Celebrating 300 years

Change of heart

By completing the first non-beating heart transplant in Europe, consultant surgeon Stephen Large could radically reduce the time for those on the donor waiting list. Sarah Holmes discovers the part Freemasons have played in this medical breakthrough

 A heart attack in 2008 was the beginning of Huseyin Ulucan’s slow decline into heart failure. By 2014, his condition had deteriorated so severely that he could barely walk. Placed on the transplant list, he joined a long queue of urgent cases. Of the 250 people a year in need of heart transplants in the UK, fewer than half will find a viable organ in time. 

While the chance of Ulucan finding a new heart seemed low, everything changed in March 2015 when he was put forward for a bold new transplantation procedure that would reduce the wait for a donor heart from three years to just four months. Traditional transplants only use hearts from donors who have been declared brain-stem dead but still have blood pumping around their bodies. This new procedure used a non-beating heart that had been reanimated in the donor’s body after death.

Using a groundbreaking technique, surgeons kept the heart beating in the donor body for 50 minutes to test its function, before transporting it on a three-hour journey to Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, for transplant into Ulucan. The procedure was the first of its kind to be performed in Europe, and looks set to revolutionise the field by opening up a new supply of donor hearts previously thought unusable. 

‘This procedure could increase heart transplantation by 25 per cent in the UK,’ says Stephen Large, the consultant cardiothoracic surgeon (opposite) who oversaw the operation. For three years, he and a research team at Papworth have worked tirelessly to fine-tune the techniques needed to restart and restore a non-beating heart. ‘It means that instead of accepting one in five hearts offered, surgeons will be able to accept two or maybe even three.’ 

The operation’s success has transformed attitudes towards donation after cardiac death, with Papworth now receiving at least one referral per week. It’s a remarkable feat given the longstanding belief that non-beating hearts become irreparably damaged during the process of death. This breakthrough proves that by re-establishing a fresh supply of blood within 30 minutes of death, the heart can restore its energy supplies enough to start pumping efficiently again.

Life-giving funds

A £200,000 donation from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund allowed Large to establish the project in February 2013, paying for costly organ-care technology as well as the employment of Simon Messer, the cardiothoracic transplant registrar who helped to develop the technique for restarting the heart.

‘It’s difficult to determine whether an organ will function properly once it’s been transplanted. With a heart, it’s even more challenging because it has to be beating,’ says surgeon Charles Akle, a member of the Non-Masonic Grants Committee of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. ‘The fresher the organ, the better the chance of a successful transplant – there have always been problems with maintaining the quality of a heart, especially one that’s already stopped beating, until it reaches the recipient.’

‘It’s difficult to determine whether an organ will function properly once transplanted. With a heart, it’s even more challenging, because it has to be beating.’ Charles Akle

Keep the rhythm

To this end, the team at Papworth used a revolutionary new technology, the TransMedics Organ Care System, to give the donor heart a steady supply of warm blood. Known as normothermic perfusion, this technique keeps the heart beating as it would inside the body after it’s been removed, so it doesn’t suffer further damage during the journey to the recipient. It’s an essential support system for non-beating hearts, which have already suffered a prolonged lack of blood supply and wouldn’t survive the traditional method of preserving donor organs on ice. 

‘TransMedics really takes the heat out of the situation,’ says Large. ‘It allows us to travel greater distances with a “live” heart, and gives us the time to properly assess whether a donor organ is being matched with the right recipient.’

In Ulucan’s operation, the decision to continue with the transplant fell to Steven Tsui, the clinical director of transplantation at Papworth. Watching him mull over his thoughts while the donor heart pumped away on the TransMedics was, Large admits, the most nerve-shredding moment of the procedure. 

‘After years of research, that was the final hurdle,’ he recalls. ‘I said to him, “You need to wrestle with your demons here, but this I’m sure is a great heart.” ’ Within minutes, it was being stitched into its recipient and just four weeks later, Ulucan was back at home enjoying his new lease of life. ‘That’s an outstanding recovery by any standard. It must have been a phenomenal heart,’ says Large.

Opening up the donor pool

Without the support of the Freemasons, Large’s research could never have translated into the successful clinical programme it is today. ‘One of the greatest challenges of research is realising the funds to do it,’ says Large. ‘Competition is fierce, and translational programmes like this struggle to attract funding from the Medical Research Council.’ 

As both a researcher and fund-giver, Charles also understands the challenge. ‘We get pulled in so many different directions at the Grand Charity. It’s impossible to prioritise one research project over another. They are all worthy,’ he says. ‘But we do tend towards applications with a more methodological process, something that’s likely to have a good result that can be developed to benefit other conditions.’

Large’s funding application ticked all the boxes. 

‘It provided an immediate and flexible solution for heart transplantation that opened up the donor pool,’ says Charles. ‘It also laid the groundwork for further research into preserving donor organs for as long as possible.’

For Large, the research is only just beginning. ‘Snipping out dodgy organs and stitching in new ones is a replacement therapy. It’s up to the next generation to find out why organs deteriorate and how we can regenerate them organically. I just wish I had another lifetime to see it, because that will be such fun.’

‘A great challenge of research is realising the funds to do it. Competition is fierce, and programmes like this struggle to attract funding from the Medical Research Council.’ Stephen Large

Heart-shaped box

Developed in the US, the TransMedics Organ Care System pumps warm, oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood through a heart, allowing it to keep beating from the moment it’s removed from the donor until it’s implanted in the recipient. A transparent chamber fixed to the top of the machine allows surgeons to watch the attached organ pump blood as it would in a body. Dubbed the ‘heart-in-a-box’, it has also been used to transplant livers and lungs.

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Making new connections

Scientists hope the knowledge gained from vital research will offer new clues for the treatment of Alzheimer’s

Every four seconds, there is a new case of dementia in the world. The condition is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which affects half a million people in the UK. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary but typically include memory loss, confusion, disorientation, and mood and behavioural problems. 

As Alzheimer’s progresses it can alter a person’s life entirely, robbing them of their memories and independence, causing them to require constant support. There are currently no treatments that slow or halt progression of the disease – something that it is hoped can be changed through research.

The Grand Charity and the MSF recently joined forces to provide a £175,000 donation to Alzheimer’s Research UK, to help fund efforts to identify new targets for treating the disease. This research is taking place at the University of Cambridge and seeks to understand the chain of events occurring at the onset of the disease. Over the past 30 years, the central masonic charities have donated £855,000 towards dementia research, while also caring for people living with the disease. 

One of the difficulties researchers face is finding participants for studies; at the same time, many members of the public are looking for studies to take part in, but don’t know where to find them. A national service, Join Dementia Research, tackles the problem by connecting participants with researchers, helping to recruit the right volunteers for the right study. The service is open to all – those with dementia, their carers and anyone who wants to improve the lives of people living with the condition. 

If you are interested in helping to find a cure for dementia, the National Institute for Health Research is currently inviting people to take part in clinical research studies. To find out more, please visit www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk 

Published in The Grand Charity

Process of evolution

The rules that define Freemasonry are not set in stone, but rather adapt with changing times, as John Hamill, Director of Special Projects, explains

 Ask a group of members why we do a certain thing or organise in a particular way and the response will be, ‘Because we’ve always done it that way.’ But as anyone who’s read a little of our history knows, that statement is rarely borne out by the facts.

Today, with the exception of five London lodges under the direct supervision of the Grand Master, all our lodges at home are grouped under the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London or one of the 47 Provincial Grand Lodges. Each group is headed by a Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Master who is appointed, by patent, by the Grand Master as his personal representative within his defined area. 

All lodges in the Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Master’s area come under their supervision and are required to hold a meeting of that Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Lodge at least once a year. They are also empowered to appoint Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Officers, promote existing officers and appoint brethren to past Metropolitan or Provincial rank.

So embedded is the system that it is natural to assume it has always existed, the more so as the office of Provincial Grand Master is one of the oldest in our constitution. The first was Francis Columbine, acknowledged by the Premier Grand Lodge as Provincial Grand Master for Cheshire in 1725. 

Grand Masters under the premier Grand Lodge made many appointments from 1727 onwards but the appointment of a Provincial Grand Master in no way implied the existence of a Provincial Grand Lodge. Columbine was empowered to appoint ‘Grand Officers pro tem’ to assist him, particularly in constituting new lodges or carrying out public ceremonies. Once the event was over, those ‘Grand Officers’ reverted to their original masonic status. 

The death or resignation of a Provincial Grand Master by no means guaranteed the appointment of a successor, unless the lodges in the Province petitioned the Grand Master for a replacement. In a number of cases an appointment was made for a county in which no lodges existed, presumably in the hope that the appointee would stimulate the formation of lodges. In other cases, it is known that the appointee had no connection with and never visited his charge!

The idea of holding an annual Provincial Grand Lodge seems to have been introduced by Thomas Dunckerley, who between 1767 and his death in 1795 was Provincial Grand Master for eight Provinces. He took his duties seriously, regularly visiting his charges to hold Provincial Grand Lodge meetings, stimulating the formation of new lodges and ensuring that his lodges made their annual returns to the Grand Lodge.

The idea of Provinces or Provincial Grand Masters was unknown under the Antients Grand Lodge at home but they did warrant Provincial Grand Lodges overseas. The warrant designated the first Provincial Grand Master but empowered the Province to elect his successors. It also gave them permission to constitute new lodges, which were to be reported to London to be issued with a Grand Lodge warrant. Because of the distances and precarious nature of travel at that time, many constituted lodges never made it onto the Antients Grand Lodge Register.

A foundation for today

Changes brought about by the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 laid the basis of our present system. The appointment of Provincial Grand Masters remained the prerogative of the Grand Master but they were enabled to appoint Provincial Grand officers, who were given their own distinctive regalia and jewels. If a Provincial Grand Master died or resigned, the Province ceased to exist until a successor had been installed. The current system of the Deputy Provincial Grand Master being in charge was introduced as late as the 1880s.

Although the 1815 Constitutions required at least annual Provincial Grand Lodge meetings, it was not until the 1860s that the rule was fully complied with and Provinces began to send annual reports of their doings to the Grand Secretary. So rather than existing since time immemorial, our Metropolitan and Provincial system has gradually evolved and continues to evolve and adapt to the times we live in.

‘In a number of cases, an appointment was made for a county in which no lodges existed; in other cases, it is known that the appointee had no connection with and never visited his charge!’

Published in Features

New perspectives on training

A pioneering technique in the way carers are trained has been revealed to journalists during a special session at RMBI care home Prince Michael of Kent Court in Watford

On 18 June, journalists from BBC Breakfast, Reuters and Radio 4 joined care home manager Elizabeth Corbett and her team to take part in the RMBI’s innovative training programme, Experiential Learning. The initiative puts carers in the shoes of their residents, helping them to understand what it might be like to live in a care home.

During the session, journalists were given the opportunity to experience some of the daily challenges faced by some 400,000 older people who live in care homes across the UK. Scenarios included being pushed in a wheelchair while blindfolded, receiving supported feeding to eat a meal, being hoisted from a seated position and wearing a wet incontinence pad. 

An individual approach

The RMBI has practiced ‘person-centred’ care in its homes for a number of years. Adopting a person-centred perspective is a way of providing tailored care and support based on the resident’s point of view – ‘standing in their place’ and appreciating how they might be feeling. This is a very different approach from treating everybody in the same way and makes the care that RMBI provides individual to each resident. 

Louise Bateman, Director of HR at the RMBI, explained how the need for specific training in this area was identified: ‘In 2014 we reviewed our recruitment and induction programmes for new care staff. We wanted to ensure that we were recruiting individuals not solely upon their technical skills or abilities, but on the basis of their values and attitudes to care.’ 

Bateman said that the RMBI realised it was important for its carers to have an empathic approach and to be able to step into the shoes of residents under their care. ‘We talked to recently joined carers as well as managers to develop our thinking. 

From this we redesigned the induction programme to include the Experiential Learning initiative so that we could improve the quality of our service and provide residents with a deeper level of person-centred care,’ she continued.

The initiative has been in place for all new care staff in RMBI care homes since October 2014 – from nurses and activity coordinators through to carers and shift leaders. Plans to expand the training are also well underway, with additional scenarios to be included, such as brushing someone’s teeth. 

Senior Care Trainer Nina Stephens, who led the Experiential Learning session, said: ‘This new way of training carers has already improved the lives of the people in our homes. It allows RMBI care staff to have a greater insight into some of the challenges faced by our residents. We feel that experiential learning should be adopted by the whole care sector, as part of the drive to raise care standards to the highest level.’ 

Published in RMBI
Friday, 04 September 2015 01:00

Membership Focus Group update

Moral expression

The results from the second Membership Focus Group survey reveal the importance to members of being valued and included, while developing knowledge and friendships at the same time

 The Membership Focus Group’s latest survey focuses on the joining experience of new members, their involvement and the image of the organisation. The sense of brotherhood was highly prized by the 6,500 respondents, with feeling valued rated as the biggest contributing factor to overall satisfaction as a Freemason. This was followed by developing new friendships; developing masonic knowledge; feeling included; social activities; and developing skills in ritual.

With improved retention vital to our future, it is clear that the way in which new initiates are cared for leads to a corresponding change in the number of members. It is of concern to note that while they feel well prepared for initiation, new masons feel less supported as they progress, with more emphasis needed on developing masonic knowledge. 

While 57.5% of survey respondents stated that their lodge performs very good ceremonies, only 41.1% felt that it looks after its members very well and only 33.8% said that their lodge is very good at developing masonic knowledge. These figures underline the case for more effort and support in learning and understanding. Masonic education emerges as a key issue if the organisation is to retain healthy membership numbers.

Ethical emphasis

When it comes to Freemasonry’s external profile, the main attraction for members is belonging to an organisation that prizes decent moral and ethical standards (67.4%). Evident in the feedback is the importance attached to personal and moral development. Social altruism – a moral desire to help others – is a predominant principle of the membership and the survey shows noticeable support for more involvement in local communities. 

An unequivocal 75.7% of respondents said that Freemasonry places sufficient emphasis on charitable giving, with only 17.5% considering the emphasis to be too great. Survey comments noted that while people support the charitable thrust and are very proud of what Freemasonry does, some feel it has become too dominant. The concern is that the charitable focus is downgrading the importance of personal development and instruction in moral and ethical standards – key values that often lead people to join Freemasonry in the first place. There is clearly a balance to be achieved: while Freemasonry is an organisation that is charitable, it is not a charity.

Having a true understanding of just what Freemasonry represents is a challenge to both members and non-members alike. The survey supports the view that Freemasonry is more than a hobby, being a society that is concerned with moral and spiritual values, based on integrity, tolerance, kindness, honesty and fairness. It means different things to each of those who join. For some, it’s about making new friends and acquaintances, or represents a challenging system of self-improvement. For others, it’s about helping deserving causes – making a contribution to family and in the community. But for everyone, it is an enjoyable and fulfilling activity.

The challenge set by the Membership Focus Group is to improve the quality of selection and make better provision for more masonic learning and understanding. As one survey respondent noted, ‘I want to have the opportunity to express the more responsible side of myself.’

If you wish to have your say and are willing to help, then please register at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg 

‘Freemasonry means different things to each of those who join… but for everyone, it is an enjoyable and fulfilling activity.’

Published in Membership Focus Group

Emergency help at Sussex hospice

In the early hours of 11 July, a fire took place at St Michael’s Hospice in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

Twenty three patients with progressive life-limiting illnesses were evacuated, along with one family member and nine members of staff. In the days following the incident, three patients died, two of whom had been treated for smoke inhalation. 

The Grand Charity responded with an emergency grant of £5,000 to help with immediate recovery efforts. Since 1987, St Michael’s has been part of the Grand Charity Hospice Scheme and has received more than £84,000. The Province of Sussex also donated £5,000 via the Sussex Masonic Charities. 

Perdita Chamberlain, St Michael’s head of fundraising, said, ‘We would like to thank the Sussex Freemasons and the Grand Charity for their continued support and their incredibly generous donation.’ Hospice CEO Celia Pyke-Lees praised the nursing team, calling them ‘true heroines’ on the night of the fire. 

Consultant physician James Dennison added, ‘I was very pleased to hear that both the Province of Sussex and the Grand Charity had quickly responded. It is wonderful to see Freemasonry in action like this.’

Published in The Grand Charity

Above and beyond

Sharing a core belief in the importance of mutual respect and helping others, Freemasons are supporting The Scout Association as it takes its message to more young people, as Peter Watts discovers

When Carlos Lopez-Plandolit took stock of his work-life balance and decided to volunteer for his local Scout group in East London, he initially planned to drop in for an hour each week. But, he explains, ‘I quickly got sucked in and within two weeks ended up leading the group. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.’

Lopez-Plandolit’s group is located in a struggling inner-city borough, and these are precisely the areas the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) will target with its substantial new grant to The Scout Association. ‘We are giving a three-year grant of £211,200 to the Better Prepared initiative, which funds and sustains Scout groups in 200 of the most deprived parts of the UK,’ explains Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB. 

The Scout Association plans to start 468 groups in these areas, and the RMTGB grant will get 66 of them started. Funds will pay for premises, uniforms, equipment, membership fees and training volunteers. Each new unit will receive £3,200, reflecting the greater level of support needed in areas identified as being deprived for reasons of poor health, education and crime by the Index of Multiple Deprivation. 

With the first RMTGB-funded groups launching by the end of 2015, the grant follows a donation of £500,000 in 2008 to The Scout Association from the Grand Charity in a partnership that lasted six years. The money was used to encourage more young people to join the Scouting movement, providing start-up and activity grants. In total, more than one million young people received new materials and equipment paid for by the Grand Charity’s grant, with over 1,600 new Scout sections formed and 23,500 young people becoming involved across England and Wales. 

For Hutchinson, the masonic funding is creating new opportunities: ‘The Scout Association has evidence that the skills Scouting provides can help with education and employment. Scouting really helps develop qualities that can make a difference later in life.’

Preparing for the future

Paul Wilkinson, the Better Prepared project manager, explains the strong educational thread that runs through The Scout Association. ‘Essentially, we’re trying to help young people grow and develop,’ he says. ‘We’re trying to help them take an active place in society, to learn to act with integrity, to be honest, trustworthy and loyal. We encourage them to have respect for other people and for themselves.’

Although Robert Baden-Powell was not a mason, the Scout movement he founded in 1907 has a strong overlap with the principles of Freemasonry. While some parallels are cosmetic, such as the use of signs, ranks, uniforms and regalia, others are intrinsic. Tony Harvey’s 2012 Prestonian Lecture focused on the connections between the two bodies. With both open to all – regardless of faith, race or background – Tony explained in the lecture how these two membership organisations share the same core values. 

IN GOOD COMPANY

‘Our mission is to change young people’s lives for the better,’ says Wilkinson, ‘and we are pleased to be working in partnership with Freemasonry across the UK. The masonic community shares our vision to deliver life-changing experiences to all young people, no matter what their background.’

Hutchinson echoes Wilkinson’s sentiments: ‘The key aspects of Scouting are respect for your fellow man, having a strict moral code and doing the right thing. That’s a large part of Freemasonry too.’ Non-mason Lopez-Plandolit, meanwhile, attributes the appeal of Scouting to one key factor: ‘What I love about it is that it seems to focus on the common denominators across all religions; it is about being kind to the environment, to your friends and family. They are very pure, these principles.’

Despite the leisure opportunities available to children today, The Scout Association has found that once it establishes a local group, children flock to it. The next challenge is to establish groups in areas where poverty has been a barrier to joining or volunteering. ‘We appeal to young people,’ says Wilkinson. ‘We know that if we go in with the right messages, young people are relatively easy to recruit and some are desperate to join.’ 

Lopez-Plandolit sees first-hand how young people respond to joining. The Beaver Scouts, who are the youngest section of the Scouting family at six to eight years old, describe their meetings in East London as the highlight of their week, relishing activities such as kayaking and climbing. Lopez-Plandolit’s young group are multinational and this is something he celebrates through activities such as cooking: ‘The children cook something from their parents’ country and everybody has to taste it and say what they like.’

The masonic grant for the Better Prepared project marks a major commitment for the RMTGB. ‘It is a significant undertaking,’ Hutchinson admits. ‘While the shape of the Trust will change as the four masonic charities come together, this grant will leave a lasting legacy of support for children from deprived backgrounds – our remit is to support children in the wider sense, not just children of masons, and this will enable us to reach out to those who most need our help in a very effective way.’ 

‘The Scout Association’s mission is to change young people’s lives for the better, and the masonic community shares our vision.’ Paul Wilkinson

MAINTAINING SUPPORT

The RMTGB will keep a close eye on the project as it develops. ‘Part of the reason we are donating in three instalments is so we can maintain some control,’ says Hutchinson. ‘We will receive regular reports so we can see the impact of the funding, and discover publicity opportunities to raise the profile of the masonic charity and Freemasonry in general. We also want to ensure the grants are evenly spread across England and Wales.’ 

The final instalment from the RMTGB coincides with the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England in 2017, and Hutchinson hopes that Freemasonry will take pride in the achievements of the initiative as it celebrates this important milestone. ‘We want to learn from each other,’ he says. ‘The Scout Association has a wealth of experience in working with children and will have practices we can use in our charitable work, now and in the future.’

While masonic contributions are being made at a national level, individuals can donate their time on a local level. An accountant, for example, could audit the books for their local group one night a year. The rewards are extolled by Lopez-Plandolit, who enthuses about his time as a volunteer with the Beaver Scouts. ‘They surprise you so much and are a constant reminder of how we should look at things as if it’s for the first time – to ask lots of questions,’ he says. ‘It’s a great outlook to have around me. I learn so much from them.’

Everyday Scouting

From cooking on open log fires through to building shelters and geocaching, there’s rarely a dull moment at the 2nd East London Scout group (pictured). Based on the Isle of Dogs, the group meets at least three nights a week to play games, set challenges and prepare for their annual scavenger hunt, which this year saw Scouts from across the county raising money for Nepalese aid projects. With 130 members in the 2nd East London group, each night caters to a different age range. ‘We are Scouting every day of the week,’ says Vicky Thompson, Scout leader. ‘Our kids never need to hang out on the streets because, with the Scouts, there’s always something to do.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Scout’s honour

Sir,

I picked up your magazine today and the picture on the front moved me. I have been involved with the Guide association ever since my daughter attended Rainbows, and both my boys attended the movement from Beaver through to Scout. Your picture has captured everything there is to say about Scouting. I am hoping that it has brought a cheer to many more faces while they flick through your magazine. Well done.

Marion Bell, wife of Stephen Bell, Legheart Lodge, No. 6897, Welling, West Kent


Sir,

Can I thank you for the article on Scouting in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today magazine? I have been involved with Scouts since I joined as a Wolf Cub in 1957, now serving as an assistant commissioner for the Lincoln district, as well as being a Past Master of two Scouting lodges.

Scouting greatly helped me after becoming disabled in 1974 following a horse riding accident. The Scouts did not mind ‘Skip’ having a wonky leg and helped me overcome my disability. Today I think there is much I can give back; after all, I get as much fun as the kids do out of it.

You don’t have to be a uniformed leader to help the organisation. Uniformed leaders run the day-to-day programmes but need the support of executive committees to look after the management side of Scouting. As many Freemasons have good life skills, they could be useful at group, district or county level. My own district meets every other month for a couple of hours to deal with mixed issues, from starting new groups to controlling the budget and various district events.

Scouting is expanding and in Lincoln we have started two new groups within a year, with two more in the planning. 

If you feel you might be interested in giving some time to Scouting, then you can look them up on their website. 

Hugh Sargent, Rudyard Kipling Lodge, No. 9681, Horncastle, Lincolnshire

Published in RMTGB

Keeping the doors open

Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella looks at the challenge of maintaining masonic centres and halls in modern times

Freemasonry is by no means unique in finding that as times change, and the needs of its membership evolve, buildings once well suited to their function become too expensive to maintain. We need to ensure that if masonic use declines, our buildings adapt to attract outside interest, generating income and strengthening their connection with the local community.  

While individual circumstances vary widely for each masonic hall and centre, the first step is to examine the potential for introducing outside uses. This is not achieved by simply advertising availability and hoping for the best. It requires analysis of the type of users for whom the building might be suitable, and consideration of whether what is needed can be managed while retaining masonic use. 

London’s Surbiton Masonic Hall is a positive example of what can be achieved. Glenmore House was built as an imposing Italianate-style private villa in 1840 at a time when residential development was extending out from London into the surrounding countryside. By 1920, it had become one of the many houses that were too large and expensive to run as private homes, so was put up for auction. 

It was purchased by four local masons, becoming known as Surbiton Masonic Hall, and was dedicated as a peace memorial.

For much of the 1900s the house flourished as a masonic centre, but as the century drew to a close it became clear that, once again, a change was required. Masonic membership was in decline, with fewer people attending meetings and a number of lodges handing in their warrants. A decrease in income meant that without a radical change in the way that the building was used, closure was inevitable.

Business foundations

Fortunately, the board of directors of Surbiton Masonic Hall included people with experience in building and development, as well as running commercial companies. They recognised that managing a masonic centre today is no different to running a hospitality company. Freemasonry is a craft but running masonic halls and centres is a business, requiring the same commitment, financial skills and disciplines. 

Although the property’s design, finishes and furnishings were dated, the potential for creating a self-contained hospitality suite was recognised. The building included a large ballroom with its own independent bar, but while the existing kitchens had coped well for many years, they were not suitable to support the standard required for outside events. Complete modernisation was therefore needed. 

Even if the refurbishment had been confined to these areas, much would have been achieved, but it was felt that the contrast between the facilities available to outside users and those offered to Freemasons would have been all too obvious. Furthermore, the loss of the ballroom for masonic dining would have reflected badly on the centre’s continuing commitment to its Freemasonry. 

With this in mind, dining accommodation at first-floor level was also refurbished and moveable dividing partitions erected to permit two units to dine simultaneously. The adjacent bar was modernised to the same high standard as the bar in the hospitality suite.

A new lease of life

The revenue generated from opening Glenmore House up to outside use has been vital. It has not only secured its future as a financially viable masonic centre, but also enabled the centre to become more of a focal point for the local community. ‘Far from losing identity, the changes we made enabled the community to identify the values that Freemasonry actually represents today,’ said Robert Dobbie, Managing Director of Glenmore House. ‘For the past 10 years we have participated in the Heritage Open Days, we are used as a local polling station, we host a twice-weekly bridge club as well as monthly lunches for Barclays bank and the BBC.’

Masonic centres and meeting halls are all individual, and it would be wrong to suggest that what worked in this case would always be successful elsewhere. However, there are some general principles. First, masonic buildings exist to serve the needs of members, but that purpose can only be sustained if they are managed in a way that is financially viable. In many cases this will mean shared use, which must be approached with the needs of the outside user in mind. The competition can be fierce and that means adopting a more proactive strategy than just advertising accommodation for hire. 

One final thought: those who take their own advice will in most cases have no recourse should things go wrong. If a masonic centre or hall has professional expertise within its members, by all means use it, but always consider the value of using outside consultants as well. Their more objective approach might be beneficial, and those giving outside advice may also have a legal liability.

‘Masonic buildings exist to serve the needs of members, but that purpose can only be sustained if they are managed in a way that is financially viable.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Maintaining masonry

Sir,

As Superintendent of Works for the past 40 years, I read with interest the article in the autumn issue by John Pagella, the Grand Superintendent of Works. I totally agree with him that because of rising costs it is a challenge to maintain masonic halls, especially old ones. 

Ours was built in 1860. Fortunately, like Surbiton Lodge, we have members who are experienced in the building trade and have contributed to the maintenance of the lodge buildings, not taking any remuneration for their work. Also, we have a good social committee that provides us with funds to help pay for the work we cannot do and for materials.

I joined Freemasonry in 1966 when we had a lot of members who were textile business owners employing maintenance men to look after their buildings. I have always wondered why the lodge building was nearly in a state of dereliction when I became Superintendent of Works in 1975.

At that time we had retired members on fixed incomes and my thoughts were that if we can keep the costs of running the lodge low there would be no reason to increase subscriptions. This worked and still does. Our subscriptions are among the most reasonable in the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding. 

I have read of many fine old masonic buildings being closed and sold, and most have accommodated multiple lodges. Big is not always good. We have only one Craft lodge and three side Orders meeting at our building, yet our subscriptions are among the lowest in the Province. I have noted some of the outside users John Pagella writes about who use their building and I will suggest to our lodge committee that we could do the same thing. 

L R Hirst, St John’s Lodge, No. 827, Dewsbury, Yorkshire, West Riding

Published in More News

Howzat for a charity fundraiser?

The Province of West Kent organised the ideal opportunity to celebrate raising £3.25 million for the MSF at its Howzat! Festival day. The event featured a charity cricket match as well as arena entertainment and food and drink, and attracted Freemasons, their families and members of the local community to The Warren in Bromley. 

Children were entertained by fairground stalls, bungee runs and a climbing wall. For others, there were beer and Pimm’s tents; performances by the Scout and Guide Marching Band; and a duck herder, who held particular interest. 

The Province’s donation cheque was proudly displayed at its stand, which stood alongside stalls for the Masonic Fishing Charity and Hi Kent, a local charity for the deaf and hard of hearing. MSF Chief Executive Richard Douglas said, ‘It was a fantastic day and gave me the opportunity to meet the Freemasons of West Kent and thank them personally for their incredibly generous donations to the Masonic Samaritan Fund.’

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

Dramatic aside

With the aim of recruiting more members into the Royal Arch, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent Chris Clark explains how a piece of theatre is successfully demonstrating its principles and history

Why is the Royal Arch a separate Order and what is the Master Mason of the 21st century missing by not being a member? Performed in masonic lodges throughout the country, Talking Heads – The Next Step: Into The Royal Arch is a short playlet that seeks to answer these questions. It depicts an encounter between an experienced Past Master, who is also a Royal Arch Companion, and a relatively new Master Mason eager to learn more. 

The opening scene of Talking Heads begins with two masons chatting in the anteroom as they don their regalia, after which they start engaging with the brethren present. The playlet covers the history of the Order and explains a little about the regalia – especially the jewel that is also worn in lodges – as well as discussing some of the links with the Craft. 

Talking Heads goes on to describe the way the journey of personal discovery continues beyond the Craft experience, as well as the likely time and financial commitments needed to reach completion of pure Antient Freemasonry. The performance is delivered with a great deal of good humour between the players, and occasional off-script asides make the event highly enjoyable as well as educational.

Chapter recruitment

The idea of creating the playlet came after we published the Metropolitan Exaltee’s Guide in 2010. The booklet was given to each new exaltee in London as they began their journey into the Royal Arch. Our thoughts then turned to how we might aid recruitment into Chapter. After looking at several lectures in circulation in the Craft, we decided they were either too long or not very inspirational. So we set about drafting our own text for London. The remit was that it should be presented in a theatrical way, be about half an hour long and be interesting for those masons already part of the Royal Arch, as well as to Master Masons who might consider joining.

Early drafts were assessed by a panel of readers from the Royal Arch leaders in London and a few trial presentations were given before the final text was agreed, and a team of some 20 regular presenters assembled.

The first performances were given in February 2011, and now more than 120 have been delivered by the Metropolitan team, travelling to Provinces across the county, including Cumberland and Westmorland, West Lancashire, and Yorkshire, North and East Ridings in the north; Essex and East and West Kent in the south; and Shropshire and Wiltshire in the west. We always present the Province with a CD of the text of the playlet, too, and offer to assist when they assemble their own groups of players. 

An excellent performance

Some of these Provinces have developed their own acting teams; Essex and Buckinghamshire are leading the way, with several performances given in the past year. By the end of 2016, the Metropolitan team will have visited well over half the Provinces in England and Wales, spreading the Royal Arch message. The text has also been exported to Hong Kong, our first overseas territory, although the team’s bold request for travel expenses was rejected, so there have been no performances abroad (yet).

Talking Heads provides great support to the Royal Arch representatives in lodges, because it makes the Order’s case for them and answers many of the questions they are likely to be asked. Sometimes Master Masons will sign an exaltation form after a performance, sometimes they will bring forward an application they were planning to delay, and sometimes it just goes on their agenda for when they feel they are ready to enter the Order. 

We always make the point that there is no pressure to recruit and that everyone should consider the Royal Arch in their own time and at their own pace. We know that exaltation numbers in London have been rising by over two per cent per annum since the introduction of the Royal Arch representative scheme and the Talking Heads playlet. Added to this, overall membership figures in London suggest that retention levels have also been helped – and we have some dramatic examples of how Talking Heads has been effective in this respect. 

For example, one London chapter had a member who’d been dormant for 14 years, who started attending again after seeing a performance at his lodge. ‘I hadn’t realised there was so much in the Royal Arch ceremony,’ he said, ‘and I now understand much of what I found confusing before.’ And after our first Provincial performance in Essex, one companion who had not attended a chapter since his exaltation 42 years ago immediately signed to rejoin. Encore, indeed.

 ‘Talking Heads provides great support to the Royal Arch representatives in lodges, because it makes the Order’s case for them and answers many of the questions they are likely to be asked.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Sir,

I read with interest the article in the autumn 2015 edition of Freemasonry Today entitled ‘Dramatic Aside’. A similar initiative was introduced several years ago in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

A presentation written by well-known local Royal Arch Freemasons called ‘Why the Royal Arch?’ was frequently delivered in both lodges and chapters throughout the Province. It consists usually of four Craft Freemasons sitting around a table chatting informally with each other, looking into the next step in their masonic journey. 

It has proved to be very successful and is now included as part of a new Royal Arch recruiting initiative recently introduced, entitled ‘Dine a Master Mason’. We hold this at the end of our regular Royal Arch Convocation, when Craft Freemasons who are not yet Royal Arch members are invited to attend.

Both recruitment and retention are very important to the future success of Royal Arch, but without proper and workable recruitment initiatives in place, we may not be left with so many companions to retain.

Philip Berman, Grand Superintendent, Hampshire and Isle of Wight

Published in SGC
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