Thursday 15th September 2022 saw the Companions of the Chapter of Strict Benevolence No 97 celebrate 225 years of Royal Arch Masonry. The Chapter was delighted to receive a Deputation from the Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham – A Full Team Visit led by EComp Michael Shaw, Deputy Grand Superintendent. Michael was supported on this occasion by the Second and Third Provincial Grand Principals, The two Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals and other Acting Provincial Officers totalling 21 in all. The Deputation were honoured to be asked to join in the celebrations which underlined the importance of the heritage of our past, the values of our present and the shared challenges that lie ahead.
The arrangements for the evening were made in large part by E Comp Roy Neville and he and the Chapter ensured that every Companion present felt part of this celebratory meeting and not just a peripheral member or visitor. Roy also gave a short history of the Chapter taken from a booklet produced in 2002 by the late E Comp Con Culkin. Roy emphasised that the although the evening was not an official anniversary, it is nevertheless undeniable that the Chapter of Strict Benevolence was constituted in 1797 and that the evening was an opportunity for the Companions to celebrate that fact.
Roy pointed out that 1797 was of course only 21 years after the American Declaration of Independence, 8 years before the battle of Trafalgar and 18 years before the battle of Waterloo (and long before that was proclaimed by ABBA!). Our first Grand Superintendent in Durham was appointed in 1788, just 9 years previously and so the Chapter of Strict Benevolence is indeed an ancient and honourable Chapter.
We were treated to an insight into one of our founding members Michael Scarth and the part he played in bringing the chapter into being as well as a profile of the man himself. A father, an active Mason, businessman and pillar of the community. Michael became master of his Lodge after 12 months, Provincial Junior Grand Warden within 4 years and founder and first Z of The Chapter within six years. A truly remarkable Mason. Roy also explained why today an unofficial anniversary and the mysteries of why the Chapter was did not meet for a period after 1839, resuming where it left off in 1852 with the same officers on the floor.
Following the meeting we retired to an excellent festive board where EComp Shaw responded to the toast to the Provincial Officers, reminding us of the value of the shared experience of the Royal Arch and the enjoyment that we can all get from it. He was also pleased to receive from the Scribe Wayne Rumley, a copy of the history of the Durham Harodim and a history of Palatine Lodge No97 both written by Con Culkin.
All in all, it was a fitting way for the Companions of the Chapter to celebrate this milestone in their history and they look forward to the future with renewed vigour.