Celebrating 300 years

Regular Convocation 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2014

Quarterly Communication

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

Brethren, at the Quarterly Communication held on the second of September 1914, one hundred years ago, the First World War had been underway for just under a month. Thinking back to that time, your predecessors would have known that, even in that short time, the German Army had already defeated the Russian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg and the French and British armies were in fierce contact with the German advance in the South of Belgium.

That Quarterly Communication was presided over by Sir Frederick Halsey as Deputy Grand Master as the then Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Connaught and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill were away serving their country. 

Sir Frederick, in proposing the motion that ‘Grand Lodge expresses the deep appreciation of the loyal and devoted service now being rendered to our country by HRH the MW Grand Master, the MW Pro Grand Master, and very many other Brethren of all ranks in the Craft, and its earnest prayer for their continued well-being’, went on to say – amongst other things – that it was a time of great anxiety and that every Grand Officer would carry out their work without panic and alarm and show that calmness and confidence which animates the breast of every Englishman and mason.

He added, ‘our hearts go out to our friends and relations, to our dear ones, both in the Craft and outside it, who are now serving their country at the call of duty; our prayers follow them, and we trust that before long, in the mercy of the Great Architect of the Universe, they may emerge from this present struggle safe and sound’.

Sadly over 3,300 masons, serving in the four fighting services Army, Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Flying Corps never made it home. This fine building was created as a peace memorial dedicated to them and I trust you will have all seen the magnificent memorial window at the end of the vestibules beyond those doors and which have been recently restored thanks to the generosity of London Lodges and Chapters as well as individuals coordinated by Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter, and below it, the bronze shrine containing the Roll of Honour parchment scroll honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the service of their country. We should not forget that many sons and grandsons of members were killed – many of whom would have been potential members.

The Library and Museum at Freemasons’ Hall has an exhibition entitled, ‘English Freemasonry and the First world War’ starting next week and which will go on until the beginning of March next year. This major exhibition tells the story of the organisation and members during the First World War and, for example, it explores how lodges coped with members being called up to fight. 

Brethren, brotherly love remains as important in today’s world as it did in those dark days of great anxiety in the First World War. To exercise kindness, tolerance and charitable support – and to feel deeply interested in the welfare of others – is a source of the greatest happiness and satisfaction in every situation in life. It is, I believe, of the utmost importance today to ensure our long term survival but I am concerned that we are, surprisingly, not always seen internally as a caring organisation with junior members too often marginalised and unsupported. This must change and it is the responsibility of every member to help to retain those of integrity within their Lodges by making them feel included and cared for. By so doing we will ensure that they will gain the same fulfilment and satisfaction from their masonry that we have all been lucky enough to enjoy.

Published in Speeches

Time to deliver

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why masonic ritual needs to involve a proper understanding of what’s being said rather than simply reciting the words on a page

Over the past year or two there has been a certain amount of correspondence in the various masonic magazines regarding the pros and cons of reading, rather than reciting, our ritual.

One correspondent suggested that, as ritual was read throughout European Grand Lodges, we should follow. I am not sure all our politicians would agree with that. Certainly, it is true that reading ritual is prevalent in many European Grand Lodges. However, it’s not universally so and, in any event, there is no good reason for us to follow their example. Indeed, I have many friends in European Lodges who envy the way we deliver our ritual.

You will note that I said that they are envious of the way we ‘deliver’ our ritual. In my experience, ritual that is recited has much greater meaning to the candidate than ritual that is read, although I am pleased to say that I have not been present on many occasions that it has been read.

I entirely accept that learning ritual is time consuming. But how often is it true that the busiest people are those who find the time to learn it?

I am not going to pretend that I have ever found ritual learning easy, and, as time goes by, I find learning new ritual more difficult. Nonetheless, I shall never forget the satisfaction of carrying out a Second Degree ceremony at the first meeting that I was in the chair of my mother lodge. To be told by an extremely demanding Director of Ceremonies that it had been adequate was as good as it gets! This was a great deal more complimentary than anything he ever said to me during the year that he taught me classics.

‘Our ritual is to be treasured, and there are few better experiences than seeing and hearing a really well-conducted masonic ceremony.’

By definition, reading means looking at the book. If the deliverer is looking at the book, he is not looking at the candidate or the brethren to whom he is speaking. To read a text well is a skill that not everyone has. Good reading needs preparation and unless our ritual is understood by the deliverer, what chance is there that it will be understood by the recipient? For the reader to have a good understanding of what he is saying, he will need to have read through the text on several occasions. 

Our ritual is to be treasured, and there are few better experiences than seeing and hearing a really well-conducted masonic ceremony. One of the prime reasons that lodges are being encouraged to share the workload is so that members can spend time really learning and understanding what they are delivering and not just reciting ritual parrot fashion.

It is inevitable that some members will find ritual easier than others, and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that as much help as possible is given to those who need it.

I don’t expect what I have said here to be universally accepted, but I would be surprised if the majority of our members do not agree with at least part of it.

Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Reading matters

Sir,

I read with interest John Salisbury’s letter in the last issue of Freemasonry Today. 

I have to say I disagree with his view, in that over the past few years I have seen increasing numbers of masons reading ritual during ceremonies. I have to say on a number of these occasions they have been read extremely badly.

I never like to see people read ritual. 

I have been through the chair and will do so again next year. I also hold down an extremely busy and complicated professional working career. However, I have adapted to find regular daily time to learn ritual, in the car to and from work.

Even coming out of the chair I have continued to learn other new ritual pieces and am thus progressing my daily advancement in masonic knowledge. Freemasons need to be aware of the responsibility of taking on roles in the lodge and the responsibility to learn for these roles. If they struggle then maybe we should be assisting them to learn a small part well and getting other members of the lodge who don’t struggle to do the longer, more complicated pieces.

We should resist a radical move to reading ritual and focus on ways to help those who struggle to undertake small pieces well. 

Rhys Maybrey, St Cuthbert Lodge, No. 3417, Darlington, Durham


Sir,

As much as I enjoy the challenge of learning and delivering our ‘plays’ (for that is truly what they could be called), I have to bear in mind the time it takes to learn them. Though not an actor, I apply many of their methods to line learning and also have the privilege of having access to a space where I can build a set when required. Despite having all these tools at my disposal, I still take several months – often involving 12-hour days – to learn my lines. 

And please too, dear reader, remember that while, for example, the Third Degree Master’s part is ‘only’ 163 lines long, many of those lines are 100 or more words long and form speeches that are over 1,000 words in length. Compare this to the longest individual speech in a Shakespeare play, which is only 495 words long, and one sees the task masons are up against. Small wonder, then, that many masons shy away from performing in them. 

Therefore, I see circumstances where reading would be the better option as there is nothing worse than some poor fellow who is stumbling over his lines and being corrected by several people at once, with at least half of those ‘corrections’ being wrong. Better to read them then, than to have that happen. 

Shaun Joynson, Torch Lodge, No. 7236, London


Letters to the Editor - No. 29 Spring 2015

Sir,

I enjoyed the article, ‘Time to Deliver’, by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes in the autumn edition of Freemasonry Today, in which he indicated his concern regarding our masonic ritual. 

It typifies what can be seen or heard in some lodges today with the advent of modern technological equipment enabling some members to read rather than recite their ritual, and I believe this has come about for three reasons. First, the lack of knowledge about our Freemasonry; second, the little time given or available to instruct brethren as to where, when or how our ritual has developed; and thirdly, perhaps, to the ever-increasing call from various charities.

To alleviate some of this problem the late Gloucestershire Deputy Provincial Grand Master John Edward Churches formed a group of interested members and launched a team under the title of Provincial Road Shows in which I was fortunate enough to be included. Many lodges perform the First, Second and Third degrees and an Installation during the year, but from time to time, when there is a shortage of candidates, they arrange talks or perform rehearsals. 

We offered our services to entertain members by pointing out what our ritual means and where it originates. It was surprising to find that few members realised how and when the two Grand Lodges joined together, thus enabling the title United Grand Lodge of England to be used. 

It is clear at the beginning of one’s membership of the Craft one is taught – not least by the ritual itself – that charity is important. I recall when I first became a Freemason over forty-five years ago being told by the Charity Steward that charity was important but that one should only give what one can afford, and that the main reason for Freemasonry was to make good men even better.

Bernard Norton, Earl Bathurst Lodge, No. 6313, Cirencester, Gloucestershire


Sir,

Some years ago I wrote to the editor saying that consideration should be given to reading obligations where the candidate is not blindfolded. The response indicated that my letter was not read properly as the replies, to a brother, were against! They thought I said all ritual to be read. This was not so. I suggested obligations as a starting point, accuracy being critical, in much the same way that prayers are read to ensure they are accurate. If reading obligations proves helpful to our members who are 

hard-pressed at work or who find learning not easy, it might then, where practical, help for other parts to be read. 

I will always prefer reading to endless prompts, which can embarrass all concerned. Freemasonry must adapt to survive. We pay lip service to change, and some things have changed, but change will, I think, have to be radical. The fundamentals of Freemasonry are immutable! Change to survive is possible without impinging on these wonderful principles and reading a little ritual may help.

John Salisbury, Vellum Lodge, No. 5845, Solihull, Warwickshire

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 01:00

Joint statement on the Berlin Declaration

Joint statement from the United Grand lodge of England; the Grand Lodge of Ireland; and the Grand Lodge of Scotland on the "Berlin Declaration"

We have received a copy of the Berlin Declaration and welcome the fact that the five Grand Masters who have signed it are proposing to follow the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, and others, by restoring recognition to the Grande Loge Nationale Française.

The question of granting recognition to the new Confederation of French Freemasonry is an entirely separate matter. It is a long standing principle of international Masonic relations that where a Grand Lodge exists a second Grand Lodge cannot be recognised, no matter how regular it might be, without the agreement of the existing Grand Lodge to share territorial jurisdiction with it. As the Grande Loge Nationale Française has not agreed to share its territory with the Confederation, and having re-recognised the Grande Loge Nationale Française to then unilaterally recognise the Confederation without their blessing would constitute a breach of this long standing principle, and even be thought to be interference in the territorial jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge.

Since the idea of a Confederation was first floated England, Ireland and Scotland have consistently stated that a "blanket" recognition cannot be given to such a body and that we would require solid evidence that each of the Grand Lodges which are part of the Confederation individually complies with the generally accepted principles for Grand Lodge Recognition. Should one of them not comply with those generally accepted principles then recognition cannot be extended to the Confederation.

At the present time the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are not considering recognising any other Grand Lodge in France and will not do so in future without the agreement of the Grande Loge Nationale Française.

It is stated that the Confederation is a means of bringing together regular Grand Lodges in France and that it will act as an "umbrella" to represent regular French Freemasonry on the international stage, as the United Grand Lodges of Germany does for regular German Freemasonry. For one hundred years the Grande Loge Nationale Française has been internationally recognised as the representative of regular French Freemasonry. A Confederation claiming to represent regular French Freemasonry which does not include the Grande Loge Nationale Française or in any way have its blessing, can have no credibility on the international stage.

August 2014

Signed by:

Charles Iain Robert Wolrige Gordon of Esslemont Peter G. Lowndes Douglas T. Grey
Grand Master Mason Pro Grand Master Acting Grand Master
Scotland England Ireland
Published in UGLE

Grande Loge Nationale Française 

In 2012 the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Grand Lodge of Scotland (the Home Grand Lodges), because of internal problems within the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF), each withdrew recognition from the GLNF. This action was undertaken in the belief that it was in the best interests of the Home Grand Lodges to distance themselves from the problems within the GLNF and to give the GLNF time and space to resolve their problems without external interference.

The Home Grand Lodges continued to monitor the situation and believe that the actions taken by the current leadership of the GLNF have actively and comprehensively addressed the problems which led to the withdrawal of recognition, with the almost unanimous support of the Brethren of the GLNF, and that peace and harmony have now been restored.

Accordingly, at their respective Quarterly Communications held on 5th June (Ireland), 11th June (England) and 12th June (Scotland) 2014 the Home Grand Lodges each moved resolutions to restore recognition to the GLNF, which resolutions were accepted.

Signed by:

Charles Wolrige Gordon of Esslemont Peter Lowndes Douglas Grey
Grand Master Mason Pro Grand Master Deputy Grand Master
Scotland England Ireland

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2014

Quarterly Communication 

11 June 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Brethren, over the last year or two there has been a certain amount of correspondence in the various masonic magazines regarding the pros and cons of reading rather than reciting our ritual.

One correspondent suggested that as ritual was read throughout European Grand Lodges, we should follow. I am not sure all our politicians would agree with that! Certainly it is true that reading ritual is prevalent in many European Grand Lodges, however it is not universally so, and, in any event, there surely is no good reason for us to follow their example. Indeed, I have many friends in European Lodges who envy the way we deliver our ritual.

You will note, brethren, that I said that they are envious of the way we 'deliver' our ritual and, in my experience, ritual that is recited has much greater meaning to the candidate than ritual that is read, although I am pleased to say I have not been present on many occasions that it has been read.

I entirely accept that learning ritual is time consuming and time is at a premium in today’s hectic schedule of life. But how often is it true that the busiest people are those who find the time to learn it. I am not going to pretend that I have ever found ritual learning easy, and, as time goes by, dare I say, I find learning new ritual more difficult, but, nonetheless, I shall never forget the satisfaction of carrying out a second degree ceremony at the first meeting that I was in the chair of my mother lodge. To be told by an extremely demanding DC that it had been adequate was as good as it gets! I should add that this was a great deal more complimentary than anything he ever said to me during the year that he taught me classics.

By definition reading means looking at the book and, if the deliverer is looking at the book, he is not looking at the candidate or the brethren to whom he is speaking. To read a text well is in itself a skill that not everyone has. Good reading needs preparation and unless our ritual is understood by the deliverer, what chance is there that it will be understood by the recipient. For the reader to have a good understanding of what he is saying he will have had to have read through the text on several occasions and it is most certainly not a case of turning up, opening a book and reading.

Our ritual is to be treasured and there are few better experiences than seeing and hearing a really well conducted masonic ceremony. 

One of the prime reasons that lodges are being encouraged to share the workload is so that members should spend time really learning and understanding what they are delivering and not just reciting ritual parrot fashion. It is inevitable that some members will find ritual easier than others and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that as much help as possible is given to those who need it, thus giving everyone the opportunity to take pride in their delivery, however short a piece it may be.

I don’t expect what I have said today to be universally accepted, but I would be surprised if the majority do not agree with at least part of it.

Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014

All in the delivery

Sir,

With regard to the June address by our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, there is no doubt that the candidate deserves to experience the ritual without the deliverer needing to read the text from a book. I was greatly impressed by the sincerity and meaning thus offered. At one time I could comfortably deliver the Second Degree Tracing Board as well as preside over a lodge or chapter with similar confidence, but now, with the years advancing and being into my seventies, such standards of delivery are now virtually impossible. The reluctant answer, where appropriate, is to delegate, but sometimes reading the ritual is just unavoidable. I do try to impart appropriate emotion with my delivery.

Barry Mitchell, Zetland Lodge, No. 511, London

Published in Speeches

Taking the right approach

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes emphasises the importance of making ritual enjoyable and marks the Royal Arch’s achievements

Grand Rank does come with responsibilities. For example, you have a duty to be mindful of both recruitment and retention in the Order. On recruitment, I would first ask who among you does in fact recruit and, to those of you who do recruit new members, are you sensitive to the right time to approach each potential exaltee? This sensitivity is also a challenge to Royal Arch representatives in Craft lodges and emphasises the reason why this is such an important appointment. 

Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge about a subject of which they are already partly aware and enjoy. It is not introducing them to something completely alien.

On retention, you can help by actively showing your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the Order. Also, by guiding the new Companion through the various stages of his progression, making sure that, wherever possible, the work is shared, so that the ritual is enjoyed by him and does not become a burden to him.

‘Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge…’

In October last year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch. The First Grand Principal announced then that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had exceeded £2 million and that the appeal would remain open until the end of 2013. Companions, as you have already heard from the President of the Committee of General Purposes, the figure is now £2.5 million. This is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to the Royal Arch. 

I turn now to the Grand Temple organ restoration project, which is a Royal Arch initiative using existing funds. Designed and built by Henry Willis and Sons, the organ has been in place since Freemasons’ Hall was opened in 1933. It is possibly the largest complete, unaltered Willis instrument in full working order after eighty years. It is, however, in need of substantial restoration. 

English Heritage and Camden Council have agreed to the restoration plans with full completion in early 2015 – in good time for the Craft’s Tercentenary in 2017. Not only will this fine organ be restored, the Royal College of Organists will also be approached to investigate the possibility of encouraging young organists to use the Grand Temple Organ, as well as conducting organ recitals that are open to the public.

Published in SGC

United we stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in UGLE

Annual Investiture 

1 May 2014 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Companions, this is a very special day for those that I have had the pleasure in investing and I congratulate you all. 

Grand Rank does come with responsibilities. For example, you have a duty to be mindful of both recruitment and retention in the Order. On recruitment, I would first ask – who among you does in fact recruit and, to those of you who do recruit new members - are you sensitive to the right time to approach each potential exaltee? This sensitivity is also a challenge to Royal Arch representatives in Craft Lodges and emphasises the reason why this is such an important appointment. Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge about a subject of which they are already partly aware and enjoy, not introducing them to something completely alien.

On retention, you can help by actively showing your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the Order. Also, by guiding the new Companion through the various stages of his progression, making sure that, wherever possible, the work is shared, so that the ritual is enjoyed by him and does not become a burden to him.

As many of you will know, in October last year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch. The First Grand Principal announced then that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had exceeded £2m and that the Appeal would remain open until the end of 2013. Companions, as you have already heard from the President of the Committee of General Purposes, the figure is now £2.5m. This is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to the Royal Arch. Well done to those of you who have given so generously.

The First Grand Principal also took the opportunity to announce his intention to make additional appointments this year to past Grand Rank to Companions who have carried out significant work for the Appeal or had made a significant contribution in some other way to last year’s Bicentenary celebration. Grand Superintendents were responsible for making the recommendations based on this criteria and I again congratulate those of you who received these special appointments which celebrate the success of the Bicentenary.

I turn now to the Grand Temple organ restoration project, already briefly mentioned by the President, which is a Royal Arch initiative using existing funds. Designed and built by Henry Willis and Sons the Organ has been in place since this building was opened by the then Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught in 1933. It is possibly the largest complete unaltered Willis instrument in full working order after eighty years. It was, however, in need of substantial restoration. English Heritage and Camden Council have agreed to the restoration plans with full completion in early 2015 – in good time for the Craft’s tercentenary in 2017. Not only will this fine Organ be restored but the Royal College of Organists will be approached to investigate the possibility of encouraging young organists to use the Grand Temple Organ, as well as conducting organ recitals that are open to the public.

Finally Companions, great ceremonial events such as this take an enormous amount of planning for and direction on the day. I thank the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for all their planning and the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of this memorable event.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:00

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2014

Quarterly Communication 

12 March 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Brethren, it has been a pleasure to install Right Worshipful Brother Sir David Wootton as Assistant Grand Master. In offering him our congratulations I know that you would want me to wish him well in his important task at this exciting time for Freemasonry. 

I also take this opportunity to thank RW Bro David Williamson for his thirteen years as Assistant Grand Master serving the English Constitution admirably in that role. I can think of few people who have done more for Freemasonry in general and the Craft in particular. I also know that I speak for Lord Northampton when I say that there could not have been a more loyal and supportive AGM.

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

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

I will illustrate this inclusive approach with some examples to support this starting with the Board of General Purposes whose nine members include the Metropolitan Grand Master, two current and two past Provincial Grand Masters. They not only bring a wealth of experience but also an understanding of the issues directly facing the Provinces. For your information the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just come out, has an article in which the President of the Board explains how the Board is fully transparent, where every member is an active contributor. He also mentions the increasing professionalism in the way the Craft is run with standards you would expect to find in successful businesses.

I mentioned that this is an exciting time for Freemasonry with several initiatives dealing with both future recruitment and retention as well as business effectiveness in running a large membership organisation. For example the newly formed Membership Focus Group which includes eight Provincial Grand Masters. Their brief is to advise the Board of General Purposes on how best Freemasonry can concentrate the minds of members, lodges, Provinces and Rulers to work in a collaborative and focused manner in stemming the decline in membership and meeting the long term needs of the Craft. Interestingly, they have already identified the high loss of members throughout the first ten years of membership. It is also already clear that the majority of recruitment is carried out by a relatively small number of members. 

The Tercentenary Planning Committee is working closely with the Board of General Purposes looking at the overall plans for celebrations in 2017. Although there will be a final event in London towards the end of the year, I am determined that the Provinces and Districts run their own celebratory events throughout the year at times convenient to them. With this in mind two Provincial Grand Masters sit on the Committee with the aim of supporting and coordinating the planning with other Provincial and District Grand Masters. This way, many more members, throughout the English Constitution, will be able to participate in celebrating this milestone in our great history.

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

There are, of course, many other examples of how well we are all working together. I hold a business meeting for all Provincial Grand Masters the day before the annual Craft Investitures in April each year, and later this year I will be holding my next round of regional meetings with Provincial Grand Masters. These meetings have proved invaluable in the past, openly exchanging views and opinions.

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

So, brethren, we are, as a united English Constitution, working more closely together than at any other time in our history. At a strategic level, I believe that continuing to work together will not only stem the decline in membership but start to increase it to ensure the future of Freemasonry. At an individual level, consider the fact that the more members there are, the better chance Grand Lodge has of keeping the dues down. 

Changing tack, brethren, you will all be more than well aware of the appalling conditions being experienced by thousands of people as a result of the winter floods. Whilst the south west has been worst hit, Kent, Sussex and Berkshire as well as parts of Wales are not far behind, in fact there is barely a part of the south that does not have its tales of woe.

It will not surprise you to know that Freemasonry has been to the fore with providing relief funding. The Somerset Community Fund has received £750,000 in all, of which £125,000 has been from various masonic sources. The Provincial Grand Master of Somerset set a target of £50,000 and so, brethren, you can imagine how overwhelmed he is by the support  the Province has received, from the Grand Charity, other Provinces (Essex alone donating £40,000) and many Lodges from all over the country, as well as those in his own Province.

The Grand Charity can and does react quickly in these situations and as well as its support of Somerset, it has donated to the Red Cross, Berkshire, Devonshire and West Wales. In all, so far, it has made donations of nearly £60,000.

We should all be immensely proud of the way in which our members respond to emergencies and how well we are able to coordinate our giving. Thank you to all those concerned.

Published in Speeches
Page 7 of 13

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