Thursday, 16 June 2016

Chapter ... and verse!

Last night I attended a 'Chapter of Improvement' at Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London. The 'Chapter of Improvement' gives members of Royal Arch Masonry the opportunity to practice the 'work' they are going to do at a forthcoming meeting, and as I am attending such a meeting this afternoon (I am a member of Minchenden Oak Chapter No.5933, and one of its meetings is taking place today), I thought that it might be a good idea to get some practice in!

In England and Wales, Royal Arch Masonry – or to give it its correct title, Holy Royal Arch – is a degree of Freemasonry that is open to anyone who has been a Master Mason (i.e. a 3rd Degree Freemason) for four or more weeks. (In my case it took me a lot longer to join; I became a Master Mason on my 50th birthday in 2000, and only joined a Royal Arch Chapter just less than five years ago.) It builds upon the work done by a candidate to become a Master Mason, and the allegorical ritual that is used is based upon the story of the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem.

The Triple Tau. This is the Grand Emblem of Royal Arch Masonry. The tau is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet, and in ancient times it was used as a symbol for resurrection. In the Old Testament of the Bible it is said to have been marked on the foreheads of men who lamented sin.
My task in my Chapter is to act as the doorkeeper. This does not sound particularly important, but my main task today is to make sure that a new candidate is properly ready before they are introduced to the three Principals (i.e. the people in charge of the Chapter), and to ensure that the door to the Chapter room is locked when any ritual is being enacted, and unlocked when members need to leave or re-enter. I don't have a lot to say, but I am finding it difficult to remember the correct words I have to use ... hence my need to practice!

This is almost my last Masonic meeting before the summer break. The last one will be towards the end of July when I attend a meeting of the Veritatem Sequere Lodge No.9615. (N.B. Veritatem sequere means 'follow truth'.)

This is Hertfordshire's Research Lodge, and I am currently the Junior Warden, the third most important Officer in the Lodge. (A research lodge is a particular type of Masonic lodge that is devoted to Masonic research. It does not confer degrees, but its meeting are generally open to any Freemason who wishes to attend. The main part of the work done in the meeting will usually be in the form of a lecture that has been prepared by one of the Lodge's members, and after we have eaten our post-meeting meal, this is normally followed by some sort of informal discussion about the content of the lecture.) At this meeting I will be delivering a lecture entitled FREEMASONRY AND THE BRITISH ARMY, and thanks to the subject I am talking about, I expect that there will be a fairly large number of attendees.

As you may already know, Rudyard Kipling was a Freemason, and some of his poetry has a Masonic theme. One that particularly comes to mind is BANQUET NIGHT.
"Once in so often," King Solomon said,
Watching his quarrymen drill the stone,
"We will club our garlic and wine and bread
And banquet together beneath my Throne,
And all the Brethren shall come to that mess
As Fellow-Craftsmen – no more and no less."

"Send a swift shallop to Hiram of Tyre,
Felling and floating our beautiful trees,
Say that the Brethren and I desire
Talk with our Brethren who use the seas.
And we shall be happy to meet them at mess
As Fellow-Craftsmen – no more and no less."

"Carry this message to Hiram Abif –
Excellent master of forge and mine: –
I and the Brethren would like it if
He and the Brethren will come to dine
(Garments from Bozrah or morning-dress)
As Fellow-Craftsmen – no more and no less."

"God gave the Hyssop and Cedar their place –
Also the Bramble, the Fig and the Thorn –
But that is no reason to black a man's face
Because he is not what he hasn't been born.
And, as touching the Temple, I hold and profess
We are Fellow-Craftsmen – no more and no less."

So it was ordered and so it was done,
And the hewers of wood and the Masons of Mark,
With foc'sle hands of Sidon run
And Navy Lords from the Royal Ark,
Came and sat down and were merry at mess
As Fellow-Craftsmen – no more and no less.

The Quarries are hotter than Hiram's forge,
No one is safe from the dog-whip's reach.
It's mostly snowing up Lebanon gorge,
And it's always blowing off Joppa beach;
But once in so often, the messenger brings
Solomon's mandate: "Forget these things!
Brother to Beggars and Fellow to Kings,
Companion of Princes – forget these things!
Fellow-Craftsmen, forget these things!"


  1. Well Bob I hope you have a successful and enjoyable meeting. My chapter met on Monday and last night was KT where I gave a talk on Hugues de Payen who was the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar. It was a bit of an abbreviated talk as the traffic in Berkshire was a nightmare last night with Ascot and the M4 and we started 30 minutes late as so many were stuck. Still that is my last masonic outing until September - it's a bit like the end of the school term.

    My chapter after a pretty dire time is fortunately looking up. On Monday a v capable, senior chap joined us as our DC and he will hopefully give us all a good shaking up. Also another person has agreed to join. Now we just need to find a couple of real live candidates. I have the press gang out!


    1. Guy,

      Greetings! The COI was a great success as the Preceptor not only allowed participants to have a go at getting their ritual right before gently correcting any mistakes, but also explained why certain bits of ritual should be delivered in a particular way in order to get the meaning across.

      I have delivered my lecture about Freemasonry in the British Army to The Combined Services Lodge in Berkshire, and can appreciate why any serious hold up on the M4 and in the Ascot area would impact on the starting time of a meeting.

      My Chapter was definitely on the downward path to handing in its Charter before several members of my Mother Lodge joined. Not only did we drastically reduce its average age, but we brought in a bit of much needed enthusiasm. Regular COIs are being held in the run up to a meeting, with the result that the newer members are becoming a team who work well together with the enthusiastic older members. Over the last two years we have have five exaltees, and they all seen quite keen to get involved.