According to our Grand Chapter Constitution (Section 57), “It shall be the duty of every chapter to assemble at least once in each quarter of a year.” Does that mean you should meet only once a quarter? No. In fact, when we see a Chapter meeting only once a quarter, either by choice (i.e. that’s what their bylaws specify or their bylaws make direct reference to meeting frequency as directed by the Grand Chapter’s bylaws or Constitution) or by design (some Chapters “rotate” which York Rite Body opens and conducts business each month), we’ve noted time and again that these Chapters seem not to be doing well: New members are few and far between, when a new Companion is exalted they may only attend a meeting or two before stopping attending, meetings tend to have the bare minimum number of attendees, the Chapter’s meeting is simply a business meeting and no more, etc. You get the idea.
Why Chapters should open every month
So while a Chapter is technically only required to open and meet four times a year, we strongly advise that that our Chapters meet every month. The reasons are simple:
Frequency = participation. A Chapter that is meeting monthly tends to have more attendees, more events and programs, better participation by the membership in general, and is very likely experiencing an increase in membership, year to year. Chapters that only open and meet once every three months (or less), probably don’t have a positive or long future ahead of them.
Frequency = growth. Chapters that meet often are likely taking in petitions, talking about how they can improve their chapter, and seeing new members frequenting their meetings. Chapters that meet infrequently probably see less and less participation and more demits and suspensions. They are also likely to be in financial danger.
Frequency = positive experience. Your Companions joined the Royal Arch to gain further light in their Masonic journey. If they’re not given that opportunity because the Chapter doesn’t meet very often, their interest quickly fades and they cease being active members. A Chapter that meets often allows that positive experience to occur and new members quickly become active and involved with the Chapter.
We see a lot of Chapters meeting along with other York Rite Bodies; sometimes the Council and Commandery, or just with one of those Bodies. More often than not (though this trend does seem to be lessening!), the two (or three) Bodies take turns opening and conducting business on their stated meeting nights.
In the best cases, each Body opens and conducts business completely separate from the others (reading minutes, discussing business, it’s own programs and presentations, planning and discussing events, etc.). Perhaps one Body spends more time in “its” month than the other one (or two), but all two (or three) Bodies open, have a meeting, and close in form.
In the worst case, one Body opens and the other(s) is declared open “jointly,” “concurrently,” or with some other term (all of which are invalid, by the way – only the Grand Presiding of a Masonic Body can declare a Body open and there is no ritual, ceremony, or precedent in any York Rite Body for concurrent openings). We’ve even seem these “joint” meetings where one Body opens, none others are declared open, but then business is conducted for both (or all three). In these cases, the lines between the Bodies is blurred and you might have Commandery Inspection discussions during a Chapter meeting, Council fundraising discussed during Commandery, and Chapter communications presented during Council. Confusing, huh?
There are some problems with this “model” of conducting business:
First, members (or visitors) who are not members of the other Bodies should really not be sitting in those meetings. Think about it: It’s like an Entered Apprentice sitting in during Lodge meeting opened on the Third Degree. You would never do that, would you? And your Brother Mason would feel out of place and embarrassed.
Second, rarely do Chapters, Councils, and Commanderies that open concurrently, jointly, or declared proficient in any of the ritual of any of the Bodies. Our ritual and traditions are what separates and differentiates us from other fraternal organizations. By minimizing and limiting our expertise in our simplest – yet still important – ritual, we are devaluing the experience of every York Rite Body.
Finally, things get confusing. Members might not follow what is being discussed. Also, you might miss something relevant or important for one of the Bodies because discussion is dominated by another. This is especially critical if one Body is “stronger” than another or if there is timely business that needs to be addressed.
So, do we allow quarterly stated meetings? Yes. Do we encourage them? Absolutely not. In fact, when a Chapter changes its bylaws to reduce the number of meetings each year, we have cause for alarm (and usually a call to the Chapter’s High Priest from the Grand High Priest). On the other hand, a Chapter that is increasing the number of stated meetings (or even calling special ones for instruction, work, special events, etc.) is one that is on its way up.
Companions, please consider the short-, medium-, and long-term affect of reducing or minimizing your stated meeting nights. You may think that you are saving your members time from being away from home, family, or work, but what you are really doing is saying that there is no reason to be an active member and that the value of your Chapter is minimal. Don’t be surprised to see dwindling attendance, financial hardships, and, eventually a merge or surrendering of your charter in the future.