I would like to stress, however, that a vote on these changes will only be taken at that meeting if Companions feel they have had enough time to digest what is proposed.
If a delay becomes necessary we will have to call an Especial Convocation of Grand Chapter in February, as the only other meeting in the year is now the April Investiture.
I know that several Companions have expressed a concern that Chapters will feel compelled to use the new ritual; this is not the case. Of course, we would like to see Chapters adopting the new version because we believe it will make the Royal Arch more attractive and more comprehensible, but it will take time to settle down and be accepted. I will therefore be proposing that we review the position in ten years time.
Brethren, there still appears to be a misunderstanding amongst some members that the Royal Arch is to be further separated in some way from the Craft, and I have even heard a rumour that two parallel streams of administration are to be created. This is absolutely and unequivocally wrong.
There is not, and never has been, any such intention. Nothing whatsoever is to be changed in the way the Royal Arch is run, and no further change in the relationship between the two Orders is even remotely in consideration. I hope that you will all now help to quash any suggestion to the contrary.
I hope this year we will see a further increase in the number of candidates over last year. Many good initiatives have been undertaken by Provinces over several years to recruit and retain the interest of our members. These are now bearing fruit as our numbers start to grow again, but it is so important to try and attract quality candidates, because the future success of English Freemasonry will depend on them.
We have heard from Professor Prescott this morning about the work of the Centre for Masonic Research at the University of Sheffield, and how well it is progressing. Such a project is deserving of our support not just because it demonstrates that the history of Freemasonry is a worthy subject for academic research, but is a further reminder to the world at large that we are an open society.
We do, of course, have our own research Lodge, Quatuor Coronati No. 2076, as well as the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, which has close links with Sheffield through Professor Prescott. We also have the Cornerstone Society, which concentrates more on the meanings hidden within our rituals, as well as many good publications, including Freemasonry Today and MQ, our own house magazine, with its excellent web-site. Together with the internet there are now plenty of ways in which a Brother can satisfy his inquiring mind.
Many of us join only for the friendship and companionship which the Craft offers. A Lodge night provides an opportunity to spend time with those we have grown to love and trust, away from the stresses and problems of our daily lives.
For all of us Masonry must be enjoyable, and we must constantly look at ways of making it more so, even if it means adapting the way we do things to fit modern society.
Some of us join for philanthropic reasons and do excellent work helping to run our many charities. Many Lodges give large sums of money to worthy causes in the form of a cheque, and that is highly commendable. However, I do not believe it is nearly as rewarding or, for that matter, newsworthy as doing practical charity work in the local community, and I would encourage Brethren to do the latter as much as possible. It is worth remembering that the Almoner’s work for Brethren who are sick or in need, as well as their widows and children, is as much about charity as the Charity Steward’s work in raising money.
I have recently returned from the Tripartite meeting between the Home Grand Lodges which this year was hosted by the Irish in Dublin, and I would like to take this opportunity of adding my best wishes for the new Grand Lodge of Malta.
Once again that meeting was a very happy and productive one. It might be worth explaining the different attitude taken by some overseas Grand Lodges towards Freemasonry and its relationship with society.
In the Home Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland, Freemasonry, being a system, does not seek to influence society directly by stating its position on any particular matter. However, it does so indirectly by making those members, who practise its precepts, better and more responsible citizens.
In a few moments I shall be welcoming our overseas guests, who include the Grand Masters of Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. They kindly accepted an invitation from the Assistant Grand Master to attend this Quarterly Communication when he met them on his recent trip to our District in South America, Southern Division.
We have had friendly and interesting discussions with them, and have learnt a lot about the way their Grand Lodges operate in a part of the world where Freemasonry is expanding greatly. On your behalf I thank them for coming here today and for giving us the opportunity of making new friends.