Freemasonry is not a religion, but as a precondition of membership acknowledgement of belief in a Supreme Being is required. In recent years the members of the Province of East Kent have attended Evensong Servises bi-annually at Rochester Cathedral and last year at Canterbury Cathedral. The idea of holding a service at a local synagogue (thereby underscoring the broad faith basis of the membership) having been suggested, this was arranged under the auspices of the Provincial Grand Chapter, with the kind permission of the Margate Hebrew Congregation, at the Margate Synagogue on Sunday 19th June 2011.
The day was a mixture of sun, wind and showers, with the thunderous display of the Margate Air Show overhead. The Provincial Grand Chapter Stewards ushered the 120 strong congregation to their appointed places in the Synagogue. The Provincial Grand Superintendent, Michael Robin Bailey, his Deputy, Trevor Climpson, their ladies and the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Margate, were then processed in by the Provincial Grand Chapter Director of Ceremonies, Neil Johnstone.
The congregation were honoured by the presence of the Reverend Malcolm Weisman OBE, the Chief Rabbi's minister to small communities, who officiated at the service. Having welcomed the congregation, he gave a short introduction to explain what would follow. The order of service was printed in Hebrew with an English translation. After the Opening Ode, a thanksgiving prayer was offered by the Craft Provincial Assistant Grand Chaplain, the Reverend Howard Pashley. The Grand Superintendent read Zechariah Chapter 4, verses 1 to 7. Later the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Roger Odd, read Genesis Chapter 49 verses 1 to 12 and the Deputy Grand Superintendent continued the readi to verse 28.
The Ark was opened by a Synagogue member and local Freemason, Jon Lloyd and a Scroll taken out by David Gradus, the Secretary of the Margate Hebrew Congregation. Prayers were offered for the Royal Family and peace in the world before the Scroll was replaced and the Ark closed. The Reverend Malcolm Weisman then gave an outstanding address, in the course of which he made particular reference to his appreciation of the common beliefs of the Hebrew faith and Freemasonry.
The service was brought to an end with the Closing Ode and National Anthem, the singing being led by Companion Tony Eldridge.
The Officiating Minister, Provincial Executive and distinguished guests then retired in procession to the ante-room, where they were joined by the rest of the congregation and provided with kosher wine and challah bread.
The Grand Superintendent thanked everyone in general for making this special occasion such a success and the Margate Hebrew Congregation in particular for making the East Kent Freemasons so welcome. He concluded by presenting David Gradus with a cheque for £250 as a contribution towards the Synagogue's building fund.
The Province of East Kent has two cathedrals, enabling the biennial masonic evensong to be held at either of them. In recent years the service has been held at Rochester Cathedral, but this year Canterbury Cathedral provided the venue after an absence of many years.
The Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Councillor Pat Todd, a Past Master of Graystone Lodge, No. 1915, the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Barbara Todd, and the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent, Michael Bailey, with his wife, Mrs Sandra Bailey, were among a congregation of more than 800.
The Dean of Canterbury, The Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, led the service and delivered a sermon and the Provincial Grand Master read an Old Testament lesson, taken from Isaiah 44.