Many of you have not only travelled long distances to be here today, but have needed to make an earlier start because of the decision taken to hold the Annual Meetings of the Chapter and the Craft on the same day. I commend you Companions on your fortitude and will on this one occasion excuse any rubbing of eyes and even the odd yawn – those of you staying for this afternoon’s Craft Meeting, which I’m hopeful is all of you, should note there then will be no dispensation given in respect of snoring.
Companions, would you please stand and be acknowledged if this is your first visit to the Annual Convocation of Provincial Grand Chapter. I do hope that you have enjoyed the meeting so far, although it is not truly representative of our usual meetings where new honours are conferred.
A very good reason for you to come back next year and hopefully encourage other Companions from your Chapter to join you. Let me thank you personally for your support. We have with us today many friends from other Provinces and if we needed to rise that little bit earlier, just spare a thought for them as some have travelled even longer distances to be with us.
Let me introduce the Grand Superintendents and perhaps their teams will rise with them at the same time and you Companions can show your appreciation when I have finished all of the introductions. From Lincolnshire we have the GSupt Graham Ives and his Third Provincial Grand Principal. From Cumberland & Westmorland, the GSupt Norman Thompson with his band of intrepid travellers. From the West Riding we have the GSupt Stewart Carley with his team and from Northumberland, we have the GSupt Ian Craigs with his Second Provincial Grand Principal. Unfortunately, Eric Heaviside the GSupt of Durham cannot be with us until this afternoon, but I am very pleased his Royal Arch team is with us. I think you will agree Companions that despite their early start, all our visitors look as alert and intelligent as usual and we do of course extend a very warm Yorkshire North and East welcome to each of them (applause).
We are today indeed fortunate to have with us two Past Grand Superintendents of this Province in Donald Davinson and Richard Anderson. These men have each made a huge contribution to this Province over many years and I would ask you to please recognise that contribution (applause).
April 30th saw companions from this Province receive preferment in London and I would like to introduce them to you. Perhaps they would stand when their names are announced and we can recognise them as a group. There were First Appointments for Jim Lackenby and Howard Newton as PGStB and for Ian Sugarman as PAGDC (applause).
Companions, I wish I could report that numbers in the Royal Arch are increasing but that is unfortunately not the case. There are no doubt those who would claim this is somewhat inevitable as the number of Craft masons falls, but thus far, such is not the case. In this Province only 48% of Craft masons are Royal Arch masons so Companions, we are not talking about something difficult like cold calling, there is a readymade pool of approximately 1,800 masons just waiting for you to convince them to take this final step in Pure Ancient Masonry. Make it your personal target to bring just one of those 1,800 into the Royal Arch during the next 12 months. When I decided to change the date of the Annual Convocation from September to May, I had a decision to make in respect of Provincial Honours. My Active Officers appointed last September have only been in post less than 8 months, but have supported me really well during that time and I did not think it fair to shorten their term of office. This does of course mean that those of you aspiring to Provincial rank in September of this year will of necessity have to wait until May 2016 and I do hope that you are not too disappointed.
We have recently sent to all Chapters a document entitled Setting the Scene for a member or members of the Chapter to read out at specific points in the Exaltation ceremony to explain the scene change and time lapse within that ceremony. This is not for the benefit of the Candidate but for all the Companions who will surely be more engaged if they truly understand the significance of what is happening. It does of course follow the card we sourced from Peter Mason of Cumberland and Westmoreland which we have recommended should be read by the Exaltee whilst waiting with the Janitor prior to the ceremony; that card also sets the scene by explaining a little history and does not take anything away from the impact of the ceremony. Additionally, we have provided all Chapters with a book of Questions and Answers which can be used on an evening when there is no ceremony; these are not just designed to fill in a blank evening although they will undoubtedly do that, they are primarily designed to educate, for better informed members of your Chapter are far more likely to stay the course.
Companions, as you know I am always somewhat reluctant to talk to Royal Arch masons about charitable giving, as the vast majority of them give generously through their Craft lodges. However, I think it would be remiss of me to not to tell you that Chapters have now donated over £25,000 to our Festival 2018 Appeal and I think you will agree with me that is a very fine effort indeed. On your seats you will find a Gift Aid Envelope and I hope you will be in your usual generous mood when you come to fill it. There will be envelopes on the seats this afternoon also and I make no apologies for that Companions as those of you accustomed to attending in both May and September would I feel sure, out of habit, wish to fill two envelopes.
Companions, if your Craft lodge is one of those which has not yet appointed a Royal Arch Representative, please encourage it to do so. Indeed, make it easy for them and volunteer – the fact that you are here today suggests that you care for the health of the Royal Arch in this Province.
Companions, those of you who witnessed my performance at the Convocation last September will perhaps remember that I struggled with a robe that was far too long. I will leave you to decide whether it has been shortened in the interim or whether I am indeed, just growing into the job.
Thank you Companions.