Celebrating 300 years

Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence looks back on 300 years

Monday, 12 December 2016

The test of time

Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence discusses how the tenets of Freemasonry have provided a firm foundation over the past 300 years

Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group (MFG) over the past two-and-a-half years. I hope that you are all still referring to the UGLE strategy, which was a significant development resulting from the group’s work. 

We have now moved on to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the MFG has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group (IDG). This group will, rather like a well-known wood treatment product, do ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.

The IDG’s remit is to facilitate the delivery of change in order to secure a successful future for Freemasonry by meeting the needs of modern man while retaining our traditional standards. It is chaired by the Assistant Grand Master, the Third Grand Principal is Deputy Chairman, and membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces. The IDG will be reporting to Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication in September 2017. There is a considerable amount of work to do and we wish them all well in their endeavours.

‘The principles of the Craft are as relevant today as they were then.’

Marking a milestone

The Tercentenary celebrations have already begun and I am very pleased to see the variety and breadth of events that are planned to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events are being planned throughout the English Constitution. 

So far, well over 100 events are scheduled, ranging from cathedral services, race meetings, classic car rallies, family fun weekends and supporting youth activities through to dinners and balls. This includes The Grand Ball, which will take place in Freemasons’ Hall next September and will see the Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in London.

As the premier Grand Lodge, it is appropriate we also celebrate this achievement with the other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, which we will do with the event at the Royal Albert Hall. I very much hope there will be a full cross section of our membership, including Master masons, from London, Provinces and Districts and elsewhere overseas attending.

As you are all aware, 2017 will start with the broadcast in February of the Sky observational documentary. I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group who have seen all the programmes and while, for confidential reasons, I am unable to say more about their content, I can assure you our privacy has been respected entirely for those matters that ought to remain private for our members.

Uncertain times

It has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described by some as ‘uncertain’. This word is used to describe many aspects of our national life, almost as a default mechanism. In many ways our predecessors, who were there at the foundation of the Grand Lodge, would have felt a certain affinity and seen possible parallels with their own time, although they would probably have used the word ‘turbulent’ to describe the second decade of the 18th century.

In their case, the uncertain times included a new ruling dynasty following the accession of King George I in 1714, a significant rebellion from supporters of the old dynasty defeated in 1715, and an incipient share scandal with the South Sea Bubble. In those and the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent 300 years, the principles of the Craft have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then. We may now restate them in more modern language as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance, but their essence is unchanged and we should all be justly proud of them and, needless to say, act in accordance with them. 

To finish, I quote King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia who said his support of the Craft came from its objectives being ‘the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable’. I do not think that his view can be bettered. 

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