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Freemasonry is not a quasi political or religious organisation, but a means of enhancing our commitment to our social, moral and lawful duties, and our faith in a Supreme Being. The Order of the Holy Royal Arch is the climax of Pure and Antient Freemasonry. The final chapter in a four part enactment which completes the link between this our mortal life and our belief in eternity, thus directing our thoughts to do the will of the Creator.
It is a way of life which teaches us charity of thought and action to not only freemasons but to all our fellow beings; to avoid jealousy and discord by promoting harmony; to subdue all unbecoming passions and prejudices and to cultivate charity. It encourages us to walk justly and uprightly through life, by reminding us that there is one who knows our every thought word and act, and
to whom we will have to give an account of all our actions.
Freemasons, of all faiths, who have been Master Masons for at least four weeks can apply for membership of any Chapter, but must be proposed, seconded and balloted for by the members of the Chapter to which they seek admission. The interval between becoming a Master Mason and his exaltation into a Chapter is however a matter for each individual, and will largely depend on his circumstances and readiness for its teachings. Early application however, ensures a greater opportunity to participate in the work and to understand its teachings.
At the end of the year 2010, in this Province of Warwickshire we have 63 Chapters, meeting at 19 different locations with a total of 1500 Companions who subscribe to membership of one or more Chapters. Worldwide there are probably in excess of 1.0 million Royal Arch Companions.
The word Companion is derived from two Latin terms “cum” meaning “with” in the sense of being together, and “panis” meaning “bread”. Someone with whom you shared your bread was one who could be trusted with your life, and it suggests a higher affinity than that of a Brother. It is a particularly apt description of a member of the Royal Arch, who has a duty to support and encourage his Companions and attain a high standard of conduct in his personal life.
The Order of the Holy Royal Arch is said to be the completion of Craft Masonry because we complete the Master Mason’s degree and recover what was missing from that ceremony. It has, however, a far deeper meaning. In the symbolic sense, the three Degrees correspond to our passage from darkness to light, our progress from ignorance to knowledge and understanding, and loss with the promise of recovery. The Royal Arch is consequently an integral part of Craft masonry because it completes the symbolism by making good the promise of recovery.
These take a similar form to our Craft meetings, in that we open the Chapter, present certificates, read minutes and carry out other items of business, such as elections, reports etc. However, the main part of our meetings is the ceremony of exalting new candidates. This takes the form of a passion play, which recounts the rebuilding of King Solomon’s Temple by the children of Israel, on their return from their Babylonian captivity. There are also associated lectures explaining the history, the significance of the forms, symbols and ornaments of Royal Arch Masonry, and the mystical knowledge of the Order.
It varies from Chapter to Chapter, but as Chapters meet only three or four times a year, it is generally more modest than the cost of Craft Masonry. On entry there is an exaltation fee to pay and regalia to buy. Each member pays an annual subscription to cover the cost of administration, and it is usual, but not compulsory, to dine after each meeting. Collections for charitable causes are a regular feature, but members contribute only what they can afford without detriment to themselves or other responsibilities.
If you are interested in Royal Arch Masonry, and would like to find out more, we would like to hear from you. We would also like to hear from Freemasons who wish to become members. Please feel free to contact our Provincial Grand Scribe E by email, or Telephone: 01564 777578 and we will pass on your details to the Scribe of the Chapter nearest to your home. You may also obtain help and information from Royal Arch representatives in Lodges, or by calling at our headquarters at 2 Stirling Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 9SB.