It was a very special night for the members of Wigan Chapter No 2326 as the Grand Superintendent, Tony Harrison and his Provincial team were due to visit the chapter to watch the members of the chapter demonstrate the suggested enhancement of the exaltation ceremony.
The members of the chapter were joined by companions from across the Province as the first principal Ron Belshaw, assisted by second principal, Steve Dutson and third principal, Karl Greenall opened the chapter. Ron completed the normal business of the chapter and was then informed by the Scribe Nehemiah, Bill Smith that Ian Higham the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies stood outside the entrance to the chapter and requested admittance – Ron said he was to be admitted. Ian entered and informed Ron that the Grand Superintendent, Tony Harrison was outside and demanded admission – Ron replied he would be delighted to receive him. Tony then entered the chapter accompanied by his Provincial team that included the Past Second Provincial Grand Principal, Christopher Band, Third Provincial Grand Principal, Stanley Oldfield, Deputy Grand Superintendent, Danny Jones, three Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals, Ian Cuerden, Paul Renton and Barry Jameson, the Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah, Stuart Blagg, along with many other grand and acting Provincial grand officers.
Ron welcomed Tony and offered him his sceptre, which Tony accepted. The second and third Provincial Grand Principals then took their places either side of Tony, who then thanked the companions for their hospitality. Tony said this was the first time the full Provincial team had visited a chapter to watch the enhancements of the exaltation ceremony and he introduced the members of the team for the benefit of the companions. Tony then asked Ron to resume his rightful place in-order that he could enjoy watching the demonstration.
Prior to the demonstration, the chapter DC Stuart Blagg gave a short introduction to the format of the demonstration and introduced the Wigan Group Vice Chairman and Royal Arch Lead, Geoffrey Porter who would act as the narrator, Geoffrey gave a brief résumé of the background to the suggested enhancements and the development of the associated ritual about to be demonstrated. He began by saying the demonstration was the result of an initial suggestion by Second Grand Principal George Pipon Francis, that the Royal Arch exaltation ceremony, although naturally quite colourful and dramatic in itself, could be improved by incorporating even more dramatic elements to the benefit of the candidates understanding.
Geoffrey went on to say that the Province thoroughly supports this initiative and the Past Deputy Grand Superintendent, Steven Reid, together with the present Deputy Grand Superintendent and the Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals have produced a preliminary booklet, yet to be finalised, to guide chapters regarding its suggestions.
He informed the companions that the enhancements were not in any way obligatory but it was hoped it would be interesting to watch, providing food for thought to allow chapters to use those portions they wished or all if they deemed it appropriate. It also provided an opportunity to further extend the recommended practice of sharing the work, a practice that most companions found advantageous.
Geoffrey said that although the Royal Arch ritual had in fairly recent memory been subject to much change, this exercise would introduce very little actual innovation to the ritual but merely seeks to enhance it. He concluded by asking those present to be open hearted in viewing what was to follow and not to forget that chapters vary enormously in their current existing workings.
The demonstration commenced with Ray Hope acting as the candidate for exaltation. As all those present were familiar with the full exaltation ceremony, as explained by the narrator at various points in the demonstration, only the sections where the enhancements played a part were actually demonstrated. These centred mainly on the areas concerned with sojourners preparation of the ground for the Most Holy Place, the resulting ‘discovery of importance’ and the relating of this discovery to those sat in council. The enhancements introduced visual actions and physical movement of the companions round the chapter that supplemented and added meaning to the words traditionally spoken. They also served to provide an opportunity to further share the work of the ceremony amongst the participants.
At its conclusion the team were warmly applauded for their obvious hard work in preparing for the demonstration.
The Grand Superintendent said he had enjoyed the demonstration, that was delivered to a very high standard by all concerned and certainly provided those attending with plenty of food for thought and contemplation.
Tony then said he had another reason to visit the chapter – to honour and thank Stuart Blagg for his hard work and dedication during his year as the Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah. He said Stuart had visited many chapters around the Province and was very popular in the chapters he had visited.
Tony concluded by thanking the three principals for welcoming him and the Provincial team. Ron then presented Tony with a cheque for £250 from the chapter for the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. This was followed by the Wigan Group Chairman, Malcolm Taylor who presented Tony with £500 also for the WLFC. Tony thanks Ron and Malcolm for their donations, which he said he was sure the final recipients would be very grateful.
Ron then rose for the first rising, after which Danny Jones gave greetings on behalf of himself and the 21 grand officers. The Grand Superintendent accompanied by the Provincial team and the grand officers recessed from the chapter. Ron concluded the risings and closed the chapter.
The companions then enjoyed a wonderful meal at the festive board. After the meal Ian Cuerden responded to the toast to grand officers, after praising the demonstration team he moved to the toast to the Grand Superintendent which he proposed with some humour and amusement of the companions.
Tony replied to the toast by thanking the three principals and companions of Wigan Chapter for their invitation, hospitality and the good ritual he had witnessed in the chapter, although he said it was a little disappointing that there was not a real candidate – Tony urged all the companions to talk to their brethren who were not Royal Arch Masons, to tell them what a great order they were missing out on and to encourage them to join “this wonderful degree”. He again thanked and praised Stuart Blagg for his work as Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah. He also thanked all the acting Provincial officers for their support. In conclusion Tony thanked the chapter and the group for their donations to the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity saying: “We are about to go into festival and although I do not have details for you now, I know that the WLFC needs your support as its donations will fall dramatically when we go into the festival, so I urge all lodges and chapters to give as much as they can to the WLFC”.