Now that Freemasonry Today has settled into its stride I think it important to confirm our editorial policy. For news, we cover stories about our members in both the Craft and the Royal Arch. We are keen to see news about the end product of our giving – from our time helping others through to our charitable donations. Editorial needs to be of interest to both our members and their families, consistently supporting our communications philosophy.
A good example of this can be found on page ten of the news section, where we report on the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group in Cambridge, which has received a major grant of £25,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to fund training for staff at its centres for severely bullied children. The centres help restore a young person’s confidence as well as helping them cope academically and socially. With a survey from Red Balloon finding sixteen thousand children absent from school due to severe bullying, such stories not only point to the work of one of our four charities but are also of interest to everyone, mason and non-mason.
One of the many benefits of our new members’ website is that it can carry – among many other things – the latest, and particularly time sensitive, news. This allows us to concentrate on the thinking and direction of our most senior leaders in the magazine, with our section named Senior Insights. These are not time sensitive messages but are hugely important for us all to know about. On page twenty-two, Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes considers how best to explain the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient masonry. Is this best done after they have been raised? How does their mentor brief them? And how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place?
Freemasonry Today is not a lifestyle magazine. It will, however, concentrate on stories and achievements of our members – showing how relevant Freemasonry is in today’s society. A young, up-and-coming dancer called Blaze Porter is profiled on page sixteen and you can find out how Freemason Humphrey Ball is helping Blaze fulfil his dreams. History that depicts the work of Freemasons is also very popular among our readers and we look at the life and times of Anthony Sayer on page forty-one. Chosen as the first Grand Master of Grand Lodge in 1717, little is known about his life and we ask whether historians have deliberately ignored him out of snobbery.
For information that members need to know quickly, or when action needs to be taken, these can be transmitted via Metropolitan, the Provinces and Districts through their grand secretaries, information officers and mentors.
We are constantly updating our mailing lists and if you have any problems, or know of a fellow member who is having problems receiving their copy, please do let us know.
Since the mid-1990s, the internet has had an increasing impact on culture and commerce; as the majority of our members now communicate electronically with the rest of the world, their expectation is to be able to do just that with their lodges and with us. With that in mind, I am reminded of the challenges we face in aligning ourselves to that expectation.
Two constant drivers to our thinking are: first, how best to ensure our members are kept informed and feel included; second, how best to communicate with the non-masonic community so that we put the correct information about us out there. In 2009, the main UGLE website was relaunched to provide information about the Craft for the non-mason. That site has proved to be a great success, with an average of thirty thousand visitors a month over the last six months; 58% via search engines; 25% via referral sites and the rest through direct traffic.
However, this site, though very useful to existing members, was not designed for them specifically. On that understanding, the Board of General Purposes decided to have a second site developed, dedicated to the membership. It is this members’ site that we have had great pleasure in officially launching in 2011. The platform is the old Freemasonry Today magazine site and we have maintained that website address: www.freemasonrytoday.com. The benefits of this site are that it is article-based, and it will include many more stories and features than we have space for in the printed magazine. In particular, it allows us to be timely with getting news to you and our response to real time events.
An attractive feature of the website is that all members can submit articles for potential inclusion and an especially useful aspect is that it will allow us to conduct surveys and polls among the membership, gauging their opinions on selected topics. Additionally, the current issue of each magazine will be available to view as a digital copy on the site.
We realise that many members, especially the younger ones, prefer to read the magazine digitally, rather than receive the printed copy. With this in mind, we have now added a digital subscription facility so that members who wish to, will receive an email alert when each new edition is available on the site. This digital subscription is also available to non-members.
We are extremely pleased with the number of lodges now launching their own websites and seeking an UGLE charter mark – a mark of Grand Lodge approval. The sheer number of lodges applying for a charter mark has meant that we have a backlog, as we carefully check each one for technical and masonic compliance. To overcome this, we have updated the UGLE guidelines for lodge websites to better reflect the ever-changing online landscape.
We live in very exciting times and I hope that you find the new members’ website both useful and interesting as it continues to evolve over the many years to come.
9 NOVEMBER 2011
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
I am delighted to report that the Royal Arch Masons Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons, launched last November, is progressing well. I am informed that very nearly two hundred thousand pounds has been donated to date. Thank you to those who have generously donated. As we move towards the bicentenary in 2013, I encourage you, in your fund raising endeavours, to continue to request presentations from a Royal College team for example, at your annual Provincial meetings so that the Companions in your Province can fully understand the important research work that the Research Fellows can undertake as a result of our continued support.
The First Grand Principal summed this up with great clarity when he wrote, “This campaign gives us an excellent opportunity to contribute further towards something that is helping to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and grandchildren”.
Your Provincial Appeal co-ordinators know the procedure for requesting these presentations and for ordering donation leaflets for distribution when those presentations take place. I also remind you that the information for donating to the Appeal is on the Grand Charity website. As a minimum target we are aiming for one million pounds and as I said a moment ago, we are well on our way.
The Appeal is a highly visible external contribution from the Royal Arch. However, there are other internal areas that we all ought, as members of the Order, to be looking at to give the Royal Arch a higher profile.
The first is encouragement by you, to bring in new members for exaltation, understanding that this will be for them the completion of their pure ancient Masonry that they have discovered during the ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising in the craft – most particularly the latter. Companions, I like to use the analogy of a four part TV drama. What is the point of watching the first three episodes and then ignoring the fourth when all is revealed.
This is not just about keeping member numbers up, it is also about making sure you have enough work at each meeting to keep the members’ skills honed. Remember, of course, to share the work out as much as possible so as to achieve the maximum involvement of the Companions in your Chapter. That way Companions will become far more interested in the beauty of the ceremonies as well as keeping up their interest. I note that we had three thousand nine hundred and thirty exaltations last year.
Companions, I have mentioned before that I, along with many other companions, find the lay out of the current ritual books to be confusing and difficult to follow. A new lay out with the new version, currently known as the “permissive” version, as the main text and the former version printed separately at the back. The ritual organisations are updating the books and it is likely that all the major rituals will be reprinted in the next eighteen months to two years.
Secondly, we have two important weapons in our ‘communication armoury’. Our house magazine, Freemasonry Today and the new members’ website launched in September. The strap line refers to the magazine as the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England but Companions, the editorial policy is predominantly to cover stories and news about both the Craft and the Royal Arch. This is also the case with the website which will be timely in getting news to you. I know the Editor of Freemasonry Today is keen to receive more stories for consideration and possible inclusion on the Royal Arch. The Provincial Information Officers have a key role to play here and are well briefed on the process for submission for both the magazine and the website.
For your interest, we are now starting to work on the new website for the Royal Arch, to bring the current one both up-to-date and in line with all the other communications initiatives we have recently launched.
Many of you will know that Grand Scribe Ezra, as Grand Secretary, is chairing a working party on mentoring in the Craft with the aim of seeing what elements of this are relevant to import to the Royal Arch. We already have Royal Arch representatives in many of our Lodges and one of the key decisions, as I am sure you can all appreciate from your experience, is when is the right time to brief the newly joined Mason on the Royal Arch – to have him understand the importance of the Royal Arch in the completion of pure ancient Masonry. For example there are questions such as, is it best after they have been raised, how does their mentor brief them, and how does the mentor or Royal Arch representative gain the right level of knowledge to correctly brief them in the first place? These are some of the conundrums that the working party are grappling with and I look forward to briefing you on their suggestions early next year. I am sure, however, that many of you have been debating these issues for some time! Fundamental is establishing the relevance, to prospective candidates, of the Order all of us who have been exalted so enjoy.
Since the beginning of the year we have installed six new Grand Superintendants in our Provinces and I have also installed the new Grand Superintendant for North Island New Zealand. This is, together, of course, with the South Island, the furthest of our Districts and our visit was seen as both supportive and a real sign of our commitment. We also met the Grand Superintendent from South Island who explained the continued havoc in Christchurch. Much of the damage from the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and the multitude of aftershocks had come from liquefaction, when the soils are shaken and turn into a liquid form, undermining buildings and other structures. There is little chance of buildings being replaced in Christchurch as a result. What brought it home for us was when we learnt that the Hotel we stayed in for District’s 150th Anniversary, at the end of 2010 had crashed to the ground, not that long after we had left. Aftershocks continue to this day, illustrated by the fact that Christchurch was rocked by a 5.5 aftershock last Friday – the biggest they had had since June. Our continued sympathy and support goes out to our Companions in these tough conditions.
It is good top see so many of you here today and it is also appropriate that I take this opportunity to remind you that all Companions are eligible to attend this Supreme Grand Chapter meeting.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes examines the strategic plans for the Craft and its charitable endeavours
The past year has been a busy time for the Craft. I have selected one or two examples to give you a flavour of what I mean. On the ceremonial side, the Rulers have installed five new Provincial Grand Masters and a Grand Inspector. In addition there have been six installations of Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. I had the pleasure of presenting two medals for the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Freemasonry to both brothers Sir John Welch and Simon Waley. And with the Grand Lodge team, of consecrating the new Grand Lodge of Monaco. It was a marvellous success and was extremely good for international relations.
On the business side, I met all the Provincial Grand Masters at my Regional Business meetings and attended the eighth regional conference of District Grand Masters of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Additionally, we successfully ran, for the second year, a business meeting specifically for District Grand Masters and Grand Inspectors before the annual investitures.
Regarding communication, I spoke about this at the September Quarterly Communication explaining how the strategic plans supported our open approach. I took the opportunity to encourage members to talk about their masonry as appropriate and I have recently set up a working party to look closely at how best to mentor at lodge level. You also now have the newly designed issue of Freemasonry Today. The magazine will continue to evolve and the key reason for this is to encourage you and your families to enjoy it and to talk more about Freemasonry. You have heard from the President about the timing for the publication of future issues.
On the charitable side, we had a very timely talk from the head of the Disaster Management at the British Red Cross at the March Quarterly Communication. Timely because of the plight of our brethren in Christchurch: New Zealand with the earthquakes, and in Rio de Janeiro, with the devastation after the mud slides. We gave generously through the Red Cross.
I am sure that Father Jonathan Baker’s resignation from his Lodges and Chapters was read with great sadness by all masons and many non-masons. This was as a result of tremendous outside pressures brought on him after his appointment as Bishop of Ebbsffeet. For the time being I shall just say that our feelings on this subject have been made. With the exception of the last item that I have mentioned, we have had a good year and the Craft is in good heart.
This is an excerpt from the MW Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes' Quarterly Communication address, given on 8 June 2011. To read the speech in full, click here.
14 September 2011
A speech by the VW The Grand Secretary Nigel Brown
Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master and Brethren,
Like it or not, we are in an age of electronic communication! The task I have been set today is to bring you up to date with how we are attempting to align ourselves to the new age of electronic communications in general and, specifically, to let you know about the exciting new members’ website.
First, I ask you all to cast your minds back twenty five years and just think for a moment, how many members of your mother lodge were using computers or, indeed, if the lodge secretary even possessed a computer!
How dramatically different it is today, and certainly since the mid 1990s? The internet has had a radical impact on culture and commerce, including the rise of near instant communications by electronic mail, instant messaging and the world wide web, with its discussion forums, blogs and social networking. The internet continues to grow, driven by even greater amounts of online information and knowledge.
Communication has changed radically in those twenty five years, as you know only too well from your own experience. One of the knock on effects for us is that the majority of our members now do communicate electronically and, what’s more, are expecting that to become the regular way to communicate with their lodges and, here with us, at the centre. With that in mind, I am reminded of the challenges we face: in aligning ourselves as closely as possible to that expectation. From a quote made by John Maynard Keynes, the eminent economist, who spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking, “the difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones”.
Two constant drivers to our thinking are: first, how best to communicate with our members so that they are both informed and feel included; second, how best to communicate with the non Masonic community so that we combat the myths and put correct inaccurate information about us out there, to be picked up by the increasing number of search engines.
Here is a flavour of what we are trying to achieve.
In 2009 the main UGLE website was re-launched. The driving force behind this was to provide information about the Craft for the non mason and, in particular, to attract potential candidates. It is also meant to be a public relations tool for people to understand more clearly what we are all about. That site has proved to be a great success, with an average of 30,000 visitors a month over the last six months; 58% of those coming via search engines; 25% through referral sites and the rest through direct traffic. However, as I stated earlier, this site, though very useful to existing members, was not designed for them specifically. On that understanding, the Board of General Purposes was minded to have a second site developed, dedicated to the membership. Let me be crystal clear! This site, as with the UGLE site, is an open site: no members; only sections; no logins and no passwords.
It is this website, the members’ site, that we have great pleasure in officially launching today. The platform is the old Freemasonry Today magazine site and we have maintained that website address, www.freemasonrytoday.com. The benefits of this site are, that it is article based, and it will include many more articles than we have space for in the printed magazine. In particular, it allows us to be timely with getting news to you and our response to real time events for, example, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis which, I know from experience you are, quite rightly, always keen to know what positive action we have taken say, through the British Red Cross, at a time when it really matters to the people on the ground. For example, if there is one of these natural disasters, we will publish our immediate response on the website, which will then be updated as required. In other words, you will no longer have to wait for the next edition of the magazine to be published.
The website now allows all members to submit articles for potential inclusion. These, in the first instance, go to the relevant Provincial or District Information Officer. He will have been briefed about the key part he has to play, and will make the judgement as to whether it merits inclusion, as well as making sure that the Provinces and Districts use articles for their own websites and magazines as appropriate. Having mentioned Information Officers, we have just called a halt to their intranet, largely because of a judgement in the High Court which resolved that permission must be obtained, from the publication itself, if media articles are to be reproduced online. Also because the members’ site will, in many constructive ways, naturally supersede it.
The state of the art software that we are using has the great advantage of allowing instant changes and updates. I believe that you will agree that one particularly useful aspect of the site is that it is going to allow us to conduct surveys and polls from amongst the membership and to gauge the pulse of members’ opinions on certain selected topics. Additionally, the current issue of each magazine will be available to view as a digital copy on the site, as well as back copies of the new version from issue fourteen and onwards. We have also selected articles of specific interest from copies before issue fourteen, the majority of which have now also been moved across on to the new site for your interest.
We realise that many members, especially younger members, prefer to read the magazine digitally, rather than receive the printed copy. With this in mind, we have now added a digital subscription facility so that members, who wish to, will receive an email alert when each new edition is available on the site. This digital subscription is also available to non - members.
We are also extremely pleased with the number of lodges now launching their own websites and seeking a UGLE Charter Mark; a mark of Grand Lodge approval. The sheer number of lodges, to give you an idea, is around one hundred at any given time. Applying for a charter mark has meant that we have a backlog, as we carefully check each one for technical and Masonic compliance, as well as suggesting possible improvements. To overcome this backlog we have updated the UGLE guidelines for lodge websites to greater reflect the ever changing online landscape. Indeed, let us not forget members’ increased abilities. In particular, we are now happy for sites to be launched, publicised and used as soon as the Province or District is happy that they comply with the guidelines. The charter mark will subsequently follow, meaning that lodges are not inconvenienced any more. At the same time we can still, importantly, maintain the rigour of our checks and, most importantly, the critical check for Masonic accuracy. The last thing any of us want is to allow a site to perpetuate the myths. We do also check through sites to make sure it really does work as it was planned. I am glad to report that we are starting to get good feedback from applying lodges about this new improved service.
Brethren, we have several other sites, but I am not going to talk about them today as time does not allow. So I will not be talking about the excellent new university scheme website, backing a hugely successful initiative. Nor will I, therefore, be talking about the four Masonic charity websites, so ably underpinning our freemasonry cares ethic. Nor the Library and Museum and Letchworth's shop sites or, tempting though it is, the pilot mentors’ website that we are currently working on and that will, in time, prove to be a fantastic tool kit for our budding mentors.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention that, on the business side, the members of the Board of General Purposes and the Grand Secretary are constantly looking at the efficiency of our business: dealing with a huge membership organisation to see that it is ‘fit for purpose’. Amongst other business practices, and relevant to what I am saying today, we are about to look at, in particular, the electronic submission of forms and a timely look at electronic payments. We believe, and I know first hand from travelling extensively in the Provinces and overseas, that this will not only help the Provinces but will be most welcomed by our Districts.
Brethren, we live in exciting times. I trust that this brief taster gives you more of an idea of what we are trying to achieve with our electronic communication initiatives, all of them supporting our policy of openness, and the importance we attach to this area. Specifically, on behalf of the Strategic Communications Committee and the Board of General Purposes, we all trust that you find the new members’ website both useful and interesting, from this memorable official launch day forth, as it successfully evolves over the many years to come.
ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE
30 APRIL 2008
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE GRAND MASTER HRH THE DUKE OF KENT, KG
I begin as always by saying a very warm welcome to everyone attending our Grand Lodge meeting today and I warmly congratulate all those whom I have had the pleasure of investing with Grand Rank or promoting to higher office. As Grand Officers you have an important leadership part to play in the future of Freemasonry. By leadership, I mean setting consistently high standards in your own Masonic life as well as demonstrating your understanding of the meaning of the ritual and the principles and tenets of the Craft. This understanding will help you to guide others at all stages of their Masonic journey, whilst encouraging them all to talk openly about their Freemasonry to potential candidates, family and acquaintances.
There is, however, a caveat. Brethren, although you will naturally feel some personal satisfaction at achieving such offices, I know you will all remember the words we hear each year at our Lodge installations, that humility in each is an essential qualification. And I have no doubt that that injunction should apply at least as much to those who are Grand Officers as to more junior Brethren.
Last November, I hosted a reception and dinner on the eve of the European Grand Masters’ Meeting. This was the first such meeting and was thus an historic occasion for representatives of forty-four European Grand Lodges, which included no less than forty-one Grand Masters. It was the most representative gathering of the leaders of regular Freemasonry in Europe that has ever been held. The Pro Grand Master planned it as a one-off meeting so that we, as the mother Grand Lodge, could make clear our views on regularity, recognition and sovereignty.
The Pro Grand Master set out our position on regularity emphasising that it is not Freemasonry as a whole, but the individual Mason, instilled with the principles and tenets of the Craft, who has a positive influence on society. My view is that communication between us all is essential to the future well-being of regular Freemasonry, and I can see no reason why such gatherings should not occur from time to time in the future.
I spoke last year about the Rulers’ Forum, and said then that I should be happy if it achieved a focus for grass-roots Masons to debate issues, which concern you all, with the Rulers and other senior members of the Craft and to act as a conduit for disseminating the results through their Groups to Lodges. I was, therefore, happy to hear that during the year three of the Rulers’ Forum Groups were given the task of identifying and collating best practice from Mentoring Schemes across the country. The project team has seen Masons from eight different Provinces working together, sharing ideas and, importantly, learning from each other. They have now presented their conclusions both to the Rulers’ Forum and at the last Quarterly Communication.
Their ideas support the aim of recruiting and then retaining men of quality. The successful retention of these men will involve the careful selection of Mentors at Lodge level so that, once initiated, each member is fully supported throughout his Masonic journey. The Brethren selected as Mentors will be those who can provide the time and knowledge required to care for the candidate and then to develop his understanding of our Order and how it translates into his everyday life.
Brethren, there have been a number of advances since this time last year which I believe will bring substantial benefits. For example, the new magazine, Freemasonry Today, has been successfully launched, and I am confident it will become a major channel for our open communications. In addition, the four Masonic Charities have all now congregated in this building, a move which will result in cost savings as well as leading, I hope, to a better understanding by the Brethren in London and the Provinces of the roles of each of the Charities. With so many successful initiatives having been launched since I last addressed Grand Lodge, I see this coming year as one of consolidation.
Finally, Brethren, I know you would all want me to express our thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the meticulous way in which they have run this meeting, as well as to the Grand Secretary and his staff for their careful and thorough organisation.
Because this Quarterly Communication has included the presentation of the Rulers’ Forum Mentoring Project and the meeting of the Grand Charity, I will keep my remarks brief.
I am pleased that the legislation has been passed enabling the appointment of Provincial and District Grand Orators. This means that we can now start the Orator Scheme in earnest. I have asked for intended orations to be approved before they are delivered and the Orators will now be fully briefed on the procedure for this.
In January you will have received your copy of the new Freemasonry Today. I was impressed with all the work done on this first issue and I know that it will become a valuable tool for promoting a better understanding of the Craft and Royal Arch as well as wider topics of interest. The next issue will be with you at the beginning of April.
Since the last Quarterly Communication the Deputy Grand Master has installed the District Grand Master for Gibraltar and the Assistant Grand Master inaugurated the new District of Northern India before installing the District Grand Master. He also attended the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Combermere Lodge in Melbourne, Australia.
The lunch after Quarterly Communication is restricted to Grand Officers. I am minded that from the June Quarterly Communication this should be extended to include anyone who is qualified to attend Grand Lodge. In order to control the numbers it is likely that, at least initially, applications should be made through Provincial Grand Secretaries or the London Office or alternatively Grand Officers will be allowed to invite guests who are qualified to attend. The Grand Secretary will be explaining how this will work in practice when he sends you the usual form.
The merger of MQ and Freemasonry Today and the development of external relations is discussed by Nigel Brown, Grand Secretary
It is always good to hear exciting news. The announcement, by the Pro Grand Master in his speech at the September Quarterly Communication, that MQ and Freemasonry Today are to merge, is indeed exciting. The merger has been planned for some time and further underpins the positive initiatives of the Pro Grand Master to communicate with you, your families and non-masons.
You might wonder why we are using the title ‘Freemasonry Today’ for the new magazine, especially as this is a merger and will be the magazine of the United Grand Lodge of England. The answer is simply that it is a good title.
You will also be interested to know that the Grand Secretary, on behalf of the Board of General Purposes, will act as ‘compliance officer’. That means that all editorial, now to cover a wider range of topics, will be approved before publication.
This then, is the last issue of MQ. The first issue of the new magazine will be published in January 2008 with your free copy being distributed in the same way as MQ was.
At the Tripartite meeting held at Freemasons’ Hall in June I had the opportunity to meet my opposite numbers in the Grand Lodge of Ireland and Scotland, Barry Lyons and David Begg respectively. We liaise very well and it was a pleasure to meet them.
In July the Assistant Grand Master traveled to Sri Lanka to celebrate their centenary and to install the new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent. As part of my remit to look after the Districts under our jurisdiction, I had the privilege of accompanying him.
We met many of the brethren and their wives. The Assistant Grand Master was also interviewed for the District magazine called The Banner. The interviewer was pleasantly surprised about our openness and the clear direction our Rulers have set.
I accompanied the Pro Grand Master on the third of his four Provincial meetings. These continue to be extremely successful. I cannot put enough emphasis on how important are our Provinces and Districts.
On that point, the Grand Chancellor gave an excellent talk at the last Quarterly Communication clearly confirming how successfully our respective roles were working out.
In particular, re-emphasing how his role allows the Grand Secretary to now concentrate on the Provinces and Districts, whilst he can concentrate on matters regarding Grand Lodges not under our jurisdiction.
Any thoughts that I may have had that August was a quiet month at Freemasons’ Hall London were soon dispelled. Clearly, from a ceremonial aspect, things do go quiet.
However, in all other respects it is as busy as ever. On top of this, the building works continue and we all look forward to their completion and to welcoming the Charities into Freemasons’ Hall. I am happy to report that our discussions on their move have already given us the opportunity to establish a very good relationship.
This is a wonderful and inspiring time for Freemasonry and we look forward to keeping you up-to-date with all the initiatives in the new Freemasonry Today.