PGC Address 2019
Companions, welcome to you all. I have already greeted our distinguished visitors but I also welcome each of the companions of the Province of Bristol, who have travelled so far from the traditional venue for Provincial Grand Chapter, I trust that your journeys were uneventful. We have chosen City Hall for the very specific purpose of being able to accommodate a greater number of companions than we could at Freemasons’ Hall. It seemed unjust to limit our numbers, when we have this splendid site on our doorsteps, and I hope that we have a number of companions attending for the first time.
My first duty is to congratulate those Provincial officers, appointed to their posts this morning. This reflects the very hard work you have put in to your Chapters over the last few years and I would urge you to enjoy this year coming as active Provincial officers. We shall be visiting Royal Clarence Chapter and St Augustine Chapter this coming season and I anticipate that you will already have these dates in your diary. I also congratulate those who have received promotion today. I sincerely hope that, as senior members of your Chapters, you will become advocates for some of the messages I will be sharing with you today.
I would particularly like to thank the 3rd Provincial Grand Principal today, together with his predecessor E Companion Sam Glenn, who carried out part of the year’s work. E Comp Mike you have worked tirelessly this year and the Chapters have genuinely enjoyed your company and advice, thank you for your exceptional contribution to this Province. I might add that both E Comps Sam and Mike are very active in developing the role of L&D Ambassadors for the Royal Arch.
The work of the secretariat and the treasury are often overlooked, but I can reassure Companions that there is much hard work done behind the scenes and we are particularly grateful to E Comp John Standerline, who now commutes from Shropshire for his Treasurer duties, and also the Prov Scribe E, E Comp Peter Wills, who constantly assures me that he is grafting very hard. I must also thank our Provincial DC, E Comp Nigel Middleton, who has had an exceptional year, doubling up as PSGW in the Craft, as well as WM of his Lodge for part of the year.
I will now turn to a quote which is already becoming very well-used across Masonic circles. At the investiture of Supreme Grand Officers in London in April, the First Grand Principal, HRH the Duke of Kent, said the following words in reference to those Grand Officers he had just invested: “One aspect I am sure that they wish to emphasise is that no Mason should be joining other orders without completing their journey in Pure Antient Masonry by becoming a member of the Holy Royal Arch.” The fact that Craft and the Royal Arch are inextricably linked is a truism, you can’t become a Companion without having first become a Craft mason and similarly if you leave the Craft, you must also leave the Royal Arch. And, yet, despite the very clear messages about the progression from Craft to Chapter, our membership statistics would suggest that our messages are being transmitted but not necessarily received. I am not the first Grand Superintendent to address a Provincial Grand Chapter and say “we must do better” but this does beg the question “what is it that we must do better”. In my opinion, it is not sufficient to slavishly recruit new exaltees into the Royal Arch, if the environment of the Chapters does not excite or stimulate sufficiently for them to become active participants of the Chapter. And that Companions is the question we should be asking ourselves: “What do we need to do within our Chapters – ceremonies and after-meetings - which will engage our newer members so well, that they will become our advocates and recruiters?”
I propose two avenues of discussion. My first point refers to the management of expectations. A proposer and seconder may well enthuse a Master Mason by telling him that the Royal Arch will be the culmination of his Craft journey, but I am fairly sure that the vast majority of exaltees are no wiser about what has occurred at the end of their ceremony of Exaltation, then they were at the start. If they then return to the next meeting, and sit in the South West, as Companions generally do, there is very little opportunity to learn what the ceremony means, and to be honest by the time we have gone downstairs, the moment for learning and understanding has passed. To address this, in some part, we have set up a new initiative of Learning and Development, headed by E Comp Andy Friedman, who together with a small but highly experienced and passionate Masons have embarked on creating a series of presentations which will examine aspects of the ceremony and “tell the story”. We have deliberately sought to move away from the concept of a “lecture”, in order to engage better with the audience and make the experience stimulating and interesting.
My second point refers to the way in which we conduct the ceremony and I am fully aware that this becomes more controversial. Every companion in this room understands that the Bristol ritual is unique and is held in very high esteem, and let me reassure Bristol Companions that I have no intention of damaging that particular treasure. However, there are opportunities within ceremonies to engage newer Companions in some of the work and I would commend this to Chapters to explore, possibly, by discussion with our Learning & Development Ambassadors. My extension to this is that we have offices within Chapters which in my experience are too static. Treasurers, Scribes, ADCs, Assistant Scribes, Dining Stewards, Mentors, Almoners, Charity Stewards and Membership Officers should, I believe, be limited in length of service. I am often told by officers who have been in post for many years, “Well, nobody else wants the job!” Surprisingly, I remain unconvinced by this argument. If offices are time limited, then part of the job is to identify a successor, who will anticipate that his time of service will also be limited. This becomes a much easier “sell”.
These two elements fall under by umbrella mission for the Province of “engagement”. Seeking to enrich and enhance the Masonic lives of all of our members.
Companions, we have a splendid building, a truly unique ceremony and an excellent Province. With your help, we will maintain and improve all three.