I would first like to thank all of you, the Companions of the Grand Chapter, for electing me to be your Grand High Priest for this year. I am very honored and will work very hard to continue the growth that Grand Chapter has had over the past several years. I would also like to thank Most Excellent Jeffrey Williamson, Most Excellent Bruce Renner, Right Excellent and Reverend Charles Roberts, Most Excellent Michael Dunn, Lady Carman Roche’ and Right Excellent Peter Ditmars for being part of the Installing team this morning. It means a lot to me. I would also like to congratulate the immediate Past Grand High Priest, Most Excellent Paul Huck on an outstanding year. He worked very hard for this Grand Chapter and I very much enjoyed working with him.
My theme for this year is I CARE and is explained as follows:
I stands for Information. There are three sources of information available which should assist you in the everyday business of your chapter along with programs to assist in membership growth and retainment. They are the websites of our Grand Chapter and General Grand Chapter along with the Grand Secretary’s Office. They are there to help, so please use them.
Speaking of the Grand Secretary’s Office, I would like to thank Joan Vivacqua for her service to our Grand Chapter. Joan retired in December after nearly 30 years working in the office. I wish Joan the best in her retirement. She will be missed. With this in mind, there will be changes coming this year. One of the most noticeable will be the use of the MMS system. All Secretaries that have not been trained on it, will need to do so this year. The Grand Secretary will be setting up the Training Sessions and keep them informed as to when they will be. It is very important as the plan is to use this system for the Annual Reports at the end of the year which would alleviate some of the workload on the office.
C stands for Communication and Charity. In my opinion success in any organization begins with Communication. We not only need to communicate with each other but with those outside the organization.
In this jurisdiction, the NYRAM NEWS is the electronic newsletter which is sent out monthly to our members to keep them informed. I encourage each Companion to send in articles about events that either are happening or have happened. I want to thank R⸫E⸫ Jason Sheridan and his staff for the fine work they have done and for agreeing to do it again this year.
The Royal Arch Magazine is another source. If you have something of interest to share, please send your articles to M⸫E⸫ Raymond Roché, who I thank for agreeing to be the Editor again this year. I also encourage each Chapter to use the calendar page of our website to let others know what is going on.
My favorite phrase I have used is that Charity begins at home. We are very fortunate in this Grand Chapter that we sponsor three such Charities. They are the Medical Relief Fund, Medical Research Foundation and the Royal Arch Scholarship Fund. The Medical Relief Fund was initially set up to help those suffering from the effects of illnesses associated with such professions as mining and trades involving the use of asbestos. But over the years as those professions no longer existed, it was expanded to include any disease which affect the lungs and has since been expanded again to help any Companion or direct family member who is in financial distress related to rising medical costs although the priority is still given to lung diseases. Applications can be found on the website.
The Medical Research Foundation supports the activities associated with the Masonic Medical Research Institute along with many other medical facilities as well. Over the years the Foundation has donated millions of dollars to medical research which can only benefit us all.
The Royal Arch Scholarship Fund provides scholarships to children, grand children and family members of Royal Arch Masons. The awards are usually in the $500.00 to $1000.00 range. Another scholarship available is the Most Excellent Raymond Roche’ Royal Arch Veteran Scholarship. This scholarship is available to New York Royal Arch Veterans and the Veterans spouses of New York Royal Arch Masons. Your DD214 must be submitted with the application to be considered for the Veteran Scholarship. This year the application process has changed as it is now available on our website. If you know of anyone who is interested, please encourage them to apply as the deadline is April 1, 2020 for both scholarships.
When speaking of Charity, one of the most successful programs we have to raise funds is the Zerubbabel Society. As many of you know it involves commitment by each Companion to donating $1,000 to charity, at a rate of $100 a year (or more if he can afford it.) In exchange you are presented with a distinctive jewel and a ruby lapel pin which is presented to you by a Grand Officer. The pin is replaced with a diamond pin when the commitment is completed. I am happy to say that many of the Companions of this jurisdiction have continued to donate and have received pins with many more diamonds. If you are interested in joining, please fill out the application on the website. I would like to thank M⸫E⸫ James Hemstrought for his continued work in coordinating with The Grand Officers to make sure the presentations happen. I would also like to thank R⸫E⸫ Jamie Kaim and R⸫E⸫ Grant Held for their tireless work on behalf of Royal Arch Charities over the years.
A stands for Activities – mainly public programs which involve our families but also those that recognize our companions for the unselfish work they do for our fraternity. Such programs are service awards, Veteran’s Appreciation Night, Family Picnics, etc. We also need to recognize our ladies for whom without their support, many of us would not be able to attend the many meetings we do. Such programs include the Widows Program and the Order of the Rose. Both programs are available from your District Deputy or any Grand Line Officer. I would like to thank Carmen Roché (wife of M⸫E⸫ Raymond Roché) for agreeing to head up the Ladies activities for this year.
I would also at this time to ask each of you to support the activities of the Youth Organizations. In the jurisdiction of New York, they include the Rainbow and Triangle for the young ladies and the DeMolay for the young men. If you hear of any activity they are doing in your area whether it be fundraising, initiations, installations or just something to have fun, I encourage you to attend. I know you will be impressed by what you see. Remember they are the future of not just our organizations but our country as well.
I would like to announce at this time that we have set-up two Public Re-dedication Ceremonies in honor of milestones that the Chapters have reached. On Saturday, April 25th, the Grand Line will be in Dexter for the 200th Anniversary of Sacket’s Harbor Chapter #68 and on Saturday, May 9th, we will be in Skaneateles for the 150th Anniversary of Charles H Platt Chapter #247. Both chapters have put out flyers on these events. I invite all of you to join them in these celebrations. We are still working with some other chapters to help them celebrate their milestones and when the dates and programs are worked out, we will let you know.
R stands for Ritual, Recruitment and Retention. What has always stood out from our Fraternity than any other organization is our Ritual. RE Gerry Irwin has again agreed to serve as the Grand Lecturer for this year but we will again be using Regional Assistants to the Grand Lecturer along with Regional Officers to cover the all the districts. At each Convention this year, I have asked the Grand Lecturer to either go over the opening and closing of a chapter or exemplify one of the degrees along with a little education. One of the goals I am encouraging this year is that every chapter get certified in one of these areas. I would also like to see no more “books” open in the Chapter room during tiled meetings.
In the area of Recruitment, there are several programs available to us and they all can be found on the website. They are the Elevator Speech, Fervency and Zeal, Peculiar Stone and the Power Point Presentation, “What is Royal Arch Masonry?” These are great tools and I encourage each chapter to use them.
It is my opinion that Retention and the final letter in my theme for this year E which stands for Education go hand in hand. In today’s society, many new Companions are joining to learn more about what Royal Arch Masons are about and the history we have to offer. In this jurisdiction, we have several programs which do just that. Pre-degree introduction summaries are available on the website to be read to the candidates before each degree which help them understand what is about to happen better. We also have the Capitular Development Course which is similar to the LSOME course which is given by our Grand Lodge. It is given after each degree and by the time it is completed, the candidate has a basic understanding of Royal Arch Masonry. This course is also available on the website. Also available is the Chapter Walkabout program. It is also similar to the Grand Lodge program and should be done at the next regular chapter meeting after the completion of the Royal Arch Degree. There are also talks available on the four degrees of Royal Arch Masonry and can be used as a program during regular meetings. The jewel of our Education program is the Capitular Development Course. Developed by our own M⸫E⸫ Piers Vaughan, this course explores the source of the Degrees, their Symbolism and their esoteric meaning. It is designed for those Companions who have been members for at least 6 months and who are seeking further light in Royal Arch Masonry. And finally, the Capstone Course is available to all officers to educate them on how to run a successful chapter when they become High Priest. These programs have been very successful and I strongly urge each Chapter to use them.
At this time, I would like to change gears to reminisce and recognize those who I have worked with over the years and have been great supporters. As many of you know, I have had the opportunity to either serve under or serve with many past Grand High Priests. I would like to acknowledge ME C. Richard Trust and ME Edward S. Newsham as I served as DDGHP in 1997 and 1998 for them. I would also like to acknowledge all the Grand Line who became Grand High Priests I had the pleasure to serve with in 2001 when I was Grand Master of the Second Veil. Most if not all of the names should be familiar to you. ME E. Donald Lounsberry was the Grand High Priest, ME Ted Harrison was the Grand King, ME David Stoy was the Grand Scribe, ME James Hemstrought was the Grand Captain of the Host, ME Walter Hilsenbeck was the Grand Principal Sojourner, Most Excellent Alan Morgan was the Grand Royal Arch Captain and ME John Jones (who passed away last year) was the Grand Master of the Third Veil. I would like to thank each and everyone of you for your continued support over the years and for the knowledge that you passed on.
Fast forwarding ahead, I would also like to recognize those Past Grand High Priests I have had the pleasure of working with this run through the Grand Line. ME Cyril Francis in 2015 and ME Raymond Roche’ in 2016 who both lay claim into getting back in the Grand Line. ME Bruce Testut in 2017 who I had the pleasure of serving as Grand Captain of the Host for. ME Allan Bryant in 2018 who understood and gave me the time I needed without question while I had to miss many functions so I could take care of my Dad. And finally, ME Paul Huck, who accomplished many things this past year and will be a hard act to follow. Thank you all for your support. I also would like to thank ME Michael Dunn, our Grand Secretary, for all he has done to help me get prepared for this year. I know he will continue to keep me straight.
I would like to also recognize the current Grand Line. I would like to thank all of you for agreeing to be part of the team for this year. You have been tireless workers on behalf of Grand Chapter and I know you will continue to be this year. I would especially like to recognize Right Excellent Tim Heslop, the Grand Sentinel. Thank you for agreeing to do this and I look forward to the many travels we have planned for this year.
I would also like to recognize the Companions of the11th Capitular District and my own chapter, Fidelity #77 in Trumansburg. Thank you for your continued support and the many things you have agreed to do. I would particularly like to thank two Companions without whose help I would not be able to be Grand High Priest this year. RE Peter Ditmars, who has been a second father to me since my Dad passed away and RE Joseph Curran, who has been like a brother to me.
Speaking of family, I would be remiss if I did not mention my own. My brother, Donald, and his wife, Frances, were unable to make it here today because of work commitments. I am not entirely sure if that is the real reason. You see they live in Florida and were here last year for my Dad’s 90th birthday celebration. You may remember that weekend as it was the one in January where we received almost 2 feet of snow. Some how I think that may have had some influence on their decision not to come. They will be here in June for my reception.
And finally, I would like to recognize my parents. I lost my mother in 2009 due to cancer and one year ago tomorrow, I lost my father due to old age. I miss them both very much but I know they are here in spirit today and hopefully are very proud of me.
In closing, I would like to leave each of you with this thought:
I CARE about the Information which is available to make this Grand Chapter grow.
I CARE about the Charities which we support.
I CARE about the importance of Communicating with each other and the outside world.
I CARE about the Activities which recognize our members the ladies and the youth as well as their support.
I CARE about the Ritual which separates us from all the other organizations.
I CARE about Recruiting new members which is vital to the growth of Royal Arch Masonry.
I CARE about Retaining both new and old members using the Educational programs available to us.
But mostly, I know that all of you also CARE and together we will work hard to make sure that Royal Arch Masonry will prosper for years to come.
God Bless each of you, God Bless Freemasonry and God Bless the United States of America.
Thank you for being here and have a safe trip home.
ME David H. Raymond
Grand High Priest