Celebrating 300 years

Quarterly Communication

13 December 2017 
RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing to be appointed President of the Board of General Purposes

At today's Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, the Pro Grand Master, MW Bro Peter Lowndes, announced that the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing as President of the Board of General Purposes in succession to RW Bro Anthony Wilson.

RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing is the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

13 December 2017 
Announcement regarding the President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

I now have to announce that, at his request, the President of the Board of General Purposes will retire at the end of December this year.

It is with great regret that I have accepted this, and the Grand Master is pleased to appoint Geoffrey Dearing, PGM of East Kent, as President in his place.

Anthony has been President of the Board for the last 13 years and as President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.

He was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for the purpose. At our Quarterly Communication meetings, he always manages to ensure that the Board’s Report is succinct, yet comprehensive, and his presentations cover all the salient points.

Anthony, we will miss your charm, easy manner of address and your wise counsel. On behalf of the Craft we owe you our most sincere and grateful thanks. Enjoy your retirement.

Pro Grand Master
Peter Lowndes

Published in Speeches

Vote of confidence

In celebration of the Freemasons’ Tercentenary year, the public was invited by the MCF to vote for their favourite charities. John McCrohan, Head of Strategic Development & Special Projects at the MCF, explains the rationale behind this initiative

Tell us about your role…

I support the CEO and Board to bring together the activities of the four legacy charities that were amalgamated into the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to ensure they continue to meet the needs of both the masonic community and the wider community through our non-masonic grant-making. In January 2011, I started working for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, one of those four legacy charities, as Grants Director and Deputy CEO. I held the post until the consolidation of the MCF in April 2016, when I took on my current role. As well as respecting the legacy of the four charities, it’s also my job to focus on the future and think about how we can do things differently – and better.

What are the Community Awards?

The full name is the MCF Community Awards –Tercentenary Fund. These are 300 grants totalling £3 million that acknowledge the 300-year anniversary of UGLE. The Awards were created in part to raise MCF’s profile within the masonic community, but also externally. This initiative was our first large-scale, public-facing activity, and was designed to let the wider public know about the good work that happens as a result of the generosity of the Freemasons. We typically spend up to £5 million a year supporting UK charities and responding to disasters and emergencies, both here and abroad. But to celebrate the Tercentenary, we wanted to do something in addition to that, which is where the idea for the £3 million Community Awards came from. We also wanted to celebrate the formation of the MCF.

How do the grants work?

They were for either £4,000, £6,000, £15,000 or £25,000, depending on how many votes a charity got. The grants were spread across all of our Provinces, and we allocated either four, six or eight grants to each depending on size. London got 26 because of its size. It was important that the charities we supported were operating, and helping people, locally. We wanted the grants to reassure masons that the MCF is pushing money back to their communities, to see that the money they give doesn’t get swallowed up in a black hole here in London. And, of course, we wanted to show that we apply good grant-making practice and observe good due diligence.

How did you decide who would qualify for a grant?

Firstly, I went to Provinces and said, ‘We’ve got money for you, we’ll be giving grants in your region, but we’d like you to tell us which charities are close to your heart.’ We then asked each Province and Metropolitan Grand Lodge to compile a list of their chosen charities, filtered down to their allocated number. The shortlists came to us and we carried out initial due diligence to make sure charities were eligible, that they weren’t already an active recipient of a grant, and so on. We then confirmed shortlists with the Provinces and Metropolitan Grand Lodge and began contacting charities, inviting them to formally apply for a grant. They still needed to complete an application, though by this stage they were guaranteed at least £4,000 – but could potentially get as much as £25,000 if they got the most votes.

What types of charities were nominated?

We had charities in every sector – from financial hardship, social exclusion and disadvantage through to health and disability, education and employability. We had community centres, initiatives reducing isolation and loneliness for older people and complementary emergency services – things like blood bikes, for example, which take blood supplies around a county.

And how did the general public phase of the vote work?

People voted primarily online – we promoted the vote on our website, and through our social media and masonic contacts. Having spoken to some charities that had already worked with the public on that kind of scale, however, it became clear that to really make the voting work, we needed the charities themselves to lead the promotion – on their own social-media sites and during public events. To do this, we provided them with materials showing masonic iconography and branding that they could use. And, of course, the competitive element of ‘more votes equals a bigger grant’ really spurred them on.

What were the responses like?

We ended up with 177,801 votes, which really blew away our expectations. Almost 160,000 of those votes were made online, with another 18,000 cast at local events. After people voted, there was an optional short survey of just two questions. One asked if the initiative had improved the voter’s opinion of Freemasonry. Some 57% of those who completed the survey – 36,000 people – said that it had improved their perception of Freemasonry. We believe that’s pretty strong evidence that the initiative really worked.

What did you learn from the project?

We’d never done anything like this before so we were all on a massive technological learning curve. We were very exposed, so the pressure was on – we only had six months to develop the project before it went live. We were still testing the voting pages, making sure the images were right and the copy was okay the day before launch. That was a bit stressful. It was all worth it when the charities, and public, told us they didn’t realise we operated on this scale or supported so many people in this way. Given that raising this awareness was one of our key drivers, I think we’ve been really successful. Going forward, we’ll be able to do something like this much more easily because all our building blocks are now in place.

What happens next?

We are going to monitor the projects throughout the 12 months that the grants last, and do a full evaluation at the end. We want to make sure that what we have done with this grant fund has made a real impact. In a year’s time we’ll go back and see what has worked, what hasn’t worked so well and what lessons have been learned. We’ll see how we can improve, if we do something like it again in future.

Find out more - click here.

Around the world

Four charities that have benefited from the Community Awards

Dorset
Social Exclusion and Disability: Veterans in Action
£25,000
Veterans in Action (VIA) helps armed service veterans who have suffered the effects of war or who have found the transition back to civilian life difficult. For the past six years, VIA has been organising walking expeditions that have needed support vehicles – Land Rovers and minibuses – which are now ageing and require maintenance. The funds from the MCF grant will be used to fund a new project called the Veterans Restorations Project, which aims to restore and upgrade the existing vehicles.

Durham
Financial Hardship: Centrepoint North East
£6,000
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading charity working with homeless people aged sixteen to twenty-five. It supports more than 9,000 people a year, 800 of whom are from the North East. The grant will be used for its Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme (RDGS), which aims to increase the supply of affordable rented accommodation to disadvantaged sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds and those at risk of homelessness. As part of their acceptance on to RDGS, the person agrees to save with Centrepoint so they can afford their own cash bond as and when they move tenancy. This will enable them to have a secure base from which to build their future.

East Kent
Education and Employability: Romney Resource Centre
£4,000
Romney Resource Centre (RRC) was founded in 1999 and has developed a reputation as a centre of excellence, being the only provider of careers and skills advice, training, education and employment support in Romney Marsh for sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds and adults. Due to significant cutbacks in adult skills at the Skills Funding Agency, there is little further-education funding available for Romney Marsh communities – a critical situation if they are not able to upskill or attain updated qualifications. As a consequence, RRC is now seeking grant-funding support in order to continue its mission.

West Wales
Health and Disability: HUTS
£15,000
Now established for more than two decades, the Help Us To Survive (HUTS) Workshop supports individuals suffering with mental-health issues and learning disabilities across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The therapeutic arts-based centre currently has more than 100 active members attending its workshop. The MCF award will go towards maintaining a full-time qualified ceramics and silkscreen-printing support worker. They provide support for members to explore creativity, gain confidence and to reduce isolation and deprivation within the rural community.

Pause for thought

Having helped oversee the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Second Grand Principal Russell Race now wants to give Craft members enough time to understand the Royal Arch

What have you taken from your professional career?

I did an economics degree at Liverpool and worked initially for British Steel, then for an administrative body looking after the fishing industry. When I was 24, I went into the City as an investment analyst. I was there for the rest of my working life, for the last 20 years in corporate finance, and retired in my early 50s.

I found my enjoyment was in building good working relationships, and ultimately friendships, with colleagues and clients – which, on the corporate side, is crucial. I had around 30 clients and if you did a good job for them, they would not seek to move somewhere else for a quarter per cent on a deal. And relationships take us into Freemasonry. It’s all about working with people, interacting with them and enjoying their company.

When did you find out about Freemasonry?

I was born in Gloucester, and the first 12 years of my life were spent there. My father joined a lodge just after the war and he went into the Chair in 1956, two years before we moved to Kent, where he became a founder of what became my mother lodge in Rochester.

Lodges had a big social calendar and as a teenager I went to many lodge events with my parents. When I came back from university at 21, and was still living in Kent, my father said to me, ‘Well, you know something about masonry and you’ve met many members of the lodge, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know.’ It was a very smart psychological move. Many fathers might have said, ‘Well, I’ve got you down to join at the next meeting, now you’re back in the area,’ but mine didn’t. I took about two years, got settled in a job, and then said, ‘I’d like to join.’ It was very much my decision, rather than feeling any obligation to join.

Did joining the Royal Arch feel like a natural progression?

I was 29 when I joined the Royal Arch, again in the local chapter in East Kent. I didn’t go into it with any preconceptions and I loved the ceremony from day one – despite being on the receiving end of all three lectures on the evening of my exaltation! In those days, the Royal Arch was considered the completion of the Third Degree, which is now an area of debate. But you could also just say it was seen as the natural progression from the Craft, which is something we rightly still emphasise.

The pressure on chapters was rather less in the 1960s and 1970s, because our numbers were higher than they are today, albeit beginning to level out. Chapters were thriving with 30 or 40 members, but it’s when you get below critical mass of 20 to 15 that you suddenly start thinking, ‘What do we do?’ It’s only at this late stage that many chapters try to re-establish links with the mother Craft lodge, which may be too late.

Why did you become involved in Metropolitan?

As a member of London lodges and chapters, I was aware that Metropolitan was being set up as a separate entity, but my move to London was a complete shot out of the blue. As East Kent Deputy Provincial Grand Master, I had met the Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton for the first time at a dinner. A little later, Rex Thorne asked me out to lunch in Long Acre, and when I arrived Lord Northampton was with him. To my surprise, he asked me to move up to London to become the first Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.

I took some time to think about it because it was a new job and I knew the time commitment would be substantial. I asked the opinion of a few close friends who were unconnected with London, and they all said the same: ‘You can’t say no. It’s a great opportunity.’ Which indeed it was, but the workload proved to be quite heavy as well.

How did you feel leaving Metropolitan to become Second Grand Principal?

I think I made it known to people over time that Royal Arch is one of my great loves. Having completed six years as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and six years as Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, I knew it wasn’t a job I was going to do forever. I had a meeting with Peter Lowndes, who asked how I would feel about taking the position of Second Grand Principal, as George Francis was retiring. I paused slightly but, on this occasion, I didn’t ask for time to think about it, I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.’ The best things in life come unexpectedly, don’t they?

For my successor as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, the intention is to perform the role in a slightly different way, which I am sure is right. It was important in the early days of Metropolitan Grand Lodge for the rulers to be seen to be out visiting lodges and chapters on a regular basis and to be visible to all London masons. I was able to do that, but it wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be carried on at the same pitch, because London now has a firmly established base and identity.

‘We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch’

What have you inherited from your predecessor in the Royal Arch?

I think one of the important things that George Francis brought to the job was being visible to companions all around the country, visiting widely in the Provinces and London. There is no substitute for hearing people’s views first-hand. Additionally, he was a keen promoter of making the ritual more dramatic and understandable for all participants.

What I would say is that we now need a slight pause for breath to allow the changes to sink in. We have a number of initiatives going on, following on from the ritual change a few years ago, and we have to get these embedded within each Province. Although there may be minor adjustments, I don’t envisage radical changes in the near term. We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch.

In lodges where there is no active Royal Arch representative, or the Secretary’s not particularly keen on our order, the young mason coming through may have no awareness of the Royal Arch at all. Why should he be deprived of that experience? We need to ensure that all masons have the opportunity to join. I’m not saying you’re an incomplete mason if you’ve not come into the Royal Arch, but rather that your breadth of understanding is not as full as it might be.

Imagine when somebody’s interviewed for initiation and saying to them, ‘You are beginning an exciting four-stage journey.’ If you can get that message across on day one, it’s far easier than going to them after they’ve done their Third Degree and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s another step and here’s a leaflet about it.’

Even if, on a flat Craft membership, we can increase the conversion rate to 45% or 50% across the board, rather than current rate in the high thirties, that in itself will take up our membership to more acceptable levels.

Do you see your role as ambassador or enforcer?

Gareth Jones, the Third Grand Principal, and I are certainly ambassadors. I think it’s about communicating to Superintendents and their Deputies, as well as to all companions, that we’re here to help and guide them in the right direction. I sense a strong desire for consistency across the piece, and that has to come from Supreme Grand Chapter. A Province or a private chapter can’t take effective decisions about the direction in which they are going unless they have the proper information to start with. I think it’s quite compelling if you say to a Grand Superintendent that these initiatives are available, they’ve worked in other Provinces – look at the results, maybe there are lessons for you.

I mentioned before about taking a slight pause, giving yourself the time to think. I saw a very good demonstration in Freemasons’ Hall some years ago. At various stages in the ceremony they stopped and said, ‘Right, we’re about to do this. Somebody tell me why we do it this way.’ And the members hadn’t thought about it. They were just hearing the words. That was in a Craft lodge, but the moral applies equally to the Royal Arch.

Every now and again it behoves us all to stop and think, ‘What do the words mean? Why do we do what we do, for example, in terms of choreography of the ritual?’ I would like to reverse the trend in numbers, which we are beginning to do in some areas, but I believe that will only come through companions having a better understanding, and with it greater enjoyment of our unique order.

Published in SGC

East Kent Freemasons have given a grant of £31,000 to the Canterbury Cathedral Trust to support the fourth year’s training for a young apprentice stonemason at the Cathedral, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation

At a recent ceremony, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing, presented the donation to the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, saying how pleased the fraternity was to be able to continue their support for the scheme.

In reply, the Dean thanked him and all who had contributed saying how much it meant to the Cathedral and to the young apprentices who were just coming into 'these wonderful crafts here at the Cathedral'.

The apprenticeship programme at the Cathedral offers vocational training to young people that is truly life-changing. Seven apprentices are currently employed at Canterbury – four stonemasons, one painter and decorator, one scaffolder and one chef.

Apprentices are recruited through Kent schools, colleges and advertisements in the local press. Coming from varied backgrounds, they are encouraged to explore their creative talents within the inspirational setting of the Cathedral as well as developing the technical and life skills needed for a career in their chosen trade or craft. Whilst these training placements are exceptional opportunities in their own right, the Cathedral also makes every effort to provide subsequent employment for the apprentices.

Heather Newton, the Head of Conservation at the Cathedral, explained how the donation would be used: 'We are incredibly grateful to the Freemasons of East Kent and to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for this continuing support. There are lots of expenses associated with training Craft apprentices.

'We need to cover everything from travelling costs to and from College, to tools, specialist clothing and the time of more experienced Masons who act as trainers and mentors for our young people.'

This latest grant is in addition to the gift of over £300,000 presented to the Cathedral by the Provinces of East and West Kent, Surrey and Sussex, as part of the celebration of the Tercentenary of the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717. It continues a long and much valued relationship with the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion which dates back over 150 years.

Canterbury Cathedral hosted a Tercentenary Thanksgiving service  in recognition of its long-standing relationship with Freemasonry

More than 1,500 masons and their families came from across the Provinces of East Kent, West Kent, Surrey and Sussex to attend a service in celebration of 300 years of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The event was held on 18 February in the presence of the Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Kent and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, and was led by the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis.

During his sermon, Dr Willis thanked the Duke of Kent for his long-standing support of the cathedral. He recalled how the Royal Family helped when the cathedral was damaged by bombing during World War II. He also paid tribute to the generous support of the masonic community, whose relationship with the cathedral dates back more than 100 years.

Canterbury Cathedral is currently undergoing the largest restoration project in its history. The interior and exterior are covered in scaffolding to allow the ancient building to be restored to as close to its original condition as possible. A donation of £300,000 from the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex has funded repairs to the North West Transept, including new tower pinnacles and a spiral stone staircase.

East Kent Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing said: ‘The existence of Freemasonry for over 300 years bears witness to the fact that the idea of men from all walks of life coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time and inspired successive generations.’

Published in UGLE

There’s nothing like a bit of fun and games to keep people entertained and that’s exactly what happened at the 2017 Cornwallis It’s A Knockout Competition

Sponsored by the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons’ Charity and supported by the KM Charity team, the event was held as part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations and to help raise £20,000 for Macmillan Nurses.

The head of East Kent Freemasons, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing, opened the event at the Aylesford Bulls Rugby Club on Sunday 4th June, where over 200 people took part in the challenge. They made up a total of 21 teams as they ran, slid and tumbled their way across a number of activities including inflatable obstacles and dragon racing – all in the name of charity!

Over a thousand spectators were also present to cheer on the teams before Cornwallis Charity Trustee, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master Nick Waller, presented the trophy to the winning team from the Spirit of Rugby Lodge.

John Grumbridge, Chairman of the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons’ Charity, commented: ‘What a fantastic day seeing all sorts of teams having so much fun in doing something that will ultimately help others. I am sure that one or two people will be aching, but the fundraising achievements will have been greatly worthwhile.’

Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view some of the action from the competition

Spirit of rugby in East Kent

More than 500 rugby fans and masons filled the Margate Winter Gardens to witness the founding of Spirit of Rugby Lodge, No. 9922, formed by a group of more than 50 rugby enthusiasts in East Kent. The lodge was consecrated at a special meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge presided over by PGM Geoffrey Dearing.

APGM Roger Waltham said, ‘Rugby Union has significant parallels with the core values of Freemasonry – in particular, respect, integrity, cooperation, and benevolence and charity.’

Canterbury connection

An exhibition has opened in East Kent that reveals the enduring link between Canterbury Cathedral and local masons. Heather Newton, head of conservation at the cathedral, said, ‘[We are] grateful to the Freemasons for their support over many years. The exhibition allows us to celebrate this and give the public an insight into our craft.’

Roger Odd (above), Past Deputy PGM for East Kent, said, ‘Our connections with the cathedral are not just local, with the national Freemasons’ charity recently donating £22,000 to fund an apprentice stonemason. And to celebrate the Tercentenary, the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex have pledged to raise £200,000 towards the restoration of the north-west transept and its pinnacles.’

Read more about the links between Canterbury Cathedral and Freemasonry here.

Freemasons help their local junior football club purchase much needed kit

Staplehurst Monarchs youth football club are sporting smart new soccer kit, after netting a donation of over £1,000 from a local masonic lodge.

The club, which helps around 140 local boys participate in soccer, had been looking for support and funding to provide essential kit. Members of Staplehurst Lodge No. 8145, which meets at the Masonic Hall in Hartley, stepped in to help.

David Noble, Master of the lodge said, 'The boys have been doing so well recently, with the under-9s winning two autumn trophies in successive years and we felt they really deserved our support. We were able to provide home kit and tracksuits for the under-10s team, as well as new jackets for the under-9s. Helping young people build and maintain a healthy interest in sport is so important and we were delighted to help.'

There was a pleasant surprise for David and the lodge when he went to see the team in action this week. He was presented with handwritten thank you letters from the boys, along with a signed team photograph.

Team manager Dan Monahan commented, 'This generous donation from Staplehurst Lodge has made a significant difference to the club. It helps us to keep local children involved in sport by enabling us to provide essential playing kit and equipment. The club is at the heart of sport within our community and we look forward to continuing to work with the lodge in the future by providing access to football for all.'

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