Celebrating 300 years


10 NOVEMBER 2004

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

I have little to add to what I have said on previous occasions and what has been said today. I hope this new alternative ritual will be adopted by many Chapters, and that the spiritual message of the Royal Arch will be better understood as a result. 

I would like to thank the members of the main Committee and the ritual sub-Committee for their deliberations over the past two years; E. Comp Richard Sandbach and others who played a major part in the creation of this alternative ritual and the Grand Scribe Ezra for his efforts in answering individually a very considerable number of letters from concerned Companions.

I would also like to thank the President and other members of the Committee of General Purposes and E Comp. Elkan Levy for their support culminating in the vote today. I have been very impressed by the contribution of the members of the Royal Arch and the obvious devotion they have for this unique Order. Companions, we must now concentrate our efforts on introducing those brethren who will be able to benefit from its profound message.

Companions, the President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP) of the Craft has asked me to make a statement on his behalf on the matter of asbestos in Freemasons' Hall.

Companions, Freemasons' Hall is nearly 75 years old. Built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to commemorate those who gave their lives in the First World War, there was a determination by the Building Committee that only the highest quality materials and latest technology would be used in its construction. Unfortunately for us today, one of the high tech materials much used at that period was asbestos, mainly as a lagging material.

In the summer of last year a problem was discovered under the floors of the balconies of the Grand Temple, and dealt with. The BGP commissioned an asbestos survey, and at the end of this September another major project was started, in accordance with current best practice, to seek out and remove any residual asbestos in the building. That work is being carried out by one of the leading specialists in the field under stringent safety conditions. 

As part of those safety conditions, the normal air exchange and heating systems in the building have been switched off and temporary heating is being installed. 

Constant tests have been, and will continue to be, carried out, and the levels of asbestos dust are significantly below the limits allowed by Health and Safety Regulations.

Although the work will take some time, well into next year, and will inevitably disrupt the normal routines of the building, plans have been made to keep that disruption to a minimum. However, Freemasons' Hall will unfortunately be closing a week earlier than usual at Christmas, as a stage in these works, and will remain closed during the first week in January. 
Those Chapters and Lodges who are affected at that time will have to make arrangements with other venues, or change their date, and the Grand Secretary's office is already in touch with them and will do what it can to assist. Any dispensation fees that arise as a result will be waived.

Companions, there is no danger to anyone working in or using the building, but it is a legal requirement that we deal with the problem now. The atmosphere is being regularly monitored as part of the removal project, and although the work is complicated, disruptive, and, I am sorry to say, expensive, we shall, when it is all completed, have the satisfaction of knowing that we have fully complied with all the Health and Safety Regulations and the law.

Published in Speeches


12 NOVEMBER 2003

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL

most of you will be aware that a Strategic Working Party (SWP) which I formed in 2002 has been considering whether the traditional Ceremony of Exaltation and other aspects of the way in which the Royal Arch functions are still appropriate, after some 175 years.

Published in Speeches

Annual Investiture 
1 May 2003 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal 

Companions, I am sure you will all want to join me in congratulating those I have invested this morning on behalf of the ME The First Grand Principal. It goes without saying that your new ranks are in recognition of the efforts you have made for the Royal Arch. They are also given in the expectation that you will actively promote the Order among Master Masons and encourage them to join.

Companions, I know that the ME The First Grand Principal will be pleased, as I am, that Grand Chapter has endorsed the decision to permit him to form a Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London. In doing so they have followed the lead given by the Craft and have ensured that harmony continues in pure Antient Masonry. I appreciate that some Companions may have reservations about this new venture, but I hope they will now put those feelings to one side and unite with the rest of us to ensure its future success. I am not alone in thinking that the Royal Arch in London has been overshadowed by the Craft, to which is has played second fiddle for far too long. I am confident that the formation of a Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London will allow its members to flourish as never before.

A year ago I mentioned the then newly reconvened Strategic Working Party and its deliberations. This is proving a much more complex task than I originally envisaged but the main Committee has made some progress and will very shortly be making recommendations to the Committee of General Purposes for their consideration. As part of our deliberations I set up a sub-committee to look at the rituals, their content, including the historical inaccuracies, and the way they are delivered. Here I regret to say we have made little progress largely because other important matters have taken precedence. However, I am confident we will be able to discuss some of the proposed changes at the regular convocation of Grand Chapter in November.

Yesterday in Grand Lodge the Grand Master encouraged us to make contact with Brethren who had resigned from their Lodges due to direct or indirect pressures, and who may now be in a position to rejoin their old Lodge or join another one. Companions, this also applies to the Royal Arch and I would urge you to do likewise in your Chapters. Discrimination against our members still exists in some quarters even though the situation appears to have improved following our efforts to be more open about ourselves and our willingness to confront our detractors. In fact, I sense a new air of optimism as I travel around our Constitution, with the Craft in general being slimmer and fitter than it was fifteen years ago.

This annual Royal Arch Investiture meeting has to be one of the happiest Masonic events of the year. Not only are we guaranteed to have smiles on the faces of at least half those present, but the rest of us can take genuine pleasure in the happiness of those being invested. The Royal Arch may be smaller in numbers than the Craft but it makes up for it with that special and more intimate pleasure we get from our Chapter meetings.

Today’s ceremony has run very smoothly thanks to the quiet efficiency of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team of Deputies. This is the last time we shall see E Comp Peter Lowndes in action as Grand Director of Ceremonies and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking him for all he has done for both the Craft and the Royal Arch over the past eight years. He will be particularly remembered for the many seminars he has held for Lodge and Chapter DCs, for his efforts in ensuring our high standards of ritual remain the envy of other Grand Lodges around the World and, above all, for his humour in Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter which ensures that those present are in a good mood when the Presiding Officer enters. I would also like to thank the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for their considerable efforts in organizing this investiture and the lunch which follows. Two investitures on consecutive days are quite a handful for those of us taking part let alone for those who have to organize them and they do a fine job!

Finally Companions I thank all of you for attending today and making this investiture such a happy meeting. I recently named a racehorse I have bred ‘Greet you well’ which seems an appropriate way of finishing my remarks, but I do not recommend a bet!

Published in Speeches
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