Chapter of Hope No 54 Celebrates 200 years of continuous Royal Arch Freemasonry

Chapter of Hope No 54 Celebrates 200 years of continuous Royal Arch Freemasonry

 

After the formal opening of the Chapter, the 3 Principles, officers and members were very honoured to receive the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent Sir David Tripper RD, JP, DL who was accompanied by officers of the Provincial Executive. The Chapter then received The Most Excellent Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones OBE who was accompanied by officers of The Supreme Grand Chapter of England.
The business of the Chapter commenced with EComp Robert Codling presenting a very well researched and informative history of the early days of the Chapter of Hope. It was very interesting to note that the Chapter first met at Packer St. Rochdale on Sunday afternoons and comprised of 9 founding companions. The first warrant was received on 2nd Sept 1821 at a cost of £5.
The Bi- Centenary Charter was then formally presented to the Chapter by The Most Excellent Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones.
An oration was then given by the Acting 3rd Provincial Grand Principal EComp. Russell Conn. EComp. Russell pointed out that we must not forget that 1819 was a very difficult period of our history. Members in those day had just experienced the conclusion of a long war with France and had also experienced in that same year, what became known as the Peterloo massacre only a few miles away in Manchester. EComp. Conn suggested that perhaps the founders in naming their Chapter Hope were hoping for better days in the years to come. This hope had carried the Chapter through its 200 years of history.
Most Excellent Grand Superintendent Sir David Tripper was then pleased to take the opportunity of promoting EComp Robert Codling to the rank of Past Provincial Deputy G.D.C. for the work he had carried out on behalf of Chapter of Hope and also the very detailed work that he had completed on the history of the Chapter. EComp Codling was then conducted around the Chapter to the applause of all those present.
Bound copies of the history of the Chapter were then presented to the distinguished guests.
A cheque for £1,000 for ELMC was then presented by the principals to  Sir David Tripper after which the Chapter was closed in due form.
It was a delight to see that of the 94 Companions present at the social board, the guests included 3 Officers from Supreme Grand Chapter, 17 representatives from Provincial Executive together with a high number of District committee members from the both Rochdale and Oldham Chapters. These numbers were further supported by a large number of companions from at least 20 different Chapters from this and other Provinces.
All those present agreed that the evening had been a great success and hoped that the Chapter of Hope will continue to prosper for a further 200 years. All in all a very special evening and one truly fitting of such a venerable Chapter:

“Capitulum Spei floreat”

Below the composite picture are the Oration from EComp Russell Conn and the potted Chapter History from EComp Bob Codling.

 
Oration for Hope Chapter No 54; Monday October 7th 2019. EComp Russell Conn
Most Excellent, Your Excellences, Most Excellent Third Grand Principal, Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, Excellent Companions and Companions All
May I say at the outset what a great honour and privilege it is to be here this evening and be amongst such exalted company to be part of the celebration of this truly special chapter and to share in this magnificent occasion.
I am particularly grateful to your scribe E.comp. Bob Codling for his monumental work on the History of the Chapter which I found extremely informative and very helpful in my preparation of this oration.
“Nachamu Nachamu” Comfort Ye Comfort Ye my people -says your G-d .Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time of exile has been fulfilled.”
These powerful opening words taken from Book of the Prophet Isaiah chapter 40 verse 1-2 will of course be familiar to many of you as the opening of that most majestic Oratorio by that naturalised Englishman Georg Frederich Handel and it cannot be a coincidence that this exact phrase was used by the librettist to make that opening statement which sets the tone for this truly special piece of music.
Isaiah recognised by many as probably the Prophet of all Prophets who had the ability to admonish whilst at the same time offering great comfort and hope. Living as he did between the years 748 to 687 BCE approximately, he straddles the period of turmoil which existed post the golden Solomonic era when the first Temple was constructed during  the reign of King Solomon, and the breakup of the Kingdom of Israel into two parts ,the Northern tribes forming the Kingdom  of Israel itself, which eventually was overrun and the kingdom disbanded ,and the Southern tribes who formed the Kingdom of Judah with its capital Jerusalem, where it is said Heaven and earth meet, where the holy spirit is said to reside .
Isaiah prophesies that the Holy Temple will be destroyed and that Jehoakim King of Judah and most of his people will be taken into captivity there to reside in Babylon for 70 years as the prophet said, until a mighty king from the East, Cyrus the Great will defeat the Babylonians and make the proclamation which will have such a profound effect “Thus spake Cyrus King of Persia ,all the Kingdoms of the earth are mine and G-d has commanded me to build his house in Jerusalem “ with these words which are so integral to the RA ceremony the days of the exile are coming to an end and the Holy Temple ,G-d’s special home will be restored under the guidance of Zerubbabel who lays the foundations ,but the Temple will only be completed under the reign of Darius the Great who recognising the power of the edict his Grandfather made, and knowing that any edict made by a King of the Medes and Persians could never be rescinded, therefore his wishes had to be fulfilled ,in fact legend has it that Darius  was  so serious about the mission to have the Holy Temple of Jerusalem rebuilt that he sent his most trusted advisor laden with talents of gold in order to pay for the restoration valued in today’s world at about 100 million.
This formula of admonishment and then comfort was tried and tested throughout the OT but no one did it better than Isaiah. He knew how to exhort the people   to leave their evil ways or calamity will ensue .But if they heeded his words, comfort in the form of redemption will be their reward.
This is in direct contrast to the Prophet Jeremiah who actually lived through the period of the destruction and famously wrote the book of Lamentations which is read on the 9 Th Av the day in the calendar when both the First and Second Temple were destroyed.
Isaiah  could be said to be the antithesis to Jeremiah’s innate pessimism ,one prophet prophesying the destruction but at the same  time providing comfort and hope the other filled with despair at the wanton destruction and waste and sense of despondency which pervaded the kingdom at that time ,and led the Children of Israel to sit by the River of Babylon and there they wept when they thought of Zion and all they  had left behind ,their homes, their livelihood, and above all their central place of worship, and it is probably at this junction during their long history that this yearning and remembering of Zion first was promulgated.
The psychological battle between and Evil and Good, misfortune and comfort, and throughout it all Hope, Hope for a return from Exile, Hope that the Temple G-d’s home on earth will be rebuilt.
Hope that the Second Temple will rise from the ruins of the First Temple and in so doing we straddle the story in the Third Degree and the RA exaltation.
We left off with the death of our Grand master Hiram Abith and Solomon’s justifiable horror at the loss of his principle architect and we arrive at the dawn of a resurrection so to speak, of an edifice rising up from the ashes and being rebuilt if not to its former glory at least to a new abode and a fitting place for the Holy Spirit to reside.
“Nachamu Nachamu Comfort my People “do not despair.
The Hebraists among you will note that the Prophet repeats the phrase that is because Biblical Hebrew doesn’t have a word for very only the modern language has the word Meod as in Tov Meod Very Good, when anyone in the Bible wants to stress something they repeat the phrase or word hence Adonai Elohim literally Almighty G-d. The Almighty one will not totally desert you. If you believe in him everything is possible. Reject his words and destruction will rain down on your heads and you will be complicit in your own downfall. This theme is repeated over and over again by the OT prophets.
Isaiah’s use of language and imagery is quite spectacular so much so that poets, novelists and playwrights have used his words and none more famously than the librettist of the Messiah. Whole swathes of the libretto are taken straight from the Book of Isaiah.
This is all most apposite when we remember that Peterloo was 200 years ago. Universal suffrage was non-existent; it would be nearly 100 years before the general masses would achieve the vote. All these things we take for granted, had to be hard won, even fought for and some cases died for.
In fact this Chapter could be a metaphor for the national anthem of the rebuilt state which rose up after 2000 years of exile and took as its theme  “Hatikvah ,Hope “ a sort Middle Eastern Land of Hope and Glory ,the tune is also familiar as Smetana’s Ma Vlast “my country “.
Leading to one  of the towns  of the nascent state being named Petach Tikvah literally the “Gate of Hope” as a reborn nation struggled to find a new identity in a rapidly changing world ,and a new set of descendants of King David and Solomon emerged blinking into the light of a new state forged from the ruins of a world torn in shreds by six years of war ,in the same way their forefathers Zerubbabel,Haggai the Prophet and Joshua the Priest built on the prophecy of Isaiah and fulfilled that Hope that the word of the Lord would once again be heard in Jerusalem the Golden and Holy City.
So a chapter and state can have a synergy both predicated on the idea of Hope.
This chapter which has such a rich and noble history was forged in the fire of the early 1800’s, post the battle of Waterloo, the world was a truly different place and their vision their Hope so to speak would carry them through the next 200 years. This is without question a magnificent achievement, to make it to 100 years is marvellous, and to survive 200 years is truly exceptional.
I am sure I express the sentiments of everyone who is here tonight in wishing you congratulations on achieving this milestone and look forward to your glorious future.
________________________________________________________________________
 
Short History of The Chapter Of Hope, No. 54. The Two Most Important Meetings of The Chapter Of Hope:EComp Bob Codling
I shall begin with the formation of the Lodge of Hope, which held its first meeting at the Lower Anchor Inn, Packer Street, Rochdale on 6th January1814. For those unfamiliar with Rochdale town centre, Packer Street runs adjacent to our magnificent town hall, and leads to the car parks in town hall square. The Flying Horse Hotel stands on Packer Street.
Several founders of the Lodge of Hope were also members of Prince Edwin Lodge, another Antients Lodge, then numbered 209, which had already formed a Holy Royal Arch Chapter working under their own Lodge Warrant. Those members may have urged the Lodge of Hope to do the same, because just the following year it held the first meeting of a Holy Royal Arch Chapter, “working under the Warrant of the Lodge of Hope, No. 70”.
The chapter met erratically over the next three years and the minutes of those meetings were written on the back pages of the same minute book as used for the craft meetings. The preamble for those early Chapter minutes were quite brief and typically read: “3rd September 1815. The Holy Royal Chapter opened at 3 o’clock with the following Companions present etc, etc”. There was no mention that it was the Chapter of HOPE, or its number, 70, nor the meeting place, after all, they were all members of the Lodge of Hope, presumably meeting at the same place and just working the 4th Degree in Craft Masonry, which was normal for an Antients Lodge.
I hasten to say that since the Union of 1813, the Holy Royal Arch is definitely not a degree in its own right, but is the completion of the 3rd Degree. Previously, however, the Antients lodges firmly considered it to be the 4th Degree, and old habits die hard. The early Chapter minutes repeatedly refer to it as the 4th Degree.
All we know for sure about the very first Chapter meeting is from what is written in that Craft Lodge Minutes Book, from which this information is taken:
Sept 3rd 1815 Royal Arch Chapter opened 1/4 before 3 o’clock when the following Companions were present. It goes on to name the three Chiefs who were Benjamin Healey (who happened to be the WM of the Lodge), James Clegg, John Whitehead (who was a visitor)
But it doesn’t actually say who was Z, H or J. Likewise there were the names of two scribes and three Sojourners, but again it doesn’t say who was what.
It then goes on to state the basis on which the Chapter was formed without the need for sanction from any Grand Lodge, their own Lodge Warrant was all the authority they needed.
They exalted two candidates Thomas Kershaw & Thomas Knowls from their craft lodge. For this they were examined and proved to be well qualified in the several degrees of Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason, and having Passed the Chairs, and were then admitted to the supreme degree.
The Chapter closed in good order and Harmony at 5 o’clock; and the minutes were duly signed
The Accounts for that meeting were:
Receipts: All 10 members paid 1 shilling; Likewise all 12 visitors also paid 1 shilling; The two candidates each paid £1 – 1s – 0d (1 guinea) to be exalted
Disbursements: To the Grand Chapter – £1- 1s- 0d, for registration of both candidates, 11d for dinner each, a total £1- 7s- 4d, Gunpowder – 4 1/2d. Paid to John Whitehead   10s -8d
Converting those costs to present day prices: All members and visitors paid £4.50; The exaltation fee for each candidate was £86.
Disbursements: £43 each for registration to Grand Chapter; Dining fee £3.90 each; Gunpowder – £1.60; £47 Paid to John Whitehead
A number of things are evident from the minutes of that meeting:

  1. The meeting was held on a Sunday afternoon, which was the norm for R A Chapters in those days. Only much later were Sunday meetings prohibited.
  2. There were 12 members of the Lodge of Hope present, including the 2 candidates for exaltation.
  3. There were 12 visitors, all from Lodge 209, which was Prince Edwin Lodge, No. 209 which still meets in Bury, and is now No. 128, and I’m pleased to see we have some members of Prince Edwin Chapter here today.

In those days, when Royal Arch Chapters were being worked under a Craft Lodge Warrant they were often still known as Lodges.

  1. John Whitehead was also paid 10s-8d (£47 nowadays) probably because, as a visitor he probably acted as First Principal and conducted the dual Exaltation ceremony. A nice little earner.
  2. With the exception of the two Candidates, all present must have been Royal Arch Masons from other Chapters. Additionally, the three Chiefs, Benjamin Healey, James Clegg and John Whitehead, must all have been Principals in order for them to take the position of Chiefs.
  3. Both candidates were considered “to be well qualified in the several degrees of Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason, and having Passed the Chairs”. These two Brethren were members of the Lodge of Hope which was only in its second year, and therefore it was unlikely those Brethren were Past Masters of the Lodge, which in those days was an essential requirement of any candidate for the Holy Royal Arch. Now, some years earlier in the Royal Arch, a problem had been identified: that there was a shortage of Past Masters available to become candidates for the Royal Arch; so a special Craft Lodge ceremony was devised, called Passing the Chair, in which Master Masons would gain sufficient knowledge of an Installed Master to allow him to become a candidate for the Royal Arch. However, none of the signs or words of an Installed Master were communicated.
  4. A few years after this particular meeting, UGLE banned the ceremony of Passing the Chairs.
  5. The dining fee was 11 old pence, which is now-a-days is worth less than 5p, though through 200 years of inflation that has risen to about £3.90.
  6. 4 pence halfpenny was spent on gunpowder. One can only speculate as to what it was used for, but I don’t expect anyone fell asleep at that meeting.

There had been an unsuccessful request or petition for a warrant in 1819, so the Chapter tried again the following year and canvassed for support and recommendations from several nearby Chapters; one of which we know was of the Lodge of Good Intent or Chapter of Unity, then No. 559.
Also they must have realised some fees had to be paid for this Warrant, as can be deduced from the Chapter “Accounts Ledger” in which are recorded two entries for the meeting on 3rd September 1820 – Volunteer contributions to procure the Royal Arch Warrant: 8 Companions each contributed 5/-  Also Paid to London for Charter for Royal Arch – £5 0s  0d
Yes Companions, £5 for that invaluable piece of parchment. As an aside, 100 years later we had to pay £5/5/ 0d for our Centenary warrant, which was only a marginal increase over the previous 100 years.  Now, fast forward another 100 years, our expectation that the Bi-Centenary Warrant might only cost us about a fiver were soon dashed.
It would appear the second petition was successful and Warrant duly arrived. It directed that the FIRST meeting as a Warranted Chapter should be held on 2nd September 1821, which was a Sunday. From that date onwards the Chapter of Hope met as a Warranted Chapter, attached the Lodge of Hope.
Rather surprisingly, it appears that this meeting passed without any great ceremony. There was no visit by any of the rulers from Supreme Grand Chapter, or the Province of Lancashire, note not just the Province of East Lancashire, but the whole of Lancashire; the Province wasn’t divided until 1825, some four years later.
There was no momentous presentation of the Warrant, or even an oration. Perhaps the members felt they were just continuing their chapter business, as they had done so for the previous six years or so, and as far as they were concerned, there was no discernible difference except they now had taken delivery of their own Warrant, as required by Supreme Grand Chapter.
The minutes of that meeting state: The Companions met on 2nd September 1821 at two o’clock in the afternoon under the authority of the new Charter. There were 15 Companions present, one visitor and the Tyler. Five named Brothers were reported to be exalted to the Degree of a Royal Arch Mason on some future occasion. It was unanimously agreed that the Royal Arch Charter be framed in a Gilt frame, and three Companions were appointed to look after the Warrant and to get it framed as cheaply as possible with a good frame before the next meeting.
The Principals and Officers for the ensuing year were appointed and invested. Namely: 3 Principals, 2 scribes, 3 Sojourners & Tyler.  (Yes Companions, just 9 Officers: no DC, we actually managed without a DC for the next 90 years. Nor was there a Treasurer, Almoner, Charity Steward, Organist, Stewards or even an IPZ.)
The Chapter was closed at the hour of 4 o’clock in the evening. On the Warrant is written the names of our nine Founders, of which the following observations are perhaps worth noting:

  • Only three were actually members of the Lodge of Hope, namely Benjamin Healey, Thomas Brown, Thomas Redfearn.
  • All nine, by virtue of being Founders of the Warranted Chapter, automatically became the very first members of the Warranted Chapter, though some preferred to maintain their allegiance to their Mother Lodge or Chapter and even signed themselves as visitors at subsequent Hope Chapter meetings.
  • All members of the previously un-warranted Chapter of Hope automatically became members of the Warranted Chapter, but somehow numbered after the Founders.
  • John Enoch was the Tyler, and continued so for many years. It was many decades later the term Janitor was adopted.
  • Curiously, it appears that two of the Founders never attended any meeting of the Chapter of Hope.

When the Chapter submitted a petition for the warrant it did so as No. 70, and that same number appeared on our Warrant, however in 1832 when the Chapter became No. 62, it is obvious the original number has been over-written to read “62”. But when the Chapter was again re-numbered in 1863 to become No. 54, the Warrant escaped being further modified, and it still displays No. 62 to this day.
Companions, those are the details of what I think are the two most important meetings in the Chapters existence, though there have been other significant meetings including our Centenary and 150th celebrations, and of course this Bi-Centenary meeting. I hope that in a 100 years’ time, this Antients Chapter will proudly celebrate its Ter-Centenary.

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