Bicentenary celebratory Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
Wednesday 16 October 2013
To mark the bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure antient Masonry and the culmination of the appeal in favour of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter in November 2013 has been moved to the afternoon of the third Wednesday in October to take advantage of what it is hoped will be more clement weather before the clocks go back.
The provisional programme for 16 October is:
|11.00 a.m.||Convocation of Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter No. 9812 in which a demonstration of the Ceremony of Exaltation using the changes authorised in 2004 will be given||Grand Temple|
|1.00 for 1.30 p.m.||Luncheon presided over by the ME Pro First Grand Principal||Grand Connaught Rooms|
|4.30 p.m.||Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter, presided over by the ME The First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent, KG||Grand Temple|
|6.15 for 7.00 p.m.||Dinner, presided over by the ME The First Grand Principal||Savoy Hotel|
The above timings are approximate
It is not proposed to levy any charge for attending either the Demonstration or the Convocation of the Grand Chapter. The cost of the luncheon in the Grand Connaught Rooms, including a reception, is expected to be between £70 and £85, and the cost of the dinner at the Savoy Hotel between £120 and £150.
PROVISIONAL REGISTRATION FORMS
The Committee of General Purposes thanks all Companions who sent in completed Provisional Registration Forms: the results have been extremely useful in confirming interest for the various events.
Please Note: Completion of the Provisional Registration Forms has not committed any Companion to taking up, nor guaranteed, a place at any of the events.
Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft
How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.
Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.
What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.
How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’
Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.
Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.
What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.
What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.
With both Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, it has certainly been a memorable summer.
Since the last issue we have successfully released a new core leaflet. The title, What's It All About?, was inspired by our most frequently asked - and probably hardest to answer - question from non-masons. This is another milestone in our strategy for making people understand the relevance of Freemasonry in modern society which, in turn, will help both recruitment and retention. Do please look at the leaflet on our website. I think it is important to note that the leaflet is written in plain English for both the potential candidate as well as for all our families and friends.
It is a great 'myth buster'; showing that our values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Additionally, it talks about friendship, openness, giving, our purpose and how we all grow by our membership. Very different to anything we have done before, the leaflet has some outstanding black and white photography. Indeed, the initial distribution to London, the Provinces and Districts has proved so popular that we have already had to order another print run.
We have another thought-provoking issue of Freemasonry Today for you all, including a fascinating interview with the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. He talks openly about what he has got out of Freemasonry as well as the responsibility of this key leadership role and his hopes for the Craft. Dr Roman Hovorka goes on the record to discuss the creation of an artificial pancreas - the result of medical research that has been funded by the Freemasons and which could transform the way children with Type 1 diabetes manage this chronic condition. We spend a day on the lake with the Masonic Fishing Charity in Northamptonshire to see how young people are finding new ways of interacting with the world. Finally, ex-soldiers and Freemasons Michael Allen and Sandy Sanders reveal the camaraderie they have found in becoming Chelsea Pensioners.
Letters to the editor - No. 20 Winter 2012
In reading the Grand Secretary’s column and hearing about the new Core Leaflet it occurred to me that Freemasonry is not just a charitable institution – a view held by the mundane world and many brethren alike. We all know that charity is the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart and most apply this virtue without vaunting it. It is natural that the Craft should defend itself against the many unfair accusations made against it, but in doing so in public our charitable virtues should not be overstated. The Craft is far more than a charity.
Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013
Keeping up standards
I read with great interest and agreement the correspondence from Herbert Ewings and Tom Carr in the winter 2012 edition and felt somehow that the two letters were intrinsically linked.
At the suggestion of Anthony West, Chairman of the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, arranged a Fellows Presentation at The Royal College of Surgeons of England in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in the presence of The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
The 250th Fund was set up in 1967 to support the college in making annual grants to support research Fellows, and currently there are three Freemasons’ research Fellows each year. In connection with the bicentenary of Supreme Grand Chapter in 2013, an appeal is in progress, the funds of which will be applied for a similar purpose.
Other distinguished guests included the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and the Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge.
The guests were welcomed by Professor Norman Williams, President of The Royal College of Surgeons, while plastic surgeon Professor Gus McGrouther expressed his gratitude to the masonic community for its support. Professor McGrouther explained that the college receives no NHS funding for research and that this all has to be paid for by voluntary contribution. The college supports 20 researchers annually chosen from 150 applications.
Three Freemasons’ Research Fellows gave talks. They were Vaibhav Sharma, on improving hearing through reducing scar tissue; Miss Ming He, on tissue engineering for transplantation; and Satoshi Hori of the Uro-Oncology, Hutchinson/MRC Research Centre, University of Cambridge. A member of Isaac Newton University Lodge No.859 also spoke on targeting growth factors in prostate cancer.
Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes discusses the mechanisms that have been put in place to promote the Royal Arch within Freemasonry
As we move towards the bicentenary of the Order in 2013 we have taken the opportunity to further ensure the long term future of the Royal Arch. In raising the profile to achieve this, it is important to make sure we are seen as appealing, inspiring and relevant. To that end, a strategic working party, under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, reported their nine recommendations to me in March. The first of these recommendations in their report was that the strap line ‘initiation to exaltation’ be adopted to promote the Order.
The working party looked at mentoring and how it should align to the work being done on this in the Craft. Here it was suggested that the Craft personal mentor and the Royal Arch representative actively guide a new master mason towards membership of the Royal Arch at an appropriate point in his masonic journey. Also that once exalted the new companion has a knowledgeable Royal Arch mason to help him better understand the ceremony and meaning of the Royal Arch and how best to become involved in the Chapter.
PROMOTING THE ORDER
The role of the lodge Royal Arch representative is fundamental to the promotion of the Order and it is recommended that Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges continue to encourage Craft lodges to make this appointment and to develop the role. It is also considered important that the adoption of the permitted ritual variations, introduced by the 2004 Royal Arch Strategic Working Party, be encouraged in Chapters.
I am aware that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, as well as several Provinces and Districts are already presenting a letter to the newly made master mason on the merits of the Royal Arch. Efforts to improve the profile of the Order in website contexts is also underway.
Two clear outward ways to promote the Order are emphasised. First, the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at selected Craft Festive Boards and secondly, that the wearing of the official Royal Arch tie be further encouraged. The final recommendation is that Chapters be encouraged to re-engage with lodges from which they have traditionally derived members.
In order to encourage a greater participation among all companions, the working party looked at the layout of the ritual books so that the revised and permitted alternative variations adopted in 2004 be encouraged as the standard. I emphasise that nothing is now being suggested which in any way enforces or changes what was introduced by Supreme Grand Chapter in 2004.
A wider participation in the ritual is clearly beneficial in encouraging a deeper understanding of the teaching and by giving the permitted variations of 2004 a greater prominence in the various printed and authorised rituals – for example, Aldersgate, Domatic, Perfect and Metropolitan – I trust more Chapters will be encouraged to adopt them and benefit accordingly.
The 2013 Royal Arch Appeal for The Royal College of Surgeons is progressing well – with over half a million recorded so far. This means that we are well on our way to exceeding our target. I encourage you to keep up your efforts.
An open and sensible approach to Freemasonry could have a significant impact on public perceptions of the Craft, according to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. In most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject. The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open.
I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins.
We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworth’s and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained. It is important to explain to people that there are very few things we keep private in masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.
We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another as, ‘doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us’. Instead, we would say something like, ‘we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us’. To put it another way, this isn’t rocket science.
I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others. I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally, I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred. However, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.
We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a lodge, they will be among men who behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve.
You will be thinking that I have left out an important aspect: our charities. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say that we do a vast amount of charitable work. I most certainly am not saying don’t talk about our charities, quite the reverse, but don’t use our charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of enjoyment that we derive from our membership.
Royal Arch Investiture
28 April 2011
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, this is a special day for those of you who have been appointed to Grand Rank or have been promoted. Grand rank is sparingly awarded and I congratulate you on your achievement. In recognising that the Royal Arch is the completion of pure ancient masonry, exaltation into the Order should neither be hurried nor obligatory, as not all Craft Brethren will wish to take this final step immediately upon being raised. However, it is hoped that you as Grand Officers will be able to communicate something of the colour, enjoyment and essence of the Royal Arch to committed members of the Craft.
As we move towards the bi-centenary of the Order in 2013 we have taken the opportunity to further ensure the long term future of the Royal Arch. In raising the profile to achieve this, it is important to make sure we are seen as appealing, inspiring and relevant.
To that end, a strategic working party, under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, reported their nine recommendations to me in March. The first of these recommendations in their Report was that the strap line ‘initiation to exaltation’ be adopted to promote the Order.
The working party looked at mentoring and how it should align to the work being done on this in the Craft. Here it was suggested that the Craft Personal Mentor and the Royal Arch Representative actively guide a new Master Mason towards membership of the Royal Arch at an appropriate point in his Masonic journey. Also that once exalted the new Companion has a knowledgeable Royal Arch Mason to help him better understand the ceremony and meaning of the Royal Arch and how best to become involved in the Chapter.
The role of the Lodge Royal Arch Representative is fundamental to the promotion of the Order and it is recommended that Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges continue to encourage Craft Lodges to make this appointment and to develop the role. It is also considered important that the adoption of the permitted ritual variations, introduced by the 2004 Royal Arch Strategic Working Party be encouraged in Chapters.
I am aware that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and several Provinces and Districts are already presenting a letter to the newly made Master Mason on the merits of the Royal Arch. This practice is highly recommended by the Working Party. Efforts to improve the profile of the Order in all website contexts is underway and will help the potential exaltee to have a better understanding of the Order he is about to join.
Two clear outward ways to promote the Order are emphasised. First, the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at selected Craft Festive Boards and secondly, that the wearing of the official Royal Arch tie be further encouraged. The final recommendation is that Chapters be encouraged to re-engage with Lodges from which they have traditionally derived members.
In order to encourage a greater participation amongst all Companions, as well as lending clarity to the Royal Arch teachings, the Working Party looked at the layout of the ritual books so that the Revised and Permitted Alternative variations adopted in 2004 be encouraged as the standard. I emphasise that nothing is now being suggested which in any way enforces or changes what was introduced by Supreme Grand Chapter in 2004.
A wider participation in the ritual is clearly beneficial in encouraging a deeper understanding of the teaching and by giving the permitted variations of 2004 a greater prominence in the various printed and authorised rituals – for example, Aldersgate, Domatic, Perfect and Metropolitan – I trust more Chapters will be encouraged to adopt them and benefit accordingly. For your interest, all these are likely to be reprinted in the next eighteen months.
The celebration of the bi-centenary next year will be held on Wednesday 16 October. This earlier date will replace the November Convocation – for that year only. The planned events of the day will begin with a demonstration by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter Demonstration Team – in the Grand Temple – to encourage the use of the Permitted Alternative Variation that I have just referred to. This will be followed by lunch in the Grand Connaught Rooms. The main celebration will take place in the afternoon - again in the Grand Temple, followed by a dinner at the Savoy. You will appreciate that these events will be restricted by numbers. The Grand Scribe Ezra will be briefing Grand Superintendents and Provincial Scribes Ezra on the detail in good time.
The 2013 Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons is progressing well – with over half a million recorded so far. This means that we are well on our way to exceeding our target, so that we can then further help the research fellowship scheme, run by the College, by financially supporting additional fellowships. I encourage you to keep up your efforts.
Finally Companions, on your behalf I congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the excellent way in which today’s meeting has been conducted and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for their hard work in ensuring a successful Investiture.
With mentoring high on the agenda, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes takes the opportunity to give clarity and perspective to what it means for Freemasons
You have all heard that the Mentoring Scheme is designed to eventually mentor members at all stages of their masonic progress. Initially this is especially for candidates – the next generation – during the three degrees and then to encourage them to continue their progress into the Royal Arch. London and all Provinces now have a Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Mentor who currently is responsible for liaising with the lodge mentor. For the avoidance of doubt, the lodge mentor is responsible for coordinating and selecting suitable brethren to be the personal mentors. It is most certainly not the intention that the lodge mentor should carry out the task himself – the personal mentor is best described as a friend and guide.
We all have our own ideas about what mentoring is and, for that matter, what it is not. Indeed, some believe there is no need for mentoring and some believe they are already mentoring perfectly satisfactorily. These sentiments are understandable without an explanation of what we actually mean by mentoring and what we are trying to achieve. In an ideal world, mentoring would happen naturally, everyone would be looked after as a matter of course, and this, in turn, would take care of issues such as recruitment, retention and retrieval – the three ‘Rs’.
Whatever your idea of mentoring might be, one of the aims we should all keep in mind is the promotion of an environment of belonging, understanding, involvement and enjoyment within the lodge. The skill will be to achieve this with a ‘light touch’.
But first, let’s look at the word ‘mentoring’, which is translated in so many ways – rather like our masonry. Let me be quite clear: mentoring is not just about the Lodge of Instruction, valuable though that is for advancement in masonic ritual. Rather, it is mostly about pastoral care: seeing that the candidate is looked after, kept informed and that that support and care remains throughout each member’s masonic life.
In terms of the mentoring scheme, I see pastoral care being eighty per cent of what mentoring is all about. Put simply, the real test is how you would like to have been welcomed when you first joined and how you would like to have been supported from then onwards. I do not want to have a complicated or onerous scheme but rather one that is as natural as possible yet, at the same time, allows consistency of advice and support.
Mentoring has essentially three stages. The first two are straightforward as they cover logistics, basic ritual meaning and developing a sense of belonging. The third – how to talk about our Freemasonry to the non-mason – needs more explanation as it links in with our overall communications strategy that supports an external-facing organisation and underpins our new ambassadors’ scheme.
The first stage is for each candidate to understand the basic logistics that are involved in becoming a Freemason. Essentially, they should get a proper welcome. A candidate should never feel under-briefed and should be made aware of his financial and time commitments. During this stage the personal mentor answers any questions the candidate may have for him to gain a sense of belonging. In other words, there should never be any surprises.
The second stage is to understand the basics of the ritual, especially after initiation and then passing and raising. But this understanding should be about the ability to answer questions about the myths that non-masons have. Right from the start, members can counter the questions about the so-called funny handshakes, the nooses and trouser leg being rolled up. The questions need to be answered accurately and without embarrassment – I am not talking about an in-depth knowledge, but more a common understanding. The mentor can, of course, point them in the right direction for this additional and important information as they require it. It is not, however, part of the new mentoring scheme.
We all understand the need to look after candidates, but it is the third stage of giving them the confidence from the very outset in order that they can speak to family and friends about Freemasonry. This is vital to ensuring our future. A candidate needs to understand how to talk to the non-mason about what Freemasonry means and we aim to have as many members as possible being ambassadors for Freemasonry. An ambassador is not a rank or office, it is a mode of behaviour. On the fundamental understanding that we recruit only people who live up to our principles, an ambassador will not only understand the basics of ritual but will also talk to others about their Freemasonry.
To quote the Grand Master: ‘Talking openly about Freemasonry, as appropriate, is core to my philosophy, central to our communications strategy and essential to the survival of Freemasonry as a respected and relevant membership organisation.’ It is with these three stages in mind that the Grand Secretary’s working party is producing succinct mentor guidelines. I see mentoring as a ‘light touch’ resulting in everyone enjoying their Freemasonry even more and feeling comfortable in talking
to their family and friends in an informed and relaxed way.
Letters to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.18 - SUMMER 2012
I believe the one-to-one relationship is essential between candidate and mentor and it is good to see the lodge mentor’s role described as ‘co-ordinating and selecting brethren to be personal mentors’. Freemasonry proved to be a strong bond between my father-in-law and myself and I have always been appreciative of the shared interest, as well as the support he gave me.
Bringing it to bear
With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes as its patron, Teddies For Loving Care is about to give out its millionth teddy bear. Anneke Hak charts its ten-year evolution
Back in October 1999, Freemason Ian Simpson took his wife, Angela, to Southend Hospital’s A&E unit after she had an allergic reaction causing her windpipe to swell and block. Anxious and frightened, the couple decided to do something to say thank you to the A&E staff and, with the help of Ian’s lodge, the Teddies For Loving Care appeal was born.
Teddies For Loving Care (TLC) is a simple idea. Freemasons donate money to their lodge’s TLC appeal, and the appeal (organised by each individual Province) donates teddy bears to the local A&E to be given to distressed children receiving treatment.
Ten years later, and Ian, now the TLC chairman, is about to see the millionth teddy bear donated to an A&E unit. Where that will happen, he’s not entirely sure, but TLC has been so successful that it could be anywhere from Essex to America, as the cause has gone global.
The appeal had much more humble beginnings, however. Firstly, Ian brainstormed the Thames Mouth Lodge in Southend, and along with Neil Beverley, Brian Procter and others, set a plan in motion. ‘When we started we were planning on only doing it here in Southend. Then we thought, “Hang on a moment, it’s probably something we could do over the whole of Essex,”’ Ian reveals. ‘We then got together to promote the concept and raise money to launch it.’
The first TLC bears arrived in A&E units in March 2001 and, as it was self-promoting, raising money for the appeal wasn’t too much hard work. ‘It wasn’t too long before somebody knew someone who had been given a teddy bear,’ explains Ian, ‘and so it was self-perpetuating, because people’s own children and grandchildren got help through the campaign.’
Before long the appeal had moved beyond the Provincial boundaries of Essex, much to the organising mason’s delight, and slowly over the past ten years nearly all the Provinces have joined in. The appeal has even moved abroad, catching on in Cyprus, Gibraltar and the United States.
From emergency staff’s testimonies, it’s clear how helpful TLC is to the practitioners working in A&E departments up and down the country. ‘They think it’s wonderful,’ says Ian. ‘An A&E consultant said publicly that TLC teddies were one of the attributable benefits that had given rise to a reduction in treatment times for children.’
Sarah Lewis, Emergency Matron Practitioner at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, has been using the teddies for a number of years and agrees about the benefits they bring. ‘It means so much to the nurses,’ she says. ‘It makes our lives easier and the children feel safer and it’s not so traumatic for them. The teddy system works so well because it’s such a simple idea. It’s something the children love and makes them feel special. The parents see that you really value their child, they’re not just another number and they’re being seen as an individual.’
creating a diversion
And the teddy bears aren’t just employed to comfort the child either; the nurses will quite often use them as a diversion technique in order to get their jobs done quickly and efficiently. ‘Often we use the teddy to mimic the injuries that the child’s got,’ explains Sarah. ‘We’ll put a sticky plaster on the teddy’s arm if the child has hurt theirs, so we can use it as a diversion technique.’
Sometimes, however, the child is too young to notice the presence of a new soft toy. It’s during these times that the parents draw comfort from knowing that they’re not alone in their ordeal. Louis Joslin was born 29 weeks prematurely in 2001, and he was the first child to receive a TLC bear after Ian Simpson met his grandfather while giving a presentation about the appeal. ‘Afterwards, one of the masons approached me and told me the story of his grandson, who was in an incubator and weighed less than two pounds,’ recalls Ian. ‘His chances of survival weren’t good. I was standing in the bar holding a prototype teddy bear, and I handed it over. I couldn’t just stand there holding the bear while I was being told about this poor baby.’
showing care and generosity
Thanks to the care he received, Louis survived. His father Steve is now a Freemason and he still remembers how thankful he was to receive the bear. ‘It helped to know that other people have an appreciation of the fact that you’re going through a tough time,’ he says. ‘You take things for granted so often, but not care and generosity.’
Steve also can’t believe how successful the project has become. ‘It’s quite stunning when you know that it’s come from such humble origins, from a few people having a chat one day and thinking it might be a good idea.’
While TLC isn’t intended to promote Freemasonry in the community, one of its side effects is that it makes people aware of the good work that the Freemasons continue to do. ‘Everybody has their own theories,’ says Sarah Lewis, ‘but I’ve found the Freemasons so warm and welcoming, and TLC shows how generous they are.’
Ian Simpson is also aware that generosity from individual Freemasons has secured the appeal’s success. ‘Whenever I talk about TLC, I tell them about the thanks we receive, the million teddy bears, but more than that I tell them that they did it,’ he says. ‘Without their raising over a million pounds we would never have gotten where we are today.’
Looking towards the future, Steve, who has helped with the appeal since becoming a Freemason, thinks things can only get better. ‘It’ll still be there just so long as Freemasons are willing to put a tiny bit of effort in. If we can spread a little bit of happiness then that’s what it’s all about.’
For more information or to donate to the TLC appeal please visit www.tlcappeal.org.uk
14 March 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
In December I mentioned that one of the many important aspects of mentoring was to give guidance to our members about how to talk about their involvement in Freemasonry, and Freemasonry generally, to those not involved, particularly their family and friends.
Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. We will all have different stories to tell, no doubt, but in most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject, which naturally leads to the answer, "if you are interested why not come and see".
The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the Lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open. We must make it clear to everyone that when a new member joins us, there should be no surprises in respect of either his time or financial involvement that will come with his membership
I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins and not the number of people who are members.
We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworths or other such shops and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained as well as, of course, the vast majority of the words we use in our ceremonies. It is important to explain to people that there are very few thing we keep private in Masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.
Brethren, some people still try to ridicule us about such things as "funny handshakes". There is no Masonic handshake. We know that they are confusing it with the modes of recognition in the three main ceremonies. I would suggest that the majority of Freemasons do restrict their use of these signs to the ceremonies rather than using them in everyday life and I would encourage that to be the case.
We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another Brother as "doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us", we would say something like "we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us".
Similarly we should not explain our objects as "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth", but would be rather more coherent perhaps saying "Respecting everyone, looking after others and being honest".
In modern parlance this isn't rocket science.
I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes or any preferential treatment in any walk of life. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others.
I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred, as I have little doubt such things have happened in the past, but, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.
We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved and experienced they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a Lodge, they will be amongst men who they will find to behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve, share many of the same interests and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow man. In short, to be among like minded men.
As their membership develops they are very likely to find enjoyment in the more detailed aspects like the meaning of the ritual as well as the delivery of it, the ceremonial or, perhaps, the dinners, although I hope the enjoyment would not be limited to just the dinners.
You will be thinking to yourselves, very probably, that I have left out an important aspect – our Charities. Brethren we are not the only organisation that supports charities and people can easily be extremely generous in this regard without becoming a Freemason. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say "we do a vast amount of charitable work and raise a huge amount of money every year". This is true but, as I have said before in Grand Lodge, Charity is not our reason for being. Having said that, Brethren, of course we should blow our own trumpets in this respect and, whilst Charity may not be our raison d'etre, it is certainly a most important part of Masonic life of which we should be and are hugely proud. Indeed, it is a very natural result of leading our lives according to the Masonic line and rule.
Our four main Charities are all something of which we should be hugely proud, but our overall charitable giving goes way beyond even that.
Brethren, I most certainly am not saying don't talk about our Charities, quite the reverse, but what I am saying is don't use our Charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of fun and enjoyment that we derive from our membership.