Wednesday, May 11, 2022

‘A Missouri compromise in Royal Arch’

Mark Master Mason jewel.

The new issue of The Royal Arch Mason Magazine tells of an innovation in membership development in Missouri that sounds promising.

Kyle R. Palacios
The reporter, none other than MEGHP Kyle Palacios, explains how the Grand Chapter, with help from the Grand Lodge, enticed Master Masons with Capitular Masonry by conferring on them the Mark Master and the Virtual Past Master degrees. No joining fees.

On fifteen occasions spanning three months, eighty-five Masons received the degrees. Another forty-four were still in waiting. Those interested in continuing through to the Royal Arch Degree were steered to their local chapters.

This provokes much thought. I believe the long-standing structure of most chapters in this country needs rehabilitation. For starters, that VPM Degree should be retired. It no longer serves the original purpose we’ve all read about, namely that it qualifies one for the Royal Arch Degree. That isn’t necessary anymore, if it ever was. Not every grand chapter includes it among the body of degrees. If I’m not mistaken, neither Pennsylvania nor New Hampshire works it (maybe others too). Outside the country, Canada and England get by without it. Retiring this degree would ease the ritual burden borne by Royal Arch chapters, allowing them to concentrate on the necessary work: conferring the RAM Degree and educating the companions on the meaning of it all.

And the Mark Master Mason Degree? Maybe this could be the start of the degree’s return to the Craft lodge, where long ago it had been a side degree. I attach much importance to the MMM Degree, so I personally would prefer a proliferation of Mark lodges that would confer it on Master Masons. Such lodges are rare in the United States. Ohio has them. New Jersey has a few. I don’t think the Masonic family tree needs expansion, but maybe General Grand Chapter could make itself useful by showing a way to reorganize the system and create a distinct Mark fraternity (again, as in England, etc.). Or perhaps chapters could become the venues where only MMM and RAM may be received.

And the Most Excellent Master Degree? Maybe that could become a special degree for chapter, the way Super Excellent Master is for the Cryptic council. Or possibly a degree reserved for certain deserving companions, such as past HPs. I can’t think of everything, you know.

What I do realize is the time for rethinking and restructuring our Capitular Rite is upon us—has been for a long time, actually. It seems to me that about ten percent of Master Masons in America are Royal Arch Masons. I’m not against exclusivity in certain areas, but what we really are seeing here is negligence. The MMM and the RAM degrees are essential to Freemasonry. New, or old, or other jurisdictions’ ideas are needed to press these tools into the hands of our lodge brethren.

The Grand Chapter of Missouri seems to be reconnoitering for a way forward, and I’m interested in hearing more about its progress, and other ideas that may be germinating elsewhere.

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