Celebrating 300 years

Pride and confidence

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why members should be proud to share aspects of masonic ritual with friends and family

In the middle of May I was at the Grand Charity Festival in West Wales. It exemplified how good we, as masons, are at raising money and, dare I say, at celebrating that achievement at the end of the road. A wonderful evening was had by all. 

I have said many times in the past that charity is not necessarily the masons’ raison d’être – but it is certainly a most important by-product of how all of us are taught to live our lives.

In this regard I have always thought that the Charge after Initiation is the best possible rule to guide us in what we do. 

It lays out quite clearly the duties that we owe to God, to our neighbours and to ourselves; how we should respect the laws of the country in which we live – whether that is the country of our birth or the country where we currently reside; how we should behave as individuals; and the other excellent qualities of character to which we should adhere.

Whenever I deliver this Charge, I am always struck by the important message that it contains. At a personal level, I find the lines ‘by paying due obedience to the laws of any state which may for a time become the place of your residence or afford you its protection’ extremely pertinent. This is as a result of having delivered this Charge on the evening of 9/11, and I have to admit to having stumbled a bit when I got to that section. I am still always reminded of those dreadful events every time I hear this Charge delivered.

As we all know, any member of the public can acquire their own copy of our ritual simply by going into a shop and making the purchase. We have no concerns in that regard, as there is nothing therein that we are not happy for them to know about. 

I would go further. I believe there are certain passages that we should be proud to show to non-members, most particularly to members of our families. Top of my list would be the Charge to the Initiate, with a close second being the Charity Charge, although that, perhaps, might need a bit of explanation.

‘We have so much to shout about – our history, charity work, enjoyment in life and code of conduct being just a few.’

Time to celebrate

As you know, 2017 is fast approaching. The run-up to it, as well as the celebrations during the year, are surely the right time to show our pride in being a member of our wonderful Order. We have improved our public image immeasurably over the past 20 years and now is the time to really push this aspect hard. 

We have so many things to shout about – our history, our charity work, our enjoyment in life and our code of conduct being just a few. Of course any organisation with 200,000 members is going to have a few rotten apples, but we have no more than our fair share, and I strongly suspect we have far fewer than most organisations of an equivalent size.

Given all this, let’s make sure we approach our Tercentenary with both pride and confidence.

Published in UGLE

More than £1m for West Wales

The Province of West Wales has raised £1,079,614 in its Festival for the Grand Charity, which was announced at an event in Llanelli attended by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes. Among other guests were President of the Grand Charity Richard Hone, Chief Executive Laura Chapman and Provincial Grand Master Stephen Hookey, who said: ‘The appeal was launched in May 2009 at a time when the global recession had taken hold and austerity was to become a watchword for several years to come. Thanks to your generosity in these difficult times, the figure for which we aimed has been surpassed significantly.’

Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 10:42

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2015

Quarterly Communication

10 June 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, in the middle of May I was at the Grand Charity Festival in West Wales and, as you have heard, what a great success it was. It exemplified how good we, as masons, are at raising money and, dare I say, also at celebrating the achievement at the end of the road. A wonderful evening was had by all. However, I have said many times in the past that charity is not our raison d'être, but it is certainly a most important by product of how we are all taught to live our lives.

In this regard I have always thought that the Charge after Initiation is the best possible rule to guide us through life. It lays out quite clearly the duties that we owe to God, our neighbours and ourselves, how we should respect the laws of the country in which we live, whether the country of our birth or the country where we currently reside, how we should behave as individuals and then points out the other excellencies of character that we should adhere to.

Whenever I deliver this Charge it never fails to strike home to me the important message that it contains. At a personal level, I find the piece 'by paying due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become the place of your residence or afford you its protection' extremely pertinent. This is as a result of having delivered this Charge on the evening of 9/11 and I have to admit to having stumbled a bit when I got to that section and I am still always reminded of those dreadful events every time I hear this Charge delivered.

Brethren, as we all know, any member of the public can acquire a copy of our ritual simply by going into a shop and making the purchase. We have no concerns in that regard, as there is nothing therein that we are not happy for them to know about. I would go further. I believe there are certain passages that we should be proud to show to non-members, most particularly members of our families, and top of my list would be the Charge to the Initiate, with a close second being the Charity Charge, although that, perhaps, needs a bit of explanation.

Brethren, 2017 is fast approaching and the run up to it, as well as the celebrations during the year, are surely the right time to show our pride in being a member of our wonderful Order. We have improved our public image immeasurably over the last 20 years and now is the time to really push this aspect hard. We have so much to shout about – our history, our charity, our enjoyment and our code of conduct being just a few. Of course any organisation with 200,000 members is going to have a few rotten apples, but we most certainly have no more than our fair share and I suspect we have a great many fewer than most equivalent sized organisations.

Brethren let’s approach our tercentenary with both pride and confidence.

Letters to the Editor - No. 33 Spring 2016

Increased perceptions

Sir,

Further to Bob Needham’s letter in the last issue, I too read the recent article by the Pro Grand Master with great interest as I have thought for many years that the Charge to the Initiate is one of the best pieces of our ritual, so much so that during my year as Master I asked for Provincial approval to give each new member a copy on their first night. My reasons were firstly, I was aware that on going home after initiation candidates get asked what went on and can find it difficult to properly convey, whereas if we give them the Charge to take home specifically for this purpose, they feel much happier. Also, as most of us remember very little about our initiation, it gives each new member a chance to read and reflect on our principles. 

So, I had the Charge printed on vellum-type paper and from then on each new mason was presented with one, duly signed by the Master and the two Wardens. This practice proved to be a great success and I commend it to other lodges.

Roger Foulds, Lodge of Agriculture, No. 1199, Yatton, Somerset

Sir,

I read with great interest the letters headed ‘Changing Perceptions’ in the winter edition of the magazine. It led me to reflect on how many readers appreciate the enormous breadth of the Craft.

Three weeks after being initiated into Rhyddings Lodge, No. 5205, in East Lancashire I arrived in Aden to join my first operational squadron as a co-pilot on Beverley transport aircraft. I there quickly discovered the existence of Lodge Light in Arabia, No. 3870. There was also a Scottish lodge on the other side of the harbour in Little Aden. 

Arrangements were eventually made for me to be Passed and Raised there, as a visitor, in Light in Arabia. The regular membership was made up of both European and local brethren who lived and worked in Aden. There were also a number of transitory service people like me. 

But it was the range of religions and cultures that made Light in Arabia truly remarkable. Sitting down in the lodge, besides we Christians, there would be Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Parsee Indians. 

To witness all these brethren enjoying the masonic ritual together and afterwards sitting down together at the Festive Board was really quite something and made plain the true universality of Freemasonry: something I will never forget.

Bryan Lamb, Old Blackburnian Lodge, No. 7933, Blackburn, East Lancashire


Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Changing perceptions

Sir,

I have always enjoyed reading Freemasonry Today and I found the latest edition aligns to my views on how we should depict Freemasonry. I read the comments by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, where he comments that any member of the public can purchase a copy of the Charge after Initiation, adding that ‘there is nothing therein that we are not happy for them to know about’. 

I hold a view that we as Freemasons are far too modest about our society. 

As we approach the celebration of 300 years of modern Freemasonry, shouldn’t we make a point of removing the doubts and speculation at large with regard to Freemasonry by taking it upon ourselves to replace them with knowledge and truth?

Bob Needham, Colne Lodge, No. 2477, Wivenhoe, Essex

Published in Speeches
Friday, 05 June 2015 01:00

A year of masonic success

Annual briefing

On 28 April, masonic leaders celebrated the achievements of the past year, revealing an organisation that is embracing transparency and taking positive steps to ensure its long-term future

 Held in the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall, the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting brought together Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to hear about the state of Freemasonry and why its future is in their hands.

With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes welcoming attendees to the meeting, the President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), Anthony Wilson, ran through the accounts for 2014, showing United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) finances to be healthy. He also highlighted the increasing importance of hiring out Freemasons’ Hall to third parties as a source of income. 

Second Grand Principal George Francis and President of the Committee of General Purposes Malcolm Aish explained how the Royal Arch was faring. ‘The good news is that we had some magnificent figures on exaltations for 2014,’ said George, congratulating attendees for the results that return the Royal Arch to the level it was at six to eight years ago. ‘We’re now hitting the 50 per cent mark of initiations so the prospects for the Royal Arch really do look rather good. I think there’s still more to be done.’ 

Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire David Macey looked at the progress being made with the membership database, ADelphi 2, which goes live at the end of July this year. Offering improved reporting capability and ease of use, ADelphi 2 will give Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents all the membership information they need, at their fingertips. David also stressed that a structured training plan is in place to offer support to everyone using the new system.  

Taking virtual steps

With the Papers of Business for Quarterly Communications circulated electronically for the first time in 2014, James Long from the Electronic Systems Committee explained why it was felt necessary to make this change. ‘We were prompted to some degree by looking to save money and make efficiency enhancements,’ said James, ‘but there was something else that actuated our motive here: we thought it entirely appropriate for a modern membership organisation. We must be responsive and reactive to what our members want.’ 

Looking at the need to improve communication within UGLE, James congratulated the attendees for embracing new technology. ‘There are many Provinces and Districts that have well-constructed, thought-through and properly controlled communication strategies on social media. What we have to do is learn from all of those,’ he said. ‘We’re going to continue to ensure that UGLE is making the best use of all electronic media for communication, both internal and external.’ 

Landmark events 

Next on the agenda was the 2017 Tercentenary, which starts with events around the country in January 2017 and culminates with a celebration at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 October 2017. Anthony Wilson said that Grand Lodge expects to offer seats at the Royal Albert Hall to each Province and District on the basis of one place for every 80-90 members. Grand Lodge wants to widen the participation and is looking at ways to screen the event live in all the Districts and Provinces. 

Staying on the subject of the Tercentenary, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset Stuart Hadler announced the design of a new branding for UGLE, which will make its appearance in the run up to 2017. While the coat of arms has for generations been a mark of status and standing in society, Stuart said: ‘Society has changed over the past 50 years and a coat of arms no longer communicates the image and messages that a modern membership organisation needs to convey. One might also observe that we are seeking no longer to be silent.’ 

Stuart went on to discuss how the Membership Focus Group (MFG), the BGP and the Rulers believe that a positive and attractive image is vital. ‘To preserve the integrity of the brand and achieve a corporate image, there is to be a strict protocol for us all to follow that will dictate how the symbol is to be used,’ he said, adding that Provinces and Districts will need to review and revise their existing paperwork by 24 June 2016. 

Future-proofing

Freemasonry’s image is just one of the areas being explored by the MFG. Tasked with assuring the long-term success of both the Craft and the Royal Arch, the MFG has been talking to Provinces about their experiences of recruitment and retention. Assistant Grand Secretary and MFG member Shawn Christie highlighted that many growing lodges hold vibrant meetings and regular social events that are open to non-masons. These provide an opportunity for prospective candidates to ask questions in an informal environment, learn more about Freemasonry and possibly, in time, join if both sides feel the fit is right. 

Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire Robin Wilson explained that the road to retention starts with proper preparation. ‘For that to happen, the prospective members must be made aware of the essence of Freemasonry, what it involves and how it involves them,’ he said. For this to succeed, expectations must be managed: ‘Otherwise they could feel ambushed or disappointed by what they find on joining.’ (See here for more details about the MFG’s conclusions on membership retention.) 

Next on the podium, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward discussed how MFG research into leadership and education showed that many people, if not most, are motivated to join Freemasonry with an expectation of self-development. ‘The opportunity for specific leadership and management development tends to emerge as our brethren get into more senior roles,’ said Michael, adding that while there is a wealth of information available in all the Provinces, there has been limited sharing of best practices. ‘Provinces are consequently reinventing and duplicating.’ 

Michael believes that there is a window of opportunity to develop and deliver high-quality training material using some of the best practices from around the Provinces. ‘This creates a huge potential for us to enrich members’ experiences and demonstrate that we have listened to and understood their needs. It also shows that we are committed to modernising while maintaining our traditions,’ he said. ‘The alternative is to ignore reality and ignore the needs of our members. Our future depends on inspiring and re-energising our membership. This can only be achieved with the full and active support of the Provincial Grand Masters and the Grand Superintendents.’ 

Malcolm Aish echoed Michael’s sentiments when he outlined the MFG’s proposed strategy for Freemasonry going forward, which had been circulated to the attendees prior to the meeting. ‘The MFG feels a coordinated approach will achieve greater success but it is each Province that should consider its participation and support – for it is you that will implement a large part of the agreed strategy.’ 

Grand plans 

Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP, Ray Reed discussed the results from the annual survey for Provincial Grand Masters. He noted that 54 per cent of Provinces are providing training for new masters and 34 per cent for communications officers. ‘These must be two of the most important areas because they can make such a massive difference in our Provinces,’ said Ray. ‘It’s essential that we encourage those who don’t have training for lodge masters to contemplate giving it.’ 

In a 30-minute address, Ray touched on the need to innovate and speed up communication, adding that there is broad agreement on what the key areas for development are. ‘We’re talking about training and educating people, about effective mentoring and about best practice in recruitment, retention and retrieval,’ he said. ‘The MFG has sought to better understand the problems we face in Freemasonry and we are now ready to move from analysis to implementation.’

Ray ended on a strong message, saying ‘a successful future for Freemasonry will only come through quality leadership, consultation and collaboration’. 

The presentations at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting finished with a fitting quote from Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.’  

Published in UGLE

Involvement and cooperation

As we celebrate the efforts of those who have achieved Grand Rank, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on the challenges ahead for every member

 I congratulate those I had the pleasure of investing with their various ranks. Grand Rank has been awarded for your contribution to English Freemasonry, here and in our Districts. I take this opportunity to remind you that further great things are expected of you and you will be required to shoulder greater responsibilities, particularly with helping to implement initiatives for improving our Freemasonry, which may be brought in by the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters.

At the Annual Briefing Meeting, the Metropolitan Grand Master, Provincial Grand Masters, District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents were brought up to date on the various initiatives that have been undertaken to make Freemasonry fit to celebrate its Tercentenary with confidence in its future. This confidence will show that Freemasonry is as relevant today as it has been throughout the past 300 years.

To achieve this, we will continue to work closely with Provincial and District hierarchy to develop a clear strategy on sound leadership and the involvement of the membership, with clear focus on future needs and backed up by sufficient factual information. 

I am determined that this level of involvement and cooperation, which is already showing great benefit, continues to succeed.

It is essential that Grand Officers set good examples in their lodges and help to train the next generation. 

They should be expected to carry out any duties for which they may be called upon to support the strategy.

‘I take this opportunity to remind you that further great things are expected of you and you will be required to shoulder greater responsibilities, particularly with helping to implement initiatives for improving our Freemasonry.’

Published in UGLE

Varsity scheme is 10

Universities Scheme President David Williamson, Chairman Edward Lord, and past and present members of the committee came together in January with Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes and many other senior Freemasons to celebrate the scheme’s first decade of existence and hard work.  

With the initiative having grown from two lodges to 62 since its inception, and currently expanding into the Royal Arch, it has achieved much, with some lodges now being specifically consecrated as Universities Scheme lodges. Its fifth National Conference will be held in Leicester in November.

Published in Universities Scheme

Pride in membership

When it comes to new candidates, first impressions count. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes urges lodges to embrace the mentoring scheme

 The last issue of Freemasonry Today covered the results of a Membership Focus Group (MFG) survey seeking members’ views on many aspects of Freemasonry including friendship, masonic ceremony and charity work. 

With 5,265 members taking part in the survey, I will let you read the full results, but I wanted to highlight the following four areas that scored highly. Having respect for others came first, closely followed by being with people who respect others, then meeting people with integrity, followed by the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry. I have said often in the past that it is no surprise that Freemasonry is such a remarkable fundraiser for charity, because of our code of conduct. 

I suggest, brethren, that these responses simply endorse that view.

This and future surveys support the MFG’s aim of ensuring that any decision about Freemasonry draws upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels – not least at lodge level. I take this opportunity to stress the continued importance of the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Mentors’ role.

I know that the majority of lodges have now appointed a mentoring coordinator but I still remain concerned that, in many cases, no personal mentors have been selected. Here there is a skill in matching the right personal mentor – that is to say, with the best personality characteristics and appropriate knowledge – with each candidate. This relationship will be ever-changing as the candidate develops his understanding.

There can be no doubt that the early days of a candidate’s membership are the most impressionable. It is therefore important that the right personal mentor is assigned as early as possible after the interview stage and, at any rate, from initiation onwards. Pastoral care will always be a vital part of this relationship and it is at this early stage that the candidate should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry and, indeed, be encouraged to do so, particularly as he becomes more experienced. In addition, they should demonstrate pride in their membership to their family, friends and acquaintances.

The Metropolitan, Provincial and District Mentors have played a significant role in the running of the mentoring scheme, and I look to the lodges to support them in their important task of helping develop and retain membership at lodge level.

‘Candidates should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry.’

Published in Membership Focus Group
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - April 2015

Craft Annual Investiture

29 April 2015 
An address by the MW Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I welcome you all to this Annual Investiture and I congratulate those of you I have had the pleasure of investing with their various ranks. Grand Rank has been awarded for your contribution to English Freemasonry, here and in our Districts. I take this opportunity to remind you that further great things are expected of you and you will be required to shoulder greater responsibilities, particularly with helping to implement initiatives for improving our freemasonry which may be brought in by the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters.

At my Annual Briefing meeting yesterday, the Metropolitan Grand Master, Provincial Grand Masters, District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents were brought up to date on the various initiatives that have been taken to make Freemasonry fit to celebrate its Tercentenary with confidence in its future. This confidence will show that Freemasonry is as relevant today as it has been over all of the last 300 years.

To achieve this, we will continue to work closely with Provincial and District hierarchy to develop a clear strategy on sound leadership, the involvement of the membership with clear focus on future needs, all backed up by sufficient factual information. I am determined that this level of involvement and cooperation, which is already showing great benefit, continues to succeed.

As I have indicated earlier, it is essential that Grand Officers set good examples in their Lodges and help with the training of the next generation. They should be expected to carry out any duties for which they may be called upon to support the strategy.

I am sure we would all like to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the usual immaculate way this memorable ceremony has been conducted and the Grand Secretary and his Staff, all of whom have devoted an enormous amount of time and experience to organising this happy occasion.

Finally, I again congratulate those that I have invested and also say how pleased I am to see so many of you here today to witness your friends receiving Masonic honours.

Thank you brethren.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 12:45

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2015

Quarterly Communication

11 March 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, the March issue of Freemasonry Today covers the results of the latest Membership Focus Group survey seeking members’ views on many aspects of Freemasonry including friendship, masonic ceremony and charity work.

5,265 members took part in the survey.

I will let you read the full results but I wanted to highlight the following four areas that scored highly. Having respect for others came first, closely followed by being with people who respected others, then meeting people with integrity followed by the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry. I have said often in the past that it is no surprise that Freemasonry is such a remarkable fundraiser for charity, because of our code of conduct. I suggest, brethren, that these responses simply endorse that view.

This and future surveys support the Group’s aim of ensuring that any decision about Freemasonry draws upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels – not least at lodge level. Talking of lodge level leads me to remind you that the next annual Mentoring Conference is to be held next week and I take this opportunity to stress the continued importance of the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Mentors’ role.

I know that the majority of lodges have now appointed a Mentoring Coordinator but I still remain concerned that, in many cases, no personal mentors have been selected. Here there is a skill in matching the right personal mentor – that is to say, with the best personality characteristics and appropriate knowledge - with each candidate. This relationship will be ever changing as the candidate develops his understanding.

There can be no doubt that the early days of a candidate’s membership are the most impressionable and so it is important that the right personal mentor is assigned as early as possible after the interview stage and, at any rate, from initiation onwards. Pastoral care will always be a vital part of this relationship and it is at this early stage that the candidate should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry and, indeed, be encouraged to do so, particularly as he becomes more experienced. In addition they should demonstrate pride in their membership to their family, friends and acquaintances.

The Metropolitan, Provincial and District Mentors have played a significant role in the running the Mentoring Scheme and I look to the lodges to support them in their important task of helping develop and retain membership at lodge level.

Published in Speeches

Lincolnshire makes a difference

Freemasons in Lincolnshire have raised £2,762,932 for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), which was announced at an event attended by more than 960 masons and their partners to mark the conclusion of their 2014 Festival Appeal. The Province has also donated a further £25,000 to Lifelites.

Provincial Grand Master Graham Ives, who serves on the RMTGB’s council, said, ‘The Trust is a modern, vibrant and forward-looking charity. It has been a great privilege for us in Lincolnshire to support such a worthwhile cause.’ RMTGB President Mike Woodcock added, ‘Thank you for everything you have done during this appeal. Your contribution will make such a difference to the lives of so many children.’

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