Before the union of the two Grand Lodges, the Ancients and Moderns, in 1813,the Royal Arch formed part of the Craft Ceremonies. After the union the Royal Arch became a separate order, and craft lodges were given sanction to work the Ceremony. The Royal Arch is therefore recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, and in the Book of Constitutions we find the declaration that “pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more - the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft, and the Master Mason including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch”.
Thus commences the prescribed ritual for the presentation of a Grand Chapter certificate in the Worcestershire Royal Arch ritual book. The words disguise many years of bitter conflict between the two grand lodges. The Moderns which was the older body practised a 3 degree system whilst the Ancients practised a 4 degree system, with the fourth being the Royal Arch. The compromise required to bring these two bodies together was for there to be three degrees but for those three degrees to include the Royal Arch.
So is this the sole reason for the peculiar relationship between the Craft and the Royal Arch? I think not! For to me the Royal Arch completes my journey through masonry, but not because of the secrets that are disclosed during the ceremony.
Indeed, I question whether the signs and word which we promise not to disclose have anything to do with the real secret of Masonry. To me the real secret is that incredible sense of satisfaction and enjoyment I get from attending Masonic meetings. It is that feeling that, because it is so intangible, we find so hard to communicate to others. For you cannot be told it, you can only experience it!
Craft Masonry takes us on a symbolic journey through our mortal life. At your initiation you are received as at your birth, poor and penniless. You are taught to be considerate to others, to be fair and honest, to give support to those less fortunate and to be an upright citizen. Having been reminded that these qualities underpin the foundation of modern civilisation, we are encouraged at our passing to expand our mind and contemplate the many mysteries of the physical world. At our raising we are reminded of the need to be honourable at all times and finally we are led to contemplate the final hour of our mortal existence. Throughout we are reminded that there is a supreme being, the God in whom we must put our trust, and at our raising we are told that to face the prospect of death and what follows without the support of our God is a bleak prospect.
But it is only in the Royal Arch that we fully consider our relationship with our God for the object of the Order it is the glory of God. Thus the Royal Arch continues our journey through our mortal life and onward under the all-seeing eye of our Creator, completing the lesson of our eternal existence which Masonry seeks to teach us.
So today, as we consecrate this White Ensign Chapter No. 9169 we not only bear in mind the solemnity of the occasion, but we rejoice that we open another door for many more craft masons to complete their Masonic lesson. It is for this reason that the link between the Craft and the Royal Arch needs to be so strong. Ever may it continue to be so.
The completion of this journey is undoubtedly a must for all those Masons who sailed under the White Ensign and experienced the unpredictable forces of nature and the risks and responsibility which comes with the defence of the realm. Such experiences when death become an immediate prospect, inevitably draws one closer to one's God. And whether or not he took that journey, I know that tonight the Founders will be reminded of Admiral Lord Nelson whose glorious victory at Trafalgar we celebrate every year, for he was a God fearing man who passionately believed that he was called by God to defend England from tyranny.
The word "companion" originates from the Latin and literally means "sharer of bread". At a time of war it encapsulated the relationship of those whose lives depended on each other in battle and implies the greatest loyalty and trust.
It is therefore wholly fitting that this term should be applied to the crew of this new vessel - White Ensign Chapter No. 9169 - whose members have all shared that companionship with others at sea and now come together once again to share it with each other today.
We congratulate you on taking this step. White Ensign Lodge is very strong and we have no doubt that White Ensign Chapter will be every bit as seaworthy. Nonetheless we wish you every success in this new voyage.
Finally, I am reminded that the White Ensign displays many of the colours associated with Royal Arch Masonry. White - the emblem of innocence, the colour of the pedestal and particularly appropriate on this day of consecration. Blue and red, the principal colour of the veils which adorned the Tabernacle of the First or Holy Lodge and which are today the irradiated colours of every Royal Arch sash. But there is one colour which is so important in a Chapter but which is not seen on the White Ensign and which I particularly commend to you - gold - the symbol of purity. May you, the Founders of White Ensign Chapter No. 9169, be pure at heart in all your undertakings.