Former Grand Secretary Jim Daniel was recently made a Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Sheffield for his thesis, The 4th Earl of Carnarvon (1831-90) and Freemasonry in the British Empire.
When in 1989 Jim Daniel was abruptly switched into a second career in masonic administration as Grand Secretary General of the Supreme Council and then Grand Secretary of the UGLE, he became interested in the Ancient and Accepted Rite’s history and its relationship with the Craft.
One of the names in the lists of Sovereign Grand Commanders of the Rite and Rulers of the Craft was that of Lord Carnarvon – not the Carnarvon involved with discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb – but his father, the 4th Earl, whose main residence was Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was recently filmed.
Lord Carnarvon was Grand Master of the Mark and the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council. While he was Secretary of State for the Colonies for the second time, he was appointed Pro Grand Master of the Craft, in which capacity he installed the Prince of Wales as Grand Master in 1875 and presided over UGLE’s decision in 1877, in effect, to break off relations with the Grand Orient of France.
Those few historians who have commented on Freemasonry in the British Empire have tended to argue that it played a crucial role. Daniel, however, concludes that the fact that Victorian politicians like Carnarvon were Freemasons as well as important figures on the imperial stage, does not mean that Freemasonry as an institution had an imperialist agenda or even played a significant part in building and maintaining the British Empire: correlation does not mean causation.
2010 was a busy and exciting year for Freemasonry. We are continuing to work on several initiatives, designed to ensure the future of Freemasonry, particularly on our public relations. You will hear a great deal about this next year but as an example, this issue will be the last one in the present format. Freemasonry Today will have a new look designed to be truly representative of the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England. We want it to be a potentially award-winning magazine and one that your families and friends will enjoy as well as you. The approach will be entirely supportive of our outward-facing ethos – a magazine that you will be proud to have on display in your home.
In this issue you will find an insert for the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. Equally you can find the detail of this and the donation form on both the Supreme Grand Chapter and Grand Charity websites. To quote the First Grand Principal: ‘This campaign gives us an excellent opportunity to contribute further towards something that is helping to save lives and improve the quality of life for us, our children and grandchildren’.
The Pro Grand Master referred to our visit to the eighth regional conference of the District Grand Masters of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic in Barbados in his speech at the December Quarterly Communication. He also mentioned that we were caught in Hurricane Tomas – the first time that the island has been hit since 1955! I write this column in Chennai in the fervent hope that the monsoons will not delay my return for Christmas.
I wish you all, on behalf of the Grand Lodge team, a happy and enjoyable 2011.
We were all delighted to receive from the Pro Grand Master such clear direction on how we should communicate our Freemasonry in his speech at the September Quarterly Communication. His remarks are summarised below and represent true leadership on a subject that up to now has been confusing to many members. His speech is also very timely as I have now completed a detailed study, with the help of all Provincial Grand Masters, on the initiatives used by them to assist their members to communicate with family, friends and acquaintances. We will continue to build our strategy on the good work they have already achieved.
Additionally, the communication strategy which takes us up to 2017, will now be approved by a body of the highest level consisting of the Craft Rulers, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes and the Grand Secretary.
So you will have the confidence that all the initiatives contained in the strategy will first be approved by our leaders and that they are specifically designed to make sure that Freemasonry has a long-term future in this ever changing world. It is designed to give you as individuals clarity on what you talk about and the plain English to do so.
You will have heard of the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. This has affected all our Brethren from the District of New Zealand South Island who live in that general area. I am told some 100,000 homes were hit and the miracle is that nobody was killed. Our members’ homes had variable damage from cracks throughout and broken china to total destruction. The Grand Charity and Board of General Purposes have taken action, including a donation to the Mayor’s Fund from the Grand Charity, for immediate relief for the people of Christchurch. We have also sent messages of support and brotherly love from all of us in the rest of the English Constitution.
The pictures at the top of each of the next two pages, represent two aspects of my recent trip to South Africa, when I accompanied the Pro Grand Master. One shows us with the District Grand Masters of Southern Africa and the second, the plane that we flew in on the last leg of our adventurous trip back – beating the volcanic ash. We arrived in South Africa before the volcanic eruption, first visiting our Brethren in KwaZulu-Natal, before moving to Johannesburg to install the new District Grand Master for South Africa North. This was also the opportunity to run a business meeting for District Grand Masters attending.
The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that the Pro Grand Master is wearing the regalia of a Past District Grand Master and I that of a Past Grand Deacon. This was because the two Deputies who were to bring out the regalia were unable to leave the UK due to the imposed flight restrictions. For the purists amongst you it is perfectly correct, in these circumstances, to wear the regalia of an appointment junior to your own. I hope I have saved a lot of letter writing having pointed this out!
The challenge of returning to England represented, for me, the very essence of the true meaning of support. Our challenge was to return to England and in time for the Annual Investitures. Clearly our return flight had been cancelled as were all the subsequent flights we had been booked on by one of our brethren via for example Namibia, Dubai, Malta, Casablanca and Tripoli. Eventually, one of the flights on Air Angola via Luanda to Lisbon had clearance.
We were rushed to the airport and I rapidly wrote on the back of an envelope the flight details as there was no time to even collect our e-tickets. We were somewhat surprised that the flight took off an hour and a half early but at least we made it! In Luanda we went to collect our baggage when they demanded visas which, as we were in transit, we did not have.
They promptly confiscated our passports and after ages eventually, under escort, allowed us to collect our cases. Security checks abounded when we, at last, arrived to a point where the check-in desks were in sight and demanded to see our tickets. Etickets were not in their vocabulary and the production of our flight details on the back of my envelope did not seem to do the trick. After some considerable diplomatic negotiation we were checked onto the flight to Lisbon, and not knowing to the last minute whether we would be diverted because of the ash, we arrived in Lisbon.
As Lisbon is in our Inspectorate of Portugal it was arranged for one of our brethren to drive us ten hours up to Bilbao, where another of our brethren flew over to pick us up in his twin-engine propeller plane. We landed on a grass airfield in Essex where the accompanying photograph was taken. Needless to say, one of the rumours is that we flew back from South Africa on a private jet! Our grateful thanks for the wonderful support we had.
Many of you would have seen the recent article in The Times explaining that I am the new public face of Freemasonry.
Overall it was a well balanced piece with great publicity for our open policy.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Freemasonry was run discreetly, like a private gentleman’s club and the Grand Secretary seemed a distant, even aloof, figure gazing down from privileged heights. But no longer: Freemasonry is now run as a modern business and the Grand Secretary is a hands-on chief executive but accountable, not to shareholders, but to a large and diverse membership. It is a job needing skill, business acumen and diplomacy.
It seemed right, at a time when important changes are taking place amongst our rulers, that I should speak with Nigel Brown, Grand Secretary, about the changes in the administration of Grand Lodge since he was appointed and the plans for the future which he is tasked with implementing.
The first thing, he explained, was to understand that Grand Lodge was the centre of a large and dynamic international network of Freemasons.
As an example he mentioned the trip he recently made to Singapore to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the District of the Eastern Archipelago - which covers masonic lodges of the English Jurisdiction in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. This was an important milestone and celebrated not only the District’s longstanding success but 150 years of contribution to the local communities.
Many District Grand Masters from other areas were present and so he took the opportunity to chair business meetings to ascertain how well they are supported by Grand Lodge and how easily can they communicate their needs and concerns.
‘The Districts have long supported us and we need to demonstrate that we are constantly supporting them,’ he explained.
‘The Districts are a good example of the dynamic network of Freemasonry founded upon a shared moral understanding which, far from being anachronistic, is actually the way forward in the twenty-first century.’
‘In England and Wales we are increasingly dealing with a diverse population and Freemasonry could not be better placed to support and promote an understanding of that diversity since, in the end, what we are looking for are men of quality.’
‘And how would you define quality?’
‘People who understand the need for mutual respect of each other, who seek to become better men themselves and who understand that the community is better served by an active participation without expecting any reward. Therefore the need to select candidates of quality is essential.’
‘In Singapore, almost seven thousand miles away, I was heartened to find myself in the company of just such men of quality who selflessly give to their local community as we do here in England and Wales.’
The Administration of Freemasonry
The precise role of a Grand Secretary is to represent the Rulers - the Grand Master, Pro-Grand Master and his Deputy and Assistant - and the executives, the Board of General Purposes. He is rather like an honest broker to both these groups, advising them on all situations which arise. His task is also to implement whatever action they decide as a result of that advice.
‘So that takes care of missives from the top down,’ I commented on hearing this explanation, ‘what about concerns from the bottom up?’
‘We needed to reorganise the staff in Grand Lodge to create clear communication lines in order that Provincial, District and individual concerns can quickly be addressed by the right people and in a timely manner.’
‘At the beginning of my appointment one of the first objectives I was given was to make sure that Grand Lodge was run as a business. Of importance was the need to focus on an ease and efficiency of communication.’
‘Lord Northampton has been an enormous influence and working with him has been a very constructive experience. He was the right man in the right place and right time, the catalyst driving all these major initiatives vital for us to be a member of the twenty-first century.’
‘You have been Grand Secretary now for two years. How well have these objective been met?’
‘We are well on the way to achieving them. In fulfilling this remit the first organisational changes were made after my first six months in office and on behalf of the Board. I now have a clear understanding of what still remains to be put in place.’
The two main changes which were made were firstly to address the problem that Grand Lodge operated like a series of independent entities and that sometimes Provinces and Districts were not receiving the attention they deserved. Grand Lodge needed to understand fully what it was required to provide to Provinces and Districts and so a close analysis was made of the relationships.
At the same time Nigel Brown travelled around the Provinces and Districts with the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, to be introduced to the Provincial Grand Masters and hear directly their concerns and requirements.
As Grand Scribe E he also performed the same task for the Royal Arch. ‘One of the great decisions to allow me the time to concentrate on Provinces and Districts was the appointment of the Grand Chancellor. We have regular meetings and discuss any matters which might impact on the Districts. There can be issues between Districts under our jurisdiction and a sovereign Grand Lodge in the same country but, to date, all such issues have been resolved.’
Initiatives for the twenty-first century
One important recent success has been the Library and Museum Trust which has been transformed under the direction of Diane Clements. It has achieved official recognition by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council for its displays, comprehensive holdings and research.
Freemasonry has also been capitalising on the extraordinary nature and architecture of Freemasons’ Hall itself which is now listed among the ‘Unique venues of London’.
Shows, concerts, lectures and presentations have all been held here and, as most will now know, it is also used as a film and television location - most notably in recent years as the headquarters of the Intelligence agency featured in the Television series ‘Spooks’.
A major initiative about to bear fruit is the new United Grand Lodge of England website which is designed to be extremely easy to access and explore and will be regularly updated. It should provide everything anyone needs to know about Freemasonry and is designed particularly for the under-forty-five age-group both for members interested in Freemasonry and those thinking of joining. It will make it clear that Freemasonry is founded on Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and explain what that means in a twenty-first century context. In this way it will underpin English and Welsh Freemasonry’s desire for more open communication.
‘But what then should we keep to ourselves?’
‘The only things we wish to keep private are the modes of recognition which might be required when entering a lodge of which you are not a member. Of course, there should be an element of mystery about the rituals but it is not exactly secret since ritual books are freely available. Of course, reading the ritual is one thing, being part of it is another. What really counts is the felt experience of the ceremonies.’
‘One word we do not like is ‘secret’ for there are no secrets in Freemasonry. Nevertheless, at its heart is that great mystery of what it truly means to be human in an uncertain world and our ceremonies are a personal journey of discovery deep into this often uncharted region. Here, the recently introduced Orator and Mentoring programmes are important for they are focused upon the help, advice and support of those who choose to make the masonic journey.’
‘To have respect for others, give to the community and to journey towards insight and wisdom is to fully adopt those fundamental and ancient masonic principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth which have served Freemasonry since time immemorial and which will serve Freemasonry just as well into the future.’
NIGEL BROWN: GRAND SECRETARY
Born in Northern Rhodesia in 1948. Educated in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, he entered the British Army and after graduating from Sandhurst joined the Grenadier Guards with whom he served in Northern Ireland, British Honduras, Kenya and Cyprus. He was an instructor at the School of Infantry and commander of the Queen’s Company. After leaving the army he first entered financial publishing then later ran a company advising clients on winning global tenders.
10 MARCH 2010
A speech by the VW The Grand Secretary Nigel Brown
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren,
On the 27 April this year, the day before the Annual Craft Investitures, the Pro Grand Master has made the decision to hold – for the first time – a business meeting here specifically for all District Grand Masters. This is a clear sign of the importance we attach to supporting our Districts and the Board of General Purposes felt it important for me to give a short talk today on both why the Districts are important to us at Grand Lodge as well as to all their members.
I am pleased to let you know that, in my capacity of head of Grand Lodge Communications, I am now the Publishing Co-ordinator for the magazine. This means that, for the first time since the merger, the magazine is being entirely run from Great Queen Street. It also successfully completes the merger. Be assured that we will be looking at constantly improving Freemasonry Today and its website. In January I accompanied the Assistant Grand Master to Montreal for the installation of the new Grand Inspector for Montreal and Halifax. This was a very happy occasion and a pleasure to meet many of our Canadian Brethren (see p.22). In February we ran the second Mentoring conference. I was impressed by the outstanding turnout of the Metropolitan and Provincial Mentors. The Scheme – essential to the future – is going from strength to strength.
What is particularly heart-warming is to see the co-operation between Mentors as well as the huge success of the Regional Discussion Groups. I have agreed that we host next years’ meeting – again at Grand Lodge.
You have often read about our strong support for the Districts. This year the Pro Grand Master is running a business meeting for all District Grand Masters, the day before the Annual Investitures. This prompted a talk about our Districts at the March Quarterly Communication, which the Editor has reproduced in this issue (see p8).
Many of you would have seen my appearance on Tony Robinson’s Channel 4 programme entitled Decoded: Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol. Five hours of filming with six minutes of valuable air time.
The majority feedback is that people were pleasantly surprised at the openness and that the programme has done us a great deal of good. You may also have seen the new Sherlock Holmes film with Robert Downey and Jude Law and the very recently released film The Green Zone with Matt Damon.
Both these Hollywood blockbusters had sections filmed here at Freemasons’ Hall.
Interestingly, we are looking at the messages that will take us forward to 2017 and beyond. We have many great messages to be proud of and we will not forget to stress that, for most of us, it is primarily about enjoyment and friendship. Don’t you agree?
The second national Masonic Mentoring conference was hosted by Grand Lodge at Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street on Wednesday, 10th February. Provinces and Districts were well represented, with delegates contributing from almost every Craft Province, the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and from Districts overseas, including the Eastern Archipelago and South Africa. A variety of perspectives were shared throughout the day, never with a shortage of discussion.
Proceedings were opened with an address from the Grand Secretary, who described the importance of equipping our members to act as advocates and ambassadors of the Craft. The opening address was followed by a key note presentation by W Bro Stuart Esworthy PPrSGW(Warks), titled 'The Values and Expectations of the 21st Century Mason', assessing the characteristics and nature of the Craft that may attract prospective candidates in the early 21st century.
Following the opening sessions, W Bro David Wilkinson PDGSuptWk, Metropolitan Grand Inspector and W Bro Jon Leech, MetGMen, presented the Metropolitan Grand Lodge’s Training of Mentors in London. W Bro Jon Leech also shared the Metropolitan Grand Lodge’s Initiate’s Guide, Guide for Royal Arch Masons and Mentoring Officer’s Guidance.
Lunch provided an opportunity to meet other Mentors, share experiences and browse a wide range of Mentors’ and Candidates’ support materials brought to the Conference by the delegates.
W Bro Gary Brown, ProvGStwd(Yorks W Riding) and W Bro David Loy PM ably tackled the after lunch session, energising the audience with an imaginative presentation of Masonry Matters, the Province’s successful, new initiatives enthusing new Masons, sharing ideas between Lodges and providing important, stimulating roles for new Past Masters .
The day concluded with a look at the year ahead from the national coordinator, W Bro James Bartlett, PJGD. The delegates discussed the 3R Library, the role of the Internet in attracting prospective candidates, recruitment materials and enthusiastically endorsed a further national conference in 2011, together with more regional meetings.
I am happy to report that we have been continuing to make great progress in many areas since my last column. For example, our noted success with the Ministry of Justice who will now no longer discriminate against Freemasons. Can I just emphasise the fact that we are all extremely happy, when appropriate, to declare our membership to anyone.
However, to quote the Pro Grand Master: ‘provided that those requiring the disclosure are even minded, make the same requirements of all other organisations and do not single us out’. As I have said before – we will stand no nonsense and we will deal with any other discrimination in the government, local authorities, other parts of the public sector and anywhere else.
On behalf of the Board of General Purposes I have appointed a new public relations agency who will help us to drive forward our new and dynamic strategic communication plans towards 2017 and beyond.
As you would expect, this plan contains our open approach towards the press, media and the community as a whole. What you might not have expected is that, though this is mission critical, the education of our members is considered that much more important to our communications success.
We need each of you to be an ambassador for freemasonry, with the ability to talk to anyone about the masonic world, backed up by knowledge. You will know that one of the working tools, the chisel, points out the importance of education. I am very excited about our plans and I feel invigorated about the future.
You will have heard that I accompanied the Pro Grand Master on his visit to the South Island, New Zealand, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the District. A street march – a first for me – and a cathedral service, both in full regalia, were two truly memorable occasions.
2009 has gone in a flash. I am sure you have found the same! My team at Grand Lodge and I look forward to 2010 and to continuing to work tirelessly on your behalf and for the good of freemasonry in general. I know you would want me to thank them for all their work. Finally, I send you and your families all my fraternal best wishes.
9 September 2009
A speech by the VW Grand Secretary Nigel Brown
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren. ‘Building Bridges – Freemasons’ Hall in the 21st Century’. You may think that this talk is about operative masonry and with some justification as we have recently successfully completed the building of four fire bridges at the east end of this fine Grand Temple. Built to the satisfaction of English Heritage and do have a look when you ever have a moment, at the way the bridges are appropriately adorned with squares and compasses. But the talk is not about that. Nor is it about the opening up of all the sealed entrances to the Connaught Rooms.
If you would allow some poetic licence, the building of bridges between us and what is from this day forth to be known as the Grand Connaught Rooms. As the President just announced the lease is being granted by the Board of General Purposes with definite benefits to the United Grand Lodge of England. The new people – the Principal Hayley Group - have, since the beginning of July, been completely refurbishing the Building to bring it back to its former glory – working literally day and night – at their expense – gutting the building, and for example, installing new kitchens, so the food will be cooked on site served by people who know what they are doing as well as new wiring, lifts and loos. They are spending over five million on the work. It is all exhilarating and inspiring. They have worked tirelessly to have the Grand Hall – now once again one of the most impressive banqueting rooms in London - ready for today’s lunch. All the rest of the major refurbishment works are to be completed by the end of September. So they ask for patience until that time. By the way, do look at the uncovered Masonic black and white marbled floor. The proof of the pudding will, quite literally, be in the eating. However if their rapidly growing order book is anything to go by, people are intending to return in droves. It is clear from our discussions that they are taking the trouble to understand our needs – and see us Masons as valued customers – unlike their predecessors.
However it is the speculative side of building bridges that this talk is all about. Building bridges from here, at Freemasons’ Hall, with both the non Masonic and Masonic community. First then, building bridges with non Masons. Having now seen all the Provincial Information Officers in a series of regional meetings – the one consistent request is for another Freemasonry in the community event. In fact, we all know that Freemasons should always be actively working in their communities. A great example is when Provinces have a stand at county shows – not only being manned by Freemasons of all ages but especially when wives and partners are part of the team. Grand Lodge has done its bit since the last Freemasonry in the community in 2002 – predominantly by allowing Freemasons’ Hall to be used more extensively than before – as a conscious implementation of strategy - and having a policy of open communications in all our dealings. That strategy has meant that we have moved to a position of respect within the local community. We liaise successfully with all the local residents’ associations as well as with Camden and Westminster Councils. Examples of building bridges are holding open days for locals – in fact on the 19 September it is ‘open house’ for all major buildings in London and on previous form we expect some two and a half thousand visitors on the day. Then we host the ‘In and around Covent Garden’ Annual General Meeting and on the 11th September Camden has invited us to participate in the opening of the new Piazza outside here in Great Queen Street. The opening ceremony will take place at the Tower Entrance. They also see us as the iconic building for the area. However that is all very well – what we actually want is for all members, wherever they are, to see the building as important to and representative of the whole English Constitution. The fact is that it is owned by all members, not just those from London. This wonderful building completed in 1933 as a peace memorial to all those Masons who died in the First World War is still, in the 21st century, one of the finest art deco buildings and is rated as a Grade II* building internally and externally. The actual shrine is a focal point and is situated at the West end of the Vestibule area showing the names of those who died, linked to Lodges throughout the Constitution. Brethren, let us also see this shrine as a continuing memorial to those Freemasons who have died, in the loyal service to their country, in all the wars since the First World War. In that context, it is heart warming to see the high level of support from Freemasons to families of those who have been killed or to very seriously injured soldiers themselves in Afghanistan, in the most ferocious fighting since the Second World War.
Our highly successful events go from strength to strength with thousands of people coming through our doors each year. This is in addition to all those who come on our regular tours of the Building and visit our centre of excellence, the Library and Museum. We are therefore talking about people who would otherwise never come in or know anything about Freemasonry. Freemasons’ Hall has been appointed a Unique Venue of London. The rigorous membership criteria means we are considered to be representative of London and an important building alongside, for example St Pauls or the Natural History Museum. Indeed, for the last three years we have been nominated by the events industry as one of the top locations for availability, accessibility and services offered to film makers. Freemasons’ Hall is our 21st Century brand name and we are highly respected within the events industry.
For film makers, this is a designers’ paradise. Both for television series and Hollywood blockbusters. Then there are the award ceremonies and the list is long. We highlight the Gala Dinner for the London Philharmonic Orchestra – the Grand Master being their patron. A pre dinner recital in the Grand Temple was breathtaking and the Artistic Director remarked that the acoustics in here were ‘perfect’. By letting them have the Hall free for the evening we are shown as sponsors for the whole year on their promotional material. As an aside, they raised seventy three thousand pounds for their own charity that evening. This charity allows under privileged children from all over the Country the opportunity to come and listen to live orchestras. We are very careful about whom we let hire the venue and indeed are keen never to interrupt Masonic activities. However I will mention amusingly that Tesco’s recently came to display the items that are going to appear in their shops at Christmas. Although rather surreal at this time of the year, the marvellous thing was that we had five hundred journalists in over two days – none of whom thought they were allowed in and all of whom were wowed by the fantastic building. Clearly the revenue stream is important – we have raised a great deal of money to maintain the fabric of the building – and another real benefit is the soft PR for the Craft as a whole.
Then we have built bridges with the four Masonic Charities all of whom, as you know, have moved into the building and it is a great delight to see how they are now working together and with us, again to the benefit of the Craft. We are also delighted that over this very summer the Metropolitan Grand Lodge has also moved into the building and into the space previously occupied by the Grand Charity.
Secondly, as part of building bridges with our membership it is important that we stay very close to Metropolitan, the Provinces and Districts. These relationships are very important to us and they grow stronger each day. Apart from the reality of geographical spread in England, Wales and abroad, everyone here considers you all of equal importance. It is also important that all our members throughout this geographical spread appreciate the vital role that this iconic building, the Mother Lodge of the World and the Headquarters of the English Constitution, plays to Freemasonry in general and to them specifically. Indeed, Brethren from our Districts and from all over the world view a visit to this building as a highlight to their stay in London. First and foremost, this is a working building, from where a vast membership organisation is run on 21st century business lines. Apart from the running of the business of Freemasons’ Hall we link to Metropolitan Grand Lodge, to 47 Provinces in England and Wales, to 33 District Grand Lodges around the world, to 5 groups under Grand Inspectors as well as to lodges abroad not under Districts or Grand Inspectors. That is well over 8,300 Lodges and now couple this with the Royal Arch which is also run from here, gives us a total of over 11,600 Lodges and Chapters. Or, to put it another way, over a quarter of a million members.
As you can imagine there is a huge volume of correspondence and of course, in this day and age, an increasing amount of electronic mail. Hundreds a day, many requiring considered advice and guidance on a vast range of technical Masonic issues. Some say ‘why don’t you have standard responses?’ Well, Freemasons can be ingenious – they think of ninety ways to ask the same question – all with a twist!
Then there are, just by way of a snapshot, the Board of General Purposes and Committee of General Purposes meetings covering for example strategic and investment decisions; conferences; the Rulers’ Forum with representatives from all the Provinces; the provision to all the Provinces - and increasingly to the Districts – of a standardised and integrated system for maintaining membership data called Provincial ADelphi; the writing, production and distribution of Freemasonry Today; initiatives such as mentoring, orator schemes and new websites, monitoring national and all local newspapers and dealing with the press and giving advice on media issues. Brethren, on that subject, our relations with the media have improved dramatically through the efforts of the Provincial Information Officers and from here. We will take no nonsense from any detractor. Interestingly, this considered approach has earned Freemasonry considerable respect and us – many new friends. That snapshot, that flavour of a few of the things we do, is for the good of all members. Things like today’s Quarterly Communication, or Supreme Grand Chapter and Investitures do not just happen. They all have to be organised and staffed. Just think what it is like for a Lodge Secretary to run one meeting and then compare, no, we need say no more – you have got the picture! Don’t forget we also work closely with Provinces and Districts with their activities including the installation of Provincial or District Grand Masters, bi-centenaries, centenaries and business meetings throughout the Constitution.
The Centre here is in many ways a clearing house, giving advice and guidance when asked for. Having said that, we do initiate change and our great strength is adaptability. Whether from 1717 or 1813 it has been our ability to adapt to the society in which we are living without changing the basic principles and tenets.
At the same time we will continue to keep the building up-to-date and in good order. This means that the building remains a prestige venue and commercially viable.
So, Brethren, with the leadership of our Rulers and the direction of the Board we will together continue to build and strengthen those bridges as we move happily forward from a strong base towards our three hundredth anniversary in 2017 and beyond. We commend to every single member, wherever you are, the true value of Freemasons’ Hall and all it stands for in the 21st Century.