Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Alberta

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M. Ex. Comp. Keng-Wei Chiew

Grand First Principal


2018 - 2019

Grand 1st Principal’s Theme

2018 – 2019
I Participate
Most Worshipful the Grandmaster, Distinguished East, Companions all.
Good evening,
First of all, Companions, I thank you for the opportunity to participate in our communal journey
forward this year as your Grand First Principal, a position I accept with profound humility and
honour. I am also humbled and honoured by the efforts of the installation team and heart fully
thank them for the warm memories they have provided through their superlative efforts. To
participate, I pledge that I will join in every step of our journey in the coming year and in return I
would greatly appreciate to receive the same from each of you.
You know in the Malaysian town where I was born, the Masonic Lodge was known as the
Haunted House. All its doors and windows were shuttered, and on occasion, men were seen
coming and going but many of the town people could only speculate as to the goings on within
this rather ghostly building.
Another misrepresentation of the Craft was when in my late twenties, I was advised by a work
colleague that I should refuse any invitation from the boss to join a Masonic Lodge, because he
whispered, they performed all sorts of weird activities.
Those were the misconceptions that I laboured with until I arrived in this country. While here I
had the good fortune of meeting with RWBro Wilf West, and once again found my curiosity
piqued by the sight of his Masonic ring. His mentorship helped dispel the myths of my youth,
and cement the tenets of our fraternity, those of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. RWBro Wilf
West has been a valuable mentor, and with many sincere and passionate companions of the
Craft, many are here in the audience today, have guided me in my Masonic journey to this day.
From that auspicious beginning, I have moved forward, step by step, to stand before you today,
and solicit an affirmation from each of you, that throughout the coming year, you too will join me
in every step of the journey we take together, to ensure the ongoing strength and vitality of our
Craft. We have to declare our participation with commitment and conviction, unwavering in the
knowledge that our participation, at any level, is a gift to the future of our fraternity.

Like those before me, I have given some thought to the challenges of the coming year, and
how we, as a group, may work together to impact the longevity and future strength of our
fraternity, how we may strive to thrive. Observations from various companions suggest that the
more pressing challenges faced by our fraternity are the “open book” syndrome, declining
membership and poor attendance.
As I have learned over the past few years travelling and supporting our Grand First Principals,
our chapters have many passionate and faithful members, who each contribute uniquely to the
brotherhood and community, to the extent that their obligations allow.
Most consider themselves custodians of the Craft, and work to maintain the prestige of our
rituals and the sanctity of our practices even though, in recent time, we have seen the
introduction of short cuts and “Open Book” rituals.
We must all confirm by our participation, that these rituals are indeed the cornerstone of our
fraternity, and should be portrayed with all the solemnity, dignity and honour they deserve. It is
necessary that we apply our efforts and talents to perform these rituals in a manner which
celebrates the rich history of our Craft. We are not to forget that our Craft has survived
centuries of growth and change, not because it followed the trends of the times, or bowed to
internal or external pressure, it has flourished on the strength of its members and more
importantly its traditions.
But quality work needs practices, therefore it is important that we portray the three degree at
least once every Masonic year. In the absence of candidates, exemplification should be
encouraged. Regularity of performance of our rites and ceremonies will increase the
confidence in our performance and better the overall experience for the candidates, new
members and seasoned members alike.
By not taking the easy road, by each of us personally meeting the challenge of learning the
rituals, and rejecting the open book shortcuts, we show each new candidate that they are
indeed worthy of our best efforts, and we honour both, them and our Craft, with our commitment
to traditions. As I said, we deserve to give them, and they deserve to receive, a polished
performance. It is also said that poor portrayal of our Craft can bring on an attendance problem.
In the face of declining membership, which was the theme last year, it is imperative that we
actively focus on enlarging the pool of people from where our membership is drawn, which is
expanding the membership base in our Craft lodges – helping them to help ourselves.
Freemasonry, throughout the ages, has prospered and grown because each member has
ingrained in the next generation the Masonic values. Sons, grandsons, nephews, cousins each
saw their family member grow and change within the Masonic journey, and for that I am sure
they too will want to avail themselves the same opportunity for personal and professional growth
that our fellowship offered.
A Mason once wrote, “Freemasonry grew by men having sons who become Masons, and then
they had grandsons who become Masons. You would not have a membership problem at all if
the sons of Masons become Masons, and the Grandsons of Masons become Masons.” He
went on further to say, “If you cannot convince your son sleeping in the room next to you that
this fraternity is worth being in, how do you ever expect to convince the guy down the street who
does not even know you?”
Historically, this informal succession has ensured the strength and vitality of our fraternity
throughout the past centuries. Is it not fitting, then, that this historic tradition should once again
become the cornerstone of our recruitment efforts? As mentioned, if we cannot persuade those
closest to us that our involvement with Masonry endows us with untold intrinsic benefits, how on
earth are we to convince a stranger of the same.
If each one of us in the room commits to affirming our Masonic experience with just one person,
to encourage their curiosity and interest, and to dispel whatever myths they may hold regarding
the Craft, how many then will we have reach out to? We will have reached as many in this room
and more. Give those closest to us an opportunity to discover that we are not just a group of
men who get together to socialise, but that we have an unspoken agenda to prosper and grow
within our families, our chapters, our communities and our brotherhood.
To grow and strengthen our fraternity, we will need to also address the critical issue of declining
attendance. Poor attendance is a concern where in a few cases, to have the required quota of
companions to open a meeting is at time a challenge. Imagine if we threw a party and nobody
came. Okay, some might show up, but you get the gist of it, right? So, when our degree teams
work so hard to prepare and perform our rituals, should we not honour them and the new
candidates with our attendance? An audience matters. Although we are there just to watch the
performance, our mere presence is a compliment, our standing on the sidelines is applause.
We have to be fully aware that it is from the sideline that lies the strength of Freemasonry. As I
mentioned, sidelines provide the applause and inspiration, just as in sports, the home team
always feels extra energised with thunderous support from the sidelines when they played at
So, Companions, the vibrancy of our chapters depends on its members coming forward to be
personally involved. Whether we participate in the ritual practice, honouring candidates or
partake in activities with our attendance, our involvement showcases the dynamism of our
chapters, providing the momentum for increased attendance and a valuable mechanism for
membership recruitment. Here I would like to call on the Award Committee to seriously
consider initiating an Annual Challenge Plaque honouring the chapter that has the “Most
Improved Attendance” for the year, as an incentive to all chapters to work on bettering its
attendance. I look forward to a positive response from the committee, hopefully soon.
Companions, do be present in your Chapter often. We all have personal obligations that limit
our attendance on occasion, but be reminded that our contribution to our Chapter is critical to its
prosperity. A vigorous, engaging, active membership creates a vigorous, engaging and active
Chapter. I ask that each of us be the ambassador of our Craft, and contribute our time,
schedule permitting of course, our talents, our enthusiasm and our passion towards
strengthening the tenets of Faith, Hope and Charity in our chapters. Your attendance and
participation in chapters is a gift to the future of our Craft.
Finally, I leave you with this thought that there may not be an “i” in TEAM, but the strongest and
most successful teams I can think of have been made up of a group of individuals (the “i”) who
each contribute their talents and strength towards achieving the common goals of the group. So,
companions, there are many “i”s in TEAM.
So, let us all pledge to work, both individually and collectively, to achieve our common mission
throughout the coming year, to strengthen our membership, to increase our attendance and to
reaffirm our traditions. Let us all pledge to Participate.
I have here “iParticipate” lapel pins, these are available to all as a symbol of our pledge to
participate as we move forward throughout the coming year.
Companions, the journey begins, it will be my pleasure to participate with you….

Thank You.