Celebrating 300 years

Pause for thought

Having helped oversee the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Second Grand Principal Russell Race now wants to give Craft members enough time to understand the Royal Arch

What have you taken from your professional career?

I did an economics degree at Liverpool and worked initially for British Steel, then for an administrative body looking after the fishing industry. When I was 24, I went into the City as an investment analyst. I was there for the rest of my working life, for the last 20 years in corporate finance, and retired in my early 50s.

I found my enjoyment was in building good working relationships, and ultimately friendships, with colleagues and clients – which, on the corporate side, is crucial. I had around 30 clients and if you did a good job for them, they would not seek to move somewhere else for a quarter per cent on a deal. And relationships take us into Freemasonry. It’s all about working with people, interacting with them and enjoying their company.

When did you find out about Freemasonry?

I was born in Gloucester, and the first 12 years of my life were spent there. My father joined a lodge just after the war and he went into the Chair in 1956, two years before we moved to Kent, where he became a founder of what became my mother lodge in Rochester.

Lodges had a big social calendar and as a teenager I went to many lodge events with my parents. When I came back from university at 21, and was still living in Kent, my father said to me, ‘Well, you know something about masonry and you’ve met many members of the lodge, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know.’ It was a very smart psychological move. Many fathers might have said, ‘Well, I’ve got you down to join at the next meeting, now you’re back in the area,’ but mine didn’t. I took about two years, got settled in a job, and then said, ‘I’d like to join.’ It was very much my decision, rather than feeling any obligation to join.

Did joining the Royal Arch feel like a natural progression?

I was 29 when I joined the Royal Arch, again in the local chapter in East Kent. I didn’t go into it with any preconceptions and I loved the ceremony from day one – despite being on the receiving end of all three lectures on the evening of my exaltation! In those days, the Royal Arch was considered the completion of the Third Degree, which is now an area of debate. But you could also just say it was seen as the natural progression from the Craft, which is something we rightly still emphasise.

The pressure on chapters was rather less in the 1960s and 1970s, because our numbers were higher than they are today, albeit beginning to level out. Chapters were thriving with 30 or 40 members, but it’s when you get below critical mass of 20 to 15 that you suddenly start thinking, ‘What do we do?’ It’s only at this late stage that many chapters try to re-establish links with the mother Craft lodge, which may be too late.

Why did you become involved in Metropolitan?

As a member of London lodges and chapters, I was aware that Metropolitan was being set up as a separate entity, but my move to London was a complete shot out of the blue. As East Kent Deputy Provincial Grand Master, I had met the Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton for the first time at a dinner. A little later, Rex Thorne asked me out to lunch in Long Acre, and when I arrived Lord Northampton was with him. To my surprise, he asked me to move up to London to become the first Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.

I took some time to think about it because it was a new job and I knew the time commitment would be substantial. I asked the opinion of a few close friends who were unconnected with London, and they all said the same: ‘You can’t say no. It’s a great opportunity.’ Which indeed it was, but the workload proved to be quite heavy as well.

How did you feel leaving Metropolitan to become Second Grand Principal?

I think I made it known to people over time that Royal Arch is one of my great loves. Having completed six years as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and six years as Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, I knew it wasn’t a job I was going to do forever. I had a meeting with Peter Lowndes, who asked how I would feel about taking the position of Second Grand Principal, as George Francis was retiring. I paused slightly but, on this occasion, I didn’t ask for time to think about it, I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.’ The best things in life come unexpectedly, don’t they?

For my successor as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, the intention is to perform the role in a slightly different way, which I am sure is right. It was important in the early days of Metropolitan Grand Lodge for the rulers to be seen to be out visiting lodges and chapters on a regular basis and to be visible to all London masons. I was able to do that, but it wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be carried on at the same pitch, because London now has a firmly established base and identity.

‘We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch’

What have you inherited from your predecessor in the Royal Arch?

I think one of the important things that George Francis brought to the job was being visible to companions all around the country, visiting widely in the Provinces and London. There is no substitute for hearing people’s views first-hand. Additionally, he was a keen promoter of making the ritual more dramatic and understandable for all participants.

What I would say is that we now need a slight pause for breath to allow the changes to sink in. We have a number of initiatives going on, following on from the ritual change a few years ago, and we have to get these embedded within each Province. Although there may be minor adjustments, I don’t envisage radical changes in the near term. We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch.

In lodges where there is no active Royal Arch representative, or the Secretary’s not particularly keen on our order, the young mason coming through may have no awareness of the Royal Arch at all. Why should he be deprived of that experience? We need to ensure that all masons have the opportunity to join. I’m not saying you’re an incomplete mason if you’ve not come into the Royal Arch, but rather that your breadth of understanding is not as full as it might be.

Imagine when somebody’s interviewed for initiation and saying to them, ‘You are beginning an exciting four-stage journey.’ If you can get that message across on day one, it’s far easier than going to them after they’ve done their Third Degree and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s another step and here’s a leaflet about it.’

Even if, on a flat Craft membership, we can increase the conversion rate to 45% or 50% across the board, rather than current rate in the high thirties, that in itself will take up our membership to more acceptable levels.

Do you see your role as ambassador or enforcer?

Gareth Jones, the Third Grand Principal, and I are certainly ambassadors. I think it’s about communicating to Superintendents and their Deputies, as well as to all companions, that we’re here to help and guide them in the right direction. I sense a strong desire for consistency across the piece, and that has to come from Supreme Grand Chapter. A Province or a private chapter can’t take effective decisions about the direction in which they are going unless they have the proper information to start with. I think it’s quite compelling if you say to a Grand Superintendent that these initiatives are available, they’ve worked in other Provinces – look at the results, maybe there are lessons for you.

I mentioned before about taking a slight pause, giving yourself the time to think. I saw a very good demonstration in Freemasons’ Hall some years ago. At various stages in the ceremony they stopped and said, ‘Right, we’re about to do this. Somebody tell me why we do it this way.’ And the members hadn’t thought about it. They were just hearing the words. That was in a Craft lodge, but the moral applies equally to the Royal Arch.

Every now and again it behoves us all to stop and think, ‘What do the words mean? Why do we do what we do, for example, in terms of choreography of the ritual?’ I would like to reverse the trend in numbers, which we are beginning to do in some areas, but I believe that will only come through companions having a better understanding, and with it greater enjoyment of our unique order.

Published in UGLE & SGC

Funds will buy two extended high-res lifts for London Fire Brigade

Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder surprised a packed Freemasons Hall on 2nd November 2017 when he announced the launch of a £2.5 million appeal to purchase two extended high rise aerial vehicles for London Fire Brigade

This took place at the annual London Grand Rank Investiture meeting of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, where a party from London’s Fire Brigade were welcomed into the Grand Temple, led by Steve Apter, London Fire Brigade Director of Safety and Assurance, and Dr Fiona Twycross, Chair of London Fire EPA. They were presented with the first instalment of a cheque for £375,000.

These appliances will be in addition to the extra resources for extended height aerial vehicles already requested by the Commissioner as part of a Mayoral review into the Brigade’s resources in July.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton thanked Sir Michael Snyder for their generosity: ‘We are very grateful to Sir Michael Snyder and London Freemasons for this first donation and their commitment to raise the significant sum of money to buy such important equipment. It’s important that we have the most effective resources for the city environment in which we serve, so we not only have to consider the reach of our aerial appliances but whether they are agile enough to move around the capital’s narrow streets.

‘This has been an incredibly busy and emotional year for everyone connected with London Fire Brigade and we welcome this recognition.’

At the meeting Steve Apter, in his address to the members of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, commented: ‘They will be mobilised across London and used for both fighting fires and effecting rescues. They can reach 22-24 floors far higher than anything we currently have in service. This generous donation by London Freemasons provides a very large support to our tight public funds and financial capability.

'On behalf of The London Fire Brigade and the people of London, we thank you for your very kind offer and look forward to working with you in the future.’

Sir Michael Snyder then replied: ‘On behalf of every London Freemason, I am delighted to announce the launch of our latest charity appeal in support of the London Community. These extended height aerial vehicles will help better equip the busiest fire and rescue service in the country.  The appeal is the latest step in the London Freemasons objective to support the London community and help make London a safer place to live and work.’

'It follows successive appeals to support London’s Emergency Services by the purchase a two-million-pound state of the art Cyberknife for Bart’s Hospital, five rapid responder cars for the London Ambulance Service, and the recent two million pounds donation to help fund London’s badly needed second Air Ambulance.’

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 00:00

Cadogan Lodge celebrate 250th anniversary

Originally founded as ‘The Black Fryers Bridge Lodge’ by operative masons working on the now famous river crossing, Cadogan Lodge No 162 celebrated its 250th anniversary in Temple 10 at Freemasons Hall, London, on Tuesday 6th June 2017

This was in the presence of RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, Metropolitan Grand Master, and RW Bro The Earl Cadogan, Past Deputy Grand Master, who, half a century earlier, during it’s Bicentenary in 1967, was Worshipful Master of the Lodge bearing his family name.

Under the watchful eye of Worshipful Master Shravan Joshi, a selection of current and Past Provincial Grand Masters from Kent, Surrey and Warwickshire joined 140 members and other guests. All present were treated to an afternoon of contrasting types of agenda items. Two in particular illuminated the proceedings, due to their originality and pertinence.

Cadogan Lodge Past Master W Bro Don Foreman, combined his passion for history and talent as a public speaker by entertaining the Brethren with a thoroughly researched and frequently humorous history of the Lodge. Highlighting notable members of both ill and commendable repute, W Bro Foreman was at great pains to point out that the latter far outweigh the former.

W Bro Alan Wolsey (Loyal Manor Lodge No 6445 in Dorset) then gave a fascinating demonstration of the traditional methods of working stone, but not before arranging a tarpaulin to protect the chequered carpet of the ‘Indian Temple’ from flying debris. As he introduced the assembled Brethren to the necessary tools and age-old techniques, the familiar symbolism became increasingly vivid: the dedication, patience and practice being imperative to improving oneself as a mason, whether speculative or operative.

Since the 1800s, Cadogan Lodge has had many international links and testament to this was the visit by members of one of Cadogan’s two daughter lodges, The Lodge of St. George (Singapore) No 1152. Their Master, W Bro Thomas Graeff, presented commemorative coins to mark the occasion. Interestingly, Cadogan member RW Bro William Read rose to the rank of District Master of the Eastern Archipelago during his time in Asia and was the Consecrating Officer at the formation of St. George in 1867.

Having closed the Lodge in due form, the Brethren retired to a Festive Board at the Royal College of Surgeons where Cadogan Lodge’s rich history and centuries of convivial masonic spirit were continued and suitably celebrated.

The Metropolitan Masonic Charity has donated £100,000 to provide immediate relief support for people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14th

Sir Michael Snyder, Leader of London Freemasons, commented: 'This donation is made on behalf of all London Freemasons. 

'The Metropolitan Masonic Charity regularly supports many local charities and community initiatives across London and we wish to assist those who have lost their homes as well as all of their possessions.'

Published in UGLE

Air Ambulance flying high

London Freemasons have donated £2 million towards London’s Air Ambulance ‘Your London, Your Helicopter’ campaign, which has now succeeded in raising enough to acquire a second emergency medical helicopter for use by London’s Air Ambulance advanced trauma team. 

The Freemasons presented a cheque for £250,000 in March 2015, with a further instalment of £750,000 presented by Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder in November 2015. Graham Hodgkin, CEO of London’s Air Ambulance, said: ‘We thank all those Freemasons across the Metropolitan area who worked tirelessly to raise the £2 million.’

The 50th anniversary meeting of Falcon Lodge No. 8062 took place on Monday, 8th February 2016 at Freemasons' Hall

W Bro Paul Norton, PAGDC, a Founder of the lodge, was installed as Worshipful Master and W Bro Philip Belchak, PGStB, the only other living founder and an honorary member acted as Senior Warden for the meeting. Honorary members, Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master VW Bro David Wilkinson, PGSwdB, and VW Bro David Taylor, PGSuptWks, attended the meeting which was officiated by Metropolitan Grand Inspector VW Bro Stratton Richey.

The lodge presented a donation to the MMC Air Ambulance Appeal for £5,000 which was gratefully accepted by Bro Richey on behalf of Metropolitan Grand Lodge. The lodge, already a Grand Patron of the RMBI, presented a further donation of £500 to VW Bro James Newman, President of the RMBI, who was also in attendance.

A lecture on the history of the lodge, written by the Lodge Mentor, W Bro Neil Mills, PAGPurs, was delivered by a new Master Mason in the lodge. The history highlighted the lodge's origination from the 'Arts and Circles' Class of Instruction held on Sunday mornings at the Albion, Ludgate Circus which provided a school of instruction for members of the theatrical profession whose only free day was a Sunday.

Following the lecture, Bro Richey presented two Grand Lodge certificates to new members after which Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master VW Bro Stephen Fenton, PGSwdB, presented a letter of congratulations, signed by the Metropolitan Grand Master RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, to the Worshipful Master.

More than 100 members and their guests dined afterwards at the Grand Connaught Rooms. All attending received a pair of white masonic gloves, suitably inscribed, as a gift.

Moment of opportunity

In his new role as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder explains how his appetite for change has steered a distinguished career in accountancy and the City

How did you become the managing partner at Kingston Smith?

I took articles at Kingston Smith when it was a small accountancy firm, as most were in 1968. I was asked to look after our Hayes office in 1973 for a couple of weeks, as the manager they’d put in wasn’t working out. Two weeks became a month and by late 1973 I was running the office, becoming one of five partners in 1974. In 1979 the then senior partner became ill and I took over running the firm. We were seven partners at the time, then merged with another firm and became 11. It’s been pretty successful: we’re client focused, have a good niche in the market and are in the top 20 firms in the UK. 

Are you proud of your career?

I never use the word ‘pride’. I always think that’s a bit pompous, a bit self-satisfied, and tends to come before a fall. I’m happy with the way we’ve grown the firm. Of course, I could have done some things better but we’ve avoided major pitfalls. I think we’re respected and we’ve always focused on our clients.

How did you come to Freemasonry?

I was a member of The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers, which has an associated lodge, so I joined because a good number of my friends were members. I was a bit apprehensive beforehand but I thought, why not? When you join Freemasonry, you go through the degrees and it all slowly unfolds. However, it didn’t really mean an enormous amount to me until I went into the chair some years later – then it all started to come together and I began to really understand. I like the symmetry of it, I like the ritual, and however busy I am in business and public life, I always attend some meetings.

Are you ambitious?

I’ve been dedicated but I haven’t been on a mission. When most of we baby boomers were born after the war it didn’t matter what strata of society you were from, there wasn’t a lot to go around. We grew up understanding that we had to make our way, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our careers. I guess that’s where my motivation comes from. 

Has the City changed?

It used to be like a big club, but since the Big Bang [in 1986] there are more international players, more regulations. But it’s always been a level playing field. 

I believe that perhaps the reason the City has been so successful over the centuries is because anyone in the world can come here to trade and expect the same treatment. I think that’s important.

Could you work anywhere else?

I love the City of London – I think it’s a wonderful place. I like its cosmopolitan nature, the diversity and the fact that it’s the centre of the international business world. I started doing things for the City 30 years ago because I wanted to give something back, and I was asked to stand for election to the City of London’s Court of Common Council.

‘As a baby boomer, I grew up understanding that we had to make our way, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our careers. I guess that’s where my motivation comes from.’

Are you a reformist?

Before I led the City of London Corporation it ran like a sort of federation of states, with each department reporting only to its committee, not to the CEO, so we changed that and brought it together as one organisation. When I became policy and resources chairman, I didn’t have an office, didn’t have a meeting room, no staff – it was impossible to run, so I put the necessary support in place.

I felt that we couldn’t just be insular in London, so we opened an office in Brussels to engage with the EU, as well as opening offices in Mumbai, Shanghai and Beijing to connect with two of the powerhouses of the future. We also engaged with the surrounding and deprived areas of London and were at the forefront of the Academy schools initiative. 

There was considerable change but I wasn’t trying to kill tradition; I was introducing direction and modernity to how things worked. We decided the City needed buildings fit to house the world’s leading financial businesses, rather than the City becoming a museum, so we changed the planning policy and some of London’s best buildings are now here.

Do you seize opportunities?

Yes, I have always tried to make the best of opportunities that come my way. I like to get things running properly and I’m driven by fairness. If I see something unjust I can’t stand it and I have to try to resolve the situation. It’s been an exciting journey. My wife’s bugbear is about me learning to say no. 

I’m trying, and I think I’m a good delegator.

What keeps you in the Craft?

I do like the Craft, not only its good spirit but also the charity side. It’s incredible what masons do in terms of giving. Take the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys’ support of Lifelites, which contributes to all of the children’s hospices in the country, or the London Freemasons who are raising £2 million for an Air Ambulance. The London members of the Craft and Royal Arch add up to something like 45,000, which is a significant proportion of Freemasonry in England, but it’s not an enormous number of people when you look at the amounts of money they raise. 

How do you feel about becoming Metropolitan Grand Master?

When I was approached I was flattered and somewhat apprehensive. I admire [the outgoing Metropolitan Grand Master] Russell Race, he’s done a fantastic job and has steered London rather astutely from an embryonic concept into a strong, viable organisation. Russell’s had an excellent team, but you’ve also got to recognise the contribution made by the hundreds of Freemasons in London who have been involved in Metropolitan’s activities. 

What are your aims for the role?

I like to get things working smoothly and I see my appointment as an opportunity. We have nearly 1,870 lodges and chapters in the Metropolitan area, so considerable organisation is needed to lead and support them. I want every volunteer in every role to be able to undertake their masonic duties while still being fully involved in their family and professional lives. Some masons who are retired may wish to start meetings early and finish early, whereas those who are working in their careers will need meetings to start later; we need to accommodate both. 

Freemasonry is an interesting hobby that needn’t take over from family life or earning a living. It can help develop the skills and confidence that serve us well in our careers, as well as provide fellowship and a network of friends.

Tuesday, 08 December 2015 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2015

From the Grand Secretary

On behalf of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent to the Grand Master on the occasion of his 80th birthday. How fortunate we all are to have such a dedicated royal leader since his installation as Grand Master by the 11th Earl of Scarbrough on 27 June 1967.

Thank you to those readers of Freemasonry Today who have participated in the recent Membership Focus Group surveys. One of the results from your feedback has been the creation of a clear strategy to make sure there is a sound future for Freemasonry. This strategy has been agreed at the highest levels throughout the organisation and we now wish to share it with all our readers. You will find a copy of this strategy attached to this issue of the magazine. 

I trust you will find it fascinating, and that it gives you added confidence for the future and your continued enjoyment of Freemasonry.

New enthusiasm

In this issue of the magazine, we find out how Freemasonry is helping to build confidence among our members. Our article on the first New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference at Freemasons’ Hall reveals a support network of light blue clubs that are helping initiates get the most out of Freemasonry from day one. We look at how these clubs are giving new members an outlet for the energy and excitement that they want to put into the Craft.

Overcoming challenges

The values of Freemasonry proved vital for Arthur Vaughan Williams, who, following a car accident, went from peak physical fitness to being unable to control two-thirds of his body. In our interview with Arthur, he explains how Freemasonry helped him to re-engage with society and create a new life for himself. With a reinvigorated sense of self-belief, Arthur has learned how to fly and is carving out a successful career as a television presenter.

Also in this issue, London’s new Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder discusses what motivated him to modernise the City, not only the way it runs but also the business buildings that populate London’s skyline. Meanwhile, our feature on deaf communications organisation Signature shows how masonic support is aiming to put British Sign Language on the curriculum and open up the education system for deaf youngsters.  

I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘We look at how light blue clubs are giving new members an outlet for the energy and excitement that they want to put into the Craft.’

Published in UGLE

Quarterly Communication

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

Brethren, I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has made the following appointments:

In his capacity as First Grand Principal, he has appointed E Comp Russell Race, Metropolitan Grand Superintendent in and over London, to succeed ME Comp George Francis, who will retire as Second Grand Principal on 10 November. Comp Race will be installed at the Convocation of Grand Chapter the following day.

In consequence, Bro Race will retire as Metropolitan Grand Master and Metropolitan Grand Superintendent on 20 October. To succeed him as Metropolitan Grand Master, the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, who was last year's Junior Grand Warden. Bro Snyder will be installed on 21 October.

Published in Speeches

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