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ADDRESS BY MOST EXCELLENT COMPANION

KIRBY JAMES LEEKE, FIRST GRAND PRINCIPAL,

AT GRAND INSTALLATION 2016

 

 

Companions, Brethren and my friends,

Welcome to the 20th Century.

When I was preparing for this talk, I asked myself a fairly simple question. "What is Freemasonry?".
Now I know that the freemasons in this room will immediately start to think ''blar blar... veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols". Others with start to think of "Taking Good Men and making them better" but we need to ask "How do we take good men and make them better?".
After a bit of soul searching, I came to the conclusion that freemasonry is an Educational Facility. We do not teach maths, english or geography. We do not teach law, accounting or engineering, but we teach the meaning and importance of brotherly love, relief, honesty. We teach the importance of putting honour above the external advantages of rank and fortune. We teach what it means to be part of society, to be humane, charitable, just. The importance of integrity, sincerity, truth, in dealing on the square to everyone in society, particularly our brothers in the craft.
Whether or not you accept my proposition that freemasonry is an educational institution or not, one point that I believe should not be controversial is that freemasonry is a business, and should be treated as a business. I will agree that it is a 'Not for profit' business, but it is a business.
I have operated my own business now for almost 35 years, and one of the first cliché's that you learn in operating any business, no matter what size it may be is that if you 'fail to plan, you plan to fail', and companions and brethren, this is where I think freemasonry is failing, and not just recently, as far back as the 1950's and 1960's.
We sometimes lament the issue that the 'baby-boomers' failed to attract the members into freemasonry that they should have, but I believe the problem goes back to the generation before that.
Charles Holland Duell who was the head of the US Patent & Trademark Office is often misquoted as having said in 1899.......... that the US patent office should be closed because 'everything that could be invented had been invented'. As I said, that is a misquote, and I won't waste the time in this meeting to investigate what he actually did say, and how it came to be misquoted, but I suggest to you all know that somewhere in the 1950's or 1960's freemasons stood back and said that 'Everything that needed to be done to make the craft prosper had been done'. They may not have used those words, but that was the outcome of their actions. They had built grand masonic centres as you see here today. They no longer had to meet in halls, and have the tiler draw the floor designs, as they were permanent fixtures.
What they failed to do was plan for the future.
The first 'baby boomer' would not have turned 21 until 1966, so unless they were a Lewis, the first 'baby-boomer' could not have joined freemasonry until 1966, which is about the time the membership peaked, and started to decline. The previous generation failed to plan for what the baby-boomers would be wanting from freemasonry. That failure of planning has been perpetuated for the x-Generation, the y-generation, and in 14 months' time, the first of the millennium generation will be eligible to become freemasons, and I must ask "What plans have we in place to attract and retain the millennium generation to freemasonry, because they are our future – not the baby-boomers, and not the x-generation – maybe the y-generation.
In November, 2010, 4 years before ME Comp Ross started talking to me about taking office as DGZ, I wrote a paper I called Freemasonry 2030. The paper was written to support the establishment of a committee to try to determine what freemasonry in Queensland would look like, or should look like in 2030. I submitted that paper to the then President of the Board of General Purposes While it had initial support, 6 years on, that committee has still not been established.
Companions all businesses need a plan. As I said, 'Failing to plan is planning to fail'. My top priority for the next year is to try to work with the craft in Queensland to establish a joint committee between the craft and the Royal Arch to develop a strategic plan for the next 20 years – not just 2 or 3 years, but 20 years. It may not all be achievable, but at least we will have some direction, and some goals for our future leaders to either modify, or work towards.
Companions, Jack Welch, the former Chairman of General Electric (GE) recently said:
"If there is more change happening outside your business than inside your business, the end is near" Dramatic statement yes, but true?
I would also like to remind those present of the situation of Kodak. In 1976, they had 90% of the world photographic film sales, and 85% of camera sales. You could not go to the cinema without the titles showing the movie was recorded on Kodak film, and re-produced onto Kodak film in Kodak laboratories. Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975, but did not market it, because they thought it would damage their film and photographic business. That was the only thing they got right, and in January, 2012, they filed for bankruptcy – from having 90% of the world market to bankrupt in 36 years.
My second point is 'a plan without action is only a dream, but action without a plan is a nightmare'.
My objective will be to have the plan as a 'living document' to be reviewed and revised every 6 months to 1 year, with the first rough draft completed in 6 months – by the May Convocation to be more polished and presented to the November 2017 convocation for adoption. However, as I just quoted, a plan without action is only a dream. I plan implementing some of the proposals that may come from that committee as soon as I legally can (I am sure some of those proposals will require amendments to our Constitution and Rules, and as I have earlier today taken an obligation to maintain the constitution, I will honour that obligation. I did not however suggest that if the constitution was limiting us, or holding us back, I would not try to change the constitution.
My future reports to this Grand Chapter will be on what those plans are, and where we are placed towards implementing those plans and strategies.
Companions, the most important aspect of any organisation, including freemasonry is membership. Without membership, we do not exist, and this must be the ongoing focus of every member and officer in Royal Arch Freemasonry.

I have tried to analyse where we can get membership from, and I determined that there are only 4 ways to increase membership. The first 2 I have dismissed, but I will mention for a complete analysis.
Firstly, we could admit non-freemasons directly into Royal Arch Freemasonry – my response is an unequitable NO.
Secondly, we could admit females into Royal arch freemasonry. Like the previous alternative – another unequitable- NO. (Sorry ladies).
Third alternative is to attract more craft freemasons into royal arch freemasonry, without detracting from craft freemasonry. For over 50 years, royal arch has attracted between 19% and 21% of craft freemasons. If we could increase this from 20% to 30%, we would have a 50% increase in our membership.
The fourth alternative is to work closely with the craft freemasons to increase their membership. If we only maintain the same 20% of craft freemasons that become royal arch freemasons, for every 100 new members we can jointly attract to the craft, we (Royal Arch) should attract 20 new members.
So let's look at these last two alternatives in more depth, but not limit ourselves by conventional thinking.
Increasing the % of craft freemasons that become royal arch freemasons. Companions, I believe that it is an incitement on us that we can only attract 20% of craft freemasons to join the Royal Arch, and to have the genuine secrets of freemasonry returned to them. We have really failed to communicate the importance of the continued learning offered by royal arch. So, let's think outside the box. When I was first installed as Worshipful Master in the craft, I was placed in that chair, and told I was the 'humble representative of King Solomon'. King Solomon knew the genuine secrets, but I as his representative, did not know the secrets. I remember feeling a little disappointed and disillusioned. Naturally, I did not know at that time what the installation ceremony involved.
So outside the box (and the constitution as it currently stands). What if we approached every Senior Warden who has not previously joined Royal Arch, and offered to do the ceremony where the secrets were restored on a 'fee for service' basis during the year they were Senior Warden – Say $200.00. No requirement for the Mark or Excellent ceremony, just the Royal Arch Ceremony, and for that fee, they would have 2 years' membership of the Chapter of Transition. They would not have to attend any chapter meetings for those 2 years while they were Master of their Lodge, and part of the year they were Immediate Past Master, but would get normal mail from chapters, and invited to Grand Chapter Convocations. They would not have to buy regalia, and at the end of the 2 years, a representative of a local chapter (Development officer) contact him, and asks what he sees as his future, and would he like to find out about all the other ceremonies he is missing out on?
Likewise, at the end of the 2 years, if he decides not to join, that he be automatically recorded as resigned without having to formally resign, and without a 'black mark' being put against his name for non-payment of dues so at any time in the future, he could re-join.

Companions, what if we offered a similar service for other orders. Surely, the next step for all freemasons should be to have the genuine secrets restored before they progress to other orders. If we provide a feasible path for all freemasons to have the secrets restored, other orders may introduce or re-introduce the royal arch as a pre-requisite for their order.
Even if only 10% of the Senior Wardens that accept our offer remain in the Royal Arch, have we not started to meet our objective? I know I will have some purists saying you must do them in order, but why. If we are smart, I believe 50% of freemasons undertaking the royal arch degree is possible – maybe not in my term, but by 2030. I think for too long we have been targeting craft freemasons with 12 months experience. We need to change our focus to past masters who have not joined Royal Arch
Another possibility. What if we could in agreement with the craft arrange for a night where a lodge may only be doing an emulation, or a lecture, we could present our introduction to royal arch freemasonry ceremony?
The fourth alternative, which is the second one I want to discuss is to work with the craft to attract and retain members. Brethren, I am a craftsman in my own lodge, and I am speaking from my experiences at lodge level.
The first point I would like to raise here is that we never ask anyone to join freemasonry. Why not? In the ritual, we say that ' unbiased by the improper solicitations of your friends....' Brethren and companions, why is it considered improper to say to someone words to the effect that 'I really respect you, and what your life goals are, and I think you would really fit in well as a freemason, and I would be honoured to propose you if you would like me to." I think we need to seriously look at what we mean by 'improper solicitations', and this could well be undertaken by the Freemasonry 2030 committee if I can get that going.
The second point, and this jarred on me at the first installation I ever attended back in the early 1990's, when I was invested as junior deacon, when the ancient charges are read to the worshipful master elect, and he has to accept them – one of those charges no 11 is "you admit it is not in the power of any man or body of men to make innovation in the body of freemasonry, without the consent first obtained of the Grand Lodge".
That to me is a crazy charge, and should be deleted or replaced with a charge more like 'it behoves every freemason to look at ways the craft can be improved and made more relevant to its members and attractive to non-members. I believe that I have attended every Grand Lodge meeting for the last 20 years (except 1), and I do not believe there has ever been approval given for anyone or any committee to look at making improvements in freemasonry.
The third point, and this applies equally to craft and to Royal Arch is the ritual and I am sorry, but I am going to be harsh here. The ritual is designed to teach us lessons – honesty, integrity, charity, upright steps, level intentions etc., but how often do we after a ceremony is over, say to a candidate that you should go to another chapter (or lodge), and see the ceremony performed there to get the full impact. What are we really saying? What we are saying is that we acknowledge that we have failed to teach you the lesson that was intended to be taught by that ceremony, and you should go somewhere else to learn it. Companions, can you imagine any other educational institution telling you to go somewhere else to learn the contents of a lesson that had just delivered?
The ultimate goal of our ritual is to teach life lessons, but we are failing. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the delivery of the ritual has become the God, not the messages contained in the ritual. People will disagree with me, but at the end of the day, does it really matter how well the ritual is delivered, but how well it is received by the candidate. How often do we congratulate ourselves on well delivered ritual, when we really should be asking the candidate 'What did he learn from the ceremony'? If anyone here has even done a 'train the trainer' course, you will know that one of the objects of training is to get feedback from the students, but we have edicts that we cannot vary from our ritual, or even ask for feedback.
Bruce Nicholson
Definition of a Cubit
Those of you who know me, know I was a scout leader for 25 years until last year, when I accepted the office of DGZ. For many of those years, I was the leader of the largest rover crew in Queensland, and one of the largest crews in Australia. Once every 6 months or so, we would sit around in an informal manner – maybe around a fire, and discuss what is meant by the scout law and promise, what it meant to be a rover. Sometimes, we would talk for over 3 hours, and not get half way through the points, but at the end of the meeting, everyone had cleared their thoughts and discussed it in an open and friendly environment. There were no right or wrong answers, and everyone was entitled to their own opinion. When was the last time any lodge or chapter sat down in a less formal environment, and discussed the meaning of the ceremonies?
I congratulate our education committee chaired by Vernon Flood in the preparation of the prologues and epilogues for our ceremonies, BUT the next step I will want that committee to establish is a series of questions that a lodge or chapter could sit around and discuss informally about the ceremonies. For example, what is the message to be derived from that ceremony, what was the most important part (and please don't say the secrets), if the ceremony had to be cut in half, what parts would you delete and why?
Given that there are 13 non-chair ceremonies in Royal Arch, if you do not have a candidate one evening, instead of doing an emulation, why not finish the meeting early, but before you go to the festive board and are still in the Chapter Room, why not have a discussion about one of those 13 ceremonies?
Second Point about ritual is that it scares new members away. Society has changed. Generally and comparatively, we are asset rich (at least compared to our forefathers), but time poor. We have new candidates join the craft and royal arch, and they see the way a lot of ritual is delivered (by good ritualists) and they think that they can never learn that amount of ritual, so rather than embarrass themselves, they resign. I know myself, when I was appointed DGZ, I have spent over 60 hours trying to learn the installation ceremony, and I freely admit, I am still not good. We need to find ways to assist new members, and remove that stigma.

When I started school in the early 1960's, I sat at a long bench, with inkwells in it between every alternate student, and before any smart comments about quills,, we had wooden floors, no air conditioning, no computers or audio visual equipment. If you were to go into a classroom today, you would find them very different. Even today, I wanted to do an audio visual presentation with my speech, but I could not figure out where I could put the equipment so everybody could see.
Companions, If I wanted to destroy any business, I would set the business with multiple divisions, and then make each division compete against each other without giving clear direction or overall supervision. Does this sound like freemasonry Multiple Orders, and even multiple versions of the same order, and no clear direction for members?
Companions, what we are currently doing is not working. In the last 50 years, we have lost 75% of our membership, while the population has more than doubled. Given the age demographics, where the average age of a Royal Arch Freemason is 75, and life expectancy is 80. Men born between 1946 and 1976 had a life expectancy of 67 years.If they lived to 75, their life expectancy is 82. We stand to lose another 50% of our membership in the next 7 years. We need 8 new members every month just to maintain our current membership numbers.
We really have 2 alternatives.. We can continue to do what we have been doing for the last 50 years, and watch the slow but inevitable demise of our order, or , if like me, you believe that the principals we teach (brotherly love, relief, truth, etc.) are more important that our ceremonies, we can try to make changes. At the end of the day, if our principals were taught and applied to everyone in the community, whether or not they are freemasons, would not our society be a better place to live?
Companions, we need radical changes. Steady as she goes is not an alternative. I will be pushing the ritual committee to look at all the rituals to see what can be changed for improvement – and I do not mean minor cosmetic changes. I will be challenging the constitution review committee to look at changes that need to be done to enable my visions to be implemented, I will be pushing for the establishment of the joint Freemasons 2030 committee, and then driving that committee to set in motion a good and wholesome plan for freemasonry into 2030.
Companions, whatever we do, we must make freemasonry a place where people want to go, not a place where they feel obliged to go. To some extent, it must be fun.
Companions, the Grand Scribe Ezra said after my appointment as Deputy First Grand Principal that 'We might have a tiger by the tail here'. Let me assure you that you do not have a 'tiger by the tail', but you have a tiger coming straight at you, and you can become the wolf or lion and run with me, or you can be the deer or the antelope and lie down and die.
Companions, if you do not like what I am proposing, nominations for First Grand Principal for next year's installation ceremony close in February next year. My nomination is already lodged. Companions, if you like what I am proposing, and would like to come on board, please let me know and volunteer. I am fairly confident that there will be proposals for changes to the constitution to be voted on at the May Convocation next year. Whether you approve or dis approve of the proposed changes, I would encourage you to come along, as I will allow a reasonable amount of discussion on the motions, and I am sure that there will be opposition. If you support my ideas, please come and support the changes.

Companions, I have set some high goals, and I do not expect that I will be able to achieve them all, certainly not in the time I have available as First Grand Principal, but if I set lower goals, they may be more likely to be achieved, but at the end of the day, I will not have made much change. I would rather set some high goals to work towards, and potentially not achieve them all, than set some easy goals that do not help or improve the fraternity
Companions, you have probably heard the expression that we are all born with 2 ears and 1 mouth, and we should use them in that percentage. I have spoken now for quite a while, and now, over the next couple of months, I want to listen to your ideas and suggestions. The concept of not making innovation in freemasonry does not apply to royal arch, so I want you all to be as innovative as you possible can be, and see what comes out. I don't promise to implement every idea I hear, but I do promise to listen. Please let me know your opinions.
Companions, Welcome to the 21st Century.

Thank you for your attention.
Kirby Leeke, GZ

 

 

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