On 28 April, masonic leaders celebrated the achievements of the past year, revealing an organisation that is embracing transparency and taking positive steps to ensure its long-term future
Held in the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall, the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting brought together Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to hear about the state of Freemasonry and why its future is in their hands.
With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes welcoming attendees to the meeting, the President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), Anthony Wilson, ran through the accounts for 2014, showing United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) finances to be healthy. He also highlighted the increasing importance of hiring out Freemasons’ Hall to third parties as a source of income.
Second Grand Principal George Francis and President of the Committee of General Purposes Malcolm Aish explained how the Royal Arch was faring. ‘The good news is that we had some magnificent figures on exaltations for 2014,’ said George, congratulating attendees for the results that return the Royal Arch to the level it was at six to eight years ago. ‘We’re now hitting the 50 per cent mark of initiations so the prospects for the Royal Arch really do look rather good. I think there’s still more to be done.’
Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire David Macey looked at the progress being made with the membership database, ADelphi 2, which goes live at the end of July this year. Offering improved reporting capability and ease of use, ADelphi 2 will give Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents all the membership information they need, at their fingertips. David also stressed that a structured training plan is in place to offer support to everyone using the new system.
Taking virtual steps
With the Papers of Business for Quarterly Communications circulated electronically for the first time in 2014, James Long from the Electronic Systems Committee explained why it was felt necessary to make this change. ‘We were prompted to some degree by looking to save money and make efficiency enhancements,’ said James, ‘but there was something else that actuated our motive here: we thought it entirely appropriate for a modern membership organisation. We must be responsive and reactive to what our members want.’
Looking at the need to improve communication within UGLE, James congratulated the attendees for embracing new technology. ‘There are many Provinces and Districts that have well-constructed, thought-through and properly controlled communication strategies on social media. What we have to do is learn from all of those,’ he said. ‘We’re going to continue to ensure that UGLE is making the best use of all electronic media for communication, both internal and external.’
Next on the agenda was the 2017 Tercentenary, which starts with events around the country in January 2017 and culminates with a celebration at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 October 2017. Anthony Wilson said that Grand Lodge expects to offer seats at the Royal Albert Hall to each Province and District on the basis of one place for every 80-90 members. Grand Lodge wants to widen the participation and is looking at ways to screen the event live in all the Districts and Provinces.
Staying on the subject of the Tercentenary, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset Stuart Hadler announced the design of a new branding for UGLE, which will make its appearance in the run up to 2017. While the coat of arms has for generations been a mark of status and standing in society, Stuart said: ‘Society has changed over the past 50 years and a coat of arms no longer communicates the image and messages that a modern membership organisation needs to convey. One might also observe that we are seeking no longer to be silent.’
Stuart went on to discuss how the Membership Focus Group (MFG), the BGP and the Rulers believe that a positive and attractive image is vital. ‘To preserve the integrity of the brand and achieve a corporate image, there is to be a strict protocol for us all to follow that will dictate how the symbol is to be used,’ he said, adding that Provinces and Districts will need to review and revise their existing paperwork by 24 June 2016.
Freemasonry’s image is just one of the areas being explored by the MFG. Tasked with assuring the long-term success of both the Craft and the Royal Arch, the MFG has been talking to Provinces about their experiences of recruitment and retention. Assistant Grand Secretary and MFG member Shawn Christie highlighted that many growing lodges hold vibrant meetings and regular social events that are open to non-masons. These provide an opportunity for prospective candidates to ask questions in an informal environment, learn more about Freemasonry and possibly, in time, join if both sides feel the fit is right.
Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire Robin Wilson explained that the road to retention starts with proper preparation. ‘For that to happen, the prospective members must be made aware of the essence of Freemasonry, what it involves and how it involves them,’ he said. For this to succeed, expectations must be managed: ‘Otherwise they could feel ambushed or disappointed by what they find on joining.’ (See here for more details about the MFG’s conclusions on membership retention.)
Next on the podium, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward discussed how MFG research into leadership and education showed that many people, if not most, are motivated to join Freemasonry with an expectation of self-development. ‘The opportunity for specific leadership and management development tends to emerge as our brethren get into more senior roles,’ said Michael, adding that while there is a wealth of information available in all the Provinces, there has been limited sharing of best practices. ‘Provinces are consequently reinventing and duplicating.’
Michael believes that there is a window of opportunity to develop and deliver high-quality training material using some of the best practices from around the Provinces. ‘This creates a huge potential for us to enrich members’ experiences and demonstrate that we have listened to and understood their needs. It also shows that we are committed to modernising while maintaining our traditions,’ he said. ‘The alternative is to ignore reality and ignore the needs of our members. Our future depends on inspiring and re-energising our membership. This can only be achieved with the full and active support of the Provincial Grand Masters and the Grand Superintendents.’
Malcolm Aish echoed Michael’s sentiments when he outlined the MFG’s proposed strategy for Freemasonry going forward, which had been circulated to the attendees prior to the meeting. ‘The MFG feels a coordinated approach will achieve greater success but it is each Province that should consider its participation and support – for it is you that will implement a large part of the agreed strategy.’
Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP, Ray Reed discussed the results from the annual survey for Provincial Grand Masters. He noted that 54 per cent of Provinces are providing training for new masters and 34 per cent for communications officers. ‘These must be two of the most important areas because they can make such a massive difference in our Provinces,’ said Ray. ‘It’s essential that we encourage those who don’t have training for lodge masters to contemplate giving it.’
In a 30-minute address, Ray touched on the need to innovate and speed up communication, adding that there is broad agreement on what the key areas for development are. ‘We’re talking about training and educating people, about effective mentoring and about best practice in recruitment, retention and retrieval,’ he said. ‘The MFG has sought to better understand the problems we face in Freemasonry and we are now ready to move from analysis to implementation.’
Ray ended on a strong message, saying ‘a successful future for Freemasonry will only come through quality leadership, consultation and collaboration’.
The presentations at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting finished with a fitting quote from Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.’
Province champions Birmingham Hospital
Warwickshire masons have raised £10,000 for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Cancer Centre Appeal, with the Province also named as one of its Charity Champions. Fundraising began when PGM David Macey set up The Famous Five initiative, giving lodges five charities for which they could raise funds. Hospital public fundraising manager Vikki Savery thanked the Province ‘for the incredible amount of money that they have raised so far for our Cancer Appeal and plan to raise for the hospital in the future’.
250 Years of union
Union Lodge No. 129, which meets at the Masonic Hall, Station Road in Kendal, was 250 years old on the 31st July 2014
Records can trace their history back to when the lodge was formed and constituted on 31st July 1764. Last Thursday the lodge's current members and guests held a day of celebration to mark their 250 birthday. Union Lodge is the oldest surviving lodge in the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland which has approximately 3000 members across 80 lodges who meet in every town within the pre-1974 county boundaries.
To mark this special occasion, today’s Union lodge members organised a special meeting at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, followed by a banquet at the Castle Green Hotel. To start the celebrations, 40 lodge members and guests including the Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Norman James Thompson DL, gathered at the Black Swan public house, Allhallows Lane in Kendal, the original building where the Lodge was formed and first met. The W. Master of Union Lodge presented the current landlady of the Black Swan with a manuscript to mark their 250 year association.
The lodge holds records which show that in 1762 eight 'worthy gentlemen' met at the Black Swan at the top of Allhallows Lane in Kendal and discussed the possibility of forming a Masonic lodge, their professions are not recorded but their names were: Thomas Swainson, his brother Gerrard Swainson, James Bellingham, Edmund Ridley, James Fell, Mathew Holme, John Tattersall and Thomas Foster, they originally named their lodge 'Swan Lodge', to be able to form a lodge they needed to communicate with the United Grand Lodge of Freemasons in London, which in those days during the Reign of George III was by either by stagecoach or pack horse.
They eventually received a reply from London which informed them that a Richard Webster of lodge No. 243 in Barnard Castle was to officiate at the forming of 'Swan Lodge' on 31st July 1764. At that meeting Thomas Swainson was appointed Master of the lodge, he in turn appointed his officers and the lodge by-laws were formulated, a joining fee of One Pound One Shilling was set, fines were also set 'for swearing, sixpence', 'tuppence' for being late for a meeting and for not attending 3 meetings the penalty was exclusion.
During 250 years, the lodge has met at 12 different public houses in the town and also at number 12 Kent Street, Albert Buildings, and 111 years at Blackhall Croft, adjacent to Saint Georges Hall, 5 years at Windermere and since 1996 at its current home at the Masonic Hall, Station Road in Kendal.
Union Lodge has over the years been responsible for sponsoring 10 new lodges, Underley Lodge in Kirkby Lonsdale was formed in 1865, Whitwell Lodge in Millom in 1872, Windermere Lodge in 1887, Ambleside Lodge in 1888, Eversley Lodge, Kendal in 1921, Trinity Lodge in 1948, Westmorland Lodge of Installed Masters in 1951 Brigantes Lodge, Kendal and Lakeland Lodge who meet in London both in 2001 and Kendalian Lodge in 2002; a very busy and successful lodge who’s survival for 250 years in the town of Kendal is a huge achievement and shows the commitment and dedication of the lodge’s members in Kendal over the years.
The meeting at the Brewery Arts Centre was attended by roughly 200 brethren from across this and other Provinces, special guest of honour was RW Bro George Pipon Francis, Past Senior Grand Warden, The RW Provincial Grand Master Bro Norman James Thompson, the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Warwickshire, RW Bro David Macey and other distinguished brethren.
The brethren of Union Lodge entered the Brewery Theatre in procession and proceeded to open the lodge, The Provincial Grand Master and the officers of Provincial Grand Lodge then entered in procession, the gavel of the lodge was offered by the Worshipful Master to RW Bro Thompson who returned the gavel but hoped he would be offered it later as he had some business to carry out. The representative of United Grand Lodge RW Bro Francis then entered the lodge with an escort of Grand Officers.
The WM Bro C.P. Newhouse asked that the minutes of the consecration meeting held on the 31st July 1764 be read by the Provincial Secretary, W Bro W Douthwaite, who also read in great detail the lodge Warrant and all present stood in respect while the names of the Founders of Union Lodge were read.
W Bro Richard Parker PJGD gave a lecture on the history of Union Lodge 129 which included details of the preparations to consecrate the lodge, its by-laws including the fines for various breaches of those by-laws by the brethren and the contribution Union Lodge has made to local Freemasonry by the sponsorship of 10 daughter lodges.
The lodge is also the proud custodians of a set of 1772 tracing cloths which have been authenticated by Grand Lodge Library and museum as being the oldest in existence.
Bro Newhouse then invited the RW Provincial Grand Master to take the lodge gavel, which he was pleased to accept, he spoke of the dedication of Union Lodge brethren over the years and his own experience as a young mason making his first ever visit to a lodge, Union Lodge in fact and the pleasure he had felt in his frequent visits over many subsequent years.
Before retiring from the chair, the Provincial Grand Master instructed the Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies to present W Bro David Poole OBE and W Bro Bill Kerr to him, The Provincial Grand Master thanked W Bros Poole and Kerr for all their hard work in planning and executing today’s celebratory meeting and to the applause of the assembled brethren appointed them both to the rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden with immediate effect.
The WM was invited to return to his rightful place and the meeting was closed just after 3 pm, the Union Lodge brethren and their guests were then bussed to the Castle Green Hotel for the celebration banquet.
All present enjoyed an excellent meal at The Castle Green Hotel, RW Bro George Pipon Francis congratulated Union Lodge for achieving their 250th year in existence and the Worshipful Master and brethren for the way they had conducted the day’s celebrations, and he presented the lodge with a gift from The United Grand Lodge of England to mark the occasion.
VW Bro Keith Young PGSwdB, Deputy Provincial Grand Master proposed the toast to Union Lodge No. 129, his mother lodge, he thanked W Bros Poole and Kerr who had been the driving force behind today’s celebrations for their dedication in bringing the day to fruition. VW Bro Young also informed the brethren that today had been subsidised by a legacy left to the lodge by W Bro Raymond Poole, he had left the lodge a sum of money to be used for the benefit of the lodge, and he felt sure that benefit had been achieved in an excellent day of celebration for Union Lodge.
Foundation stone resited
Warwickshire Freemasons participated in an unusual and symbolic service when the foundation stone laid in 1937 in the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital was resited in the Faith Centre garden at the new University Hospital.
It had originally been laid with full masonic ceremony by the then Provincial Grand Master, Col Sir William Wyley, a former Coventry Mayor and JP, and was recovered when the old hospital was knocked down.
The stone was symbolically relaid by the present PGM, David Macey, accompanied by a procession of Warwickshire masons in full regalia. The PGM applied a silver trowel to the stone during his address, followed by a blessing from the Provincial Grand Chaplain. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the PGM presented a cheque for £1,000 for the Faith Centre and garden.
Warwickshire on show
Civic leaders joined the annual church service of the Province of Warwickshire and the procession to the Collegiate Church of St Mary. District council chairman Cllr Richard Davies and county council chairman Cllr David Shilton walked to the church, which has an association with Freemasonry that goes back to at least 1728 when the Master of the first Warwickshire lodge was the vicar. Local masons presented the church with an oak pulpit in 1897.
Representatives of the Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Christian faiths were also present at the multi-denominational service conducted by Provincial Grand Chaplain and Methodist lay minister John Cowan. Provincial Grand Master David Macey presented a cheque for £7,400 to the vicar, followed by £1,000 from the service collection.
In another civic event, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr John Lines, invited Warwickshire and Worcestershire masons to attend the annual Lord Mayor’s Show in the city centre, helping to raise funds for his chosen charities.
Local children have been entertained at their annual pantomime – this time, Dick Whittington – thanks to Warwickshire Freemasons and TOA Taxis. A morning show was enjoyed by children with learning and physical disabilities, while an afternoon performance was staged for youngsters who might never have seen a live theatre show before. More than 600 children and around 100 carers attended. Warwickshire Provincial Grand Master David Macey introduced the show in the morning, welcoming the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr John Lines, and the Lady Mayoress, who presented David with a cheque for £500 for the Freemasons’ chosen charities.
A masonic procession to the Annual Church Service of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire took place at the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick, where people have worshipped for nearly 1,000 years.
The church’s association with Freemasonry dates back at least as far as 1728 when the Master of the ﬁrst lodge in Warwickshire was vicar at the church. The present vicar, the Rev Dr Vaughan Roberts, welcomed everyone to the service during which representatives of the Jewish, Sikh, Islamic, Hindu and Christian faiths oﬀered thoughts and blessings relating to the multi-denominational service’s theme of Brotherly Love and Charity.
The UK’s party mood, evident throughout the summer of 2012, continued as the Province of Warwickshire celebrated the finale of their Festival on behalf of the MSF.
Provincial Grand Master David Macey handed over a cheque for £3,159,870 and thanked the members and their families for their generous support. Hugh Stubbs, President of the MSF, encouraged those present to use their new-found awareness to identify others in need of health and care support.
Forum highlights professionalism
An array of masonic fundraising talent gathered at Freemasons’ Hall in October for the 2012 Festival Forum, an annual event organised by the RMTGB on behalf of the four central masonic charities
The Festival Forum brings managers and directors of current and future festival appeals together. It gives them the opportunity to share ideas and learn about the charities they are raising vital funds for. There was no shortage of experience this year, with delegates attending from over 30 Provinces, having raised almost £60 million between them in support of the four central masonic charities.
RMTGB President, Mike Woodcock, opened the event and introduced representatives from the Provinces of Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire and Rutland and Worcestershire, who shared their experiences of the most recent festival appeals. David Macey, the Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire, gave an address about the impact that his festival has had on his Province.
Forum delegates heard from speakers representing the central masonic charities, including RMTGB Chief Executive, Les Hutchinson. It was heard that festival donations were more important than ever, particularly in view of increasing calls for charitable support – over 5,000 Freemasons and dependants have received assistance during the past 12 months alone.
Delegates were briefed about the increasing number of services that are available to festival and other masonic fundraisers, which have been developed by the charities in response to the increasingly professional nature of modern fundraising. RMBI President, Willie Shackell, closed the forum by offering a message of thanks to all those who work so hard to support the four charities.