Sunday, May 25, 2008

European Concept Royal Arch

Greetings Brethren and Companions,

This upcoming Tuesday, the 27th of May, 2008, will be a historic day for Freemasonry in Oregon and possible the United States. (Well, maybe I'm being a little too hopeful.) A group of Royal Arch Masons will be gathering in Roseburg, Oregon for the purpose of forming a European Concept Royal Arch Chapter, to be named Meridian Chapter. The business of the evening will include an explanation of the Concept, the conducting of an interest survey the answers of which will be passed along to the proposed High Priest once nominated, the actual nomination of the three Principal Officers for the Chapter, and the signing of a petition to request dispensation from The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oregon to form our Chapter. There will also be a musical performance and a lecture on Officialism and the Festive Board drawn from the writings of Dr. Albert Gallatin Mackey.

Here are the principles that are going to be used as the "filter" to find Companions suitable for this endeavor. Any who aren't willing to uphold these principles will not be considered for this particular project.

The Seven Guiding Principles of Meridian Royal Arch Masons:
  1. Arts and Education - The creativity and productivity of each member in the liberal arts and sciences should be earnestly cultivated. Masonic education should be part of every function. If there is not an original presentation available for a particular event, a reading may be taken from the vast array of literature pertaining to Royal Arch Masonry or Freemasonry in general.

  2. Ritual Excellence - In the performance of ritual, nothing short of excellence will be acceptable. The work should not only be memorized, but also be artfully delivered by those performing it. This will take a while to achieve, but sufficient time will be dedicated to work towards the accomplishment of this goal until it is achieved. Members will need to demonstrate their proficiency in the ritual work, and candidates will need to demonstrate their proficiency in the lecture and obligation of each degree before proceeding to the next.

  3. The Festive Board - At every event there should be just as much emphasis placed on the festive board as there is on the business, ritual, and education of our companions. Whether it is a potluck, a banquet, or a visit to a local restaurant, the Festive Board will be conducted with dignity, and members will be expected to attend and participate in the good food and fellowship.

  4. Masonic Relevance - We must ensure that all Chapter functions are relevant to Masonry. There will be no fund raisers except those which provide some legitimate and valuable form of Masonic advancement. Every effort should be directed toward helping individual members improve themselves in Masonry.

  5. Elegance of Dress - Our clothing is an outward symbol and reminder of our devotion to the highest standards of Masonic excellence, and the same amount of care and dignity should be given for our dress in Chapter as for a wedding, funeral, or other significant life event. The red chapter blazer will only be permitted to be worn by visiting District Deputies, Grand Officers, and Past Grand Officers. Everyone else (except current candidates or special guests) will be expected to wear a tuxedo, with a black jacket, red tie, and red vest or red cummerbund. The Sentinel will enforce this dress code under direction of the Excellent High Priest. New members should be directed prior to Exaltation or Affiliation as to where they may obtain these items for a modest price. This standard of dress should be maintained at all Meridian Chapter functions unless otherwise specified by the High Priest.

  6. Ambiance and Initiatic Focus - Ambiance helps open the heart and soul to receive what Masonry has to offer. Just as our dress should be elegant, our meeting locations should also be as pleasant as possible. We may not always have the best locations, but we should do what we can to make them comfortable and enjoyable. Freedom from unnecessary noise and interruption, the provision of music during refreshment, and appropriate candle-light (if permitted by the venue), are examples of good ambiance.

  7. Selectivity and Exclusivity - A European Concept body is a big commitment, and isn't suitable for everyone. We are dedicated to bringing in only those who are amicable towards these principles, and we will cheerfully recommend anyone wishing to become a Royal Arch Mason to a neighboring Chapter if they are not interested in meeting our strict requirements. We are trying to provide a unique, focused experience for those who are interested in it, and at the same time, project a positive image for both Royal Arch Masonry and Freemasonry in general. We are not desperate for membership, and never will be. If there aren't at least 12 Royal Arch Masons committed to these principles, then this Chapter should not exist. Once constituted, we must guard the west gate of this very unique Chapter so that these principles do not get subverted. We are trying to complement the existing programs, not compete with them, and to show this, many of our members will remain active in their existing Chapters.

I'm looking forward to hearing input from my online Brethren about this, and I will be posting a follow up to tell how the meeting went.


Anonymous said...

For the life of me, other than the red ties, I don't see where this is any different than what I find in my own Chapter. We either have degrees or education at each meeting, there is a formal festive period after the meeting, and the same standard of ritual work one finds in a Lodge is what's expected in the Chapter.

(We don't have different coloured blazers for different bodies here; that seems to be an American thing).

As for "guarding the west gate", I didn't realise some Masons were better than others.

I think what Chapters will find is as more young men come into the Craft, they'll eventually start going into the other bodies as well. These are generally pretty knowledgeable guys who want a high standard in their Masonry.

Justa Mason

Jeff said...

Companion "Justa,"

I'm glad to hear that the Royal Arch is treated with such a high standard in Canada. Keep up the good work.

As for "guarding the west gate," it isn't that some Masons are better than others but rather that we are looking for Masons willing to give a certain commitment level to the group. There is a reason we must assign an investigative committee or have three Companions vouch for a Master Mason when they are seeking to join a Chapter. It isn't just a rubber stamp to let them in. In every Masonic body it is important to assure that the members will get along well with one another. There can be good Masons here and good Masons there who just happen to disagree about how things should be done. It doesn't make either of them bad. So we aren't talking about good and bad, or better or worse. We encourage all Master Masons to consider our principles, and if willing to uphold them, to join with us in this particular effort. There are many other worthy efforts which I find no interest in myself, and others that I do. Lodges (and Chapters) are private institutions and each one can have its own character, its own activities and its own pursuits, all in keeping with the general principles of Masonry. We would hope that some Brethren will consider changing their behaviors and commitment levels in order to join our group, because that is a positive transformation and Masonry should be about transformation of the individual. So you see, ALL are invited, but some will not be interested in what we are doing. There are other Chapters around that offer a different experience for those who don't feel like ours is right for them.

Anonymous said...

Jeff wrote:
I'm glad to hear that the Royal Arch is treated with such a high standard in Canada. Keep up the good work.

My experience is we tend to be far more formal with our Masonry in some ways.

The only problem we seem to be facing in my part of the world is membership. There are too few active Comps. because of the membership decline of the last 40 years so you find a lot of recycling and a lot of people doing the same parts, sometimes in more than one Chapter. There are some Chapters where ritual is being read as a result, but certainly in mine the degrees are done from memory, except in a last-minute emergency.

Fund raising for general revenue also seems to be something peculiar to the U.S. I keep reading news stories about pancake breakfasts and fish fries. Here, we don't expect the general public to fund our fraternity. We do that ourselves through dues or investment income.


Anonymous said...

Some of this I like very much. Other parts seem very exclusionary and elitist. For that reason I fail to see how joing this endevour helps in the assembly of the temple built without hands.


Jeff Naylor said...

Anonymous said...
Some of this I like very much. Other parts seem very exclusionary and elitist. For that reason I fail to see how joing this endevour helps in the assembly of the temple built without hands.

Companion Anon, is Freemasonry not elite? If it is not, shouldn't it be?

Companion Jeff, Lodge Vitruvian in Indiana was strongly considering starting an EC Royal Arch Chapter at one time when we were diverted by some other issues. I wish you much luck in your endeavors, I'll be looking forward to seeing how you progress.

Anonymous said...

To guard the west gate from Master Masons (no greater pinnacle of our ancient and noble Craft) is dowright insulting. WE are not talking about a Craft lodge here. To think that some Master Masons would be deemed unfit to play with red ties and cumberbunds should insult us all.


Jeff said...

Allow me to restate again that I am not talking about blocking people out who are UNWORTHY. I am talking about protecting an organization from those who would not play well with the others in the organization. This would apply equally well with a Blue Lodge. This is why we investigate and vote on Affiliations, or petitions for Dual Membership. Being a Mason does not mean that you have the right to belong to every other Masonic organization out there. It does not! Lodges are private institutions, and each Lodge has the right to limit its own membership to those with whom it wants to extend the privilege of membership. Also, visiting is one thing, membership is another! Master Masons may visit a Lodge (Although it is the prerogative of the Master in most jurisdictions to forbid a Brother's entrance if he deems it necessary for some good reason such as unity of his own brethren) but to extend membership to such a visiting brother and allow them to vote in our financial matters, and hold office in our Lodge is something that we decide together as a private institution. We honor them as a Master Mason, recognize them as such, treat them as a brother, as an equal, and live up to our obligations to them, but we are not required or obligated to let them into our Lodge if we feel that it would create any disharmony in the Lodge whatsoever.

I am talking about worthy, good Master Masons. If I tried to join a Lodge that had its emphasis on Motorcycling and Football, I hope they would blackball me because I am not interested in either of those things and my decisions would be detrimental to the agenda of such a Lodge. That doesn't mean I'm a bad Mason, it means I am a different Mason.

Whether Blue Lodge, Scottish Rite, Shrine, York Rite, AMD, etc, etc... They all have the right to accept or reject whom they please. Not only at an organizational level, but at a constituent body level (hopefully). This right to vote against a person seeking affiliation protects the harmony and integrity of our Fraternity at the local level. Sure, it shouldn't happen all the time. Usually if someone isn't interested, they won't even bother petitioning!

And, while it may be true that there is no greater pinnacle to our ancient and noble craft than that of Master Mason, we are also told in our ceremonies that there is a possibility that we may never become a Master Mason. Being a Master Mason in title, and being a Master Mason at heart are two very different things which the ritual and our brethren of former years have long acknowledged. I would think for a long while before I would claim myself to be a true Master Mason, even though I have been taught to say that I am one, in title.

If your philosophy about allowing all Master Masons in is truly correct, we should eliminate investigating and balloting from all appendant organizations entirely, and instead admit anyone who can present a current receipt for dues and demonstrate their good standing in a Lodge of Master Masons. Further, we should allow Affiliations and Dual-membership in craft Lodges without balloting. Try to put this before Grand as legislation, and I bet it'll fail.

Your statement that we intend to "play with red ties and cumberbunds" (sic) insults the status of the Royal Arch in general and the serious effort and work that we are putting into this undertaking. We are trying to bring more excellence into our Royal Craft because we hold it esteemed and deeply value it for spiritual, moral and Masonic reasons. Your harsh words are a deep cut into our sincerity, and mine in particular. So long as you continue to refer to our proceedings in such a light manner, you are exactly the type of person I would vote against in *any* Masonic organization. I feel that I can say this here only because you are hiding under Anonymous and therefore these words do not bring any embarrassment or shame upon you personally from your other Brethren, and because I have been charged in Lodge to caution you against such speech for your own good. Shape up, bro.

Anonymous said...

If you want to run around and exclude worthy Masons and keep them from playing your reindeer games (running around with a red bow tie and cumberbund) then be my guest.

I will stick to my lowley blue lodge and the alchemical study of ritual.


Anonymous said...

I am an Oregon Mason and I can say that there is a small but very vocal clique here that is trying to insist that a tuxedo is the minimum required dress for attending lodge. This appears to be their playground.

Not only is this impractical and expensive, but I believe it steers away from what our Masonry should be about - meetings of men, not contests to see who can outdo the other in finery.

As far as I am concerned, as long as a brother Mason has it in his heart, his fashion choices are his own business.

Jeff said...

To the most recent Anonymous: Glad to hear from someone local. I have responded to your comment by writing a whole new post, and I hope you'll read it.