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A resource for Royal Arch Chapters

Paul Renton, author of the article, in regalia


The following is adapted from the speech given by Paul Renton, Chair of the Royal Arch Membership and Communications Working Party, to Supreme Grand Chapter in November 2023. In this address, he introduces Archway, a new resource for Royal Arch Chapters to use.

Companions, my name is Paul Renton and I am Chair of the Royal Arch Membership and Communications Working Party, or MCWP as it is known for short. 

MCWP was set up by the Committee of General Purposes early in 2021, around the same time as the Members’ Pathway was released. One of our initial aims was to examine whether a similar asset was needed for the Royal Arch. 

‘Archway’ is a resource that has been specifically designed for use by Royal Arch Chapters. I would like to emphasise that our approach to Archway has been underpinned by two key factors: first, a considerable amount of background research – including several national surveys; second, a wide range of consultation processes about what was actually wanted. 

Our first task was to explore the vastly differing array of narratives used across our Constitution to explain the Royal Arch. To address this and provide a more consistent narrative, the Discover More booklet was created, which I believe has been well received. 

The two national surveys we conducted asked recently exalted Companions about their experiences of joining, and Freemasons who have yet to join about their perception of the Royal Arch. 

We were also able to examine a range of national statistics, along with the results of extensive consultation by the Rulers, with Grand Superintendents about their views of what was needed.

The main findings were: 

• The percentage of Craft members in the Royal Arch varied from 30 to 54 per cent across Provinces. 

• One-to-one personal contact was given as the main reason for joining, along with a perceived fascination of the Royal Arch and a desire to complete the journey in Pure Antient Masonry. 

• However, while new members were warmly welcomed into their Chapters, many found the ceremony difficult to understand and needed encouragement to become actively involved or they would drift away. 

• The general declining membership and age profile was also identified as a critical issue. 

• Finally, the support and encouragement of Royal Arch Craft Representatives was clearly identified as a critical part of any solution.

In essence, our research highlighted more than ever the need to create Archway. 

When E Comp Patrick Penny addressed Supreme Grand Chapter two years ago, he indicated that Archway would not be a top-down model and that we would gather ideas, suggestions and feedback. This is exactly what we have done. 

We therefore consulted a number of sounding boards or focus groups of Grand Superintendents and of Deputy Grand Superintendents – and we hijacked, in the nicest possible way, the past two annual meetings of Deputy Grand Superintendents to seek their ideas and to share our developments. We have also shared our progress at every stage with all Grand Superintendents, and sought their feedback via their RCG Liaison Group. 

As work progressed, the main messages from these groups was that a clear narrative about the Royal Arch and its relationship with the Craft was essential to move forward, and that we must keep Archway simple for Chapters to use. 

Work to address the first of these issues began several years ago and I hope you would agree that our efforts to improve our communications strategy has seen a massive improvement in the profile of the Royal Arch and greater clarity provided by the Discover More narrative. This has also laid the groundwork for the new, integrated Strategy for Freemasonry, with its clear reinforcement of the Craft and Royal Arch being ‘One Organisation’. 

The tools within Archway are, therefore, just the final part of this puzzle – it provides Chapters with simple resources and examples of good practice in how to address the more practical challenges they face. 

But here I wish to stress that this is not a replica of the Members’ Pathway for the Royal Arch; rather, Archway is a series of resources and case studies from around the country that illustrate the ‘art of the possible’ – with a ‘Yes, if’, and not a ‘No, because’ approach. 

It shows how Chapters can adapt and evolve to secure their future. Specific advice for Royal Arch representatives is also contained within various areas.

Archway red logo


You can read more here: Archway resources and materials.

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