Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, Excellent Companions and Companions, I have pleasure in submitting, for your consideration and approval, my first Annual Report on the activities of the Holy Royal Arch in the Province of Devonshire.
This has been a very positive year for the Holy Royal Arch in Devonshire, with several significant Convocations taking place. In January, Harmony Chapter No.156 celebrated their 150th Anniversary and in October, Unity Chapter No.1247 celebrated their 125th Anniversary. Each of these milestones was attended by The Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, many members of the ‘Provincial Team’, and a goodly number of visiting Companions. Each Convocation being greatly enjoyed by all in attendance. In February, the Grand Superintendent, his Co-Principals and a team of Active Provincial Officers conducted the Exaltation Ceremony for Companion Clayton Lonie Jr. at the meeting of St. John’s Chapter No.70 in Plymouth. It was a delightful ceremony conducted in a manner which enthralled Companion Clayton and all present. Grateful thanks and congratulations must go to all the Active Officers who took part. In March, the Chapter of Concord held a ‘Blue Table’ evening for prospective Exaltees; of which there were, if I recall correctly, at least seven. MEGS gave a short introduction to the evening; each of the Principal Officers of the Chapter gave a brief explanation of their role and then questions from those attending were answered. It was a successful evening leading to several new members joining.
The most significant event of the year was the Consecration of the Devonshire Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter No.3924, which took place at the Langstone Cliff Hotel in Dawlish Warren on Wednesday 29th June. The Consecrating ceremony was led by the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, E. Comp Simon Rowe, the 2nd Provincial Grand Principal, E. Comp Gerald Watson as Haggai and the Deputy Grand Superintendent, E. Comp Chris Roach as Joshua. From the moment the Provincial Chapter was opened, the Companions present, totalling over 220, including the MEGS of 11 visiting Provinces, were treated to a ceremony that none will forget. The ceremony was directed in an exemplary manner by the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, E. Comp John Sevieri, whose interactions with the MEGS and the Founders of the new Chapter enthralled all those in attendance. E. Comp Christopher Pengelly, Past Grand Superintendent, whose dream the founding of a Stewards’ Chapter had been, gave a wonderful oration to the Companions. The Consecration Ceremony concluded with the Installation of the Principals of the new Chapter; E. Comp Brian Meldon, PGSwdB, as MEZ; E. Comp Tony Moore, PAGSoj, as Haggai and E. Comp Jeff Bailey, PAGSoj, as Joshua. The Stewards’ Chapter will complement the activities of the ‘J’ Team led by E. Comp David Jones, PAGDC. Whereas the J Team is, primarily, used to support Chapters at Exaltation Ceremonies, the Stewards’ Chapter can help if a Chapter finds itself without one of its own members able to undertake a specific piece of ritual.
The Most Excellent Grand Superintendent and his Co-Principals have, between them, been present at every Installation Convocation. In fact, at many all have been present and, at every meeting they and the Chapter have been very well supported by the Grand and Active Officers. Their average attendance at Installation Convocations has been 17; a magnificent number! On behalf of the Province, I would like to thank the Active Officers for their outstanding commitment and support throughout the year. The companionship we have shared with them has been very rewarding.
In April, another large contingent of Devonshire Companions attended the Supreme Grand Chapter Annual Convocation to support Companions of our Province receiving preferment. Our congratulations go to E. Comp Jeff Bailey on his promotion to Past Assistant Grand Sojourner; E. Comps Alan Newberry and Michael Newman on their appointments as Past Grand Standard Bearers, and E. Comp Roger Sleep on his appointment as Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies.
I now turn to membership of our wonderful order. On November 1st 2015 the number of members in our Province stood at 1861. Our membership, in line with most other Provinces, had seen a decline for a good many years. I can report that as of 1st November 2016 the number of members in our Province stands at 1868; a net increase of 7 members. The first increase for a significant number of years and, hopefully, the first signs of growth. We cannot, however, be complacent. The number of Royal Arch Companions in our Province stands at 36% of the number of Craft Brethren. So approximately two out of every three Brethren in our Province do not yet enjoy the Companionship that we Royal Arch Masons enjoy at our Convocations. Companions, spread the word; there is much more to enjoy if they were to complete their ‘journey in Freemasonry’ and join us in The Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.
Sadly, since the last Scribe Ezra report, we have lost 35 of our Companions to the Grand Chapter above. The most notable among them being E. Comp Fred Davey, PGStB, Past Third Provincial Grand Principal; E. Comp Fred Coombs, PAGSoj and E. Comp Alan Newberry, PGStB. The loss of Alan, my predecessor as Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra, was of special significance to me as I had so much to learn from him about the office I now hold.
Ending on a more cheerful note, I have many to thank for their help and advice throughout my first year in office. The ‘Grand Sanhedrin’ for their forbearance as I learn the intricacies of my post; all those who have aided and assisted me; in particular my Assistant, E. Comp Richard Spencer, who makes wonderful coffee! Also, a special mention for E. Comp Conrad Donaldson, Provincial Grand Treasurer, who has been a joy to work with, and it has been fun ‘learning the ropes’ together.
Finally, I must give thanks to the Scribe’s Ezra of the Chapters in our Province; every one of whom I think I have now met. They have been of great help to me in my first year and I look forward to working with them again in the coming years.
I look forward to the coming year with enthusiasm and wish you all good health to enjoy your Royal Arch Freemasonry to the full.
Anthony J. Parker Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra
1st November 2016