M.E. 3rd Grand Principal, Companions all. It is now my great pleasure to address Provincial Grand Chapter.
I welcome you all on this happy and vibrant occasion. I have of course already welcomed our honoured guests, but I would particularly like to again express my sincere thanks and gratitude to our ME Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones for finding time in what must be a pretty hectic schedule to come here to Buckinghamshire. It is our delight and pleasure to welcome you Sir!
The warmth of the welcome we receive when visiting our friends in other Provinces is outstanding. The close relationships we build and the experiences and ideas we share adds value when we return home, and it challenges us to renewed effort.
I am now delighted to congratulate those Companions I have had the pleasure of Appointing and Promoting today. This is your day – ENJOY IT. Your Appointments and Promotions are so well deserved and they do recognise the dedication and service you give and I am sure will continue to give to your Chapters and to this Province.
It is now established practice in this Province for Acting Officers of the year to accompany the Executive and to join with us at Installation Meetings and it is fantastic that so many have done so this past year – we have all enjoyed your company. I therefore make a plea to the new Acting Provincial Officers to do the same, make the most of your Acting Year.
As you know, we now aim to have an Executive Member at all Exaltation meetings and to welcome new Exaltees on behalf of the Province; it may not be a ‘chain’, it could be one of the other members of the broader Executive. I would love to see more Acting Officers accompany us on those occasions. I do understand that sometimes there will not be much notice which I appreciate can make it difficult, but a plea here to Scribes E; if we can be made aware of upcoming Exaltations, perhaps before a summons is issued then it may allow our Companions to plan their diaries.
May I on behalf of all the executive express my deep thanks for the hospitality, companionship and friendship shown on all our visits to Chapters. Ritual standards of course vary and are mostly of a high and inspiring standard, but a word of caution, I have had worrying reports indicating an increase in our rituals being read and often not very well. I firmly believe that the process of learning ritual goes hand in hand with enhancing our understanding of this wonderful order.
Today the Executive says goodbye to John Power as he leaves the Office of 3rd Provincial Grand Principal. He has been a tower of strength and a huge asset to the Province – but we are not losing him, we don’t let go that easy!!!; he has agreed to stay on the executive in an ex officio capacity and will continue to have responsibility for the Travelling Sojourners and the Altar of Companionship, both of which are his initiatives, and he will continue to work with Stephen Knight our Provincial Grand Almoner/Mentor on our take on Learning and Development
John Power has asked me to make a plea at this point for more Companions to join the ranks of the Travelling Sojourners, Get in touch and join up – good numbers really enhance meetings and bring out the best that the Royal Arch has to offer !!!
It has been a delight to install E.Comp Richard Reano as Third Provincial Grand Principal. Richard’s credential are impeccable. “Richard, I welcome you to the ‘chain gang’ and now I’ve got you into red shirt and red sox, my mission is complete…..”
Now onto membership, our numbers have again dipped slightly. this is still a concern, but I am heartened and motivated by the statistics which indicate a significant slowing of the decline and I am convinced that by working in partnership with our new PGM, John Clark and his team, then together we will develop the tools, desire and commitment to reverse the downward trend. As a matter of interest, there are Provinces that are close on 50% of Craft members in the Royal Arch – we are 35% …..the reality of those statistics is that for us to be up among the best, then we would need 10 extra members in each of our Chapter……..obviously that couldn’t happen overnight, but every journey starts with the 1st steps – well Companions we have taken those 1st steps because today I have invested Steve Barnes and Mike Philips as Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals – 2 high level appointments authorised by the First Grand Principal – a testament to the fact that our rulers do listen, understand and act.!!
Their initial remit is under the banner of MEMBERSHIP MATTERS, a major component of our Provincial Strategy and the key working relationship with our Craft colleagues will be a priority.
Linking in to that remit, John Power, Richard Reano and Stephen Knight have been working on an initiative based on the fine work of our friends in Essex and this is aimed at those not in the Royal Arch or have become Unattached and will be focussed at our major centres.
A point I would like each and every one of you to take on board, if we had been able to retain our members and by that I mean preventing or reducing resignations, then our numbers would be rising – deaths are inevitable, resignations are not!!!
So Companions, I make this challenge to you all……….while 50% realistically can’t be envisaged right now, lets work together and see if we can’t make it 40% by this time next year – that’s a net gain of 3 Companions per Chapter!!!!
In 2017, we piloted a series of New Exaltees Breakfast Seminars with the aim of creating a relaxed environment for our newer Companions to meet the Executive, to continue the process of Royal Arch engagement and to build on the excitement felt at their Exaltation – 2 more of the these will be announced in the very near future and we aim again to cover the geography of the Province.
The presentations of ‘Talking Heads’ and ‘In Camera’ have again been very well received in Lodges and Chapters. My thanks go to the teams who have worked so hard in making these happen.
In January, a team of our friends from Metropolitan came to our 1st Principals Chapter and gave their presentation on ‘Adding Theatre to the Exaltation ceremony’ – who knows where that may lead!!!…………..I know many of the companions who witnessed that fine presentation came away with simple ideas on further raising the impact of our Exaltation ceremony
Buckinghamshire Craft is now well into Festival and we know that we will be the first Province to complete for the Masonic Charitable Foundation in 2021.
As I stated last year, we as Royal Arch Masons totally support our PGM and Craft colleagues. I don’t intend to put a further financial burden on you. However I know Chapters accumulate monies without any real conscious effort other than enjoying their Royal Arch Masonry. In many cases they don’t have a clear idea on what to do with it!
May I again suggest Companions that you consider the MCF for a Chapter donation? we aim to award Chapter specific honorifics to those who do achieve certain levels – In fact 12 Chapters have already reached the necessary criteria!!!
In addition you will be aware that we have made several donations to small Charities and good causes in the name of the Royal Arch over the last year, our funding for these mostly comes from our own Relief Chest and that will be enhanced by our alms today.
May I take this opportunity of thanking all of my Executive for the work they do on behalf of the Province in particular my Deputy Paul Savage who is a voice of calm and reason and keeps me on the straight and narrow.! Well, at least he tries too………
And a very special ‘thank you’ today goes to E.Comp Mike Stephens – Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra, to Mel Shah his Asst and to Richard Lewis our Provincial Grand Registrar and the other WORKERS who made today come alive. To Ray Harrison our newly appointed Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team – Ray, I well remember being in your position back in 2004 – you certainly appear to be more relaxed and in control than I felt on that day!! I really look forward to working with you!
“Ray, a word of caution, it will probably take Richard Reano a good 6 months before he realises he ain’t the Prov GDC any more”…………….
Mike and Ray, you are well supported by our Provincial Grand Stewards. Without you all, today certainly wouldn’t happen. Thank you again!
There is one final and very important thank you I wish to make and that is to all the hard working Scribes E in the province. Without a doubt, whether intentionally or not, but nonetheless in reality, our Scribes E are the CEO’s of their Chapters – thank you all for the hard work you do.
YOUR PROVINCE NEEDS YOU!
Look after them Companions?
Once again thank you all for coming today and I look forward to your company at the Festive Board and of course in your Chapters, Provinces and at Metropolitan.
May the True and Living God Most High be with you, bless you all – thank you!