Brethren will be delighted to see that there was some time laid aside from the very serious work being done at a recent MetGC/MetGL strategic update meeting at Freemasons' Hall, London, on Friday 15th March. This was of course also Red Nose Day, the fundraising day for the Comic Relief campaign.
Pictured with the Metropolitan Inspectors are the Metropolitan Grand Master, RW Bro Russell Race, DL, and a sprinkling of Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters, together with the active Metropolitan Officers who had been giving presentations during the day. Thanks are due to Ben Jennings of the Metropolitan Office who took the photographs and stitched them together in time to be sent out as part of the first 'tweet' of the Metropolitan Grand Master, thus fulfilling his promise to those assembled at the recent SLGR Investiture and Annual Meeting of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge! A splendid photograph for a splendid cause!
A legacy donation to an RMBI care home has expanded facilities for residents, with the opening of a new lounge and dining room
A new addition to the nursing facility was officially opened at RMBI’s care home in Chislehurst, Prince George Duke of Kent Court, by Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race.
The Hinton Lounge and new dining room followed a generous £70,000 donation to the Home from St Paul’s Column Lodge, No. 7197, which meets in London. The donation had been left in legacy by Brenda Hinton, the widow of local Freemason Roy Hinton.
Roy was initiated into St Paul’s Column Lodge in March 1977, becoming the Assistant Secretary in April 1979. As well as being a passionate Freemason, Roy worked for more than thirty years at The Times and was greatly respected by both colleagues and brethren. Sadly, Roy died in October 1981, aged just fifty-four.
Brenda kept in close contact with the lodge and on her own death in 2010, left a substantial gift to be used as deemed appropriate by the Master, Wardens and brethren. On further discussion between the lodge and the Grand Charity Steward, it was agreed that some of the donation should be used to support improvements at Prince George Duke of Kent Court. The new lounge and dining room were named in lasting memory of the Hinton family.
The opening ceremony was attended by representatives of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, St Paul’s Column Lodge, the Province of West Kent, the RMBI and the local Association of Friends. Following a welcome by RMBI President Willie Shackell, a formal presentation of the £70,000 cheque was made by Warren Thomas, Master of St Paul’s Column Lodge, and the brethren were appropriately thanked. Russell Race then unveiled the plaque for the Hinton Lounge and cut the ribbon.
Prince George Duke of Kent Court was purpose built in 1968 and is situated in a popular part of Kent. The home can accommodate seventy-four residents for both residential and nursing care and, like all RMBI homes, can cater for people with dementia. The home benefits from individual rooms and attractive communal areas, as well as wheelchair-accessible gardens, a fully stocked library and a hairdressing and pamper salon. There’s also a full programme of entertainment, social events, outings, gentle exercise classes and creative, cultural and intellectual activities.
The Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL) celebrated its 12th annual festival at Lincoln’s Inn in London, in the presence of Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, his wife Almudena and Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race.
This year’s host was the Chancery Bar Lodge, No. 2456, whose meetings are held in Lincoln’s Inn. The day included a lecture: ‘For Valour – The Victoria Cross’, by Mark Smith. An ecumenical service was held in Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, led by the Reverend Alan Gyle, with the address by the Venerable Peter Delaney. This year’s AMULL bursaries went to Michael Mather (Universities Lodge, No. 2352, Durham) and Daniel Glover (University Lodge of Liverpool, No. 4274).
A cultural event was held in aid of the CyberKnife Appeal, organised by Polaris Lodge and Chapter No. 4407 in association with other London lodges and chapters at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan centre in West Kensington
The guest of honour was Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race, and the event was supported by masons and non-masons alike.
There was a cultural programme of Indian music and traditional dances performed by students of the arts, followed by a traditional Indian vegetarian meal prepared by renowned artisans to keep with the cultural theme. A cheque for £20,366 was presented to Russell Race in aid of the appeal. Significant additional amounts have subsequently been collected or pledged.
A presentation on the CyberKnife equipment was made by Stratton Richey, Metropolitan Grand Charity Steward, and Ruth Peberdy of The Ron Peberdy CyberKnife Charitable Trust, which she founded in memory of her late husband. As a former nurse with 30 years’ experience, Ruth now promotes the use of CyberKnife as an effective treatment for cancer via her charity.
Launched in 1986, the Relief Chest Scheme provides administrative support for the fundraising activities of masonic units. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity operates the scheme for free, enabling masonic organisations to manage their charitable donations more efficiently by offering individual chests that can be used to accumulate funds for charitable purposes. The scheme maximises the value of charitable donations by pooling funds to ensure that they earn the best possible rate of interest and by claiming Gift Aid relief on all qualifying donations. By taking on this administrative function the scheme saves valuable time and resources involved in lodge fundraising.
The scheme is particularly useful to Provinces running charitable fundraising campaigns, including festivals, with Provinces able to request that the Relief Chest Scheme open special chests. ‘Following our very successful 2010 RMBI Festival, we decided to maintain the culture of regular charitable giving by making use of the Relief Chest Scheme, which had not been previously used by our Province,’ explains Eric Heaviside, Durham Provincial Grand Master. ‘The scheme is a very efficient way to generate funds, as it not only makes giving regularly easy but also provides the opportunity for tax recovery via the Gift Aid allowances. All of this is professionally managed by the Relief Chest Department in The Freemasons’ Grand Charity office in London.’
With over four thousand chests, the scheme is helping Freemasons give charitable support to the people who need it most. Grahame Elliott, President of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, explains how the scheme has evolved over the years, ‘When the idea for the Relief Chest Scheme was announced in September 1985, it was hoped that it would provide a simple and effective way for lodges to give to charity. Lodges would be able to give practical proof of an ever-increasing attachment to the first two of the grand principles on which our order is founded – brotherly love and relief. Twenty-five years later, it is clear to me that the scheme has successfully met these aims, evolving as an excellent way of helping lodges to spend less time on the administrative work involved in processing donations, giving them more time to spend on other important activities.’
With over £14 million donated to charitable causes via the Scheme in 2010, it is hoped that this success will continue, assisting the masonic community in its charitable giving for many years to come.
To find out more, go to www.grandcharity.org
| Provincial supporters
Provincial Grand Masters from around the UK give their experiences of working with the Relief Chest...
‘We opened our Relief Chest in the name of the Provincial Benevolent Association principally to take advantage of the Gift Aid tax reclaim facility. In addition, by utilising the expertise of the team we have been able to develop a much more efficient and thorough analysis of donations. The Province looks forward to our continuing association with the Relief Chest team and thanks them for their ongoing advice and assistance.’
Cambridgeshire Provincial Grand Master
‘Relief Chests have proved an immense boon to London charity stewards and treasurers in easing the administration of charitable giving. For our big appeals – the RMBI, the CyberKnife and the Supreme Grand Chapter’s 2013 Appeal – the support given by the Relief Chest team is vital.’
Metropolitan Grand Master
‘The record-breaking success of the 2011 Essex Festival for the Grand Charity was not only due to the generosity of the brethren, but also to the support we received from the Relief Chest Scheme. The scheme’s online reports and personal support made the tracking of donations, interest accumulated and Gift Aid recovery
a seamless operation for our administration.
That information enabled us to keep the lodges and brethren informed of their totals.’
Essex Provincial Grand Master
Relief chest breakdown
Who can receive a donation from a Relief Chest?
• Charities registered with the Charity Commission
• Any organisation holding charitable status
• Any individual in financial distress
The benefits provided by the Relief Chest Scheme:
• Interest added to your donation: A favourable interest rate is earned on funds held for each Chest and no tax is payable on interest earned
• Tax relief: The Gift Aid Scheme means HMRC gives 25p for every £1 donated to a Chest, where eligible
• Easy depositing: Make donations by direct debit, cheque and the Gift Aid Envelope Scheme
• Ease of donating to charities: Once a donation is authorised, the payment is made by the Relief Chest Scheme
• Free: There’s no direct cost to Relief Chest holders
• Easily accessible reports: Annual statements are provided, plus interim statements and subscribers’ lists are available upon request
• Additional help for Festival Relief Chests: Comprehensive performance projection reports and free customised stationery are available
In March, brethren from Apollo University Lodge No. 359 (Oxford) and Loge Robert de Sorbon (Paris) attended a meeting at Freemasons’ Hall, Cambridge, followed at the June meeting with a friends and family garden party. The celebration of the anniversary was held in July, at which the principal guest was the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence.
The prime purpose of the meeting was to make the substantial charitable donations that the lodge had decided should be the main way in which it celebrated its anniversary year.
The lodge has donated £1,000 for each year of its existence, with £50,000 going to the Grand Charity through the Provincial Festival, £50,000 to other masonic charities and £50,000 to a number of non-masonic charities drawn from suggestions and requests from lodge members.
Past Masters of the lodge presented cheques to the Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson, the Metropolitan Grand Master, Russell Race, and to the Presidents of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institute (RMBI), Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB).
The Provincial Grand Master received the cheque for his Festival on behalf of the Grand Charity.
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.
Harrow School was the venue for a day’s coarse fishing for 28 disabled and disadvantaged children from three local schools provided by the London branch of The Masonic Trout and Salmon Fishing Charity (MTSFC)
Sponsored by the London Masonic Charitable Trust (LMCT), the chief angler for the day was Russell Race, Metropolitan Grand Master.
He commented: “It was a sheer delight to spend such a wonderful day with the youngsters.”
The MTSFC provides disabled and disadvantaged adults and children with a day’s fishing and a mentally stimulating experience. Go to www.mtsfc.co.uk for more information.
The traffic sweeps up Great Queen Street in London, past the grandiose frontage of Freemasons’ Hall. Freemasons dodge in and out of cafés and bars, and among them a tall, sandy-haired, smiling figure weaves his way between the cars to meet me in front of the main doors; this is Russell Race, Metropolitan Grand Master for London. It must be said that since Metropolitan Grand Lodge offices were moved from the opposite side of the street into Freemasons’ Hall itself, there’s been much less crossing the road.
Until 2003 London Freemasons were administered by the Grand Secretary’s office. During that year Grand Lodge voted to set up a London unit, to be self-governing on the pattern of Provincial and District Grand Lodges: Russell Race was appointed Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master and, in 2009, Metropolitan Grand Master.
‘When the idea of Metropolitan Grand Lodge was first mooted, there was opposition wasn’t there?’ I asked.
‘One objection was the feeling that London honours were decided by the Grand Master and by making London a separate organisation you were lowering the bar and giving that decision to a lower authority. In reality it never was the Grand Master – it was a section within the Grand Secretary’s department.
‘The other fear was that London would become “provincialised”. Many members were aware that Provincial Grand Masters give a diktat and it tends to be followed. So some were fearful that London would go down that route, controlling particularly what lodges did with their charity money.
‘The third concern was that there would be a bigger bureaucracy: it would increase their subscriptions, other than increases that would have happened anyway. In practice, the staff of Metropolitan Grand Lodge has grown slightly, though much of that growth has come through volunteers.’
‘Were the fears of the detractors in any sense realised?’
‘No. Dues have gone up, but they have gone up countrywide. Importantly, London masons now have a better focus for charitable giving. There are three main strands for the Metropolitan Masonic Charity – medical care, charities that help younger people in London, and the elderly.
‘A lot of what we have been doing in London is about breaking down barriers. The move across the road has been very important. The old building didn’t make a good showcase for London Freemasonry and it was not a good working environment. The move has also enabled better contact with members of Grand Lodge. But Grand Lodge recognises our independence and that’s important. London has its own issues, its own problems.’
‘How good are you at publicising Freemasonry?’
‘One of the recruitment areas we are keen on is our young group, the Connaught Club, which caters for young people up to the age of thirty-five. Freemasonry is felt by some to be not elitist, but ageist in terms of dealing with young people. But I think young people who come into a lodge benefit immensely from having other young people around them. The Connaught Club has very lively social events and at least two open events a year at which members are encouraged to bring non-masons along. When they come into Freemasons’ Hall we have a reception in the vestibule with a talk about Freemasonry, a very informal question and answer session then we go into the Grand Temple and show them around. It’s about encouraging our members so that they feel relaxed and easy talking to nonmembers.’
I noted that there is cautious optimism in London regarding the numbers of new initiates: ‘Are these new initiates younger men than before?’
‘Definitely. The average age of intake has dropped quite sharply – a lot of young people are coming in. Some of the school lodges are starting to benefit, there are a number of graduates and undergraduates in the universities’ scheme, and some lodges are now inundated with candidates and are having to farm out second degrees in multiples all over the place, so it’s a good sign.
‘We are initiating something like 1500 per year, which equates more or less to the number of lodges, so you might think that’s fine. But it doesn’t work like that. Those 1500 initiates are concentrated on 800 lodges so there’s quite a discrepancy between those that are thriving, those that are doing alright, and those that are doing less than alright.
‘It’s important to get a lodge to recognise early when it’s not doing too well, rather than putting panic measures in place when it’s late. It’s never too late, but if you’ve got eight or ten members, you’re really on a downward spiral. You’ve almost gone past critical mass. Once a year the lodge committee should have a session on the health of the lodge. It’s not just a question of what are we doing next week. It’s where are we going as a lodge: where do we see our membership going in the next few years; are we getting proper succession in the lodge? Are we aware of certain stewards who say, I’m not going to take my place on the ladder. Are we aware of a junior warden who says I’m not going to go through the chair? Or do we say, let’s park that problem because it’s not a very nice thing to hear. Even lodges which are healthy nominally can go down very quickly, and they start losing members.’
The Brotherhood of Creation
I asked what he regards as the ideals of Freemasonry. ‘Like many other people I regard the charitable expression of Freemasonry as being just that – a charitable expression. It’s a means of demonstrating what’s in here’ – he touches his heart – ‘to start with. The ideals of Freemasonry are humanity, the fatherhood of the Creator, allied very closely and inextricably to the brotherhood of His creation, His offspring. If you just keep it at that very simple level, you suddenly think, why are there divisions across society? We are one of the few organisations – this is very important – that has this interreligious ability to share values between people of very different views. Many organisations have good ideals, good principles and good charitable aims but the charitable aims we have are a natural expression of what we should be doing anyway; it doesn’t specialise us.
‘In a lot of what I do, day to day, in this job, it’s very easy to get bogged down in the minutiae. It’s very hard to sit back and say, why do we do this?What we’re trying to do in Metropolitan Grand Lodge is to create environments in which people in their lodges and chapters can focus on the important things. I’ve been to many initiations over the years where it would be very easy to slightly turn off and say, “I’ve seen it all before”. But the only way I can make it work for me is to put myself in the position of that candidate and just share what he is experiencing.
‘So I think we’re setting the framework in which people can go beyond the words of the Craft and think about the more spiritual aspects. I’m very conscious that a lot of our members are in Freemasonry for different reasons. For some of them it’s companionship, meeting their friends, having a good dinner, but every now and again you hope that something from that ceremony suddenly strikes a chord with people. I’m a great believer in the ritual and the sanctity of the ritual does mean a lot to me.’
With Russell Race we have a Metropolitan Grand Master who combines the outer form of Freemasonry with its inner content and thereby manages to make something harmonious of the whole - for the advantage of all his Brethren.