Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 00:00

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2014

Quarterly Communication

10 December 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, a lot goes on during a period of 12 months in Freemasonry. Much of this all our members see in their lodges, as well at Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges and Grand Lodge. However what is not seen is all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that all runs smoothly and, even more importantly, that the Craft is fit for purpose for the future.

Over the last 40 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 making sure that we know as much as possible about our membership and what we can do to stabilise membership numbers and increasingly attract natural leaders and high quality members.

The Membership Focus Group under the chairmanship of the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, 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 which will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that over 5,500 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.

Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it so often that which appears trivial that introduces a debate which widens and becomes, dare I say, a cornerstone. One such idea has been put to me by Bro Reed and came from a chance conversation that he had with a certain Deputy PGM, who shall remain nameless but his Province has a county town called Lincoln! Amongst several very useful points that he made was that the word “recruitment” has connotations of press ganging into the services and that, 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 out with emails so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.

There have also been a number of changes within the secretariat and those working in this building. As most of you will have noticed by now, we are leading up to a very major event in 2017 and this is going to take a huge amount of organisation. For this reason it was decided to ask the Grand Secretary to concentrate his time and efforts on the purely masonic side of his current role and to separate away the operational side of the building, along with the finance and IT departments, which will be run by a Chief Operating Officer, Nicola Graham-Adriani who has been working for us here for over 13 years, latterly as Deputy Chief Executive.

Brethren, this meeting of Grand Lodge marks a watershed by having the Paper of Business circulated electronically. This was not as easy as it may sound, as, amongst other things, it required changes to the Book of Constitution. A team led by VW Bro James Long and including the current Grand Pursuivant have spent many hours ensuring that the circulation went smoothly and I congratulate all of them on doing so.

Another area where 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, which at that time was myself, but was soon to become RW Bro 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 this building.

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 MW 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 Bagnell Report of 41 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 staff team.

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 far more appropriate for the 21st century. I congratulate all those involved in this review and commend their recommendations to you.

Brethren, I have spoken for rather longer than usual, but I trust that you will agree that some important issues have been covered and I believe that it is right for Grand Lodge to be kept up to date on such matters.

Last year I mentioned that I was expecting a tiring Christmas with my grandchildren. It wasn’t just them who were exhausting. My three sons, who are all in their thirties, passed my two grandsons on the stairs. One set were on their way to bed, the other on their way to open their stockings. I leave it to you, brethren, as to which lot was going in which direction!

Whoever you spend your holiday period with, may I wish you all a very happy and relaxing time.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 05 December 2014 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2014

From the Grand  Secretary

Gathering the views and opinions of our members has never been more important. We are determined to continue to work closely with Metropolitan London, the Provinces and the Districts throughout the English Constitution. This is demonstrated by an inclusive approach when deciding new initiatives.

Let me give you some examples from this year. The Pro Grand Master has met with all Provincial Grand Masters, the Second Grand Principal has met with the Grand Superintendents, and we have paid attention to our District Grand Masters, attending the regional Conference of Caribbean District Grand Masters in Bermuda. We were also present at the Freemasons’ Conference, organised by the District of East Africa and held in Dar es Salaam. More recently, we attended the second Asia Pacific Conference in Hong Kong with District Grand Masters from the Eastern Archipelago, India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand South Island. 

It is not just the senior members of the organisation, however, who we invite views from. The Membership Focus Group is still seeking assistance from members by way of short surveys. This is a great opportunity to have your say and I encourage you to register to take part at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg 

In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at how the future of our organisation is in the hands of a new generation. We profile three young men who have joined the Craft: Mat Tindall is a stonemason working on Castle Drogo; Anthony Hall is a choreographer in London; and John Henry Phillips is a student archaeologist in Leicester. Carving out careers in three very different trades, these masons all feel that they have much to learn, but also something important to contribute.

Our feature on Ruspini House explores a unique masonic building that is enabling young people to learn and work in London. Masonic support is also crucial to Lifelites, a charity that helps disabled children to explore the world in new ways thanks to cutting-edge technology; we talk to Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy about its work. Further afield, we report on how Freemasons helped to rebuild the Philippines’ shattered infrastructure after the cyclone that tore across the islands in 2013.

As a new generation joins the Craft and we continue to support those around us, this issue of Freemasonry Today shows an organisation with a strong future. I hope that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘Gathering the views and opinions of our members has never been more important.’

 

Published in UGLE

Regular Convocation 

12 November 2014 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes 

Companions, the Second Grand Principal has just completed a series of meetings with Grand Superintendents. One of the topics of conversation was the relationship between the Royal Arch and the Craft – specifically covering two issues. First, the selection of Royal Arch representatives in Craft Lodges and secondly, the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at Craft Festive Boards.

The appointment and monitoring of the Royal Arch Representative in a Craft Lodge needs careful consideration. There has been debate as to who is responsible for this important appointment. In Provinces where the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent are the same, there should be no issue. However, where the heads of the two orders are different I believe it essential that the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent liaise. The appointment should never be a ‘tick in the box’ exercise.

As a member of the Royal Arch, the Representative will need to know sufficient about the merits of joining the Order and be able to work closely with the Lodge Mentor. In many instances it could be best judged that a member should be approached at the same time that he receives his Grand Lodge Certificate. I know from experience that there is a balance between judging whether someone will enjoy the Royal Arch with the right time for that individual to join. This timing is also pressurised by the concern that an individual will be approached to join one of the side orders first if there is any delay in recruitment. I continue to believe that there is a good stage to brief Master Masons on the merits of the Royal Arch, but that the actual timing of joining should be linked to each individual’s appetite for Masonic advancement and personal circumstances.

For those of you who are very involved with the side orders, please do not think that I am in any way against Craft members joining them, far from it. However I do firmly believe that the Royal Arch should be the first priority. 

As for wine taking with Royal Arch members at Craft Festive Boards – I believe that this custom should be treated sensitively – if ever used. I will also be mentioning this at the Craft Quarterly Communication in December. In any event the decision should lie in the hands of each Provincial Grand Master. I can see a case for this where a Chapter is linked to a Craft Lodge – but, even so, it is recommended that this wine taking is conducted with everyone sitting down so that those who are not members of the Order are not embarrassed or – worst still – pounced on with a joining form!

Companions you will have read in the last issue of Freemasonry Today about the Membership Focus Group and their mission to stop the bleed in membership. It is clearly of the greatest importance to Royal Arch recruitment that this bleed is halted whilst recruiting and retaining men of quality and integrity. You will have read that members were asked to participate in a series of short surveys so that the Membership Focus Group could seek grass roots’ ideas about the future of Freemasonry. I would ask as many of you as possible to take this opportunity and register and so be able to give your views.

 

Published in Speeches

Open forum

As the Grand Lodge of England approaches its tercentenary in 2017, the Membership Focus Group has been established to consider how best to attract, recruit and retain good men. In July, five members of the group met to discuss why the strategy for the future of Freemasonry in the Craft must be a collaborative exercise involving all its members

Why was the Membership Focus Group (MFG) formed?

Ray Reed: The objectives of the MFG are to advise the Rulers and the Board of General Purposes of how best Freemasonry can focus members, lodges, Provinces and staff to work in a collaborative manner to create and implement a strategy that will assure the long-term successful future of both the Craft and the Royal Arch. 

We want to look at the whole organisation as well as its ceremonial structure to identify what’s really worked for the past three hundred years, what’s good to keep and what we need to modify. We especially need to consider how to attract and retain the ‘modern man’ and future leaders in this fast-changing world.

Peter Taylor: When we looked at the numbers from the ADelphi database, which contains the masonic life histories of our members going back to 1984, there were some very telling statistics. In many areas around the country we’re attracting new members in good numbers, yet total membership is still going down. The group wants to discover why and find solutions to reverse this trend. 

Malcolm Aish: We found that for every age group, the length of time before members resigned was the same. The more we looked at the statistics, the more we felt that it wasn’t just an issue of how to make Freemasonry more attractive to young people as they make up a relatively small proportion of our membership. They are still very important to us, as they could be joining for forty to fifty years, but the big recruitment age is around forty, so we need to discover why fortysomethings are just as likely to resign as twentysomethings. 

Ray Reed: Our biggest strength and greatest opportunity is that we’re getting lots of people wanting to join. That number is on the increase at the moment, so we’ve got to make sure that when new people join, their expectations match with what we have to offer. 

What sort of questions is the MFG asking?

Shawn Christie: The United Grand Lodge of England is a very special organisation. We can rightfully be proud of our past and our present, but it’s important to look ahead and plan for the future. 

This is the reason why we’re asking about the kinds of things we can do better. We’ve analysed membership statistics, identified key focus areas and established working groups to develop those areas further. For example, I’m chairing a working group looking at recruitment, and there are other groups focusing on areas such as governance and the image of Freemasonry. Moving on from our initial analysis, we’ll soon start surveying the membership to make sure that we have an accurate understanding of their feelings.

Stuart Hadler: I’m concerned that we provide very little formal leadership development in Freemasonry, whether that’s progressing to become Master of a lodge or a senior Provincial officer. I think that Freemasonry is poorer for not having the opportunity to develop those skills – we could actively promote it as one of the opportunities offered by our society when attracting new members.

Malcolm Aish: My interest in the Royal Arch means I’m very happy to be involved in the MFG, because success in the Craft will lead to greater success in the Royal Arch. We’ve found out from the statistics that when masons go on to join another lodge or the Royal Arch – the ‘multiple members’ as we call them – then their membership longevity extends significantly. That’s something that we need to analyse. We could find out if people who join their second lodge are more selective about the kind of members they team up with. 

If that’s the case, then we might be able to improve overall retention.

Stuart Hadler: Another point we’ve identified is that there’s no clear external perception of what Freemasonry is and why people join. We haven’t prepared members in how to communicate clearly and consistently. If we’re going to attract people in the right numbers and keep them, then we have to find good examples in simple, modern language about what Freemasonry offers.

Malcolm Aish: We don’t want to be seen to be intrusive; it’s quite difficult for someone outside the Province to ask quite personal questions, but we have to be able to find out the real reasons why someone has left a lodge. Was it because they didn’t feel welcome or had an argument? The whole process we’re undertaking aims to open everyone’s minds to consider doing things differently.

‘In many areas around the country we’re attracting new members in good numbers, yet total membership is still going down. One of the aims of the MFG is to discover why and reverse the trend.’ Peter Taylor

Is Freemasonry set for big changes under the MFG?

Stuart Hadler: We have many cherished traditions, but we should be prepared to question their continuing importance to our principles and image. In recent years, for example, there have been more cases of Freemasons parading in public, which is great – it’s a return to where we left off in the 1930s. But are gentlemen of a certain age walking through the streets, parading their regalia, the only images we want to portray? We need to think about the kind of image we’re trying to put across, and the MFG can be about offering a range of choices, perhaps saying that it’s fine if a lodge decides to wear jackets and ties rather than dress in full regalia. 

Malcolm Aish: The fundamentals of Freemasonry are not going to change. Why would we want to modify the core ceremonial and ritual traditions of a highly successful organisation? But how we communicate among ourselves – how we formulate the ideas and direction that we are going to take, as well as organise ourselves – is an opportunity for members to make a major contribution.

Peter Taylor: I hope that the membership will be pleased to see that the MFG comprises members from around the country. We’re looking at the wider aspects of Freemasonry from an inclusive standpoint, and will be surveying views taken from a wide range of geographic areas that have different socio-economic challenges. 

Ray Reed: We’re a bottom-up, not top-down member organisation. If you want to have your views on the future of the Craft reflected, then you must get involved with the surveys. This is all about meeting the needs of both existing and future members in today’s society in order to ensure the future of Freemasonry.

‘We’re listening to all our members, we want feedback, and before we come to any conclusions, we want to understand what the membership has to offer and what it can improve on.’ Malcolm Aish

How will the MFG communicate its findings?

Shawn Christie: The MFG will use various channels to keep the membership informed, including Freemasonry Today and communication through Provincial and District Grand Lodges. Whatever the findings, we hope to identify and share successful practices and approaches throughout our society. We want to work with Provinces, Districts, lodges and members rather than simply communicating in only one direction.

Ray Reed: Communication is going to be continuous. The strategy document might prove to be substantial, but we’ll need to summarise it and allow everyone at every level to understand. We’ll always take our conclusions to the Board, Rulers and PGMs first because we want them to be the first ones to know – we can’t let magazines like Freemasonry Today know something before the PGMs do. The information route will be focus groups first; then surveys; followed by findings and talks with the Board, Rulers and PGMs. Finally, there’s communication with all our members. 

Malcolm Aish: Having this round-table article is a great starting point in reaching a wide proportion of our membership, but we’ll have to feed back what we’re doing in order to be as effective as possible. We don’t know what the outcomes are going to be yet, but we’re listening to all of our members, we want their feedback, and before we come to any conclusions, we want to understand what the membership has to offer and what it can improve on.

Have your say

During the next six months, the Membership Focus Group will be seeking the assistance of members by way of several short surveys. Many of the subjects on which we shall be seeking views are mentioned in this article.

If you wish to have your say and are willing to help, then please email your details as indicated below.

UGLE members can only 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

 

Other members of the MFG

Sandy Stewart, Provincial Grand Master for Staffordshire, Michael Ward, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master, Paul Gower, Provincial Grand Master for Hertfordshire, Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, Marc Nowell, Representative from the Universities Scheme, Jeffrey Gillyon, Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, Robin Wilson, Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire  

Published in Membership Focus Group

Good examples 

HRH The Duke of Kent explains why recruitment and retention should be your responsibility, whatever your rank 

Whether you have been appointed to or promoted in Grand Rank, I want to emphasise that two of your key tasks are recruitment and retention. 

It has become clear from the research carried out by the Membership Focus Group, chaired by the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, that these tasks are more important than ever before. 

I am particularly concerned to hear that very few members recruit at all, and that there is an unacceptably high loss rate after each of the three degrees – and, indeed, during the first ten years of membership.

The Membership Focus Group has been formed to analyse the statistics and to make proposals to stem the loss of members. It is already clear that the mentoring scheme will play a vital role going forward. It is therefore important that lodge mentors appoint appropriate personal mentors to look after each new candidate, rather than trying to do all the mentoring themselves. 

Naturally, I expect you will also be good examples to others, whatever their rank – not only in your good conduct and supportive approach but also by demonstrating your enjoyment of Freemasonry.

I hosted a dinner for Provincial and District Grand Masters. The support of and direction from your respective Provincial and District Grand Masters is paramount and I am pleased to hear how closely they, in turn, are working with the centre at Freemasons’ Hall. This inclusive approach is core to the future of the English Constitution.

I continue to hear of the good work done by the Provinces in their local communities and there is no better example than the help given to the victims of the recent floods, especially in the West Country. This good work was supported when I had the opportunity to visit two Provinces – in Gloucestershire, where I also attended their annual service in Gloucester Cathedral, and in Cornwall. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the members I met in both.

Published in UGLE

United we stand

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes considers how the future of Freemasonry depends on every part of the organisation working together

For men of quality to join, the unity of the English Constitution is crucial to our survival as a relevant organisation in society. In particular, I want to emphasise the importance of all the component parts of our organisation working together. Enormous progress has been made in the liaison between the centre, London, the Provinces and Districts.

The consistent approach from the centre is now very much a consultative one: working directly to seek views before making proposals for consensus approval. This is typically through the Grand Secretary; on behalf of the Rulers and Board of General Purposes; by direct contact or online surveys; or by Provincial Grand Masters championing or being members of committees looking into and ensuring the future of Freemasonry. This inclusive approach is working well and I am keen that it continues. 

This is an exciting time for Freemasonry, with several initiatives dealing with future recruitment and retention, as well as business effectiveness in running a large membership organisation. The brief of the newly formed Membership Focus Group is to advise the Board of General Purposes on how best Freemasonry can concentrate the minds of members, lodges, Provinces and Rulers to work in a collaborative, focused manner in stemming the decline in membership and meeting the long-term needs of the Craft. 

The Tercentenary Planning Committee is working with the Board of General Purposes looking at the overall plans for celebrations in 2017. Although there will be a final event in London towards the end of the year, I am determined that the Provinces and Districts run their own celebratory events throughout the year at times convenient to them. 

I have talked about Provincial Grand Masters being involved with helping to set the strategy as members of committees, but wider views are also sought with online surveys that are quick and informative. For example, we ran a survey seeking opinions on communication strategies for the English Constitution. More recently, we had a survey on potential new branding as we move towards 2017.

‘We are working more closely together than at any other time in our history.’

Let us not forget the Districts, which form an important part of the English Constitution. Last year, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, I attended business meetings with groups of District Grand Masters in Trinidad, Harare and Lagos, while the Deputy Grand Master attended the inaugural Asia Oceanic Conference of District Grand Lodges in Kuala Lumpur. In addition, I hold a dedicated meeting for all District Grand Masters who attend the Investitures in April.

As a united English Constitution, we are working more closely together than at any other time in our history. At a strategic level, I believe that continuing to work together will not only stem the decline in membership but also start to increase it to ensure the future of Freemasonry. 

At an individual level, consider the fact that the more members there are, the better chance Grand Lodge has of keeping the dues down.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 17:57

Grand Master's address - April 2014

Craft Annual Investiture 

30 April 2014 
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG 

Brethren, I want to start by saying a very warm welcome to you all, and to thank you for re-electing me as Grand Master at the last meeting in March. I particularly congratulate all those that I have had the pleasure of investing today.

Whether you have been appointed to or promoted in Grand Rank, I want to emphasise that two of your key tasks are recruitment and retention. It has become clear from the research carried out by the Membership Focus Group chaired by the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes that these tasks are more important than ever before. I am particularly concerned to hear that very few members recruit at all, and that there is an unacceptably high loss rate after each of the three degrees and indeed during the first ten years of membership.

The Membership Focus Group has been formed to analyse the statistics and to make proposals to stem the loss of members. It is already clear that the Mentoring Scheme will play a vital role going forward. It is therefore important that Lodge Mentors appoint appropriate personal mentors to look after each new candidate, rather than trying to do all the mentoring themselves. I look to you all, as Grand Officers, supporting the Mentoring Scheme.

Naturally, I expect you will also be good examples to others whatever their rank – not only in your good conduct and supportive approach but also by demonstrating your enjoyment of Freemasonry.

Yesterday evening I hosted a dinner for Provincial and District Grand Masters. The support of and direction from your respective Provincial and District Grand Masters is paramount and I am pleased to hear how closely they, in turn, are working with the Centre, here at Freemasons’ Hall. This inclusive approach is core to the future of the English Constitution.

I continue to hear of the good work done by the Provinces in their local communities and no better example has been the help given to the victims of the recent floods, especially in the West Country. This good work was supported when I recently had the opportunity to visit two Provinces. In Gloucestershire where I also attended their annual service in Gloucester Cathedral and also in Cornwall. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the members I met in both Provinces.

Finally Brethren, I want to express our thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of the impressive ceremony that you have just witnessed, as well as to the Grand Secretary and his staff for all their hard work leading up to today’s investiture.

Published in Speeches
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