11 September 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, one of my pleasurable duties is, along with the other Rulers, visiting our Districts and in June I was in Trinidad and Tobago and, more recently, I visited Zimbabwe. Brethren before any of you start to think that the Grand Secretary and I spend all our time swanning around the world, I, perhaps could point out that our visit to Zimbabwe for two and a half days involved 17 hours of travel in each direction. However, I feel strongly that we should make every effort to support our Districts and endeavour, when possible, to install our new District Grand Masters.
The visit to Harare in Zimbabwe was, indeed, to install our new District Grand Master. I was somewhat surprised that the last visit there from Grand Lodge was in 1989 and, as you can imagine, we were given a very warm welcome. I was even more surprised to find that two of our Lodges are in Malawi, where masonry thrives, there being 70 members and we can count Members of Parliament and High Court Judges among them.
Apart from meeting many of the local Brethren and their wives, we were driven to a school in a township seventeen miles west of Harare where, after a tour of the school, we were entertained to some vibrant and very moving African dancing and singing. Started in 1992, the number of orphaned children in the Education Support Programme is now 407. A trust fund has been set up to provide for example school fees, uniforms, books, a daily hot meal, healthcare and sports activities. All in all it was most impressive and exactly the type of Charity the District, if possible, should support. Later the same day, and back in Harare we visited the Masonic home, run to the high standard you would expect.
At the same time, it was also a good opportunity to catch up with the District Grand Masters attending from neighbouring Southern African Districts who attended the business meeting as well as the Installation.
I have mentioned already that earlier in the year I visited the District of Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean Districts have met every year – for the last eleven – for a regional conference and we now attend whenever we can. As they meet regularly, they know each other well, sharing issues and enjoying each other’s company. They are a great example to follow.
Looking forward – I am attending the Centenary of our District of Nigeria at the end of October. Our stated philosophy is that if a District wishes to remain loyal to us we will remain loyal to it. Nigeria is a current example of this, preferring to stay in the English Constitution, rather than joining the newly formed Grand Lodge of Nigeria. As in Harare we will be running a business meeting for District Grand Masters from throughout Africa.
On this theme, I was pleased to hear that in early December this year the first conference for the Districts in Asia and Oceania is being held. This is being attended by the Deputy Grand Master. All these meetings are a sign of the strength of our Districts and long may that continue.
On another theme, and applicable to all Lodges wherever they are in the English Constitution, is the theme of making the Craft relevant to all generations. Following the presentation at the Quarterly Communication this time last year on assuring the future of Freemasonry I challenged the Universities Scheme Committee to consider how the principles expressed in the address – particularly about shortening meetings and running them more efficiently – could be implemented across the whole Craft.
I have now had first sight of their report for consideration. A report which covers a series of evidence-based recommendations and examples of good practice from lodges around the English Constitution. This is an excellent document and I will be discussing the proposals and how to disseminate agreed recommendations through the Provinces and Districts to Lodge level. Brethren how often do we hear, only partly in jest, that any changes and progress in Masonry take an eternity. These recommendations have been put together with admirable speed and it is incumbent on the Rulers to ensure that there is no delay in passing them on.
We are, I believe, united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons and these recommendations will give a better chance of strengthening all Lodges, however successful, whilst not alienating established brethren.