Wednesday November 30th was a very cold, bleak night. The weather did not prevent a small but interested group of Lodge Royal Arch Representatives from Southern Area Craft Lodges meeting together at Audenshaw Masonic Hall. There our company was greeted by a very influential group of leaders in both the Craft and the Royal Arch within the Province of East Lancashire. WBro John Pearson PSGD, the APGM for the Southern Area led the Craft side of this group, but he was ably supported by WBro Gerry Hodson, PAGDC and WBro Peter Douthwaite, PProvJGW, the Chairmen of Audenshaw and Ashton & Mossley Districts respectively. The Royal Arch contingent was more than ably led by EComp David H Thompson PAGSoj, the Second Provincial Grand Principal and EComp Eddie Barlow PGStB, the Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals for the Southern Area. They were assisted in turn by all three of Audenshaw’s Royal Arch District Officers, EComps William Wootton PProvDepGSwdB, Tony Freemont PProvDepGDC and Russell Pike PProvGStwd. Also in attendance was EComp Brendan Harte the Provincial Grand Mentor, though he shied away from the group photo above.
The meeting began with EComp Russell Pike delivering a briefing on the roles that the Lodge Royal Arch Representative could fulfill in encouraging brethren to consider joining the Royal Arch, pointing out that the issues around Recruitment were the same but different to those facing the Craft, for only men who have already joined Freemasonry can join the Royal Arch. However, the meeting really got going after Russell had finished his excellent presentation and we got the opportunity to indulge in an open discussion with all those present. To say that this was a wide-ranging discussion would do it an injustice for it covered an amazingly broad range of topics in quite a short time. It was most encouraging to discover that all of the senior Provincial Officers present were open to the comments from the floor and repeatedly assured the group that they would look into suggestions that were made, and if it was possible, act on them.
Obviously, I cannot speak for everyone present, but I found the meeting a model for meetings of this type. The briefing was short, direct and well delivered and the follow up discussion was clearly welcome by the organisers and seemed likely to be followed up. This was one of the best meetings of its type that I have attended for a long time.