Celebrating 300 years
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 01:00

Sharing ideas for success

Annual Briefing

Speaking at Great Queen Street on 26 April, masonic leaders explained how Freemasonry can grasp success if members can learn to share ideas and work together

William Shakespeare, John F Kennedy and even Steve Jobs all managed to find their way into the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall in a typically entertaining afternoon of speeches at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting.

Before an audience made up of Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, speakers took their turn at the lectern to review the developments in Freemasonry in 2015 and looked forward to an exciting future for the Craft and Royal Arch.

Understandably, the Tercentenary featured heavily, but there was also much to discuss about the recommendations of the Membership Focus Group (MFG) on how best to attract, recruit and retain members at a time when membership has shown a decline. The overall message was overwhelmingly positive, with several new initiatives announced.

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes kicked things off by reporting that a four-part television series on Freemasonry is under way. This will be broadcast to coincide with the Tercentenary celebrations and will include the Pro Grand Master’s fly-fishing technique at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight fishing day.

The Pro Grand Master then reported that commemorative paving stones containing the names of Freemasons who received a Victoria Cross (VC) 

in World War I would be installed at the front of the Peace Memorial, adding that ‘there are 60 such VCs to be commemorated’. He also encouraged brethren to wear a special commemorative tie and jewel for the celebratory period, and announced that a major charitable gift of £3 million would be distributed by the Masonic Charitable Foundation in the form of 300 grants, allocated according to the outcome of votes cast both by masons and the general public.

The Pro Grand Master felt that the celebration of Grand Lodge’s 300th year is a great opportunity for publicity. ‘The Tercentenary gives us all a chance to reflect on the place of Freemasonry today and the role of our lodge and our brethren,’ he said. ‘This is an opportunity not to be missed and it is up to us to ensure that Freemasonry benefits.’

Facts and figures

Next up was Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), to discuss the 2015 financial accounts and recent BGP initiatives. He revealed a strong yearly surplus generated from investment income, which has supported capital expenditure and the ongoing maintenance required to deal with Regent Street disease (corrosion) at Freemasons’ Hall. Anthony emphasised the importance of the building for filming and events while also being mindful of its core purpose. 

The cost of the Tercentenary celebrations were included in the 2016 forecast for the first time, but ‘there would be no call upon members for funds’, as this would be supported by events and reserves. Anthony asked brethren to spread the word about the benefits of the Masonic Insurance Mutual, and, most importantly of all, noted that Freemasonry Today costs less than £1 per member, per issue.

Second Grand Principal Russell Race discussed the ‘encouraging straws in the wind for membership of the Royal Arch’ before Sir David Wootton gave some thoughts on governance – ‘who does what with what authority’ – based on findings from the MFG.

‘If we can bottle the masonic sizzle from the best lodges and spread it around the rest, we can start to address all the issues.’ Michael Ward

Taking up the theme in more detail, Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones explained how ‘we need to build on the work that has been started, moving from securing evidence to emphasising delivery and implementation’. Gareth also talked about the importance of communication and spreading best practice from the Provinces and Districts.

Sir David then announced a proposal to take forward the work of the MFG: this would be a new body of a dozen members who would represent all ‘the talents, geographies and constituent parts of the Craft and Royal Arch’. The hope was to get this up and running by the end of 2017 to ‘develop and embed systems, ensuring that the necessary steps will be taken to continue and enhance Freemasonry’.

Looking after initiates

John Roscoe, an industrial psychologist, then presented the MFG’s findings on the negative effect of un-masonic conduct in lodges. John cited ‘the greatest cause for early dissatisfaction with initiates’ as being a perception of senior members dominating the lodge. He read out a number of testimonies in which masons recounted incidents of brethren being overzealous or overbearing.

John then asked those present to think of three ways to deal with behaviour that is not in keeping with the spirit of Freemasonry. Each table put their heads together to engage with this issue, and there was much debate as solutions were considered.

After a coffee break, PGM for Warwickshire David Macey led a commendation of ADelphi 2, showing some of the possibilities of the new membership database. ‘It’s now working well and is generally very stable. We are continuing to improve performance and security,’ he said. David gave a demonstration 

of its promising new dashboard system. ‘The MFG gave us a very clear list of what PGMs and Grand Superintendents need,’ he said, showing how a simple dashboard will allow users to find a summary of every lodge in their Province, showing the 10 best and worst performing lodges, comparisons of members’ ages and contact information.

Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward then gave a careful analysis of the findings of an MFG survey that explored why so many initiates drop out soon after joining and what could be done to counteract this. It was vital, he said, to capitalise on work already done in the Provinces on these issues rather than try to ‘reinvent the wheel’.

Michael discussed what could be done to help lodges that were struggling to attract new members and finished by exhorting that, ‘success is within our grasp. If we can bottle the masonic sizzle from the best lodges and spread it around the rest, we can start to address all the issues. It’s in our hands.’

PGM for East Kent Geoffrey Dearing spoke about the importance of data protection and compliance before Malcolm Aish, President of the Committee of General Purposes, presented the annual report and statistics for the Royal Arch. Malcolm noted the enthusiasm for charitable contributions and also thanked brethren for completing the survey. 

Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP Ray Reed then gave highlights from the Craft annual report, showing that new initiates were rising and resignations declining, with the annual membership loss down to 1.65 per cent. Lodges reported an 83 per cent reduction in resignations, while 69 per cent reported increasing initiate figures. Ray singled out areas for improvement, including a willingness to engage with ‘local press, business, civic and religious leaders’ and the importance of attracting and mentoring quality initiates. 

Emphasising the need for Provinces to share ideas, Ray concluded by thanking brethren for their ‘support, energy, creativity, hard work and, most importantly, belief in helping make things happen’. 

Published in UGLE

Best behaviour

The MFG is investigating why initiates can feel they are coming under too much pressure from senior lodge members

Wherever people come together as a group or society, differences of personal expectation, importance and influence will from time to time introduce tensions and potential for disharmony.

Evidence of tensions occurring in Freemasonry is apparent in the results of the Membership Focus Group (MFG) member surveys. These tensions are acknowledged by Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to be a significant factor in the retention of members, as well as in the ongoing viability of a lodge or chapter.

With the first survey revealing a particular need to support initiates, the MFG is developing a follow-on study of all new masons to track them through their early journey in Freemasonry. The study will identify what expectations men have before joining, how these change or are satisfied and how the movement could respond more sensitively to those expectations.

Survey comments, as well as the results of exit interviews conducted by Provincial Grand Lodges and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, highlight that behaviour that was perceived to be running counter to the spirit of Freemasonry often led to a breakdown in relationships and men resigning from the Craft. The disappointment with this un-masonic behaviour is illustrated by these quotes from the second MFG survey:

· ‘Younger masons are frightened off by well-meaning but overbearing senior masons.’

· ‘The problem of the lodge bully can be tricky to handle as over-dominant members usually hold important offices within the lodge and perform a disproportionately large amount of the work in and around it, but as we all know, it only takes one bad apple to turn the entire barrel sour.’ 

· ‘I now intend to resign. This is due to the in-fighting, hypocrisy and dominant behaviour of senior masons, who just do not behave in a masonic way.’

While the successful lodge needs to be well led by experienced, often senior masons, sometimes one or two individuals emerge who tend to dictate how a lodge is run. Their underlying intentions are often positive in that they see themselves as upholding the traditions of Freemasonry; however, their enthusiasm may be experienced rather more negatively as dictatorial or controlling of others. 

Valuing the individual

The result can be that overzealous demands are placed upon junior members toward performing ritual, achieving perfection, time commitment or progression toward the Master’s Chair. The problem is one of focus, with more being placed on the needs of the lodge rather than those of the member. 

Perhaps the very values we espouse are an additional factor – our harmony and brotherly love may lead us not to confront behaviour that seems un-masonic. Many of us dislike confrontation and this too may mean that rather than address difficult issues, we let them pass. The unfortunate result is the victim ceases to attend or is allowed to quietly resign. 

At the Pro Grand Master’s recent meeting with Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters, the topic was the subject of some discussion and those attending suggested a number of actions that might usefully be considered. 

Suggestions included the need to recognise such behaviour early and finding ways of supporting individuals, perhaps through the mentoring process and promoting the spirit of mutual respect using the existing training and development programmes. 

It is important to stress two facts. First, that this behaviour is not widespread but does have a disproportionately big impact. Second, that Freemasonry is just like any other organisation; this behaviour is not peculiar to us and indeed may be less prevalent in Freemasonry, but our values may make it more visible to our members. The MFG is developing thoughts and guidelines for Provinces and lodges to consider in order to address this subject. The view from members may very well be that this is a topic for discussion in lodge.

Published in Membership Focus Group

Never stumped

When a group of lodges in Kidderminster wanted to relocate from the cellar of a hotel, joining a local cricket club proved to be the perfect solution

In December 2015 the Membership Focus Group launched a strategic paper that identified masonic centres as a key area for improvement in the organisational development of Freemasonry. With many centres not considered fit for purpose by the members who meet in them, the challenge for lodges is how to turn a legacy problem into an opportunity. 

‘It is not uncommon for lodges to find that their existing premises become unsustainable owing to lack of critical mass if membership levels fall, or simply because of the structural integrity of the building itself,’ explains Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, Jeff Gillyon, who heads up the Masonic Centres Study Group.

For a group of lodges in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, this was particularly true when their 44-year tenure at The Briars pub came to an abrupt end. With the brewery selling up, the lodges moved to a local hotel’s cellar for four years while considering a new meeting place. 

‘It certainly wasn’t ideal,’ says Peter Ricketts, a Past Master of Lodge of Hope and Charity, No. 377, which was among those affected. ‘The cellar was small and the walls were covered in mirrors because it was planned as a nightclub. But for four years it was home to three lodges, a chapter and a Knights Templar unit.’

With so many members under one roof, amalgamating with a lodge in another property was out of the question, so the board considered buying a property of its own. ‘Then somebody suggested partnering with the local cricket club,’ says Peter. ‘It was perfect really, because the cricket season starts in summer just as the masonic season ends.’

With two bars and a large car park, the Chester Road Sports and Social Club easily catered to the social aspect of Freemasonry, but it clearly couldn’t provide a masonic temple. 

So, after prolonged talks, it was agreed that the Freemasons could build one adjoining the club.

Work started on the new temple in September 2011 under the careful watch of Mike Langdon of Old Carolian Lodge, No. 7599. As the retired owner of a construction company, Mike drew on his industry contacts to source supplies at cost. Mike, together with fellow Old Carolian Mick Insull and Martin Lawrence of Lodge of Hope and Charity, completed most of the building work themselves over six months. 

‘Until that point, my construction credentials extended to the wooden shed in my back garden, and that was a bit rickety,’ says Martin, a retired police officer from Aldridge. ‘But within a couple of months we’d laid the foundations and completed most of the brickwork.’ 

Progress was so quick, in fact, that by 3 April 2012 the first lodge meeting had been held in the custom-built premises. Staggeringly, the entire project cost just £150,000 – with key savings being made by Martin, Mike and Mick providing labour at no cost. ‘While quality was paramount, we made savings wherever possible and brethren helped tremendously,’ says Martin. ‘When we said we needed to insulate the loft, one brother went to B&Q and emptied the store of fibreglass rolls using his pensioner’s discount.’ 

A willingness to adapt traditional ideas of how a temple room should look, while not compromising on quality, also helped to keep the project on budget. For instance, Martin explains, ‘It would have cost £15,000 to have a masonic carpet woven, but a brother footed the bill for a magnificent marble and granite floor, which was a fraction of the price.’

The project is a great example of the flexible approach lodges need to start adopting to meet the changing landscape of Freemasonry. As the Masonic Centres Study Group’s Jeff Gillyon remarks: ‘This is a good example of how innovative thinking can solve the problem, but it is only one solution.’

For John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works, while the history and familiarity of a lodge room is important, ‘what’s essential is that Freemasons can still meet, regardless of where that may be’.

If that means relocating to a more affordable property, John says the first port of call should be a qualified adviser to get an idea of the full value of the property being vacated: ‘Consider the property’s potential as a commercial building. As a masonic hall, it may no longer have value, but as a hotel or a restaurant it could have enormous potential.’

Should lodges decide to capitalise on the commercial possibilities themselves, John advises taking a serious look at the standard of competition, and considering how commercial facilities would sit alongside masonic purposes. ‘Only then should you consider any refurbishment works. You need to approach the running of your centre like a business – balance cost against income.’

For those staying where they are, John says looking after the fabric of the property should be the priority. ‘Keep an eye on the building’s condition to avoid any major expenditure further down the line, and consider establishing a contingency fund,’ he says.

Ultimately, every lodge is individual – what may work for one may not work for another. The key is to take a proactive approach, says John, and to think practically about future-proofing your lodge. It’s a sentiment Martin agrees with. ‘Looking back, I can’t believe we stayed in our room at the pub for so long. There was no heating, no space and no funding to maintain it. Now we have a custom-built temple with the lowest capitation costs in the Province.’

While Martin appreciates the prospect of change can be daunting, it is necessary to ensure that Freemasonry keeps pushing into the future. 

‘If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this experience it’s that when it comes to the crunch, Freemasons pull together. We didn’t make it through the past 300 years without adapting.’

‘It was perfect, because the cricket season starts in summer just as the masonic season ends.’ Peter Ricketts

Building blocks

PLAN AHEAD: If your building is rented, start thinking now about alternative meeting places and set up a contingency fund by adding an extra £1 to capitation.

REACH OUT: Invest in your connections with the local community to keep your options open. 

SCALE BACK: Charity starts at home, so if you’re struggling to cover costs consider reducing your charitable giving for a short while until the lodge is back on a stable footing.

Published in Features
Wednesday, 09 March 2016 11:39

Deputy Grand Master's address - March 2016

Quarterly Communication

9 March 2016 
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence

Brethren, you will all have received a copy of the UGLE strategy with your last copy of Freemasonry Today. I hope you feel that the summary presented a clear outline of some of the steps we wish to take to ensure the long term future of the Craft as Grand Lodge enters its fourth century. The clear articulation of our values, in language appropriate for the 21st century, reflects that we are true to our history and traditions while adapting to the world as it continues to change. The work of the Membership Focus Group, which informed much of the document you received, is now moving from researching facts, surveying members and developing ideas to implementation of those ideas.

Brethren, it is often the case in many organisations when a revised strategy or change programme is introduced the initial expectations of those involved are overly optimistic and that may well be the case with our own members. It is very important we remind ourselves that we have taken nearly 300 years to reach where the Craft is today. It is, therefore, vital that, while we retain our important traditions, we also test and prove any new initiative to ensure it is appropriate and effective for the needs of the Craft before consideration is given to implementation across the English Constitution. Such an approach will allow us to move forward, confident that an individual idea will be successful. It has to be said clearly that it will take time and effort, rather than instant solutions, to ensure the Craft will be as attractive to, and well received by, future generations as it has been by the current and past generations.

There are a number of areas highlighted in the summary of the strategy you received and I would like to tell you of some of the recent progress that has been made.

Firstly, following three membership surveys undertaken by the Membership Focus Group, working with Provincial Grand Masters, it has created an Education Group. This group is considering how best we can assist all our members to have a better understanding and knowledge of Freemasonry which is the core of the initiative. Having a good understanding and knowledge will enable our members to explain Freemasonry confidently to a non-mason. Members from seventeen Provinces are assisting in the development of these ideas.

Secondly, we have identified the need to ensure the facilities provided by our masonic halls are of a standard to meet the expectations and needs of our members. A meeting involving 30 members from a number of Provinces, all with expertise in the successful management and improvement of masonic halls, has recently taken place. I think we all appreciate that the task is both enormous and delicate in nature and much time and effort will be needed to ensure their considerations and findings are appropriate for the needs of the future and to allow time for the management of masonic halls to gain confidence in the support and assistance we are collectively seeking to provide.

None of this, nor indeed the other initiatives which are being progressed, would be possible without a significant amount of time, detailed consideration and hard work being devoted to this by the members of the Membership Focus Group. I would like to express my gratitude to all of them for what they have achieved so far and for what I very much hope will be achieved in the future. In particular, I should like to thank, on behalf of the Rulers, the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, for his outstanding leadership of, and contribution to, the Membership Focus Group since its creation.

Brethren, the Tercentenary is almost upon us and it gives us, to my mind, an unrivalled opportunity to articulate clearly our values and the positive impact of the Craft on both individuals and the communities in which we live. You may be interested to know that in 2015, the media statistics show 90% of the coverage in local media was positive, a significantly higher level than that achieved in the previous year. You have just heard about the filming to produce a television documentary, which is an important part of the commencement of the Tercentenary celebrations both as a continuation of our policy of openness in communicating with the general public and as a means of encouraging those interested in becoming members. Much work also continues in Provinces, Districts and in Grand Lodge in preparation for this major landmark.

I am certain we are taking the right steps to ensure we will commence our fourth century confident of the future for the Craft and I very much hope all our members will be enthusiastic in support of these endeavours.

Published in Speeches

The Craft and beyond

As the Tercentenary and new masonic charity launch approach, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on the work required to reach these milestones

The past year has been a busy one. The emphasis was on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long-term future.

Fundamental to ensuring that future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group – supported by 18,000 responses to recent surveys – has shaped this plan, which has, in turn, been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. It concentrates on our vision and values but can only be achieved with the support of the majority of members.

Concurrently, the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress while liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of their main events – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces. 

I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm that is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration. 

I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master, with most able help from the charity Presidents, Chief Executives and boards of trustees. We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.

‘I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm that is being shown.’

Preparations for the launch in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI will be the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB will be the Chief Operating Officer. 

They both have a wealth of experience and knowledge and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities. In advance of the launch, publicity about the Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond. 

I am also delighted to announce that the Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016. 

The contribution made by David Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal has been colossal, as his contribution has been throughout masonry. 

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 08 March 2016 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2016

From the Grand Secretary

Welcome to the spring 2016 issue of Freemasonry Today. With 2017 fast approaching, we thought it timely to have an interview with the Tercentenary Planning Committee Coordinator to give the latest brief on the rationale and planning for the celebrations. What a joy to be a member of such an illustrious organisation that has adapted to the many social changes over 300 years, ensuring that we are still relevant in today’s rapidly evolving society.

On the topic of keeping relevant, the Membership Focus Group has, among many other initiatives, been looking at what Freemasonry has to offer in the 21st century. 

In an insightful article you will read about image, recruitment, retention, understanding, and supporting those who lead at all levels.

Also in this issue of the magazine, we interview the Masonic Charitable Foundation’s Chief Executive, David Innes, to learn how bringing the four central masonic charities together will improve the service they give to beneficiaries. He also explains how the new charity will give a stronger voice to the causes that the masonic community cares about.

On the subject of charity, members of Thorpe Bay Lodge in Essex reveal the origins of Lest We Forget, a special bitter they have been brewing to raise funds for the Royal British Legion and military charity SSAFA. While the project’s goal was to fundraise for good causes, the brewers all agree that it has had a wider effect for Thorpe Bay Lodge, improving members’ morale by trying something new. 

The emotional as well as financial support that Freemasons give is the subject of a profile piece on Paula Kilshawe-Fall. The wife of a Freemason, Paula has managed to get back on her feet thanks to the almoner network in West Lancashire. Her story reveals some of the core values of Freemasonry: that of pastoral care and the desire to help those in your community.

The Iron Bridge Lodge in Shropshire is ensuring that it stays true to Freemasonry’s traditional values. However, it also wants to provide a meeting place that accommodates modern life in order to recruit and retain the next generation of masons. By drawing upon social media and streamlining its ceremonies, the lodge is now attracting younger masons who are not only bringing ideas of their own but also introducing new members into the fold.

As we look forward to the Tercentenary, I think you will find so much in this issue that shows why Freemasonry is as meaningful in society today as it was 300 years ago.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘What a joy to be a member of such an illustrious organisation that has adapted to the many social changes over 300 years.’

Published in UGLE

Society of choice

In 2016 the Membership Focus Group will build on its strategy to ensure that members have a rewarding experience, with expectations met by reality in our lodges

Over the past two years the Membership Focus Group (MFG) has reviewed aspects of Freemasonry that come under the remit of the United Grand Lodge of England, seeking the views of members through surveys, consultation meetings and interviews. The group has considered how Freemasonry is perceived, what its image should be and what Freemasonry has to offer in the 21st century.

The MFG surveys canvassed the opinions of present members and it is clear that while many lodges offer what good men seek, there is often a gap between expectation and reality. We need to communicate clearly and confidently what Freemasonry is and try harder to ensure that we select the right men, as well as offering a rewarding and enjoyable experience to the new member and his family.

The MFG has identified five areas where we must ensure the quality of what we do, and work is in progress to take these forward.

Image: As an initial step, we have a new logo and want to use 2017 as an opportunity to communicate more clearly the benefits of membership and demonstrate that, through practising our values, Freemasons contribute to the well-being of others. 

A concerted effort is achieving many more positive articles and reports in the media. Our plans include an expansion of our use of social media to extend our reach and profile. Filming is under way to produce a television documentary to be shown later this year.

Members have identified their concern regarding the quality of many masonic centres and the value of their offering. These should offer a positive impression, value for money and be an asset rather than a financial millstone to members. A project team is considering how to develop advice and support for those with property concerns.

Attracting and selecting: Provinces are appointing Provincial Membership Officers as a prelude to improving the way in which we identify and select those who would add value to a lodge and appreciate our approach to life. This year we will be piloting a selection process in lodges in 10 Provinces to ascertain how best to assist them in this task.

Improving retention: We lose too many members, some through poor selection, others because we have not met their needs and expectations. This is very much to do with lodge culture and balancing the needs of the lodge with those of its members.

Many survey respondents made suggestions about the need to get back to the core of why we are masons. The sentiment was that Freemasonry was beginning to feel more like a charitable organisation than one that promotes the idea of learning and personal moral development, which in turn leads us to be charitable.

‘Of those surveyed, 75 per cent said the aspects of Freemasonry that give the greatest value are: to feel part of a movement with history and traditional values; to make friends in other social circles; to be part of something that supports those in need; and to achieve a sense of personal progress.’

Of the members surveyed, 75 per cent indicated that the aspects of Freemasonry that give the greatest help or value are: to feel part of a movement with history and traditional values; to make friends outside their normal social circle; to be part of something that supports those in need; and to achieve a sense of personal progress.

Understanding and knowledge: The MFG sought views on the importance of masonic knowledge, with 67 per cent citing it as very important to understand the symbolism and moral/philosophical issues underpinning Freemasonry. More than 50 per cent reported only average or poor understanding. This is a core issue. In consultation with Provincial Grand Masters, a project has been established to consider how we might help, encourage and promote the development of educational activity and provide resources to underpin the three degrees of the Craft and the Royal Arch. 

Supporting those that lead at all levels: The future of Freemasonry depends on identifying those with the potential to lead at lodge, Provincial and Grand Lodge levels. It is also recognised that opportunities for development and the degree of support could be far better. We intend to consider how better to prepare and support those that volunteer for lead roles within our lodges so that they receive the assistance they require.

Next steps

There are no quick fixes. The process of change and development will take 10 or more years to bring Freemasonry up to date and reverse the membership trends of the past 30 years. The priority for UGLE is quality, not quantity. If the experience is one of quality and genuine care and concern for one another, then the prospects for retention and growth are good. Equally, the traditional ceremonies and standards are of great importance and need to be retained rather than diluted.

UGLE recognises that one size does not fit all. Lodges vary in their style, approach and interests. We encourage them to be open to the guidance that is offered but to also adapt it in a way that best suits their requirements. By doing this, we can create a successful future together that embraces Freemasonry’s rich values and variety.

Published in Membership Focus Group
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 12:17

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2015

Quarterly Communication

9 December 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I am so pleased to see the excellent turnout today and I would like to extend a very special welcome to those of you attending a Quarterly Communication for the first time. It was four years ago that we decided to admit Master masons to our Quarterly Communications meetings and the number who attend indicate that it has been a popular decision. Whilst you cannot vote, I hope it is still a worthwhile visit and that you will continue to come and encourage others to join you.

Since the last Quarterly Communication in September, the Grand Master celebrated his eightieth birthday on 9th October. On behalf of all of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent.

2015 has been a very busy year. The particular emphasis has been on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the overall mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long term future.

Fundamental to ensuring that long term future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group, supported by 18,000 responses from members to the recent surveys, has shaped this strategy which, in turn, has been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. The strategy concentrates on our vision and our values. Our 2020 strategic objectives are attached to the front cover of the latest edition of Freemasonry Today. 

This enables all our members to read the strategy, it also asks members to help in supporting both the strategy and the objectives. To be clear, this strategy can only be achieved with the support of the vast majority of the members.

Concurrently the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress whilst liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of the main events that are being planned locally – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces. I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm which is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration. 

I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master and with most able help from the Charity Presidents, Chief Executives and Boards of Trustees We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.

Preparations for the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and during the past few weeks the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI has been selected as the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge about masonic charity and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities.

In advance of April’s launch, publicity about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond. As you leave today you will be handed a simple leaflet which introduces you to the identity and approach of the new charity.

Brethren, I am delighted to announce that the Most Worshipful The Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Excellent Companion Gareth Jones, Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer, who is better known in the Craft as Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed Most Excellent Companion David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016. On that day I hope to have the pleasure of installing him. The contribution made by ME Comp Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal for five years has been colossal, as, indeed, his contribution has been throughout masonry, but more about that on another occasion. 

Brethren, it only remains for me to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas. In recent times, brethren, we have tended to refer to Christmas as the Festive Season. In Paris last weekend at the GLNF we were wished a Happy Christmas by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel during his speech in GLNF and afterwards I was wished the same by several brethren from other religious backgrounds. They all consider us to be grossly over sensitive on the subject. So, Happy Christmas, everyone!

 

Published in Speeches

Get involved

Following an extensive consultation process across the Provinces and Districts, the MFG has launched a new strategy paper aimed at securing Freemasonry’s long-term future

The Membership Focus Group’s (MFG’s) new paper, Our Strategy 2015-2020, sets out Freemasonry’s core strategic objectives over the next five years, introducing plans for the organisation’s governance, membership and masonic halls. 

Key to Freemasonry’s future will be the development of effective governance at all levels. The MFG aims to review, overhaul and clarify responsibilities, accountabilities, reporting relationships, leadership style, terms of reference and succession planning at every level. Proposed changes include reviewing performance in key masonic roles and the creation of a succession-planning model that meets modern-day needs.

The MFG wants lodges to be more rigorous in their leadership selection and development programmes, and will provide training to help grow masonic skills in key lodge positions. There will also be a review of rules and regulations, with a consideration of a rewrite of the Book of Constitutions to better reflect the 
future needs of Freemasonry.

Attracting and retaining members is a central plank in the new strategy and the MFG will be introducing a membership pathway programme as well as Membership Officers in each Province, lodge and chapter. Their role will be to help improve attraction, selection, mentoring, care for members and retention rates.

The pathway programme will assist lodges and chapters to attract and retain members by evolving the interview process so that candidate expectations are in line with lodge culture. Lodges will therefore need to demonstrate transparency by providing detailed costs of membership and ensuring that candidates are aware of the need to support a lodge’s social and charity activities.

Crucial to retention will be developing a mentoring culture in all existing members as well as ensuring Almoners are proactive in contacting members that do not attend a meeting to ensure they still feel included and
 cared for. Provinces will also be encouraged to implement a retrieval strategy with exit 
interviews and to assist disaffected members to find a lodge that 
meets their expectations.

Fit for purpose

Masonic centres have much to contribute to the future of the Craft. Surveys, however, indicate that many are not considered fit for purpose by the members that meet in them. UGLE will therefore seek to collaborate with masonic centre management to provide expertise, if required, and assist those that need help. Going forward, proposals include hosting a masonic centre summit at a national level to establish what help is needed. Assistance will also be given in identifying ways of growing revenue streams within centres.

The membership is Freemasonry’s most vital commodity and the MFG’s aims can only be achieved if the vast majority is committed to supporting the new strategy. A successful future where Freemasonry thrives means everyone getting involved.

To get a more in-depth view and regular updates, visit www.ugle.org.uk/mfg

Published in Membership Focus Group
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2015

From the Grand Secretary

On behalf of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent to the Grand Master on the occasion of his 80th birthday. How fortunate we all are to have such a dedicated royal leader since his installation as Grand Master by the 11th Earl of Scarbrough on 27 June 1967.

Thank you to those readers of Freemasonry Today who have participated in the recent Membership Focus Group surveys. One of the results from your feedback has been the creation of a clear strategy to make sure there is a sound future for Freemasonry. This strategy has been agreed at the highest levels throughout the organisation and we now wish to share it with all our readers. You will find a copy of this strategy attached to this issue of the magazine. 

I trust you will find it fascinating, and that it gives you added confidence for the future and your continued enjoyment of Freemasonry.

New enthusiasm

In this issue of the magazine, we find out how Freemasonry is helping to build confidence among our members. Our article on the first New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference at Freemasons’ Hall reveals a support network of light blue clubs that are helping initiates get the most out of Freemasonry from day one. We look at how these clubs are giving new members an outlet for the energy and excitement that they want to put into the Craft.

Overcoming challenges

The values of Freemasonry proved vital for Arthur Vaughan Williams, who, following a car accident, went from peak physical fitness to being unable to control two-thirds of his body. In our interview with Arthur, he explains how Freemasonry helped him to re-engage with society and create a new life for himself. With a reinvigorated sense of self-belief, Arthur has learned how to fly and is carving out a successful career as a television presenter.

Also in this issue, London’s new Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder discusses what motivated him to modernise the City, not only the way it runs but also the business buildings that populate London’s skyline. Meanwhile, our feature on deaf communications organisation Signature shows how masonic support is aiming to put British Sign Language on the curriculum and open up the education system for deaf youngsters.  

I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘We look at how light blue clubs are giving new members an outlet for the energy and excitement that they want to put into the Craft.’

Published in UGLE
Page 2 of 4

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