Companions, I’m delighted to see many of you today at our Provincial Convocation and am delighted that, this year, we have been blessed by the company of the Most Excellent Second Grand Principal, Russell John Race – Sir, I very much hope that you and Excellent Companion Paul Grier, Grand Standard Bearer, have enjoyed our proceedings.
To those visiting for the first time, I extend you a hearty welcome and trust that you have enjoyed the spectacle that is our Annual Convocation and Investiture ceremony. If, however, you are a regular attendee, I am delighted to welcome you back for what I hope has been an enjoyable event for all concerned.
For the last four years, I have been blessed to have had the support of an excellent Executive team in the Royal Arch. The success of this order – and especially the progress we have made in the last year – owes an enormous deal to those Companions. I remain encouraged by the energy and enthusiasm on display from our Principals, their Assistants and, not least, our Deputy Grand Superintendent, and am greatly looking forward to working with the new Provincial team which we have appointed today to develop this very special Order still further.
To you, he may be our Deputy Grand Superintendent and an outstanding ambassador for this order – but to me, he is so very much more – a confidante and safe pair of hands into which much can be entrusted. He has my untiring confidence in his ability and I would be much the poorer in the Royal Arch without him. I must not forget to mention the excellent work undertaken during the last year by Michael Stillwell and Alan Cope, our Principals, Michael Page and Graham Raven, our Assistants, Paul Christopher and Chris Ashby, and their Administrative and Ceremonial teams that have supported us, David Campbell, our Almoner – and you as members – so exceptionally well.
Today, we celebrate and rejoice with those who have contributed so much to the success of our Chapters in West Kent and, as a result, are rewarded with a first appointment or promotion. The Royal Arch in West Kent continues to be is in extremely good health, as evidenced by the on-going improvement in our membership trends. We have seen more members join, a reduction in our “controllable losses”, and I trust that this will continue for years to come.
This year, we have all been extremely busy with a number of new Royal Arch initiatives. We have introduced the “More Theatre” initiative, which was so beautifully presented by our Provincial Chapter Stewards at their last Convocation and such was its success, that a number of our Chapters have requested a delivery of it at their Convocations.
We have extensively enhanced the Royal Arch segment of our Provincial website, which now includes a variety of new resources for Chapters, including Lectures, documentation, links to Solomon and a variety of support material to enhance our meetings.
Our new University Scheme Chapter – which we consecrated last year – has exalted 4 new Companions and has a full list of work for the coming 12 months and we are greatly looking forward to the Consecration of New Ripon Falls Chapter on 27 June 2020, which I am led to believe, may prove to be one of the largest meetings we have ever held at Oakley House – so do book in to attend if you have yet to do so.
The three Talking Heads presentations held in the last year resulted in 7 exaltations to date, another 3 to be held this year and a further 4 members who have committed to join once their circumstances enable them to do so.
Our monthly Royal Arch Executive meetings are now held at different centres across the Province which enables us to undertake a visit to a Chapter, meeting there on that date, once our Executive meeting is concluded. This has been very well received by the recipient Chapters, greatly increased the attendance at the meetings and helped us build even closer working relationships with our Chapters and Companions.
As I stated at my investiture way back in October 2015, Membership is and will continue to be our prime focus and whilst good progress has been made in the Craft, the progress in the Royal Arch has been truly encouraging. At that time, I described our 33% conversion rate of Craft member to Companion as unacceptably low, and set our Royal Arch team an objective to increase this to 40%, with an expectation that 50% should be considered the norm in West Kent by the end of my term of office. Well, the Royal Arch Executive has certainly not sat on its laurels.
Controllable losses in the Royal Arch have reduced considerably and resignations have halved over the last 2 years, at the time when exaltations continue to rise – we have flat-lined our membership statistics, with way over the 40% target for Craft members in the Royal Arch in four years. We will continue our focus and progress in this area and strive to reach 50% of our Craft members in the Royal Arch way before the intended date.
To underpin our membership activities, I have appointed Excellent Companion Graham Raven to the new role of Royal Arch Provincial Membership Officer, working in a similar fashion to that which works successfully in the Craft. Excellent Companion Graham will work with the Second Provincial Grand Principal on the attraction, retention and retrieval of our Companions, and work closely with nominees we will identify in each Lodge, who will facilitate Craft members to complete their journey through exaltation.
To assist him in that aim, each Craft member receiving his Grand Lodge Certificate receives a Royal Arch brochure and a personal invitation from me to join the Royal Arch. In addition, I am personally contacting the 269 Master Masons that have been raised during the last 3 years, the 564 Past Masters who have yet to be exalted and the 986 unattached and former members of the Royal Arch who are based in West Kent, with a personal invitation to consider Royal Arch membership, and which will be followed up by our Royal Arch facilitators.
Today marks the culmination of years of service from two of our key Provincial stalwarts, namely Graham Raven, our Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals, who has served his office with distinction for 3 years, but also assisted in our Provincial Office and worked tirelessly as part of our Communications team – I wish him well in his new role as Royal Arch Membership Officer and look forward to witnessing the results of his and his team’s labours. Secondly, Michael Stillwell, Holder of the Invicta Award, for his tireless and devoted service as Third, and Second Provincial Grand Principal over the last four years – he deserves a well-earned rest and I shall miss him dreadfully on the Executive.
Companions, I cannot underestimate the importance I attach to this very special Order and have made it very clear that those Craft members who have aspirations to active Provincial Rank, will only be considered as such, if they are members of the Royal Arch.
I urge you to embrace this evolutionary process and help develop the Royal Arch in West Kent so that we may prosper still further and become even more relevant to the rich seam of quality brethren that await our engagement – not us waiting for them to make their interest in the Royal Arch known to us so encourage you actively invite brethren to become a Companion of our Order.
Companions, I remain as excited and optimistic about the future of the Royal Arch in West Kent today as I was when appointed to this office, and look forward to working with you all over the coming years. Do continue to spread the word, and may The True and Living God Most High, bless you all …