A very good morning to you all once again and may I say how pleasing it is to see so many here to celebrate this special day in the life of Warwickshire royal Arch.
We have nearly 300 companions here today and over 200 dining – a tremendous record number once again and I thank you all for coming along to support your fellow Companions on such an important day in the Royal Arch calendar. It is particularly nice to see so many of our exaltees of the year attending.
It is clear that to attend such an event when you are so new to the order shows great character Companions and I thank you all for being here today.
Personally, I’m particularly pleased to be here as no doubt you are all well aware that I have recently had a replacement hip operation. Now when the dates for the operation were being suggested it did look a distinct possibility that I would be unable to attend this meeting and so in anticipation of that I pre-warned the DepGSupt that he may well have to preside here. He took that news in his stride as you would expect Companions, but I did of course offer to give him my address so that he could then communicate it to you. E Comp Phil said that I needn’t bother as he was happy to write his own! Now Companions my orthopaedic surgeon placed me on what is called ‘the Enhanced Recovery Program’ but it turned out I didn’t need to be as the prospect of my Deputy delivering his own address was all the incentive I needed to make a speedy recovery and be here today!!
Now companions we are always blessed with great support from our close neighbours and friends I am delighted to see that so many supporting us here today. In particular may I again warmly welcome E Comp’s John Phenix and Robin Stubbs, both recently appointed as Grand Superintendents over Worcestershire and Staffordshire respectively with wonderful installation ceremonies back in April.
In so doing may I also wish both E Comp Colin Brown and John Winter (who can’t be with us), great friends and supporters to Warwickshire over many years, a happy and long retirement.
We have had a busy year in Warwickshire Royal Arch once again with two of the highlights being a joyful centenary celebration of Yenton Chapter back in February, and a superb demonstration of the exaltation ceremony by the General Chapter of Instruction team in April, under the Presidency of the aforementioned E Comp Colin Brown. The attendance at these and other events by the acting provincial officers has been significant all year and I thank all the outgoing officers for your constant support and for your wonderful company. The selfless time you have all given to the installation and exaltation meetings across the Province has been nothing short of outstanding and I am deeply appreciative of it. I am pleased to remind you thought that your opportunities to continue to attend these events continues for another year as ‘OOTY’s’ as I will explain shortly.
To those who I have had the honour and pleasure of investing today, I offer my personal congratulations. Those who have been appointed to an acting rank will know from the training they have already received from the ProvGDC, and with more to come, that you have the opportunity to enjoy an extra special year of office. It is truly wonderful to be involved in the installation ceremonies of Chapters and I know you will enjoy every single one of them. Please also make a note in your diaries to support the Chapters and exaltees on nights of exaltation as these too are very special and well worth attending.
I must stress though that in Warwickshire we encourage a team approach and so if you have today received either an appointment or promotion to a ‘Past rank’ then you are now officially an OOTY – which stands for an ‘Officer of the year’. As OOTY’s if you are able to do so, please do find the time to attend a few extra visits during your year to chapters that you’ve not previously visited, not only will you be warmly welcomed by all but you will also be considered part of the Provincial team forming part of the procession and being proclaimed by the DC’s.
We have had two Companions step down from long-serving office today. E Comps David Mander and E Comp Fred Ditchfield have been the Provincial Almoner and Provincial Charity Steward for many years and have loyally served the Province and given outstanding contributions to its life and welfare in the process. I know they will both continue to be actively involved, particularly with the Benevolent Fund, but I wanted to personally thank them both for all they have done over such a dedicated period of service.
The Benevolent fund is a Warwickshire success story and with the innovations introduced by these marvellous companions and others, we have a Charity fund to be proud of that continues to do good work across our Province, but more of that later.
Whilst mentioning the Benevolent fund there has also been a change of Presidency with E Comp Michael Irving, (who is at home today convalescing following a hip replacement operation, it must be catching companions) – stepping down and E comp David Satchwell taking on the role. We thank E Comp Michael in his absence and wish EComp David well in this important role in Warwickshire.
Companions, the Provincial executive team, each of whom is a great asset to us all Companions, are constantly looking for ways to make the Royal Arch experience in Warwickshire both an enjoyable one and a rewarding one.
I am pleased to advise of a couple of new initiatives that will run alongside several of the previous initiatives we have introduced recently. Of those continuing I am pleased to confirm that after their great success a further Royal Arch roadshow will be held on 1st November, this time in Coventry Masonic Hall.
I hope you are all now aware of the fun and relaxed format of these roadshows, but we do need you to once again encourage the brethren of your lodges who have yet to join the RA, and thereby complete their masonic journey in pure and ancient freemasonry, to attend.
There are some 1708 subscribing brethren in Warwickshire, I say again 1708, who are yet to be exalted into the HRA so there are plenty of brethren for us all to encourage to come along and learn why the Royal arch is so important to the continued enjoyment of their masonic life.
It is a truism Companions that those brethren who go on to join the Royal Arch, and the Mark, or the Royal and Select and the many other interesting and varied Masonic orders that are available for brethren to explore and discover, are very likely to remain passionate members of masonry for life and where appropriate they should be encouraged to do so.
Turning to new initiatives companions, next year is a leap year companions and therefore I thought that Saturday February 29th would be an excellent day to take advantage of.
We are therefore organising a ‘Chapter Officers Workshop’ on the Saturday morning for a couple of hours at Knowle Masonic Hall. The plan is to have various breakout sessions concentrating on either the roles of the Principals, or The Sojourners or the DC’s in particular. If successful we will role this out to other important Chapter offices in due course, although not necessarily waiting 4 years to do so!
The observant amongst you may have noticed that I am today wearing the new Warwickshire Royal Arch tie! Now you could be forgiven for not noticing it as a ‘new’ tie though Companions because quite deliberately the design of the tie has not changed at all. What we have changed though is the shape and length. This new tie is much slimmer and longer than the old one and therefore rather more contemporary in its design, dare I say less ‘kipperish’. It is, I think, more appropriate to a modern thinking organisation such as ours.
Now before you all inwardly groan the good news is that in not changing the design there is really no need for you to go out and buy a new tie until you need to, that is unless you want to look stylish and cutting edge. I would suggest, however, that if you are still wearing the even older Provincial tie, that with the darker bears, then this may be an excellent opportunity to upgrade and show the world what a modern thinking mason you are!
As I approach the third anniversary of my appointment as GSupt I have reflected on my experiences so far and I have been struck by one thing in particular. That is that, compared to the Craft, Companions don’t tend to visit other chapters across the Province anywhere near as frequently. I feel we need to share the love companions and to that end I want to introduce you to ‘TLC’. You are all no doubt familiar with this acronym but on this occasion it does not mean ‘Tender Loving Care’ but rather the ‘Travelling Loving Cup’ – and here it is.
The idea Companions is that the Travelling Loving Cup can be cared for by any chapter in the Province, but can also be claimed by any other Warwickshire chapter if 3 or more companions of any one chapter visit the host chapter. The TLC will be housed safely in a travelling box and will be accompanied by a written record of its journey around Warwickshire.
Shortly there will also be a page on the RA website detailing where the cup is currently residing so that Chapters can plan their claim.
The travelling loving cup has been generously released from the Warwickshire Masonic museum where it was donated by the former Chapter of Charity, the previous members of which having given their blessing to its use.
Now we need to start this off and give the TLC to its first host Chapter. I will therefore ask the First Principal of the chapter that this year has had the most exaltations to come and claim it for the first time. That winner is E Comp Chris Stoner from Shakespeare Chapter no 284 who have had 3 exaltations this year with a 4th in two weeks’ time.
And so Companions, as you heard me say, Shakespeare Chapter will be the starting TLC host-chapter and on the 25th July at Alderson House, Warwick they will be exalting a new Companion into our order, so why not get three or more companions of your own chapter to go along and not only support the exaltation but also claim the TLC?
To have survived 100 years as a chapter is always worthy of celebration and support. In September Leigh Chapter No. 887 will be celebrating their centenary on the 6th at Severn Street Masonic Hall, at which I hope to see a full Provincial turn out – please put the date in your diary now.
Hopefully, early next year there will also be another centenary of Swan of Avon Chapter to celebrate so please look out for the date in due course on the Provincial Web site.
I said earlier I would be returning to Charity, which is the very root and marrow of us all as freemasons. The Royal Arch continues to fully support the Warwickshire 2023 festival appeal and, whilst my recent operation has prevented me from leaping from a perfectly good airplane, I am pleased to say that Warks RA have nonetheless been able to send £6733 to the 2023 festival. Please keep up the good work Companions.
The trustees of the Benevolent Fund are currently putting the final touches to a donation to the free@last charity in Nechells Birmingham. The existence of this charity was brought to our attention by a Companion of Athol Chapter who thought it would be worth supporting. This is an excellent example of how this can work companions and I invite you all to similarly let us know of worthwhile causes you are aware of that the fund may be able to support.
In the case of free@last the ethos of this charity is to keep youth off the streets and away from gang culture and drugs and crime. On behalf of Benevolent fund I will shortly be presenting £5225 which will pay for the equipment for an entrepreneurial room within a new building in Nechells. A very worthwhile donation only made possible by your constant generosity companions, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Events such as today do not just happen, and a small but dedicated team are constantly working away behind the scenes to make sure it is a success.
All coordinated by the ever-reliable E Comp Ivan Norris I think all the companions involved deserve a mention and our thanks. On the transport team and known as the three amigos, are E Comp’s Geoff Walker, Neil Murray and Mike Hogarth, with E Comp Gary Macauley, Paul Jenkins and Chris Hallam in close support. The transformation of the school gym into a chapter room is by E Comps Nigel Tongue, Roger Cooke, Reg Harwood, David Pettifor, Gary Evans and Simon Grove. The signage has been generously provided by E Comp Craig Walton assisted by E Comp Tony Cheeseman and of course where would we be without the overwhelming help and support of the Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter of Warwickshire once again.
Separately I also say a big thank you to E Comp Geoff Walker the Provincial GDC and his team. Geoff you have organised an excellent first meeting so congratulations.
And finally, to the engine house of the Province, E Comp David Graham the Prov GSE, assisted by E Comp Gary Evans, who between them pull this whole thing together like the central cog of a fast-spinning wheel.
E Comp David works long unpaid hours for the Province from his home in Rugby, just so that I can turn up at these events and take all the credit. Thank you David.
Finally Companions to all of you here today I thank you. I thoroughly enjoy being the Grand Superintendent over this wonderful Province of ours, but that enjoyment is only achieved through all the support and kindness that I constantly receive.
I value it all very greatly and may the True and Living God Most High bless you and keep you always.
Thank you Companions.