Speaking at Great Queen Street on 26 April, masonic leaders explained how Freemasonry can grasp success if members can learn to share ideas and work together
William Shakespeare, John F Kennedy and even Steve Jobs all managed to find their way into the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall in a typically entertaining afternoon of speeches at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting.
Before an audience made up of Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, speakers took their turn at the lectern to review the developments in Freemasonry in 2015 and looked forward to an exciting future for the Craft and Royal Arch.
Understandably, the Tercentenary featured heavily, but there was also much to discuss about the recommendations of the Membership Focus Group (MFG) on how best to attract, recruit and retain members at a time when membership has shown a decline. The overall message was overwhelmingly positive, with several new initiatives announced.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes kicked things off by reporting that a four-part television series on Freemasonry is under way. This will be broadcast to coincide with the Tercentenary celebrations and will include the Pro Grand Master’s fly-fishing technique at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight fishing day.
The Pro Grand Master then reported that commemorative paving stones containing the names of Freemasons who received a Victoria Cross (VC)
in World War I would be installed at the front of the Peace Memorial, adding that ‘there are 60 such VCs to be commemorated’. He also encouraged brethren to wear a special commemorative tie and jewel for the celebratory period, and announced that a major charitable gift of £3 million would be distributed by the Masonic Charitable Foundation in the form of 300 grants, allocated according to the outcome of votes cast both by masons and the general public.
The Pro Grand Master felt that the celebration of Grand Lodge’s 300th year is a great opportunity for publicity. ‘The Tercentenary gives us all a chance to reflect on the place of Freemasonry today and the role of our lodge and our brethren,’ he said. ‘This is an opportunity not to be missed and it is up to us to ensure that Freemasonry benefits.’
Facts and figures
Next up was Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), to discuss the 2015 financial accounts and recent BGP initiatives. He revealed a strong yearly surplus generated from investment income, which has supported capital expenditure and the ongoing maintenance required to deal with Regent Street disease (corrosion) at Freemasons’ Hall. Anthony emphasised the importance of the building for filming and events while also being mindful of its core purpose.
The cost of the Tercentenary celebrations were included in the 2016 forecast for the first time, but ‘there would be no call upon members for funds’, as this would be supported by events and reserves. Anthony asked brethren to spread the word about the benefits of the Masonic Insurance Mutual, and, most importantly of all, noted that Freemasonry Today costs less than £1 per member, per issue.
Second Grand Principal Russell Race discussed the ‘encouraging straws in the wind for membership of the Royal Arch’ before Sir David Wootton gave some thoughts on governance – ‘who does what with what authority’ – based on findings from the MFG.
‘If we can bottle the masonic sizzle from the best lodges and spread it around the rest, we can start to address all the issues.’ Michael Ward
Taking up the theme in more detail, Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones explained how ‘we need to build on the work that has been started, moving from securing evidence to emphasising delivery and implementation’. Gareth also talked about the importance of communication and spreading best practice from the Provinces and Districts.
Sir David then announced a proposal to take forward the work of the MFG: this would be a new body of a dozen members who would represent all ‘the talents, geographies and constituent parts of the Craft and Royal Arch’. The hope was to get this up and running by the end of 2017 to ‘develop and embed systems, ensuring that the necessary steps will be taken to continue and enhance Freemasonry’.
Looking after initiates
John Roscoe, an industrial psychologist, then presented the MFG’s findings on the negative effect of un-masonic conduct in lodges. John cited ‘the greatest cause for early dissatisfaction with initiates’ as being a perception of senior members dominating the lodge. He read out a number of testimonies in which masons recounted incidents of brethren being overzealous or overbearing.
John then asked those present to think of three ways to deal with behaviour that is not in keeping with the spirit of Freemasonry. Each table put their heads together to engage with this issue, and there was much debate as solutions were considered.
After a coffee break, PGM for Warwickshire David Macey led a commendation of ADelphi 2, showing some of the possibilities of the new membership database. ‘It’s now working well and is generally very stable. We are continuing to improve performance and security,’ he said. David gave a demonstration
of its promising new dashboard system. ‘The MFG gave us a very clear list of what PGMs and Grand Superintendents need,’ he said, showing how a simple dashboard will allow users to find a summary of every lodge in their Province, showing the 10 best and worst performing lodges, comparisons of members’ ages and contact information.
Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward then gave a careful analysis of the findings of an MFG survey that explored why so many initiates drop out soon after joining and what could be done to counteract this. It was vital, he said, to capitalise on work already done in the Provinces on these issues rather than try to ‘reinvent the wheel’.
Michael discussed what could be done to help lodges that were struggling to attract new members and finished by exhorting that, ‘success is within our grasp. If we can bottle the masonic sizzle from the best lodges and spread it around the rest, we can start to address all the issues. It’s in our hands.’
PGM for East Kent Geoffrey Dearing spoke about the importance of data protection and compliance before Malcolm Aish, President of the Committee of General Purposes, presented the annual report and statistics for the Royal Arch. Malcolm noted the enthusiasm for charitable contributions and also thanked brethren for completing the survey.
Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP Ray Reed then gave highlights from the Craft annual report, showing that new initiates were rising and resignations declining, with the annual membership loss down to 1.65 per cent. Lodges reported an 83 per cent reduction in resignations, while 69 per cent reported increasing initiate figures. Ray singled out areas for improvement, including a willingness to engage with ‘local press, business, civic and religious leaders’ and the importance of attracting and mentoring quality initiates.
Emphasising the need for Provinces to share ideas, Ray concluded by thanking brethren for their ‘support, energy, creativity, hard work and, most importantly, belief in helping make things happen’.
From the Grand Secretary
We have another fascinating issue for you about what is happening in Freemasonry today. The results from the latest survey conducted by the Membership Focus Group concentrate on the joining experience of new members.
The moment that they join is a deeply significant time, and ‘feeling valued as a member’ came out top of the factors that contributed to their overall satisfaction as Freemasons.
It is pleasing, too, to hear about what The Masonic Mutual has achieved in its first year.
This success has been driven by reducing spend, improving available cover, enhancing risk-management practice and establishing a vehicle through which any surpluses generated can be retained for the good of Freemasonry.
As we look forward to the long-term future of Freemasonry, we need to make sure that we are seen by the public as relevant to modern society.
I believe this must continue to be the editorial direction of our magazine, which I hope you will enjoy in this latest issue.
Helping others grow
With Freemasonry sharing many of the same values as the Scouting movement, we find out about the ongoing support that our masonic charities have provided to encourage more young people to join their local groups. Over the past seven years, our grants have been used to pay for Scouting premises and training volunteers, as well as to buy much-needed materials and equipment – all with the aim of helping young people grow and develop.
Across the country, Freemasons and their families are making a difference to the communities they live in. Down in Cornwall, we meet Freemason Roy Newport, who takes retired military personnel out on the open water to help them adjust to life in the ‘normal’ world. Up in Lancashire, we follow the daughter of respected local mason Geoff Cousen as she runs across the Lake District to raise money for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, the charity that supported him after two crippling strokes.
Our piece on the Talking Heads initiative looks at why chapter members have been performing to lodges across the country to explain the progression into Royal Arch. We also interview consultant surgeon Stephen Large about how masonic funding has been crucial to new research that could massively expand the number of donor hearts available for transplantation. At both a local and a national level, these stories reveal Freemasonry at its best, as members provide care, support and inspiration.
‘At both a local and a national level, the stories in this issue of the magazine reveal Freemasonry at its best, as members provide care, support and inspiration.’
Living under one roof
As The Masonic Mutual celebrates its first year, we find out how this alternative to conventional insurance has benefited its members
It’s been an exciting first year for The Masonic Mutual since its launch on 1 July 2014. Founded and run by Freemasons for Freemasonry, its membership is growing, and the high number of enquiries has been keeping Jeff Moore, the Mutual’s first port of call, very busy.
‘The assets and activities of our members are diverse and wide-ranging,’ explains Jeff. ‘Mutual members have many historic and heritage buildings, as well as museums that house rare artefacts and treasures. And along with the more conventional fundraising pursuits, their charitable activities have included things like fire-walking. We have been able to provide better cover, often at reduced costs, and the feedback from members who have filed claims has been consistently positive.’
The Mutual was established by a group of masonic organisations to bring down the total cost of risk to Freemasonry. This is achieved by reducing spend, improving available cover, enhancing risk-management practice, and establishing a vehicle through which any surpluses generated can be retained for the good of Freemasonry.
The voluntary board of Freemasons, which is in overall charge of the Mutual, appointed Regis Mutual Management to look after the business on a day-to-day basis. The board is advised by representatives from Regis, including Jeff Moore and head of underwriting Martin Richards. Both Jeff and Martin are dedicated and enthusiastic masons, as well as seasoned veterans in the insurance market, having more than 75 years’ experience between them.
Robin Furber is Chairman of the board of the Mutual and has worked in various senior roles within the London insurance market. ‘I am delighted to report that the Mutual has performed well this year and am confident it has achieved, if not exceeded, its first year’s aims,’ he says, pointing to the new members who have been able to experience the improved cover and reduced costs first-hand.
‘We have been presented with some sensitive and potentially challenging claims in our first year. These have been handled efficiently and effectively,’ he continues. ‘Regis has provided a smooth and sound administrative framework for our members to access the Mutual. All UK masonic organisations with their own properties are welcome to apply for membership, including those in Scotland.’
In terms of what differentiates the Mutual, Robin singles out the fact that it has no shareholders, enabling it to operate for the long-term good of its members rather than the short-term demands of financial analysts. Owned by its members, who have a say in who is on the board, the Mutual offers tailored cover at prices that can be relied on over the long term. With no insurance brokers’ commissions or fees, or shareholders’ dividends to pay, it is also able to offer broad cover at competitive prices.
‘The Mutual has performed well this year and it has achieved, if not exceeded, its first year’s aims.’ Robin Furber
The flex factor
A charitable, fraternal and member-run organisation, Freemasonry was an obvious candidate for the creation of a mutual mirroring the views, ethos and beliefs of its members. As a mutual, the final decision on claim payments is down to the board – giving it a level of discretion beyond what’s available in the general insurance market. This flexibility ensures that each claim is viewed on an individual basis and the decision-making process is member-focused.
In terms of how the board actually runs the Mutual, membership is restricted to recognised masonic entities. At present, the Mutual is only for masonic organisations that have their own buildings. However, following a high number of requests for quotations, it will soon be offering cover for furniture, regalia and the liabilities of individual lodges or chapters.
‘Some of the largest and smallest masonic organisations have benefited by joining the Mutual, and all have either saved money or been provided with wider cover,’ says Martin. ‘Mutuality works.’
For more information on The Masonic Mutual, visit www.themasonicmutual.com or call Jeff Moore on 01892 893221
Covering everything from grand temples to local masonic halls, The Masonic Mutual offers the opportunity not only to reduce the cost of insurance, but also to explore who owns what when it comes to masonic heritage
‘The challenge is getting people to understand that change can be a good thing,’ says Robin Furber, sitting on the top floor in the Supreme Council’s central London premises. Robin is the chairman of The Masonic Mutual, a new company that went live on 1 July. The Masonic Mutual offers cover for owners and users of masonic buildings and organisations against traditional risks such as fire, flooding, accidental damage and theft, as well as employers, public and products liability.
However, due to the way that The Masonic Mutual is set up, it can offer cover at a competitive price that will potentially decrease as the membership increases and, if income exceeds claims and expenses, can even return the resulting surplus back to its members.
With no shareholders to pay, and being owned by its members, the Mutual already has three big clients on its books: the United Grand Lodge of England and its properties around Freemasons’ Hall in London; the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and all its care homes in England and Wales; and the Supreme Council, with its properties in London’s Duke Street. However, the cover hasn’t been designed solely for large estates, and Robin is now keen to reach out to the Provinces. Any owner of a building used for masonic purposes will be likely to enjoy real benefits from joining the Mutual.
While quality of cover, claims handling and response times are all important factors, Robin accepts that the prime motivator for people changing their insurance will be price: ‘What we’re doing is cutting out a huge amount of cost and we aim to be able to reduce premiums paid to the commercial insurance market by around ten per cent at least. The Mutual has to pay for someone to manage the cover, but it’s nothing like the cost that would be retained by an insurance company to underwrite a risk. The cover wording is also extremely broad, so it should easily accommodate all the usual insurable exposures that the owner or user of a masonic hall is going to face.’
Unlike a normal commercial policy holder, a Mutual member pays into a fund – one that will pay out claims up to a certain level. The fund also pays for a manager’s fee and top-up insurance in the commercial market for any claims that are in excess of the retention that the fund will take. In other words, if any claim or an accumulation of claims goes above a certain level, the excess amount will be covered by a commercial insurance company.
‘Any owner of building used for masonic purposes will be likely to enjoy benefit from joining the Mutual’
Currently, any single claim up to the value of £50,000 is underwritten by the Mutual. To protect the Mutual’s fund from an unexpected series of individual losses, or a single large additional loss, extra protection is bought from the commercial insurance market.
‘As membership of the Mutual increases, our reliance on the commercial market will go down as our buying power increases,’ says Robin. ‘The bigger the bucket, the greater the Mutual’s control of its financial destiny.’
In terms of the potential market, Robin understands that there may be about eight hundred masonic buildings around the UK that are being used for masonic purposes. The launch of the Mutual is also a fantastic opportunity for Provinces to do an inventory of the masonic buildings and other assets in their area.
‘This is going to be an interesting exercise as it encourages those responsible for buildings to look at what they’ve got. We don’t always know who owns the halls and buildings – some are owned by lodges, some by collectives, some by trusts and some by individuals,’ says Robin. ‘I think it will be very useful for Grand Lodge to find out what’s owned by the masonic family.’
With The Masonic Mutual now live, the cover is being marketed to all potential members throughout the Provinces in England and Wales. ‘We don’t expect them just to come to us,’ says Robin, ‘but we’d like them to give us the opportunity to quote for their insurable risks. Stage two will be to offer protection to individual lodges that do not own their own premises.’
Robin is keen to stress that the Mutual is being launched for the benefit of masonry as a whole by providing a good-quality product at a good price by a company that is not shareholder driven. ‘It’s for everyone,’ he says. ‘If we have a good year, we can increase the retention and not pay as much to the commercial market, which will make the cover cheaper.
‘At some stage in the future, it’s also our intention to pay out surpluses based on the amount someone has paid in. It’s a win-win situation.’
For more information visit the Masonic Mutual's website