The Grand Superintendent’s Address to the Annual Convocation
STOCKPORT TOWN HALL 12 MARCH 2016
Companions, it is very hard to believe that I have been in Office as your Most Excellent Grand Superintendent for nearly 9 months – although if the Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra’s microphone was switched on you might just have heard him mutter “it feels like 59”. The Team has been extremely busy over those months on your behalf, quite apart from squeezing in an Investiture in the middle of summer and our first Craft Consecration in over 20 years just a few weeks ago.
My very first outing as the Leader of this Province back in September was in fact a Royal Arch meeting at Clifton Road where the delightful Excellent Companion Eric Middleton Thomason PGStdB celebrated 60 years in the Royal Arch. My second RA outing was to see the Passing of the Veils for the first time, very well carried out by the Demonstration Team.
The Booklet you have contains a section where the Deputy Grand Superintendent sets out his report on the year. I commend it to you and will try not to repeat what he says in it. But the work pioneered in this Province on the Companions Forum deserves a mention as does the Forum moderator, Excellent Companion Andy Tong, for the time and effort he puts into it. I understand that another Province not very far from here may be stealing – I’m sorry, adopting – our idea very soon.
In November I joined Chapter of Unity No: 267 and was delighted to use that occasion to invest Excellent Companion Phil Rowland as 2nd Provincial Grand Principal, something I had been unable to do in July as he was on the high seas. Having appointed the Provincial Grand Treasurer Rod Gamwell and the Provincial Grand Scribe E Mike Leese in July, I was also pleased to be able to invest both of them on the same evening.
Also in November a deputation from Cheshire including myself and Excellent Companion Bramley attended the meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter where Excellent Companion Russell Race was invested as Most Excellent 2nd Grand Principal. He will have a very hard act to follow in Most Excellent Companion George Pipon Francis who did a fantastic job in raising the profile of the Royal Arch, not least by the prodigious amount of travelling he did around the country and indeed the globe. I have known Russell Race for some time and he was, of course, Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for many years, neither of them insignificant jobs. He is a very nice guy as well as a very competent one and he fully intends to follow the example of GPF. I was able to introduce him to Excellent Companion Bramley at the meeting and I’m delighted to be able to say that Most Excellent Companion Race, as he now is, will be visiting the Province of Cheshire on 29th September.
As I forewarned you, Companions, back in July, my hands have been pretty full up to now with Craft events and the Festival Banquet is soon upon us. The Royal Arch has, by the way, fully supported the 2016 Festival with Chapters gaining Presidential Patronage, Grand Patronage and Patron status – this is brilliant when you consider most of the members will also have been donating via their Lodge. As your MEGS, I have been able to visit North Wales to represent the Provincial Grand Chapter of Cheshire and will visit East Lancashire, Shropshire and West Lancashire before the year is done.
But I have been very pleased to have been able to rely on the full support of the Royal Arch Leadership Team. How good it is to see Excellent Companion the Reverend Barry Jobber 3rd Provincial Grand Principal here today recovering from major surgery, so he is not able to be up here just yet, but good to see you. Many people have also asked about the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Very Worshipful Brother Alan Glazier after his episode. If I tell you he was actually contemplating coming today, that tells you how he is. Sensibly, he decided against! I have also been delighted by support from the RA Team for Craft events in their Area which has been unstinting, on top of their work for their Chapters. They have been led of course by the Deputy Grand Superintendent who is not only energetic but is now retired!
Excellent Companion Bramley mentions in his report his invitation to the Metropolitan Grand Chapter Demonstration Team to put on the Talking Heads event. He was writing in the future tense, and, I can now say that it took place at Ellesmere Port at the end of last month, and was a fantastic success. The Deputy Grand Superintendent will be the first to acknowledge that many people contributed to that success; I can’t name them all but our 2nd Provincial Grand Principal, Excellent Companion Phil Rowland, led the organisation. That’s not the end of that particular story as we will now form our own teams, Area by Area, who will take this demonstration around the Province and hopefully continue to attract people to join the Royal Arch.
The next big event is the John Tunnah Manuscript Demonstration hosted by Clarence Chapter No: 2386 at Christleton on 29th September which will be honoured by the attendance of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race; this is quite soon after the season’s start which is why we are already pushing it hard. We want a great turnout not least to impress our new 2nd Grand Principal.
I expect all Companions will be aware that we revised the rules relating to Honours in the Craft last year, in particular removing the restriction of the number of Brethren on whose behalf any one Lodge could apply. It was too late to make changes in respect of this year’s RA Honours but the Deputy Grand Superintendent is busily revising the RA Rules to bring them into line with the Craft.
Companions, in a short while I shall appoint Excellent Companion David Dobbs as Provincial Grand Almoner for the Royal Arch; I hope that didn’t come as a surprise to him! You may wonder why we need a Provincial Grand Almoner, and indeed a Chapter Almoner, when each Companion will be served by the Craft. However, Freemasonry, like life, isn’t as simple as that. Not every Companion, for whatever reason, visits his Lodge and as such has no immediate support from his Lodge Almoner. By appointing a Provincial Grand Almoner each Companion, their dependants and Chapter widows will have access to the pastoral care to which they are entitled. For those Chapters that do not have an Almoner I would like to suggest that they appoint one at the earliest opportunity to enable him to keep members of the Chapter informed of Provincial welfare matters.
On 1st April the new Masonic Charitable Foundation comes into existence. Its first Deputy President will be Very Worship Brother James Newman and he will be our honoured guest at the Almoner’s Dinner on 18th April. He will tell us all about the MCF and what it will do for Masons and non-Masons so I hope as many Lodge and Chapter Almoners will attend to hear, as it were, from the horse’s mouth.
I would also like to see all Chapters represented at the biennial Area meetings. We think that both Lodges and Chapters should be represented so that Chapters are able to ask questions of the Area Committee as well as being kept informed directly of the news emanating from the respective Areas.
In my visit to Masters’ and First Principals’ Dinners around the Province, many have asked what we are doing to improve the image of Freemasonry in the community. Well, a major project is under way, a TV programme is being made by Emporium TV. This will air on Sky in the summer – four one hour episodes covering pretty much everything that can be told. They were filming at Great Queen Street on Wednesday where I’m afraid I might have featured as the man who forgot his Grand Superintendent Collarette!
Over the summer we will be reviewing the make-up of the Areas in terms of geography, membership and Lodge numbers and may well make some adjustments. Whatever we do, we will marry the RA Areas exactly to the Craft Area. Those of you paying attention – and who can count – will realise that means we will need another APGP; that appointment will be made next season. My APGP’s noticed that when I reduced the APGM’s workload in terms of numbers of visits, I then gave them new and additional duties. So they should know that in reducing the numbers of Chapters for which each is responsible, I will make sure that something else takes its place!
Many of you know that I am a firm believer that the weekend is for family not Freemasonry. It was too late when I took office to do anything about the date of this meeting but future Royal Arch AGM’s will take place around the same time of year but during the week. As a result we will not be able to use this venue. The Deputy Grand Superintendent and Provincial Grand Scribe E have established a short list of possible venues – still over towards this side of the Province – and an announcement will be made as soon as this has been finalised.
Thanks to all the APGP’s who are continuing in Office. Thanks also to Excellent Companion Stephen Sharp and his team for their hard work in setting up the venue; providing stewarding and transportation, Steve’s first time in this role. Also Liz Wright, Karen and Elaine from the office for sustained hard work since July (and before that, I’m sure!); they were joined on 29th February by Mrs Jo Whalley. Can I also congratulate Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team on their excellent work.
Companions, let’s have a good time today, I’ve enjoyed my time so far and expect to carry on having a good time with you, enjoying our Royal Arch Masonry. I promise I will continue to work hard for you and your Chapters; with your support for me and for my team, we can, together, achieve great things.
Stephen Martin Blank