On Sunday 12th September 2004 in Loughbrickland Presbyterian Church there was a Centenary Thanksgiving Service for Royal Arch Chapter No.173.
The Preacher was V.Ex.Comp. Chancellor George N Little and the text of his sermon was as follows :-
Special occasions are important events and the readings from Holy Scripture tell us of two such events.
It was an important occasion for the Children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, when the waters of the Jordan divided and they crossed over safely onto dry land.
Important too, in that it was to be passed on to their children, and the twelve stones stood as a memorial of this historic event in the life of the Children of Israel.
In the New Testament reading from Revelation we are told of another occasion of great importance when St. John the Divine saw a New Heaven and a New Earth, the Holy City, New Jerusalem. In this very pictorial language, John is told, “He that over cometh shall inherit all things and I will be His God and he shall be my son.”
All creation is forever moving in this direction – for something better – “Anew Heaven and a new Earth”. Our journey through life should be one that will lead us to that “Celestial City,” the New Jerusalem, which is Heaven.
Today we have gathered in this Church to give thanks to Almighty God, for the working of this Royal Arch Chapter 173 for one hundred years. Having been constituted on September 23, 1904. This is an important milestone and we do well to give thanks and to remember those, who in 1904, had the foresight and love for Masonry to form this Chapter in Loughbrickland. We recall all those who down the years since then have kept the light of 173 burning bright.
A recent documentary about Freemasonry was screened on R T E in recent months. 90% of that production was good, and indeed favourable, to Masonry. However, as is the right of the producer to present both sides of the argument, they invited a critic of Masonry to put his views across. After all Freemasonry is not above criticism, and we welcome constructive criticism when it is to the benefit of the Order. The critic featured in it from Banbridge, however, appeared to get his line of thought wrong with most of his argument having nothing to do with Irish Freemasonry. The initiation ceremony included in the documentary was not in fact part of Royal Arch masonry as we know it under the Irish Constitution.
This prompted me to ask the question “What is Freemasonry”? As I attempt to answer my own question, do not expect a full definition as the time at my disposal this evening would not allow me anything more than a few points.
Be assured the practice of Freemasonry is, or should be, “the practice of every social and moral virtue. St. Paul said, “Let no man deceive you with vain words, because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Eph. 5,6)
Masons are exhorted how to discharge our duty to God, to our neighbour and oneself.
We respect every person irrespective of their religious belief, political opinions or indeed the colour of their skin.
To be a good citizen and that as an individual, he should practice every domestic as well as public virtue and maintain those qualities which St. Paul spoke about to the Corinthian Church, “and now abide faith, hope and charity these three but the greatest of these is charity.”
Some Brethren view Freemasonry as a charitable institution. I have yet to come across a better reference to our charitable endeavours than a quotation by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, Grand Master of England, who in an address to the members of his Grand Lodge sometime ago said:-
“On the subject of the charities, let me remind you first of all that Freemasonry itself is not a Charity. Nor indeed does its have Charity as its main purpose Charity is but one expression of the true spirit of Freemasonry, a demonstration to our Brethren and their dependents and to the community that our hearts are indeed expanded by benevolence.”
Whenever you reach your personal definition, I hope that for you, like for me, your attitude to membership of the Order will parallel a remark by the poet W B Yates that “this house enriched my soul out of measure, because here life moves, without restraint, through gracious forms.”
We have moved through many forms in Royal Arch Chapter 173 over the past one hundred years. I have no doubt that if we hold to the principles of Masonry to live in good repute among all people, that those to whom we hand on the mantle of our Order will be celebrating many more important events.
We wish you well in the name of the Lord. Amen.