Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 06:00

Presentation on the Improvement Delivery Group

Quarterly Communication

13 September 2017
A presentation by RW Bro Bro Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master

Pro Grand Master and brethren, we all have our own view of what we see in masonry. For me, it’s five things:

  1. We’re all volunteers: none of us have to be masons or do what we do. The magnificent total of £3,100,000 announced at the North Wales Festival on Saturday was all the result of volunteering: voluntary time, voluntary effort, voluntary money;
  2. What we now call “social inclusion”: bringing together people of different origins, backgrounds, occupations, interests, locations, opinions, faiths; people who would not otherwise meet; in a common activity in which all are fundamentally equal;
  3. Our purposefulness: when we meet, there’s a purpose, whether it’s a masonic meeting, ritual; or charity or a community project; the best recent example I saw, the Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure organised by Dorset, 200plus children in need from all over the country taken on a week’s healthy activities by the sea. Whatever it is, we want to do it well, and we do;
  4. The practice of every moral and social virtue: words cited by the Bishop of Worcester, not a mason, at the Provincial Tercentenary Service on Sunday in a sermon that would inspire every mason. Our, if you like, moral code, best illustrated in the Charge to the Initiate, is a huge asset which will play increasingly well with younger generations for whom such things are in short supply;
  5. The social side: we do do the best parties, don’t we, getting to know each other informally, in friendship, and it works because of the other factors I’ve mentioned.

We all sense a steady move to greater openness: the Sky TV programmes; publicity in the right way for our charity and community activities: the word Freemasons on the London's Air Ambulance; wearing regalia in public: all in the right direction.

Recognising masonry’s good things but sensing that the make-up and profile of our membership – age, number – were going in the wrong direction, the Board of General Purposes – BGP – set up the Membership Focus Group – MFG – under the inspired leadership of Ray Reed to find out what was happening to today’s membership, to assess the likely affect on tomorrow’s and, if we didn’t like that – which we didn’t – to decide what to do.

Deciding what to do is called STRATEGY – YES! The MFG produced, and everyone adopted, Strategy: The Future of Freemasonry 2015-2020, which I know we’ve all read and like.

Thoughts then turned to implementing the Strategy. Ooh, the MFG said, could be difficult – better get someone else to do it, and so was born the Improvement Delivery Group – IDG (I hope you’re keeping up with the jargon, brethren) to Deliver the Improvements which should flow from the work of the MFG.   

I was out of the room at the time, so they made me Chairman. Also out of the room was Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones, so we made him Deputy Chairman.

Strategy is no good unless it is accepted, understood and embraced by the membership – remember we’re all volunteers. The IDG had to show it was including Craft and Royal Arch, and all areas of the country, and Head Office. So, in addition to Gareth and me:

  • Michael Ward, London
  • Jeff Gillyon, Yorkshire North and East Ridings
  • Stephen Blank, Cheshire
  • Peter Taylor, Shropshire
  • Tim Henderson-Ross, Gloucestershire
  • Charles Cunnington, Derbyshire
  • Ian Yeldham, Suffolk
  • Mark Estaugh, West Kent
  • Stuart Hadler, Somerset
  • Gordon Robertson, Buckinghamshire, who leaves us on retiring as PGM and is replaced by James Hilditch, Oxfordshire
  • Ray Reed

 ...and from Head Office:

  • Grand Secretary Willie
  • Assistant Grand Secretary Shawn
  • ..and now Chief Executive David

Brethren, in light of all they do, I would like all those I’ve named to stand and be recognised. Thank you.

To pick up the work of the MFG we formed Working Groups matching the elements of the Strategy. The Strategy talks about effective governance at all levels; a leadership development programme; the attraction and retention of members; and the sustainability of masonic halls. Thus…

Gareth Jones is leading our Governance Group looking at who and what does what, the roles and responsibilities of each office and body, what they and what they’re not, and how we ensure that people understand what their roles and responsibilities are and aren’t, and what is expected of them. From the esteemed Adelphi2 we have lots of lovely statistics which will help show how Provinces and Districts are doing in terms of membership and help them to direct their efforts where they are needed.

Leadership – Michael Ward – aims to equip office-holders for their roles. Workshop sessions for PGMs and Grand Superintendents; workshops for Deputy PGMs and Grand Superintendents; next week the first training session for secretaries. We now have a UGLE training officer, Andrew Kincaid, to devise and roll-out training roles for all different roles. This not about imposing uniformity – you will do it this way – but helping people to see what’s involved and how to do the job well.

Jeff Gillyon’s Masonic Halls Group have published the Masonic Halls Centres of Excellence Guide, now available, best electronically, and those responsible for the management of masonic halls are strongly encouraged to use it: you will find it very useful. It is now in the charge of John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works, who has formed a Steering Group to manage the Guidance Manual and keep it up to date. There will be an annual meeting for all Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works.

The five Provinces in Regional Communications Group 1 – North of England – on the initiative of Gordon Brewis, Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works for Durham, have recognised the need for professionally qualified Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works and arranged for them to meet so that the adoption of best practice can be recommended uniformly across them all.

The Guidance Manual is not a book to be read from cover to cover: it is a reference tool, to be consulted as circumstances lead. It is guidance, support and advice: a guide to best practice. It can’t give definitive advice on, for example, legal issues, because so much depends on individual circumstances.

We want our halls and centres to be at the centre of the local community. Maybe we should refer to them as Masonic Community Centres.

Our Membership Group, headed by Peter Taylor, has circulated for comment the Membership Pathway, the product of several years of devoted effort, and parts well piloted in ten Provinces and 110 lodges Its purpose is to help lodges attract and retain the right members in the right place: to show what we need to do to attract the members we want to join us, stay and enjoy the full masonic journey.

Again, it is not a book, you do not read it cover to cover, you look at the parts you want as and when you need to.

The Pathway will be launched at the Provincial and District Rulers’ Forum – PDRF – on 18 October and then rolled out. So no-one should worry that they will be presented with it and then left on their own. Roll-out will be organised for you: to Regions and Provinces from January to March next year, and then to lodges….and there will be a folding leaflet on the front of Freemasonry Today in December.

There is much demand from masons to know more about masonry, its origin, history and meaning. Stuart Hadler’s Education Group is creating an online store of masonic learning materials, readily accessible in a Virtual Learning Environment. It will be tested later this year, introduced to a number of pilot Provinces in the new year, and full roll-out will be in later in 2018. What the group want is more materials to include, so contributions welcome, please.

In parallel to all this continues the excellent progress of the Universities Scheme, of which I am honoured to be the President. Existing and new lodges, and chapters, here and in Districts, recruit among students at universities and equivalent across the country and outside the UK, and do so very successfully. There are still a number of universities in this country not represented in the scheme, and we are addressing that.

I would like to thank all who are involved in the scheme, all volunteers, for all they do, and in particular the Chairmen: the founding Chairman, Oliver Lodge, now moonlighting as the Grand Director of Ceremonies; Edward Lord, current Chairman who retires after eight distinguished years at the Scheme conference in this building on 4th November; and Chairman-Designate Mark Greenburgh, who takes over on that date, and I would ask them to stand and be recognised too.

Many Provinces and Districts have New and Young Masons’ Clubs, with a wide variety of imaginative names, and those that don’t will. These clubs are an excellent way of those newer to masonry getting to know more other newbies, and building essential camaraderie. The clubs are holding their conference on 14 October in Birmingham under Gareth Jones’ leadership.

All this, IDG and others, is about creating our future, which is in our hands and which we are doing. The figures already show that it is working: in many areas there is a discernible shift in the trend of the numbers, and there will be more.

I have illustrated this talk with scenes from the everyday life of an Assistant Grand Master. Here’s the last one. In his sermon at the Durham Tercentenary Service last Thursday – I’m into clergy this morning, brethren – the Dean of Durham, also not a mason, said he saw masonry as a confident, open and engaged fraternity with strong foundational values.

We can do this, brethren, we can do this.  

Thank you. 

 

 

Published in Speeches

Members of three Universities Scheme Lodges meeting in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland - Wyggeston Lodge No.3448, which is the Universities Scheme Lodge for the University of Leicester, Castle of Leicester No.7767 (De Montfort University) and Lodge of Science and Art No.8429 (Loughborough University) - met together for a joint meeting to celebrate the success of the Universities Scheme in the Province together with the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The meeting, which was held at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, on Saturday 25th February 2017 was attended by over 90 brethren who witnessed 3 ceremonies (an Initiation, a Passing and a Raising) with multiple candidates and conducted in turn by each of the lodges.

The Lodges were extremely honoured to welcome the Assistant Grand Master, RW Bro Sir David Wootton, who is President of the Universities Scheme, along with the Scheme Chairman, W Bro Edward Lord. Also attending were the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro James Buckle, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Peter Kinder, brethren representing ten other Scheme Lodges, and with other visitors.

After the Master of Wyggeston Lodge Master, W Bro Yogesh Patel, opened the meeting at 2.30pm, the Master of Castle of Leicester Lodge, W Bro Daniel Hayward, along with members of the lodge conducted a triple Raising. Following a short tea break it was the turn of Lodge of Science and Art to conduct a Passing. Finally, after a further tea break, Wyggeston Lodge conducted an Initiation ceremony for three new members, two of whom are students at the University of Leicester.

The meeting was followed by a wonderful Festive Board, where the lodges enjoyed a hearty three course dinner and the company of the guests and visitors. A raffle held in aid the Alderman Newton’s Educational Foundation, which is a local charity offering financial support to individuals and schools to help people access education or training opportunities in Leicestershire, raised £420. A collection for the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2022 Festival also raised £422 including Gift Aid.

W Bro Andy Green, organiser of the event and Vice-Chairman of the Universities Scheme, said: “Getting the three lodges together provided a wonderful occasion to celebrate the Universities Scheme in the Province and to mark the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge. It was encouraging to see so many younger members enjoying their Freemasonry, which created a real buzz throughout the day.”

 

Published in Universities Scheme

Varsity scheme is 10

Universities Scheme President David Williamson, Chairman Edward Lord, and past and present members of the committee came together in January with Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes and many other senior Freemasons to celebrate the scheme’s first decade of existence and hard work.  

With the initiative having grown from two lodges to 62 since its inception, and currently expanding into the Royal Arch, it has achieved much, with some lodges now being specifically consecrated as Universities Scheme lodges. Its fifth National Conference will be held in Leicester in November.

Published in Universities Scheme

According to the Haven’s manager, Frankie Devereux, the 'hugely successful' Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Hereford, 'culminated in a most welcomed and substantial donation of £5,800.00 from the Freemasons'

Rev David Bowen, Provincial Grand Master for Herefordshire, in presenting this latest donation, spoke highly of the truly supportive work undertaken at the Haven in Hereford. He emphasised the continued support of Freemasons, being fully aware that the success of the Haven’s work depended entirely upon charitable giving. Herefordshire Province of Freemasons has been a Guardian of the Haven since 2011.

In attendance at the presentation, undertaking his first official duty, was Edward Lord, the newly appointed National Director of Fundraising and Development for the Breast Cancer Havens in Hereford, Leeds and London. As a senior mason himself, he welcomed the support given by both local Freemasons and The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. He praised Herefordshire Masons for the continued support received over recent years.

This year’s annual masonic donation to the Haven included specific giving from Royal Edward Lodge No. 892, Palladian Lodge No. 120 and Delphis Lodge No. 7769 in Herefordshire, and the Herefordshire Masonic Charity Association. This local support was match funded by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity.

Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:00

55 lodges now in Universities Scheme

Established in 2005 to connect lodges with students country-wide, the Universities Scheme is flourishing, enabling a new generation to experience Freemasonry

Hartington Lodge, No. 1085, in the Province of Derbyshire, has become the 55th lodge to join the Universities Scheme, opening a path for it to welcome members of the University of Derby into the Craft from the age of 18.

The lodge was accepted into the scheme after a sub-committee, led by Alan Cudworth, met with Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, Scheme Chairman Edward Lord
and Midlands Co-ordinator David Staples.

David Williamson explained how the Universities Scheme makes it easier for young men to join the Craft, with Provincial Grand Master Graham Rudd then presenting the Assistant Grand Master with a Derbyshire tie and a Festival barbecue cook’s apron.

Hartington Lodge has proven successful in bringing young men into Freemasonry, with members including graduates and former staff of the University of Derby.

Published in Universities Scheme

Reflecting on the need to recruit new members, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why Freemasonry should remember its history while keeping an eye firmly on the future

Having finished the two yearly regional conferences with Provincial Grand Masters, I can report that one consistent theme was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases this has already started, which means that perhaps we are getting some things right.

I have frequently said that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock-on effect.

Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard in the last issue from Edward Lord and Julian Soper about the work of the Universities Scheme. I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how we can best implement some of the principles that were mentioned across the whole Craft.

Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However, this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.

Altruistic society

At the end of last year, I visited my great grandfather’s mother lodge in Hertfordshire – and a splendid occasion it was, with a nearly faultless Second Degree ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.

The reason for mentioning this is that in the reply for the visitors, the brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is ‘regard for others as a principle of action’ and it’s rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.

If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t go far wrong. Of course, it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point as it should naturally lead to a practice of brotherly love, relief and truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving.

During the past year, the Festivals for our charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the Masonic Samaritan Fund; Cambridgeshire raised £1.285m for the Grand Charity; and Devonshire raised £3.836m for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.

I hope that our membership, as a whole, is far more familiar with the activities of our charities than might have been the case twenty or so years ago. The charities’ promotion of their activities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.

While three of our charities are masonic in their giving, the Grand Charity has a wide brief for giving to non-masonic bodies, provided that they are also charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved, and we should be quick to point it out.

We should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future, in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.

 

Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013

 

Sir, as usual, the article from our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, in the spring 2013 edition of Freemasonry Today was both interesting and stimulating. The paragraph relating to our use of words without fully appreciating their meaning struck a very strong chord with me. 

 

From all the words available to them in the English language, our founders chose to use the word ‘speculative’ to describe our branch of Freemasonry (as opposed to the operative Freemasonry). In our modern idiom this word is defined as ‘to conjecture without knowing the full facts’. Does this describe a proportion of our brethren today?


In a recent reading of Bernard of Clairvaux, it describes his definition of this word as ‘the recollection that frees the mind of worldly distractions as a preparation for contemplation of God’. Was this definition more in the minds of our founders?


Gareth Price, Trafford Park Broad Oak Lodge, No. 4486, Manchester, West Lancashire

 


Published in UGLE

The national and the London chairmen of the Universities Scheme, Edward Lord and Julian Soper, give some advice on how to recruit and retain younger members

Of our members across the English constitution, only nine per cent are aged under forty. To put that percentage in perspective, it is three thousand less than the number of members we have aged over eighty. Indeed, the vast bulk of our members are aged between fifty and eighty. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these figures, it does set a generational challenge with fifty-five per cent of our members in, or reaching, retirement. If the average age of reaching the chair is sixty-three, one can assume that most lodge decision makers are near to, or in retirement, which leads one to question the degree of representation younger members have. So how do we attract younger men to join masonry?

Simple steps

Research we conducted found that masonry is in increasing competition with many other calls on the leisure time of prospective members. It is also clear that it is less easy for those in employment to leave their workplace early in order to get to a lodge meeting. Nor for that matter do younger brethren want to stay late all the time – something that is equally true of more senior members.

Many successful lodges don’t start their work until 6 or 6.30pm in the evening and they still finish in good time to get home at a reasonable hour. They do this by taking a number of simple steps. Some, for example, don’t process in and out of the lodge. Most circulate rather than read their minutes, and do the same for the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s reports.

All of the above not only cuts down the time taken by the formal proceedings, but also increases the pace of a meeting. However, it is not as simple as saying that time commitments should be reduced. Regular meetings, often informal, and involving members’ partners, can be important in fostering a feeling of membership. A good mentor should greatly assist in helping a new member to feel he belongs, and the formal creation of lodge mentor as a lodge office should help ensure that this happens.

The language we use to describe Freemasonry is key to it having a broader appeal, as is dispelling many of the myths that still surround us as an organisation. Being able to describe in simple laymen’s terms what Freemasonry is about is crucial; emphasising the social side of our activities as well as the contributions we make to society, both through our charitable activities and by helping each individual mason to become the best person he can be.

Much to offer

Experience has shown that, approached correctly, young men – indeed men of all ages – find considerable appeal in joining an organisation that is secular, multi-faith, cross denominational and shares their values. Indeed, in explaining Freemasonry to new and potential members, a lodge should consider emphasising the lifetime friendships, development possibilities and new experiences that are on offer.

So where exactly do we get these new younger members from? Of course, the basic approach of ‘member-get-member’ remains the best. But some lodges, particularly those that are affiliated to a school or university, find that discreet advertisements letting people know they exist often attract initial enquiries. And in some cases, the adverts are less discreet. The Province of West Lancashire took the back page of last year’s Freshers’ Handbook, which went out to over twenty-thousand students in Liverpool. That resulted in a bumper crop of candidates for the University Lodge of Liverpool.

Many enquiries are now coming through the internet. Every day we receive hundreds of hits on the Grand Lodge, Provincial and lodge specific sites, which then translate into expressions of interest from prospective members. This is rapidly becoming one of the most important marketing methods for the Craft. So if your lodge doesn’t yet have a website, then it should consider investing in one.

Communication is crucial but lodges that have successfully spanned the generations have other attributes as well, not least in making new members feel welcome. Involvement in ceremonies is also important, but involve them at a pace that is right for them – don’t force them up the ladder.

And if you find you have a masonic star in waiting, let him move forward quickly as the chances are he could help ensure the future of your lodge.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 23 Autumn 2013

Sir,

As a young Freemason (thirty years old), I felt compelled to respond to the letter by Harry Sykes in the recent edition of Freemasonry Today. I was initiated into my lodge (Lodge of Asaph, No. 1319) in 2008 and am currently the installed Master of the lodge. 

Whilst brother Sykes makes an extremely valid point that no-one wishes to be suffering through ceremonies where the ritual is poor, I don’t subscribe to the view that this is a result of younger masons being fast-tracked to the chair. Yes, there may well be an element of this occurring, but this is surely a more widespread problem of lodges being unable to keep up to date and attract new, higher calibre brethren. 

In fact, brother Harris-Cooksley makes a fine point on the same letters page that his lodge has been adapting to the times and people are being promoted based on merit and ability. I know of many young Freemasons, who are superb ritualists and do put in the time and effort to learn, perfect and polish their performance in lodge. I certainly take pride in my ability to perform the ritual and to understand the meaning behind it. 

Equally, I have seen many masons who have been in lodges far longer than ten years whose ritual is poor. Instead of a ten-year barrier to entry, surely a progression to the chair should be based on ability, young or old? 

Dan Roback, Lodge of Asaph, No. 1319, London 


Sir,

I read with interest Harry Sykes’s letter in the summer 2013 edition regarding falling standards. He seems to be blaming it on new brethren getting to the chair too quickly and suggests a new rule that you have to be in Freemasonry for ten years before being allowed to take the chair.

I feel in this regard the last thing we need is more rules. I was installed in under five years from my initiation. I’m sure I can hear ‘tut tut, shouldn’t be allowed’, but with the encouragement of my proposer, I visited at least as often as attending my own lodge, I joined chapter, I read and most importantly, I hardly missed a lodge of instruction.

I was one of three initiates who joined in consecutive years; there was a tiny bit of competitiveness between us when performing at lodge of instruction and also lots of support. We were all inspired by our preceptor who earned our respect by using a carrot NOT a stick; each of us conducted a first, second and third ceremony before taking the chair and we even held our own lodge of instruction in the summer. Since becoming a Past Master, I have been Director of Ceremonies for eight years; the other two have served as Secretary.

How to inspire brethren: by Past Masters setting an example with their ritual; by holding regular lodges of instruction with a good number of Past Masters present to support the brethren; not forcing junior brethren to rise up through the offices just to prevent another Past Master from taking the chair; and not being afraid to hold them back if you feel they need a bit more experience.

Remember we are all different. I felt very ready for the chair and holding me back for some arbitrary period may well have had an adverse effect.

Paul Gosling, William de Warenne Lodge, No. 6139, Uckfield, Sussex


Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013

The future of Freemasonry 

Sir,

This year the Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Inner Guard and Stewards of our lodge are all in their twenties. I joke that I feel the years – at my ripe old age of twenty-eight.

I read with great enthusiasm the article entitled ‘No Time To Be Retiring’ in the winter 2012 publication. Of particular interest and surprise was the startling fact that maybe ‘only nine per cent [of Freemasons] are aged under forty’.

Being part of the Universities Scheme has undoubtedly helped attract young men to our lodge, but this by no means tells the whole story. The traditional approach of ‘member-get-member’ is strongly encouraged and utilised. It has been remarked by our visitors over the years that our lodge has a very special atmosphere and feeling. Indeed, the presence of young men in the lodge allows our numerous and distinguished past masters to impart their knowledge and experience. They teach, and our lodge is the richer for it – Lodges of Instruction really are an education in masonic knowledge.

Candidates, young or old, who approach and join our lodge form part of a close circle of friends. Our newer brethren are encouraged to progress at their own pace, and to attend our social events whenever possible. Whether it be open lodge or the Festive Board, age really isn’t an issue. We have Freemasons who are knowledgeable and those with much to learn. We move forward as one, and are reminded of our lodge motto, which is translated from the original Latin: ‘The one light brings us together in comradeship’.

We have embraced the web and social media and look forward to our eightieth anniversary in 2014, as well as Grand Lodge’s three-hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. We are fortunate, and the future promises to be bright.

Ben Gait, Universities Lodge, Cardiff, No. 5461, Cardiff, South Wales


Keeping up standards

Sir, 

I read with interest the article ‘No Time To Be Retiring’ in the winter 2012 edition. While the I concur with the sentiments expressed by Edward Lord and Julian Soper, I take issue with the suggestion that lodges should consider dispensing with the processions in and out of the temple in order to save time, as is apparently the way forward of some lodges. Indeed, most past master lodges do not process in, but in my experience mostly process out. If we go down the road of continually reducing the time spent in the temple we will lose the traditions and the history of lodges. Cutting down the time taken by ceremonial proceedings will deprive the new masons of the solemnity of the Craft.

Barry A Fennings, Merchant Navy Lodge, No. 781, London


Sir,

I have read with interest the recent letters regarding ‘keeping up standards’.

I wonder if falling standards in some lodges is a contributory factor in the reduction in their membership. Young Freemasons to whom I have spoken clearly did not join Freemasonry to participate in slipshod lodge workings and noisy conduct at the Social Board. Equally, older brethren do not want to see a lodge taken over by brethren to whom learning the ritual is a bore or who find the social side of Freemasonry is not what they or their partners expect.

When young men are installed in the Chair after a few years, as opposed to the fourteen to fifteen years it took yesteryear, their approach to Freemasonry can be somewhat limited and they may see promotion to higher rank as theirs by right, as their masonic education has been neglected. Perhaps ten years of membership should be a minimum for Masters of a lodge?

I consider we rank and file Freemasons fortunate to have a platform like Freemasonry Today in which we can express our views for consideration by the brethren.

Harry Sykes, Ben Brierley Lodge, No. 3317, Middleton, East Lancashire

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 13:00

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2012

Quarterly Communication
12 September 2012
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,

I have recently finished the two yearly Regional Conferences that I have with Provincial Grand Masters. These are relatively informal affairs and cover a wide range of subjects. I find them extremely useful and they are kind enough to say the same – but, of course, what else could they say!

One theme that ran through them all was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases, this has already started.  This means that perhaps we are getting some things right.

I have said frequently that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock on effect.

Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard from Brothers Soper and Lord at the September Quarterly Communication about the work of the Universities Scheme. Following that talk I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how best we can implement some of the principles that were mentioned, across the whole Craft.

Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.

Brethren, in November I visited my Great Grandfather’s mother Lodge in Hertfordshire and a splendid occasion it was, with an almost faultless 2nd Degree Ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.

The reason for mentioning this today is that in the Reply for the Visitors the Brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is “regard for others as a principle of action”. Rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.

If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t be going far wrong. Of course it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point, as it should naturally lead to a practice of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving, which seems to be second nature to us.

During this year the Festivals for our Charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the RMBI; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the MSF; Cambridgeshire £1.285m for the Grand Charity and Devonshire £3.836m for the RMTGB. In these troubled economic times this, Brethren, is remarkable and I congratulate all those concerned.

I hope that our membership, as a whole, are far more familiar with the activities of all our Charities than might have been the case 20 or so years ago. The promotion of their activities by the Charities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.

Whilst 3 of our Charities are Masonic in their giving, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that - quite the contrary in my view, the Grand Charity, of course, has a wide brief for giving to non Masonic bodies, provided that they are also Charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved and we should be quick to point it out.

Brethren, since 2007 we have had excellent and amusing talks on the past at the December Quarterly Communication from Brothers Hamill and Redman and we should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.

Brethren, I wish you all a very relaxing break over Christmas, particularly if, like me, you will be having your Grand Children to stay.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication 
12 September 2012
An address by W Bro CE Lord OBE PAGDC and W Bro JR Soper PAGDC

Bro C.E. Lord, OBE, PAGDC: Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren, as the National and the London Chairmen of the Universities Scheme, we were honoured to be asked to give thought to this crucial topic of how we make the Craft relevant to all generations.

Bro J.R. Soper, PAGDC: Recruitment and retention of members is a key theme that every Lodge has high on its agenda and it is important whether a newly made Brother joins us aged eighteen, twenty-eight, forty-eight or sixty-eight.

Bro Lord: Inevitably, our own focus has been looking at how we can include younger men in Masonry as not only is that the role of the Universities Scheme, but it is also a reasonable proposition that if can encourage men to join and develop a love of the Craft in their twenties, then we can hope to keep them throughout their lives, providing us with a steady stream of Lodge officers who may, we hope, also become active in their Provinces and the Metropolitan area.

Bro Soper: That said, we believe our findings - based on qualitative research, having consulted a range of Provincial leaders and Lodge secretaries - are relevant to the vast majority of Lodges, as we are sure that every one of you will be keen to expand their Lodges’ membership and encourage participation, as individual circumstances permit.

Bro Lord: Therefore in our talk today we are going to focus on a number of issues, giving some tangible examples of good practice and some suggestions that Lodges may wish to try.

Bro Soper: And the good news is - that recognising that taking notes wearing regalia and gloves isn’t easy - the Grand Secretary has agreed to publish the text of this talk on the UGLE website within the next week, and there will also be an article based on the speech in the next edition of Freemasonry Today.

Bro Lord: To set things in context though, we thought you might be interested to know how our membership breakdowns by age group at the moment.

Bro Soper: Of our members across the English Constitution, only nine per cent are aged under 40.

Bro Lord: And to put that percentage in perspective, it is 3,000 less than the number of members we have aged over 80.

Bro Soper: Indeed the vast bulk of our members, some 65 per cent are aged between 50 and 80.

Bro Lord: The average age at initiation is 44 and the average age of those attaining the Chair over the last four years was 63.

Bro Soper: We are not saying there is anything wrong with that in principle, but with 55 per cent of our members in, or reaching retirement, it does set a generational challenge. Also if the average age reaching the Chair is 63, one can assume that most of the decision makers in a Lodge are near to, or in retirement, which leads one to question the degree of representation that younger members have in a Lodge.

Bro Lord: So how do we attract younger men to join Masonry, and retain them, whilst ensuring that our existing membership still enjoy their participation and don’t feel excluded by change?

Bro Soper: In our research we have found that one crucial element is recognising that Masonry is in increasing competition with many other calls on the leisure time of prospective members.

Bro Lord: It is also clear that working patterns have changed significantly and it is less easy for those in employment to leave their workplace early in order to get to a Lodge meeting.

Bro Soper: Nor for that matter do younger Brethren, especially those with growing families, want to stay late all the time - something that is equally true of more senior members.

Bro Lord: Many successful Lodges don’t start their work until 6 or 6.30 in the evening and they still finish in good time to enjoy their after-proceedings and get home at a reasonable hour.

Bro Soper: They do this by taking a number of simple steps that cut out time consuming yet peripheral activities. Some, for example, don’t process in and out of the lodge. Most circulate rather than read their minutes, and do the same for the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s reports as well as much of the business normally done under the risings.

Bro Lord: Ceremonies can be reduced in length too, without taking out any of the essential elements that make our ritual so special. For example at installation there is no necessity to present the working tools or to formally re-invest those officers being re-appointed.

Bro Soper: At the meal, there are opportunities to shorten proceedings, and we would make a plea that all long speeches should be avoided - with no exceptions (laughter). All of the above not only cuts down the time taken for formal proceedings, but also increases the pace of a meeting, which is important if one wants to keep the attention of a younger member. The “impatience of youth” is something we can all remember, and need to acknowledge.

Bro Lord: Of course, there are significant time commitments beyond the Lodge meetings, such as Lodges of Instruction, rehearsals, Lodge social functions etc. The overall time commitment of a member needs to be particularly reviewed by the Lodge.

Bro Soper: However, it is not as simple as saying that the time commitment should be reduced. Regular meetings, often informal, and perhaps involving members’ partners and family can be important in fostering a feeling of membership, and this sense of being a member and of belonging is very important.

Bro Lord: Indeed, and hopefully, having a good mentor should greatly assist in helping a new member to feel he belongs, and the formal creation of a Lodge Mentor as a Lodge office should ensure that this happens.

Bro Soper: So we have so far discussed three key points: the need to be mindful of the time commitment that we are asking of members, keeping up the pace of a meeting, and the importance of fostering a feeling of membership. These are all important to ensuring a Lodge is welcoming to all generations. What we have also found is the way a Lodge looks and feels is absolutely vital too.

Bro Lord: A lot of this has already come out from the ground-breaking research undertaken for Grand Lodge earlier this year in the ‘Future of Freemasonry’ report.

For example, the language we use to describe Freemasonry is key to having a broader appeal as is dispelling many of the myths that still surround us as an organisation.

Bro Soper: Being able to describe in simple laymen’s terms, using modern vocabulary, what freemasonry is about is crucial; emphasising the social side of our activities as well as making a contribution to society both through our charitable activities and by helping each individual Mason to become the best person he can be.

Bro Lord: But changing our language doesn’t mean changing our principles.

In his address to the University Scheme Lodges, the Assistant Grand Master has so rightly said: “the society of today lives in a seemingly increasing moral vacuum, a space which Freemasonry, with its Grand Principles … can fill, and to which young intelligent men can look for inspiration, self-improvement and fulfilment.”

Bro Soper: Experience has shown that, approached correctly, young men - indeed men of all ages - find considerable appeal in joining an organisation, which is secular, multi-faith, cross denominational and which shares their values. Indeed, in explaining Freemasonry to new and potential members, a Lodge should consider emphasising such features as lifetime friendships, location flexibility, should they move, personal development possibilities and new experiences.

Bro Lord: I imagine that some of you are thinking that this is all very well, but where exactly do we get these new younger members from? Of course, the basic approach of ‘member-get-member’ remains the best, but some Lodges, particularly those that are affiliated to a school or university, find that discreet advertisements letting people know they exist often attract initial inquiries.

Bro Soper: And in some cases, the adverts are less discreet. The Province of West Lancashire took the back page of last year’s Fresher’s Handbook, which went out to over 20,000 students in Liverpool. That resulted in a bumper crop of new candidates for the University Lodge of Liverpool.

Bro Lord: But many enquiries are now coming through the internet. Every day we are receiving hundreds of hits on the Grand Lodge, Provincial and Lodge specific sites, which then translate into expressions of interest from prospective members.

This is rapidly becoming one of the most important marketing methods for the Craft.

Bro Soper: So if your Lodge doesn’t yet have a website, then it should consider investing in one, but do remember to keep a website up-to-date as there is nothing worse than finding all the information is three years old and no longer relevant.

Bro Lord: We can also use social media such as Facebook to communicate with our members outside Lodge meetings. A number of Lodges, including Apollo University Lodge in Oxford, and the Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Lodge have established an active presence on Facebook, for example. Not only can this be used to organise social events, but it also helps develop the feeling of membership.

Bro Soper: And if you don’t know what Facebook is, ask your children or grand-children (laughter) as it’s a great way of keeping in touch with them too.

These direct benefits of embracing the internet also help in making Freemasonry in general, and a Lodge in particular, more modern, and thus more relevant to younger Masons. An important challenge to us all is to respect our traditions, stay faithful to our values, whilst appearing modern and thus relevant to younger generations.

Bro Lord: We have now covered the interlinked key points of the importance of appearing up-to-date, embracing the internet, and using clear modern vocabulary when describing Masonry. Such marketing and communication is all very well attracting initial interest, but we have found that Lodges that have successfully spanned the generations have other attributes as well, not least in making new members feel welcome.

Bro Soper: An aspect of Freemasonry that can be off-putting to newer and/or younger members is rank, particularly if it is interpreted as “superiority”. We would suggest, for example, that Lodges avoid being too hide bound by rank or seniority and that Grand Officers and Provincial Grand Officers should spread themselves around both in the Lodge room and at the Festive Board, actively engaging younger members in conversation.

Bro Lord: Involving younger members is a common theme that we have heard from successful Lodges. Involvement in ceremonies is important, but involve them in a pace that is right for them. Let them if they want to, but don’t force them up the ladder if they do not. However also involve them in the organisation of social events, and in the decision making of the Lodge. Some Lodges, in order to do just that, have abolished the Lodge Committee or made it all of the members - this ties in with our earlier comment about the relatively high average age of decision makers.

Bro Soper: And if you find that you have a Masonic star in waiting, let him move forward quickly and become a young master as the chances are he could help ensure the future of your Lodge as well as being of huge benefit to your Province or Metropolitan Grand Lodge.

Bro Lord: That does lead to a respectful request to Provincial Grand Masters and Provincial Grand Secretaries that when you do invite younger Masons to become members of committees or working groups, please do avoid having all meetings in the middle of the working day.

Bro Soper: Provinces can also help retain younger members through initiatives like London’s Connaught Club, which welcomes all Masons in the capital aged under 35, to socialise together and, which, by encouraging better connections, also supports inter-visiting. It may also accelerate the feeling of belonging, by causing a young Mason to be surrounded by a number of like-minded people, and reinforces the idea that Masonry is for all age groups.

Bro Lord: Another approach is for Provinces to create Lodges specifically designed for younger professional people. For example, the establishment of The Leeds Lodge last year in the West Riding, which meets four times a year in the centre of the city at a time suitable for people coming straight from the office.

Bro Soper: There are many more ideas that came from our research that we believe will help assure the future of Freemasonry and make it relevant for all generations, but time today is against us.

Bro Lord: We very much hope this has proved interesting and thought provoking and thank you Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master for inviting us to make this presentation and thank you, Brethren for the way in which you have received it.

Published in Speeches

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
12 September 2012
An address by W Bro CE Lord OBE PAGDC and W Bro JR Soper PAGDC

Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren,

As the National and the London Chairmen of the Universities Scheme, we were honoured to be asked to give thought to this crucial topic of how we make the Craft relevant to all generations.

Recruitment and retention of members is a key theme that every lodge has high on its agenda and it is important whether a newly made Brother joins us aged eighteen, twenty eight, forty eight or sixty eight!

Inevitably, our own focus has been looking at how we can include younger men in masonry as not only is that the role of the Universities Scheme, but it is also a reasonable proposition that if we can encourage men to join and develop a love of the Craft in their twenties, then we can hope to keep them throughout their lives, providing us with a steady stream of Lodge officers who may, we hope, also become active in their provinces and the metropolitan area.

That said, we believe our findings – based on qualitative research, having consulted a range of Provincial leaders and lodge secretaries – are relevant to the vast majority of lodges, as we are sure that every one of you will be keen to expand their lodge’s membership and encourage participation, as individual circumstances permit.

Therefore in our talk to today we are going to focus on a number of issues, giving some tangible examples of good practice and some suggestions that lodges may wish to try. And the good news is - that recognising that taking notes wearing regalia and gloves isn’t easy – the Grand Secretary has agreed to publish the text of this talk on the UGLE website within the next week, and there will also be an article based on the speech in the next edition of Freemasonry Today.

To set things in context though, we thought you might be interested to know how our membership breaks down by age group at the moment:

  • Of our members across the English Constitution, only nine per cent are aged under 40. And to put that percentage in perspective, it is 3,000 less than the number of members we have aged over 80!
  • Indeed the vast bulk of our members, some 65 per cent, are aged between 50 and 80
  • The average age at initiation is 44 and the average age of those attaining the chair over the last four years was 63

We are not saying there is anything wrong with that in principle, but with 55 per cent of our members in, or reaching retirement, it does set a generational challenge. Also if the average age of reaching the chair is 63, one can assume that most of the decision makers in a Lodge are near to, or in retirement, which leads one to question the degree of representation that younger members have in a Lodge.

So how do we attract younger men to join masonry, and retain them, whilst ensuring that our existing membership still enjoy their participation and don’t feel excluded by change?

In our research we have found that one crucial element is recognising that masonry is in increasing competition with many other calls on the leisure time of prospective members. It is also clear that working patterns have changed significantly and it is less easy for those in employment to leave their workplace early in order to get to a lodge meeting. Nor for that matter do younger brethren (especially those with growing families) want to stay late all the time – something that is equally true of more senior members.

Many successful lodges don’t start their work until 6 or 6.30 in the evening and they still finish in good time to enjoy their after-proceedings and get home at a reasonable hour. They do this by taking a number of simple steps that cut out time consuming yet peripheral activities. Some, for example, don’t process in and out of the lodge. Most circulate rather than read their minutes, and do the same for the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s reports as well as much of the business normally done under the risings. Ceremonies can be reduced in length too, without taking out any of the essential elements that make our ritual so special. For example at installation there is no necessity to present the working tools or to formally re-invest those officers being re-appointed. At the meal, there are opportunities to shorten proceedings, and we would make a plea that all long speeches should be avoided - with no exceptions(!).

All of the above not only cuts down the time taken by the formal proceedings, but also increases the pace of a meeting, which is important if one wants to keep the attention of a younger member. The “impatience of youth” is something we can all remember, and need to acknowledge!

Of course, there are often significant time commitments beyond the Lodge meetings themselves such as Lodges of Instruction, rehearsals, Lodge social functions etc. The overall time commitment that is being asked of a member needs to be critically reviewed by the Lodge.

However, it is not as simple as saying that the time commitment should be reduced. Regular meetings, often informal, and perhaps involving members’ partners and family can be important in fostering a feeling of membership, and this sense of being a member and of belonging is very important. Indeed a good mentor should greatly assist in helping a new member to feel he belongs, and the formal creation of Lodge Mentor as a Lodge office should help ensure that this happens.

So we have so far discussed three key points:

  • the need to be mindful of the time commitment that we are asking of members,
  • keeping up the pace of a meeting,
  • and the importance of fostering a feeling of membership.

These are all important to ensuring a lodge is welcoming to all generations. What we have also found is the way a lodge looks and feels is absolutely vital too. A lot of this has already come out from the ground-breaking research undertaken for Grand Lodge earlier this year in the ‘Future of Freemasonry’ report. For example the language we use to describe freemasonry is key to it having a broader appeal as is dispelling many of the myths that still surround us as an organisation. Being able to describe in simple laymen’s terms, using modern vocabulary, what freemasonry is about is crucial; emphasising the social side of our activities as well as making a contribution to society both through our charitable activities and by helping each individual Mason to become the best person he can be. But changing our language doesn’t mean changing our principles. In his address to university scheme lodges, the Assistant Grand Master has so rightly said: “the society of today lives in a seemingly increasing moral vacuum, a space which freemasonry, with its Grand Principles … can fill, and to which young intelligent men can look for inspiration, self-improvement and fulfilment.”

Experience has shown that, approached correctly, young men – indeed men of all ages – find considerable appeal in joining an organisation which is secular, multi-faith, cross denominational and which shares their values. Indeed, in explaining Freemasonry to new and potential members, a Lodge should consider emphasizing such features as

  • lifetime friendships
  • location flexibility, should they move
  • personal development possibilities
  • and new experiences

I imagine some of you are thinking that this is all very well, but where exactly do we get these new younger members from? Of course, the basic approach of ‘member-get-member’ remains the best. But some lodges, particularly those that are affiliated to a school or university say, find that discreet advertisements letting people know they exist often attract initial enquiries. And in some cases, the adverts are less discreet. The Province of West Lancashire took the back page of last year’s Freshers’ Handbook, which went out to over 20,000 students in Liverpool. That resulted in a bumper crop of new candidates for the University Lodge of Liverpool. But many enquiries are now coming through the internet. Every day we are receiving hundreds of hits on the Grand Lodge, Provincial and lodge specific sites, which then translate into expressions of interest from prospective members. This is rapidly becoming one of the most important marketing methods for the Craft. So if your lodge doesn’t yet have a website, then it should consider investing in one. But do remember to keep a website up to date as there is nothing worse than finding that all the information is three years old and no longer relevant.

We can also use social media such as Facebook to communicate with our members outside lodge meetings. A number of lodges, including Apollo University Lodge, in Oxford, and the Metropolitan Grand Stewards have established an active presence on Facebook, for example. Not only can this be used to organise social events, but it also helps develop the feeling of membership. And if you don’t know what Facebook is, ask your children or grand-children as it’s a great way of keeping in touch with them too.

These direct benefits of embracing the internet also help in making Freemasonry in general, and a Lodge in particular, more modern, and thus more relevant to younger masons. An important challenge to us all is to respect our traditions, stay faithful to our values, whilst appearing modern and thus relevant to younger generations.

We have now covered the interlinked key points of the importance of appearing up to date, embracing the internet, and using clear modern vocabulary when describing masonry. Such marketing and communication is all very well at attracting initial interest, but we have found that lodges that have successfully spanned the generations have other attributes as well, not least in making new members feel welcome.

An aspect of Freemasonry that can be off-putting to newer and/or younger members is rank, particularly if it is interpreted as “superiority”. We would suggest, for example, that lodges avoid being too hide bound by rank or seniority and that Grand Officers and Provincial Grand Officers should spread themselves around both in the lodge room and at the festive board, actively engaging younger members in conversation. Involving younger members is a common theme that we have heard from successful lodges. Involvement in ceremonies is important – but involve them at a pace that is right for them – let them if they want to, but don’t force them up the ladder if they do not. However also involve them in the organisation of social events, and also in the decision making of the Lodge. Some lodges, in order to do just that, have abolished the Lodge Committee so that decisions are taken by the whole Lodge – this ties in with our early comment about the relatively high average age of decision makers. And if you find you have a Masonic star in waiting, let him move forward quickly and become a young Master as the chances are he could help ensure the future of your lodge as well as being of huge benefit to your Province or the Metropolitan Grand Lodge.

That does lead to a respectful request to Provincial Grand Masters and Provincial Grand Secretaries that when you do invite younger Masons to become members of committees or working groups, please avoid having all meetings in the middle of the working day!

Provinces can also help retain younger members through initiatives like London’s Connaught Club which welcomes all masons in the capital aged under 35, to socialise together and which, by encouraging better connections, also supports inter-visiting. It may also accelerate the feeling of belonging, by causing a young mason to be surrounded by a number of like-minded people, and reinforces the idea that masonry is for all age groups. Another approach is for provinces to help create lodges specifically designed for younger professional people. For example the establishment of the Leeds Lodge last year in the West Riding, which meets four times a year in the centre of the city at a time suitable for people coming straight from the office.

There are many more ideas that came from our research that we believe will help assure the future of freemasonry, and make it relevant for all generations, but time today is against us. We very much hope that this has proved interesting and thought provoking and thank you Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master for inviting us to make this presentation and thank you, brethren for the way you have received it. 

Published in Speeches

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