E. Comp. John Keeble, Grand Superintendent for the Province of Buckinghamshire,
Buckinghamshire Provincial Grand Chapter Annual Convocation, 21st of March 2016
Grand Superintendent’s Address:-
Companions, it’s now my great pleasure to address Provincial Grand Chapter for the second time. Where has the last year gone!
Firstly I would like to thank you all for being with us here today. I know that many of you have travelled quite long distances.
It’s always a joy to welcome so many Masonic friends from within this and from other Provinces. We may meet infrequently, but such is the common bond amongst us as RA Masons that it seems no time at all.
My first thank you is to the Province of Berkshire for allowing this wonderful centre to become BUCKINGHAMSHIRE for the day and for that I would particularly thank E.Comp Martin Peters PGM and E.Comp Ian Hopgood MEGS. I would add to them E.Comp Ken Lyng Provincial Grand Janitor of Berkshire for whom nothing seems impossible – I have worked with Ken going back to my Provincial Grand Director of Ceromonies days and I am most grateful for his input into the day.
I have already welcomed our honoured guests individually, their presence here today certainly adds to the occasion and the ‘networking’ that takes place out of the Temple adds value for us all and keeps us mindful of the broader Masonic family.
Last year of course our now Past Grand Superintendent couldn’t be with us, but he is here today and I am mindful that his contribution to the Province during his ten year term is now part of the heritage on which we build.
I am now delighted to congratulate those Companions I have had the pleasure of investing with Provincial Grand Rank today, be it a re-appointment, a first appointment or a promotion. Those ranks are in part a reward for past commitment and service, but perhaps more importantly they represent an expectation of future service.
The future of this Province and the ‘Chains’ and senior officer of tomorrow is vested in our Provincial Officers of today.
Over the last year or two, we have actively encouraged the Acting Officers of the year to accompany the Provincial Executive and to join with them at Installation meetings around the Province – they are not limited as to how many they can attend. I am very pleased to say that during the past year the Acting Officers have represented this Province so well and in such good numbers – particularly on TEAM visits and special events.
I do hope that this year’s Acting Officers will continue the example set.
It has also become an established practice that wherever possible an Executive member will attend exaltation meetings and welcome new candidates into the Royal Arch on behalf of the Province. I would like to offer the Acting Officers of the year the opportunity of accompanying to those meetings as well – we will look to get a procedure in place to allow that to happen in the near future. I would ask for all your help on this because it will require that we have good notice of upcoming exaltations to make it happen!
Today I have had the pleasure of installing E.Comp John Power as Third Provincial Grand Principal and I welcome him to the TEAM, John brings a wealth of Masonic knowledge to the job and I am sure we will be utilising that and his Marketing skills to good effect. I want at this stage to pay tribute to E.Comp John Stribling who today stepped down as Third Principal, John has served this Province with distinction in an acting capacity for eleven years as Assistant then Provincial Grand Scribe E and for the last year as a ‘chain’. We will not be losing John as I have asked him to remain as an ‘ex officio’ member of the executive with specific responsibility for the website – who knows what the future will bring!
I want at this stage to express my sincere thanks to two priceless Companions – at least that’s what they say!!
E.Comps Mike Stephens and Richard Reano, Provincial Scribe E and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies respectively.
Mike has now come to the end of his first year in that office and together with his Team has proved himself indispensable – that is witnessed by his diligence and skill in having prepared for today.
He may get some sleep tonight!
Richard of course is synonymous with Director of Ceremonies excellence and he together with his TEAM have rehearsed us with great patience. He is uncompromising in his pursuit of excellence.
Thank you both so very much!
And so to the future – we have as you will see in your booklet suffered a decline in membership in the Royal Arch and this is against an increase in Craft membership in the Province. On the face of it a poor situation, but there are reasons which I won’t go into here, but we should look on the Craft increase as a real opportunity for growth. The fact still remains however that in Buckinghamshire the percentage of RA to Craft members is still only a little over thirty five percent and a slight decrease on last year.
During the last year a number of new initiatives came to fruition:
- Talking Heads under the management of our Second Provincial Grand Principal Rob Chaproniere has proved to be of great interest and will continue to be available. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is very successful in raising awareness and in instances re-engaging lapsed or lapsing companions as well as stimulating real interest in our order. These presentations have been supported by the Craft Executive with their presence and I am very grateful for that support.
- Our Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter has now achieved a critical mass and is able to meet its consecration objective of being the Service Chapter of the Grand Superintendent. The membership is made up some outstanding Royal Arch Ritual Masons and they are responding to and are supporting Chapters which may have temporary problems with Officers, Ritual and Numbers. I invite any Companion to attend Stewards meetings and witness the work of our Companions and if your Chapter does need support, do contact the Stewards Chapter through the Provincial Office.
- We have now trialled the explanatory pieces for both the candidate and for enhanced explanation in Chapter and these have received favourable reviews and I aim that they will be available to all Chapter in the near future – there will be no compulsion for them to be used, but I would ask that serious consideration be given to doing so.
- Creation of a focused Charity policy for the Royal Arch under our Provincial Grand Charity Steward – Derek Watts. This aims at two fronts namely to identify and support worthy enterprises (they may not be registered as charities) that tend to be under the radar of the more substantial giving that can be offered through the Craft. Derek’s work can be greatly helped by each of you being his eyes and ears on the ground in identifying those causes to support.
We will support from day one the upcoming Craft Festival for the Masonic Charitable Foundation. I do of course appreciate that anything from the Royal Arch is given additionally to whatever we may individually give within our Craft Lodges, but I was amazed to learn that during our last festival (RMTGB) our Chapters donated in excess of £66,000.
In addition we will introduce a presentation called:
‘In Camera – your Chapter in focus’
This was demonstrated to us at the First Principals Chapter in January by a Team from Metropolitan Grand Chapter and it was very well received, to such an extent that we decided that we would get on board with it and Metropolitan have kindly released their material so that we can prepare our Teams and offer delivery to our Chapters of this programme. So if you would like to be considered to join a Team or would like a presentation in your Chapter after the summer break when it is up and running, please contact either the Chapter Provincial Office or E.Companion Rob Chaproniere who will be leading this programme.
On a more downbeat note I have to express disappointment on 2 fronts:
- The Royal Arch Representatives programme that we run on behalf of and with the positive support of our colleagues in the Craft, seems to have very little support at Lodge level and with a few notable exceptions those who have the position appear to have very little interest in developing it. We are looking to re-energise this programme in the coming months.
- The Almoner/ Mentor role. Our Provincial Grand Almoner E.Comp Stephen Knight has invested considerable effort and expertise in developing a model for the combined role and in producing high quality development material to enable the function to achieve a high profile at Chapter level. Regrettably the support for Stephen has been dilatory. This is witnessed by the poor attendance at a Seminar organised by Stephen at Beaconsfield back in November.
Companions, I know that it isn’t that easy to immediately understand and appreciate the Royal Arch, but if we genuinely believe that, and I quote ‘Pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, those of the EA, the F/C and the Master Mason including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch’ then we owe it to our not yet ‘complete’ Craft Masons and our wavering and waning Royal Arch Masons to help with that understanding.
Enough of the soapbox Companions, it’s not all gloom and despondency, I have been heartened to be present at some splendid meetings and to witness some of the best Royal Arch ritual I have ever seen, delivered with real understanding and feeling and where appropriate – fun, and that by young (relatively) Companions so all is not lost. It’s up to each and every one of us communicate and demonstrate what the Royal Arch Message is and why without it a Mason has not completed his journey.
Companions, I thank you all for coming and sharing today with us – god bless you all.