Celebrating 300 years
Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Right Place, Right Time

Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft

How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.

Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.

What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.

How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’

Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.

Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.

What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.

What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.

 

 

Published in UGLE
Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Autumn 2012

With both Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, it has certainly been a memorable summer.

Since the last issue we have successfully released a new core leaflet. The title, What's It All About?, was inspired by our most frequently asked - and probably hardest to answer - question from non-masons. This is another milestone in our strategy for making people understand the relevance of Freemasonry in modern society which, in turn, will help both recruitment and retention. Do please look at the leaflet on our website. I think it is important to note that the leaflet is written in plain English for both the potential candidate as well as for all our families and friends.

It is a great 'myth buster'; showing that our values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Additionally, it talks about friendship, openness, giving, our purpose and how we all grow by our membership. Very different to anything we have done before, the leaflet has some outstanding black and white photography. Indeed, the initial distribution to London, the Provinces and Districts has proved so popular that we have already had to order another print run.

We have another thought-provoking issue of Freemasonry Today for you all, including a fascinating interview with the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. He talks openly about what he has got out of Freemasonry as well as the responsibility of this key leadership role and his hopes for the Craft. Dr Roman Hovorka goes on the record to discuss the creation of an artificial pancreas - the result of medical research that has been funded by the Freemasons and which could transform the way children with Type 1 diabetes manage this chronic condition. We spend a day on the lake with the Masonic Fishing Charity in Northamptonshire to see how young people are finding new ways of interacting with the world. Finally, ex-soldiers and Freemasons Michael Allen and Sandy Sanders reveal the camaraderie they have found in becoming Chelsea Pensioners.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

Letters to the editor - No. 20 Winter 2012

 

Valuing care 

 

Sir,

 

In reading the Grand Secretary’s column and hearing about the new Core Leaflet it occurred to me that Freemasonry is not just a charitable institution – a view held by the mundane world and many brethren alike. We all know that charity is the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart and most apply this virtue without vaunting it. It is natural that the Craft should defend itself against the many unfair accusations made against it, but in doing so in public our charitable virtues should not be overstated. The Craft is far more than a charity.


Herbert Ewings, Septem Lodge, No. 5887 Surbiton, Surrey


 

Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013

 

Keeping up standards

 

Sir,

 

I read with great interest and agreement the correspondence from Herbert Ewings and Tom Carr in the winter 2012 edition and felt somehow that the two letters were intrinsically linked.


The view shared by brother Ewings that Freemasonry is more than just a charitable institution is perfectly true. There are several fundraising organisations available to join if that is your preference, with little or no application of character building, philosophy, discipline and order or quite the camaraderie and fellowship that we all enjoy. As brother Ewings states, charity in its true context is evidently practised in Freemasonry, but neither this – and certainly not mere fundraising – are its sole objectives.


Similarly, as brother Carr observes concerning the lowering of standards at some masonic gatherings, I too have been disappointed whilst attending lodges (fortunately in the minority) where less than gentlemanly behaviour has been exhibited by some members. Without wishing to be regarded as pompous or priggish, surely we can enjoy hearty good fun at our Festive Boards without compromising our ideals as men of honour. No, brother Carr, you are not alone in objecting to such behaviour.


Surely it is possible to keep our time-honoured traditions of gentlemanly behaviour within and without the lodge (which we are charged with in the First Degree ceremony), which provide such a pleasant oasis in our troubled world.


Philip Hamer, Lodge Semper Fidelis, No. 1254, Exeter, Devonshire


 

 

 

 

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 19:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2012

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
12 September 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes


Brethren,

It has been an exciting, if somewhat wet, summer throughout the country and I trust you have all come back refreshed for the new Masonic season.

I have just started the first of four regional business meetings with Provincial Grand Masters. Clearly this is an ideal opportunity to talk about the current initiatives we are all involved in and to share thoughts and ideas. Importantly, we are all united in our mutual commitment to recruit and retain the best people – men of quality.

As the Masonic fraternity is a single, indivisible fellowship which is neither divided nor affected by local or national boundaries within our Constitution, the word united is extremely appropriate – not only for what we are all doing together today – but especially as we move forward to our three hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. Hence Metropolitan Grand Lodge, the Provinces and Districts are united as part of one fellowship – that of the United Grand Lodge of England.

With this in mind, one of the agenda items on my regional business meetings covers how we want to be working together to plan the 2017 celebrations, remembering that this is just over four and a half years away. From the very outset, I want to make it clear that this is a celebration for every one of us – for the members throughout the English Constitution, both here and in the Districts.

Celebrating three hundred years is a once in a lifetime event for us all, as well as appropriately marking this wonderful achievement of reaching this significant milestone, and, of course, being the first Grand Lodge to do so.
We have seen two great events this summer – that of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games. Both these events proved highly successful and raised the morale and spirit of our Nation. That is exactly what I want the members’ 2017 celebration to achieve for our united fraternity.

I am convinced that by working through the Metropolitan Grand Master and the Provincial and District Grand Masters we will encourage a large participation in this great occasion. Although there is much detail to be planned and to be communicated to you for your own planning, the main event will certainly include partners.

Brethren, we are proud to be Freemasons and 2017 is a great opportunity to show that pride not only to our families and friends, but to the non-Masonic community as well. To this end it will also be the natural culmination of the open public relations strategy we have embraced.

I can tell you, even at this early stage, that the main event in June 2017 will be at the Excel Centre, near the Olympic Stadium. This is one of the few locations in the Country that has the necessary capacity and infrastructure to properly enable us to celebrate this once in a lifetime momentous event.

Published in Speeches

At the suggestion of Anthony West, Chairman of the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, arranged a Fellows Presentation at The Royal College of Surgeons of England in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in the presence of The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.

The 250th Fund was set up in 1967 to support the college in making annual grants to support research Fellows, and currently there are three Freemasons’ research Fellows each year. In connection with the bicentenary of Supreme Grand Chapter in 2013, an appeal is in progress, the funds of which will be applied for a similar purpose.

Other distinguished guests included the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and the Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge.

The guests were welcomed by Professor Norman Williams, President of The Royal College of Surgeons, while plastic surgeon Professor Gus McGrouther expressed his gratitude to the masonic community for its support. Professor McGrouther explained that the college receives no NHS funding for research and that this all has to be paid for by voluntary contribution. The college supports 20 researchers annually chosen from 150 applications.

Three Freemasons’ Research Fellows gave talks. They were Vaibhav Sharma, on improving hearing through reducing scar tissue; Miss Ming He, on tissue engineering for transplantation; and Satoshi Hori of the Uro-Oncology, Hutchinson/MRC Research Centre, University of Cambridge. A member of Isaac Newton University Lodge No.859 also spoke on targeting growth factors in prostate cancer.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:30

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2012

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
13 June 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,

I am pleased that we have had the opportunity today of acknowledging and celebrating, as Freemasons, the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. Our association with members of the Royal family over the years has always been of great importance to us, not least the privilege of His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent being our Grand Master.

We have already heard the address on ‘Royal Jubilees and Loyal Freemasons’ and most enjoyable it was, and also we have called off Grand Lodge for the Annual General Meeting of the Grand Charity. I feel that is quite sufficient for one day and I suspect you will be relieved to hear that you won’t be being detained by a further address by me.

So before welcoming our distinguished visitors it only remains for me to wish you all an enjoyable summer.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

This isn’t rocket science

An open and sensible approach to Freemasonry could have a significant impact on public perceptions of the Craft, according to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. In most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject. The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open.

I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins.

We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworth’s and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained. It is important to explain to people that there are very few things we keep private in masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.

APPROPRIATE LANGUAGE

We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another as, ‘doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us’. Instead, we would say something like, ‘we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us’. To put it another way, this isn’t rocket science.

I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others. I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally, I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred. However, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.

We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a lodge, they will be among men who behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve.

You will be thinking that I have left out an important aspect: our charities. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say that we do a vast amount of charitable work. I most certainly am not saying don’t talk about our charities, quite the reverse, but don’t use our charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of enjoyment that we derive from our membership.

Published in UGLE

Fourth Mentoring Conference
22 March 2012
An address by the MW Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

 

Brethren,

I would like to give you an overview of our various initiatives and how they fit together into our overall strategy. You are all very well aware of the many factors that have been affecting the Craft over the last thirty years or so. All of which resulted in a negative image for Freemasonry, discrimination against our members and despite a rise in the population as a whole a steady decline in our own numbers. Whilst we are not alone in having a declining membership, I believe that we have something special to offer and that there are many men, who if they joined would enjoy and benefit from their membership, just as we have done.

So what is our strategy and how do you and the Mentors fit into it? Our first task was to counter unfair discrimination that our members were facing mainly in public office, local government and the armed services and to promote a positive image of the Craft. You will all know that Jack Straw had to change the Government’s stance on Freemasonry and the Judiciary. Local Government has had to remove its discriminatory enquiries into membership of Freemasonry. At the same time both at a National and Local level we have been talking to the Press, Chief Constables, Local Radio and Television to counter the misunderstandings that have arisen about the Craft. We have encouraged local Masonic Halls to open their doors to the public and we have promoted this building as a venue for Films, Fashion Shows, Launch Parties and other events. Whilst it brings in welcome revenue it has also meant the last year alone 100,000 members of the general public came into Freemasons’ Hall to see for themselves that we had nothing to hide.

We have also reviewed our image on the Internet. Grand Lodge now has two sites. The Grand Lodge Website which is outwardly facing and is mainly for the use of the general public and prospective members, looking for information about Freemasonry, and the Freemasonry Today website which is for our members. This not only has copies of the latest edition of the magazine, but also other topical items of news and interest. In addition nearly every Province and District has its own website as do many Lodges.

All of this has made the Craft more accessible than ever before and is helping to dispel the myths and misinformation that have grown up about us. At the same time we have been developing the Universities Scheme. If young men become interested in Freemasonry and find it enjoyable then we are building a firm foundation for the future and they are spreading the word to the next generation.
 But the best way to show the world what we stand for and that we have nothing to hide is through our members. If we have 250,000 members of the Craft talking confidently and competently to friends and family about their membership and why they enjoy it then word will quickly spread like ripples on a pond in ever increasing circles.

Brethren - enjoyment is the key and enjoyment comes through involvement and understanding and that is where the mentor comes in. When I addressed Grand Lodge last December I said that there were three stages to Mentoring. The first two cover logistics and a basic understanding of the ritual and developing a sense of belonging. The third is how to talk about our Freemasonry to the non mason. To be able to do this confidently and competently our members must have a sense of involvement and understanding that comes from the other two stages.

I have said on many occasions that the key to our future is quality candidates, that is - men who will “come to appreciate the value of masonry” and who will indelibly imprint on their hearts its sacred dictates. But we must look after these candidates, make them feel welcome in fact treat them as we would wish to be treated ourselves. It is a simple message, the right men, properly looked after, enjoying and understanding what they have joined. We need these men to talk about their membership to others of like mind, who may then become interested enough to want to join as well.

I see pastoral care being – at the very least – eighty per cent of what mentoring is all about.  Put simply, the real test is how you would like to have been welcomed when you first joined and how you would like to have been supported from then onwards.  I do not want, nor I am sure do any of us, to have a complicated or onerous scheme – rather one that is as natural as possible yet, at the same time, allowing consistency of advice and support.

The first stage is for each candidate to understand the basic logistics that are involved in becoming a Freemason. It is really about a proper welcome.  I am not going into that in detail today – other than to say that a candidate should never feel under briefed and should be made aware of his financial and time commitment. During this stage the personal mentor answers any questions the candidate may have for him to gain a sense of belonging.  In other words, there should never be any surprises.

The second stage is to understand the basics of the ritual, especially after initiation and then passing and raising.  This understanding should lead to the ability to answer questions about the myths that non Masons have – so that right from the start, members can counter the questions about the so-called funny handshakes, the nooses and trouser leg being rolled up – all these classics. The questions on these myths need to be answered accurately and without embarrassment.  I am not talking about an in depth knowledge, but more a common understanding. The Mentor can, of course, point them in the right direction for this additional and important information as they require it.

We all understand the need to look after candidates, but it is the third stage of giving them the confidence – from the very outset – in order that they can speak to, in particular, family and friends about Freemasonry. That, Brethren, is vital to ensuring the future.  A candidate – and indeed this applies equally to the rest of us – needs to understand how to talk to the non Mason about what Freemasonry means. The aim is to have as many members as possible as ambassadors for Freemasonry.

Brethren let me repeat what I said in December that an ambassador is not a rank or office - it is a mode of behaviour. On the fundamental understanding that we recruit only people who live up to our principles – an ambassador will not only understand the basics of ritual but also, importantly will be able and willing, with our support and guidance, to talk to family and friends about their Freemasonry, as and when appropriate. We need to have confidence in them to do so competently.  To quote the Grand Master, “Talking openly about Freemasonry, as appropriate, is core to my philosophy, central to our communications strategy and essential to the survival of Freemasonry as a respected and relevant membership organisation”.

I hope that I have set in context the work you are going to do today. Firstly in helping Lodges to effectively adopt the new office of Mentor and secondly in discussing ways in which mentors can help our members become confident and competent ambassadors for Freemasonry. We at Grand Lodge will give you every support.

In a nutshell brethren our strategy is:
•    To promote a positive image of the craft.
•    To remove discrimination towards our members.
•    To encourage the right men to join.
•    To help them enjoy their membership.
•    To encourage them to talk positively about Freemasonry.
•    Thus completing the circle.

This is our strategy and you, brethren, and the Lodge and Personal Mentors are key to its success.

Published in Mentoring Scheme
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00

Understanding the light touch

With mentoring high on the agenda, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes takes the opportunity to give clarity and perspective to what it means for Freemasons

You have all heard that the Mentoring Scheme is designed to eventually mentor members at all stages of their masonic progress. Initially this is especially for candidates – the next generation – during the three degrees and then to encourage them to continue their progress into the Royal Arch. London and all Provinces now have a Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Mentor who currently is responsible for liaising with the lodge mentor. For the avoidance of doubt, the lodge mentor is responsible for coordinating and selecting suitable brethren to be the personal mentors. It is most certainly not the intention that the lodge mentor should carry out the task himself – the personal mentor is best described as a friend and guide.

We all have our own ideas about what mentoring is and, for that matter, what it is not. Indeed, some believe there is no need for mentoring and some believe they are already mentoring perfectly satisfactorily. These sentiments are understandable without an explanation of what we actually mean by mentoring and what we are trying to achieve. In an ideal world, mentoring would happen naturally, everyone would be looked after as a matter of course, and this, in turn, would take care of issues such as recruitment, retention and retrieval – the three ‘Rs’.

Whatever your idea of mentoring might be, one of the aims we should all keep in mind is the promotion of an environment of belonging, understanding, involvement and enjoyment within the lodge. The skill will be to achieve this with a ‘light touch’.

three stages of mentoring

But first, let’s look at the word ‘mentoring’, which is translated in so many ways – rather like our masonry. Let me be quite clear: mentoring is not just about the Lodge of Instruction, valuable though that is for advancement in masonic ritual. Rather, it is mostly about pastoral care: seeing that the candidate is looked after, kept informed and that that support and care remains throughout each member’s masonic life.

In terms of the mentoring scheme, I see pastoral care being eighty per cent of what mentoring is all about. Put simply, the real test is how you would like to have been welcomed when you first joined and how you would like to have been supported from then onwards. I do not want to have a complicated or onerous scheme but rather one that is as natural as possible yet, at the same time, allows consistency of advice and support.

Mentoring has essentially three stages. The first two are straightforward as they cover logistics, basic ritual meaning and developing a sense of belonging. The third – how to talk about our Freemasonry to the non-mason – needs more explanation as it links in with our overall communications strategy that supports an external-facing organisation and underpins our new ambassadors’ scheme.

The first stage is for each candidate to understand the basic logistics that are involved in becoming a Freemason. Essentially, they should get a proper welcome. A candidate should never feel under-briefed and should be made aware of his financial and time commitments. During this stage the personal mentor answers any questions the candidate may have for him to gain a sense of belonging. In other words, there should never be any surprises.

common understanding

The second stage is to understand the basics of the ritual, especially after initiation and then passing and raising. But this understanding should be about the ability to answer questions about the myths that non-masons have. Right from the start, members can counter the questions about the so-called funny handshakes, the nooses and trouser leg being rolled up. The questions need to be answered accurately and without embarrassment – I am not talking about an in-depth knowledge, but more a common understanding. The mentor can, of course, point them in the right direction for this additional and important information as they require it. It is not, however, part of the new mentoring scheme.

We all understand the need to look after candidates, but it is the third stage of giving them the confidence from the very outset in order that they can speak to family and friends about Freemasonry. This is vital to ensuring our future. A candidate needs to understand how to talk to the non-mason about what Freemasonry means and we aim to have as many members as possible being ambassadors for Freemasonry. An ambassador is not a rank or office, it is a mode of behaviour. On the fundamental understanding that we recruit only people who live up to our principles, an ambassador will not only understand the basics of ritual but will also talk to others about their Freemasonry.

To quote the Grand Master: ‘Talking openly about Freemasonry, as appropriate, is core to my philosophy, central to our communications strategy and essential to the survival of Freemasonry as a respected and relevant membership organisation.’ It is with these three stages in mind that the Grand Secretary’s working party is producing succinct mentor guidelines. I see mentoring as a ‘light touch’ resulting in everyone enjoying their Freemasonry even more and feeling comfortable in talking
to their family and friends in an informed and relaxed way.

 

Letters to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.18 - SUMMER 2012

    

Sir,
I was delighted to read the Pro Grand Master’s article, ‘Understanding the Light Touch’. I have always considered that one’s mentor should ideally be one’s proposer or seconder and not a lodge officer. In 1998, I was part of a workshop on the future of Freemasonry at Manchester Freemasons’ Hall, addressing the thorny issue of retention, which proposed a mentor as a substitute for the candidate’s proposer when the proposer was himself too inexperienced to carry out the role.I personally never needed a mentor because my proposer (my father-in-law) took me to every practice meeting of our lodge, arranged many visits to his friends’ lodges and encouraged me throughout my progression to the chair. In other words carried out the mentor’s role in full.

I believe the one-to-one relationship is essential between candidate and mentor and it is good to see the lodge mentor’s role described as ‘co-ordinating and selecting brethren to be personal mentors’. Freemasonry proved to be a strong bond between my father-in-law and myself and I have always been appreciative of the shared interest, as well as the support he gave me.


Graham Holmes
Ben Brierley Lodge, No. 3317
Middleton, East Lancs

 

 

Sir,
A couple of years ago, I invited half a dozen or so of the most junior brethren of my lodge to a very informal meeting. They came and we had a very positive meeting, followed by another in 2011, and it will be repeated later this year. As the brethren progress, I let them drop off and add newcomers. The lodge mentor joins us and we have had enjoyable as well as constructive meetings. When I was new, grand officers were not addressed until they spoke to you and then you called them ‘Sir’. I am proud to be called Ken by an entered apprentice. I intend to continue as long as the GAOTU spares me and, of course, my wife, since she provides the refreshments.


Ken Mason
Beacon Lodge, No. 5208
Loughborough, Leics & Rutland

 

Published in UGLE

Bringing it to bear

With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes as its patron, Teddies For Loving Care is about to give out its millionth teddy bear. Anneke Hak charts its ten-year evolution

Back in October 1999, Freemason Ian Simpson took his wife, Angela, to Southend Hospital’s A&E unit after she had an allergic reaction causing her windpipe to swell and block. Anxious and frightened, the couple decided to do something to say thank you to the A&E staff and, with the help of Ian’s lodge, the Teddies For Loving Care appeal was born.

Teddies For Loving Care (TLC) is a simple idea. Freemasons donate money to their lodge’s TLC appeal, and the appeal (organised by each individual Province) donates teddy bears to the local A&E to be given to distressed children receiving treatment.

Ten years later, and Ian, now the TLC chairman, is about to see the millionth teddy bear donated to an A&E unit. Where that will happen, he’s not entirely sure, but TLC has been so successful that it could be anywhere from Essex to America, as the cause has gone global.

The appeal had much more humble beginnings, however. Firstly, Ian brainstormed the Thames Mouth Lodge in Southend, and along with Neil Beverley, Brian Procter and others, set a plan in motion. ‘When we started we were planning on only doing it here in Southend. Then we thought, “Hang on a moment, it’s probably something we could do over the whole of Essex,”’ Ian reveals. ‘We then got together to promote the concept and raise money to launch it.’

The first TLC bears arrived in A&E units in March 2001 and, as it was self-promoting, raising money for the appeal wasn’t too much hard work. ‘It wasn’t too long before somebody knew someone who had been given a teddy bear,’ explains Ian, ‘and so it was self-perpetuating, because people’s own children and grandchildren got help through the campaign.’

Before long the appeal had moved beyond the Provincial boundaries of Essex, much to the organising mason’s delight, and slowly over the past ten years nearly all the Provinces have joined in. The appeal has even moved abroad, catching on in Cyprus, Gibraltar and the United States.

From emergency staff’s testimonies, it’s clear how helpful TLC is to the practitioners working in A&E departments up and down the country. ‘They think it’s wonderful,’ says Ian. ‘An A&E consultant said publicly that TLC teddies were one of the attributable benefits that had given rise to a reduction in treatment times for children.’

Sarah Lewis, Emergency Matron Practitioner at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, has been using the teddies for a number of years and agrees about the benefits they bring. ‘It means so much to the nurses,’ she says. ‘It makes our lives easier and the children feel safer and it’s not so traumatic for them. The teddy system works so well because it’s such a simple idea. It’s something the children love and makes them feel special. The parents see that you really value their child, they’re not just another number and they’re being seen as an individual.’

creating a diversion

And the teddy bears aren’t just employed to comfort the child either; the nurses will quite often use them as a diversion technique in order to get their jobs done quickly and efficiently. ‘Often we use the teddy to mimic the injuries that the child’s got,’ explains Sarah. ‘We’ll put a sticky plaster on the teddy’s arm if the child has hurt theirs, so we can use it as a diversion technique.’

Sometimes, however, the child is too young to notice the presence of a new soft toy. It’s during these times that the parents draw comfort from knowing that they’re not alone in their ordeal. Louis Joslin was born 29 weeks prematurely in 2001, and he was the first child to receive a TLC bear after Ian Simpson met his grandfather while giving a presentation about the appeal. ‘Afterwards, one of the masons approached me and told me the story of his grandson, who was in an incubator and weighed less than two pounds,’ recalls Ian. ‘His chances of survival weren’t good. I was standing in the bar holding a prototype teddy bear, and I handed it over. I couldn’t just stand there holding the bear while I was being told about this poor baby.’

showing care and generosity

Thanks to the care he received, Louis survived. His father Steve is now a Freemason and he still remembers how thankful he was to receive the bear. ‘It helped to know that other people have an appreciation of the fact that you’re going through a tough time,’ he says. ‘You take things for granted so often, but not care and generosity.’

Steve also can’t believe how successful the project has become. ‘It’s quite stunning when you know that it’s come from such humble origins, from a few people having a chat one day and thinking it might be a good idea.’

While TLC isn’t intended to promote Freemasonry in the community, one of its side effects is that it makes people aware of the good work that the Freemasons continue to do. ‘Everybody has their own theories,’ says Sarah Lewis, ‘but I’ve found the Freemasons so warm and welcoming, and TLC shows how generous they are.’

Ian Simpson is also aware that generosity from individual Freemasons has secured the appeal’s success. ‘Whenever I talk about TLC, I tell them about the thanks we receive, the million teddy bears, but more than that I tell them that they did it,’ he says. ‘Without their raising over a million pounds we would never have gotten where we are today.’

Looking towards the future, Steve, who has helped with the appeal since becoming a Freemason, thinks things can only get better. ‘It’ll still be there just so long as Freemasons are willing to put a tiny bit of effort in. If we can spread a little bit of happiness then that’s what it’s all about.’

For more information or to donate to the TLC appeal please visit www.tlcappeal.org.uk

Published in Freemasonry Cares
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 12:30

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2012

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

14 March 2012

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

 
Brethren,

In December I mentioned that one of the many important aspects of mentoring was to give guidance to our members about how to talk about their involvement in Freemasonry, and Freemasonry generally, to those not involved, particularly their family and friends.

Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. We will all have different stories to tell, no doubt, but in most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject, which naturally leads to the answer, "if you are interested why not come and see".

The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the Lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open. We must make it clear to everyone that when a new member joins us, there should be no surprises in respect of either his time or financial involvement that will come with his membership

I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins and not the number of people who are members.

We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworths or other such shops and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained as well as, of course, the vast majority of the words we use in our ceremonies. It is important to explain to people that there are very few thing we keep private in Masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.

Brethren, some people still try to ridicule us about such things as "funny handshakes". There is no Masonic handshake. We know that they are confusing it with the modes of recognition in the three main ceremonies. I would suggest that the majority of Freemasons do restrict their use of these signs to the ceremonies rather than using them in everyday life and I would encourage that to be the case.

We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another Brother as "doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us", we would say something like "we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us".

Similarly we should not explain our objects as "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth", but would be rather more coherent perhaps saying "Respecting everyone, looking after others and being honest".

In modern parlance this isn't rocket science.

I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes or any preferential treatment in any walk of life. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others.

I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred, as I have little doubt such things have happened in the past, but, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.

We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved and experienced they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a Lodge, they will be amongst men who they will find to behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve, share many of the same interests and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow man. In short, to be among like minded men.

As their membership develops they are very likely to find enjoyment in the more detailed aspects like the meaning of the ritual as well as the delivery of it, the ceremonial or, perhaps, the dinners, although I hope the enjoyment would not be limited to just the dinners.

You will be thinking to yourselves, very probably, that I have left out an important aspect – our Charities. Brethren we are not the only organisation that supports charities and people can easily be extremely generous in this regard without becoming a Freemason. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say "we do a vast amount of charitable work and raise a huge amount of money every year". This is true but, as I have said before in Grand Lodge, Charity is not our reason for being. Having said that, Brethren, of course we should blow our own trumpets in this respect and, whilst Charity may not be our raison d'etre, it is certainly a most important part of Masonic life of which we should be and are hugely proud. Indeed, it is a very natural result of leading our lives according to the Masonic line and rule.

Our four main Charities are all something of which we should be hugely proud, but our overall charitable giving goes way beyond even that.

Brethren, I most certainly am not saying don't talk about our Charities, quite the reverse, but what I am saying is don't use our Charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of fun and enjoyment that we derive from our membership.

Published in Speeches
Page 9 of 15

ugle logo          SGC logo