ROYAL ARCH NEWS
Concern over falling exaltations
Address by Lord Northampton, Pro First Grand Principal of Supreme Grand Chapter, at the Annual Investiture on 25 April 2002
Last year I reconvened the Strategic Working Party to look at the whole question of the Royal Arch and its relationship with the Craft. That committee has still to reach a conclusion, but I hope it will recommend changes, which will then be fully discussed with all relevant parties before being put to Grand Chapter for approval.
About 10 per cent fewer candidates were exalted into the Royal Arch last year than the year before. This is 27 per cent less than ten years ago, and yet many of the side degrees, particularly Mark Masonry and Rose Croix, have expanded greatly over a similar period.
If we couple this with low attendance figures in most of our chapters, we have to ask why this is so, and what we can do to make the Royal Arch an exciting challenge for candidates as well as for existing members. I do not believe we can just do
nothing and hope the problem will go away.
The importance of this Order is not in
question. The Grand Secretary of the Antients described it as the 'root, heart and marrow of Masonry' and 'the most sacred part of Masonry'. But the more one studies the history and ritual of the Holy Royal Arch the more one finds anomalies in its nature and purpose.
Is it an Order, is it a degree or can it be both? I don't have to remind you that the MEZ congratulates the candidate 'on being admitted to the light of our Order' and goes on to hope that his 'future conduct will fully justify our partiality in having exalted you into this Supreme Degree'.
The Antients, of course, allowed warranted Lodges to work it as a fourth degree, the Moderns would have nothing to do with it even though many more of their Brethren were actually Royal Arch Masons. At the Union a compromise was reached whereby chapters continued to be attached to Lodges, as they had been under the Antients, but 'it was declared and pronounced that pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz. those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch'.
This leaves us with the dilemma that there is technically a separation, but substantially an integration between the Craft and the Royal Arch in England. Now it may be thought necessary for every new Chapter to be sponsored by a Lodge, but if that Lodge fails should the Chapter really have to search for a replacement sponsor with the added inconvenience of changing
its name and number? Could it not instead be free to look for candidates from many Lodges that do not have Chapters attached to them?
However, to my mind, there is a much more fundamental inconsistency. Does the
finding of the lost word alone make it a completion of the third degree? And even if it does, should we be emphasising a 'completion' in a progressive science, especially when the Royal Arch leads us to contemplate life in the context of 'eternity'. The third degree may be completed, but the message of the Royal Arch leads us further on our journey of self-discovery. So perhaps one could be forgiven for thinking that the whole of pure Antient Masonry per se, comprising all three degrees, is completed and crowned by the Order of the Holy Royal Arch. Isn't this why our ritual refers to it as 'at once the foundation and keystone of the whole Masonic structure'?
Above all, whatever conclusions we reach, we must endeavour to leave the
candidate feeling that he has experienced something special and relevant and, as well as this, we have to give a better explanation of the nature and purpose of what we call the 'climax of Freemasonry'.
Lord Northampton's thanks to Peter Hemingway
The Reverend Peter Hemingway has
been Third Grand Principal since April
1991 and has carried out numerous
Masonic duties in London, the
Provinces and abroad, His friendly
and down-to-earth Orations
endeared him to countless Freemasons and his wise counsel, always tempered by compassion, has been of outstanding value behind the
scenes as one of the Grand Master's and First Grand Principal's advisers.
Approaching his birthday he
will retire as Third Grand Principal
Grand Chapter is extremely grateful for all that he has done and I am
sure that it will continue to be grateful to him in the future for the work I know he will do as Past
Third Grand Principal.
I would also like to record my gratitude not only to Peter but also to his wife, Babs, who has been a tower of strength in her support of Peter, in particular, and even more than that to the Craft in general.
The First Grand Principal has appointed E Comp the Reverend Canon Neil Collings to succeed him.
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