Celebrating 300 years

The calling notices for the Investiture meeting on Thursday 20th October were termed 'Special' and how right that proved to be. Many attending would be used to the pomp and ceremony of the annual Provincial Craft and Royal Arch Festivals, but few would have experienced the spectacle served up in the Winter Gardens at Margate that day under the ecellent direction of RWBro Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master, and the careful control of VWBro Oliver Lodge, Grand Director of Ceremonies, and his team. Such a treat has not been served up since 2004 when Michael Robin Bailey was invested, and another is unlikely to be witnessed this decade.

The comment 'that's another one done' was pronounced by one of the distinguished guests on retiring to the East Room after the morning ceremony. He hadn't appreciated that he was passing a secondary staircase which was open to the Kings Hall and his remark was clearly audible to all those assembled within, to their combined amusement. It wasn't just 'another one done' as far as the members of the Province were concerned, it was their Geoffrey Gordon Dearing who had just been invested as Grand Superintendent in and over the Province of East Kent that morning and later after the lunch interval, Provincial Grand Master of East Kent.

The day was very much a Kent affair, as Jonathan Spence reminded the companions and brethren that East Kent is his home Province, he being a member of Pentangle Chapter No. 1174 and Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge No. 4605, both meeting at Gundolph Square, Rochester.

In his addresses Geoffrey Dearing gave tribute to those who had worked to make the day such a success. He acknowledged that he was not yet well known in every Centre in the Province and intended to put that right, but not all at once, so requested all to exercise patience. He remarked that he would never have believed how rapidly one could advance in Freemasonry in just six months!

Friday, 16 September 2011 17:47

WORCESTERSHIRE DIGS DEEP

The Province of Worcestershire celebrated raising over £1.6 million to support the RMTGB at a glittering event attended by more than 700 brethren and their wives and partners.

 

The evening, held at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, marked the conclusion of a five-year Festival Appeal that included many successful initiatives – from a Provincial lottery, which raised £36,500, to the sale of a range of masonic-themed merchandise.

‘The brethren of Worcestershire, and their wives and partners, have dug so deeply and, through their tremendous support, made a real difference to the lives of so many children,’ said RMTGB president Mike Woodcock.

Those present at the event included the Provincial Grand Master for Worcestershire, Richard Goddard, and the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence. Guests were treated to a range of musical entertainment before the result was announced.

Published in RMTGB
Friday, 16 September 2011 15:44

STATE OF THE ART BOOST FOR HEREFORD

Hereford Hospital received a £98,000 ultrasound 4D echocardiogram machine, following a three-year appeal supported by local Freemasons.

Claire Cassidy, the British Heart Foundation fund-raising manager for Hereford and Worcester, said that the machine ‘places Hereford at the forefront of cardiac screening’.

The region has a higher-than-average incidence of heart disease, and the demand for cardiac screenings is on the rise. At the Heartbeat Appeal presentation, Herefordshire Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Reverend David Bowen, expressed his pleasure at local masons’ input.
Friday, 16 September 2011 15:00

Centenary celebrations

As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge

On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.

What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.

LODGE HISTORY

Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.

In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.

By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.

Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.

RAPID EXPANSION

The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.

The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.

The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.

The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.

By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.

ILLUSTRIOUS MEMBERSHIP

As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.

Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 17:48

Deputy Grand Master's address - September 2011

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
14 September 2011
An address by the RW The Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence


Brethren,

It is very good to see you all here today and I hope you have had a very enjoyable and refreshing summer. The summer is not only a time for the re-charging of batteries, but I find it is also a time for reflection and preparation for the challenges ahead. As our Masonic activities begin again for the Autumn I thought it would be appropriate for me to share with you some thoughts on some essential aspects of Pure Antient Masonry, being the Craft and Holy Royal Arch. I am prompted to do this after listening to an interview given by the Grand Chaplain to the BBC in May in which it became clear there are still substantial misunderstandings about the Craft, when frankly there ought not to be.

We need to be absolutely clear when we discuss our Pure Antient Masonry that we belong to a secular organisation, that is to say a non-religious organisation. This was a point made very eloquently by the Grand Chaplain in his interview. It is, however, a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a Supreme Being. As the late and sadly missed Dean Neil Collings so eloquently put it, this gives "a context and background to the individual's way of life as they seek to live it”. Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality; it does not have any sacraments; or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. Freemasonry, in fact, absolutely fails to meet any of the tests of what it is to be a religion, set by the late Reverend Professor John MacQuarrie, former Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford. The fact that men from different faiths can meet easily in harmony and friendship, without compromising their particular religious beliefs, demonstrates that one of the greatest strengths of the Craft, dating from its earliest beginnings, is that of Tolerance. To ensure this tolerance remains untroubled, of course, discussions of religion like discussions of politics are strictly prohibited!

Organised Freemasonry, from its beginnings in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, a time of religious intolerance, was always concerned with teaching and encouraging morality. Our forefathers were very aware of human nature and its flaws, particularly those of self-absorption and selfishness. The Craft sought to encourage men to be loyal to their country, to obey the law, to try to be better behaved, to consider their relations with others and to make themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow men, that is to say their wider communities. In other words, to pursue a moral life. The ceremonies were used as the main means of teaching and illustrating the principles of the Craft: they were, and still very much are, a dramatic and effective set of morality plays.

The Craft, as a secular organisation, remains just as concerned today to encourage these ideals. I suggest that, in today's language, we could articulate the fundamental principles to which our members subscribe as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance. These are principles of which we should be very proud and we should not hesitate to articulate them, when appropriate opportunities present themselves, to our family, friends and, indeed, the wider community in which we live. We should also make it very clear that we very much enjoy ourselves and what we do. I have no doubt our principles will appeal to those who are not masons, if they are aware of them. Once it is clearly understood that the nature of our ritual, often written in an elegant older style of language, is that of a morality play, many of the genuine misunderstandings will fall away.

The future of the Craft is obviously dependent on attracting and retaining good quality candidates. Our principles, I believe, should be attractive to many men of good reputation and integrity. It is very important that we all only recommend to our Lodges men who we know subscribe to our principles, who we believe will enjoy being members of the Craft and who will mix happily with the other members of their individual Lodge.

The other side of this coin is that we should be careful in our choice of candidates. This is something every new Mason is told in the Charge after Initiation and for a very good reason. Unsuitable candidates are likely to damage the Craft in general and their own Lodges in particular.

Every one of us has an important part to play in articulating clearly what the Craft is and encouraging appropriately qualified candidates to be members. To support this, our soon to be announced strategic communications direction, together with the results from the working party on mentoring, will go a long way to help us to speak openly, and in an informed way, about Freemasonry. Our success will help to ensure Freemasonry’s long term future.

Published in Speeches

Burlington Lodge, No. 3975, hosted a momentous event at Bridlington in the Province of Yorkshire North & East Ridings in November, when Past Deputy Grand Master Iain Ross Bryce celebrated his 50 years as a mason.  Joining him for the event were Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson and Past Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton.

Wednesday, 01 December 2010 15:30

Jonathan Spence Visits Durham Home

Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence has visited the Durham Freemasons retirement apartment complex at Boundary Court, Bishop Auckland. He was accompanied by Oliver Lodge, Grand Director of Ceremonies.
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 12:55

David Is New PGM

David Hagger has been installed as Provincial Grand Master for Leicestershire and Rutland by the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence. David is a member of the Royal Arch and the Mark, Royal Ark Mariners, Rose Croix and Red Cross of Constantine.

MASONIC CAREER
1972  Initiated, Highcross Lodge No. 4835
2000  Provincial Grand Secretary
2003  WM, Leicestershire & Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7896
2005  Assistant Provincial Grand Master
2006  Past Senior Grand Deacon
2007  Deputy Provincial Grand Master
2008  Past Grand Sword Bearer

Thursday, 19 April 2007 14:42

Reviewing the Charities

Julian Rees on the Story of Iain Ross Bryce

Iain Ross Bryce, one of the most instantly recognisable figures in English Freemasonry, retired last year after fifteen years as Deputy Grand Master. It is probably fair to say that most Freemasons in England have either met him or heard him speak, but without doubt his lasting legacy to the United Grand Lodge is the way in which he has re-modelled and vitalised the charity system, turning it into a far sleeker, more productive organism than it was.

He was born in Bridlington Yorkshire in 1936 of parents who originated from the Argyll area. He went to school locally, afterwards doing articles to become a Chartered Accountant. In 1958, prior to National Service in 1959, he enrolled in the Territorial Army in a Royal Engineers airborne unit ‘so that I wouldn’t have to go in the Pay Corps or RAF admin.’ and qualified as a parachutist. He stayed on for another twenty years in the Territorial Army. 

In 1960 he was initiated in Burlington Lodge, No. 3975, in Bridlington. This Lodge, founded in 1919, is distinguished by its founders’ jewel being worn with a black ribbon to commemorate the fallen. He was then only twenty-four years old at a time when his father thought he was far too young, and he became Master of the Lodge at the age of thirty-three in 1969. In the same year he became a partner in his firm of Chartered Accountants. The firm was little more than a small town firm, but in time Iain became a Partner in the huge international accounting firm of Ernst and Young. 
Iain had met his future wife, Jan, some years before. They weren’t always close however, and it was only the night before he was commissioned in the army, in 1960, that they became engaged, and married in 1962. His father in law was a Freemason, so there was a great deal of masonic influence on both sides of the family. Jan has had to cope with masonic and military activities throughout their married life. ‘Wives,’ says Iain, ‘have an important part to play in bringing us down to earth.’ 

A Masonic Career

His rise in Freemasonry began when he was made Master of his mother Lodge at its fiftieth anniversary, and Brigadier Claude Fairweather, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire North and East Ridings, was present. Years later Iain got a phone call. It was Claude Fairweather. ‘I want you to do a job,’ he said. What is it? Iain asked. ‘I’ll decide,’ was the reply, ‘will you do it?’ As a result, Iain was duly appointed Provincial Senior Grand Warden at the age of forty-one and appointed Deputy Lieutenant in Yorkshire the same year. 
From Provincial Senior Grand Warden, he became Assistant Provincial Grand Master, and then Deputy Provincial Grand Master. ‘I had only been Deputy for a quarter of an hour, when the then Provincial Grand Master, the Marquess of Zetland, announced that he wanted to retire, and wanted me to take over.’ 
Appointed Provincial Grand Master in 1984 he found the Provincial finances in a shambles, so he appointed a working qualified accountant as Treasurer. He introduced ‘open days’ for lodges, against huge opposition. For this to happen, a lot of work had to be done. Many of the lodge buildings were in a terrible state, dirty, with facilities that didn’t work. 
Many had to be re-decorated. ‘There wasn’t a shortage of money: it was a shortage of attitude. We had huge opposition from those who said “we’ve never done it”. It was easier to say no than yes. Saying yes meant that somebody had to do it.’ 
‘At this time,’ he said, ‘I introduced an eight minute limit on after dinner speeches.’ There was a pause. ‘I later wished I had made it four.’ He also introduced Master Masons conferences and the first one was a sell-out – a huge number attended. 
The idea for these conferences came when Iain and John Hamill were present at one that had been held in Northern Ireland. ‘I’m going to do that,’ he thought. ‘I was frightfully brash – I was a very young Provincial Grand Master.’ 

Royal Masonic Hospital

The then Pro Grand Master, Lord Cornwallis, asked him to chair a committee to look into the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick, and to split the Royal Masonic Hospital from the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. He was given six months to settle it, but achieved it in three. ‘If we don’t get the thing done quickly, we’ll be into the summer, and then nothing will get done,’ he remembers thinking. 
On the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick, there had been a lack of balance. Iain decided on a committee of one each from the Hospital and the RMBI plus a few others, and he got the Chairmen of both the RMBI and the Hospital on his side in this decision. After a few weeks, he told the Grand Master what they were doing, and he was very supportive. The Grand Master said, ‘Will you think about what more we can do for the sick?’ 
The committee concluded, in March 1988, that the RMBI and the Royal Masonic Hospital should each raise its own funds. The Masonic Foundation for the Aged and Sick had to suspend its fund-raising, and the RMBI would have an annual festival. But in order to do more for the sick, Iain, with the then Grand Secretary Michael Higham, set about formalising the haphazard Festival System into a matrix, which now forms the base programme for the Provincial Festivals. 

Deputy Grand Master

In April of that year, Lord Cornwallis, then Pro Grand Master, took him on one side and said ‘You’re going to be Deputy Grand Master’. There was no discussion – the decision had been made, and that was that, although the actual appointment was three years away. 
Lord Cornwallis was very grateful for what the committee had done. They had been swift, but now in addition they had to decide what could be done for the sick. One problem was that the Hospital was a totally commercial enterprise, with its own Samaritan Fund under its wing. The two had to be separated, but by then the Hospital had appointed independent management consultants, so the commmittee had to stand back and wait to see what happened. 
Their conclusions therefore were that the gap between the RMBI and the MTGB had to be filled, that a new Samaritan Fund should be created, the viability of the Hospital should be considered, and the Grand Charity should be asked to review its objectives to help those not supported by the other charities. This second report was thus the embryo of the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, which was founded in 1990. 
Iain was appointed Deputy Grand Master in 1991 and later, when Lord Farnham became ill, Iain deputised for him at home and abroad. After the death of Lord Farnham, Lord Northampton became Pro Grand Master. ‘With his appointment,’ he says, ‘we went down a generation – went down ten years.’ 

Bringing Charities Together

The most tangible result of the second report is bringing all the Charities into Freemasons’ Hall – the administrative costs of the Charities in their present fractured configuration costs several million per year. Iain encouraged the Presidents of the Charities to meet together under his chairmanship. It is a testament to Iain’s skills that they got to know each other better, and when they went back to their council meetings they all knew what the other Charities were doing. Now, for the first time, they share a common responsibility. 
But the paramount benefit of the Bryce committees’ reports was the setting up of the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, with the benefits that flowed to those needing medical treatment. The ground for the setting up of the NMSF was laid on the demise of the Royal Masonic Hospital. 
Iain was also involved, with the other Rulers in Grand Lodge, in the reorganisation of the Board of General Purposes, reducing its number from sixtyplus to twelve. ‘It was,’ he recalls, ‘a little like turkeys voting for Christmas’ but it has led, under its present Chairman Anthony Wilson, to a leaner, more efficient Board 

Freemasonry in his Life

‘I feel very inadequate when trying to explain my personal feelings about Freemasonry.’ It has meant different things to him in each stage of his life, and the meaning behind the words did not at first play a great part. A knowledge of the true secrets of masonry has only come slowly over the years. All the time, without realising it, the experience improved his social skills, awareness of the problems of others and taught him to speak in public. He began to listen to what he was saying and reciting, and absorbed more of the often hidden meanings. This is a common experience. 
‘Representing United Grand Lodge of England all over the world has been a privilege, at times a heavy burden.’ He has, he thinks, that great intangible asset of Freemasonry and its life blood that is fraternity and brotherhood. ‘The phrase from the Ancient Charges “the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance” cannot better express one of the meanings of Freemasonry.’ 
He also strongly believes that Freemasonry is just as relevant today as it always was, especially as it is not a religion but multi-faith. Its relevance is more enhanced as society is becoming more violent and with few moral limitations. It is time, he believes, to engage the minds of academics and the educated to show that Freemasonry does have a purpose and an important part to play in modern society.

Wednesday, 10 March 2004 00:00

Grand Master's address - March 2004

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
10 March 2004
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE GRAND MASTER HRH THE DUKE OF KENT, KG

Brethren,

I am delighted to see so many of you here this morning for this Quarterly Communication and I bid you all a very warm welcome. I thank you all for the honour you have done me by re-electing me as your Grand Master and I look forward to another busy and challenging year at the head of English Freemasonry.

I should like to start by expressing my thanks and that of the Craft to two distinguished Brethren who have just retired from high office.

RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce has been a Grand Officer for 21 years, which includes 8 years as Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings and 12 years as Deputy Grand Master. In addition to the extensive duties attached to the offices he has held, Bro Bryce has spent a considerable amount of his time working with and co-ordinating the Masonic charities. His chairmanship of the Committee which decided the future of the Foundation for the Aged and the Sick in 1988, and of the Sick fund in 1989 which later developed into the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, was followed by his work on creating the Charity Festival matrix in 1992. More recently he chaired the Committee looking at the allocation of Grand and Provincial Ranks. He intends to remain active, you will be pleased to know, in Masonry and is currently the founding Master of Bridlington Bay Lodge, No 9778, which was consecrated in November 2003. Bro Bryce will continue in office as Second Grand Principal in the Royal Arch so his experience and advice will not be lost to us.

RW Bro Earl Cadogan has been a Grand Officer since 1969 when he served as Senior Grand Warden. His 34 years as a Grand Officer include 11 years as President of the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick, 6 years as President of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and 4 years as President of the Board of General Purposes. Bro Lord Cadogan first joined the Board as an appointed member as long ago as 1983. He served on the Finance Committee from then until he became its Chairman in 1991, and relinquished this office only when he became President in 1999, having also acted as Vice-President of the Board in 1991 and 1992.

The Craft owes both these Brethren an immense debt of gratitude for their hard work, which they have undertaken over so many years, and their dedication to Freemasonry. We thank them for everything they have done for us and wish them many more happy and rewarding years in Freemasonry.

Brethren, you will know that I normally attend the Craft Annual Investiture and take the opportunity of addressing Grand Lodge. This year however I shall attend the Annual Investiture of the Royal Arch on 29th April and it is my intention to address Supreme Grand Chapter. I want to take this opportunity, therefore, of dealing with some important issues which affect the Craft in particular.

It was a great pleasure for me to be able to take part in the splendid ceremonies at the Royal Albert Hall last October, setting up both the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London. It was a magnificent occasion and reflects great credit not only on the staff of London Management who worked long hours over many months in preparation for the event, but also the volunteers of the London Grand Rank Association. We also owe a debt of gratitude to those in the Grand Secretary’s office without whose dedication and support no great occasion of Grand Lodge would be possible, and in particular to the Assistant Grand Secretary for his work on the complex changes to the Book of Constitutions. Praise is also due also to Bro John Wright who acted as overall Project Manager, and his team of Stewards under the leadership of Bro Andrew Wigram, and of course to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies, who conducted the ceremonial activities of the day so smoothly.

It will take time for the new structure to bed down because this is the biggest change in Freemasonry for almost 200 years, but there are already welcome signs that a new spirit of co-operation and companionship is beginning to transform the newest Masonic venture into something of which we will be very proud.

The Strategic Working Party, set up by the Pro Grand Master to review the Royal Arch, has worked hard on the proposed revisions, and Grand Lodge has already taken an historic step by adding a paragraph to the “1813 Declaration.” This allows us to recognise, formally, that the Royal Arch is a separate Order of Masonry and will strengthen the status of Supreme Grand Chapter without affecting the relationship of the Royal Arch to the Craft. I know that some of you have expressed concern that this change may tend to weaken those historic ties, but I want very strongly to endorse the phrase used by the Pro Grand Master in his speech last September, when he emphasised that the Royal Arch is to remain “indissolubly linked to the Craft”. There is no compromise here, Brethren: that bond is to remain as strong and as close as ever, and the Royal Arch should be regarded by all as the important final step in pure Antient Freemasonry. I shall have more to say about the future of the Royal Arch at the Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter, but in the meantime I wish to thank all the members of the Strategic Working Party for their hard work.

Support of our Masonic charities has always been one of the Keystones of Freemasonry. It is very important, I believe, that in addition to the great Masonic causes we also reach out to the public and ensure that our charitable giving also extends as well to non-Masonic causes, which indeed is a necessary part of our duty to society. It is vital, nevertheless, that our Masonic Charities have the funds they need to fulfil their primary purpose of looking after our beneficiaries, and that is why I welcome today’s initiative to increase the contribution which we all pay to the Grand Charity.

I have been reflecting on the changes in Masonry since you honoured me 36 years ago by electing me as your Grand Master. Membership during this period has declined, it is true, from its post-war boom back to the levels seen in the interwar years. At the same time the almost obsessive secrecy of the thirty years from the 1950s onwards has been followed by a policy of increasing openness which has encouraged us to be more outward looking.

The consequence of this has been a greater desire to defend ourselves against unwarranted external attack and a willingness to correct malicious falsehoods about the Craft spread by those who do not wish to hear the truth.

The Craft has shown in recent years that it is prepared to adapt itself to the changing circumstances of modern life to a greater degree than ever before in its history. Only thus, as the Royal Arch ritual tells us, can it ‘survive the wreck of mighty empires and resist the destroying hand of time’, and I welcome the flexibility which enables us to react so positively at a time of unparalleled changes in society at large. 

Before closing, I would like as usual, to express our thanks once again to all those who make our meetings run so smoothly, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team who have conducted today’s proceedings with their customary calm competence, and the Grand Secretary and his staff who ensure that our organisation is administered and serviced so efficiently. Finally Brethren I would like to thank all of you who have attended in such large numbers today.

Published in Speeches
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