14 December 2016
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, our December meeting is always one of the best attended and I am really encouraged to see so many of you here today. In particular well done to Lincolnshire with over 100 members travelling here; 40 from Wiltshire; 20 all the way from Yorkshire, West Riding and, I believe, that there are 16 newly installed Masters from Oxfordshire. Since we changed the rules to allow Master Masons to attend Grand Lodge we have had an excellent display of light blue aprons and they are very much in evidence again today. Bearing in mind work commitments and the eccentricities of our transport system it is a tremendous effort.
I have recently received a copy of the Report of the New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference and was delighted to learn just how well the clubs are progressing with over 30 established across London and the Provinces. This is a fantastic achievement and I would encourage those new masons in Provinces without such a club to consider setting one up. You would have our full support and I am sure you would be greatly encouraged by your Provincial hierarchy. Indeed, I have asked RW Bro Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal to act as the focal point here for the movement. It really is a splendid initiative and I congratulate all those involved.
We have heard a lot about charity during the course of today and I have frequently said how proud we should be of all our charities, and not just the big four. They all do tremendous work. You have already heard that during the course of this year the astonishing sum of £14.5m was raised through the hard work of our brethren. The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Festival total of nearly £7.75m is the highest total ever. I can’t believe, brethren, that it was all down to me having moved into Hampshire last year. I suspect that is purely coincidental. Across the board the money raised per capita by all four Provinces in Festival during 2016 was extraordinary and of a similar level. Brethren, your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated.
You have also heard from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) about their scheme to give to your local charities £3m next year in recognition of both their own formation and, of course, our Tercentenary. This not only shows your generosity but is also aimed at promoting our involvement in the community.
Brethren, I know that some of you have become frustrated at not being able to get hold of a Tercentenary Jewel. Please be assured that there are now plenty available in the Letchworth’s shop. Unfortunately, initial demand far outstripped supply. In spite of your frustration, may I ask you to beware of cheap imitations. Sadly they do exist and are being offered at a very reduced price, but they are unauthorised and unlawful copies. We are working closely with the Provinces to get them all removed.
The Deputy Grand Master mentioned that the Sky documentary titled Inside Freemasonry would be shown in January. However this has been put back to the Spring. I have seen three of these so far – there are five in all – and have been most encouraged at the sensitive way that we have been portrayed by Emporium, the makers of the film. I would like to thank those Provinces, lodges and, perhaps most of all, those individuals who have so willingly participated.
This gives us a great opportunity in the early part of the year to capitalise on the publicity being generated and we anticipate that other high profile events throughout the year will keep us in the public eye and produce some really positive results. These are exciting times and let us celebrate in style by showing our pride in and talking about our membership. I am absolutely certain that we will all enjoy a splendid year in 2017.
In the meantime, I thank you all for what you have done for Freemasonry in preparing for next year. Keep the enthusiasm going and have a very happy Christmas.
Not to be frowned upon
Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes points to the enjoyment that can be found in masonic ritual
As you are well aware, Freemasons’ Hall is a peace memorial to all those who gave their lives for us during World War I. It is worth, therefore, drawing your attention to two events taking place next year.
The first is on 18 April 2017 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, when the new Masonic Memorial Garden, built in memory of all those masons who gave their lives during conflict in the service of our country, will be opened.
The second is the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Memorial by the Grand Master on 25 April 2017. It will be placed on the pavement in front of the Tower Entrance of Freemasons’ Hall and will take the form of a number of paving stones, with the names of the 63 Victoria Cross holders who were awarded the military decoration in World War I and who were members of the United Grand Lodge of England. Of these, 17 were also companions in the Royal Arch.
Past and future
Companions, this seems to be an appropriate time to say a few words about Denis Beckett. He was a very remarkable man and I had the good fortune to know him well. Indeed, Beckett was President of the Committee of General Purposes when I joined it in 1987.
Beckett was a Craft mason for 71 years and a Royal Arch mason for 59 years. He was initiated immediately after World War II, in which he served with such distinction. He was awarded the DSO for his extraordinary courage during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy – there were those who felt a Victoria Cross would have been more appropriate. We were privileged to have him as a member and particularly in that he presided over the Committee of General Purposes for seven years.
‘In the Royal Arch... our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest.’
While it is clearly important to remember the past, we must also look to the future. I am therefore very pleased that the successor to the Membership Focus Group, the Improvement Delivery Group, is composed of both Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, with our Third Grand Principal, Gareth Jones, as its Deputy Chairman. It will be designing and delivering the future direction of both the Craft and Royal Arch.
You may have seen that, after my Quarterly Communications address in June, I have been accused in the national media of suggesting that masons are all grumpy and boring – a misrepresentation, companions. I said that if an amusing incident occurs at one of our meetings, it should not be frowned upon as had sometimes been the case in the past.
It is not a capital offence to smile during meetings. While I was not suggesting we should turn our meetings into a pantomime, there is no harm in us being seen to enjoy ourselves. I believe this to be particularly so in the Royal Arch, as our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest and, in my experience, candidates derive great enjoyment from it. I think this is particularly so when the new format of the ritual is used, which involves more of the companions and has the benefit of changing the voice that the candidate hears, which I always feel refreshes his interest.
Unique occasion for Univesities Scheme
Yesterday at Freemasons' Hall was the unique consecration of David Kenneth Williamson Lodge No. 9938.
The new lodge, which was sponsored by Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, is to be the Installed Masters’ lodge for the Universities Scheme, of which David Williamson, Past Assistant Grand Master, was the first President.
The consecration was done by Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, with David subsequently installed as the Primus Master by the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence. David's first act as Worshipful Master was to invest the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, as the acting Immediate Past Master. It is a very rare thing to get all three Rulers at an event other than Grand Lodge!
David Williamson tweeted:
Deeply honoured to be installed as first WM of DKW Lodge 9938. Fantastic Ceremony & great Lunch. Thanks to all who made this possible.— David Williamson (@UGLE_DKW) December 5, 2016
David Kenneth Williamson
David Kenneth Williamson was born in Bombay, India in October 1943. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Lichfield, Queen Mary College, University of London, and King's College, Cambridge.
Having trained to be a pilot, after winning an RAF flying scholarship aged seventeen, and following a brief spell as a schoolmaster, David joined the British Overseas Airways Corporation (now British Airways) in 1968. He became Assistant Flight Training Manager on the Boeing 737, before undertaking the same role on the Boeing 747-400 fleet until he retired in 1998.
He was initiated into Freemasonry in the Andover Combined Services Lodge, No. 8300, aged 29 on the 17th April 1972, and was Master of that Lodge in 1982. Despite being initiated in the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, it was in Middlesex that David's Masonic career took hold. He was appointed a Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1992, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies from 1995 to 1997, and Deputy Provincial Grand Master from 2000 to 2001.
Within Grand Lodge, he was appointed an Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995, and a Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies from 1998 until his appointment as Assistant Grand Master in March 2001, a role he held for thirteen years. He served as a Grand Steward on the 2014-2 15 Board. He founded the Universities Scheme in 2005 andwas its President until 2015.
Outside the Craft, he was Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter from 2010 to 2016, Grand Senior Warden in the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons in 2002, and in 2014 became a member of the Supreme Council 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters Overseas (as Grand Chancellor).
The Universities Scheme
The Universities Scheme was founded in 2005 to establish or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other University members to join and enjoy Freemasonry. Building on the centuries old traditions of University Masonry at Oxford and Cambridge, the Scheme works with Provinces, Districts, and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge to identify Lodges, and now Royal Arch Chapters, willing to reach out and welcome young men from their local universities to join the Craft and Royal Arch.
The Scheme currently includes 72 Lodges and 3 Chapters, across the English Constitution. The 'DKW' Lodge will be its 73rd and will serve as the Scheme's Installed Masters' Lodge.
Seen to enjoy ourselves
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on how far Freemasonry has come since he was initiated 44 years ago
As many of you know, 2017 will see a large number of special events to celebrate the Tercentenary. There are 106 events planned so far, of which four have actually taken place. Not the least of these events relate to the 62 paving stones that will be laid outside the front of this building to commemorate the 62 Victoria Crosses awarded to masons in World War I, and also the formal reopening of the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Arboretum.
During May I was lucky enough to attend two splendid Festivals. The first was for the Samaritan Fund, held by the Province of Cheshire at Old Trafford, and the second was for the Grand Charity, held by the Province of Norfolk in Norwich. Cheshire raised just over £3 million and Norfolk just over £2 million – remarkable results very much on a par with each other, bearing in mind the relative sizes of the Provinces. Congratulations to both.
It never ceases to amaze me how good our members are at fundraising. Every year, the four Charity Festivals raise close to £10 million. Over and above that, there are the Provincial charities and the individual lodge charities. These, of course, don’t include the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research, which provides funding for the marvellous work of the Royal College of Surgeons.
Indeed, there are several other exceptional masonic charities, but space doesn’t permit me to mention them all. Suffice to say that the central masonic charities gave more than £4.8 million to 393 non-masonic charities last year and I have little doubt that the Provinces and lodges added considerably to this figure.
Finding the fun
Not only are our members good at fundraising but, just as importantly, they have a huge amount of fun in the process. I mention the enjoyment created by these events, as surely that must be the aim at all of our meetings. We have come a long way since I was initiated 44 years ago: I enjoyed my early meetings, but possibly despite some of the more elderly members rather than because of them. In those days it was nearly a capital offence to smile in lodge, but now more often than not some amusing incident occurs and it is allowed to be seen as such. There is no harm in being seen to enjoy ourselves.
‘I mention the enjoyment created by these events, as surely that must be the aim at all of our meetings.’
We can probably all cite instances when a more senior member is less than sympathetic to a newer member who has had a few lapses during the ritual. In my view, encouragement is what is required. This will almost certainly give him the confidence to improve, thereby increasing his enjoyment of our proceedings. If we encourage and congratulate – rather than routinely castigate – our new members, we will go a long way to retaining them.
Brethren, I should probably warn you that I have developed a liking for visiting lodges and chapters unannounced. Whether the lodge or chapter has enjoyed it I don’t know, but they have been kind enough to say that they have. A chapter that I went to in West Wales recently performed an excellent installation ceremony and I heard at least three pieces of ritual I had not come across before and all were delivered without hesitation. Above all, brethren, it seemed to me that they – you’ve guessed it – thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 36 WINTER 2017
Seen to enjoy ourselves
My eye was caught by the article by the Pro Grand Master entitled ‘Seen to enjoy ourselves’ (Freemasonry Today, autumn 2016). Can I straight away say that the sentiments contained express totally my experience in my own lodge.
I joined my school lodge, Old Patesian, No. 7828, from my mother lodge when it was suffering from a lack of members, not having initiated anyone for 10 years. The members, bar one, were members elsewhere and the ritual was an amalgam of areas. In the two meetings before I took the Chair, we had 11 at one and seven at another. The lodge was dying.
I called a meeting of all members and told them that they were not enjoying themselves enough and had no focus. I asked if we could open the membership up to non-old boys from the school and asked friends to support me by joining and to encourage the search for new initiates. I asked everyone to consider that the new ethos of the lodge was to take what we do seriously but to not take ourselves too seriously.
I was privileged to spend two years as Chair and now, as Director of Ceremonies, guide the lodge and its new Masters as they initiate, pass and raise. We now fill the dining room for our Christmas party and raise a good level of funds for the likes of the Military Wives Choir.
All this has been built upon the enjoyment factor, the insistence that we are partially in the entertainment business, understanding that we are not all great ritualists but so long as members are genuinely trying and going to a lodge of instruction then that is good enough.
Experience has shown me that the ‘tut-tut’ older members do nothing but harm to the enthusiasm of new members. In fact, by giving the younger members a responsibility for ensuring that the older members are brought to lodge and taken home they have integrated and begun to understand each other.
Please thank the Pro Grand Master for his article; it was heartening to read that he sees what I think many need to see.
Robert Ward, Old Patesian Lodge, No. 7828, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
14 September 2016
Report of the Board of General Purposes
Board of General Purposes Meetings 2017
In accordance with Rule 225 Book of Constitutions, the dates when the Board of General Purposes will meet in 2017 are: 7 February, 21 March, 16 May, 18 July and 19 September.
By the time that Grand Lodge meets, filming for the documentary Inside the Freemasons will have been completed. The series, made by Emporium Productions for Sky, is likely to be broadcast in January 2017.
The Board wishes to emphasise the point made by the MW Pro Grand Master at the June Quarterly Communication that both at that meeting and elsewhere some things had been filmed in order to give a representative picture of Freemasonry which should not be seen as precedents to be followed by individual lodges in future.
Questions as to what might properly be filmed arose regularly during the filming for the series, and not every member of the Craft might agree with the decisions which were made – often under significant pressure of time – but the Board trusts that the Grand Lodge will take the view that the decisions taken were justified in the interests of the Craft as a whole.
Attendance at Lodges under the English Constitution by Brethren from other Grand Lodges
The Board considers it appropriate to draw attention to Rule 125 (b), Book of Constitutions, and the list of Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, which is published in the Masonic Year Book, copies of which are sent to secretaries of lodges.
Attendance at Lodges Overseas
The continuing growth in overseas travel brings with it an increase in visits by our Brethren to lodges of other jurisdictions, and the Board welcomes this trend. Brethren are, however, reminded that they are permitted to visit lodges overseas only if they come under a jurisdiction which is recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England.
A list of recognised Grand Lodges is published annually, but as the situation does change from time to time, Brethren should not attempt to make any masonic contact overseas without having first checked (preferably in writing) with the Grand Secretary’s Office at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ, that there is recognised Freemasonry in the country concerned and, if so, whether there is any particular point which should be watched.
Recognition of a Foreign Grand Lodge
The Grand Lodge of the State of Rio Grande do Sul was formed in 1928 by four lodges regularly constituted by the Grand Orient of Brazil and which, because of internal problems, broke away from their parent to form a separate Grand Lodge within the territorial limits of the State of Rio Grande do Sul.
In 1961 and again in 2005 the Grand Orient of Brazil entered into treaties with the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio Grande do Sul by which each party recognised the other as regular and allowed inter-visitation between their members.
The Grand Registrar has advised that by signing those treaties the Grand Orient agreed to share its territory with the State Grand Lodge and it is not therefore necessary for this Grand Lodge formally to seek the agreement of the Grand Orient to its recognising the State Grand Lodge of Rio Grande do Sul.
The State Grand Lodge having shown that it both conforms to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition and has worked regularly since 1928, the Board has no reason to believe that it will not maintain a regular path and recommends that the State Grand Lodge of Rio Grande do Sul be recognised. A Resolution to this affect was approved.
The Board had considered the question of social media and had agreed a policy, which is available from the Grand Secretary’s office or online at www.ugle.org.uk. The Board recommended the policy to Grand Lodge which was approved.
Erasure of Lodges
Board has received a report that eleven lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. They are: Wickham Lodge, No. 1924 (London), Barnato Lodge, No. 2265 (London), St Chad Lodge, No. 3115 (Essex), Hanslip Ward Lodge, No. 3399 (Essex), Baron Egerton Lodge, No. 3513 (Cheshire), Selsey Lodge, No. 3571 (Sussex), Barham and Watling Lodge, No. 6004 (Hertfordshire), Geomatic Lodge, No. 6214 (London), Waterways Lodge, No. 7913 (London), Lodge of Tolerance, No. 7998 (London) and Bacchus Lodge, No. 9068 (Staffordshire). A Resolution that they be erased was approved.
Seven members of the Craft were expelled as required by Rule 277 (a) (i) (B), Book of Constitutions.
Report of Library and Museum Trust
The Board had received a report from the Library and Museum Charitable Trust.
The Library and Museum spent much of 2015 preparing to open a major new exhibition, Three Centuries of English Freemasonry, located in additional gallery space on the first floor. The exhibition breaks new ground in seeking to explain both Freemasonry’s values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity and its history and development.
This is the first exhibition for which the Library and Museum team has worked with exhibition designers and external contractors for the design, build and installation. Preparation of material for display has also involved conservation of a number of objects, books and documents and the creation of cataloguing records.
The exhibition opened to the public in April 2016. A series of gallery talks and other events are being prepared for later this year. Following the opening of the new exhibition gallery, the Library and Museum extended its opening hours to include Saturdays. The Library and Museum also launched itself on social media as an additional means of engaging with users, visitors and members. For a copy of the full Annual Report and Accounts please write to the Director.
From Concept to Reality: Creating an Exhibition about Three Centuries of English Freemasonry
A talk was given by Diane Clements, Director of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry and Stephen Greenberg, Founder and Director, Metaphor.
List of New Lodges for which Warrants Have Been Granted
Date of Warrant, Location Area and No. and Name of Lodge:
28 April 2016
9927 Cambridgeshire Lodge of Provincial Grand Stewards (Cambridgeshire)
8 June 2016
9928 Santa Catarina Lodge (South America, Northern Division)
9929 Lodge of Friendship (South America, Northern Division)
9930 Lodge of True Aim (Hertfordshire)
9931 Sportsman’s Lodge of Suffolk (Suffolk)
9932 Spinnaker Lodge (Hampshire and Isle of Wight)
9933 Fenland Farmers’ Lodge (Cambridgeshire)
9934 St Hubertus Lodge (Yorkshire, West Riding)
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 14 December 2016. Subsequent Communications will be held: 8 March 2017, 14 June 2017; 13 September 2017 and 13 December 2017. The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 26 April 2017), and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend. Full details will be given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held: 9 November 2016, 27 April 2017 and 8 November 2017.
8 June 2016
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, those of you with keen eyesight will have noticed that I am wearing a new breast jewel. It is based on the Arms of the Grand Lodge and has been approved by the Grand Master as a permanent jewel to commemorate the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge. It will go on sale in time for the start of the 300th year on the 24th of this month, and those entitled to wear it are those Master Masons and above who at any time between then and the end of 2017 will have been members of a Lodge in this Constitution. I hope that Grand Officers – who normally wear no breast jewels other than the Royal Arch jewel – will wear it throughout that period, and will not feel obliged to stop wearing it once we reach 2018. I think it is a particularly attractive jewel and I am sure that many, if not most, members of the English Craft will want to wear it. Those of you with even keener eyesight may have noticed that I am also wearing a new tie. At a distance it looks very similar to the Craft tie introduced about 15 years ago, but it incorporates the new version of the square and compasses which has been adopted as our new logo in the run-up to the Tercentenary. While the old Craft tie may continue to be worn, it will go 'off-sale' from 24th June – so if anyone offers to sell you an 'old' tie brand-new after that date, you will know how to react.
Brethren, as many of you know 2017 will see a large number of special events to celebrate the Tercentenary. There are 106 events planned so far, of which 4 have actually taken place. Not the least of these events relate to the 62 paving stones that will be laid outside the front of this building to commemorate the 62 Victoria Crosses awarded to masons in the First World War, and also the formal reopening of the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Arboretum.
Brethren, during May I was lucky enough to attend two splendid Festivals. The first was for the Samaritan Fund and was held at Old Trafford by the Province of Cheshire and the second was for the Grand Charity and was held in Norwich by the Province of Norfolk. Cheshire raised just over £3m and Norfolk just over £2m. Both are remarkable results and very much on par with each other bearing in mind the relative sizes of the Provinces. Our congratulations go to both.
It never ceases to amaze me how good our members are at fund raising. Every year the 4 Charity Festivals raise getting on for £10m and over and above that there are the Provincial charities as well as the individual lodge Charities. That, of course, doesn’t include the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research (formerly the 250th Anniversary Fund) which provides the funding for all the marvelous work carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons about which we have been well informed today. Indeed there are several other exceptional Masonic charities, but time doesn’t permit me to mention them all today. Suffice it to say that the Central Masonic Charities gave over £4.8m to 393 non-masonic charities last year and I have little doubt that the Provinces and lodges added considerably to this figure.
Not only are our members good at fund raising, but, just as importantly, they have a huge amount of fun in the process. It is astonishing the diverse ways they find of raising money and the underlying theme is that each project should be enjoyed by all concerned, whether raising or giving the money.
I mention the enjoyment created by these events as surely that must be the aim of all of us at all of our meetings. I think we have come a long way since the time that I was initiated 44 years ago. I enjoyed my early meetings, but possibly despite some of the more elderly members rather than because of them. In those days it was nearly a capital offence to smile in lodge, but now, more often than not, some amusing incident occurs and it is allowed to be seen as such and not frowned upon. I am not for one minute suggesting we try to turn our meetings into a pantomime, but most certainly I am saying that there is no harm in being seen to enjoy ourselves.
Those of you who were at the Annual Investiture meetings may have noticed how many members from our Districts attended to receive their new ranks. It seemed to me to be rather more than usual. They were, rightly, greeted with significant applause. Naturally I didn’t know all the brethren concerned, but I do know many of their Districts and I know the pride they have in being members of UGLE; and they do us proud, brethren. I have often thought that if a lodge in this country has lost its way, it could do a lot worse than to get some members to visit some of our Districts, particularly, dare I say in West Africa and the Caribbean, where I have experienced this myself, but many other places as well, to see how much enjoyment can be derived from their meetings.
We can probably all cite instances when a more senior member of a lodge is less than sympathetic to a newer member who has, perhaps, had a few lapses during the ritual. In my view exactly the opposite reaction has the right effect and encouragement is what is required and this will almost certainly give him the confidence to improve, thereby increasing his enjoyment of our proceedings. I am in absolutely no doubt, brethren, that, if we encourage and congratulate, rather than routinely castigate our new members we will go a long way to retaining them as members and finally turn around our drop in numbers, which, incidentally, is already happening in some Provinces and Districts.
Brethren, I should probably warn you that I have developed a liking for visiting lodges and chapters unannounced. Whether the lodge or chapter has enjoyed it, I don’t know, but they have been kind enough to say that they have. A chapter that I went to in West Wales recently, performed an excellent installation ceremony and I heard at least 3 pieces of ritual that I had not come across before and all were delivered without hesitation – I should, of course add that I had no idea whether it was correct or not! Above all brethren, it seemed to me that they – yes you’ve guessed it – thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Two last things, brethren. First, we have the television cameras running today, and one or two things have been filmed here and elsewhere in order to give a representative picture of Freemasonry and the filming of which should not be seen as precedents to be followed by individual lodges in future. Secondly, we are coming to the end of the current masonic season. Enjoy the summer break, and I look forward to seeing you again in September.
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’.
The Craft and beyond
As the Tercentenary and new masonic charity launch approach, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on the work required to reach these milestones
The past year has been a busy one. The emphasis was on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long-term future.
Fundamental to ensuring that future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group – supported by 18,000 responses to recent surveys – has shaped this plan, which has, in turn, been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. It concentrates on our vision and values but can only be achieved with the support of the majority of members.
Concurrently, the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress while liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of their main events – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces.
I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm that is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration.
I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master, with most able help from the charity Presidents, Chief Executives and boards of trustees. We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.
‘I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm that is being shown.’
Preparations for the launch in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI will be the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB will be the Chief Operating Officer.
They both have a wealth of experience and knowledge and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities. In advance of the launch, publicity about the Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond.
I am also delighted to announce that the Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016.
The contribution made by David Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal has been colossal, as his contribution has been throughout masonry.
East Lancashire festival triumph
East Lancashire masons held an end-of-Festival banquet at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium to celebrate raising more than £2.6 million for the RMBI. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes and Bolton’s mayor, Cllr Carole Swarbrick, attended.
PGM Sir David Trippier said that despite one of the worst economic depressions since the war, which had hit the region hard, the amount raised per capita was much higher than during the previous Festival. Entertainment on the night was provided by the Opera Boys, guitarist Neil Smith and the band of the Lancashire Fusiliers.
Festive appeals total tops £8m
The closing months of 2015 saw the conclusion of two successful Festival Appeals from Bedfordshire and East Lancashire Freemasons. Both Provinces held special events to celebrate raising more than £1.5 million for the RMTGB and over £2.5 million for the RMBI, respectively.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes attended both events along with the Presidents and Chief Executives of the charities, Mike Woodcock and Les Hutchinson for the RMTGB, and James Newman and David Innes for the RMBI.
The funds raised by Bedfordshire and East Lancashire bring the total raised for the central masonic charities through 2015 Festival Appeals to a staggering £8.2 million.