12 DECEMBER 2007
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
You will have seen reference, in the Paper of Business, to the European Grand Masters’ meeting held here on the 5th and 6th of November. This was an historic occasion, and was planned as a one-off meeting so that we, as the mother Grand Lodge, could make clear our views on regularity, recognition and sovereignty. We had been under pressure, for some time, to give guidance and a clear stance on our position. This we did, and my speech to open the conference is printed in full as an appendix to the Paper of Business. I draw your attention to the first paragraph where I set out our position on regularity, and later I make the important point that it is not Freemasonry but the individual Mason, imbued with the principles and tenets of the Craft, who has a positive influence on society.
The Grand Master hosted an enjoyable reception and dinner on the eve of the formal meeting for representatives of forty-four European Grand Lodges, which included no less than forty-one Grand Masters.
What was apparent from the meeting is that while we may have a wide diversity of customs and practices in European Freemasonry, we all subscribe to the same basic principles and tenets and are determined to maintain and preserve regularity. From the feedback we have received the meeting was considered a success and there is now a determination to continue the contacts which were made and to strengthen the lines of communications between European Grand Lodges. This can only be good for the future of regular Freemasonry.
It was an historic occasion, and like all major meetings did not just happen. I would like to place on record my thanks to VW Bro John Hamill and all the other members of the Grand Secretary’s staff who worked so hard to make it enjoyable and successful.
Brethren, you should know that at the meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter in November I announced that the working group set up last year under the Chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, had now published its report into the recruitment and retention of Royal Arch Masons. The first conclusion of the report relates to the additional paragraph to the 1813 Declaration in the preamble to the Book of Constitutions, relating to the status of the Royal Arch. This was added to by Grand Lodge, in December 2003. In short, this describes the Royal Arch as “an extension to, but neither a superior nor subordinate part of the Degrees which precede it”. There is no doubt that the Royal Arch is not the completion of just the third degree. But it is not felt that the 2003 declaration accurately reflects the relationship of the Royal Arch to the three Craft degrees. The result is that it has not been helpful to those joining or seeking to recruit new members. So, I am minded to request Grand Lodge to give careful consideration to replacing the 2003 paragraph with a fresh definition. I feel that, in general terms, we should all seek to describe the Royal Arch as the next step in Freemasonry after the Craft degrees and the final step in pure Antient Masonry.
The other important conclusion of the report, in relation to recruitment, is a recommendation to Grand Lodge from Supreme Grand Chapter, that a Royal Arch representative should be appointed in each Craft Lodge. This representative, at least until further research and consideration, would not be a Lodge officer. But he would have responsibility for promoting the Royal Arch within the context of the Lodge. Where his role has already been implemented in some Lodges, it has had a dramatic effect on the levels of recruitment and retention. Representatives need to be carefully chosen and the report gives advice and guidance on this matter.
Since the last Quarterly Communication I have visited our three Districts in India, accompanied by the Grand Secretary. This proved to be a very successful trip visiting the District of Bombay and Northern India in Mumbai; the District of Bengal in Kolkata and the District of Madras in both Chennai and Bangalore. This was my first visit to India and we were greeted by everyone with great warmth. I held a business meeting in each District and we met as many of the Brethren and their wives, as possible.
At the request of the District Grand Master of Bombay and Northern India we are reforming the District back into two Districts. The District has been a happy one and the split is purely based on the enormous distances between some of the Lodges. The inauguration of the District of Northern India will take place in early January.
At the third Rulers’ Forum meeting yesterday, Brethren from three of the Groups gave a presentation on the best points from all the mentoring schemes that exist and more. Retention depends on mentoring and education and the CD-ROM which they have produced contains information and guidance for mentors from the interview stage through to third degree and beyond. It was so impressive that I have asked them to repeat the presentation at our next Quarterly Communication in March.
Finally, Brethren, I wish you and your families every joy for the Festive Season and a very happy New Year.