Companions attending Provincial Grand Chapter this year were afforded a wonderfully mild autumn day as they made their way into the Southport Convention Centre. Of the 731 in attendance the assembly saw 105 companions receive a first appointment and 90 companions promoted. The meeting also saw the appointment of three senior Royal Arch officers to their new posts, namely Paul Renton as Deputy Grand Superintendent, Barry Jameson as Second Provincial Grand Principal and Colin Rowling as Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals’.
After opening Provincial Grand Chapter, the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison welcomed the 34 distinguished guests from other Provinces which included four Grand Superintendents and said he really hoped that they would enjoy their time at the meeting and take back to their Provinces many happy memories of the meeting. After Tony announced their names the companions welcomed the visitors with acclamation in the usual West Lancashire manner.
Having proceeded to confirm the minutes of the last convocation of Provincial Grand Chapter held at Southport on 11 April 2016 Tony continued to address the companions, expressing his delight at seeing so many West Lancashire companions to share in the Provincial Convocation, some whom are principals of their chapters and those others who are attending for the first time. He hoped that they would all enjoy the convocation and return to their chapters saying what a wonderful occasion it had been and encourage others to come along in the future.
Tony continued his address by saying: “I hope that many of you have availed your selves of the PSA testing, that the Province has made available to all companions prior to this convocation. Over the years, Freemasons have contributed enormously to research into the possible causes and cures for prostate cancer and we will no doubt continue to do so in the future. Regular screening has been found to be one of the best methods of early identification and I hope that as a many of you as possible have been able to take advantage of the test. This screening opportunity has been made possible due to the generosity of our colleagues from the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity and I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to them for this.
This meeting marks the retirement of Danny Jones as my Deputy Grand Superintendent and I wish to place on record again my thanks to him for the outstanding commitment and support he has given to the Province and to me, over many, many years. I wish him well for a long, happy and healthy retirement from high office.
During Danny’s term in office, the Royal Arch Cabinet, under his leadership, have collectively implemented a series of initiatives aimed at promoting the Royal Arch. They have been sharing some of these ideas with their respective group chairman, and to-date, the feedback has been extremely positive. I trust that you all welcome the pop-up banners and posters that should already be in your Masonic halls and have been on display throughout the day. They have been designed to promote the Royal Arch and don’t they look splendid. Indeed, these colourful themes and images will be incorporated into a brand-new section of the Provincial website which will form part of a larger re-working of the whole Provincial site in due course.
These relatively new initiatives such as the Enhanced Exaltation, Talking Heads, and Joint Convocations combined with Provincial Team visits have certainly been well received and are now starting to have a positive impact. The over-riding reason the Province has been losing members is through resignation and these initiatives have served to arrest this decline, with the result that it has been reduced by over half, from 5% to 2%.
I sincerely hope that many of your chapters are continuing to adopt the Enhanced Ceremony of Exaltation. The enhanced ceremonies that I have attended have certainly helped both the candidates and, dare I say, some of our more established companions, to derive a greater enjoyment and understanding of the ceremony. The Talking Heads presentations have continued to be undertaken across the Province in many of our lodges and are proving to be successful means of recruitment.
Companions you can make a big difference to our recruitment. I would ask each one of you to consider yourselves membership officers. Talk to brethren in your lodges. At the festive boards sit next to a brother who is not yet a Royal Arch Mason, talk to him about the Royal Arch, whet his appetite, get him asking questions and introduce him to the Lodge Royal Arch lead. This could benefit your chapter, by ensuring you have exaltation ceremonies and thereby maintaining the interest of your chapter members.
This season, on 30 January, the members of Egerton Chapter No 2216, will celebrate the chapter centenary and I, together with the Provincial Team are looking forward to what will, no doubt, be a splendid occasion.
On a slightly less positive note, a number of chapters in our Province are considering merging together rather than amalgamating. I have to say, it is much simpler and less expensive upon the chapters, but careful thought is required, and I would urge any chapter contemplating such action to discuss it first with your Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals.
Additionally, if your chapter is considering closure, you may wish to follow the example of a number of Masonic bikers who are members of an association called the `Widows Sons`. Now I’m not suggesting you don your leathers companions, but these Royal Arch Masons were considering forming a new chapter, but instead they all joined Skelmersdale Waterloo Chapter No 1380, which was on the point of surrendering its charter. Companions the chapter is now thriving.
On 16 September, the Provincial Team representing the West Lancashire Clay Pigeon Shooting Society travelled to Suffolk and beat 19 other Provinces, to be the first winners of the national competition, The Jonathan Spence Tercentenary Trophy and raising £5,000 for charity in the process. Not only did they win that competition but last week at Coniston Cold in West Yorkshire, the team won the Watson Eden Trophy, which is held for the northern Provinces. Our congratulations go to the team members namely, Richard Dennison (Captain), Mike Casey, Jason Rhodes, Jason Coxhead, Andy McClements, Ian Heyes, David Smith, Danny Chester and Louise Jennings-Hoole, who was the high gun for the lady’s section. Well done companions and of course Louise. It’s wonderful to see the magnificent trophies on display here today.
Now Companions, I must make mention of the West Lancashire 2021 Festival for the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Firstly, I thank all those companions and chapters who have already pledged towards the Festival and would ask those of you who have not yet done so to consider doing so as soon as possible.
The Province has an enviable heritage of charitable giving across the entire spectrum of charitable need and I have no doubt that this Festival will show that once again West Lancashire is at the forefront of everything that is good about Freemasonry. I trust that every companion will support this Festival to the best of their ability.
The Royal Arch have up to date, contributed £41,000, for which I thank you, and may I say how thrilled I am to see so many of you wearing our new Provincial tie and indeed WEARING YOUR FESTIVAL JEWEL WITH PRIDE.
On your behalf I would like to express a big thank you to our Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra Peter Taylor, for the huge amount of work that he and his staff, Diana, Violet and Andrew, have put in to not only making this meeting such a success, but for all the work they have carried out during the year.
To Paul Hesketh the PrGDC and all his deputies, for their contribution to today’s ceremonial and for all you have done during the past year in carrying out your many duties around the Province. To Jim Miller the Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah and all the acting officers of the past year, I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed yourselves and that you have been able to attend many chapter meetings in your extended year of office.
And last, but by no means least, to all those excellent companions who have represented me at the many Royal Arch installation meetings throughout the year, my personal thanks for your continued loyalty and support.
Finally, may I thank those companions from the Chorley Group of Lodges and Chapters who have looked after us all so well here today. For stewarding this meeting, taking care of security and ensuring that we have been able to enjoy our convocation.
Grateful thanks also to the Southport Group for the loan of their masonic furniture. All these companions will, I am sure, be working long after we are enjoying ourselves at the bar and the banquet. Companions thank you for your attendance here today, continue to enjoy your Royal Arch Masonry and God bless you all.”
Before the closing of the convocation, Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra Peter Taylor declared that the count for the collection had taken place and the total was a fantastic £2,721.00 including gift aid. Provincial Grand Chapter was then closed in due form.
The festive board was enjoyed by 370 companions in attendance. After the meal the Provincial Grand Scribe Nehemiah David Barr gave the response on behalf of all the companions who had been appointed and promoted. Dave started by thanking Tony for conferring the respective honours upon the companions. He continued: “Companions, I have no doubt that the particular honour bestowed upon you is richly deserved for the work and support that you have given in maintaining our Order and that you are looked upon as a credit to your chapter”.