Celebrating 300 years

Brand new

Aiming to modernise the face of Freemasonry, UGLE’s new image also retains a strong sense of its history. We explore the thinking behind the changes to the branding

Look at the cover of this issue of Freemasonry Today and you might spot something out of the ordinary. In the bottom-right corner is UGLE’s new logo. It is the starting point for UGLE’s new branding, which aims to create a unified approach to Freemasonry’s image.

‘In this fast-changing world, Freemasonry needs to attract and retain the best candidates, the future leaders who will assure the long-term success of the Craft,’ says Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, explaining the motivation behind the rebrand. ‘As we head towards 2017, UGLE has been examining how it can enhance and modernise the face of Freemasonry.’

With attraction and retention identified as key development areas, the Membership Focus Group has been looking at how to ensure that a new recruit’s expectations match his actual experiences. ‘But the modernisation of Freemasonry is not just about what happens at a lodge meeting,’ says Lowndes. ‘It is also about the image we project. We need a visual identity that is recognisable, that represents our values and heritage, and also reflects our relevance to society.’

With this in mind, in 2013 UGLE approached August, which produces Freemasonry Today, with the brief of evolving the brand. The exercise had to create visual guidelines that would help members, lodges, the Metropolitan area and Provinces communicate with each other – and the rest of the world – in a professional and consistent manner. The UGLE logo was the first challenge: something unique but also true to the spirit of Freemasonry. 

‘Metropolitan and Provincial teams now have use of an online Brand Centre, where they can access all the assets – fonts, logos and templates – for their materials.’

Drawing conclusions

The Provincial Grand Master for Somerset, Stuart Hadler, announced the design of the new UGLE logo at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting, which brought together Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents in April. While the coat of arms has for generations been a mark of status and standing in society, Stuart said: ‘Society has changed and a coat of arms no longer communicates the messages that a modern membership organisation needs to convey.’

Initial research established that the square and compasses was the most recognisable masonic symbol. From this traditional icon, the design team began to abstract the shapes to create a look that suggests a forward-looking organisation. After further development based on feedback from the Communications Committee, the Board of General Purposes and the Rulers, an iteration was chosen that was both contemporary and instantly recognisable, while also linking to Freemasonry’s rich heritage.

As well as a new logo, the revised branding gives a standardised approach to font usage. Metropolitan and Provincial teams now have use of an online Brand Centre, where they can access all the assets, such as fonts, logos and templates for their materials.

With the branding currently in soft launch and user-testing stage, the UGLE websites and social media pages will all be rebranded at the start of 2016. The full launch and deployment of branding across the Provinces will happen on 24 June 2016, which is the start of Grand Lodge’s 300th year. It is just one element in the organisation’s ongoing strategy to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry as open and forward thinking to ensure its long-term future.

Published in UGLE
Friday, 04 September 2015 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Autumn 2015

From the Grand Secretary

We have another fascinating issue for you about what is happening in Freemasonry today. The results from the latest survey conducted by the Membership Focus Group concentrate on the joining experience of new members. 

The moment that they join is a deeply significant time, and ‘feeling valued as a member’ came out top of the factors that contributed to their overall satisfaction as Freemasons.

It is pleasing, too, to hear about what The Masonic Mutual has achieved in its first year. 

This success has been driven by reducing spend, improving available cover, enhancing risk-management practice and establishing a vehicle through which any surpluses generated can be retained for the good of Freemasonry.

As we look forward to the long-term future of Freemasonry, we need to make sure that we are seen by the public as relevant to modern society. 

I believe this must continue to be the editorial direction of our magazine, which I hope you will enjoy in this latest issue.

Helping others grow

With Freemasonry sharing many of the same values as the Scouting movement, we find out about the ongoing support that our masonic charities have provided to encourage more young people to join their local groups. Over the past seven years, our grants have been used to pay for Scouting premises and training volunteers, as well as to buy much-needed materials and equipment – all with the aim of helping young people grow and develop.

Across the country, Freemasons and their families are making a difference to the communities they live in. Down in Cornwall, we meet Freemason Roy Newport, who takes retired military personnel out on the open water to help them adjust to life in the ‘normal’ world. Up in Lancashire, we follow the daughter of respected local mason Geoff Cousen as she runs across the Lake District to raise money for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, the charity that supported him after two crippling strokes. 

Our piece on the Talking Heads initiative looks at why chapter members have been performing to lodges across the country to explain the progression into Royal Arch. We also interview consultant surgeon Stephen Large about how masonic funding has been crucial to new research that could massively expand the number of donor hearts available for transplantation. At both a local and a national level, these stories reveal Freemasonry at its best, as members provide care, support and inspiration. 

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘At both a local and a national level, the stories in this issue of the magazine reveal Freemasonry at its best, as members provide care, support and inspiration.’

Published in UGLE
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
Friday, 05 June 2015 01:00

A year of masonic success

Annual briefing

On 28 April, masonic leaders celebrated the achievements of the past year, revealing an organisation that is embracing transparency and taking positive steps to ensure its long-term future

 Held in the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall, the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting brought together Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to hear about the state of Freemasonry and why its future is in their hands.

With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes welcoming attendees to the meeting, the President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), Anthony Wilson, ran through the accounts for 2014, showing United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) finances to be healthy. He also highlighted the increasing importance of hiring out Freemasons’ Hall to third parties as a source of income. 

Second Grand Principal George Francis and President of the Committee of General Purposes Malcolm Aish explained how the Royal Arch was faring. ‘The good news is that we had some magnificent figures on exaltations for 2014,’ said George, congratulating attendees for the results that return the Royal Arch to the level it was at six to eight years ago. ‘We’re now hitting the 50 per cent mark of initiations so the prospects for the Royal Arch really do look rather good. I think there’s still more to be done.’ 

Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire David Macey looked at the progress being made with the membership database, ADelphi 2, which goes live at the end of July this year. Offering improved reporting capability and ease of use, ADelphi 2 will give Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents all the membership information they need, at their fingertips. David also stressed that a structured training plan is in place to offer support to everyone using the new system.  

Taking virtual steps

With the Papers of Business for Quarterly Communications circulated electronically for the first time in 2014, James Long from the Electronic Systems Committee explained why it was felt necessary to make this change. ‘We were prompted to some degree by looking to save money and make efficiency enhancements,’ said James, ‘but there was something else that actuated our motive here: we thought it entirely appropriate for a modern membership organisation. We must be responsive and reactive to what our members want.’ 

Looking at the need to improve communication within UGLE, James congratulated the attendees for embracing new technology. ‘There are many Provinces and Districts that have well-constructed, thought-through and properly controlled communication strategies on social media. What we have to do is learn from all of those,’ he said. ‘We’re going to continue to ensure that UGLE is making the best use of all electronic media for communication, both internal and external.’ 

Landmark events 

Next on the agenda was the 2017 Tercentenary, which starts with events around the country in January 2017 and culminates with a celebration at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 October 2017. Anthony Wilson said that Grand Lodge expects to offer seats at the Royal Albert Hall to each Province and District on the basis of one place for every 80-90 members. Grand Lodge wants to widen the participation and is looking at ways to screen the event live in all the Districts and Provinces. 

Staying on the subject of the Tercentenary, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset Stuart Hadler announced the design of a new branding for UGLE, which will make its appearance in the run up to 2017. While the coat of arms has for generations been a mark of status and standing in society, Stuart said: ‘Society has changed over the past 50 years and a coat of arms no longer communicates the image and messages that a modern membership organisation needs to convey. One might also observe that we are seeking no longer to be silent.’ 

Stuart went on to discuss how the Membership Focus Group (MFG), the BGP and the Rulers believe that a positive and attractive image is vital. ‘To preserve the integrity of the brand and achieve a corporate image, there is to be a strict protocol for us all to follow that will dictate how the symbol is to be used,’ he said, adding that Provinces and Districts will need to review and revise their existing paperwork by 24 June 2016. 

Future-proofing

Freemasonry’s image is just one of the areas being explored by the MFG. Tasked with assuring the long-term success of both the Craft and the Royal Arch, the MFG has been talking to Provinces about their experiences of recruitment and retention. Assistant Grand Secretary and MFG member Shawn Christie highlighted that many growing lodges hold vibrant meetings and regular social events that are open to non-masons. These provide an opportunity for prospective candidates to ask questions in an informal environment, learn more about Freemasonry and possibly, in time, join if both sides feel the fit is right. 

Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire Robin Wilson explained that the road to retention starts with proper preparation. ‘For that to happen, the prospective members must be made aware of the essence of Freemasonry, what it involves and how it involves them,’ he said. For this to succeed, expectations must be managed: ‘Otherwise they could feel ambushed or disappointed by what they find on joining.’ (See here for more details about the MFG’s conclusions on membership retention.) 

Next on the podium, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward discussed how MFG research into leadership and education showed that many people, if not most, are motivated to join Freemasonry with an expectation of self-development. ‘The opportunity for specific leadership and management development tends to emerge as our brethren get into more senior roles,’ said Michael, adding that while there is a wealth of information available in all the Provinces, there has been limited sharing of best practices. ‘Provinces are consequently reinventing and duplicating.’ 

Michael believes that there is a window of opportunity to develop and deliver high-quality training material using some of the best practices from around the Provinces. ‘This creates a huge potential for us to enrich members’ experiences and demonstrate that we have listened to and understood their needs. It also shows that we are committed to modernising while maintaining our traditions,’ he said. ‘The alternative is to ignore reality and ignore the needs of our members. Our future depends on inspiring and re-energising our membership. This can only be achieved with the full and active support of the Provincial Grand Masters and the Grand Superintendents.’ 

Malcolm Aish echoed Michael’s sentiments when he outlined the MFG’s proposed strategy for Freemasonry going forward, which had been circulated to the attendees prior to the meeting. ‘The MFG feels a coordinated approach will achieve greater success but it is each Province that should consider its participation and support – for it is you that will implement a large part of the agreed strategy.’ 

Grand plans 

Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP, Ray Reed discussed the results from the annual survey for Provincial Grand Masters. He noted that 54 per cent of Provinces are providing training for new masters and 34 per cent for communications officers. ‘These must be two of the most important areas because they can make such a massive difference in our Provinces,’ said Ray. ‘It’s essential that we encourage those who don’t have training for lodge masters to contemplate giving it.’ 

In a 30-minute address, Ray touched on the need to innovate and speed up communication, adding that there is broad agreement on what the key areas for development are. ‘We’re talking about training and educating people, about effective mentoring and about best practice in recruitment, retention and retrieval,’ he said. ‘The MFG has sought to better understand the problems we face in Freemasonry and we are now ready to move from analysis to implementation.’

Ray ended on a strong message, saying ‘a successful future for Freemasonry will only come through quality leadership, consultation and collaboration’. 

The presentations at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting finished with a fitting quote from Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.’  

Published in UGLE

Properly prepared

When it comes to retaining members, results from the latest Membership Focus Group survey point to a need for the recruitment process to better communicate what Freemasonry is really about

More than 8,000 members are now signed up to assist the Membership Focus Group (MFG) by completing its surveys, the latest of which looks at the challenges faced in retaining members. Gathering detailed input from 30 Provinces and one District, the survey concludes that there is a strong link between the way in which someone comes into Freemasonry and the enjoyment they get from it. Retention is considerably improved when the initial recruitment process is of a high standard. Conversely, if a lodge rushes the introduction process, the consequences can be disastrous. 

Going forward, the MFG recommends developing candidate interview procedures that ensure transparency about what Freemasonry is, its vision, mission and beliefs. Candidates should also be provided with an overview of all the costs involved, ensuring that they are aware of the need to support lodge social and charity activities. In addition, the lodge should only select members who maintain and raise quality standards.

The value of support

It was not surprising to learn that the single most important influencer in retaining new members and meeting their expectations is the quality of mentoring in lodges. The support of the Provincial or Metropolitan mentor and the provision of training for both lodge and personal mentors were found to be vital. An initiate’s guide was also seen as an essential resource for new members. 

Members need to feel welcome, with their personal and business time pressures understood. Lodge mentors and almoners also need to be proactive in noting attendance, following up on why members are not attending and looking out for early warning signs of a potential resignation.

Whether it’s attracting new recruits or mentoring and retaining them, membership is not a numbers game. An increase in the organisation’s membership will only be achieved by improving members’ overall experience of Freemasonry – helping them to embrace the way in which it adds value to their lives.  

When a candidate is presented for initiation the ceremony includes the words: ‘…a poor candidate in a state of darkness who has been well and worthily recommended, regularly proposed and approved in open lodge and now comes, of his own free will and accord, properly prepared’. The question that has to be satisfied is to what extent is he properly prepared? 

Retention – Key findings

· The support and involvement of a spouse/partner is crucial for all new prospective candidates

· The questions asked at the interview, and the manner in which it is conducted, are of vital importance and should conform to a standard

· There is a need to be open and honest about full membership costs at the interview stage

· A personal mentor has an essential role to play and should be actively involved from the period leading up to the candidate’s initiation

The next MFG survey to be published in Freemasonry Today will look at how the United Grand Lodge of England attracts new members and their experiences in joining the organisation. By including more comments boxes in the survey it is hoped that members will have a greater opportunity to have their say on what worked for them, as well as what didn’t. 

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

Published in Membership Focus Group

Pride in membership

When it comes to new candidates, first impressions count. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes urges lodges to embrace the mentoring scheme

 The last issue of Freemasonry Today covered the results of a Membership Focus Group (MFG) survey seeking members’ views on many aspects of Freemasonry including friendship, masonic ceremony and charity work. 

With 5,265 members taking part in the survey, I will let you read the full results, but I wanted to highlight the following four areas that scored highly. Having respect for others came first, closely followed by being with people who respect others, then meeting people with integrity, followed by the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry. I have said often in the past that it is no surprise that Freemasonry is such a remarkable fundraiser for charity, because of our code of conduct. 

I suggest, brethren, that these responses simply endorse that view.

This and future surveys support the MFG’s aim of ensuring that any decision about Freemasonry draws upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels – not least at lodge level. I take this opportunity to stress the continued importance of the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Mentors’ role.

I know that the majority of lodges have now appointed a mentoring coordinator but I still remain concerned that, in many cases, no personal mentors have been selected. Here there is a skill in matching the right personal mentor – that is to say, with the best personality characteristics and appropriate knowledge – with each candidate. This relationship will be ever-changing as the candidate develops his understanding.

There can be no doubt that the early days of a candidate’s membership are the most impressionable. It is therefore important that the right personal mentor is assigned as early as possible after the interview stage and, at any rate, from initiation onwards. Pastoral care will always be a vital part of this relationship and it is at this early stage that the candidate should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry and, indeed, be encouraged to do so, particularly as he becomes more experienced. In addition, they should demonstrate pride in their membership to their family, friends and acquaintances.

The Metropolitan, Provincial and District Mentors have played a significant role in the running of the mentoring scheme, and I look to the lodges to support them in their important task of helping develop and retain membership at lodge level.

‘Candidates should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry.’

Published in Membership Focus Group
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 12:45

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2015

Quarterly Communication

11 March 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, the March issue of Freemasonry Today covers the results of the latest Membership Focus Group survey seeking members’ views on many aspects of Freemasonry including friendship, masonic ceremony and charity work.

5,265 members took part in the survey.

I will let you read the full results but I wanted to highlight the following four areas that scored highly. Having respect for others came first, closely followed by being with people who respected others, then meeting people with integrity followed by the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry. I have said often in the past that it is no surprise that Freemasonry is such a remarkable fundraiser for charity, because of our code of conduct. I suggest, brethren, that these responses simply endorse that view.

This and future surveys support the Group’s aim of ensuring that any decision about Freemasonry draws upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels – not least at lodge level. Talking of lodge level leads me to remind you that the next annual Mentoring Conference is to be held next week and I take this opportunity to stress the continued importance of the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Mentors’ role.

I know that the majority of lodges have now appointed a Mentoring Coordinator but I still remain concerned that, in many cases, no personal mentors have been selected. Here there is a skill in matching the right personal mentor – that is to say, with the best personality characteristics and appropriate knowledge - with each candidate. This relationship will be ever changing as the candidate develops his understanding.

There can be no doubt that the early days of a candidate’s membership are the most impressionable and so it is important that the right personal mentor is assigned as early as possible after the interview stage and, at any rate, from initiation onwards. Pastoral care will always be a vital part of this relationship and it is at this early stage that the candidate should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry and, indeed, be encouraged to do so, particularly as he becomes more experienced. In addition they should demonstrate pride in their membership to their family, friends and acquaintances.

The Metropolitan, Provincial and District Mentors have played a significant role in the running the Mentoring Scheme and I look to the lodges to support them in their important task of helping develop and retain membership at lodge level.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 06 March 2015 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2015

From the Grand Secretary

We are delighted at the response to the first Membership Focus Group survey with 5,265 of you taking part. Please do read the very interesting results in this issue on page 16, as they reveal how members cherish mutual respect and moral values while still embracing fun and enjoyment.

The Membership Focus Group survey is a classic example of involving members in the future of Freemasonry – not least members at lodge and chapter level. Our ability to communicate with individuals in order to seek their views is increasingly important to ensure the success of our organisation going forward. 

It is therefore crucial that we recognise that it is right and proper to talk openly about our membership and to feel proud of that membership. To that end, we must meet the challenge to find a simple manner of communicating our unique offering to new members, as well as to family, friends and acquaintances. Actions speak louder than words and we are increasingly convinced that the challenge of communicating what Freemasonry means will be met by members at lodge and chapter level. 

In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we talk to masons who are sharing the message at a local level. Our profile of Somerset’s Adair Club reveals how combining a modern outlook with traditional values can ensure new recruits to Freemasonry feel part of their Province. Meanwhile, we look at the masonic contributions to sports charity Street League that are giving unemployed young people career direction by encouraging them to use the team-building skills found in football.

Our feature on the pioneering work being carried out in RMBI care homes shows how residents can be made to feel more secure. The charity is finding that, whether it’s memories of flying with Franklin D Roosevelt or pretending to be Father Christmas over the phone, life stories can be used to better understand and care for its residents.

Looking further back, the spirit of Freemasonry is revealed in a fascinating document held by the Library and Museum. We learn about the hundreds of Freemasons held at Ruhleben internment camp in Germany during World War I and the launch of a campaign to send food parcels to their aid. It is just one of the many stories in this issue of Freemasonry Today that show why we should be proud to be members of this fraternal organisation.

Nigel Brown

Grand Secretary

‘Actions speak louder than words and we are increasingly convinced that the challenge of communicating what Freemasonry means will be met by members at lodge and chapter level.’

Published in UGLE

Forward with focus

As the Membership Focus Group gathers opinions about the future of Freemasonry and proposals circulate about the combination of the four masonic charities, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes looks ahead

Over the past forty-odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on knowing as much as possible about our membership, and what we can do to stabilise numbers and increasingly attract high-quality members.

The Membership Focus Group (MFG) has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval – all vital to the success of any organisation. 

The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months that will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that more than 7,400 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.

Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it is so often something apparently trivial that introduces a debate that widens and becomes a cornerstone. One such idea came from a chance comment from a Deputy Provincial Grand Master about the word ‘recruitment’ having connotations of press-ganging into the services. Rather than talking about recruiting new members, why not think about ‘attracting’ them? This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.

The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this: I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded with emails, so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.

Modernising the Charities

Another area in which there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, at that time myself but soon to be Jonathan Spence, who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in Freemasons’ Hall in London.

The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the charity presidents and their chief executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the charities for many years to come. 

I am pleased to announce that the Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnall Report of forty-one years ago.

The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main charities into a new overarching charity, managed by a single board of trustees under a single chief executive officer, with a single team of staff. Further details will be made available via the individual charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today. 

At the Annual General Meeting of the Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of the Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members’ meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole-family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be more appropriate for the twenty-first century. 

‘Some ideas may appear trivial, but it is often something apparently trivial that introduces a debate that widens and becomes a cornerstone.’ 

Published in UGLE
Friday, 06 March 2015 00:00

A question of respect and values

Shaping our future

The results from a new survey about Freemasonry conducted by the Membership Focus Group reveal an organisation that cherishes mutual respect and moral values, while still embracing fun and enjoyment 

In the autumn 2014 issue of Freemasonry Today, we reported on the formation of the Membership Focus Group (MFG), a body tasked with ensuring that the Craft continues to attract and retain the most suitable members. By looking at the whole organisation, the MFG is seeking to identify what’s worked for the past three hundred years, what’s good to keep and what needs to be modified. Further still, as Chairman Ray Reed explains, ‘The MFG wants to ensure that any decisions about Freemasonry draw upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels, from all areas and from every type of background.’ 

With this in mind, a survey was designed to enable the MFG to assess the views of Freemasons on the value of friendship, masonic ceremony, charity work and many other subjects. From new initiates to high-ranking Grand Officers, 5,265 Freemasons took part, giving a representative view of the membership as a whole. 

Revealing insights

The survey invited members to rank aspects of Freemasonry in order of importance, on a scale from not at all important to very important. 

By combining the results for fairly and very important, having respect for others topped the ranking, with 98.9% of members finding it important. 

This was followed closely by being with people who respect others, which 97.4% of members found important. Meeting people with integrity (95.5% considered it important) was a runner up, with the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry coming in at 94.8%. At a glance, it therefore seems that our fundamental values and being with others who share those values is of prime importance. 

In recent years there has been a great deal of discussion on the subject of ceremonies and the part they play in Freemasonry. Different schools of thought have developed regarding whether we should adapt the way we learn and perform. According to the survey, following on from the shared principles, 95.4% of members also found masonic ceremonies important. 

Lest anybody should conclude that Freemasons are a dry and sombre lot, ranked next in importance was enjoyment and having fun, although when ranked individually, activities such as barbecues, garden parties and ladies nights were not seen as so important in themselves. 

Something that might surprise outsiders to Freemasonry is the fact that by far the least important factor was being part of an elite fraternity. Gaining friendships; meeting like-minded people; belonging and feeling valued; and meeting people from different backgrounds were all more important.

It seems that the traditional structure of a lodge meeting is still valued by members. A significant percentage found the structure and formality of a lodge meeting important (91.3%), with going to the lodge in a suit and tie and the Festive Board also scoring highly (83.6% and 89.7%, respectively).

Speech-making was considered to be of only moderate importance (53.7% found it important), yet tellingly, gaining confidence and skills by taking part was ranked important by 92.5% of members. Initial indications are that new members in particular do not like long speeches and that the start time of meetings is important. The MFG will be following this up with surveys of new members in several Provinces and the Metropolitan area.

While the MFG programme is moving forward quickly, this is not a quick-fix project. Thoroughly analysing the survey data and considering the masonic implications will be a huge job, and action will only be taken once the MFG has the full facts and views of the membership. Bearing this in mind, it has engaged the skills of specialists in various fields in order to create sub-groups. With many younger members, these sub-groups are now focusing on particular aspects, including image, leadership, strategy, attracting members and retention. 

Have your say

Everybody in Freemasonry has the opportunity to shape its future and the MFG is keen to see more members participate. While the first survey has been completed and sign-ups have now grown to more than 7,400 members, there is still an opportunity to register and participate.

Over the coming months, the MFG will be seeking the assistance of members by way of short surveys on a variety of topics associated with Freemasonry. If you wish to have your say and are willing to help, then please register at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg. Your registration will be confirmed by us asking for your name, lodge number, masonic rank and years of membership (so that we can ascertain whether particular views are expressed according to these differences). All insight and comments are collected anonymously. 

‘The Membership Focus Group wants to ensure that any decisions about Freemasonry draw upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels, from all areas and from every type of background.’ Ray Reed

Published in Membership Focus Group
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