Companions, it’s now my very great pleasure to address this Convocation of Provincial Grand Chapter for the first time. I want to sincerely thank you all for your attendance here today, an early start for so many of you, having travelled such long distances.
It’s a joy to welcome so many Masonic friends from within this and other Provinces.
My thanks to the Province of Berkshire for allowing this wonderful centre to become Buckinghamshire for today and specifically to E.Comp Martin Peters, PGM and E.Comp Ken Benford, MEGS and if I may add in here a Companion who makes our sojourn into Berkshire so seamless – Excellent Companion Ken Lyng Provincial Grand Janitor to whom nothing seems impossible and to whom we are very grateful.
I have already welcomed our honoured guests, their presence here today certainly adds to the splendour of the occasion and keeps us mindful of the broader masonic family and to many of whom I owe a personal debt of gratitude for their friendship, wise counsel and advice over the years.
Before I move on further, I want to pay tribute to Dr Richard Neale who of course can’t be with us today but whose contribution is now a part of Buckinghamshire’s RA heritage along with those Grand Superintendents who went before him.
As you know, Richard served this Province as Grand Superintendent for 10 years and was very much his own man, he brought to the Office a deep personal religious conviction which he applied to the ‘JOB’ and for that he was well respected. Many of you will of course have memories of his medical anecdotes and of course the pigeons !!
Companions, I did resist the temptation to have Pigeon breasts on the menu today!!!
I congratulate all the Companions I have had the great pleasure of investing today with their first Appointment and of course those who have been promoted. Those ranks are in part a reward for past commitment and service, but more importantly they represent an expectation of future service to both the Royal Arch in general and this Province in particular. The future prosperity of our Province and the ‘CHAINS’ and Senior Officers of tomorrow is vested in our Provincial Officers of today.
Over the last year or two, we have encouraged the Acting Officers of the year to accompany the Provincial Executive and to join with them at Installation meetings around the Province – we don’t impose limits on how many a Companion can attend but dining is of course paid for by the individual concerned.
It’s great to see so many taking up this opportunity of visiting different Centres and Chapters and witnessing the rich diversity within our order. I do hope this year’s intake will also avail themselves of this opportunity.
You will certainly gain from the experience.
Today I have had the privilege of Installing Paul Savage as Deputy Grand Superintendent, Rob Chaproniere as Second Provincial Grand Principal and John Stribling as Third Provincial Grand Principal – these were very easy decisions to make as each brings huge experience and knowledge to their respective Offices and I really look forward to continuing to work with them.
I want at this stage to express my sincere thanks to two indispensable companions – one of whom I have already said a lot about :-
John Stribling, who as Provincial Scribe Ezra until a few hours ago was responsible with his team for all the administration associated with today.
I’m told he will make a full recovery from the stress,
John, I prescribe a large dose of London Pride. He is of course now our Third Provincial Grand Principal.
Secondly, Richard Reano – our Director of Ceremonies with his Team who have rehearsed us to within an inch of our lives and who is uncompromising in his quest for excellence.
They have both worked tirelessly with their excellent teams, not only to prepare for this day, but running the Province on a day to day basis during the year.
Thank you both so very much !!!
And so to the future – it’s not news that in general Masonic numbers are declining, but if we look at our RA to Craft situation in Buckinghamshire, we have 3,171 Craft Masons and 1,158 RA (Members NOT memberships!!) that means around 2000 who are not currently in the RA.
Of course it’s neither as simple or as bad as it looks – in that number are those not yet eligible to join; those who due to personal circumstances (Age, Finance, Location etc) may be cutting back or while in the Craft in Buckinghamshire are in RA in another Province. Whatever the reason there are still a large number of brethren who have yet to complete their journey in Pure Antient Freemasonry.
CERTAINLY ONE OF OUR CHALLENGES IS TO MAKE INROADS INTO THAT NUMBER
We will be reviewing and regenerating all our hard copy publications – ‘marketing’ literature if you like.
We will be reviewing our website and looking at how social media can support our aims.
Two years ago we instituted a Royal Arch Reps programme in Craft Lodges, I have to say this programme has been somewhat disappointing and I have asked our Second Provincial Grand Principal Rob Chaproniere to re-energise it.
With huge help and support from our colleagues in Metropolitan Grand Chapter, we introduced our own TEAMS to present the ‘Talking Heads’ playlet and this is yielding some positive results.
Last year we appointed a Provincial Grand Almoner for the first time and expanded the traditional function to cover what is essentially a MENTOR role and also to cover elements of Pastoral CARE, developing our new members and re-engaging those who are if you like ‘slipping away’. It’s no small job, so WATCH THIS SPACE and please do support Excellent Companion Stephen Knight in his challenging role.
These are all important initiatives that will help to a greater or lesser degree, but possibly the most important thing we can ALL do is to be POSITIVE AMBASSADORS for the RA.
Our aim as an Executive is to help provide a vibrant and fun environment consistent with the deep meaning of the order. Success can be driven from ‘grass roots’ level – Companions talking with Brothers and demonstrating their enthusiasm for the order and thereby creating an attraction to join us.
It’s so very easy to play the game of ‘AINT IT AWFUL’ – our numbers are falling, we can’t do anything about it blah blah blah.
Companions, together we can do something about it, our future is in our hands, each and every one of us.
Enough PREACHING . so once again Companions I thank you all for being with us today, God Bless and have a safe journey home.