You have candidates! Or maybe you don’t but you think there are some good prospects. Either way, every Chapter should confer degrees EVERY year – more often if need be (and, yes, we have some Chapters that do just that). While there’s no denying the impact that one-on-one degree conferral makes on a candidate, sometimes you need to hold a Chapter Degree Day.
There could be many reasons: Having multiple candidates, for one thing. Or maybe maybe you have a backlog of guys who are “stuck” in various degrees and you want to give them all one opportunity to become full members of the Chapter. Perhaps there are other Chapters in your district or local area that have trouble doing degree conferral themselves and they’re looking for assistance from your Chapter. These are all great reasons to plan a Chapter Degree Day. But there’s one more.
Maybe your Chapter hasn’t conferred degrees in a long, long time. And maybe you can do one of the easier ones – the Past Master or Mark Master Degrees – but the others are beyond your Companions’ current abilities. Maybe you’re just looking for an event to revitalize your Chapter. Ah, here we go! A Chapter Degree Day is a great way to jump start an inactive Chapter.
So how do you begin? Well, if you’re going to do this degree day all on your own, pick a date that works for your cast and your candidates. If, however, you need help with some of the degrees, make sure that the date picked works for your helpers. You should also be aware of regional events like Scottish Rite Festivals, Shrine Ceremonials, and even Lodge Blue Lightnings. Make some calls to District Reps, other Bodies’ Secretaries and Recorders, and check calendars.
So you have a date. What’s next? You’d probably think setting the slate would be logical. Yes, but there’s something even more important: Communicate the event. To your candidates, if you have them. Certainly to other, nearby Chapters. Email, personal telephone calls, texts, Facebook, in-person mentions, and, of course, when you visit your lodge (and others in the area!). And don’t forget the Grand Chapter can help you too!
Why do we advocate communicating the event over setting the slate? Simple. You want everyone to get excited about the Chapter Degree Day. Candidates, potential cast members, and Companions who may just come to watch. Setting a slate first is pointless if no one is showing up. Communicating the at least the date of the event is critical – everything follows from there.
Now you set the slate. If your Companions can’t handle all of the degrees, consider partnering with Chapters from your district. Perhaps you each get a degree to confer. There are also other Bodies that can help: the local York Rite College and, if you have them, the Yeoman of York. And every region has ritual “experts” that are glad to lend a hand. Certainly the Grand Chapter is willing assist if you ask us. We have the Board of Grand Examiners – each proficient in every part of every degree – but many of our Grand Officers know many parts as well.
Put someone in charge of setting the slate. If you’re partnering with other Chapters, make sure they have their slates overseen by someone too. Keep in contact with them – they may need your help if someone drops out or they have trouble filling a spot.
Next, go get some new candidates. Reach out to prospects that have shown an interest. Use the Grand Chapter’s Invitation to Petition program. And visit local lodges, telling prospective members about the Royal Arch and York Rite, and that they have a chance to join in the near future.
What do you need? You’ll want to do an early inventory of your degree props, paraphernalia, costumes, and anything else you may need to confer the degrees. Repair what is broken, replace what looks old or worn out, and buy or build what is missing. You want your Chapter to shine this day – for your candidates, your Companions, and visitors! A separate committee in charge of degree needs gets this done quickly. If you can, put out all of the degree props and costumes ahead of time. Even having a Propmaster and designated “stage crew” will help keep things moving along quickly.
Food always seems to be an important aspect of our fraternity. Chapter Degree Days are no exception. If you’re starting early in the morning, make sure that there are rolls or doughnuts and plenty of coffee (with cream, sugar, etc.). It’s okay to put out a kitty to collect a few dollars to help offset costs. For lunch, we’ve seen it as simple as a crockpot of chili to a locally catered meal. Again, charge what you need to, but try to keep it reasonable.
Speaking of money, you may have to pay your Temple Association to rent the building for the day. Make sure you have a budget and are covering costs. It’s okay to charge other Chapters a “candidate fee,” but try to include the candidate’s lunch with the amount.
The day of the event, make sure you have someone arrive early. Get the coffee made. Get rolls or doughnuts there early. Have one or more people checking-in candidates, collecting their information, and getting any necessary fees. Same with the visiting Companions: Make sure they sign in some how and collect money for lunch ahead of time. And certainly make sure that you have two or three Companions from your Chapter dedicated to welcoming visitors and seeing to their needs (hey, your Chapter has a Steward, right?).
Be sure to properly open your Chapter. That’s important. It showcases your Chapter and tells everyone you respect our ceremonies and traditions. You may want to introduce Grand Officers now – or do it later. And if the Grand High Priest is present, it’s a good idea to officially receive him at the end of the Royal Arch Degree and give him the opportunity to speak. Most importantly – enjoy the day! You and your Companions have worked hard to get here.