12 December 2018
A presentation by VW Bro Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary
Brethren, good morning. It is my great pleasure to be speaking to you here today.
As many of you will know, I used to work as a doctor. My clinical job was to work out why people were horizontal and try to get them vertical again. I shall try my hardest over the next 15 minutes or so not to reverse that process.
I left Derby Hospital four years ago to become Clinical Director for Medicine at Peterborough where I managed a whole host of awkward people and there, to my astonishment, I discovered that I rather enjoyed this thing called ‘management’. In fact, I found that I enjoyed it much more than medicine.
People were usually pleased to see me which made a change, and as someone who had always enjoyed solving problems I found that I was deluged with problems. It was not a great leap for me to move into another organisation with problems to solve.
I still practice medicine for half a day a week – it seemed foolish to burn all my clinical bridges in this particular role. The Board and Rulers hired me as Chief Executive with two main outcomes in mind. First, I was to bring the Corporate and Masonic sides of Freemasons’ Hall together – to meld 60 Great Queen Street into a purpose and values driven organisation which services the needs of the United Grand Lodge of England, Supreme Grand Chapter and of course you, our members.
Secondly, I was tasked with helping to formulate, coordinate and ensure the delivery of the United Grand Lodge of England’s strategies for the future as defined by the Rulers and the Board.
To my mind, the most important of these is rapidly becoming to ‘Normalise the perception of Freemasonry in the public consciousness’ – to make it as acceptable to say that one is going to a lodge meeting as it would be to say that one is going shopping, out for a meal, or to the golf course; and to make it a genuine choice for all of our members as to whether they wish to disclose their membership or not – rather than one mandated by the attitudes and prejudices of their colleagues.
Today I would like to try to give you a flavour for some of the challenges UGLE faces along that journey, and some of the things that we are doing to meet them. We are always, however, mindful of the need to respect the independence of individual lodges and Provinces, and only to mandate those things which are absolutely essential to the future of the Craft.
Things are not all rosy. In 1920, Grand Lodge issued around 30,000 Grand Lodge certificates each year. By 2015 this had dropped to 7,000 which equates to less than one new member per lodge per year. 20% of our members resign or never come back prior to receiving their Grand Lodge certificate. 60% of our membership is over 60 years of age. Membership remains one of our greatest challenges.
As an organisation, we are shrinking by 1% a year, although interestingly our districts are growing at 10% per year on average.
Attracting new members and engaging our membership so that they remain members is therefore of paramount importance, but the pool of candidates eligible to join Freemasonry is a fraction of what it was 50 years ago.
We can do little to change whether a person believes in a Supreme Being, or whether they have a criminal record, but UGLE has done a great deal to try to influence the opportunity that eligible members have to join us successfully; this has occurred most visibly through the Membership Pathway which was launched earlier this year – an initiative that seeks to ensure that potential members know what to expect, and to minimise the chances of them leaving.
What used to be ‘invitation only’ is now much more open. Lodges regularly exhibit at universities Freshers’ Fairs and all Provincial websites and the United Grand Lodge of England welcome online membership enquiries. We also seek to influence what is ‘findable’ on Google by engaging with the media. By having sensible stories which reflect what WE want about Freemasonry on the top three pages of a Google search, we are able to significantly alter our public footprint.
Before the Second World War, Freemasons would have been openly known and respected in their communities. Public parades of masons were common place. Masons were often asked to perform ceremonies around the laying of foundation stones for public buildings.
Then, Hitler murdered 200,000 Freemasons on the continent and looked as though he were poised to invade England. Suddenly, it didn’t seem quite such a good idea to be so open about our membership and we collectively retreated into a position of privacy that we have only just, with the Tercentenary celebrations last year, started to retreat from in a coordinated fashion.
The third factor which influences whether we attract new members is the environment – by which I primarily mean the court of public opinion. What do the public think of us? How likely is it that our members are happy to ‘come out’ as Freemasons? How likely or acceptable is it that an organisation or employer decides to discriminate against Freemasons? What is the political climate? What is the religious climate? – All of these issues form the environment from which our members are drawn.
The national press is obsessed with handshakes, trouser legs, nepotism, corruption and with events that may have happened 50 years ago in a then corrupt police force. Not a media interview has gone by over the last year when I have not been asked about one of these issues – yet only 4% of young people under 25 ever read the national press, and only 9% get their news from television. By far the predominant source for news in the under 30s is the internet. We need to ensure our media presence reflects this.
In centuries past, however, Freemasons and Freemasonry was enormously respected. Before the times of professional organisations and trade bodies such as the British Medical Associate, the Bar Association, The Law Society etc., if you wanted to employ the services of someone who wasn’t going to rip you off, a Freemason represented someone who openly ‘met people on the level’ and ‘treated them squarely’. It was the closest one could get at the time to a kite mark of decent and moral professional behaviour, and, for tradesmen, membership was a likely to result in both increased respect and increased business.
Unfortunately, how Freemasonry is explained to us as Entered Apprentices is not necessarily an easy and straightforward concept to grasp. We are told that Freemasonry is a ‘peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols’ . That its system of morality forms of a set of values and principles of conduct. Freemasons are the custodians of a way of behaving which takes good people and makes them better, doing so by acting out ancient myths and encouraging a study of the deeper meaning of symbols, so it is both a philosophical and philanthropic society. One can see how it might prove very difficult for us to explain what Freemasonry is to those who might be curious. And, of course, Freemasonry means many different things to different members.
If we talk about charity, we are no different to hundreds of other organisations who fight for space in a very crowded sector. If we talk about friendship or camaraderie then similarly we do not capture the unique aspects of Freemasonry which set us aside from a club or society.
We will never be able to, nor should we, reinvent ourselves to please the public, but we do need to nuance our message so that it can have the greatest effect on those who we might be able to influence, and what you will see over the next 18 months or so is a coordinated media and communications strategy that starts to deploy these messages. We started this year with ‘Enough is Enough’ and there is a great deal more to come.
We need to find something that communicates the unique nature of Freemasonry in a friendly, accessible fashion, and in a way which makes us an attractive use of our potential members’ precious time. So how do we achieve, in the minds of the public, a favourable opinion preconceived of the institution? We must define ourselves clearly and positively to the outside world. We must regain control of our own narrative, we need to promulgate the timeless principles of brotherly love and self-improvement. We need to inspire people to lead better lives and be a values driven, professional organisation.
So Communications and Membership are two of my top priorities as mandated by the Board, the Rulers and the various committees and groups that have a care for Freemasonry.
These priorities are clearly reflected in the restructuring of the United Grand Lodge of England communications apparatus, and by the creation of a new Membership Services Department, which will encompass a new department for the Districts which, in the past, have not perhaps received the attention that they deserve; the Chancellery which manages foreign masonic affairs and also all of your enquiries should you want to visit a lodge abroad as well as the membership and registration functions.
When I came to UGLE, the headquarters had been split along masonic and non-masonic lines, and it was fair to say that there was a degree of civil war existing between the two. What I found was a headquarters crying out for modernisation. I am pleased to say that following considerable effort by all the staff over the last year, UGLE has just been awarded Investors in People Accreditation – something that will help dispel our reputation as operating from a secret volcano base somewhere off the West Coast of Sumatra.
Bringing about change within UGLE is not a simple task. I have entitled my talk 'Risk Takers, Caretakers and Undertakers' which broadly explains the mindsets which govern all of us here today in some part. Some aspects of the organisation need curating – they are precious to us and to our members and should be preserved as part of our responsibility as the de facto caretakers of a three-hundred-year-old institution, other parts need to be allowed to run their course and die, for an organisation which never renews itself is unlikely to survive. We see this often in the lives of individual lodges, which come together to serve a need for their members, but as times change, or that need changes, some lodges pass away whilst others invigorate themselves and thrive. In order to thrive, we need to be prepared perhaps to take risks and to change in order to remain, or perhaps regain a relevance in the modern world. If we aren’t prepared to do this, we become undertakers and bury something enormously precious to us all.
Another key priority for us at UGLE is to modernise the processes by which the organisation is administered. This year, we will have performed 24 Installations of Provincial and District Rulers all of those, coordinated from this building. We are recognised the world over for our pre-eminent ceremonial. It is my intention to ensure that this excellence shows itself in all that we do. We have moved the Masonic Year Book and the Directory of Lodges and Chapters to living online documents, and now have a thriving members’ area on our website. For the first time, some of you will have booked your place here today online and made payment for the lunch that follows electronically – something you will no doubt have been doing in other areas of life for well over a decade.
Astonishingly this change will save over 1,800 man hours of work each year. Those of you who are Secretaries will be pleased to hear that we are aiming to ensure that Installation Returns are pre-printed, meaning that you will never again have to write out the names and numbers of all your past masters – something which has been done and remained unchanged for over 175 years.
But that is just the start. The Book of Constitutions lays out guidance on how a modern membership organisation should be run, but the problem is that its current iteration was written in the nineteenth century.
Imagine now an organisation where the Lodge Secretary could access the central database of their members’ information and keep it updated. Why should secretaries have to write clearance certificates when we already know who is paid up and who is in arrears? Why not just run a real time Masonic credit check when you want to join a new lodge? Why are forms needed in order to get a Grand Lodge certificate, when we already know all the information on those forms?
To start to modernise these internal processes is an enormous piece of work, but I know it will bring real benefits to our members and those who administer lodges and Provinces.
And these changes will alter the experiences of the everyday mason too. Can you imagine a system that sends links to articles that explains the ceremony of initiation to an initiate the day after he is brought in? Or a system that sends information about the Royal Arch to a newly made Master Mason? What about a system that flags to the Lodge Almoner when a member has missed three meetings in a row – a strongly correlated marker for poor engagement and retention. In this way we can start to influence how we engage our membership at a whole new level with that peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
The Craft has an old, established teaching system, which uses role-playing, memory work and public speaking to enshrine its principles in the hearts of Masons. These techniques have evolved over many centuries and even more generations of Brethren, to pass on our traditions to benefit our members by making them better people, at peace with themselves and with the society in which they live.
We have recently launched ‘SOLOMON’, an online learning resource covering the three degrees and the Royal Arch which you are able to register for, access and read as you progress through your masonic journey. It has over 350 articles, graded for the correct degree which augment these established teaching methods within the Craft and make each candidate’s journey through Masonry a much more fulfilling experience.
So, Brethren, there is a huge amount going on in your organisation, and that is not counting the numerous happenings at Provincial and individual lodge level. UGLE is building an efficient and effective organisation. An organisation which provides a structure able to support and engage our members, attract new people to the Craft and Royal Arch, normalize Freemasonry in the public consciousness and stand up for our members whenever they are unfairly discriminated against or collectively attacked.
The United Grand Lodge of England is here to act as a custodian of the values and traditions of Freemasonry which inspire people to Lead Better Lives for the benefit of society, valuing Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. We should be a straightforward organisation that is supportive, self-confident, welcoming, member focused, friendly and fun because that is an organisation that good men will want to join and even better men will want to remain members of. It is the duty of all of us to make this an organisation we are proud to be a part of.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
12 December 2018
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 12 September 2018 were confirmed.
HRH The Duke of Kent KG was nominated to be Grand Master for the ensuing year.
Annual Investiture of Grand Officers – 24 April 2019
So that sufficient accommodation can be reserved for those Brethren who are to be invested and their friends, admission to the Annual Investiture is by ticket only. Brethren to be invested for the first time may invite to be present with them three qualified Brethren, and those to be promoted two qualified Brethren.
Allowance having been made for such an issue and for those whose presence in the Grand Lodge is essential, a few seats will remain. Written application for these seats may be made to the Grand Secretary between 1 March and 31 March by Brethren qualified to attend the Grand Lodge:
- Past Grand Officers;*
- Wardens (not Past Wardens);
- Past Masters qualified under Rule 9 of the Book of Constitutions.
Applications should state clearly the name, address and Lodge of the Brother concerned and under which of the four categories mentioned his application is made. If necessary, a ballot for the allocation of seats will be held in early April, and tickets will be posted to successful Brethren on or about 5 April. Brethren who have been unsuccessful will be so informed.
Possession of a ticket will not, of itself, ensure admission – Brethren who are not Grand Officers will be required to hand their tickets to the Scrutineers before examination by them in accordance with the usual practice at Quarterly Communications.
Past Grand Officers should sign the Attendance Books in the Past Grand Officers’ Room, and give up their tickets before being admitted to the Grand Temple. Grand Officers taking part in the procession will sign in the Grand Officers’ Room.
* Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters, all other Present Grand Officers, including Grand Stewards, Deputy Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters, and Assistant Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters should not apply in this way as they will be invited specifically by letter about a month before the day of Investiture and asked to indicate on a reply slip whether they intend to be present. Similar arrangements are made for District Grand Masters who are known to intend to be in the UK on 24 April and this can be extended to others, if they write indicating their wish to attend.
Masonic Year Book
The next edition of the Masonic Year Book, 2019–2020, will be available next autumn. The charge will be £15 per copy, plus postage and packing where appropriate. It is not proposed to produce a new edition of the Directory of Lodges and Chapters during 2019. Copies of the 2018 edition will still be available from Letchworth’s shop.
Every Lodge is provided access to an online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters free of charge via the designated website. The Board emphasises that this information should be available to all the members of private Lodges and not regarded as for the exclusive use of the Secretary to whom, for administrative reasons, access is provided.
Metropolitan and Provincial Lodges
Access to the online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters is provided to Secretaries of Lodges.
Access to the online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters is provided to Secretaries of Lodges in the Districts as well as to Secretaries of Lodges abroad not in a District.
Prestonian Lectures for 2019
The Board has considered applications for the delivery of the oﬃcial Prestonian Lectures in 2019 and has decided that these should be given under the auspices of the following:
Dean Leigh Masters Lodge, No. 3687 (Herefordshire)
Norfolk Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 3905 (Norfolk)
Leeds and District Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7918 (Yorkshire, West Riding)
West Sussex Masters Lodge, No. 8963 (Sussex)
The Lecturer, W Bro Michael Karn, PAGSwdB, states that the title of the Lecture will be: English Freemasonry during the Great War.
The Board, when annually inviting applications for the privilege of having one of the official deliveries of the Lectures, invariably emphasises their importance as the only Lectures held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. The Board and the Trustees of the Prestonian Fund are correspondingly keen to ensure that Brethren come forward with potential future lectures on topics which will be of interest to English Freemasons. Brethren who consider that they have the requisite skill and knowledge are accordingly invited to submit their names to the Grand Secretary, through their Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretaries.
Since the Board last reported to Grand Lodge on lotteries in December 1994, there has been no signiﬁcant change in the law on the subject, which is now contained in the Gambling Act 2005. There have, however, been some changes in the names of the various regulatory bodies and the classes of lotteries themselves, as well as minor changes to the rules applying to the various classes. The Board accordingly hopes that the Grand Lodge will endorse the following statement on lotteries, which takes into account the changes since it last reported on the subject.
There is no inherent Masonic objection to any form of lottery currently permitted by law, and a lottery with a Masonic character may, therefore, be used by members of the Craft to raise money for any lawful purpose, subject to the qualiﬁcations set out below. Such a lottery should, in general, be used to raise money only for charity, other benevolent purposes, or some other speciﬁc object not directed to private gain; no form of lottery should in any circumstances be used to defray the general running expenses of a Lodge, Metropolitan Area, Province or District.
A lottery has a Masonic character if it is promoted or run by Freemasons
- who declare their capacity as such; or
- for a purpose, or on behalf of a body, which is identiﬁably Masonic, whether or not the purpose or body includes words such as “Masonic” or “Freemason” in its title or description.
The Board considers it essential that the purpose for which any such lottery is held is clearly stated to anyone to whom chances in the lottery are oﬀered for sale.
It does not accord with the spirit of Masonic charity or of Masonic bodies that lotteries should be held which seek money under the banner of Freemasonry from other than Masonic sources (Masonic sources include anyone who has a family or other close personal connection with the Craft or with any of its members). It is therefore inappropriate for tickets for a lottery with a Masonic character to be made available for sale to the public at large.
The responsibility for compliance with the provisions of the law rests ﬁrmly on those responsible for promoting and assisting in the running of lotteries. It is the duty of such Brethren to ensure, by obtaining where necessary appropriate procedural and legal advice, that the Craft is not brought into disrepute by any failure to meet all legal requirements, or for any other reason. Advice is readily available from, among others, the Gambling Commission, local authorities, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Institute of Fundraising.
The Gambling Act 2005 provides that all lotteries must be either licensed, or registered or fall within one of ﬁve statutory exemptions. The Board’s guidance on the three types of lottery most likely to be relevant for lotteries with a Masonic character is as follows:
- The Board sees no objection to “small lotteries incidental to events” (for example, a raﬄe at a dinner), provided that the entertainment is of a Masonic character.
- A “private society lottery” (for example a “100 club”) where tickets are sold only to members or visitors and the lottery is advertised only within the relevant Lodge: the Board considers that such lotteries, if appropriate for Masonic purposes, should be subject to the same restrictions as small society lotteries (see below).
- A “small society lottery”, for which registration of the organisation is required, is appropriate for fundraising on a larger scale, for example a Provincial Benevolent Fund or one of the Masonic Charities or local charities, or when a Private Lodge sponsors a special appeal. The written leave of the Provincial or District Grand Master (or, in London, of the Board of General Purposes) must be obtained at the earliest opportunity, both before registration is applied for, and again before any individual lottery is organised.
Literature which includes Masonic forms of address in promoting the sale of lottery tickets is unacceptable, even if it emanates from Associations of Friends, over which Grand Lodge has no jurisdiction.
Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Masters of Lodges should refuse to permit the distribution of literature or tickets which clearly infringe any of the above principles, and may refuse to permit their distribution if in their opinion the spirit of those principles is infringed.
Recognition of foreign Grand Lodges
The Grand Chancellor to move that the following Grand Lodges be recognised:
Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama was originally formed as the Independent Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Alabama on 27 September 1870, by three regular Lodges of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, which was recognised by this Grand Lodge on 11 June 1997.
Grand Lodge of Paraná
The Grand Lodge of Paraná was formed on January 25th, 1941 by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio de Janeiro, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 12 December 2001. The Grand Lodge of Paraná’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Paraná.
Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás
The Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás was formed on 9 June 1951 by ﬁfteen regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of São Paulo, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 8 December 1999. The Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás’ jurisdiction is limited to the State of Goiás.
Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina
The Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina was formed on 21 April 1956 by seven regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 12 December 2001. The Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Santa Catarina.
Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima
The Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima was formed on 20 August 1981 by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Amazonas, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 14 March 2018. The Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Roraima.
Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia
The Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia was formed on 10 April 1985, by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Amazonas, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 14 March 2018. The Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Rondônia.
Having shown that they have regularity of origin and that they conform to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge recognition, the Board, having no reason to believe that they will not continue to maintain a regular path, recommends that these six Grand Lodges be recognised.
The Board has received reports that the following Lodges have resolved to surrender their Warrants: Palmer Lodge, No. 9255, in order to amalgamate with Heabrym Lodge, No. 7201 (Durham); and Blaauwberg Lodge, No. 9337, in order to amalgamate with Wynberg Lodge, No. 2577 (South Africa, Western Division).
The Board accordingly recommends that the Lodges be removed from the register in order to eﬀect the amalgamations.
Erasure of lodges
The Board has received a report that eighteen lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are:
Red Rose of Lancaster Lodge, No. 1504 (East Lancashire); Lodge of Charity, No. 1551 (Warwickshire); Epping Lodge, No. 2077 (Essex); Arthur Sullivan Lodge, No. 2156 (East Lancashire); Edward Terry Lodge, No. 2722 (London); Catford Lodge, No. 3649 (West Kent); Loyal Lodge, No. 5040 (East Lancashire); Father Thames Lodge, No. 5615 (Middlesex); Old Rectory Lodge, No. 6651 (Oxfordshire); Hurstwood Lodge, No. 6768 (East Lancashire); Syon Lodge, No. 7394 (Middlesex); Cathedral Lodge, No. 7814 (East Lancashire); Phaethon Lodge, No. 7820 (London); Alphin Lodge, No. 8461 (East Lancashire); Delphi Lodge, No. 9061 (East Lancashire); Blakewater Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 9574 (East Lancashire); Condate Cheshire Provincial Grand Oﬃcers Lodge, No. 9594 (Cheshire); and Kendalian Lodge, No. 9757 (Cumberland and Westmorland)
Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board was satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore had no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Presentation to Grand Lodge
A presentation on Risk Takers, Caretakers and Undertakers was given by VW Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary.
List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by the MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:
12 September 2018
9967 Barão de Batovi Lodge, Campo Grande, South America, Northern Division
9968 Essex Cornerstone Lodge, Upminster, Essex
9969 Vectis Service Lodge, Ryde, Hampshire and Isle of Wight
9970 Swallowﬁeld Pitt Bridge Lodge, Wokingham, Berkshire
9971 Shropshire Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held on 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019, 11 September 2019, 11 December 2019 and 11 March 2020.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers will take place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend.
Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 25 April 2019, 13 November 2019 and 30 April 2020.
From the Grand Secretary
The Grand Secretary’s column is, of course, also the Chief Executive’s column and I would like to give you a feel for what we have been implementing over the past year, and our hopes for the future. As Chief Executive, one of the reasons I was hired was to oversee the modernisation of the organisation in terms of its administration. The Chief Executive and the 90 or so staff at 60 Great Queen Street are responsible for the 180,000 members in England and Wales and some 20,000 members in our Districts overseas, for the upkeep and commercial realisation of the headquarters – a Grade 2* art deco masterpiece – and for supporting the committees which give direction and strategy to the membership organisation.
Some of the most important changes will not be obvious to you but will help build an organisation capable of delivering the will of the Rulers and the Board and Committee of General Purposes in a manner which serves and supports you, the members. There have been changes in roles and staff as is inevitable with any change management process, but we are moving, at pace, towards becoming a more transparent headquarters whose purpose is understood and appreciated.
Investors in People has advised us on some of these changes as we transform the way we do things, and we have just learnt that we have been awarded Investors in People accreditation. We are at the tail end of a wholesale restructure to ensure that ‘delivering for our members’ is at the heart of everything we do. The Directory of Lodges and Chapters and Masonic Year Book are now living online documents, and you may now book in, and pay for Quarterly Communications and Supreme Grand Chapter online (saving 1,800 man hours for the Secretariat a year). We have also increased the commercial hire of our wonderful building by 30 per cent year on year, without affecting our masonic hires, thereby offsetting the costs we have to pass on to you. New video conferencing suites enable members up and down the country to participate in the decisions being made here in London and we are training more people than ever before – from Provincial Grand Masters to Media Ambassadors, Provincial Grand Secretaries to Almoners and Communications Officers.
From January we will have a Member Services Department incorporating Registration, the Chancellery, and a Department for the Districts to support the Provinces and Districts as well as delivering our renewed focus on attracting new members and engaging our current membership. A new communications structure will focus on getting the positive messages of Freemasonry known, and ensuring the Court of Public Opinion is firmly on our side. Imagine an organisation ‘normalised’ in the public consciousness. Where going to a lodge meeting was regarded in the same manner as going out for a meal, going to watch the rugby or going to the cinema.
Imagine an organisation where writing the same details on different forms every step of your masonic journey was a thing of the past; where clearance Certificates could be obtained at the click of a button; where you could update your personal details in a few seconds and where candidates received information on the ceremonies they had just been through the following morning. Imagine lodges being visible in the community – volunteering to help with what matters to them – and being regarded as an outward expression of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth; where lodge secretaries didn’t spend hours on installation returns, and where Grand Lodge certificates were dispatched with the merest twitch of Bro Secretary’s index finger. These are some of the things the Executive and staff, the various committees, working groups and volunteers are looking at realising over the coming 18 months as we seek to improve how we administer your organisation.
These changes are not, of course, about altering our character or our essence. They are not about changing our rituals or outlook, or imposing faddish political correctness or unnecessary change for change’s sake. The United Grand Lodge of England will always be here to act as a custodian of the values and traditions of Freemasonry that inspire men to lead better lives for the benefit of society. We are here to curate those areas that are precious to us while promoting a straightforward organisation that is supportive, self-confident, welcoming, member focused, friendly and fun, because that is an organisation so many people would want to join, and would never dream of leaving.
Dr David Staples
‘Imagine an organisation where going to a lodge meeting was regarded by the public in the same manner as going out for a meal, going to watch the rugby or going to the cinema’
John Harris is the predominant name in Tracing Boards and his designs are to be seen across the country and indeed the world
He lived from 1791-1873 and is best known for the Boards he painted for Emulation Lodge of Improvement (ELoI) in 1845. They measure six feet by three feet and are still used today.
In the 1850s, Harris suffered a series of strokes which left him blind. Unable to work, he and his wife Mary were some of the earliest residents of the first masonic Old People’s Home. Built in Croydon in 1850, it went by the name of the Asylum for Aged, Worthy and Decayed Freemasons, and was the prototype RMBI home.
A Croydon Freemason, Forbes Cutler, recently searched for and discovered John Harris’s unmarked grave in a Croydon cemetery. To his dismay, the grave was about to ‘reclaimed’ by the local council. To prevent this, he bought the plot from Queen’s Road Cemetery and lodges and chapters donated money to erect a fitting headstone.
On 18th September 2018, a service of memorial was conducted by the Revered Timothy L’Estrange and the headstone was unveiled. Croydon Masonic Centre was filled for a meeting to commemorate the life of the man whose work has influenced masons for the last 200 years.
Those present included Ian Chandler, Provincial Grand Master for Surrey, and Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary and CEO of UGLE. Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary of UGLE and a senior member of ELoI, brought with him one of ELoI’s original 1845 Harris Tracing Boards. John Harris was, belatedly, given the send-off he merited, surrounded by his lodges and chapter and in the company of Freemason he so loved.
The deeds of the plot now belong to Freemasonry, the headstone has been erected, and John Harris and his wife Mary will continue to rest in peace.
Neil Johnstone was installed as the new Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent of East Kent on 3rd October 2018
East Kent has just under 7,000 members, meeting in 189 Lodges at 35 dedicated Masonic Centres located everywhere from Gravesend in the north of the county to Hythe on the south coast, from Paddock Wood in the west to Ramsgate in the east.
Neil, who joined Renham Lodge No. 8211 in Sittingbourne nearly 40 years ago, said: ‘I am proud to be the Head of East Kent Freemasons, whilst there is a serious side to what we do, I continue to meet many wonderful people and enjoy some very worthwhile and fun social times.
‘I am also immensely proud of seeing organisation and individuals in Kent being helped with our Cornwallis Charity. This is very heart-warming as it helps to make such a difference to so many peoples lives’ and makes it so worthwhile.’
The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Grand Secretary Dr David Staples, Second Grand Principal Russell Race and Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones were all in attendance.
Neil had 33-year career in the Police Service followed by 11 years in Local Government. His police career started at Chatham, in the late 60s and early 70s. Neil progressed through various roles and ranks in Kent Police until 1992 when he was seconded to New Scotland Yard to head a national and international unit co-ordinating the many and various aspects of planning for, and responding to, major incidents and the complex investigation processes that inevitably followed.
Neil added: ‘I was very fortunate to travel throughout the UK and to many other countries around the world wearing an Interpol hat and although challenging, it was a fantastic and professionally rewarding opportunity to have had. My succeeding service with our County Council involved the planning for and co-ordination of potential large-scale incidents in Kent, but aimed at minimising the impact on the public and supporting the emergency services. So that was my working life in a nutshell.’
It's the start
With an emphasis on professionalism and transparency, President of the Board of General Purposes Geoffrey Dearing wants to take Freemasonry to a new level of alignment
How would you describe your masonic progression?
It was a very slow burn. I helped to manage a law practice in East Kent and became a Freemason in 1974 when two of my partners, whom I respected, proposed and seconded me. I only used to go to four meetings a year as I couldn’t do more than that; I was very busy working around the courts. But I found that those four evenings were very relaxing, because you’re with different people who have a similar view of life.
I joined the Royal Arch in 1981. That was purely accidental: somebody’s son was a member of our lodge, and I got talking to his father, who turned out to be the Grand Superintendent for the Province of East Kent. But, again, I was very busy with the business, so nothing else happened until the end of the 1980s, when I was made a Steward in the Province in the Craft and the following year Senior Warden.
Along the way I spent a year as president of the Kent Law Society and became a Past Assistant Grand Registrar in 1994, which is a common office for a lawyer to take in Grand Lodge. But I wasn’t involved at all in the Province, as I had been made managing partner of one of Kent’s largest law firms. I just had no time for anything other than getting on with the business.
When did your focus change?
In 2004, I stepped down as managing partner. My firm very kindly kept me on as a consultant, and I found the change quite reinvigorating. When you’re responsible for two or three hundred people, you’re not able to do your own thing, because you are looking for consensus. I was able to go off and do things that interested me. I did a lot of lecturing on various legal-related bits and pieces and worked with some small companies.
By 2011, I had ceased to be a consultant and coincidentally received a telephone call asking if I would become Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for East Kent. I’ve never had any grand career plan; if I have been asked to do a job and think I can do it, I’ve done it, simple as that. So that’s really why I’m sitting here now – it was never my ambition.
How did you approach the PGM role?
I went in there entirely cold. I hadn’t been on the executive and knew nothing about how the office ran. But I had run a business. So, I went in there and started asking questions – it was not commercial, and there was a lot that I could bring to it that would make it work better.
I believe strongly that communication is fundamental. Most of the really big errors and some of the biggest claims as a lawyer that I’ve been involved in were avoidable. Things get to where they get to because of poor communication or, indeed, a total lack of it. So, when I started in East Kent in 2011, I supported a communications team.
We don’t tend to know enough about what Freemasons do for a living, but I found that we had web designers, we had people who really understood software and we had people connected with the media and the written word. It meant that when we had the Holy Royal Arch 200-year celebrations in 2013, we were able to interest the media, and ITV came down.
‘When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right’
How have you found becoming President?
You’re in touch with every single aspect of how the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) runs, which is fascinating. I’m trustee of the Library and Museum, I’m on the Grand Master’s Council and I’m involved with the External Relations Committee. All aspects of what’s happening in Grand Lodge are ultimately the responsibility of the Board. It gives you an insight into the entire picture, and very few have that privilege.
When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right. I think in order to get everything joined up, to get alignment, the communication with the Provinces is very important. What goes on outside UGLE is every bit as important as what goes on inside it, so coming from the background I’ve had, I know about what goes on around the country in the Provinces. I’ve dealt with the same problems that other Provinces have experienced; I’ve got some understanding and some sympathy.
What do you mean by alignment?
The biggest thing in terms of what I hope can be achieved is improving alignment. If you ask what Freemasonry is about, it might be expressed entirely differently if it’s in Cornwall, Durham, Carlisle or London, but it should be broadly the same message. This hasn’t necessarily been the case, because everyone’s in their own areas, not always talking to others.
After the Second World War, there was a period when you just didn’t talk about Freemasonry, and people thought that was the norm. That did us no favours at all. You’re always going to have a lot of conspiracy theorists, and if you’re not providing correct information, that’s their oxygen. If they put false accusations in enough newspapers and say it often enough, people will believe it. We have to communicate.
What role does communication play in alignment?
What you do with communications and how you address those people who are talking nonsense is important. If someone publishes a newspaper article that says Freemasons have a lodge in Westminster with many MPs in it, that’s untrue. So challenge it. You do it quietly, but you do it fairly. And you make sure there’s an audit trail. I know the truth is far less exciting, but why don’t we have transparency? Why don’t we have complete openness? Why aren’t we relaxed? Why don’t we encourage the Library and Museum to talk openly about Freemasonry to people who visit us? I think that’s exactly how it should be and how it should develop.
How are you different to your predecessors?
I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve. That’s how it has managed to survive for 300 years. My responsibility as President of the Board of General Purposes is to try to ensure that we stay relevant. It is our job to look at the big picture and the messages we put forward. We’ve got to get our thinking straight at the centre and then consider how to get the messages out there, making sure that all our organs of communication are going down the same lines.
The more we communicate, the better. David Staples is going to be a very good CEO for the organisation, and I think his approach to management has not been seen before at UGLE. But that is how it needs to be in the modern world. If we get the set-up, professionalism and the operation here as good as it can be, it’s the start.
Why should someone become a Freemason?
One of the attractions of Freemasonry is that it actually takes away a lot of insecurity, because it creates stability and has very good support mechanisms. If you think about the world today, a bit of consistency doesn’t go amiss.
If we can get alignment, I think Freemasonry will become more normal, more accepted and more understood. And that’s a good thing. It’s not for everybody; a lot of people don’t like the ceremonial that goes with it, but others do.
I don’t think it’s any accident that those who have been involved in the armed services or organisations that have a certain disciplinary culture find Freemasonry very attractive. I absolutely get that, but we all have different reasons. For me it’s actually about the people. I have met some terrific people along the way, and it’s been my privilege to know them and to spend time with them.
‘I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve’
Where do you want masonry to be in five years?
It’s a big question. I don’t have a burning ambition for massive change, but I do have a goal to improve and evolve. The basics would be that we have good alignment within UGLE, including the Library and Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. They’re separate and independent operations, but they’re both masonic and are golden opportunities for communication with the wider world.
I mentioned relevance before, because if Freemasonry is going to regenerate and be here in another 50 or 100 years, staying relevant will be part and parcel of that journey. Then there’s the way in which we communicate what we’re about – we have to do this in a much better way in order to strengthen our membership. It’s a big ambition, and I’m not sure that it can be achieved in five years, but we can certainly start the process.
We have a fantastic opportunity here. Today is not going to repeat itself tomorrow, or any other time, so we need to make the most of it. I always have the ambition that, every day, something constructive gets done.
It’s the journey that matters
Via Rolls-Royce, camper van, horse and cart, speedboat and tandem bicycle, Lifelites chief executive Simone Enefer-Doy travelled 2,500 miles in two weeks to raise the profile of this hard-working charity
Providing life-changing assistive technology, Lifelites helps the 10,000 children and young people in hospices across the British Isles live their short lives to the full. On 25 May 2018, the charity’s chief executive, Simone Enefer-Doy, set off on an epic road, air and river trip to spread the word and raise funds.
The 2,500-mile challenge, called Lift for Lifelites, was to take in 47 famous landmarks in England and Wales in just 14 days. For each leg of the journey, Simone received a lift from Provincial supporters in an eclectic mix of transportation. After setting an initial target of raising £50,000 for Lifelites, the total now stands at over £104,000. Simone says she has been astounded at the support and generosity she encountered as she travelled around the country.
‘Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that so many people would come out to meet me on my journey and support my challenge. We have received a terrific welcome wherever we have gone, and it really spurred me on to continue whenever I felt myself flagging. I would like to thank everyone – drivers, donors and venues – for helping to make Lift for Lifelites happen. We couldn’t have done it without you.’
From the Grand Secretary
Brother Rudyard Kipling was initiated in 1886 into the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance, No. 782, in Anarkali, Lahore, when he was only 20 years old. Eight years later, while hosting brother Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame in Vermont, he wrote a poem for the Pall Mall Gazette titled ‘The Mother Lodge’. It is one of my favourites, celebrating that great masonic principle: equality. Equality without distinction of rank, race, creed, profession or class.
‘The Mother Lodge’ speaks of the various characters in that lodge, their backgrounds and their beliefs. During the height of the British Raj and all that colonial India meant, Hindus met with Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Anglicans in Lodge No. 782; officers sat with enlisted men, and accountants with railway workers. The poem contrasts the behaviours shown in public, where differences were observed by the conventions of the time, with those in lodge, where they were swept away.
In 19th-century India, just as today, brethren held strong views about a wide range of subjects. There is no doubt that Kipling’s Catholic brethren would have believed that most of the rest of their lodge would quite literally be going to hell – a very real and unpleasant place for a 19th-century Catholic! Yet their one strength seems to be their acceptance of one another, and their celebration of their shared humanity. A desire to put aside their own feelings and beliefs and to try to understand the unintelligible.
I have followed with interest the debates on social media since the United Grand Lodge of England released its gender diversity policy. At the one end, there are those who think that ‘wanting to be a tomato doesn’t make you a tomato’ through to those who would feel that changing gender should be as easy as changing your underwear.
In our great organisation, there is room for that breadth of opinion, just as there was back in a small, dimly lit and dusty masonic hall in Anarkali over 130 years ago. Freemasonry is so much bigger than what each of us believes, and we do not all have to think the same.
Dr David Staples
Outside – “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”
Inside – “Brother,” an’ it doesn’t do no ’arm.
We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!
Extract from ‘The Mother Lodge’ by Rudyard Kipling
United Grand Lodge of England is looking for new people to join the Communications Committee
Chaired by James Long, Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the committee is responsible for providing leadership for UGLE’s Communications strategy. Members of the committee are typically experienced media, communications and marketing professionals.
The committee meets monthly at Freemasons' Hall.
The UGLE-branded lapel pin displays the message ‘Enough is Enough – ask someone who knows’.
Previously discussing the campaign, Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, said: ‘We need to open up and talk about what we do; we needn’t be afraid of being both proud of who we are and our membership.’
Thank you to everyone who has already purchased a pin – over £1,000 has been donated to the Masonic Charitable Foundation!