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.
Good friends and neighbours
The Friends of the RMBI charity ball raised £35,000 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution's The Good Neighbour Fund
With the ball held in June at the Grange Hotel in London, a cheque was presented to the President of the RMBI, Brigadier Willie Shackell, by Grand Secretary and President of the Friends of the RMBI, Nigel Brown.
The Friends of the RMBI was formed in 1973 with an annual charity ball to provide extra funds for Thee Good Neighbour Fund. Over the years it has raised more than £550,000.
It’s probably fair to say that Freemasonry in Monaco has been low-key for a number of years, following its conditional acceptance by the Monégasque authorities in the first half of the twentieth century.
The Port of Hercules Lodge was formed in 1924 under the English Constitution, and many Monégasques who wished to become Freemasons sought membership outside the principality. In more recent years, three lodges were formed under the German Constitution, but it became apparent that the Monégasques who had joined lodges in France would like one of their own. Accordingly, the first steps were taken three years ago to establish a Grand Lodge in Monaco, and this meticulous planning came to fruition on 19 February in Monte Carlo.
The Grande Loge Nationale Regulière de la Principauté de Monaco was formed by seven lodges, one formerly meeting under the English Constitution and three each under the German and French.
The consecrating officer was Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, assisted by the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, Rüdiger Templin, as Senior Warden; and the Past Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of France, Jean-Charles Foellner, as Junior Warden. The ceremony was directed by Oliver Lodge (Grand Director of Ceremonies) with the help of Nick Bosanquet and Sebastian Madden (Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies) and Malcolm Brooks (Grand Tyler). The team from UGLE also included Nigel Brown (Grand Secretary), Alan Englefield (Grand Chancellor), Reverend Dr John Railton (Grand Chaplain) and Ron Cayless (Grand Organist).
The consecration ceremony proceeded without a hitch, and included the unveiling of the lodge boards, the familiar scriptural readings from the Bible, the symbolic use of corn, wine and oil, and the censing of the lodge and its officers. It was conducted almost entirely in English, but the Rulers-designate took their obligations in their own languages. Jean-Pierre Pastor was installed as the first Grand Master, and he then appointed and installed Claude Boisson as Deputy Grand Master, and Rex Thorne, Knut Schwieger, Renato Boeri and John Lonczynski as Assistant Grand Masters.
Other Grand Lodges were represented by more than a hundred delegates and many presented gifts to the newly installed Grand Master, including a magnificent ceremonial sword from the United Grand Lodge of England. The new Grand Master appointed and installed his officers, before the UGLE team withdrew, leaving the Grand Master and his new team to complete essential business. Monaco’s Grand Lodge had been launched in splendid style.
As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge
On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.
What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.
Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.
In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.
By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.
Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.
The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.
The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.
The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.
The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.
By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.
As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.
Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.
Welcome to the Summer/Autumn edition of Freemasonry Today. I first want to thank Michael Baigent who has retired, on behalf of all the readers, for the great job he did for us as editor of this magazine. I am delighted that he remains consultant editor and our thoughts and best wishes are with him in retirement. I would also like to thank Bill Hanbury-Bateman and Geoffrey Baber, who have retired from the Board of Grand Lodge Publications, for their enormous contribution to the magazine. I particularly wanted to highlight their tireless support during the merger of MQ magazine and Freemasonry Today. A merger that has evolved into the fantastic magazine we have today.
The first of the newly designed issues has been met with acclaim. What is particularly gratifying is the feedback from several members whose wives or partners have been interested enough for the first time to read the magazine and enjoyed it. One member even told me that, having read the magazine, his wife – for the first time – supported him being a Freemason. This underpins our core philosophy that we should strive for the important support of our family and friends through open communication.
It is wonderful news that our new members’ website was launched at the end of July. This covers the magazine and latest news from around the Provinces and Districts. So we now have in our communications armoury the magazine, the members’ website – which is an open site – and the UGLE main site designed to direct the non-mason for more information.
We have a great cross-section of articles in this issue for you and your family’s interest. A balance has been sought between current stories and historical features to show how our past connects with our present.
For example, with the Rugby World Cup returning to New Zealand, you can read about the origins of the game to see why the principles that bond the Craft together have historically drawn rugby players from across the world to Freemasonry. Meanwhile, find out how brothers Mathew and Christian Cleghorn from Lewis Lodge managed to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Follow how they contended with lost rations, a capsized boat and a bird called Elton – in order to raise much-needed funds for Parkinson’s UK.
On the subject of fund-raising, there is a fantastic profile of two classic Ford enthusiasts Marc and Lee Lawrence. Freemasonry has been the driving force behind this father-and-son rally team who embarked on an epic journey across America in order to raise money for good causes.
Speaking of connecting our past with our present, we recently celebrated ten years of filming Spooks at Freemasons’ Hall. You can read about how the building, built in 1933, has been leading a double life for the last decade as both the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England and MI5’s fictional home. We are delighted that the building has become such a recognisable icon in the show. As programme producer Chris Fry recalls when he was shooting an episode: ‘I was on the phone and this couple walked past the front doors. One of them casually said, “That’s the Spooks’ headquarters.” I thought that was brilliant.’
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.
I am absolutely delighted to be writing my column for this first issue of the newly designed magazine. Our publishing and design house has done an excellent job and I am sure you will like what you see. Importantly, we wanted a magazine you would enjoy reading and be proud to show to your family and friends; something that showcases the huge range of activities we are involved in and our openness.
In early March we ran the third Mentoring Conference for Provincial Grand Mentors here in London. It was a fantastic turnout. I thought I would share with you some brief thoughts on mentoring. I believe that we should have a mentor at all stages of our masonic involvement. Clearly, in the early days, guidance to the candidate on logistics is vital, but mentoring is far more than this. The mentor needs to be able to explain the meaning of everything we do as well as explain that ‘felt’ experience to family and friends. We will be giving you the tools to do this, so that in an ideal world we should all be ambassadors for Freemasonry. What do I mean by ambassador? A member who lives as honest a life as possible, understands and enjoys his Freemasonry and is happy, as appropriate, to talk in a relaxed way about his Freemasonry to the non-mason – particularly to his family. I am crystal clear that support of the family is crucial to both recruitment and retention. To further support this, and as I have touched on before, we are undertaking a lot of positive work from a communication point of view – talking openly about the Organisation and how we contribute to society. There is much work to be done but we are having many successes in our endeavours.
Our members’ website is nearly ready for launching. I am hugely impressed with what I have seen – and when it is launched you will be able to see regularly updated national masonic news, as well as looking at the latest issue of the magazine and important past articles.
Enjoy your read!
This was followed by the Installation meeting of Lancaster Lodge, No. 9413, in the evening and a festive board enjoyed by about 70 brethren. The lodges in Portugal had all been consecrated within the District of Gibraltar 20 years ago, and a strong contingent, led by District Grand Master Alfred Ryan, was in attendance, as was the Grand Inspector of the Grande Loja Regular de Portugal (Legal).
The following evening, at a meeting of Lancaster Chapter, Robert Levitt was confi rmed as Grand Inspector of the Group of Chapters in Portugal.
English masons in Portugal have three lodges: Prince Henry the Navigator Lodge, No. 9360, Lodge of Discoveries, No. 9409, in the Algarve and Lancaster Lodge, No. 9413, in Estoril, as well as a roving lodge, Britannia Masters Lodge, No. 9575, which has one meeting a year in each of the homes of the three other lodges.
The first three lodges each have a Royal Arch Chapter attached to them. Estoril Lodge is nearly 350km away from the Algarve, so visiting is no easy matter. However, all lodges and chapters extend a very warm welcome to any brethren visiting from England or any other constitutions recognised by UGLE.
Lancaster Lodge recently passed and raised a brother from the Grand Lodge of Texas, on instruction from UGLE, via the usual channels, and he is to join the lodge. Scottish and German masons have also been recent visitors. Anyone interested in visiting any of the lodges or chapters in Portugal should check details on the Group website: www.freemasonryinportugal.com
1972 Initiated, Barnard Lodge, No. 5100
1980 Master, Barnard Lodge, No. 5100
1987 PProvDGDC (Warks)
1990 Founding Secretary, Prince Henry the Navigator Lodge, No. 9360
1992 PDistGSuptWks (Gib)
1993 Joined Lancaster Lodge, No. 9413
1993 First Exaltee, Prince Henry the Navigator Chapter, No. 9360
1995 Founder, Britannia Master Lodge, No. 9575
1996 Master, Lancaster Lodge, No. 9413, and 2008 & 2009
1996 Overseas Grand Rank
2000 First Principal, Prince Henry the Navigator Chapter, No. 9360
2002 Founder, Lancaster Chapter, No. 9413
2003 Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies
2004 & 2005 First Principal, Lancaster Chapter
2005 Master, Britannia Masters Lodge, No. 9575
2007 Perfected, Bayard Chapter, No. 70, Rose Croix
There was a time, not so long ago, when Freemasonry was run discreetly, like a private gentleman’s club and the Grand Secretary seemed a distant, even aloof, figure gazing down from privileged heights. But no longer: Freemasonry is now run as a modern business and the Grand Secretary is a hands-on chief executive but accountable, not to shareholders, but to a large and diverse membership. It is a job needing skill, business acumen and diplomacy.
It seemed right, at a time when important changes are taking place amongst our rulers, that I should speak with Nigel Brown, Grand Secretary, about the changes in the administration of Grand Lodge since he was appointed and the plans for the future which he is tasked with implementing.
The first thing, he explained, was to understand that Grand Lodge was the centre of a large and dynamic international network of Freemasons.
As an example he mentioned the trip he recently made to Singapore to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the District of the Eastern Archipelago - which covers masonic lodges of the English Jurisdiction in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. This was an important milestone and celebrated not only the District’s longstanding success but 150 years of contribution to the local communities.
Many District Grand Masters from other areas were present and so he took the opportunity to chair business meetings to ascertain how well they are supported by Grand Lodge and how easily can they communicate their needs and concerns.
‘The Districts have long supported us and we need to demonstrate that we are constantly supporting them,’ he explained.
‘The Districts are a good example of the dynamic network of Freemasonry founded upon a shared moral understanding which, far from being anachronistic, is actually the way forward in the twenty-first century.’
‘In England and Wales we are increasingly dealing with a diverse population and Freemasonry could not be better placed to support and promote an understanding of that diversity since, in the end, what we are looking for are men of quality.’
‘And how would you define quality?’
‘People who understand the need for mutual respect of each other, who seek to become better men themselves and who understand that the community is better served by an active participation without expecting any reward. Therefore the need to select candidates of quality is essential.’
‘In Singapore, almost seven thousand miles away, I was heartened to find myself in the company of just such men of quality who selflessly give to their local community as we do here in England and Wales.’
The Administration of Freemasonry
The precise role of a Grand Secretary is to represent the Rulers - the Grand Master, Pro-Grand Master and his Deputy and Assistant - and the executives, the Board of General Purposes. He is rather like an honest broker to both these groups, advising them on all situations which arise. His task is also to implement whatever action they decide as a result of that advice.
‘So that takes care of missives from the top down,’ I commented on hearing this explanation, ‘what about concerns from the bottom up?’
‘We needed to reorganise the staff in Grand Lodge to create clear communication lines in order that Provincial, District and individual concerns can quickly be addressed by the right people and in a timely manner.’
‘At the beginning of my appointment one of the first objectives I was given was to make sure that Grand Lodge was run as a business. Of importance was the need to focus on an ease and efficiency of communication.’
‘Lord Northampton has been an enormous influence and working with him has been a very constructive experience. He was the right man in the right place and right time, the catalyst driving all these major initiatives vital for us to be a member of the twenty-first century.’
‘You have been Grand Secretary now for two years. How well have these objective been met?’
‘We are well on the way to achieving them. In fulfilling this remit the first organisational changes were made after my first six months in office and on behalf of the Board. I now have a clear understanding of what still remains to be put in place.’
The two main changes which were made were firstly to address the problem that Grand Lodge operated like a series of independent entities and that sometimes Provinces and Districts were not receiving the attention they deserved. Grand Lodge needed to understand fully what it was required to provide to Provinces and Districts and so a close analysis was made of the relationships.
At the same time Nigel Brown travelled around the Provinces and Districts with the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, to be introduced to the Provincial Grand Masters and hear directly their concerns and requirements.
As Grand Scribe E he also performed the same task for the Royal Arch. ‘One of the great decisions to allow me the time to concentrate on Provinces and Districts was the appointment of the Grand Chancellor. We have regular meetings and discuss any matters which might impact on the Districts. There can be issues between Districts under our jurisdiction and a sovereign Grand Lodge in the same country but, to date, all such issues have been resolved.’
Initiatives for the twenty-first century
One important recent success has been the Library and Museum Trust which has been transformed under the direction of Diane Clements. It has achieved official recognition by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council for its displays, comprehensive holdings and research.
Freemasonry has also been capitalising on the extraordinary nature and architecture of Freemasons’ Hall itself which is now listed among the ‘Unique venues of London’.
Shows, concerts, lectures and presentations have all been held here and, as most will now know, it is also used as a film and television location - most notably in recent years as the headquarters of the Intelligence agency featured in the Television series ‘Spooks’.
A major initiative about to bear fruit is the new United Grand Lodge of England website which is designed to be extremely easy to access and explore and will be regularly updated. It should provide everything anyone needs to know about Freemasonry and is designed particularly for the under-forty-five age-group both for members interested in Freemasonry and those thinking of joining. It will make it clear that Freemasonry is founded on Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and explain what that means in a twenty-first century context. In this way it will underpin English and Welsh Freemasonry’s desire for more open communication.
‘But what then should we keep to ourselves?’
‘The only things we wish to keep private are the modes of recognition which might be required when entering a lodge of which you are not a member. Of course, there should be an element of mystery about the rituals but it is not exactly secret since ritual books are freely available. Of course, reading the ritual is one thing, being part of it is another. What really counts is the felt experience of the ceremonies.’
‘One word we do not like is ‘secret’ for there are no secrets in Freemasonry. Nevertheless, at its heart is that great mystery of what it truly means to be human in an uncertain world and our ceremonies are a personal journey of discovery deep into this often uncharted region. Here, the recently introduced Orator and Mentoring programmes are important for they are focused upon the help, advice and support of those who choose to make the masonic journey.’
‘To have respect for others, give to the community and to journey towards insight and wisdom is to fully adopt those fundamental and ancient masonic principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth which have served Freemasonry since time immemorial and which will serve Freemasonry just as well into the future.’
NIGEL BROWN: GRAND SECRETARY
Born in Northern Rhodesia in 1948. Educated in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, he entered the British Army and after graduating from Sandhurst joined the Grenadier Guards with whom he served in Northern Ireland, British Honduras, Kenya and Cyprus. He was an instructor at the School of Infantry and commander of the Queen’s Company. After leaving the army he first entered financial publishing then later ran a company advising clients on winning global tenders.