Companions all, I bid you a hearty welcome to our Provincial Convocation which finds us once again in the magnificent surroundings of the Grand Temple after our forced change of venue last year due to the Rail Strike.
This also means that we have the pleasure of the company of our invited guests which we had to forego last year because of the reduced capacity at our alternative venue.
It has once again been my pleasure to appoint, invest and promote those Companions who have given meritorious service to the Royal Arch and I will remind you that your honours carry an expectation for future efforts, particularly in the implementation of the new strategy for which more information is imminent and will assist you to enhance your Chapters and increase your membership.
Companions, you are doubtless aware that Hertfordshire has for many years been assisting Denmark to reach the stage where they could form their own Supreme Grand Chapter and I am pleased to inform you that this project realised a successful conclusion on the 11th March this year in Copenhagen with the Inauguration of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Denmark by the Pro First Grand Principal, Jonathan Spence, supported by the Past Pro First Grand Principal, the Third Grand Principal, the Grand Scribe Ezra, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and others including a sizeable group from Hertfordshire. We witnessed a first class ceremony where the Grand Master of Denmark, Most Worshipful Brother Walter Schwartz, became the First Grand Principal. It will therefore be no surprise to you that we have a large contingent of Danish Companions with us today, led by the Pro First Grand Principal, Most Excellent Companion John Harbo. We thank you all for your attendance today and we hope to be with you in Denmark next year.
Companions, your Executive have been making changes to enable us all to meet the challenges of the 7 year Strategy introduced by the Pro First Grand Principal to make us more relevant to modern society and to encourage new candidates to join our ranks. A key document is the long awaited ‘Archway’. This is full of ideas, suggestions and advice designed not only to inspire new ways of attracting candidates but also to take an inward look at your individual Chapters and assess yourselves. Taking the ‘Yes if’ approach and not the ‘No because’ attitude you may make changes in Officers or operational procedures that enhance your Chapter. A key message is to support new exaltees. When a Master Mason decides that the time is right for him to become a Royal Arch Mason, he does so on the expectation that his experience will be positive and that he will continue his masonic journey in the best possible way. It is our responsibility to make sure that this happens and that there is a defined path for his development and progress within the Chapter. This needs to be treated with care and we need to be mindful that we balance their progress with their personal needs and that of their Chapter. We must make sure that they are comfortable with the progress that is on offer without putting any unnecessary pressure on them. At your Committee Meetings, have an Agenda item to discuss how you can develop a process for future members and how to move it forward.
Our new Provincial Membership Officer, E Comp. Peter Young will be happy to advise and I suggest
you take advantage of his expertise.
Another element to this is Mentoring and we also have a new Provincial Mentor, E Comp. Rod Kent who is likewise available if needed.
In short companions, we need to be much more supportive of new candidates to ensure that they stay and become key members for the future of our Order. For your information, the ‘Archway’ is due to be launched at Supreme Grand Chapter in two days’ time and more information will be sent to the Chapters, when known.
Membership numbers are crucial, so continue to explore those Master Masons of many years standing who have yet to complete their journey through Pure Ancient Masonry and to the newer Master Masons, when their personal circumstances are right for them. Statistical analysis shows us that we must make an effort to return to pre-Pandemic numbers. There is still a large number of Chapter members who do not regularly attend convocations and we need to find out why. Please review your membership and endeavour to contact those members and persuade them to re-engage and offer assistance when needed.
Those of you who are Royal Arch Representatives are a crucial first step in the process and you should be proactive and informative in your roles. This is a major part of our development as numbers need to be increased following the decline due to the Pandemic.
Today has seen other changes to the Provincial Team of which I must make mention. Another new Provincial Rank is that of Communications Officer and Companion James Davis has been Invested in that role. He will be keen to hear of any newsworthy items that your individual Chapters may have. Today also sees the retirement of our Provincial Grand Treasurer, E Comp. Tim Huckle who has for many years ensured that our finances are in order and has been of great assistance to individual Chapters when required and I thank him for his services on all our behalf’s. He is succeeded by E Comp. Cameron MacKenzie who will likewise be ready to assist you when needed.
Following the Pandemic hiatus, we have resurrected our social programme and you did not disappoint. We had resounding successes this year in the Royal Arch Golf Day, the Sunday Luncheon and the Prostate Screening event, all of which are booked for next year. My grateful thanks go to Peter Cox, Gerry Greenland, David Hampton and Phil Masters respectively who have all made these events possible. My thanks also go to our Provincial Charity Steward, E Comp. Clive Bradnum who has helped your individual Chapters with the Provincial Match Funding for local charities and has boosted your donations this year by £3,725.
In working with the new Strategy, there is a desire to bring the Craft and Royal Arch closer together and whilst I appreciate that each Order has its own particular challenges to address, I must thank our Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro. Neil Connolly for his support of the Royal Arch and in our joint efforts to ensure that the overriding mantra ‘that we are one organisation’ comes to fruition in Hertfordshire.
Companions, as we near the completion of this Provincial Convocation you will be aware of the many hours of hard work that have gone into producing today’s annual event and my grateful thanks go to: – To my Deputy Grand Superintendent, E. Comp David Hampton for his continued support and hard work including timely advice when needed. He has ensured that we continue to serve you well and his assistance to me has been invaluable. To the Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra, E. Comp David Broomer, and his Assistant, E Comp. Iain Green and their team for their tireless work over the past year, particularly with the integration of ‘Hermes’ and the help given in the training requirements of that project, not forgetting the hours spent on the Provincial Convocation. To the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, E. Comp James Angus and his team for their escorting duties today and their ceremonial duties during Centenaries and Banner Dedications during the past year.
Companions, a world renown scientist, Franco Ongaro, said that “The future is not something to predict. The future is something to build.” Companions, with the ‘Archway’ and other publications you will soon have the tools and I trust you will use them to build a Royal Arch well suited for that future.
Companions I look forward to your company at dinner.
May the True and Living God Most High Bless you all.
James William Sharpley
Most Excellent Grand Superintendent