“IN THE BEGINNING”
A GLIMPSE OF THE EARLY YEARS OF ROYAL ARCH FREEMASONRY
As with Craft Freemasonry, there is a debate as to the origins of the Royal Arch, not helped by the scarcity of surviving evidence. From that evidence it is known that the Royal Arch was in London, York and Dublin by the late 1730’s.
A new Royal Arch ritual demonstration was launched at a recent meeting of the East Kent Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter 5866. The demonstration named “In the Beginning” was not the newest Star Wars film but a demonstration of the beginning of Royal Arch Masonry in the 1700’s. The demonstration team was led by the 2nd Provincial Grand Principal Clive Manuel. Clive along with Dennis Fordham, from Invicta Chapter 709, had researched and devised the demonstration in liaison with Cana Chapter 116 who have 250 year history and are the second oldest Chapter in England.
The traditions and working of the Holy Royal Arch and its regalia have obviously evolved over 250 years. Some very old Chapters retain traditions unique to them and thus for the purposes of the presentation Clive decided to focus upon, and briefly look at Cana Chapter No 116. It is one of the two oldest known surviving Chapters in the English Constitution. It has always met at Colne Lancashire and practised continuously since the 1730’s. It was officially warranted in 1769.
The presentation comprises of narration interspersed with short demonstrations of parts of the ritual. The narration was read from a script by the narrators rather than memorised in order to ensure that salient facts were not omitted which produced a user-friendly delivery. Props principally comprise of pull up banners showing illustrations of some of Cana’s regalia, facsimiles of aprons worn by some cast members and a recreation of their tracing board all of which are referred to at appropriate times in the presentation. The Script has been designed for a cast of two narrators, but the inaugural presentation had the luxury of four. The demonstration lasted about 35 minutes and basically concentrated on the closing Ritual, but the team it seems intend to expand this over time.
Chatting to Clive he pointed out that the performance could not have gone ahead with out the dedication of the demonstration team and the kind assistance from Cana Chapter. Prior approval of the script and consent to deliver it to include reproductions of examples and illustrations of certain Cana Chapter’s early regalia and tracing board was needed from the Province of East Lancashire, Cana Chapter and their member E. Comp Eddie Forkgen. Clive said, “I confess waiting for that consent was a somewhat nerve-wracking time”.
East Kent Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter was opened by the Principals (the First Principal being the Deputy Grand Superintendent David Kershaw) in the Presences of The Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, Neil Johnstone and a host of important guests from both East Kent and other Provinces. A small amount of business was transacted, the Chapter closed so the demonstration team could take their various places within the temple. The demonstration was a total success and created a huge amount of interest and discussion at the festive board that followed. I hope it will be available soon so all the Province can have a chance to see “In the Beginning”.