13 JUNE 2007
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
Brethren, today it is exactly 40 years since HRH the Duke of Kent KG was elected as our Grand Master. On behalf of all our members I have written to congratulate him on such a remarkable achievement and expressed our wish that he will enjoy good health to enable him to continue as our Grand Master for many years to come.
More good news … I have just announced the remarkable sums raised by four Provinces for our Masonic charities. That makes a total of £14.6 million. I attended the festival in Nottingham on Sunday when a new record was set of over £1,000 per member in the Province. These are very large sums of money indeed and our thanks go to all those who have been responsible for such outstanding generosity.
Brethren, I am looking closely at our marketing and public relations. I believe that this is a very important area when it comes to attracting and retaining quality candidates. However, it needs a new dynamic approach. There are many initiatives taking place around the country, including open days and stands at county shows, all of which play a useful part in spreading our message to a wider audience.
At the Centre we are particularly looking at improving our website and MQ magazine. This will all help to underpin our open approach on communication.
Open communication is important to the way we are perceived and therefore crucial to the future health of the Craft.
I have said it before, but it is worth repeating, that this is best achieved by Masons talking openly about the Masonry they enjoy to their families, friends and anyone who shows an interest in knowing more about us.
I have started my regional conferences with Provincial Grand Masters, accompanied by the Grand Secretary.
The first of these was held at Sindlesham at the end of May, with three more to be held in Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham.
I am also visiting our brethren overseas, beginning with a trip to our Districts in India in November accompanied by the Grand Secretary.
In July, the Assistant Grand Master is visiting the District Grand Lodge of Sri Lanka for their centenary and the installation of their new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent.
In early November we are hosting a special meeting of European Grand Masters to discuss the issue of regularity. The Masonic world has expanded with the creation of new Grand Lodges in Europe, and as the mother Grand Lodge it is time to restate our fundamental beliefs when it comes to regular Freemasonry.
Finally, brethren, I wish you all a very pleasant summer and look forward to our next meeting in September when we shall hopefully all have benefited from some rest and relaxation.
ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE
25 APRIL 2007
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
I start by saying a very warm welcome to everyone attending our Grand Lodge meeting today and I congratulate all those whom I have had the pleasure of investing with Grand Rank or promoting to higher office.
As Grand Officers, I would remind you that you have an important leadership role to play in the Craft. As well as continuing to set high standards for the Craft to follow, I hope you will also be active in promoting greater openness about our Freemasonry, which I consider essential.
Together with helping us to understand our own place in Freemasonry, this more open approach should also ensure we are better prepared to explain our Masonry to our family, friends and acquaintances.
There is no doubt in my mind Brethren, that with today’s rapidly changing society, Freemasonry is more relevant than at any other time.
Many of you will be aware that the four main Masonic charities, the Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund will shortly all be under one roof here at Freemasons’ Hall.
This move will, I believe, bring enormous benefits. I have in mind, for example, increased liaison between the charities themselves and between them and the United Grand Lodge of England, as well as shared resources.
The Rulers’ Forum had its first meeting in December, and from all the comments I have had, it has got off to a good start. I will be happy if it achieves three things.
First, there are many excellent initiatives coming out of London and the Provinces which, because of geographical reasons and lack of communication, are only taken up by a few and not disseminated to a wider audience. The teddy bear children’s hospital scheme is an example of how slowly a good idea percolates through our organisation.
The Rulers’ Forum should act as a central exchange for new ideas.
Secondly, much effort is wasted duplicating things which could be used uniformly by us all. Many Provinces, for instance, have their own booklets for Initiates, Fellow Crafts and Master Masons.
Then there are booklets on the work of the Almoners, Charity Stewards and other Lodge Officers as well as on mentor schemes and our charities.
I believe a lot of effort and cost could be saved if we took the best points from all of them and created something uniform which we could all use.
One group in the Rulers’ Forum is doing just that for mentor schemes, and it will be interesting to see how that develops.
Thirdly, it must act as a forum for grass roots Masons to debate issues, which concern us all, with the Rulers and other senior members of the Craft, and act as a conduit for disseminating the results through their groups to the Lodges.
In the course of the memorable and most enjoyable meeting of the 150th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, where I was present as a guest of their Grand Master, my brother Prince Michael, I had the opportunity to see also many other long established, well-known and respected Orders of Masonry to which many Craft members belong. I believe this may be a good moment for me to say something about them.
The Preliminary Declaration of the Act of of the two Grand Lodges in December 1813, says that it was ‘declared and announced that pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more’, that is to say ‘Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch’.
This has been the position for nearly 200 years and will remain unchanged.
However, since many members of the Craft are members of these Orders, I am pleased to acknowledge formally their existence and regularity, and in particular their sovereignty and independence.
The best known of these orders are:
Mark, Ancient and Accepted Rite, Knights Templar, Royal and Select Masters, Royal Ark Mariner, Red Cross of Constantine, Allied Masonic Degrees, Order of the Secret Monitor and Knight Templar Priests.
I also accept the valuable role they play in providing additional scope for Brethren to extend their Masonic research in interesting and enjoyable ways.
The Orders I have just mentioned are simply the best known and largest of those practised in London, the Provinces and Districts overseas. I am aware that there are in addition others that have a valid place in Freemasonry and with whom we enjoy a good relationship. What is important is that Brethren who join these other Orders still retain their membership of a Craft Lodge, and I am pleased that the Orders will be encouraging their members to do so.
In early March, Brethren, I was in Ghana to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that country’s independence. During my visit I also attended the 75th anniversary of the District Grand Lodge of Ghana. At the meeting, attended by nearly 500 Brethren, I appointed Brother His Majesty Osei Tutu, King of the Ashanti, to Past Senior Grand Deacon and I am pleased to have invested him here today.
Finally, Brethren, I know you would all want me to express our thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the meticulous way in which they have run this meeting, as well as to the Grand Secretary and his staff for their careful and thorough organisation behind the scenes.
The Grand Master attended the celebrations of the Mark Degree as John Hamill explains
History was made at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 October when the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, in their Craft capacities and regalia officially attended the celebrations of another Masonic Order
The occasion was the 150th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, of which HRH Prince Michael of Kent is Grand Master. Over 5,000 attended the ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall, but such was the call for tickets that over 600 others met in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall to watch the proceedings on giant television screens directly linked to the Albert Hall.
In addition to many Mark Masons, the ceremony was attended by non-Masons and ladies, including the Mark Grand Master’s wife, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
The latter was present as President of the National Osteoporosis Society, to which Mark Grand Lodge, as a tangible celebration of its anniversary, gave a cheque for £3 million. This is to fund a major project to provide mobile diagnostic and treatment facilities to cover areas where reasonable access to hospitals is lacking.
The ceremony also included a PowerPoint presentation on the history of the Mark Degree by Brother James Daniel (Past Grand Secretary of the Craft), the dedication of special banners for the five Lodges which had formed Mark Grand Lodge in June 1856, and a musical interlude provided by the choir of the Royal Masonic School for Girls and two gifted instrumentalists from the school.
The ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall was the culmination of a week of celebratory events including a special exhibition mounted at the Library and Museum of Freemasons’ Hall, a dinner at the Guildhall, and a reception for overseas visitors at the Drapers’ Hall.
A collection of papers was published on various aspects of the Mark by leading Masonic historians under the title Marking Well, edited by Professor Andrew Prescott, of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at Sheffield University.
ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE
26 APRIL 2006
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
I welcome you all to this Annual Investiture today and I offer my congratulations to all those brethren I have had the pleasure of investing with Grand Rank or promoting to higher office. Your appointment today is not however simply the recognition of the service you have given Freemasonry in the past but, just as importantly, an earnest of the work we expect you to undertake for the future.
The Craft has embraced the policy of openness with increasing optimism and the benefits are becoming ever more visible.
Nowhere has that openness been more apparent than in our charitable activities.
The amount of money raised and the donations made to both Masonic and non-Masonic charities has been remarkable, and has contributed significantly to the raising of our profile and our increasing acceptance in the wider community.
Nevertheless, charity is not just about raising money and making donations to good causes, valuable though these are. It has a broader and deeper purpose. Apart from giving alms and providing help by liberality to those in need or distress, charity is also defined as love of one’s fellow man, as kindness, and as leniency in judging others.
Some of our more thoughtful members have commented recently that our charitable activities are in danger of becoming onedimensional, whereas real charity, as I have just defined it, is multi-faceted. Many of our brethren and their Lodges already give much of their time to practical charitable work, which is entirely laudable, and must continue.
But, as Masons we should all try to involve ourselves to a greater extent in activities which bring joy and happiness into the lives of disadvantaged people, and not just assume that a cash donation discharges our obligations.
Helping those in need or distress therefore has practical as well as financial connotations, but of course taking Masonry into the community through charitable activities means providing tangible assistance to those in need, and that requires time, a commodity that is precious to us all. By the use of time freely given we can show real liberality of spirit to those who need our help.
We should also spend more time in our assemblies considering the excellences of charity and the lessons it has to teach us as Freemasons, remembering that no less an authority than St. Paul placed charity in front of both faith and hope as the greatest of qualities.
We are also conscious that Freemasonry rests on the basic tenets of friendship, charity and integrity, which we know as Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Friendship is the cement which binds us together, integrity is a characteristic which should be inherent in all Freemasons, but charity in all its aspects is the practical application of Freemasonry to the rest of the world. Through our charitable work and our openness about it the world may know the happy and beneficial effects of Freemasonry.
Brethren, in speaking at some length today about charity I want to stress that we must not fall into the trap of becoming dominated by financial charity, nor even its extension into the aspects of doing good by some practical means, if that leads us to forget that Freemasonry is a system of belief and principle that offers us a framework for the better regulation of our lives.
Charity is one of the foundations upon which Freemasonry rests, but we must ensure that the other basic tenets are not forgotten or overlooked, and we must look to what observance of all those principles is going to achieve for us. That is the way that we will receive benefit ourselves for what we do for others.
Brethren, I should like to express my thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the efficient manner in which they have conducted our proceedings today. And also to thank the Grand Secretary’s staff, who work so hard behind the scenes to maintain this magnificent building and to ensure that we all enjoy our Freemasonry.
The Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London was opened with the aplomb that the Grand Chapter team exhibit on all occasions, and Lord Millet was installed as Metropolitan Grand Superintendent by the First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent. In his address, Lord Millett laid stress on this as the start of a new era, and the opportunities for many more Companions to serve London Royal Arch Freemasonry and to participate more fully.
More than anything else, it was the thunderous singing of the opening hymn that set the tone for the afternoon by an attendance which had swelled to over 4,500. If it didn’t actually lift the roof off the Royal Albert Hall, it certainly provided some serious competition for the traditional last night of the proms. The ceremony of inauguration of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London was launched by spirited singing of an anthem by the London Masonic Choir, after which the Grand Chaplain delivered an Oration. He spoke of London as a city of contrasts and diversity and said that the same was true of London Freemasonry. In London, as in any masonic community, there were lodges which had allegiance of trade, profession or school. In spite of their diversity, they were all united in the masonic bonds, not only of brotherly love, relief and truth, but also of compassion, so important in Freemasonry, which was not coldly indifferent to the needs of others. He had seen how in Provinces, a Provincial Grand Lodge can add a dimension to the unity of a provincial area, giving it a sense of identity, of its own peculiarity, its own specialness, and so it would be too with London. He finished with two quotations – one from the anthem ‘Behold how good and joyful’ sung earlier, and the other ‘From the foundation laid this evening, may you raise a superstructure perfect in its parts and honourable to the builder’.
After the Grand Master had installed Lord Millett as Metropolitan Grand Master for London, Lord Millett thanked the Grand Master and his team for the way they had carried out the ceremony. He said how London had always been at the heart of English Freemasonry, and would now face the challenge of developing Freemasonry in London. But there was also a need to adapt to the changed status of London. We had had a tremendous send-off, and it was up to us now, he said. Lord Millett’s first act was to invest and install Russell Race, already well known to many London Freemasons, as Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.
ROYAL ARCH ANNUAL INVESTITURE
9 NOVEMBER 2005
An address by the ME The First Grand Principal The Duke of Kent, KG
I am very glad to see so many of you here today to witness the installation of ME Companion George Francis as Second Grand Principal. On behalf of us all I wish him a long and happy tenure in office. I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing our warmest thanks to ME Companion Iain Bryce who has retired today as Second Grand Principal.
ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE
27 APRIL 2005
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
I begin as always by welcoming you all to our meeting this afternoon, and I offer my warmest congratulations to those brethren I have had the pleasure of investing with Grand Rank today on their preferment.
ROYAL ARCH ANNUAL INVESTITURE
29 APRIL 2004
An address by the ME The First Grand Principal The Duke of Kent, KG
I am very pleased indeed to see so many of you present in Grand Chapter today and I bid you all a warm welcome.
I congratulate all the Companions I have had the pleasure of investing today and thank them for their past efforts. I would remind them that their new ranks bring new responsibilities and an opportunity to put even more into Royal Arch Masonry.
London Masonry's historic day
In one of the most historic meetings in the history of English Freemasonry, the MW the Grand Master HRH the Duke of Kent inaugurated the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London at the Royal Albert Hall on 1st October 2003.
The two glittering ceremonies were attended by a full house that packed the stalls, balconies and galleries of the Royal Albert Hall as the Grand Master installed Lord Millett as both Metropolitan Grand Master for London in the Craft and Metropolitan Grand Superintendent for London in the Royal Arch.
Russell Race was installed as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and Deputy Grand Superintendent.
Brian de Neut was installed as Second Metropolitan Grand Principal and Ronald Cox as Third Metropolitan Grand Principal in the Royal Arch.
Ten Group Chairmen and ten Deputies were appointed in both the Craft and Royal Arch.
Rex Thorne, formerly Chairman of London Management, which has now been superseded by the new arrangement, was installed by the Grand Master as Past Metropolitan Grand Master and Past Metropolitan Grand Superintendent.
Royal Arch Ceremony
The First Grand Principal, HRH the Duke of Kent, said:
"Companions, in exercise of the power conferred on me by Royal Arch Regulation 26, I have decided to form a Metropolitan Area of London, to comprise those Chapters which until today have been London Chapters as defined in Rules 128 and 129 of the Book of Constitutions, and I have appointed E Comp. the Rt. Hon. Lord Millett, to be the first Metropolitan Grand Superintendent.
"I am confident that he possesses both the ability and the vision required to lead the Metropolitan Grand Chapter as well as its Companions during what will be its formative years.
"Companion Millett is distinguished in public life as well as in the Craft. He was called to the Bar in 1955, took silk in 1973 and was appointed a High Court Judge in the Chancery Division in 1986, receiving the customary knighthood.
"Thereafter he became a Lord Justice of Appeal and Privy Councillor in 1994 and a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (or Law Lord) in 1998.
"In the Craft, he was made a Mason in the Chancery Bar Lodge No. 2456 in 1968 and in 1977 was exalted into the Royal Arch in the Chapter of Felicity No. 58, becoming its First Principal in 1985.
"He served as Grand Scribe Nehemiah in 1999. He has also found time to be a Member of the Panel of the Commission for Appeals Courts since 1991".
E. Comp Lord Millett, Grand Superintendent in and over London said:
"Companions, this ceremony marks the start of a new era for the Royal Arch in London.
"It is incumbent upon all of us who are Companions of the Metropolitan Area to play our part in taking this Order forward under the new structure, while at the same time preserving and maintaining London's long established and valued traditions.
"I am confident that under the new Metropolitan Grand Chapter, there will be opportunities for many more Companions, as well as the Metropolitan Grand Officers I have invested today, to serve London Royal Arch Masonry and to participate more fully in its future government and direction.
"I know, Companions, that I have your goodwill and support. I know that I have the enthusiastic commitment of the members of my team. I pledge myself to maintaining and promoting the interests of Royal Arch Masonry in London".
In reply to the toast "The MW The Grand Master" and proposing the toast "The Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London and the Metropolitan Grand Master," the Grand Master said:
"This is an historic occasion as we meet today to constitute the first - and perhaps it will be the only - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter in the history of English Freemasonry.
"How fitting it is that we should be meeting today at the Royal Albert Hall, which has been the venue over the years for so many Especial Meetings of Grand Lodge, and has therefore a very special place in the hearts and affections of English Freemasons.
"It has a particular resonance for me because the last time Grand Lodge met in this building was the occasion, in 1967, of the 250th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge, when I was also installed as Grand Master.
"In 1967 we celebrated a quarter of a millennium since the beginning of organised Masonry in London and indeed in the world. Today we mark the beginning of a new era for London - an era of separate existence: still an essential part of the English Craft, but no longer directly administered under my direction.
"Today London is 'leaving the nest' and taking wing on its own. The event is bound to be accompanied by feelings of trepidation, but I know that it is also accompanied by the sincerest good wishes of all those who are gathered here to witness it.
"In its new existence London will be better able to respond to the views of its members, who will thus acquire a greater say in their own Masonic affairs than it had been possible for them to enjoy until now.
"I congratulate Brother Lord Millett on taking over the controls from the Assistant Grand Master, RW Brother David Williamson, who will now be free to devote more of his time in future to the affairs of Grand Lodge and the whole of English Craft Masonry.
"For many years it has been the custom to present each new Provincial or District Grand Master or Grand Superintendent with what has come to be known as 'the Kent Cube'.
"It is a paperweight consisting of a gilt medallion, which was first struck in 1967 for my Installation, set in a cube of clear plastic. On one side of the medallion are the arms of the United Grand Lodge of England in low relief, on the other side is my signature.
"Brother Lord Millett, I am delighted to present you with your own Kent Cube - and I say "your own" deliberately: it is my personal gift to you as the first Metropolitan Grand Master.
"Brother Lord Millett has, I know, the understanding and the vision to enable him to lead London at this critical time so that it will flourish and prosper under his direction".
Lord Millett, replying to the Toast, said:
"Most Worshipful Grand Master, thank you for so kindly proposing the toast to my health and to the success of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.
"I am proud that the second Masonic gathering you have attended at the Royal Albert Hall should be the Inauguration of London and my own Installation.
"I wish to thank those Brethren who have contributed - in many cases behind the scenes - to the arrangements for today. In particular I wish to mention:
"RW Bro. Rex Thorne, Chairman of London Management, his Deputy, VW Bro. Brian de Neut, and W Bro. Andrew Henderson and the staff of London Management for the work they have done in bringing London to this stage in its development;
"W Bro. John Wright, who has acted as "Project Manager" for today and VW Bro. Andrew Wigram who has organised the Masonic Stewards;
"VW Bro. Jonathan Spence, Grand Director of Ceremonies, and his Deputies for overseeing the splendid ceremonial;
"VW Bro. Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, for co-ordinating the necessary changes to the Book of Constitutions as well as Grand Lodge's ceremonial and other arrangements for this meeting;
"VW Bro. Andrew Pearmain, the Craft and Royal Arch Grand Organists and the Choir, for providing the music which adds so much to our enjoyment of today's meetings;
"VW Bro. Russell Race, my Deputy, for his quiet and effective support over the last few months;
"and not least the MW Pro Grand Master, the Marquess of Northampton, for being the guiding inspiration behind the formation of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Chapter.
"I should also like to express my thanks to all those individuals and Lodges who have contributed to the Lodge and Chapter furniture and regalia, which have helped to make this such a splendid occasion.
"These, and all who are here at the Royal Albert Hall have seen to it that we receive a rousing send-off. Our task is now to carry forward the work into the future, and that I and my team will endeavour to the best of our ability to do".
The Grand Master said:
"Brethren, in exercise of the power conferred on me by Rule 60 of the Book of Constitutions, I have decided to form a Metropolitan Area of London, to comprise all but five of those Lodges which until today have been London Lodges as defined in Rules 128 and 129, and I have appointed RW Bro. the Rt. Hon. Lord Millett to be the first Metropolitan Grand Master.
"The Lodges which I have decided should not be included in the new Metropolitan Area are the Grand Stewards' Lodge, Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No. 4, Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland No. 12 and Royal Alpha Lodge No. 16.
"This is a singular and most important occasion, because the formation of a Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London is unique and represents a departure from the way that Freemasonry in London has been organised for over 280 years.
"I know that those chosen to lead the new Metropolitan Grand Lodge are united in determination that the enterprise shall thrive and prosper, and I know that you will support them today with your good wishes and, at the appropriate times, with your voices".
Lord Millett, Metropolitan Grand Master, said:
"Most Worshipful Grand Master, I am deeply conscious of the honour you have done me by appointing me as the first Metropolitan Grand Master for London, and I thank you not only for that appointment but also for finding time in your very busy schedule to install me today.
"My thanks extend also to your team of Grand Officers - and in particular the Grand Director of Ceremonies - who have supported you so ably and helped to make today an occasion which I, and I am sure all here for this and for this morning's ceremony, will remember for the rest of our lives.
"We have many other visitors from England and Wales as well as overseas, and they are far too numerous for me to be able to welcome them individually.
"But I should like to express my personal appreciation to the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong, who have shown me such great hospitality on my annual visits to the territory and have made me an Honorary Member of a local lodge.
"London has always been at the very heart of English Freemasonry, and as a London Mason for some 35 years I am very conscious of the trust that has been laid upon me to preserve and maintain it in that position along with its long-established and valued traditions.
"To that trust has been added the challenge of developing Freemasonry in London, to ensure that it fits comfortably in this 21st century both with the whole of the English Craft and also with society at large in London. "The greatest challenge will be to open up the Craft so that it is no longer seen by outsiders as a secret and sinister society. We should be proud to acknowledge that we are Masons - and London Masons at that.
"The establishment of this Metropolitan Grand Lodge will, I am confident, give opportunities not only to me, my Deputy and the ten Metropolitan Group Chairmen, but to many others as well - not least the Metropolitan Grand Officers I have invested today - to serve London Masonry and to participate more fully in its future government and direction.
"I do not pretend that the task before us will always be an easy one, and I know that all of us will need to adapt and adjust to our changed status under the United Grand Lodge of England, and that will take time, and perhaps patience as well.
"We have been given a tremendous send-off today in this great gathering; it is now for us ourselves to build upon that sure foundation, to carry forward the work and to produce an edifice of which we may be justly proud.
"I know, Brethren, that I have your goodwill and support. I know that I have the enthusiastic commitment of the members of my team. I pledge myself to see that the work be duly and faithfully executed".
I start by welcoming you all to our meeting this afternoon and I offer my warmest congratulations to all the Brethren I have had the pleasure of appointing to or promoting in Grand Rank today. I know they have all worked hard to further the interests of the Craft, but in recognising their achievements we do of course look to them for even greater exertions in the future.
I turn first to the most important issue to have exercised Grand Lodge during the past twelve months, namely the future of Masonry in London. The process of providing a new constitutional structure for London Masonry, which has been in progress for some years, culminated in an historic vote in Grand Lodge last month, following the most extensive consultation exercise ever undertaken in English Freemasonry. This process is not yet complete because Supreme Grand Chapter still has to make its decision on these proposals tomorrow. I recognise the widely differing opinions held on this matter, but have been impressed by the wholly Masonic spirit in which the debate was conducted. I am certain that the increased opportunities offered to London Masons by the new structure will enable them to play a more active part in their Masonry in the future.
Our “Freemasonry in the Community” week, which was such a success throughout the country, was more than the additional effort to raise money for charity which in some areas it became. It gave our Masonic centres and individual Lodges an opportunity to reach out to the “popular” world and put our strategy of openness into practical effect, so bringing Masonry closer to the communities in which our Lodges function and flourish, and from which we draw our members.
This special week showed clearly that Masons are part of their local community and that they work for it in many different ways. It also demonstrated to the country that we are a society with principles which we are determined to put into action for the good of our fellow men, and especially the less fortunate.
Although “Freemasonry in the Community” week was not planned as a charity event, it gave Provinces and Lodges in England and Wales additional opportunities to raise funds for, and make further donations to, non-Masonic charities in their own communities. Everyone taking part in these activities throughout the country enjoyed the experience enormously and many have resolved to continue their efforts in subsequent years.
Continuing in the theme of Charity, Charitable activity, which forms such a large part of Masonic life, in the form of fundraising has continued unabated during the year with the result that we gave approximately £17m to Masonic Charities. I know how hard the Councils work which administer those Charities, and I wish to thank them for all their efforts on our behalf. I am very pleased indeed that the work of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys has been recognised by the award of Royal status, and with effect from tomorrow it will be known as the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. It is also very good news that during the year donations to non-Masonic charities totalling in excess of £4m have been made by Masons under our Constitution throughout the world. This is a highly creditable achievement, and we can take satisfaction from it, but we must nevertheless remember that our Masonic Charities need our continued help, and should remain at the core of our charitable giving.
One of the effects of “Freemasonry in the Community” week has been to encourage many men to make enquiries about possible membership. In mentioning this I return to a topic which I last raised five years ago, namely the three “Rs,” — recruiting, retaining and retrieving. Recruiting is both acceptable and desirable, so long as it does not put undue pressure on potential candidates. Having succeeded in recruiting new Brethren it is clearly important that we make every effort to retain them. We all recognise the career and family pressures faced by younger men, so it is imperative that Lodges work to harness the enthusiasm of the new recruit and make him feel welcome. Retrieving lapsed members is initially a task for the Lodge Almoner, especially where financial or health difficulties have caused a brother to resign; but there is an increasing body of Masons who resigned from their Lodge because of business, career or family pressures, who may have found those circumstances have now eased or disappeared. Here we can all make a difference by encouraging them to rejoin their Lodge, or another Lodge, and once again become active in their Masonry.
I can assure you, however, Brethren, that in looking to you all to promote greater active membership of our Antient Institution, both new and old, I am not suggesting that we should ever contemplate the kind of mass recruitment which has recently been a feature elsewhere in the world. We are hardly going to strengthen our institution by relaxing the principles which we have established and maintained throughout our long history; rather we should respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing society, and show that our values have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they have always been. This is the example we have set to other Grand Lodges around the world, that the quality of our Masonry should always take precedence over the quantity of our membership.
In this connection I should point out that English Freemasonry recognises 156 Grand Lodges throughout the world, all of which adhere to the same landmarks as does this Grand Lodge. Maintaining good relations with them and responding to approaches from other Grand Lodges seeking recognition from us, is an important part of the work of the Grand Secretary and his staff. I was particularly delighted that, as a result of such efforts, we were able to resolve our difficulties with, and re-recognise, the Grand Lodge of India during the year. Inter-visiting is an important part of Masonic activity and I am certain that our members in India and elsewhere will be gratified that they are able to resume official contact once more with Brethren in the Grand Lodge of India.
Brethren, in conclusion, I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard throughout the year to ensure that we enjoy our Masonry. I wish to mention in particular the Grand Director of Ceremonies, who retires today after eight years. He has been a tower of strength during that time and has directed our ceremonies not only with efficiency but also with good humour and a light touch. I extend our thanks to his Deputies, who have helped him to make today run like clockwork. I also wish to thank the Grand Secretary and all the staff of this building especially the maintenance staff and porters, who look after this magnificent building so well, and finally, Brethren, I thank all of you for your attendance and support in such large numbers at this Investiture.