Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 17:03

Pro Grand Master’s address - September 2010

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

8 SEPTEMBER 2010

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I hope you have all had a good summer and have come back refreshed to start the new Masonic season.

In July we hosted the annual Tripartite meeting with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland. This is always a particularly important meeting, not only to maintain our excellent relations, but because it gives an opportunity to liaise on mutual issues to do with our respective Constitutions around the world. For example – and this is of specific significance to our Districts – the topic of precedence, when the English, Irish and Scottish Constitutions are present, in all scenarios, was discussed in detail. The result is that the Grand Secretary will shortly be writing to all our Districts to give the mutually agreed clarifications.

The Board of General Purposes has set up a Strategic Communications Committee to agree the content and design of the various initiatives to successfully achieve the new communication strategy up to our tercentenary in 2017. The Committee consists of the Craft Rulers, the President and Deputy President of the Board and the Grand Secretary.

One of the core objectives of the communication strategy is to help members to describe Freemasonry openly to anyone who is interested. I know that most Provinces have made advances to help this objective. Although openness has been a feature of our Masonic lives for some time now many members are still not clear about what they can talk about – either because they have not been told or because they have been incorrectly briefed. It is therefore very important, as we set out with this new communications strategy, to give clarity to the important question of ‘what can I talk about?’

The short answer is that there is very little in our Freemasonry that we cannot share with our families, friends and colleagues. Our principles and tenets, our traditions, our charitable activities and our history are all subjects we can share with others – acknowledging that each of us is likely to see freemasonry in slightly different ways because our reaction to it is a very personal one. We can all be helped to talk sensibly about the aspects which attract us. But in sharing them we must have clarity and not use Masonic jargon.

Like most specialist groups Freemasonry has developed its own language, jargon and shorthand phrases. Catch phrases from our ceremonies trip easily off the tongue and in few words convey a wealth of meaning to those who are members – but are meaningless to those who are not. We need to learn to talk about Freemasonry in simple terms without jargon – particularly as its use tends to mystify non-Masons and can, in their minds, strengthen some of the myths that have grown up around Freemasonry. An element of the communications strategy is to dilute the many myths that abound – myths that are still believed by many to be fact.

One of the great myths we need to overcome is that a so-called Masonic “handshake” is given to get business or to do underhand deals. But Brethren, do remember that the signs, grips and words were never intended for casual use in everyday life – they have always been meant to be used deliberately and only in a formal way in Lodge. It is therefore wrong to describe them as recognition signals. Indeed, calling them such simply perpetuates the myth.

Brethren, we are rightly very proud of our Charities and I am strongly in favour of stating publicly all the tremendous good work that emanates from them. However it would be wrong for us to make out that it is our raison d’être. By all means bring them in to any discussions about Freemasonry, but let us not forget that are many and varied other very good reasons for our existence.

The one area we still regard as being private is the detail of our ceremonies. They are not “secret” – the books covering these ceremonies are available for purchase by anyone - nor, as you all well know, do they contain anything untoward. We regard them as being private simply to preserve that “shared experience” we all underwent when we joined Freemasonry, and which is an essential part of our system. Were we to publicly discuss our ceremonies or allow demonstrations of them we would spoil their effect on those who join us in the future and they would be deprived of that “shared experience”. The late Lord Farnham likened the discussing of our rituals with non-Masons to pulling up a prized plant to see how the roots are growing – you will find the answer but in doing so you damage the plant.

As it develops, Brethren, you will hear more about the new communications strategy because the whole Craft will have a part to play in it. It is not simply for Grand Lodge and the Metropolitan, Provincial and District executives to deal with but is one for the whole Craft and, we hope, will help define the future health and happiness of the Craft.

Brethren, you will be aware of the earthquake in New Zealand. Unfortunately it has had a disastrous effect on our Brethren in South Island, many of who have either lost their homes or have had them substantially damaged. Our brethren there need our support and I am pleased to say that the Board of General purposes have agreed to send significant financial assistance, on top of anything the Grand Charity feels that it is able to give, once details of the requirements are known.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 10:54

Pro Grand Master’s address - March 2010

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

10 MARCH 2010

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I believe it appropriate today to inform you of a matter that relates more particularly to the Royal Arch. As you will know the Third Grand Principal, the Very Reverend Neil Collings, has been unwell for over a year and sadly will not be returning to his Masonic duties. At the Convocation in April this year I will be installing his successor as Third Grand Principal.
The Grand Master, in his capacity of First Grand Principal, has decided to appoint the Assistant Grand Master as Third Grand Principal. Right Worshipful Brother David Williamson is, of course, extremely well known and respected in the Royal Arch as well as in the Craft and has frequently carried out Royal Arch duties in his Royal Arch capacity of Past Third Grand Principal.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 10:59

Pro Grand Master’s address - December 2009

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 DECEMBER 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
We have had a fairly full agenda today, with the Grand Charity Meeting and the excellent talk from Bros Hamill and Redman. I shall, therefore, be brief.

Brethren, as I hope they know, our Districts are an immensely important and valued part of UGLE. I hope and believe that communications with our Districts are as good as they have ever been. We are delighted when they visit us, as they frequently do, and we always try to be present with them on important occasions.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 12:02

Pro Grand Master’s address - September 2009

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 SEPTEMBER 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I welcome you to this September Quarterly Communication and I trust you have all had an enjoyable summer.

I am sure that many of you will think that Masonic activity slackens off in July and August. At private Lodge level this may be true, but let me assure you, brethren, we keep going here!

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 June 2009 12:05

Pro Grand Master’s address - June 2009

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

10 JUNE 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
It is not very long since I addressed Grand Lodge at the Annual Investiture and, therefore, I do not want to take up too much of your time today and I will be brief.

I am delighted to see so many of you here today. I expect you had a very difficult journey due to the tube strike and so congratulations to everybody who has fought their way here. It is important that as we are all members of the Grand Charity as many as possible do attend. For your information the annual meeting, usually held in March, will now continue to be part of each June’s Quarterly Communication. In actual fact this is returning to the format that was in place until 1989.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 12:07

Pro Grand Master’s address - April 2009

ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE

29 APRIL 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I trust that you will forgive me if I start with a skiing analogy. Those of you who know me will be aware that when I speak I prefer to go “off piste”. However, today there is an avalanche warning and, as what I am about to say this afternoon will appear on the UGLE website, in Freemasonry Today and in the Minutes of the Meeting, I think that it is best if I stick to the prepared surface.

Brethren the turn out today is, as always, magnificent - from the Provinces, the Districts and, of course, London. In these difficult times it says a great deal about the morale within the Craft that so many travel so far to attend this important meeting. For those not specifically receiving honours today and who come to support their Provincial and District Grand Masters and their friends who are receiving honours, a particularly warm welcome. I assure you that this is greatly appreciated by those at Headquarters.

I must first congratulate all those that I have invested this afternoon. Grand Rank is not only conferred for your past services to the Craft, but equally for the expectation of your future commitment to ensuring that Freemasonry continues to excel.

In his address to Grand Lodge in March, the Grand Master outlined the tremendous work carried out by my predecessor Lord Northampton and I want to put on record my own appreciation of all that he did for Freemasonry over many years and for handing over to me with the Craft in as buoyant a mood as it has been for some years. Don’t misunderstand me, there is still plenty to be done, but I believe it is most important to ensure that all the initiatives that have been started in recent years are given the attention and support that they need to ensure that they have long lasting benefits for the Craft.

Much has been said about the Mentoring Scheme - and rightly so. I want to emphasise the importance of what the Grand Master said in March - that it does not matter how much mentoring we give a new member after he has been initiated, if we don’t ensure that all candidates for initiation have a proper understanding, before they join, of what we expect of them and, indeed, what they can expect from us. If all of us get that right AND we look after them properly once they are members, then we will lose far fewer members in their early months and years and have a much more enlightened and satisfied membership.

Brethren, I don’t believe that there has been any time during my years as a member of the craft (and that is 37 years nearly to the day) when there has been so much pride shown in being a member. Gone are the days when we might shy away from having a conversation with our non-masonic friends about our involvement.

At long last we have the confidence to explain that we expect, and generally speaking get, all our members to behave in a way that benefits society at large. That does not just mean the considerable sums that Freemasonry gives to non-Masonic Charities every year, and we must emphasise that all our members are expected to behave in a civilised, lawful and neighbourly fashion at all times.

We have a strict code of conduct and action is taken if a member steps out of line. This applies to his behaviour in everyday life as well as within the confines of the Craft. Of course, going back to what I have just said, if we vet candidates properly, we will go a long way to reducing the possibility of misconduct.

Our disciplinary procedures are very firm and hopefully fair. Sadly, from time to time, members are expelled or suspended. One of the main issues that is looked at is: “does the Brother’s behaviour bring Freemasonry into disrepute?”

I hope that we would all agree that, if a Brother is behaving in an antisocial or dishonest manner, he is not only bringing this Order into disrepute, but also he is behaving in a way that is unacceptable to society in general. We want all our members to be good members of society and useful in the community. As, in the vast majority of cases, this is exactly what our Brethren are, it naturally follows that we should be very proud to be members of such an organisation.

Finally, Brethren, today does not just happen. A huge amount of organisation is involved. This building is a busy place most days of most weeks and, as you will all have seen today, it really buzzes on a big occasion like this. I am sure you would all like to join with me in thanking the Grand Secretary and his team for the highly efficient way that they have arranged everything for us today.

Brethren, you may not be entirely surprised to hear that both myself and, I suspect, the Deputy Grand Master have been keeping a watchful eye on the ceremonial today with perhaps rather more than just a passing interest. For my part I have only one word to describe it - impeccable. I really do congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for running the show so smoothly.

Published in Speeches

Regular Convocation 
12 November 2008 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal 

Companions, I announced in Grand Lodge in September that I have decided to step down as Pro Grand Master next March and that the Grand Master has been pleased to appoint the Deputy Grand Master to succeed me. He will, therefore, also succeed me as Pro First Grand Principal. I wish Companion Lowndes every success in his new role and I will support him in any way possible.

As this is the last Grand Chapter over which I shall preside as Pro First Grand Principal, I would like to say a few words about the Royal Arch. I have tried over the past eight years to encourage Masons to think of the Order as the climax of Craft Masonry, which it is, but it has been difficult to devote as much time to it as I would have liked when so much of my job as Pro Grand Master has been concerned with Craft Masonry worldwide. That was one of the reasons I was keen to separate the roles of Deputy Grand Master and Second Grand Principal, to make the latter a Companion who would be dedicated solely to the Order. I think Companion Francis is doing an excellent job and I am sure he will continue to devote himself wholeheartedly to the Royal Arch. I have likewise been very fortunate to have Companion Collings as the Third Grand Principal, and there have been many occasions when I have sought his wise counsel. Sadly, he has just had a major operation so he was unable to be with us today. We all wish him well, and a speedy return to full health. Companion Bryce was also a great support to me when he stepped down as Deputy Grand Master but continued as Second Grand Principal.

His knowledge and experience were invaluable during a time of much change.

But for all the efforts that so many Companions have made and continue to make for the good of the Royal Arch, we have to ask ourselves why some of the other side Orders are growing substantially, while the Royal Arch is not. I fully accept that it is not for everyone being a more mystical Order, but that does not explain why much less than half our members join it. I think one of the reasons that it is less popular is that its ritual is profound and few Companions really understand its meaning and purpose. When I chaired the Working Party which I set up to look at ways of making it more intelligible and user-friendly we spent more time discussing the detail of what existed than exploring the possibilities of what, in an ideal world, it might become. There is always a danger that by being too radical one ends up destroying what one is trying to improve, but I think we could have gone further with the revisions and made even more of the important parts of the ceremony for the benefit of our exaltees.

However, the alternative ritual has been adopted by many Chapters and is helping more of us take an active part in the ceremony. Sharing the work with as many Companions as possible is vital for the health of a Chapter. It makes the ceremony more enjoyable for everyone.

There are of course other measures we can adopt, following the report of the Second Grand Principal’s committee. I think it would be a positive step to have a Royal Arch representative in the Lodge who can encourage Brethren to complete their pure Antient Masonry, always bearing in mind that this Order is not for everyone and no undue pressure should ever be exerted. I see no reason why we could not also develop a stand-alone Royal Arch Orator scheme, with short papers on the meaning and relevance of the ritual, but it may be preferable to wait until any teething problems with the Craft equivalent have been resolved.

I do believe we should consider importing the mentoring scheme from the Craft as soon as possible. It must make sense to have a mentor for every exaltee – someone with more experience in the Chapter who can offer guidance, introduce him to the other members and help him to bond with them. Because our Chapters are traditionally smaller than our Lodges, this should make it easier and quicker to get to know everyone.

I hope before long we may also have a Royal Arch tie, which can be worn by Companions in their Lodges. Whatever means we use to promote the Order it is clearly important to maintain strong and close links between the Craft and the Royal Arch, and encourage as many Brethren as possible to complete their pure Antient Masonry.

Companions, I have two people to thank, without whom my tenure as Pro First Grand Principal would not have been possible. The first is my wife, Pamela, who has encouraged me at all times to enjoy my Masonry to the full. Her love, support and commitment to me, and to Freemasonry in general, have made my job that much easier and enjoyable.

The second is of course the ME First Grand Principal for allowing me the opportunity of serving the Craft and Royal Arch as his Pro. He takes a keen personal interest in all things Masonic and his wealth of experience spanning over forty years has been invaluable. We are indeed fortunate to have him as our head and, like him, I believe also that Masonry, above all else, must be enjoyable. And finally Companions, I thank all of you who have supported me in any way.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 September 2008 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2008

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

10 DECEMBER 2008

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master The Most Hon The Marquess of Northampton, DL

Brethren,

I have had the great privilege of being Pro Grand Master since March 2001 and before that I was Assistant Grand Master for five years in charge of London. I have decided that the time has come for me to step down in March and give someone else the chance to steer the Craft for the next few years.

These past eight years have continued a process of great change for English Freemasonry, helping it to come through one of the most difficult periods in its history.

As the Grand Master pointed out recently, we are entering a period of consolidation, and if we continue to build on the foundations of openness we have laid for the 21st century there is every chance that we will start to grow again. I welcome an increase in our numbers as long as we continue to maintain the highest standards and concentrate on the quality of our candidates.

I am pleased to tell you that the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master, to succeed me. He will be installed as Pro Grand Master at the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge in March. He will be succeeded as Deputy Grand Master by RW Bro Jonathan Spence, Grand Director of Ceremonies, and he in turn by W Bro Oliver Lodge, Past Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies. I am pleased to say the Assistant Grand Master will be continuing in office. I shall be presiding at Grand Lodge for the last time in December.

I wish Bro Lowndes every success in his new important role and have every confidence that the Craft will be in very capable hands. For my part I shall continue to enjoy my Masonry, albeit at an easier pace and with less direct responsibility.

I look forward to helping in any way I can to ensure the future good health and happiness of English Freemasonry. It has been an honour to serve the Craft.

Published in Speeches

Annual Investiture 
1 May 2008 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal 

Companions, I welcome you all on this happy occasion and congratulate those that I have had the pleasure of investing with their new ranks. As Grand Officers you have responsibilities to Supreme Grand Chapter. Not least is the responsibility for recruiting and helping to retain new Companions. I impress on you the importance of being able to explain the Royal Arch to potential exaltees as well as demonstrating a clear understanding of the ritual. Your support and encouragement to Companions in your own Chapters, at whatever stage of their progress, will be a key factor in retaining them.

Members of the Craft, who are not members of the Royal Arch, still need a greater awareness of the indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.

Last year I set up a working party under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal to look into the questions of recruitment and retention. One of the recommendations was the appointment of a formal Royal Arch representative in each Lodge. I am pleased to hear that where this has been implemented positive results are being achieved.

Any published figures are a snapshot at the time, but I was delighted to see that there has been an increase in Grand Chapter Certificates presented in 2007. It is encouraging also to see on the Paper of Business that, on this occasion, there were more exaltations during the year than the number of Chapters on the Roll.

The Committee of General Purposes is proposing to publish a booklet on the Royal Arch for new members to explain what the Royal Arch is, a little of its history, how it is organised, how it forms part of “pure antient Masonry” and how it fits into the Masonic system as practised in England and Wales. This was planned originally as part of the changes to the ritual and will soon be finalised. The Committee is also looking at designs for a Royal Arch tie.

The immediate Past Second Grand Principal has just attended the inauguration of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia. We are delighted to have played a part in introducing Royal Arch Masonry into Estonia. This developed when a London Chapter, in difficulties, was approached to be a host Chapter to enable a number of Estonian Brethren, including their Grand Master, to experience the Royal Arch. The influx of Estonians saved the Chapter, warm friendships developed and they were delighted to be included as one of the founding Chapters of the Estonian Grand Chapter. So much so that some of them are going to continue their membership in Estonia.

Most Excellent Companion His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent was installed as First Grand Principal in November 1967, just over forty years ago. Our heartfelt thanks go to him for his contribution throughout those forty years to enhancing the dignity of this beautiful and impressive Order.

I take this opportunity to remind you that all our Companions are entitled to attend Grand Chapter and I hope to see as many as possible at our November meeting.

Finally, Companions, I thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the efficient way they have run the ceremony today and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for organising this successful meeting.

Published in Speeches
Page 13 of 14

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