Companions, I am delighted to have this opportunity to address you today, after 12 hugely enjoyable months, since we last met.
The Executive and Acting Provincial Officers are so very grateful for the courtesy extended to us all, during our „Sojourn‟ to our 21 Provincial meeting venues and indeed when visiting our Kindred Provinces; where we have greatly enjoyed the honour of representing South Wales and it is very pleasing to see so many friends here today, who make our Annual Convocation all the better for their much valued support and friendship and we thank them for taking the time to support us here today, in Cardiff.
I have been afforded a tremendous privilege in leading an Executive Team who are both committed and totally dedicated to ensure our Province is productive, content and responsive. I am indebted to all of them for their sage advice and unstinting loyalty. The hospitality we have received from our chapters has been second to none. As well as visiting Chapters in a private capacity, I have been pleased with the standards achieved in the 23 Installation Convocations I have attended, in year one and I look forward to attending the 46 remaining Chapter Installations, as scheduled; over the next 2 years.
Following my Appointment as Grand Superintendent in 2017 and subsequent Investiture, I prioritorised the following strategic areas: Charity, Communication, Reporting SGC Officers, Royal Arch Representatives and Membership.
Your continued generosity as Companions of the Royal Arch is uplifting and humbling. As well as so generously donating to the 2021 RMBI Festival individually (through your membership of the Craft), all our 69 Chapters have also donated to the Festival. To which end, Companion Deputy President (E.Comp William) and Companion Chairman (E.Comp Sir Paul), I am delighted to announce that earlier this month, the Provincial Grand Treasurer transferred from Provincial Grand Chapter to the 2021 RMBI Festival a further sum of £15,000. This brings our total Royal Arch contribution to date to £70,000. A figure which all of you Companions ought to be justly proud and I take this opportunity to thank you publicly.
Today, as every year, you will no doubt generously contribute to charity via use of Gift Aid envelopes and I would once again urge you to please go back to your Chapters and consider using Gift Aid envelopes at all of your Convocations and I emphasise the benefit of gift aid and the need to tick the gift aid box on the envelope, if you are a Tax payer. We are already seeing an increase in charitable giving by using these envelopes throughout the Province. I thank you also for purchasing the Provincial Red pens on sale today, which all go towards balancing our outgoing commitments.
We have improved the breadth of platforms available to the membership and potential membership, by going live on the Twittersphere and by appointing a dedicated Royal Arch Provincial Communications Officer; working closely with the Craft Provincial Communications Officer. Since my Installation at Hendre Chapter last week, on the Twittersphere alone, we have had over 4000 interactions; views and forwarded posts. We must embrace all communication tools available to us and keep pace with an ever changing World. Under the lead of Supreme Grand Chapter, “Project Hermes” will develop with the aim that individual Scribes E will have improved access to Adelphi and this will no doubt prove an innovation to inputting and accessing timely reporting of our membership data.
Reporting Supreme Grand Chapter Officers
This year, a new electronic reporting system has ensured transparency, fairness and provided opportunities to reward merit and ability. I have been pleased with the positive and supportive involvement of Officers of Supreme Grand Chapter. Your input and invaluable experience is essential in ensuring that we reward and inspire Companions to actively participate in our future. Several Companion Grand Officers have spoken to me with regard to the possibility of meeting as Grand Chapter Officers – regularly, perhaps in a forum such as we enjoy in our Craft Lodge of Benevolence. There also plans afoot for another new Chapter, which will unfold after the recess.
Royal Arch Representatives
As a Province, we will continue to build momentum in the welcome development of Royal Arch Representatives in our Craft Lodges by increasing their visibility and activity. I want to thank all 160 Lodges for embracing the role of the Lodge Royal Arch Representative and the Joint Executive Leads on this initiative are; APGM Marc Lewis and the 2nd Provincial Grand Principal, with the Officers in charge being the Craft Provincial Membership Officer; WBro. Neil Martin Evans and the RA Membership Officer, EComp Simon Daniel. It is imperative that the Craft Royal Arch Representatives have an opportunity to speak at our Lodge meetings, and I am grateful to the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master for his full support and leadership in this aim.
You will have seen Companions that we continue in an enviable position with a second year of both increased growth in Members and Memberships. The best Ambassadors for this trend to continue are you, by your enthusiasm and enjoyment of our Order. We have fully embraced the membership Pathway and by the Royal Arch Provincial Membership Officer, working closely with the Craft Provincial Membership Officer, we have been able to focus strongly on increasing the conversion rate of Craft Masons becoming members of the Royal Arch; including Exaltations and rejoining members. We will continue to promote and embrace The Membership Pathway and Solomon, our online searchable repository for Masonic learning. In the Royal Arch Province of South Wales, we retain approaching 9 out of 10 subscribing memberships and I am most grateful to the Deputy Grand Superintendent and the 2nd Provincial Grand Principal, Phillip Aubrey, for leading on the roll-out of the Talking Heads and In Camera presentations.
Companions, at the PGL Committee Meeting, held last month, our RWPGM (the ME3GP) afforded me the singular honour of addressing those gathered; once again highlighting the close working relationship between the Craft and Royal Arch.
That Address (which is on the Website) highlighted our close affinity and support of other Orders and Degrees. Whilst “Pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, i.e. those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Royal Arch”, our membership of other Orders and Degrees is to be celebrated and supported. Members of other Orders and Degrees retain their memberships and are keen Ambassadors for both the Craft and Royal Arch and we should not think that we have any different concerns than they do. By developing stronger working relationship with other Orders, we can also learn from what they are doing right.
To ensure your views and ideas are being listened to I will be initiating a “Conversation” with our membership, both Craft and Royal Arch. We want to learn and develop together and ultimately increase the proportion of those subscribing Craft members who complete their journey of pure ancient Freemasonry by being Exalted into the Royal Arch. I will be assisted in this exciting venture by E.Comp. Gwilym Jones, Past 2nd Provincial Grand Principal, the ProvGSE and others.
One of the items of conversation will be your preferred wishes for the Provincial Meetings, location, and type of event, meals, timings and days of the working week or Saturdays – should the Craft and Royal Arch meetings be joint or kept separate? The quality and cost-effectiveness of our Masonic Centres will no doubt provide a stimulating topic of conversation for you to engage with.
I am grateful to E.Comp David Suter, Past 2nd Provincial Grand Principal for providing a Ritual Support Team to assist Chapters when emergencies happen, such as key personal not being able to attend and deliver ritual. Remember Companions, the emphasis should always be on the quality of the ceremony for our Principals (at Installations) and our Exaltees.
I again wholeheartedly recommend to all of you Installed First Principals to consider joining Hendre and Lord Swansea Chapters, where you will receive a warm welcome.
As we look back over the last year, with great pride in our Active Provincial Officers we now look forward to those whom I have Invested today to carry the Baton and maintain the standards expected by our illustrious predecessors.
It is a great honour for me to be the one investing you today, on behalf of the Province and I offer my personal thanks and gratitude to all those who have made today such an enjoyable success and in particular, the Provincial Grand Scribe E, Provincial Deputy Grand Scribe E, our new Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Provincial Officers on duty, the Office Team Volunteers, Cardiff Masonic Hall Management & Staff and the “Set up Team” and for those who will so kindly pack away after we close this Convocation.
Finally, Companions, I am not sure who wishes to claim the honour of having been a subscribing member of the Royal Arch the longest here today but I can tell you that the newest is Companion Rob Fry, who was Exalted into Llantwit Major Chapter just last evening and I am sure we welcome him into our Chapter Family.
Diolch yn fawr!