We had a Chapter meeting on Friday 11th. This meeting was an "exaltation", a meeting when we get a Freemason and introduce him to an extra bit of Freemasonry called the Royal Arch. The ceremony comes in two parts: in the first part we take the candidate through a sort of dramatic presentation, and in the second part there's a series of lectures communicating various aspects of the order -- they're called the Historical, Symbolical and Mystical lectures. These lectures have to be done from memory, and this year it's supposed to be my job to present the Historical lecture.
The first part of the ceremony, the dramatic presentation bit, is largely in the hands of an officer called the Principal Sojourner. There's about eight to ten pages of script to learn including two long monologues. I was Principal Sojourner for about four years running a few years ago, and I've gained a bit of a reputation for delivering it well if I get dropped into the role at short notice when someone's absent.
On Monday 7th we had a rehearsal for the forthcoming meeting. It transpired at this meeting that the person who was going to do the Mystical lecture was going to be absent, and this proved to be a problem. You see, while the Historical and Symbolical lectures can be deferred to a subsequent occasion, the Mystical lecture is compulsory -- in a ceremony like Friday's, it can never be omitted. And so we decide that we'd defer the Historical and Symbolical lectures, and we'd share the Mystical lecture amongst other companions.
So with four days notice, I had to do the middle section of the Mystical lecture -- a lecture I've heard quite a few times, but which I've never had to deliver. And there's some rather intricate verbal origami in the middle of my section, a sort of semantic tongue-twister. Great if you get it right, but it's very easy to stumble over it and fudge it up somewhat.
So when someone asks what being a Freemason is like, it's like this -- every now and then, you get landed with a bit of ceremony unexpectedly, and usually at short notice. Sometimes it's something you've done before, and a little while mugging up means you'll get by... and sometimes it's something that's substantial and new.
It went passably well, but I hope that by the time delivering the Mystical lecture is actually my job (in two years time) I'll be able to do a better job.