Do you remember your Exaltation? When and where did it take place?
I joined the Royal Arch in 1984, two years after I was Initiated into the Craft. I was Exalted into Pentangle Chapter No. 1174 in the Province of East Kent, and I remain a subscribing Companion to this day. Like all first ceremonies, I have a vivid recollection of some parts of the ceremony, and other parts fitted into place while watching others being Exalted later, but certain moments have stayed with me, just under 40 years later at the time of writing.
I still very much enjoy seeing new Companions go through their Exaltation ceremony and I especially enjoy catching up with them afterwards to hear their immediate reaction.
How important has the Royal Arch been for you during your time as a Freemason?
Very important. My time as a Companion has allowed me to experience a new dimension to my Freemasonry, be that through the beautiful Exaltation ceremony, new friendships as my mother Chapter draws candidates from three Craft Lodges, or a better understanding of what it means to be a Freemason. I became MEZ (the Royal Arch equivalent of Worshipful Master) of Pentangle in 1994 and found that, just like the Craft, this position of leadership within the Chapter provided a new perspective.
What advice would you give to a newly Exalted Companion?
My first piece of advice would be to see an Exaltation ceremony from the view of a spectator rather than as a participant. You will undoubtedly have heard the same after your Initiation and it really shouldn’t be underestimated how much you will gain in understanding the place of the Royal Arch and of the ceremony from seeing someone else go through the same experience.
Second, make sure that you aren’t stretching yourself too thinly by taking on several roles in too short a space of time. It is important that everyone does it at a pace that suits their individual circumstances. The most important thing is to enjoy it.
We know that the new Strategy applies to both the Craft and the Royal Arch. Why has the decision been taken to make it a unified Strategy?
The English Constitution is unique in the fact that the Royal Arch is an integral part of our Masonic experience and the strong links between English Craft Freemasonry and the history of the Royal Arch in our Constitution are well documented.
The undeniable and intrinsic link between the two means that it is imperative for us to move forward with a coherent, integrated plan for both the Craft and Royal Arch. This way, we can make sure that Freemasonry within the English Constitution remains as special and unique as it always has been. Coherence is absolutely the key in this case and the new Strategy reflects that.
What are your priorities for the Royal Arch going forward as Pro First Grand Principal?
I would like to empower Freemasons who are not yet members of the Royal Arch to find out more about it. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to help us improve on describing the Royal Arch, having a compelling narrative that explains it and its importance to members.
Be it the striking ceremony or the fascinating history included within, there is undoubtedly something for all Freemasons to enjoy and appreciate. The more Freemasons who can experience this extension to their journey as Freemasons, the better off we will all be for it.
What advice would you give to a Master Mason who is unsure about whether he should join the Royal Arch?
Master Masons are often under pressure to do all sorts of things next. I would strongly encourage them, when the time is right for them to do something more in Freemasonry, to talk to their Royal Arch representative or to attend one of the many Master Masons evenings that are held in several Provinces and Districts. Perhaps best of all, talk to one of your friends who is wearing the Royal Arch jewel.
I have heard it said that a Freemason should wait until they have served as Worshipful Master of a Craft Lodge before they join the Royal Arch. I do disagree with this approach and had been a member of the Royal Arch for five years by the time I became the Worshipful Master of Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge No. 4605. I have no regrets about this choice.