Provincial Grand Chapter of Buckinghamshire
Scribe E’s Report 2014 / 2015
ME Grand Superintendent and Companions, it is my privilege and pleasure to submit this report on the activities and progress of Royal Arch Masonry in your Province for the past year for your consideration.
It is with sadness I have to report that during the year twenty two of our members have passed to the Grand Lodge above; whose names are recorded in memoriam within this Provincial Annual Convocation booklet. May all our departed companions rest in peace; we add our sincere condolences to their families and Chapters.
Since our last Convocation, members of the Provincial Executive have continued the policy of visiting Chapters throughout the Province, being escorted and accompanied by acting Provincial Officers. These visits were not only to Installation Convocations but also to working meetings particularly when the Chapter has an exaltee, to make him especially welcome. Such visits are deemed an important part in the process of maintaining effective lines of communication between companions within the Province and the Executive Officers.
At our last Provincial Annual Convocation, in March 2014, our Grand Superintendent, Dr. Richard Neale, announced his impending retirement from office. By the time his patent expires at the beginning of 2015, Richard will have served as the head of the Royal Arch Province of Buckinghamshire for ten remarkable and successful years.
During his valedictory address to the convocation, Richard thanked in particular three special people, the Provincial Grand Master, Gordon Robertson, and his predecessor, Ray Reed and said how grateful he had been for their friendship and support over the years. Their mutual cooperation had truly exemplified the ‘indivisibility’ of the Royal Arch and the Craft. Finally, his parting words of gratitude were reserved for his most supportive and loving wife Prue, who had been his veritable backbone throughout his long and successful tenure as Grand Superintendent.
In June our Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter, demonstrated the Ceremony of Passing the Veils. The demonstration was hosted by Fairway Chapter No 8614 at Aylesbury Masonic Hall. Before the 1834 changes to the ritual, it is thought the Ceremony of Passing the Veils was practiced as a preliminary to the Exaltation Ceremony in Chapters. Today in England the ceremony is solely authorized for use in Chapters in Bristol.
During December our Grand Superintendent, Dr Richard Neale accompanied by his Executive and Officers of the year, totaling twenty three companions, went on an exchange visit to the Royal Arch Province of Wiltshire. Dr Richard and his team were meet by David Blanchard, Grand Superintendent of Wiltshire who in turn was accompanied by his Executive and Officers of the year.
The Provincial exchange visit took place at Methuen Chapter No 1533, at its Installation Convocation held at the Masonic Centre, Marlborough. The festive board was held at Marlborough Town Hall, a magnificent setting for the companions dining. The evening ended with all involved agreeing the meeting had been an enjoyable and memorable Masonic occasion enhancing friendship between the Provinces.
Members of the Provincial Executive have been privileged to attend the Annual Convocations of some twenty-four neighbouring Provinces, many of whom we are pleased to see with us today. Our Provincial Convocation gives the Province of Buckinghamshire the opportunity of reciprocating the kind hospitality our representatives have received during those visits.
During 2013 we saw the appointment of Royal Arch Representatives for every Lodge in the Province; whose task is to give good information and assistance to brethren on the Royal Arch, being the next regular step in Freemasonry. The Province has also recently brought together a team of companions to present “Talking Heads”.
“Talking Heads” is a short lecture for Craft Masons who are not in the Royal Arch to give informed information on our beautiful Order in a relaxed an enjoyable manner. This talk is now being given at Lodge meetings, by the team, throughout the Province.
During August our ME Grand Superintendent and his wife Prue invited members of the Buckinghamshire Royal Arch and Craft Executive, along with a number of companions to a relaxed Sunday afternoon barbecue held in their garden in Farnham Royal, which was much appreciated and enjoyed by all who attended.
The highlight of this year’s social calendar was held In November, with an elegant dinner and dance to celebrate the Royal Arch in Buckinghamshire. The event was held at the Beconsfield Masonic Center and was very well attended by companions, their partners and friends from all parts of the Province. The occasion was particularly special as was the last social event in the Province with our Grand Superintendent as the Head of the Royal Arch in Buckinghamshire. To mark the retirement of Dr Richard Neale as Grand Superintendent of Buckinghamshire, the companions had raised a sum of £3,000 in appreciation of the work he had carried out for the Province. The £3,000 was presented to his wife Prue’s chosen charity “Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation”. An enjoyable evening was had by all.
The website is invaluable in providing information and news throughout the Province with an average of some 1,400 accesses to the site per month. I must thank all who help me with the content of the site in particular my assistant E.Comp Mike Stephens who keeps the calendar of events updated and to our Chapter Scribe E’s & E.Comp Paul Cawte for supplying information from around the Province.
I would draw your attention to our interactive section on the website and invite for each companion and Chapter to get involved. The website has been improved to make it user friendly for tablets and mobile IT equipment.
Over the past year various measures have been put in place aimed at increasing membership in the Royal Arch Province of Buckinghamshire. However, it is sad to see that the steady decline in subscribing membership experienced in previous years has continued during the year under review, resulting in 1,158 companions being registered on the Grand Lodge Adelphi data base as at 1st March 2015 compared with 1,188 for the corresponding period of 2014.
Although down by 30 from the previous year, the percentage of Craft Masons who are members of the Royal Arch is 36.5%.
There were 31 Exaltees compared with 28 for the previous year, whose ages ranged from 30 to 77 years, together with 32 Joining Companions and 5 Rejoining Companion.
Unfortunately 65 Resignations, Cessations or Exclusions occurred and sadly the deaths of 22 companions, to whose families and Chapters we express our deepest sympathy.
A target has been set by Grand Lodge to increase the percentage of Craft Masons with membership of The Royal Arch to 50%. Companions we need to work harder within our Province, to encourage the 63% of Craft masons in Buckinghamshire who have not at present joined our beautiful Order and experienced the enhancement of their Craft masonry, the camaraderie and joy of Royal Arch Masonry.
It is with considerable pleasure that I can now announce that the ME First Grand Principal has been pleased to make Appointments in Supreme Grand Chapter to the following companions in the Province of Buckinghamshire:-
E.Comp Robert Sinclair Wharton – to the rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer
E.Comp Ian Wellesley Harding – to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Sojourner
The Investiture of these worthy companions will take place on Thursday 30th April 2015, and I am sure that you would like to join me in offering our sincere congratulations and best wishes to them all.
In organizing our Annual Convocation here at Sindlesham the whole process is made so much easier by the enthusiastic support and willing co-operation received from a number of Companions from the Provincial Grand Chapter of Berkshire. We are particularly grateful to their Grand Superintendent, E.Comp Kenneth L. Benford and his Executive Team for allowing us once again to use the splendid facilities of Sindlesham Court. I would like thank my assistant E.Comp Mike Stephens for his help throughout the year and in the preparation and organization of today’s Convocation and Banquet, along with many other companions, which I trust will be enjoyed by all present.
Finally in this my last report as Provincial Grand Scribe E I would like to thank all the Scribe E’s throughout the Province for the assistance and support they have given to me in carrying out the duties of my office and to wish my very able successor E Comp Mike Stephens the very best for the future.
The Province is thriving, happy and keenly looking forward to what I am sure will prove to be another successful year for the Royal Arch in Buckinghamshire, under the guidance of our new ME Grand Superintendent, E.Comp John Keeble.
John A Stribling, PGStB
Provincial Grand Scribe E
23rd March 2015