Pause for thought
Having helped oversee the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Second Grand Principal Russell Race now wants to give Craft members enough time to understand the Royal Arch
What have you taken from your professional career?
I did an economics degree at Liverpool and worked initially for British Steel, then for an administrative body looking after the fishing industry. When I was 24, I went into the City as an investment analyst. I was there for the rest of my working life, for the last 20 years in corporate finance, and retired in my early 50s.
I found my enjoyment was in building good working relationships, and ultimately friendships, with colleagues and clients – which, on the corporate side, is crucial. I had around 30 clients and if you did a good job for them, they would not seek to move somewhere else for a quarter per cent on a deal. And relationships take us into Freemasonry. It’s all about working with people, interacting with them and enjoying their company.
When did you find out about Freemasonry?
I was born in Gloucester, and the first 12 years of my life were spent there. My father joined a lodge just after the war and he went into the Chair in 1956, two years before we moved to Kent, where he became a founder of what became my mother lodge in Rochester.
Lodges had a big social calendar and as a teenager I went to many lodge events with my parents. When I came back from university at 21, and was still living in Kent, my father said to me, ‘Well, you know something about masonry and you’ve met many members of the lodge, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know.’ It was a very smart psychological move. Many fathers might have said, ‘Well, I’ve got you down to join at the next meeting, now you’re back in the area,’ but mine didn’t. I took about two years, got settled in a job, and then said, ‘I’d like to join.’ It was very much my decision, rather than feeling any obligation to join.
Did joining the Royal Arch feel like a natural progression?
I was 29 when I joined the Royal Arch, again in the local chapter in East Kent. I didn’t go into it with any preconceptions and I loved the ceremony from day one – despite being on the receiving end of all three lectures on the evening of my exaltation! In those days, the Royal Arch was considered the completion of the Third Degree, which is now an area of debate. But you could also just say it was seen as the natural progression from the Craft, which is something we rightly still emphasise.
The pressure on chapters was rather less in the 1960s and 1970s, because our numbers were higher than they are today, albeit beginning to level out. Chapters were thriving with 30 or 40 members, but it’s when you get below critical mass of 20 to 15 that you suddenly start thinking, ‘What do we do?’ It’s only at this late stage that many chapters try to re-establish links with the mother Craft lodge, which may be too late.
Why did you become involved in Metropolitan?
As a member of London lodges and chapters, I was aware that Metropolitan was being set up as a separate entity, but my move to London was a complete shot out of the blue. As East Kent Deputy Provincial Grand Master, I had met the Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton for the first time at a dinner. A little later, Rex Thorne asked me out to lunch in Long Acre, and when I arrived Lord Northampton was with him. To my surprise, he asked me to move up to London to become the first Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.
I took some time to think about it because it was a new job and I knew the time commitment would be substantial. I asked the opinion of a few close friends who were unconnected with London, and they all said the same: ‘You can’t say no. It’s a great opportunity.’ Which indeed it was, but the workload proved to be quite heavy as well.
How did you feel leaving Metropolitan to become Second Grand Principal?
I think I made it known to people over time that Royal Arch is one of my great loves. Having completed six years as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and six years as Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, I knew it wasn’t a job I was going to do forever. I had a meeting with Peter Lowndes, who asked how I would feel about taking the position of Second Grand Principal, as George Francis was retiring. I paused slightly but, on this occasion, I didn’t ask for time to think about it, I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.’ The best things in life come unexpectedly, don’t they?
For my successor as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, the intention is to perform the role in a slightly different way, which I am sure is right. It was important in the early days of Metropolitan Grand Lodge for the rulers to be seen to be out visiting lodges and chapters on a regular basis and to be visible to all London masons. I was able to do that, but it wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be carried on at the same pitch, because London now has a firmly established base and identity.
‘We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch’
What have you inherited from your predecessor in the Royal Arch?
I think one of the important things that George Francis brought to the job was being visible to companions all around the country, visiting widely in the Provinces and London. There is no substitute for hearing people’s views first-hand. Additionally, he was a keen promoter of making the ritual more dramatic and understandable for all participants.
What I would say is that we now need a slight pause for breath to allow the changes to sink in. We have a number of initiatives going on, following on from the ritual change a few years ago, and we have to get these embedded within each Province. Although there may be minor adjustments, I don’t envisage radical changes in the near term. We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch.
In lodges where there is no active Royal Arch representative, or the Secretary’s not particularly keen on our order, the young mason coming through may have no awareness of the Royal Arch at all. Why should he be deprived of that experience? We need to ensure that all masons have the opportunity to join. I’m not saying you’re an incomplete mason if you’ve not come into the Royal Arch, but rather that your breadth of understanding is not as full as it might be.
Imagine when somebody’s interviewed for initiation and saying to them, ‘You are beginning an exciting four-stage journey.’ If you can get that message across on day one, it’s far easier than going to them after they’ve done their Third Degree and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s another step and here’s a leaflet about it.’
Even if, on a flat Craft membership, we can increase the conversion rate to 45% or 50% across the board, rather than current rate in the high thirties, that in itself will take up our membership to more acceptable levels.
Do you see your role as ambassador or enforcer?
Gareth Jones, the Third Grand Principal, and I are certainly ambassadors. I think it’s about communicating to Superintendents and their Deputies, as well as to all companions, that we’re here to help and guide them in the right direction. I sense a strong desire for consistency across the piece, and that has to come from Supreme Grand Chapter. A Province or a private chapter can’t take effective decisions about the direction in which they are going unless they have the proper information to start with. I think it’s quite compelling if you say to a Grand Superintendent that these initiatives are available, they’ve worked in other Provinces – look at the results, maybe there are lessons for you.
I mentioned before about taking a slight pause, giving yourself the time to think. I saw a very good demonstration in Freemasons’ Hall some years ago. At various stages in the ceremony they stopped and said, ‘Right, we’re about to do this. Somebody tell me why we do it this way.’ And the members hadn’t thought about it. They were just hearing the words. That was in a Craft lodge, but the moral applies equally to the Royal Arch.
Every now and again it behoves us all to stop and think, ‘What do the words mean? Why do we do what we do, for example, in terms of choreography of the ritual?’ I would like to reverse the trend in numbers, which we are beginning to do in some areas, but I believe that will only come through companions having a better understanding, and with it greater enjoyment of our unique order.
Last Wednesday’s Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter was a special meeting as HRH The Duke of Kent celebrated his Golden Jubilee as First Grand Principal with a special investiture of Grand Ranks
Afterwards HRH The Duke of Kent was photographed with the Pro First Grand Principal, Second Grand Principal and Third Grand Principal to mark the occasion.
Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes explains how strong leadership combined with a responsible approach will help to build a successful future for the Royal Arch
I congratulate all the Grand Officers whom I have invested on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I would remind you that with your new ranks come new obligations.
Appointments and promotions are therefore not just a reward but an encouragement for further participation in the success of the Order, whether providing support for members of your chapters or giving encouragement to those in the vital role of Royal Arch representatives in your Craft lodges. If, indeed, you are not that representative yourself.
It has been a great pleasure to invest Most Excellent Companion Gareth Jones as Third Grand Principal in succession to Most Excellent Companion David Williamson, who was himself appointed in 2010. We owe Companion Williamson an enormous debt of gratitude for his many contributions, both in our Order and in many others as well. This succession, coupled with that of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race in November last year, continues the strong leadership that the Royal Arch has enjoyed for many years and ensures an exciting future for the Order.
I believe that the Royal Arch is in its strongest position for many years. The profile of the Order was greatly enhanced by the outstanding success of the bicentenary celebrations in 2013, coupled with several key initiatives during and since that time, including the Royal Arch participation in the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.
As a reminder, there are two Royal Arch fellows in every five fellowships supported. This is thanks to the incredible generosity of our members and the skilful management of our assets.
I take great pride in the work of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team and want to thank the retiring Grand Scribe Ezra for his work over the past nine years. We have travelled a lot together, although we have not always returned without mishap. But be it Icelandic volcanic ash, Barbadian hurricanes or Heathrow snow, we have made it in the end, one way or another.
‘Appointments and promotions are not just a reward but an encouragement for participation in the success of the Order.’
Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter
29 April 2016
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I know that you would want me to congratulate all of the Grand Officers whom I have invested today on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I would remind you that with your new ranks come new obligations. Appointments and promotions are therefore not just a reward, but an encouragement for further participation in the success of the Order whether providing support for the members of your chapters or giving encouragement to those in the important role of Royal Arch Representatives in your Craft lodges. If, indeed, you are not that representative yourself.
It has been a great pleasure to invest today Most Excellent Companion Gareth Jones as Third Grand Principal in succession to Most Excellent Companion David Williamson who was himself appointed in 2010. We owe Companion Williamson an enormous debt of gratitude for his many contributions, both in our order and in many others as well. Today’s succession coupled with that of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race in November last year, continues the strong leadership that the Royal Arch has enjoyed for many years and ensures an exciting future for the Order.
Companions, I believe that the Royal Arch is in its strongest position for many years. The profile of the Order was greatly enhanced by the outstanding success of the bicentenary celebrations in 2013 coupled with several key initiatives during and since that time, including the Royal Arch participation in the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research. As a reminder, there are two Royal Arch fellows in every five fellowships supported. This is thanks to the incredible generosity of our members and the skilful management of our assets.
Finally, companions, I must, on your behalf and mine, thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team and the Grand Scribe Ezra’s staff for the success of today. Somewhat naturally I take great pride in the work of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team, but on this occasion I want to thank, particularly, the retiring Grand Scribe Ezra for his work over the last nine years. We have travelled a lot together, although we have not always returned without mishap – be it Icelandic volcanic ash, Barbadian hurricanes or Heathrow snow, but we have made it in the end one way or another. I am sure he would agree with me that these were testing events and we were both extremely grateful for the calming influence of his PA, Louise, back at base.
Thank you companions.
Retirement dinner for George Francis
After 10 years as Second Grand Principal, George Francis has retired. To mark his retirement a dinner was held at Freemasons’ Hall in London for those Grand Superintendents that he had installed. Also present was his successor as Second Grand Principal, Russell Race.
Moment of opportunity
In his new role as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder explains how his appetite for change has steered a distinguished career in accountancy and the City
How did you become the managing partner at Kingston Smith?
I took articles at Kingston Smith when it was a small accountancy firm, as most were in 1968. I was asked to look after our Hayes office in 1973 for a couple of weeks, as the manager they’d put in wasn’t working out. Two weeks became a month and by late 1973 I was running the office, becoming one of five partners in 1974. In 1979 the then senior partner became ill and I took over running the firm. We were seven partners at the time, then merged with another firm and became 11. It’s been pretty successful: we’re client focused, have a good niche in the market and are in the top 20 firms in the UK.
Are you proud of your career?
I never use the word ‘pride’. I always think that’s a bit pompous, a bit self-satisfied, and tends to come before a fall. I’m happy with the way we’ve grown the firm. Of course, I could have done some things better but we’ve avoided major pitfalls. I think we’re respected and we’ve always focused on our clients.
How did you come to Freemasonry?
I was a member of The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers, which has an associated lodge, so I joined because a good number of my friends were members. I was a bit apprehensive beforehand but I thought, why not? When you join Freemasonry, you go through the degrees and it all slowly unfolds. However, it didn’t really mean an enormous amount to me until I went into the chair some years later – then it all started to come together and I began to really understand. I like the symmetry of it, I like the ritual, and however busy I am in business and public life, I always attend some meetings.
Are you ambitious?
I’ve been dedicated but I haven’t been on a mission. When most of we baby boomers were born after the war it didn’t matter what strata of society you were from, there wasn’t a lot to go around. We grew up understanding that we had to make our way, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our careers. I guess that’s where my motivation comes from.
Has the City changed?
It used to be like a big club, but since the Big Bang [in 1986] there are more international players, more regulations. But it’s always been a level playing field.
I believe that perhaps the reason the City has been so successful over the centuries is because anyone in the world can come here to trade and expect the same treatment. I think that’s important.
Could you work anywhere else?
I love the City of London – I think it’s a wonderful place. I like its cosmopolitan nature, the diversity and the fact that it’s the centre of the international business world. I started doing things for the City 30 years ago because I wanted to give something back, and I was asked to stand for election to the City of London’s Court of Common Council.
‘As a baby boomer, I grew up understanding that we had to make our way, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our careers. I guess that’s where my motivation comes from.’
Are you a reformist?
Before I led the City of London Corporation it ran like a sort of federation of states, with each department reporting only to its committee, not to the CEO, so we changed that and brought it together as one organisation. When I became policy and resources chairman, I didn’t have an office, didn’t have a meeting room, no staff – it was impossible to run, so I put the necessary support in place.
I felt that we couldn’t just be insular in London, so we opened an office in Brussels to engage with the EU, as well as opening offices in Mumbai, Shanghai and Beijing to connect with two of the powerhouses of the future. We also engaged with the surrounding and deprived areas of London and were at the forefront of the Academy schools initiative.
There was considerable change but I wasn’t trying to kill tradition; I was introducing direction and modernity to how things worked. We decided the City needed buildings fit to house the world’s leading financial businesses, rather than the City becoming a museum, so we changed the planning policy and some of London’s best buildings are now here.
Do you seize opportunities?
Yes, I have always tried to make the best of opportunities that come my way. I like to get things running properly and I’m driven by fairness. If I see something unjust I can’t stand it and I have to try to resolve the situation. It’s been an exciting journey. My wife’s bugbear is about me learning to say no.
I’m trying, and I think I’m a good delegator.
What keeps you in the Craft?
I do like the Craft, not only its good spirit but also the charity side. It’s incredible what masons do in terms of giving. Take the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys’ support of Lifelites, which contributes to all of the children’s hospices in the country, or the London Freemasons who are raising £2 million for an Air Ambulance. The London members of the Craft and Royal Arch add up to something like 45,000, which is a significant proportion of Freemasonry in England, but it’s not an enormous number of people when you look at the amounts of money they raise.
How do you feel about becoming Metropolitan Grand Master?
When I was approached I was flattered and somewhat apprehensive. I admire [the outgoing Metropolitan Grand Master] Russell Race, he’s done a fantastic job and has steered London rather astutely from an embryonic concept into a strong, viable organisation. Russell’s had an excellent team, but you’ve also got to recognise the contribution made by the hundreds of Freemasons in London who have been involved in Metropolitan’s activities.
What are your aims for the role?
I like to get things working smoothly and I see my appointment as an opportunity. We have nearly 1,870 lodges and chapters in the Metropolitan area, so considerable organisation is needed to lead and support them. I want every volunteer in every role to be able to undertake their masonic duties while still being fully involved in their family and professional lives. Some masons who are retired may wish to start meetings early and finish early, whereas those who are working in their careers will need meetings to start later; we need to accommodate both.
Freemasonry is an interesting hobby that needn’t take over from family life or earning a living. It can help develop the skills and confidence that serve us well in our careers, as well as provide fellowship and a network of friends.
Canterbury evensong for Royal Arch
The choral evensong congregation at Canterbury Cathedral was enhanced by almost 500 companions, brethren, their families and friends coming together for the Province of East Kent’s Royal Arch biennial church service.
Led by Grand Superintendent Geoffrey Dearing, distinguished guests included Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, Third Grand Principal David Williamson, the then Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race and several neighbouring Provincial Grand Masters.
Guests were able to view the Ancestors exhibit, a series of life-size figures representing the Ancestors of Christ that date to the 12th and early 13th centuries. These beautiful examples of medieval stained glass had been temporarily removed from the Cathedral’s Great South Window while conservation work was carried out on its crumbling stonework. They were on display in the Chapter House, the East Window of which was a gift from the Freemasons of Kent.
11 November 2015
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you present today to witness the Installation of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race as Second Grand Principal. On behalf of all of you I wish him a long and happy tenure in this important role.
It is to the future that we should now look, but I would like to repeat my thanks to Most Excellent Companion George Francis for his many achievements and tireless work in raising the profile of the Holy Royal Arch since his own Installation in November 2005.
Companions, today, apart from celebrating the Installation of a new Second Grand Principal you will all be aware that it is also Armistice Day when we commemorate those who gave their lives in two World Wars. The observant amongst you will have noticed that a poppy wreath has been laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to this Grand Temple, in front of the casket which holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.
I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine which is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.
As a memorial it was originally intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes but time and economics and the fact that the building is now Grade 2* listed both internally and externally have gradually led to the building being opened for non-masonic events and filming.
I would assure you however, companions, that our excellent and hard-working in-house events team take great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud which is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.
Today we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many other thousands of our members who gave their lives during the Second World War and the other conflicts that have taken place since then. Although we have already stood in memory of recently departed members, in particular Most Excellent Companion Iain Bryce, Past Second Grand Principal, I believe that on this special day we should stand again to remember those who gave their lives to preserve those ideals which allow Freemasonry to flourish.
Companions, on September 30th this year, a packed Grand Temple enjoyed a magnificent Inaugural Concert to celebrate the refurbishment of our organ and when Supreme Grand Chapter is closed I am sure you will enjoy the talk by Ian Bell, Organ Consultant entitled ‘Achieved is the Glorious Work or Proof of the Pudding’, with musical illustrations played by Excellent Companion David Cresswell, Grand Organist.
Thank you, companions.
10 June 2015
An announcement by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has made the following appointments:
In his capacity as First Grand Principal, he has appointed E Comp Russell Race, Metropolitan Grand Superintendent in and over London, to succeed ME Comp George Francis, who will retire as Second Grand Principal on 10 November. Comp Race will be installed at the Convocation of Grand Chapter the following day.
In consequence, Bro Race will retire as Metropolitan Grand Master and Metropolitan Grand Superintendent on 20 October. To succeed him as Metropolitan Grand Master, the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, who was last year's Junior Grand Warden. Bro Snyder will be installed on 21 October.
Atholl lodges celebrate union
Egyptian Lodge, No. 27, hosted an event organised by the Association of Atholl Lodges to mark the bicentenary of the union. Representatives were present from many of the 122 Atholl-warranted lodges still working under the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). Among the guests were the Metropolitan Grand Master and President of the Association of Atholl Lodges, Russell Race, and UGLE Director of Special Projects John Hamill, a Vice President.