Red Cross of Constantine, East Midlands Divisional Meeting, 11th May 2023

Distinguished and Worthy Knights, not long to go now, but I would ask you to pay particular attention to the later part of this address. I'm at quite an advantage however as you don't know when that will be: I do! This year we have enjoyed a return to more normal activities within our Conclaves and the Division although there are still some of our good friends who have not yet felt confident enough to join us: let's hope they soon realise how much they have missed us and want to return.

Earlier I had the great pleasure of welcome our guests individually and I take this opportunity to thank you for supporting us today at one of only three non-Saturday Divisional meetings. Thank you for the friendship and the kind hospitality shown to me, my Deputy and our Divisional Recorder when we enjoy the privilege of attending your annual Divisional meetings. I trust we will be able to repay your kindness in some way here today.

To the members of the East Midlands Division, I thank you all for your continued support and extend those thanks on behalf of the members of the Executive and the Divisional Officers who are made to feel so welcome when we visit your Conclaves. I extend a particular thank you to P. Kt. Mark Constant, the Provincial Grand Master for Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire for again allowing us to use the splendid facilities here at Sheaf Close. Unfortunately, due to other masonic commitments, Mark is unable to be with us today.

Today has not just happened by chance. Our Divisional Recorder, Ill. Kt. Tim Barrett has dotted the I's and crossed the T's once again in an efficient manner. Our thanks are also due his wife Karen for her continued forbearance with Tim's dedication and attention to detail.

There have been several changes with senior Divisional Officers and I extend a big thank you to Ill. Kt. Mark Bigam for the four years he has served as Treasurer and to Ill. Kt. Tim Almond for the support and service you have given as Divisional Marshal. Tim, you have moved on to higher things, but please remember the time you served as Divisional Marshal has set you in very good stead for the position as APGM you now hold! I extend a warm welcome to P. Kt. Russell Laxton, who, for various reasons served as Most Puissant Sovereign of Crux Rubra Conclave for four consecutive years and who had no hesitation in accepting the position of Divisional Treasurer when asked. Russ becomes the first ‘home grown' member of Crux Rubra to serve on the Executive. P. Kt. David Lathrope has stepped up to become Divisional Marshal and the very capable M. P. Kt. Mark Thompson-O'Connor, current Sovereign of The Byzantine Conclave has been appointed and invested as Deputy Marshal. I look forward to working with you all. I welcome and congratulate Ill. Kt. John White on his promotion to Divisional Viceroy. John has served and supported the Division in numerous ways in a quiet and unassuming manner over many years and I feel it is a fitting recognition for all that he has contributed.

Today has not happened by chance: thank you to all who have made it such a special day. My thanks go also to members of the Divisional Sepulchre Guard who add so much to our proceedings. I thank all those who are retiring from office for the support they have given me, the Division and of course their individual Conclaves and at the same time congratulate those who have either been promoted or appointed to Divisional office today. The two team visits for the season will consist of the regular meeting at John Wiclif Conclave on 18 th September and the Enthronement meeting at Crux Rubra Conclave on 1 st May. Prior to that of course is the fifty-year anniversary of the Isle of Patmos Conclave which will take place next Thursday.

Four of our members will be honoured with first appointments to Grand Rank which will be conferred at Grand Imperial Conclave, Great Queen Street on Tuesday 4 th July. I look forward to sharing their special day with them and encourage your attendance to support them on this splendid occasion. For those who wish to attend I can assure you of good company, a memorable ceremony in the Grand Temple followed by what we hope will be, memorable dining in the adjoining Connaught Rooms!

The four who will be receiving their honours, all as Past Grand Wardens of Regalia are: P. Kt. Peter Froment and P. Kt. John Haddon, both of Crux Rubra Conclave, No. 481, P. Kt. Graham Minett, The Rushden Conclave, No. 416, and P. Kt. Terry Weston, The Byzantine Conclave, No. 44.

I did appreciate the messages of thanks I received when each of them had received their letters of appointment and congratulate them on their preferment: for the efforts they have given and of course, will be giving in the future to their Conclaves and the Order.

On that note I come to the ‘later' part of my address. It has become more and more apparent, especially after the unfortunate demise of Durocobrivae Conclave (the only one in Bedfordshire), which has now been placed in abeyance, that however much we, as the executive, exhort you as members, to recruit suitable candidates for joining the Order, we are not managing to boost our numbers in any significant way. Recently installed Worthy Knights may soon become disillusioned when attendances are low; when the ceremony is not vibrant or delivered with a full complement of officers, to the standard necessary to make a meaningful impression.

The Durocobrivae Conclave, since before I became Deputy in 2012 was in decline. An ageing membership and, consequently, falling membership numbers have led to the current situation. The average age of members of the Order within East Midlands is sixty seven. It becomes more and more difficult to recruit and then retain membership and interest when young blood is not introduced. I pose this question: where will the Order be in, say ten years' time, if we continue with our current modus operandi?

The executive members have been giving this much thought and my Deputy and our retiring Marshal have produced the framework of a plan to arrest the decline and promote the recruitment of suitable candidates. It will take a little more time to finalise the details, but the plan is initially to hold Conclave Zoom meetings to discuss each situation of the Conclave: its strengths, weaknesses, attendance, demographics and your views, as members, about ways to move forward. We are reasonably confident that the outcome of the discussions will contain many surprises.

After the Conclave Zoom meetings, however, we plan to hold two separate regional meetings, one in the north, probably Melton Mowbray which will cover the L&R Conclaves and one in the south probably Rushden, for the N&H (and Beds) Conclaves. We know you do care about your Conclaves, but don't necessarily know how or don't have the means to address the problems. We believe that the processes we are proposing will allow individual members to take responsibility for rejuvenating the fortunes of their Conclave.

Each of the Officers of the Conclave will be invited to bring along a suitable potential candidate who is already a member of the Royal Arch. The regional meetings will be informal and will be attended by members of the executive team, the Officers of the Conclaves, the Divisional Officers, together with the appointees to Grand Rank of the past three or four years.

The actual content of the regional meetings will be tailored to consider the discussions of the Conclave Zoom meetings and will feature a brief history of the Emperor Constantine; the structure of our Order; an explanation of progressions within the Conclave and Division; a display of regalia and short testimonies from both new and experienced members of the Order.

We plan to complete the evening with either an informal two course meal or a buffet, with members of the executive circulating to answer questions and stimulate discussion.

Earlier this year I received the following message from a relatively new member of our Order which he had circulated to each of the members of his Conclave and I quote:

“Worthy Knights, may I take this opportunity to thank all of you from last night for the amazing company. I really wish I could convey how friendly this Order is, along with, how three years later, I am still in a mode of delight from the Appendant Orders in Leicester. Thank you all for giving me these fabulous memories.”

Our late, much loved and revered Queen once said, “I know of no singular formula for success, but over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts; their talents; their insights; their enthusiasm, and their inspiration to work together”.

Worthy Knights, we share a very special Christian Order of Freemasonry and I believe we owe it to our Christian brethren to give them the opportunity to share the pleasure and knowledge revealed in our ceremonies. Please assist your Conclaves to flourish by encouraging your Royal Arch friends to join our Order and please be active in that process. With your support it can be achieved.

Finally Worthy Knights, may the Holy and Indivisible Three in One be with you and your loved ones now and always ever remembering the watchwords of our Order: Faith, Unity and Zeal.

R. Ill. Kt. S. John Manby

Intendant-General East Midlands Division