Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Alberta

M. Ex. Comp. Norman E. Downs

Grand First Principal


2014 - 2015

One year ago, upon being elected to the position of Grand Third Principal of this Grand Chapter, I said that I was elated to be elected and to have the opportunity to serve the Companions of this whole Grand Jurisdiction, to assist in, and to provide input for, the management and well-being of  Royal Arch Masonry in this province.  At the same time, I was also apprehensive about that opportunity because it was then, and is even more so now, a humbling position in which to be.  My sincere thanks go out to all of the Companions of Alberta for trusting me with this opportunity, and responsibility to lead this Grand Jurisdiction of Royal Arch Masonry.

Over the last year, I did what I thought was one of my major roles and that was to support M. Ex. Comp Dave Switzer and to be his shadow during his year as Grand First Principal.  At the same time, I very much enjoyed the visiting and camaraderie of the Chapters and the Companions.  It has been an awesome journey and I commend M. Ex Comp Switzer on his successful and enjoyable year, but for me the rubber has now hit the road.

While I was both eager, and somewhat apprehensive, I thought I had a couple of years to get acquainted with the intricacies of Grand Chapter and all of its workings. Well, because of unfortunate circumstances I unknowingly had only one year.  I’m sure I speak for all Companions when I wish R. Ex. Companion Al Frado strength and courage in the coming months and we hope to see him in this same Office in the near future.  

This gathering marks and celebrates the one hundred and first Convocation of Royal Arch Masons in Alberta.  As such, we are certainly grateful for the vision that our forefathers had, and the energy they contributed, when they put together the beginnings of our Grand Jurisdiction.  While I am sure those men reflected upon what they were doing, and thought to themselves, “We are starting something that will last till time is no more”, were they really able to internalize or fathom something lasting 100 years and more.  I think we as humans can really only internalize something lasting a one life time, and including, perhaps, parts of the generation before us and the generation after us.  Other than that it is only conceptual without real appreciation of what has been and what will be. Thus, while the Jurisdiction is by the calendar 100 years old, we today are in reality perhaps only three generations of Royal Arch Masons old.  What I mean is that this Jurisdiction has thrived on what all of our forefathers inherited from the previous generation, contributed during their generation, and what they passed on to the next generation.  Everyone here today is part of the current generation that is contributing to this milestone and to the longevity of our prized organization.  We are also the first generation of many generations that will hopefully keep the Jurisdiction vibrant for the next 100 years.  It is incumbent on us to pass on to the next generation and they on to subsequent generations the tools, skills and sense of who we are so that in 2114 a celebration of 200 calendar years can be marked with the same pride and a promise of yet another 100 years.

This begs in my mind a question, and this Centennial makes it even more poignant.  The question is, “Why are we here?”

Why do we, and why did our forefathers, who had to make much more of a physical commitment than we do, expend time and energy at our meetings, on our ceremonies, on our charitable efforts, and on  mentoring of new members?  It certainly is not for any material gain; in fact it costs us both time and money.  So why do we do what we do?  Is it the great lessons of our ritual?  Yes it is.  Is it the in response to the presentation and oration skills of our Companions and Brethren?  Yes it is.  Is it the fellowship of men who are like minded and with whom we share similar values?  Yes it is.  Is it the education we frequently enjoy whether it is relating to our fraternity or to other far and wide subjects?  Yes it is.  Is it the charitable work we do in supporting our youth and communities?  Yes it is.  Is it the social gathering we enjoy with family and friends?  Yes it is?  Is it our relationship with the creator and knowing we are part of something bigger than ourselves?  Yes it is.  Each of these, and perhaps many other attributes, on their own, did not, do not and will not sustain our fraternity.  It is the sum of all of them and how they come together for each of us in our own way and how we internalize them that explains why we join, why we attend and why we make the effort to not only maintain but to strengthen our fraternity. 

At a personal level, every time I enter a Chapter Room or a Lodge Room, every time I meet with my Companions and Brethren, whether it is at a Tyled meeting, a Degree practice, a general purposes meeting, a planning meeting, a festive board, for coffee or for lunch, and at Grand Chapter or District Meetings, I feel uplifted.   I feel a little lighter on my feet, a little more relaxed, sheltered somehow from the worries and concerns of the outer world all because I know I am in a safe place with like-minded men.  There is an infectious energy that permeates our fraternity rooted in the sum of all the attributes that I have listed and you might even add more. This energy cannot be seen or touched, it cannot be taught or learned – it is experienced.  It is in us and it is who we are.  It is the Spirit of our Fraternity.  This Spirit is what our Fraternity has to offer and in my mind is the main reason why this and other Jurisdictions have existed for so long and why we do what we do.  If we are true to ourselves, to our rituals, to a belief in the goodness of mankind, if we embrace strong values, continue our own development and learning and are persons of action, we as individuals can be the spark and inspiration that ignites the energy and the Spirit others.

Companions, it is up to you and me, each of us individually and collectively.   I challenge each and every one of us to maintain and spread that infectious Energy and Spirit that is within us.

Ladies, Guests, Brethren and Companions, let me close by extending my thanks to all those that have contributed to my preferment today.  My thanks to M. Ex. Companion Lyle Dowdell for Installing me today; my thanks to R. Ex. Companion Marvyn Rogers for all his good work, advice and assistance; my thanks to all the Past Grand First Principals for their support, advice and continued work for the Jurisdiction; and my thanks to all the Companions who have provided guidance and advice to me throughout my Royal Arch career.  Not least of all, I extend a special thanks to each and every Companion of the Jurisdiction for all the good work you do for your Chapters and for Royal Arch Masonry.  My final challenge to everyone, no matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter where you go, be the best you can be.

Thank you all.