Due to the Covid19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent gave his address via video link.
This is the transcript of the address recorded on the 8th December 2020.
It has certainly been a long time since we were last able to enjoy each other’s company in a Masonic setting and I certainly feel frustrated that there seems to be no clear end in sight to the difficulties that this dreadful virus has wrought on our lives and freedoms. Let us hope that the approval and rollout of the vaccine announced last week is the light at the end of the tunnel and the game changer everyone hopes it will be.
You will by now have received the joint communication from the Provincial Grand Master and me suspending all regular Lodge, Chapter and other face to face Masonic meeting with immediate effect and until further notice as a result of Leicester and Rutland being placed in Tiers three and two respectively. This decision was not taken without a great deal of thought and is based on our primary concern of keeping both our members and their families safe.
As you know we were due to hold a truncated Provincial Grand Chapter Meeting today in Market Harborough to carry out essential business but unfortunately due to the latest Government regulations introduced last week the meeting had to be abandoned and as yet we have been unable to re-schedule it.
However, I am delighted inform you that E. Comp. Paul Wallace has accepted my invitation to continue as my Deputy despite his appointment as Provincial Grand Secretary in November last year. Paul’s dedication and enthusiasm for the Royal Arch, both as my Deputy and as Chairman of the 3Rs committee, is well known and I look forward to working with him in the coming months.
I would also like to congratulate E. Comp. Chris Packham who succeeds E. Comp. John Peberdy as Second Provincial Grand Principal and E. Comp. Jonathan Varley on his appointment as Third Provincial Grand Principal. My thanks go to both of them for accepting my invitation to take these most important offices and I wish them every success in their new role.
At this point I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to E. Comp. John Peberdy for the last four years of dedicated service to this Province first as Third Provincial Grand Principal and for the last two years as Second Provincial Grand Principal. John’s contribution to the Executive team has been exemplary, he was well received by all the Chapters on his visits and his subsequent reports were extremely helpful to me in assessing the health of the individual Chapters. John has also been responsible for organising our social events and has been closely involved in the creation and launching of the new Royal Arch website. But, above all else John has been a great friend and unstinting in his support and l wish him every success in his new role as Communications Officer.
I would also like to offer my heart felt thanks to E. Comp. John Hoskins who decided to step down last March as Provincial Grand Almoner after serving in that office with distinction and compassion for the last seven years. John was ably supported throughout that time by his wife Margaret.
I offer my sincere congratulations to all those Companions who would have had their Appointments and Promotions confirmed today and I lay down this challenge to all the newly appointed active Provincial Grand Officers to introduce at least one new Exaltee during their year of office once we get back to some sort of normality.
To all the active Provincial Grand Officers who retired in March. Thank you for the great contribution and commitment you showed during your term of office especially on our Provincial Team visits.
Unfortunately, as a result of the restrictions imposed by the Covid pandemic, it is unlikely that we will be able to carry out any Provincial Team visits on the normal scale until well into the New Year. This means that those Provincial Grand Officers who were appointed to ACTIVE rank in March 2020 will have had little or no opportunity to function in that capacity. Therefore, it is my intention to re-appoint the current active officers in March 2021. This will have the temporary effect of delaying all future first appointments for one year but will not effect the number of promotions which would normally apply.
Also as a result of the pandemic and the prohibition on exaltations, the number of subscribing Royal Arch Masons in the Province has fallen below 1,000 which has reduced the number of active appointments I can make. I have spoken personally to those companions who are affected and, although they will now be offered an appointment to past rank in March 2021, they will be treated as ACTIVE officers.
Although we have been unable to meet for the last 9 months, the previous twelve months were a period of consolidation following the introduction of several new initiatives in an attempt to make our ceremonies more inclusive and accessible to our newer and less experienced Companions, without damaging the core principles and values of the Order, and I am pleased to report most Chapters within the Province have accepted the Executives recommendation and accepted the changes.
The success of these initiatives relies on the active participation of all parties and whilst inevitability there will be some decisions made by Chapters, with which not all the members agree, there should be a collective responsibility and the necessary support should be given.
The Provincial Executive and in particular the 3 Rs committee have not been idle during the period of suspension. The Royal Arch information booklets are being updated and added to, E Comp. Tony Sibson has been appointed to administer the Royal Arch Representative’s Scheme and has issued fresh guidance and plans are in hand to hold virtual Master Masons and New Exaltees evenings next year.
Work has continued on developing the new Royal Arch website and I would like to put on record my grateful thanks to both Comp. Richard Barnett and E. Comp. John Peberdy for the tremendous effort they have put in to creating and managing the website. However the website is only as good as its content which must be kept up to date so if any Chapter has any news or events they wish to post on the website please get in touch with either John or Richard.
I remain concerned about the number of avoidable resignations and I am not convinced our present system for dealing with this particular issue is robust enough. Therefore in conjunction with the Provincial Grand Registrar and Provincial Almoner we will be putting in a system to ensure that following receipt of a resignation the Companion concerned is contacted to discuss matters with a view to addressing the concerns that have lead to his resignation. If that contact is not successful, then his name will be placed on a register to ensure he is contacted in 12 months time to see if he has reconsidered his position. If we are only successful in a small percentage of cases then I believe it is well worth the effort.
However, on a positive note, I understand many of our Chapters have a number of candidates in the pipeline to be exalted once the current prohibition has been lifted. Therefore I and the Executive are recommending that once we return to something like normality, were appropriate and necessary, Chapters should consider carrying out double ceremonies to get through any backlog.
Something I have become acutely aware of since my installation, and particularly over the past 9 months, is that effective communication is essential. Therefore, if Chapters have not already done so, I would recommend every Chapter considers starting a WhatsApp group and hold Zoom meetings on their regular meeting night to keep in touch with each other. I would also recommend that prospective Exaltees are invited to attend the Zoom meetings to maintain their interest and to show that during these difficult times they have not been forgotten.
The current suspension of Masonic activities has given an ideal opportunity for Chapters to encourage their companions to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Royal Arch degree and its ritual by reference to the vast source of information available on the Solomon website. A better knowledge and understanding of the Royal Arch ceremony will increase the Companion’s enjoyment and I hope have a positive effect on the number of avoidable resignations.
On the charitable front, I am delighted to report that due to your continued generosity, during the 12 month period to 31st August 2020, the Province together with individual Chapters have donated in excess of £21,000 to both Masonic and non Masonic Charities for which I thank you.
Charitable giving by the Royal Arch has increased year on year and you may recall at my installation as Grand Superintendent in 2018 I pledged the Royal Arch’s continued support of the Craft 2022 Festival Appeal in aid of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. I asked each Chapter to dedicate at least one Alms collection and one raffle to the Festival each year. To this end you should all have recently received a letter from me launching a Christmas Appeal on behalf of the 2022 Festival Appeal.
Since April of this year, Masons and their dependents together with local charities within the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland have received grants in excess of £150,000. Therefore, whilst I appreciate you will have many calls on your finances at this time of year, having saved on the cost of Alms collections, Festive boards and raffles since March, I hope you will feel able to support this Appeal. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is doing a wonderful job and your donations, however large or small, will be thankfully received and faithfully applied.
At the meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter, which did take place on the 30th April, I am pleased to confirm that E. Comp. Philip Mann receiving a first appointment to Grand Rank as Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies. Phil’s appointment is well deserved and I would like to put on record my personal thanks to Philip for his unstinting support of the Royal Arch over many years particularly in the outpost of Melton Mowbray.
Companions, it is wonderful to be a member of a fraternity that cares for one another and for our local communities. As I have said before it is a great honour to lead this Royal Arch Province and I thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. The Province is run by an extremely dedicated and capable team of Royal Arch masons who give of their time freely to ensure the administration of the Province runs smoothly and this has never been more important than during the last 9 months. My sincere thanks go to E. Comps. David Turner and Ian Johnson and all the Executive Team as well as those companions in the individual Chapters who work tirelessly on your behalf.
Whilst we remain locked in this global pandemic we must continue to engage safely within Freemasonry. A vaccine is on its way and we will be able to meet again and enjoy the companionship of our meetings and festive board. Until then we must do all we can to maintain our fraternal support of each other whether it be by Zoom meetings or a simple telephone call and I encourage all Chapters to engage in these activities until it is safe for us to meet again. The Province will be happy to provide any assistance it can.
Finally companions may I wish you and your families a very happy and peaceful Christmas and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible during the coming year.
Please stay safe, and may God bless you all.
Noel C Manby
Province of Leicestershire & Rutland