The Most Excellent Grand Superintendent’s address given to the Holy Royal Arch Annual Convocation
On 23 February 2017 at Sandbach School.
Companions, it is a pleasure to be able to address you here at our new venue. I admit that this hall is not as grand as the hall at Stockport Town Hall but I hope you agree it’s a good feeling to know that our cars are right outside and that lunch is even closer! Furthermore, we will have 55% more Companions dining compared to last year. In any event there is plenty of colour provided by the Royal Arch itself. Putting on an event such as this in a new venue puts enormous pressure on our team, both paid and volunteer. A lead role in planning this event has been taken by one of my Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals, EComp Simon Palfreyman an old boy of the school and not far behind has been another old boy, the Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra, EComp Mike Leese. My grateful thanks to both of you as well as the Deputy Grand Superintendent and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies in this respect.
Since last year, quite a lot has happened in the Royal Arch. Just before our meeting in March, the Metropolitan Grand Chapter demonstration team had shown us the Talking Heads presentation. After a huge amount of work, principally by my Deputy EComp Rob Bramley and our Second Provincial Grand Principal EComp Phil Rowland, we now have our own teams carrying out that demonstration across the Province. My grateful thanks to the members of those teams for giving up still more of their time for the Royal Arch and for their dedication.
I also said last year that we would align the Royal Arch Areas to the Craft which required the appointment of a fifth Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals. I was delighted to appoint EComp Stephen Christian to fill that role and soon I will invest him ‐ unless he manages to upset me between now and then.
I believe that the status of the Royal Arch was greatly enhanced during the tenure of the former Second Grand Principal, ME Comp George Pipon Francis. I was delighted to be able to invite his successor ME Comp Russell John Race to a demonstration of the John Tunnah Manuscript at Christleton last September. I was immensely proud of the quality of the work done by our Cheshire Demonstration Team and, although I know my Deputy has referred to them in his report, I would like to thank them once again and publicly from this stage. I am delighted that they have been invited to repeat their performance by our neighbouring Province of Derbyshire which takes place on the 30th June 2017. I hear that EComp Geoff Perkin has regrown his beard especially for the occasion! I also understand that 3GP, ME Comp Gareth Jones will be in attendance.
All those who met ME Comp Race were impressed by him and we are all confident that he will carry on the good work of ME Comp Francis. Looking forward to the year ahead, I have heard some Companions expressing the view that the Royal Arch would be an even bigger poor relation to the Craft now that the Tercentenary is upon us. Actually Companions, I am seeing a very big improvement in the status of the Royal Arch although the practical effects may take some time to filter down. There is a body called the PGM’s Forum which meets twice a year and which until recently consisted of all the Provincial Grand Masters, but only ProvGMs, some of whom, but not all, were also Grand Superintendents. The group will now be extended to include as full members those who are “only” Grand Superintendents.
As I have mentioned on my visits a few times, I’ve been honoured to be invited to join the Improvement Delivery Group which will report to the Grand Masters Council on ideas to stabilise and grow our membership as well as improving our Masonic Halls. You will be able to read more about it in the next edition of “Freemasonry Today”. This group consists of 12 leaders representing each area of the country and includes both Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents. Furthermore, its Deputy Chairman is the Third Grand Principal ME Comp Gareth Jones and he is making absolutely sure that the Royal Arch is considered at every stage. It is also attended by EComp Malcolm Aish, who was at my Installation and is President of the Committee of General Purposes which effectively runs the Royal Arch – and upon which serves one of our distinguished guests today, ME Comp Sir David Trippier, Grand Superintendent of East Lancashire.
Mentioning Sir David, reminds me that I was briefly his Deputy Grand Superintendent before being smuggled across the border. Having been designated for that role I spent 3 months planning what I saw as the future for the Royal Arch with the then Deputy Grand Superintendent of East Lancs EComp Bill Porter. Bill unfortunately passed away about a month ago and I attended his Committal. I am sure he will have been well known to many Cheshire Companions as well as myself so perhaps the East Lancashire Companions would pass our condolences to members of the family when they next meet them.
Here in Cheshire, the Royal Arch is in very good heart with a membership very close to 50% of the Craft. However, as my Deputy points out in his report there is no reason why we cannot do better; there are Provinces with a higher penetration rate than this. Both of us believe that, while initiatives such as the Talking Heads will have an effect, the key person is the Royal Arch Representative or Contact Officer by whatever name known. I’m hoping that they are all here today because I want them to become recruiting sergeants for the Royal Arch if they don’t already consider themselves as such. It’s not difficult to pick out your target audience ‐ it’s those Brethren who are not wearing a Royal Arch breast jewel!
The Companions Forum, which we pioneered here in Cheshire, will have a refresh during this year following a comprehensive rethink of our main website which has led to its division into a public site and the password protected members only site, the MIS. The Companions Forum will maintain its independence and will be replicated for the Craft. This, together with the planned Lodge and Chapter workings database, will provide Comprehensive information for members, mentors and all who wish to know what’s going on or complain about what isn’t. We further see the Companions Forum ‐ and its Craft cousin when launched ‐ as a guard against the bullying behaviour some younger Brethren cited to the membership focus group across the country as a reason for leaving in the first three years of their membership. Our sincere thanks to EComp Andy Tong for the enormous amount of work he has put into developing these areas.
Thanks to all the Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals who are continuing in office. Thanks also to EComp Stephen Sharp and his team for their hard work in setting up the venue; providing stewarding and transportation, Steve’s second time in this role but of course his first time here at Sandbach School. Also Liz Wright, Karen, Jo Whalley and Anne from the office for sustained hard work. EComp Colin Lewis will shortly be joining Mike Leese’ happy throng as Provincial Assistant Grand Scribe E. Can I also congratulate ProvGDC and his team on their excellent work?
Companions, let’s have a good time today. I will shortly appoint and promote those who have made a difference to the RA in this Province and then many of us will walk to our lunch and our free drink. 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.