25 APRIL 2013
AN ADDRESS BY THE ME First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
I congratulate all of you who have been invested today with Grand Rank. This accolade is not awarded solely for what you have achieved in Royal Arch Masonry, but it also looks ahead to the potential of your future contribution. That contribution should include helping to look after the smooth running of your Chapters and the happiness of your fellow members.
Recruitment into the Order is a further important task for you. However, it takes sound judgement to know when a member of the Craft is ready to complete his pure ancient Masonry. As you will appreciate, this judgement applies most particularly to the Royal Arch Representative in Craft Lodges.
As we look forward to celebrating the Bicentenary in October this year, I am pleased that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons has already passed the £1.3 million mark. This is a commendable effort and I thank those who have contributed so generously to this worthwhile appeal. For members who are intending to donate, I am informed that the Appeal will continue until the end of 2013.
Finally Companions, I am sure you will want me to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the skill with which the ceremony has been conducted and the Grand Scribe E and his staff for all their work in ensuring today’s success for all of us.
24 April 2013
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I congratulate all those of you that I have had the pleasure to invest today. This is, I hope, a memorable occasion and an important milestone in your Masonic life. I trust that you will carry your Grand Rank with humility and continue to support your fellow members to the best of your ability.
I have consistently stressed both the importance of recruiting high quality candidates and then ensuring that they understand what masonry stands for and how enjoyable it can be. If we are successful in this we stand every chance of retaining them. Clearly good mentoring plays a key part in retention and here I see all Grand Officers playing a significant role. Some will act as Lodge mentors or personal mentors, but all of us should assist in this task particularly for our newer members so that they enjoy their Freemasonry and want to stay.
These are exciting times for all of us to be Freemasons and we can be justly proud of our membership. However, as with any other large organisation, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure the long term future for the generations to come. To do so we have both a pro-active and collaborative approach. By pro-active, I mean looking at initiatives that we need to be putting into place now to retain our members. Above all we must clearly demonstrate to the non-Mason that we are a relevant and outward facing organisation in today’s society. And by collaborative, I mean that we work closely with Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges to mutually agree plans for the future. As Grand Officers several of you are already part of your executive teams. But whatever your role within the hierarchy, or the responsibilities you hold or will hold, please remember you are all members of the English Constitution with a common cause working together to ensure the future.
Today is a day of celebration for those I have invested and for the friends you have invited to witness this special ceremony. It is good to see you all and I wish you every success and happiness as you continue to enjoy your Freemasonry.
Finally Brethren, I constantly receive comments about the outstanding quality of our organisation and ceremonial at Grand Lodge. This applies to the Quarterly Communications as well as today, but today is, of course the real showpiece. I can assure you that a great deal of work goes into ensuring the success of these great occasions and on your behalf I thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the highly efficient conduct of the ceremony and the Grand Secretary and all his staff for all the weeks of planning and preparation that have been devoted to this Annual Investiture.
13 March 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
In my address to Grand Lodge last December I commented that we should be proud of our history. I therefore have no qualms – indeed I believe it is important – in mentioning that this year marks an important landmark in the history of our Grand Lodge: the two hundredth anniversary of the between the Ancients and Modern Grand Lodges. The actual – forming the United Grand Lodge of England – took place at Freemasons’ Hall on St John’s Day, December 27th 1813.
It is therefore more appropriate that we mark this major anniversary later in the year at the December Quarterly Communication. At that time I hope that Brothers Hamill and Redman will give us an account of the intriguing story of how the was finally achieved and its importance to English Freemasonry in particular and world-wide Freemasonry in general.
However, I mention this anniversary today for two main reasons. First, because those of you who are also members of the Royal Arch know that the Order is holding its own celebration in October of this year. It is to mark the decision, achieved during the negotiations leading to the, that the Royal Arch be recognised as an essential part of pure ancient Freemasonry, forging an indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.
Secondly, and importantly for us, rather than making major celebrations this year we have decided to concentrate our efforts on 2017 and the celebration of our tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. This is considered the more important of the two events and a celebration of both would inevitably stretch all recourses beyond any reasonable limit. It is intended that these celebrations will take place throughout the constitution both at home and overseas.
Freemasonry is good at celebrations. Lodges are usually very keen to celebrate their important anniversaries, and rightly so. There can be few, if any, other organisations that have so many individual component parts that survive to celebrate 50, 100, 200 years and beyond. We should be immensely proud that our Lodges not only survive and thrive, in most cases, for so long, but that they also keep full and accurate records of all their meetings. It is, of course, a prerequisite of the granting of a Centenary or Bicentenary Warrant that the Lodge can show continuous working. Some latitude is given to take account of war time conditions, but, otherwise, we are firm about this.
We do have Lodges that fail and at every Quarterly Communication there is a list of lodges to be erased. Sad as this is, it is inevitable when overall numbers have fallen, the redressing of which is on the top of any list of priorities that is drawn up. Conversely we still have new Lodges being consecrated, which may seem something of a paradox in the face of falling numbers, but I would argue that, if there is a group of like minded people who want to get together to form a Lodge and they can show reason for doing so as well as an ability to sustain it in the future, why not? The members will have considered the sustainability of the Lodge carefully and, even if it only survives for, say, 50 years, many people will have derived great enjoyment from it and many people will have been introduced to our great institution who might otherwise have missed out.
Brethren let’s celebrate on all possible occasions.
13 March 2013
An address by VW Bro Mike Woodcock, President, and W Bro Les Hutchinson, PAGDC, Chief Executive, Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
'A celebration of 225 years in supporting children by the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys'
VW Bro Mike Woodcock:
Brethren, on the ceiling frieze above the senior warden’s chair, is an image of Pythagoras. It reminds me that the antient Knights of Pythagoras had a saying “that a man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child”. Today, we want to tell you about a freemason who put that saying into action by creating the first central masonic charity 225 years ago.
He came, not from England, but from Italy, where he was a dentist - you might say he was of Italian extraction! He came to London in 1759. Then, a very different city with a population of only 800,000 crowded on the north bank of the Thames, between the tower and Westminster. Chelsea, Paddington and Marylebone were but farming villages.
England was becoming prosperous, the industrial revolution was underway and the English way of life, at least for the squire, the yeoman and the villager were the envy of Europe. But there was another side to society; the poor in the slums had a hard time, low wages, no welfare and a harsh penal regime. Gin houses advertising that you could get drunk for a penny and dead drunk for tuppence, were the escape and ruin of many.
It was to this London that thirty year old Bartholomew Ruspini came with letters of introduction from influential connections in France and Italy, ensuring his rapid entry into the highest circles of society. He set up a dentistry practice on Pall Mall opposite Carlton House, the residence of the Prince of Wales and he began to clean the teeth of royalty.
Ruspini was initiated into the Bush Lodge; became a founder of the Lodge of the Nine Muses, helped the Prince of Wales, which whom he had become a good friend, set up the Prince of Wales’s Lodge and he achieved the rank of Grand Sword Bearer, a rank he held until his death.
Although there were occasional casual grants for the children of deceased brethren from the committee of charity of the moderns and the steward’s lodge of the antients, there was no continuous provision and so 225 years ago, almost to the day, Ruspini established an orphanage school for girls.
He secured the first funding from his wealthy connections, including the Prince of Wales and the Dukes of York and Gloucester, and the Royal Cumberland School for Female Objects, was opened and named after the Duchess of Cumberland its first patron.
Fifteen girls met at Ruspini’s house on Pall Mall and processed to the new school, on the site of what is now the British Library. At the end of their school life, the girls were to return to their families or go into domestic service. School life was far from luxurious; meals consisted mainly of gruel, bread and beer with a weekly treat of boiled mutton – think of this brethren before you complain about your festive boards!
But Ruspini soon needed further funding for his school and so on its first anniversary he organised a church service and a dinner at which his masonic connections were invited to make donations - collected in a wooden box.
The event was called a festival and the collection an appeal. It raised 82 pounds, 10 shillings and 6 pence, about £9,000 in today’s values. That was freemasonry’s first festival appeal and it gave birth to the festival system which has endured for well over 200 years.
That brethren, is the collection box which started the festival system and it still bears the name of the Royal Cumberland School.
By now Ruspini had acquired a wide reputaton for benevolance and as result he received a papal knighthood conferring the title Chevalier.
What Ruspini had achieved inspired William Burwood and the United Mariner’s Lodge, to establish a similar charity for boys ten years later. The two charities grew and included the Royal Masonic Schools at Rickmansworth and Bushey.
But masonic boarding schools were not always the best solution and ‘out relief’ was started – financial grants for children who usually remained at home with their family attending local schools.
Eventually, this ‘out relief’ became the main support and in the 1980s, following the Bagnall Report, the girls and boys charities merged to form the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
W Bro Les Hutchinson:
If Ruspini were looking down on our proceedings today he would be extremely proud of his legacy and the impact it continues to have on the lives of so many.
The modern RMTGB is a far cry from its humble beginnings, but it still upholds the objects laid down for that first school, namely: to preserve children from the dangers and misfortunes to which their distressed situation may expose them; to train their young minds; and to qualify them to occupy useful stations in life.
We have moved on significantly from supporting just a few girls between the ages of five and ten and today we support almost 2,000 girls and boys, ranging from only a few months old to those completing full-time education, sometimes in their mid-twenties.
Today, our support is available to any child who is financially dependent on a freemason and this includes: step-children, adopted children and even grandchildren.
Today, just like in Ruspini’s day, our beneficiaries have one thing in common: they have all faced a life changing event that has reduced their family to a state of poverty. Around half of those we support have been affected by family breakdown; some have a parent who has a disability; almost a third have experienced the death of at least one parent – and some have lost both parents.
In the current economic climate more and more are from families affected by redundancy, unemployment or bankruptcy.
All of those we support are real children with real needs. And although we cannot completely erase tragedy, we can and do help to give them a brighter future.
Today, the majority of our grants are directed to children living at home, targeting the effects of poverty and helping to provide the best possible opportunities for them to succeed in life.
In addition to grants towards everyday costs, we also help with other essential items that can make all the difference to children, such as: school uniforms to ensure they fit in on their first day at school; extra-curricular activities to learn new skills, make friends and develop into well rounded young people; computer packages to enable them to complete their homework to the highest standard; and opportunities to develop rare and exceptional talent into a professional career.
We are responding to real needs of children in 2013, much like Ruspini was responding to real needs of children in his day.
But today, our work goes far beyond simply awarding and paying grants. Our skilled team of welfare advisers visit all the families in our care ensuring that they receive the appropriate support not just from us, but from the state and other providers. And our case advisers provide practical assistance and reassurance when families are at their lowest ebb.
As a celebrated philanthropist, Ruspini would be pleased to know that in addition to our core work, each year our grant making-scheme Stepping Stones helps thousands of non-masonic children.
He would also be proud that our choral bursary scheme provides other life-changing opportunities for children from low income families.
And his legacy now includes the work of Lifelites, our subsidiary charity which provides fun and educational technology, such as computers and games consoles, to every children’s hospice in the British Isles; helping to bring a little light into the lives of thousands young children who will never reach adulthood.
In these three ways we are demonstrating that masonic charity and Ruspini’s legacy are not just inward looking but a real force for good in wider society.
However, like Ruspini we need to work hard to secure funding to support our work. The short lease on that first school cost just £35 but we now spend over £9m each year and the festival system which he started continues to be the principal source of funding for the central masonic charities.
I have helped organise 25 festival appeals during which over £65 million has been raised for the trust. I am constantly astonished and immensely grateful for the generosity shown by the brethren and their families. Ruspini could never have imagined how his simple plan for securing the financial future of his school would become so pivotal to the existence and future of masonic charity.
But, what does the future hold for Ruspini’s legacy and that which is represented by that special collection box?
VW Bro Mike Woodcock:
Brethren, today, Ruspini would surely be proud that the charity he founded now cares for more disadvantaged children than at any time in its history.
He would be proud that the Royal Masonic School for Girls at Rickmansworth, although now an independent school, maintains a strong masonic tradition; providing a caring and special environment for some of our beneficiaries.
He would be proud that his name lives on in Ruspini House, located just behind Great Queen Street, where we provide accommodation for beneficiaries completing their education or beginning careers in London.
He would be proud that the endowment he helped to establish enables us to now spend on our beneficiaries on average, three times what we receive in donations from today’s freemasons.
He would be proud that the charity he founded now not only cares for boys as well as girls but works seamlessly with the other central charities providing, through Freemasonry Cares, a whole family approach – and as a man of change he would expect us to continue to evolve in order to meet the changing faces of society and of freemasonry.
But most of all he would be proud that never once in our 225 year history have we had to turn away a child in distress through lack of funds.
Brethren, that collection box is so much more than an item from a bygone age. It is a reminder that charity is at the heart of freemasonry and that we still rely on you, today’s freemasons, to support our vital work.
Let us finish with a passage taken from last year’s Prestonian lecture on Scouting and Freemasonry, words with which Ruspini would surely have agreed:
A child is a person who is going to carry on what you and I have started. He is to sit right where you are sitting and attend to those things that you and I think are important, after we have gone. We may adopt all the policies we please but how they will be carried out depends on him. Even if we make leagues and treaties, he will have to manage them. He will assume control of our cities, our provinces, countries and government (as well as scout troops and masonic lodges). All of our work is going to be judged and praised, or condemned, by him. Your reputation and future, and mine, are in his hands. All of our work is for him and the fate of our nations and all humanity is in his hands.
Chevalier Ruspini died 200 years ago this year and is buried at St James Church, Piccadilly. All the girls from his school attended his funeral wearing black cloaks.
Brethren, let us all remember not only those first girls but the hundreds and thousands of other disadvantaged children to whom we, as freemasons, have given a better start in life.
Thank you for listening to his and our story.
You can find out more information about the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys by visiting their website
The national and the London chairmen of the Universities Scheme, Edward Lord and Julian Soper, give some advice on how to recruit and retain younger members
Of our members across the English constitution, only nine per cent are aged under forty. To put that percentage in perspective, it is three thousand less than the number of members we have aged over eighty. Indeed, the vast bulk of our members are aged between fifty and eighty. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these figures, it does set a generational challenge with fifty-five per cent of our members in, or reaching, retirement. If the average age of reaching the chair is sixty-three, one can assume that most lodge decision makers are near to, or in retirement, which leads one to question the degree of representation younger members have. So how do we attract younger men to join masonry?
Research we conducted found that masonry is in increasing competition with many other calls on the leisure time of prospective members. It is also clear that it is less easy for those in employment to leave their workplace early in order to get to a lodge meeting. Nor for that matter do younger brethren want to stay late all the time – something that is equally true of more senior members.
Many successful lodges don’t start their work until 6 or 6.30pm in the evening and they still finish in good time to get home at a reasonable hour. They do this by taking a number of simple steps. Some, for example, don’t process in and out of the lodge. Most circulate rather than read their minutes, and do the same for the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s reports.
All of the above not only cuts down the time taken by the formal proceedings, but also increases the pace of a meeting. However, it is not as simple as saying that time commitments should be reduced. Regular meetings, often informal, and involving members’ partners, can be important in fostering a feeling of membership. A good mentor should greatly assist in helping a new member to feel he belongs, and the formal creation of lodge mentor as a lodge office should help ensure that this happens.
The language we use to describe Freemasonry is key to it having a broader appeal, as is dispelling many of the myths that still surround us as an organisation. Being able to describe in simple laymen’s terms what Freemasonry is about is crucial; emphasising the social side of our activities as well as the contributions we make to society, both through our charitable activities and by helping each individual mason to become the best person he can be.
Much to offer
Experience has shown that, approached correctly, young men – indeed men of all ages – find considerable appeal in joining an organisation that is secular, multi-faith, cross denominational and shares their values. Indeed, in explaining Freemasonry to new and potential members, a lodge should consider emphasising the lifetime friendships, development possibilities and new experiences that are on offer.
So where exactly do we get these new younger members from? Of course, the basic approach of ‘member-get-member’ remains the best. But some lodges, particularly those that are affiliated to a school or university, find that discreet advertisements letting people know they exist often attract initial enquiries. And in some cases, the adverts are less discreet. The Province of West Lancashire took the back page of last year’s Freshers’ Handbook, which went out to over twenty-thousand students in Liverpool. That resulted in a bumper crop of candidates for the University Lodge of Liverpool.
Many enquiries are now coming through the internet. Every day we receive hundreds of hits on the Grand Lodge, Provincial and lodge specific sites, which then translate into expressions of interest from prospective members. This is rapidly becoming one of the most important marketing methods for the Craft. So if your lodge doesn’t yet have a website, then it should consider investing in one.
Communication is crucial but lodges that have successfully spanned the generations have other attributes as well, not least in making new members feel welcome. Involvement in ceremonies is also important, but involve them at a pace that is right for them – don’t force them up the ladder.
And if you find you have a masonic star in waiting, let him move forward quickly as the chances are he could help ensure the future of your lodge.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 23 Autumn 2013
As a young Freemason (thirty years old), I felt compelled to respond to the letter by Harry Sykes in the recent edition of Freemasonry Today. I was initiated into my lodge (Lodge of Asaph, No. 1319) in 2008 and am currently the installed Master of the lodge.
Whilst brother Sykes makes an extremely valid point that no-one wishes to be suffering through ceremonies where the ritual is poor, I don’t subscribe to the view that this is a result of younger masons being fast-tracked to the chair. Yes, there may well be an element of this occurring, but this is surely a more widespread problem of lodges being unable to keep up to date and attract new, higher calibre brethren.
In fact, brother Harris-Cooksley makes a fine point on the same letters page that his lodge has been adapting to the times and people are being promoted based on merit and ability. I know of many young Freemasons, who are superb ritualists and do put in the time and effort to learn, perfect and polish their performance in lodge. I certainly take pride in my ability to perform the ritual and to understand the meaning behind it.
Equally, I have seen many masons who have been in lodges far longer than ten years whose ritual is poor. Instead of a ten-year barrier to entry, surely a progression to the chair should be based on ability, young or old?
Dan Roback, Lodge of Asaph, No. 1319, London
I read with interest Harry Sykes’s letter in the summer 2013 edition regarding falling standards. He seems to be blaming it on new brethren getting to the chair too quickly and suggests a new rule that you have to be in Freemasonry for ten years before being allowed to take the chair.
I feel in this regard the last thing we need is more rules. I was installed in under five years from my initiation. I’m sure I can hear ‘tut tut, shouldn’t be allowed’, but with the encouragement of my proposer, I visited at least as often as attending my own lodge, I joined chapter, I read and most importantly, I hardly missed a lodge of instruction.
I was one of three initiates who joined in consecutive years; there was a tiny bit of competitiveness between us when performing at lodge of instruction and also lots of support. We were all inspired by our preceptor who earned our respect by using a carrot NOT a stick; each of us conducted a first, second and third ceremony before taking the chair and we even held our own lodge of instruction in the summer. Since becoming a Past Master, I have been Director of Ceremonies for eight years; the other two have served as Secretary.
How to inspire brethren: by Past Masters setting an example with their ritual; by holding regular lodges of instruction with a good number of Past Masters present to support the brethren; not forcing junior brethren to rise up through the offices just to prevent another Past Master from taking the chair; and not being afraid to hold them back if you feel they need a bit more experience.
Remember we are all different. I felt very ready for the chair and holding me back for some arbitrary period may well have had an adverse effect.
Paul Gosling, William de Warenne Lodge, No. 6139, Uckfield, Sussex
Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013
The future of Freemasonry
This year the Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Inner Guard and Stewards of our lodge are all in their twenties. I joke that I feel the years – at my ripe old age of twenty-eight.
I read with great enthusiasm the article entitled ‘No Time To Be Retiring’ in the winter 2012 publication. Of particular interest and surprise was the startling fact that maybe ‘only nine per cent [of Freemasons] are aged under forty’.
Being part of the Universities Scheme has undoubtedly helped attract young men to our lodge, but this by no means tells the whole story. The traditional approach of ‘member-get-member’ is strongly encouraged and utilised. It has been remarked by our visitors over the years that our lodge has a very special atmosphere and feeling. Indeed, the presence of young men in the lodge allows our numerous and distinguished past masters to impart their knowledge and experience. They teach, and our lodge is the richer for it – Lodges of Instruction really are an education in masonic knowledge.
Candidates, young or old, who approach and join our lodge form part of a close circle of friends. Our newer brethren are encouraged to progress at their own pace, and to attend our social events whenever possible. Whether it be open lodge or the Festive Board, age really isn’t an issue. We have Freemasons who are knowledgeable and those with much to learn. We move forward as one, and are reminded of our lodge motto, which is translated from the original Latin: ‘The one light brings us together in comradeship’.
We have embraced the web and social media and look forward to our eightieth anniversary in 2014, as well as Grand Lodge’s three-hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. We are fortunate, and the future promises to be bright.
Ben Gait, Universities Lodge, Cardiff, No. 5461, Cardiff, South Wales
Keeping up standards
I read with interest the article ‘No Time To Be Retiring’ in the winter 2012 edition. While the I concur with the sentiments expressed by Edward Lord and Julian Soper, I take issue with the suggestion that lodges should consider dispensing with the processions in and out of the temple in order to save time, as is apparently the way forward of some lodges. Indeed, most past master lodges do not process in, but in my experience mostly process out. If we go down the road of continually reducing the time spent in the temple we will lose the traditions and the history of lodges. Cutting down the time taken by ceremonial proceedings will deprive the new masons of the solemnity of the Craft.
Barry A Fennings, Merchant Navy Lodge, No. 781, London
I have read with interest the recent letters regarding ‘keeping up standards’.
I wonder if falling standards in some lodges is a contributory factor in the reduction in their membership. Young Freemasons to whom I have spoken clearly did not join Freemasonry to participate in slipshod lodge workings and noisy conduct at the Social Board. Equally, older brethren do not want to see a lodge taken over by brethren to whom learning the ritual is a bore or who find the social side of Freemasonry is not what they or their partners expect.
When young men are installed in the Chair after a few years, as opposed to the fourteen to fifteen years it took yesteryear, their approach to Freemasonry can be somewhat limited and they may see promotion to higher rank as theirs by right, as their masonic education has been neglected. Perhaps ten years of membership should be a minimum for Masters of a lodge?
I consider we rank and file Freemasons fortunate to have a platform like Freemasonry Today in which we can express our views for consideration by the brethren.
Harry Sykes, Ben Brierley Lodge, No. 3317, Middleton, East Lancashire
12 September 2012
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I have recently finished the two yearly Regional Conferences that I have with Provincial Grand Masters. These are relatively informal affairs and cover a wide range of subjects. I find them extremely useful and they are kind enough to say the same – but, of course, what else could they say!
One theme that ran through them all was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases, this has already started. This means that perhaps we are getting some things right.
I have said frequently that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock on effect.
Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard from Brothers Soper and Lord at the September Quarterly Communication about the work of the Universities Scheme. Following that talk I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how best we can implement some of the principles that were mentioned, across the whole Craft.
Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.
Brethren, in November I visited my Great Grandfather’s mother Lodge in Hertfordshire and a splendid occasion it was, with an almost faultless 2nd Degree Ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.
The reason for mentioning this today is that in the Reply for the Visitors the Brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is “regard for others as a principle of action”. Rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.
If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t be going far wrong. Of course it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point, as it should naturally lead to a practice of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving, which seems to be second nature to us.
During this year the Festivals for our Charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the RMBI; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the MSF; Cambridgeshire £1.285m for the Grand Charity and Devonshire £3.836m for the RMTGB. In these troubled economic times this, Brethren, is remarkable and I congratulate all those concerned.
I hope that our membership, as a whole, are far more familiar with the activities of all our Charities than might have been the case 20 or so years ago. The promotion of their activities by the Charities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.
Whilst 3 of our Charities are Masonic in their giving, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that - quite the contrary in my view, the Grand Charity, of course, has a wide brief for giving to non Masonic bodies, provided that they are also Charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved and we should be quick to point it out.
Brethren, since 2007 we have had excellent and amusing talks on the past at the December Quarterly Communication from Brothers Hamill and Redman and we should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.
Brethren, I wish you all a very relaxing break over Christmas, particularly if, like me, you will be having your Grand Children to stay.
12 December 2012
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the Antients or Atholl Grand Lodge on the receiving end of a stiff letter of complaint from the Moderns Grand Lodge at the lack of progress towards a . The Minutes of the Antients for March 1812, record:
Ordered that six hundred pounds three Percent Consolidated Bank Annuities be purchased in the names of the Trustees, viz. R. Bros. Thomas Harper, James Agar, William Comerford Clarkson and James Perry Esq. in trust for the Charity funds of the Grand Lodge.
Ordered that the Masters and Wardens of the Lodges in and adjacent to London and Westminster do and shall forthwith make out and deliver to the Secretary a list of all and every of the Past Masters entitled to sit and vote in Grand Lodge, with the dates when they respectively served the office of Master and that a printed circular letter be issued for such return and to be filled and returned in thereon.
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, six hundred pounds was a significant amount, with a purchasing power today of almost twenty one thousand pounds. The reason for the census of Past Masters was a result of the argument between the negotiators for the of the two Grand Lodges over the future composition of the United Grand Lodge. Under the Antients Grand Lodge subscribing Past Masters remained members of the Grand Lodge but in the premier Grand Lodge only the actual Masters were entitled to attend. Those who were present here last year might remember that the premier Grand Lodge’s only reason for being against including Past Masters in the membership of Grand Lodge was the rather trivial one that their Hall would not be big enough if they all turned up!
GFR: At the same meeting a memorial from the Committee of the Masonic Institution for Cloathing and Educating the Sons of Deceased and Indigent Freemasons was received and read, as a result of which it was:
resolved and ordered That from and after the date hereof, every Lodge in and adjacent to London and Westminster upon the register of every newly made Mason, shall contribute and pay the sum of Five Shillings and every Country, Foreign and Military Lodge shall in like manner pay Two Shillings and Sixpence which sums shall go in aid of the Institution for cloathing and educating the Sons of indigent Freemasons.”
It is also resolved and ordered “That from and after the 5th of September next, no person shall be admitted into Masonry, in any warranted Lodge under this constitution for a less sum than Three Guineas, to be paid upon his initiation” under a penalty of forfeiture of the Warrant, in any Lodge so trespassing.
JMH: Placing a levy on their members to finance their Boys’ Charity was not a new concept for the Antients. Grand Lodge dues had not then been invented but from its earliest days the Antients Grand Lodge had required its lodges to make a quarterly payment of six pence for each of the members appearing on their returns, which went into their Fund of Benevolence. The sole income of the Grand Lodge itself came from registration fees for new members and those joining additional lodges and fees for warrants and dispensations.
Three guineas might not seem a large amount for the initiation fee, the modern equivalent would be about one hundred and seven pounds. When one realises, however, that a good craftsman or tradesman in early nineteenth century London would only be earning about one pound per week and that the average lodge annual subscription at that time was one guinea, we are given a different perspective. How many potential candidates today would be happy to pay three weeks salary for their initiation fee and one weeks salary as their annual Lodge subscription?
GFR: At the June meeting
The Deputy Grand Master reported that in conformity with the directions of the Grand Lodge, the number of Past Masters had been collected from the returns of the respective Lodges and a list had been handed to the Secretary of the Masons under the Prince Regent prior to their general meeting in April last with the following letter, but that no communication had been received thereon.
In conformity with the wishes of the Committee of Masons under H.R.H. the Prince Regent, the utmost pains have been taken to ascertain the number of Past Masters, who claim the right of seats in the Grand Lodge under His Grace. the Duke of Atholl, and from the best sources of information that could be obtained. I have the honor to subjoin a statement of the utmost number who can be considered at this time entitled to that privilege.
Permit me to observe that upon no occasion has it ever been known for more than one third of the number of the number (i.e. Past Masters) to give their attendance at the Grand Lodge at any one time.
As I am not aware that any Return has yet been made to the Committee under His Grace the Duke of Atholl of the numbers in the representation of the Grand Lodge under the Prince Regent, allow me to say I shall be happy to receive it at your earliest convenience.
I have the Honor to be Sir
Your very obedient Servant
Edwards Harper D.G.S.
JMH: The statistics provided by the Antients were as follows:
Grand Officers Present and Past 16
Masters and Wardens (49 Lodges) 147
Past Masters of the foregoing 375
Considering that the Antients had lodges throughout England and Wales as well as many lodges in the colonies, it would appear that they restricted attendance at their Grand Lodge to Masters and Past Masters of London lodges. Many of their official pronouncements include a statement that they were issued by “we the Grand Officers and Masters and Past Masters of the Lodges in the Cities of London and Westminster in Grand Lodge assembled…”. Forty nine was the number of lodges under the Antients in the London area.
GFR: In another place – as they say – at the Quarterly Communication of the Premier or Moderns Grand Lodge in February of that year:
The Grand Treasurer acquainted the Grand Lodge that he considered it desirable for the Society to make a purchase of the house adjoining to the Tavern and that he had reason to believe such purchase might be made on fair and equitable terms together with certain small premises adjoining thereto which it might be very desirable for the Society to possess, whereupon, on a motion duly made it was
Resolved that the Grand Treasurer be authorised to treat for such purchase under the sanction of the Hall Committee and to conclude the same and under that sanction to raise such sum of money, by mortgage or otherwise, as may be necessary for the completion of the purchase.
The Earl of Moira A.G.M. acquainted the Grand Lodge, that in consequence of the death of Admiral Sir Peter Parker Bart. His Royal Highness the Grand Master had been pleased to appoint His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex to be Deputy Grand Master which communication was received by the Grand Lodge with every sentiment of respect and approbation.
JMH: The property was acquired and after the was radically adapted by the first Grand Superintendent, the noted architect Sir John Soane, to provide additional lodge meeting facilities. Sadly Soane’s work only survives in his plans and drawings as his extension to the original Hall disappeared during the building of the second Hall in Great Queen Street in the 1860s.
Admiral Sir Peter Parker had been a very popular Deputy Grand Master, an office he had held since 1787, although as commander of the fleet in the West Indies and Caribbean he was often absent from England fighting the French. The choice of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex as his successor was, history has shown, a master stroke of dynastic planning. As we shall hear in a few moments, the Earl of Moira who had been the Prince Regent’s Masonic right hand since 1790, was soon to depart for India, and the Prince of Wales, having become Prince Regent, was planning to retire from the Grand Mastership so new leadership would be required. The Duke of Sussex had proved himself an enthusiastic Freemason and was to prove a perfect example of the right man being appointed at the right time.
GFR: At the April Communication of the Grand Lodge :
The Grand Secretary laid before the Grand Lodge letters he had received from the Provincial Grand Lodge of York complaining that the Lodges in that Province did not correspond and remit their Contributions for the Grand Lodge in London through the medium of the Provincial Grand Lodge by reason of which the dignity and consequence of the Provincial Grand Lodge was not sufficiently supported and therefore requesting the interference of the Grand Lodge on the subject. Whereupon after mature deliberation the Grand Lodge declared its opinion that the request of the Provincial Grand Lodge at York cannot be complied with, as such a proceeding would tend to lessen the authority and superintendance of the Grand Lodge over the subordinate Lodges. And the Acting Grand Master undertook to write to the Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire on the subject.
On a motion made by Brother Thomas Brand Esq. and seconded by Brother the Revd. Dr. Coghlan it was
Resolved that a Grand Organist be appointed to perform on the organ in the hall at the meetings of the Grand Lodge who shall be entitled to wear a Blue Apron and to have a seat in the Grand Lodge. And that the Grand Master be requested to nominate a fit person accordingly.
JMH: The complaint from the Provincial Grand Lodge at York might seem strange to us but is a perfect demonstration of the maxim that historians should look at the past through the eyes of the past and not the eyes of today. Although Provincial Grand Masters appeared as early as 1725 Provincial Grand Lodges as we know them today were a product of the new administrative arrangements after the in 1813. Under the premier Grand Lodge, as today, Provincial Grand Masters were appointed by the Grand Master as his personal representatives within their designated areas. They often appointed a Deputy and a Secretary and were empowered by the Book of Constitutions to appoint Grand Officers pro tempore to assist them on ceremonial occasions such as the constitution of new Lodges, laying of foundation stones and public processions, but Provincial Grand Ranks as we know them came after the .
Indeed, there was ambiguity as to the ranking of Provincial Grand Masters under the Moderns. The minutes of each of their meetings begin with a list of those present in order of seniority. On every occasion the Provincial Grand Masters who attended were listed after the actual Grand Wardens and any Past Grand Wardens who attended. For many years I was puzzled by the fact that the ubiquitous Thomas Dunckerley, who had been Provincial Grand Master for nine Provinces was in 1786 appointed a Past Senior Grand Warden, the first occasion on which a Past Rank was conferred other than the rank of Past Grand Master being conferred on Royal brethren. It was only recently discovered that he had actively sought the rank because he was about to give up his then charges and would no longer qualify to attend Grand Lodge as only the actual Provincial Grand Masters were so qualified.
GFR: At the Grand Feast, held that year in May:
The Grand Lodge having resolved, that a Grand Organist should be appointed, the Grand Master was pleased to appoint Mr Samuel Wesley to that office.
JMH: Samuel Wesley was the son of Charles and nephew of John Wesley, the founders of Methodism. A major composer of his day, called by some the English Mozart, he had been initiated in the Lodge of Antiquity (now) No. 2 in 1788. He was to be Grand Organist from 1812 until 1818 but, sadly, appears to have left no Masonic music. Today he is greatly overshadowed by his son Samuel Sebastian Wesley, one of the great church composer and cathedral organists of the nineteenth century.
GFR: In November the Deputy Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, reported on a Special Meeting of Grand Officers held earlier in that month at his instigation at which:
The Grand Treasurer acquainted that Committee that he [that] morning had [had] the honor of an interview with His Royal Highness the Deputy Grand Master who had desired him to express to the Committee His Royal Highness’s regret at being prevented by severe indisposition from attending this meeting that His Royal Highness had ordered the Committee to be summoned for the purpose of taking into consideration the mode of paying some mark of respect to The Earl of Moira A.G.M. (to whose kind care and exertions the Craft is so greatly indebted for its present highly respectable and flourishing state) previous to His Lordship’s expected departure from England and that His Royal Highness was of opinion it would be proper to invite His Lordship to partake of a dinner with the Craft…
That Committee had then Resolved unanimously that a Masonic Dinner at which the Duke of Sussex should preside be given to Lord Moira, to which the members of the Craft generally should be invited, and a further Committee was appointed to oversee the arrangements.
And the Grand Lodge having expressed its approbation of the proceedings of the Committee it was
Resolved unanimously that at the dinner of the Grand Lodge to be given to The Right Honorable The Earl of Moira A.G.M. on the 13th day of January next a Masonic Jewel of a value not less than 500 Guineas be presented to His Lordship in token of the high sense which the Craft at large entertain of His Lordship’s most valuable services to the Society from the year 1790 to the present time, and of the Brotherly affection they bear him
Resolved unanimously that the several Lodges be invited to contribute towards this expense in order that every member of the Craft may have an opportunity of testifying his regard, individually to the M.W. Acting Grand Master.
JMH: Lord Moira had been appointed Governor and Commander in Chief at Bengal, where he was to remain for ten years. He broke his journey to India with a brief sojourn in Mauritius, where with Masonic ceremonies he laid the foundation stone of the new Roman Catholic cathedral.
Moira had been Acting, or as we would say Pro, Grand Master since 1790 and had steered the Moderns through a difficult period, not least the possibility of the Craft being proscribed under the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act. Calling for five hundred guineas to purchase a jewel to mark his long service was extraordinarily generous, in modern purchasing power it equated to just under eighteen thousand pounds. The dinner held on 27 January 1813 was indeed a gala occasion attended by Their Royal Highnesses the Dukes of Sussex, York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland and Gloucester, the Deputy Grand Master of Scotland and a representative of the King of Sweden. The presentation was magnificent. The jewel, surrounded by brilliants, carried the Acting Grand Masters’ emblem and was suspended from what was described as “a collar of three feet long, composed of seven rows of fine Maltese chain, intersected by five parallelograms with brilliant centres”. It was made by Brother J. C. Burckhardt of the Lodge of Antiquity. The jewel is now in the Museum in this building but the collar was eventually broken up into necklaces for Moira’s female descendant. The final cost was six hundred and seventy pounds, just over twenty two thousand five hundred pounds today!
GFR: 1912 seems to have been a rather uneventful year. Leaving aside a spate of Appeals and the investiture of a new Assistant Grand Secretary, the only item which catches the eye – and catches it spectacularly – was in March of that year when the Pro Grand Master stated:
I regret that I feel obliged to disallow the motion standing in the name of the V.W. Brother the President of the Board of General Purposes. It is a proposal to alter the established custom in the matter of appointments and precedence and therefore affects the prerogative of the Grand Master.
JMH: Strong words indeed, and stronger were to follow for the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, was not known for his diplomatic skills! To challenge the President in Grand Lodge, apparently without any warning, was unprecedented.. The motion concerned the precedence of Lodge officers, something not then governed by the Book of Constitutions. Ampthill claimed that the motion interfered in the prerogatives of the Grand Master, had the Grand Registrar been asked he might have had a contrary view! Wisely the President withdrew the motion and the matter was not raised again. Lord Ampthill, however, began almost a crusade to have the whole administration of the Craft examined and revised. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.
14 November 2012
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, after Supreme Grand Chapter has been closed we will be receiving presentations from Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
I am delighted to say that, with the generosity of so many of you individually and collectively from Chapters, we are well on our way to meeting the target for the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. Indeed with £900,000 already raised, I hope we will be able to exceed our original target by a very considerable margin. During the year presenters from the College have attended several Provincial meetings to explain what they do. I am told that these have all been very well received. I would particularly like to highlight an event earlier in the year when the First Grand Principal attended a fascinating presentation at the College in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Four Freemasons’ research Fellows gave talks on their vital research projects that we had funded. These talks dealt with very technical research, but were delivered in such a way that even laymen such as myself could understand them. The importance of their research cannot be over emphasised and as you know the College receives no NHS funding for research, so this has all to be paid for by voluntary contribution.
We remain justly proud to be the major benefactor and I thank all of you who have, and will be, contributing to this worthwhile Appeal. I am sure we are all looking forward to hearing the presentations shortly.
To mark the culmination of the Appeal and the Bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure ancient Masonry, the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter in November 2013 has been moved to the third Wednesday in October – the 16th of October – to take advantage of what is hoped will be more clement weather, both for travelling to and from the meetings and when we have to move from here to The
Savoy in the evening. Rest assured Companions the meetings themselves will be under cover.
The President of the Committee of General Purposes has already outlined the provisional programme for the day here in the Grand Temple, the Grand Connaught Rooms and at the Savoy.
Companions, you will appreciate that each of these venues is restricted to the numbers we can fit in. Clearly there are key members of the Royal Arch who must attend, for example, acting officers of the year and representatives from foreign Grand Chapters. At this planning stage it is most important to us that we ensure that qualified Companions at every level, from London and all Provinces and Districts, are strongly represented.
More importantly Companions, this celebration should be a catalyst to encourage more Freemasons to join our wonderful Order.
12 September 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
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.
12 September 2012
An address by W Bro CE Lord OBE PAGDC and W Bro JR Soper PAGDC
Bro C.E. Lord, OBE, PAGDC: Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren, as the National and the London Chairmen of the Universities Scheme, we were honoured to be asked to give thought to this crucial topic of how we make the Craft relevant to all generations.
Bro J.R. Soper, PAGDC: Recruitment and retention of members is a key theme that every Lodge has high on its agenda and it is important whether a newly made Brother joins us aged eighteen, twenty-eight, forty-eight or sixty-eight.
Bro Lord: Inevitably, our own focus has been looking at how we can include younger men in Masonry as not only is that the role of the Universities Scheme, but it is also a reasonable proposition that if can encourage men to join and develop a love of the Craft in their twenties, then we can hope to keep them throughout their lives, providing us with a steady stream of Lodge officers who may, we hope, also become active in their Provinces and the Metropolitan area.
Bro Soper: That said, we believe our findings - based on qualitative research, having consulted a range of Provincial leaders and Lodge secretaries - are relevant to the vast majority of Lodges, as we are sure that every one of you will be keen to expand their Lodges’ membership and encourage participation, as individual circumstances permit.
Bro Lord: Therefore in our talk today we are going to focus on a number of issues, giving some tangible examples of good practice and some suggestions that Lodges may wish to try.
Bro Soper: And the good news is - that recognising that taking notes wearing regalia and gloves isn’t easy - the Grand Secretary has agreed to publish the text of this talk on the UGLE website within the next week, and there will also be an article based on the speech in the next edition of Freemasonry Today.
Bro Lord: To set things in context though, we thought you might be interested to know how our membership breakdowns by age group at the moment.
Bro Soper: Of our members across the English Constitution, only nine per cent are aged under 40.
Bro Lord: And to put that percentage in perspective, it is 3,000 less than the number of members we have aged over 80.
Bro Soper: Indeed the vast bulk of our members, some 65 per cent are aged between 50 and 80.
Bro Lord: The average age at initiation is 44 and the average age of those attaining the Chair over the last four years was 63.
Bro Soper: We are not saying there is anything wrong with that in principle, but with 55 per cent of our members in, or reaching retirement, it does set a generational challenge. Also if the average age reaching the Chair is 63, one can assume that most of the decision makers in a Lodge are near to, or in retirement, which leads one to question the degree of representation that younger members have in a Lodge.
Bro Lord: So how do we attract younger men to join Masonry, and retain them, whilst ensuring that our existing membership still enjoy their participation and don’t feel excluded by change?
Bro Soper: In our research we have found that one crucial element is recognising that Masonry is in increasing competition with many other calls on the leisure time of prospective members.
Bro Lord: It is also clear that working patterns have changed significantly and it is less easy for those in employment to leave their workplace early in order to get to a Lodge meeting.
Bro Soper: Nor for that matter do younger Brethren, especially those with growing families, want to stay late all the time - something that is equally true of more senior members.
Bro Lord: Many successful Lodges don’t start their work until 6 or 6.30 in the evening and they still finish in good time to enjoy their after-proceedings and get home at a reasonable hour.
Bro Soper: They do this by taking a number of simple steps that cut out time consuming yet peripheral activities. Some, for example, don’t process in and out of the lodge. Most circulate rather than read their minutes, and do the same for the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s reports as well as much of the business normally done under the risings.
Bro Lord: Ceremonies can be reduced in length too, without taking out any of the essential elements that make our ritual so special. For example at installation there is no necessity to present the working tools or to formally re-invest those officers being re-appointed.
Bro Soper: At the meal, there are opportunities to shorten proceedings, and we would make a plea that all long speeches should be avoided - with no exceptions (laughter). All of the above not only cuts down the time taken for formal proceedings, but also increases the pace of a meeting, which is important if one wants to keep the attention of a younger member. The “impatience of youth” is something we can all remember, and need to acknowledge.
Bro Lord: Of course, there are significant time commitments beyond the Lodge meetings, such as Lodges of Instruction, rehearsals, Lodge social functions etc. The overall time commitment of a member needs to be particularly reviewed by the Lodge.
Bro Soper: However, it is not as simple as saying that the time commitment should be reduced. Regular meetings, often informal, and perhaps involving members’ partners and family can be important in fostering a feeling of membership, and this sense of being a member and of belonging is very important.
Bro Lord: Indeed, and hopefully, having a good mentor should greatly assist in helping a new member to feel he belongs, and the formal creation of a Lodge Mentor as a Lodge office should ensure that this happens.
Bro Soper: So we have so far discussed three key points: the need to be mindful of the time commitment that we are asking of members, keeping up the pace of a meeting, and the importance of fostering a feeling of membership. These are all important to ensuring a Lodge is welcoming to all generations. What we have also found is the way a Lodge looks and feels is absolutely vital too.
Bro Lord: A lot of this has already come out from the ground-breaking research undertaken for Grand Lodge earlier this year in the ‘Future of Freemasonry’ report.
For example, the language we use to describe Freemasonry is key to having a broader appeal as is dispelling many of the myths that still surround us as an organisation.
Bro Soper: Being able to describe in simple laymen’s terms, using modern vocabulary, what freemasonry is about is crucial; emphasising the social side of our activities as well as making a contribution to society both through our charitable activities and by helping each individual Mason to become the best person he can be.
Bro Lord: But changing our language doesn’t mean changing our principles.
In his address to the University Scheme Lodges, the Assistant Grand Master has so rightly said: “the society of today lives in a seemingly increasing moral vacuum, a space which Freemasonry, with its Grand Principles … can fill, and to which young intelligent men can look for inspiration, self-improvement and fulfilment.”
Bro Soper: Experience has shown that, approached correctly, young men - indeed men of all ages - find considerable appeal in joining an organisation, which is secular, multi-faith, cross denominational and which shares their values. Indeed, in explaining Freemasonry to new and potential members, a Lodge should consider emphasising such features as lifetime friendships, location flexibility, should they move, personal development possibilities and new experiences.
Bro Lord: I imagine that some of you are thinking that this is all very well, but where exactly do we get these new younger members from? Of course, the basic approach of ‘member-get-member’ remains the best, but some Lodges, particularly those that are affiliated to a school or university, find that discreet advertisements letting people know they exist often attract initial inquiries.
Bro Soper: And in some cases, the adverts are less discreet. The Province of West Lancashire took the back page of last year’s Fresher’s Handbook, which went out to over 20,000 students in Liverpool. That resulted in a bumper crop of new candidates for the University Lodge of Liverpool.
Bro Lord: But many enquiries are now coming through the internet. Every day we are receiving hundreds of hits on the Grand Lodge, Provincial and Lodge specific sites, which then translate into expressions of interest from prospective members.
This is rapidly becoming one of the most important marketing methods for the Craft.
Bro Soper: So if your Lodge doesn’t yet have a website, then it should consider investing in one, but do remember to keep a website up-to-date as there is nothing worse than finding all the information is three years old and no longer relevant.
Bro Lord: We can also use social media such as Facebook to communicate with our members outside Lodge meetings. A number of Lodges, including Apollo University Lodge in Oxford, and the Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Lodge have established an active presence on Facebook, for example. Not only can this be used to organise social events, but it also helps develop the feeling of membership.
Bro Soper: And if you don’t know what Facebook is, ask your children or grand-children (laughter) as it’s a great way of keeping in touch with them too.
These direct benefits of embracing the internet also help in making Freemasonry in general, and a Lodge in particular, more modern, and thus more relevant to younger Masons. An important challenge to us all is to respect our traditions, stay faithful to our values, whilst appearing modern and thus relevant to younger generations.
Bro Lord: We have now covered the interlinked key points of the importance of appearing up-to-date, embracing the internet, and using clear modern vocabulary when describing Masonry. Such marketing and communication is all very well attracting initial interest, but we have found that Lodges that have successfully spanned the generations have other attributes as well, not least in making new members feel welcome.
Bro Soper: An aspect of Freemasonry that can be off-putting to newer and/or younger members is rank, particularly if it is interpreted as “superiority”. We would suggest, for example, that Lodges avoid being too hide bound by rank or seniority and that Grand Officers and Provincial Grand Officers should spread themselves around both in the Lodge room and at the Festive Board, actively engaging younger members in conversation.
Bro Lord: Involving younger members is a common theme that we have heard from successful Lodges. Involvement in ceremonies is important, but involve them in a pace that is right for them. Let them if they want to, but don’t force them up the ladder if they do not. However also involve them in the organisation of social events, and in the decision making of the Lodge. Some Lodges, in order to do just that, have abolished the Lodge Committee or made it all of the members - this ties in with our earlier comment about the relatively high average age of decision makers.
Bro Soper: And if you find that you have a Masonic star in waiting, let him move forward quickly and become a young master as the chances are he could help ensure the future of your Lodge as well as being of huge benefit to your Province or Metropolitan Grand Lodge.
Bro Lord: That does lead to a respectful request to Provincial Grand Masters and Provincial Grand Secretaries that when you do invite younger Masons to become members of committees or working groups, please do avoid having all meetings in the middle of the working day.
Bro Soper: Provinces can also help retain younger members through initiatives like London’s Connaught Club, which welcomes all Masons in the capital aged under 35, to socialise together and, which, by encouraging better connections, also supports inter-visiting. It may also accelerate the feeling of belonging, by causing a young Mason to be surrounded by a number of like-minded people, and reinforces the idea that Masonry is for all age groups.
Bro Lord: Another approach is for Provinces to create Lodges specifically designed for younger professional people. For example, the establishment of The Leeds Lodge last year in the West Riding, which meets four times a year in the centre of the city at a time suitable for people coming straight from the office.
Bro Soper: There are many more ideas that came from our research that we believe will help assure the future of Freemasonry and make it relevant for all generations, but time today is against us.
Bro Lord: We very much hope this has proved interesting and thought provoking and thank you Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master for inviting us to make this presentation and thank you, Brethren for the way in which you have received it.