as a series of ‘First times’. Of course, we all remember our initiation, but this is followed by a number of other masonic milestones. One learns and delivers the first piece of ritual, visits another Lodge or Chapter for the first time, gains a first office, and passes through a first chair. For some, other offices beckon whilst others are content to direct and, on occasions, ‘tut’ from the back benches.
One ‘First Time’ that all of us here this morning have shared is the moment in the Royal Arch ceremony where the blindfold comes off and the vault is revealed. We find ourselves surrounded, more often than not, by our friends and the banners of the Tribes of Israel. That is a truly unique moment in Freemasonry and one which candidates frequently comment on later in the evening.
The ability to think back and re-live that moment, and all the other moments we have enjoyed in our lives is one of the wonders of being human. The desire to share those experiences we value, and pass them on to others, so that they too might experience them in the same fashion, is something we value enormously. Our masonic experiences are, of course, no different. We invite people to join those chapters whose membership we have enjoyed and we ask people into those Orders that we value.
We won’t always get this right and I urge you, think hard about why that might be. What might we have been able to do to improve things for those we ask to join us to ensure that they get the most from their membership? Were we perhaps more interested in ensuring that there was another candidate for Exaltation rather than thinking whether we were prepared to be as welcoming as we ought?
Just as could be said for the Craft, it is an undoubted truth that the Royal Arch is not for everybody. Our detractors, even within the masonic community speak of impenetrable ritual and overly long lectures. This need not be the case and with a little imagination the work is easily shared and, as I have often said in the past, a change of voice can reinvigorate both the candidate and the ceremony.
I have often wondered, and, indeed, spoken about why quite so many masons, after their third degree, fail to seek those further explanations offered by the Holy Royal Arch, yet it appears that many still do not. We should not be shy about explaining to those who are not yet our Companions the benefit of ensuring that they have as complete a picture as possible of the masonic journey.
In a world ever more willing to draw conclusions from a paucity of evidence, from unsubstantiated opinion or from the salacious gossip of others, something which teaches us the importance of seeking more of the ‘Whole Picture’ should never be underestimated.
With the upcoming launch of Solomon, another first for UGLE, and its numerous articles on the Royal Arch, its origins, ceremonies and splendour, we have begun to address the lack of understanding that puts some candidates off as they pass through unfamiliar territory. Solomon, of course, is a large learning resource and it covers not only the Royal Arch but the three Craft degrees as well. It is quite right that those whose curiosity is aroused, and who have chosen to complete their Craft journey should be able to explore the thoughts and meaning behind such a wonderful legacy of fundamental truths.
It is a great sadness to me that in some parts of the world, and even in some parts of our own constitution, the Craft and Royal Arch are uncomfortable bedfellows. However, I also derive great pleasure from seeing the large number of instances where this is clearly not the case and Royal Arch membership is actively promoted throughout the Constitution as I strongly feel it should be.
The Craft and the Royal Arch should get on together not because the Book of Constitutions tells us that they must, but rather because there is an obvious synergy between the two. The Royal Arch completes Craft Masonry and it is the obvious and right next step in the masonic journey. For me, it has provided great enjoyment over the years and I know that there are thousands of Brethren out there for whom the same could be true. Let us all consider what we can best do about this.
Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter
26 April 2018
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, this meeting is always a very happy occasion and I do congratulate all those of you whom I have invested today. It both recognises your past endeavours but is also a clear indicator that we expect more from you in the future. Grand Rank in the Royal Arch is both a senior, and in many cases, a public position within the organisation, and I would hope that you all feel willing to communicate the pride you now feel to those you meet, and to act as ambassadors for the Royal Arch not only to those within your lodges and chapters, but also to the general public at large. However, I do appreciate that the general public would not understand the relevance of the Royal Arch, but it clearly demonstrates your seniority within Freemasonry as a whole.
I have heard it said that the Royal Arch might have been somewhat eclipsed by the Tercentenary celebrations this year in the Craft, but far from it. The Royal Arch completes the craft degrees and increased interest and membership for the Craft can only be to the good for our Order. A new injection of pride and confidence in Freemasonry – in what we do, and in our relevance to the wider community from which we herald can only result in a strong, confident and successful future.
We must be careful to maximise the momentum, energy and enthusiasm that surrounds Freemasonry at the moment and ensure that it is neither wasted nor neglected. We must make the effort, and spare the time to explain who we are and what we do, and also ask ourselves why some of those brethren in our lodges have not taken that extra step to become our companions. We must listen to, and think hard on the answers they give. I believe we are winning. If we turn the clock back 10 years we were experiencing a 30% conversion rate from Craft to Royal Arch, now there are very few Provinces or Districts where the ratio is under 40% and some are considerably higher.
May I take this opportunity to bid a fond farewell to Excellent Companion Willie Shackell, Grand Scribe Ezra, who has served in a number of senior appointments over the last 11 years. We all wish him well in his fourth, and what I am sure he hopes will be his final retirement.
Companions, events like this do not just happen and I would like, on your behalf, to congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for once again arranging such an impressive ceremony and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his team for ensuring all the other arrangements have gone so smoothly.
Companions, I look forward to hearing of, and reading about your exploits over the summer, and also to welcoming you back in the autumn.