Howard Digby-Johns recalls the day the tsunami struck
The overwhelming awfulness was that we knew nothing. You could have been 500 yards from people consumed by the water and see and hear nothing. Forget the image of a cresting wave. The tide just went out and came in. Just very far and very fast. The wave was maybe six inches high, but 100 miles long – that’s a lot of water. The strange thing is the water was black with debris. Most damage was caused by the third wave, and particularly as it receded.The overwhelming awfulness was that we knew nothing. You could have been 500 yards from people consumed by the water and see and hear nothing. Forget the image of a cresting wave. The tide just went out and came in. Just very far and very fast. The wave was maybe six inches high, but 100 miles long – that’s a lot of water. The strange thing is the water was black with debris. Most damage was caused by the third wave, and particularly as it receded.
The appalling tsunami which struck so much of Asia one year ago, is unimaginable for those who did not experience it, unforgettable in the terror it induced for those who did. Here in Phuket, in Thailand, we have a strong expatriate British community, a core of whom have formed their own English Constitution Lodge, Light of Siam, No. 9791. In one sense, we were uniquely placed to chronicle events as they unfolded, and to offer what assistance we could.
No one needed to have died. My friends were in the sea when it receded about 1 km. They ran to their room, got clothes and valuables, and drove off in their car in time to see their chalet demolished by the water. Most people stayed to watch. One friend was on the roof of a beach cottage after the first wave. The cottages were in a row. The second wave took the people off the end cottage, and returned their bobbing bodies a little later. The third wave took those from the second cottage, and brought back the awful offering.
Another friend was awakened by the black tide of death which she saw out of the window. She rushed out to the back, only to see another tide coming from the opposite direction. Then she was felled under the weight of the house wall falling on her. The water carried her and her wall into the reservoir. Luckily on the bottom of the reservoir, under the wall she did not panic, and went down to find a way out. She found one, only to find the surface blocked by sodden mattresses. She got an arm out, and was pulled to safety – she was only at the edge of the reservoir. Another friend was in a cave and was gently pressed to its roof. Others were taken up through trees, and trapped by their clothes. Miraculous escapes. Twelve months on, we still live with it. My friends who lost their little boy had the body identified only four weeks ago. I was with them that night. They had clung to the fantasy that he was on some remote island with fisherfolk. They took him home, and 400 attended the funeral of a little boy who was frozen in a container of corpses for all those months. They have just had a new baby.
But now Phuket’s people have taken stock. Some are dead. Some are injured. Most businesses are open. But many people have lost the means to make a living. Many hotels remain open for business, but they sit empty. The beaches have been cleaned and are more beautiful than ever, but they are almost deserted. Only a few restaurants, shops, bars and attractions have been disrupted, but they lack customers. There is no shortage of drinking water, power, food or any serious threat of disease. Life in Phuket is basically normal. But the only means for the people here to recover their lives is for tourists to come back.
So now Phuket’s people now face their second attack. Their recovery has been worse damaged by the second catastrophe – the tourists stayed away, and tourists are Phuket’s lifeblood. Phuket’s hotels are still virtually empty. For the tour guides, for those who gave massages on the beach, or took tourists on boat trips, ran stalls, or rented out deck chairs, there is still the rent and school fees and groceries to pay and suddenly no income at all. So the need to bring the tourists back is urgent. The poorest are local, and have no skills that would allow them to go elsewhere.
Brethren of the Light of Siam Lodge, have col-lected and disbursed relief funds, cared for the injured, coordinated the medical effort, visited the injured in hospital, fed and watered those fleeing the beaches, housed the dis-possessed, gathered funds for schools and nurseries, acted as chauffeurs for tourists requiring flights or medical attention, or seeking lost ones, acted as embassy officers in the relief effort, built an orphan centre, re-paired fishing boats, provided both re-placement boats and fishing nets and are now responding to requests by the Embassies to help with the relatives of victims who will be visiting.
We have now identified our masonic relief effort with a long term plan to help the most vulnerable – the children of the poor who have been worst affected by the tsunami and the subsequent tourist famine
We need the tourists back. But for the most vulnerable, it is already too late. They have turned to loan sharks. A £300 loan results in a daily interest payment of £7. You may think this a stupid loan to accept, but for a new widow now homeless and destitute with two surviving children, the need for mattresses, mosquito nets, a rice cooker, and some rudimentary shelter probably seemed worth the terrible interest payments. Of course she will have to take her children out of school and finally she will probably have to give her children to the loan shark to deal with the ballooning loan. We should not dwell on what will happen to the children then. Children are amongst the worst affected of Phuket’s citizens. Some are orphans, and sexual predators are already at work. We have heard terrible stories from Aceh in Indonesia.
The Thai Government has tried to help, but its facilities are in Bangkok, well away from whatever community support there is. The poorest families now have no jobs, no incomes, possibly no housing – the shanties obviously suffered worst. Even their little pre-existing possessions have gone.
OUR IMMEDIATE RESPONSE
The community around The Green Man Pub in Chalong raised over £50,000, which we have disbursed to victims. The whole atmosphere of the Village Fête from Middle England sprang to life on Patak Road, including battering the landlord with his own flour, eggs and water prior to adding tasteful garnishes of mayonnaise and tomato ketchup. He looked very tasty.
There were generous donations of prizes and very spirited bidding for them. A scuba cylinder sold for £200 as a customer bid strongly against her husband, only to donate it back to be sold again at £60, only to be onsold at £30 and then passed to someone who really needed it.
Cars were washed by bikini clad sirens, raffles and stalls raised. There was a tsunami stew, and a tsunami cocktail with proceeds to charity. Many raffle prizes were re-donated to the auction. The T-shirt, printed on salvaged stock, raised over £3,000 on the day, with demand still strong.
The most vulnerable people assisted have been humbling. Three separate women were given £70 relief, which was brought back subsequently. The Government had paid them compensation of £300, and they wanted our relief to be recycled. The manager of my business, who lost his possessions, refused our assistance because he has a job and a salary – others need it more.
We started a small relief effort for Phuket. We provided forms where they could tell us what they need: household effects, tools of trade, or a job. One reply reads ‘I want the tourists to come back and for it to be like it was’. This man needs to get back to work.
The first phase was emergency aid; people needed surgery, food, clothing and medicines. This phase lasted about 2 weeks. The second phase was emergency assistance; getting people home, getting people re-housed and re-schooled, and getting people back to work. That phase is almost complete. The third phase is long term support for those who need it most.
The Light of Siam Lodge has designed a project to house 50 orphans from the tsunami, and to support 200 additional children, largely single-parent children, and from the poorest and worst affected families, in a day care facility. We shall provide food, clothing and health care as required.
We want to give hope back to children who have lost their homes and families, have been molested by sexual predators or abused by commercial exploiters. We want to provide them with marketable skills, whatever that requires, up to and including university education for those that qualify and can benefit.
We shall deliver this through the structure of ChildWatch (www.trv.net/phuket/childwth), a charity with a 10-year record of delivering this type of programme in Phuket.
We are looking for about £300,000 in capital costs, and up to £110,000 per year in running costs. We believe we have around £100,000 in capital and around £30,000 in running costs pledged for 3 years. We think the running costs will be the hardest thing to support, and are looking for future pledges from the Craft as well as a short term response.
Given the money we wish to invest, governance is a big issue. I am looking at a Standing Committee, probably made up of (ex-officio) the Almoner, the Master, the Immediate Past Master, the Treasurer, the Senior Warden, the Junior Warden and any other Brother and wives of Brethren who wish to be involved. This Committee will have the sole signatories within it who will release funds to ChildWatch against approved expenses.
The Grand Charity has now confirmed that they are giving to Light of Siam Lodge, No. 9791, £100,000 over three years to support the on-going costs of a project its members have created to help children. They are working with ChildWatch, a local Thai charity, to house fifty orphans and provide support for an additional 200 in a day care centre.
John Hamill Plans a Fresh Look at Freemasonry’s Contribution to English Social History
As part of the celebrations marking the tercentenary of Grand Lodge a major study of masonic history is planned, one which looks at the broad impact of Freemasonry on society in England and Wales over the last three hundred years. John Hamill, former Director of the Communications Department at Freemasons’ Hall, London, has been appointed to head the team tasked with making this ambition a reality.
This challenge is formidable but, as John Hamill explains, such a project is ‘a researcher’s dream.’ He is realistic, only too aware that it is going to involve a huge amount of team work, but he emphasises that it will also be enjoyable. Historical research has long been his great interest and to now have the opportunity to plunge himself into such a project will be not only creative but a pleasure.
Few Freemasons realise that despite the enormous amount of work to date on masonic history there is still much more to be uncovered. All too often research in Freemasonry has involved merely rearranging known data rather than seeking new sources. This is to change.
The existing archives of the United Grand Lodge of England held at Freemasons’ Hall as well as those at many other masonic centres throughout England and Wales need to be methodically studied and analysed. Furthermore, many new sources of data remain to be discovered. Just recently, all the records of the Masons’ Company have been made available to John and he is looking forward to working through them.
A Love of History
John grew up in Newcastle, moving south to take a degree in modern history from London University. He was fascinated by the interplay between people and politics; the way in which individuals affected events, for good or ill; the way one person could make large changes. This led him into the history of the transmission of ideas and here he realised the importance of Freemasonry.
He joined Freemasonry easily: men from both sides of his family were members and at the age of 22 he was initiated by his father. He quickly became intrigued by the mystery surrounding the historical aspects of Freemasonry and the vagueness about its origins. At the same time he was impressed by the loyalty it commanded from its members: for example, despite the persecution suffered by many Freemasons on the Continent the idea survived turbulent times. Quite obviously there was something very special about Freemasonry which men responded to.
Working in the Public Library Service gave John few opportunities for research so he began to explore alternatives, particularly research libraries. He heard that an assistant Librarian was needed at Freemasons’ Hall, applied and gained the position. That was in 1971. Now, in 2009, he is the longest serving member of the Grand Secretary’s staff.
The first masonic meeting he attended in London was that of the research lodge, Quatuor Coronati, No. 2076, and he quickly joined the Correspondence Circle. He gave his first paper to the Lodge in 1973 and in 1977 was joint winner of the Norman Spencer Prize for a paper on the development of Lodge Warrants. As a result of this paper he was elected a full member of the Lodge. He was Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 1985-86 and during this time his book The Craft was published.
Meanwhile, in 1983, he had been promoted to Librarian and Curator for Grand Lodge.
Head of Communications
In 1984 he was asked by the Grand Secretary to appear on the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme: suddenly he found himself serving as a spokesman for Freemasonry. He became increasingly involved with public relations and in 1998 was asked to set up a specialised Communications Department for Grand Lodge; unfortunately, this meant leaving his post as Librarian and Curator. This was a wrench; he missed the research, the contact with people and the excitement when someone appeared with a new document or masonic artifact.
John drew into the Communications Department people who were aware of the problems Freemasonry was having with the outside world and who understood the need for a proactive and open approach. This was important since at the time Freemasonry had considerable problems with its public image.
John played an active role in combating this negative perception which had been allowed to flourish; he twice appeared before a House of Commons Select Committee speaking on behalf of Freemasonry.
John was also involved in the establishment of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at Sheffield University. Initially the University authorities were sceptical about the existence of sufficient primary material to maintain such a research centre so John invited the University librarian to London to see the archives held at Freemasons’ Hall. The librarian was astonished; he and his colleagues had no idea of the riches available including early minute books, annual returns and correspondence going back to the 1750s.
The Tercentenary research Project
The aim is not to produce a history just of Grand Lodge but something much broader: to record the contribution Freemasonry has made to the social, economic and political development of English and Welsh society since the earliest records began.
The plan is to first discover what is available. A team of researchers is being assembled to study specific areas and to produce comprehensive research papers. Importantly, there will be no restrictions placed on the research, there will be no ‘canonical interpretation’ of masonic history to limit the team’s analysis. As these papers are completed they will be made available on both the Grand Lodge website and that of Sheffield University’s Centre for Research into Freemasonry.
Secondly, beginning around 2013, the data in these papers will be brought together by an editorial group which will produce a book both academically sound and easily read.
This is a courageous venture: it will not be looking at the evidence in order to support a preconceived theory of origins but it will be true to the data ‘warts and all.’ It will be looking particularly at local communities: how Freemasonry has impacted the history and life of the towns in which it existed over the centuries.
‘For too long,’ John explains, ‘we have looked at Freemasonry in isolation but it has never existed apart from society, it has always been an integral part of it.’
Bringing the history of the two together again is one important ambition of this project which will make a significant contribution to understanding the true extent of Freemasonry’s impact on the development of our modern era.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Freemasonry was run discreetly, like a private gentleman’s club and the Grand Secretary seemed a distant, even aloof, figure gazing down from privileged heights. But no longer: Freemasonry is now run as a modern business and the Grand Secretary is a hands-on chief executive but accountable, not to shareholders, but to a large and diverse membership. It is a job needing skill, business acumen and diplomacy.
It seemed right, at a time when important changes are taking place amongst our rulers, that I should speak with Nigel Brown, Grand Secretary, about the changes in the administration of Grand Lodge since he was appointed and the plans for the future which he is tasked with implementing.
The first thing, he explained, was to understand that Grand Lodge was the centre of a large and dynamic international network of Freemasons.
As an example he mentioned the trip he recently made to Singapore to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the District of the Eastern Archipelago - which covers masonic lodges of the English Jurisdiction in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. This was an important milestone and celebrated not only the District’s longstanding success but 150 years of contribution to the local communities.
Many District Grand Masters from other areas were present and so he took the opportunity to chair business meetings to ascertain how well they are supported by Grand Lodge and how easily can they communicate their needs and concerns.
‘The Districts have long supported us and we need to demonstrate that we are constantly supporting them,’ he explained.
‘The Districts are a good example of the dynamic network of Freemasonry founded upon a shared moral understanding which, far from being anachronistic, is actually the way forward in the twenty-first century.’
‘In England and Wales we are increasingly dealing with a diverse population and Freemasonry could not be better placed to support and promote an understanding of that diversity since, in the end, what we are looking for are men of quality.’
‘And how would you define quality?’
‘People who understand the need for mutual respect of each other, who seek to become better men themselves and who understand that the community is better served by an active participation without expecting any reward. Therefore the need to select candidates of quality is essential.’
‘In Singapore, almost seven thousand miles away, I was heartened to find myself in the company of just such men of quality who selflessly give to their local community as we do here in England and Wales.’
The Administration of Freemasonry
The precise role of a Grand Secretary is to represent the Rulers - the Grand Master, Pro-Grand Master and his Deputy and Assistant - and the executives, the Board of General Purposes. He is rather like an honest broker to both these groups, advising them on all situations which arise. His task is also to implement whatever action they decide as a result of that advice.
‘So that takes care of missives from the top down,’ I commented on hearing this explanation, ‘what about concerns from the bottom up?’
‘We needed to reorganise the staff in Grand Lodge to create clear communication lines in order that Provincial, District and individual concerns can quickly be addressed by the right people and in a timely manner.’
‘At the beginning of my appointment one of the first objectives I was given was to make sure that Grand Lodge was run as a business. Of importance was the need to focus on an ease and efficiency of communication.’
‘Lord Northampton has been an enormous influence and working with him has been a very constructive experience. He was the right man in the right place and right time, the catalyst driving all these major initiatives vital for us to be a member of the twenty-first century.’
‘You have been Grand Secretary now for two years. How well have these objective been met?’
‘We are well on the way to achieving them. In fulfilling this remit the first organisational changes were made after my first six months in office and on behalf of the Board. I now have a clear understanding of what still remains to be put in place.’
The two main changes which were made were firstly to address the problem that Grand Lodge operated like a series of independent entities and that sometimes Provinces and Districts were not receiving the attention they deserved. Grand Lodge needed to understand fully what it was required to provide to Provinces and Districts and so a close analysis was made of the relationships.
At the same time Nigel Brown travelled around the Provinces and Districts with the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, to be introduced to the Provincial Grand Masters and hear directly their concerns and requirements.
As Grand Scribe E he also performed the same task for the Royal Arch. ‘One of the great decisions to allow me the time to concentrate on Provinces and Districts was the appointment of the Grand Chancellor. We have regular meetings and discuss any matters which might impact on the Districts. There can be issues between Districts under our jurisdiction and a sovereign Grand Lodge in the same country but, to date, all such issues have been resolved.’
Initiatives for the twenty-first century
One important recent success has been the Library and Museum Trust which has been transformed under the direction of Diane Clements. It has achieved official recognition by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council for its displays, comprehensive holdings and research.
Freemasonry has also been capitalising on the extraordinary nature and architecture of Freemasons’ Hall itself which is now listed among the ‘Unique venues of London’.
Shows, concerts, lectures and presentations have all been held here and, as most will now know, it is also used as a film and television location - most notably in recent years as the headquarters of the Intelligence agency featured in the Television series ‘Spooks’.
A major initiative about to bear fruit is the new United Grand Lodge of England website which is designed to be extremely easy to access and explore and will be regularly updated. It should provide everything anyone needs to know about Freemasonry and is designed particularly for the under-forty-five age-group both for members interested in Freemasonry and those thinking of joining. It will make it clear that Freemasonry is founded on Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and explain what that means in a twenty-first century context. In this way it will underpin English and Welsh Freemasonry’s desire for more open communication.
‘But what then should we keep to ourselves?’
‘The only things we wish to keep private are the modes of recognition which might be required when entering a lodge of which you are not a member. Of course, there should be an element of mystery about the rituals but it is not exactly secret since ritual books are freely available. Of course, reading the ritual is one thing, being part of it is another. What really counts is the felt experience of the ceremonies.’
‘One word we do not like is ‘secret’ for there are no secrets in Freemasonry. Nevertheless, at its heart is that great mystery of what it truly means to be human in an uncertain world and our ceremonies are a personal journey of discovery deep into this often uncharted region. Here, the recently introduced Orator and Mentoring programmes are important for they are focused upon the help, advice and support of those who choose to make the masonic journey.’
‘To have respect for others, give to the community and to journey towards insight and wisdom is to fully adopt those fundamental and ancient masonic principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth which have served Freemasonry since time immemorial and which will serve Freemasonry just as well into the future.’
NIGEL BROWN: GRAND SECRETARY
Born in Northern Rhodesia in 1948. Educated in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, he entered the British Army and after graduating from Sandhurst joined the Grenadier Guards with whom he served in Northern Ireland, British Honduras, Kenya and Cyprus. He was an instructor at the School of Infantry and commander of the Queen’s Company. After leaving the army he first entered financial publishing then later ran a company advising clients on winning global tenders.
Clive Deacon Reports on the Success of Trial Orations and the Responses from Brethren
For some time the Pro Grand Master had been considering how the experience of Freemasonry may be deepened and intensified for Brethren. He recognised that there was no formal method within the Lodge for communicating or raising awareness of the richness and depth of our traditions, with the result that the art of reading symbolism and allegory seemed to have been forgotten.
A Personal View of the Royal Arch by the Very Revd. Neil Collings
I believe that it is time that we, as English Freemasons, re-examined our roots and the things we do. In our dealings with individuals and organisations we need confidence in explaining and commending ourselves. There is either the danger of being too simplistic, thus carrying no real conviction in a world where so much else competes for a young man’s attention; or, we can come over as too defensive, confirming the myth that we have something to hide, or that we are ashamed of what we do in our temples and act out in our ceremonies.
During the past year English and Scottish Freemasons have found themselves serving together in Iraq. Vern Littley, of Dormer Lodge, No. 7294, in Worcestershire, a Staff Sergeant with the Royal Artillery, based in Basra, has teamed up with Stuart (‘Connie’) Taggart and John McGlen, Scottish Freemasons, both of the Royal Artillery and Terry Wing, a Captain of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment and a Master Mason of Lyndhurst Lodge, No. 8012, in Hampshire. Vern Littley is in charge of a 12-man detachment responsible for talking to the local population about their concerns and warn them about the dangers of unexploded ordnance and the importance of reporting any terrorist or suspicious activity to the local Iraqi Police and security forces. What made this friendship special was that between the four there were differences in rank and military experience and that these factors were not an issue.The majority of Vern’s duties have involved talking to the local population. He and his team have distributed thousands of leaflets and many goods promoting the new Iraqi emergency services. Products have ranged from small leaflets to carrier bags for children full of information leaflets, crayons, colouring books and other items of useful information helping to improve the local population’s safety and general awareness. However, because they were carrying ‘goodies’ the patrol has been mobbed by many a child shouting ‘Mister, mister give me pen, mister, mister give me dollar!’ as they distributed these and various other products.
During their tour they have briefly been able to visit the desecrated Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery located in Basra. The cemetery contains a memorial wall, commemorating 2,551 officers and soldiers killed during the First World War and a further 365 Second World War burials. Opposite the cemetery is the Basra Indian Forces Cemetery containing Indian forces burials from both World Wars. Sadly, both cemeteries have now been desecrated and what remains is neglect, smashed headstones and piles of rubbish. Their Iraqi interpreter tried vainly to place the pieces of a smashed headstone back together so that he could read the serviceman’s name and inscription.
At the Memorial to the missing, which bears the names of 40,500 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in Mesopotamia (Iraq) from the Autumn of 1914 to the end of August 1921, John McGlen, a renowned Piper, played the lament ‘Flowers of the Forest’ as a tribute.
Their time in Iraq has not passed without incident; they have had stones thrown at them and recently the vehicle Vern was travelling in was targeted by an explosive device on the outskirts of Basra, where luckily only one soldier received minor injuries and there was only superficial damage to the vehicle.
During their time in Iraq, their responsibilities have included providing training for the newly developing Iraqi Police Service and Iraqi Army, hoping that one day they will be able to take full control of the security of Iraq. Connie Taggart’s main duties were the issuing of weaponry and stores to these new organisations and the running of the Battery’s vehicle fleet, whereas John McGlen’s duties have included being the Regimental piper and vehicle top cover sentry duties during vehicle moves between military locations. Both have also been involved in the storage of confiscated weapons from warring Iraqi factions.
They all feel that during the last 6 months the British Army has made a positive contribution to a new and safer Iraq, and their fraternal interest has made made thelow points and other aspects of the tourgo easier. They hope that perhaps someone on the outside looking in on their masonic association may finally take ‘that first step’ now.
Fresh Look at Status of the Royal Arch to Encourage Recruitment and Retention
A fresh definition of the status of the Royal Arch is to be considered by Grand Lodge following the publication of the report of the working group set up last year under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, George Francis.
The announcement was made by Lord Northampton, Pro First Grand Principal, to the November meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter following publication of the report into the recruitment and retention of Royal Arch Masons. The report was going to Grand Superintendents, who would make it more widely available in Provinces.
The report covers neither the Metropolitan Grand Chapter, as they are to bring out their own report, nor Districts overseas.
Lord Northampton said that overall numbers had been dropping steadily, broadly in line with the falls in membership in the Craft generally, but as a proportion of the total membership of the Craft, they have been rising very slightly over the past ten years. However, there was much to do.
The first conclusion of the report related to the additional paragraph to the 1813 Declaration in the preamble to the Book of Constitutions, relating to the status of the Royal Arch.
This was added to by Grand Lodge in December 2003, and described the Royal Arch as ‘an extension to, but neither a superior nor a subordinate part of the Degrees which precede it’.
Lord Northampton commented: “There is no doubt that the Royal Arch is not the completion of just the third degree, but the 2003 declaration has not been entirely satisfactory.”
Neither did it help to describe the relationship of the Royal Arch to the three degrees, so had not been helpful to those joining or those seeking to recruit new members.
Lord Northampton added: “I am minded to request Grand Lodge to give careful consideration to replacing the 2003 paragraph with a fresh definition. A number of companions will be assisting me in trying to find a more suitable form of words for consideration.
“We should all seek to describe the Royal Arch as the next step in Freemasonry after the Craft degrees and the final step in pure ancient masonry. It is, of course, both an integral part of Craft masonry as well as being its completion.”
The other important conclusion of the report was a recommendation to that a Royal Arch representative should be appointed in each Craft lodge. Lord Northampton said that this representative, at least until further research and consideration, would not be a lodge officer, but would have the responsibility of promoting the Royal Arch within the lodge.
He added: “Where this role has already been implemented in some lodges, it has had a dramatic effect on the levels of recruitment and retention. Representatives need to be carefully chosen and the report gives advice and guidance on this matter.”
Lord Northampton said the report made a number of recommendations, and pointed to the dangers of allowing Chapters to become smaller and smaller to the point where they will no longer become viable.
There was a recommendation to look for ways of holding joint meetings with other chapters from time to time – with a possible view to encouraging amalgamation rather than inevitable closure.
He added: “The sharing of work is made much easier by the new ritual, but greater efforts are needed to include as many Companions as possible in ceremonies. This is to prevent boredom on the part of experienced companions, and fear and trepidation among newer Companions.”
Royal Arch to Adopt Hybrid System of Appointments and Promotions
The Royal Arch is to follow the Craft and revert to the principle of first appointments to Provincial and District Grand Ranks being based on the number of Chapters in a Province or District, and not as currently, on the number of Royal Arch Masons in such areas. The existing scales of acting ranks, based on the number of Royal Arch Masons, will, however, be retained.
The change was announced at the meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter in November. In addition, the working party headed by Past Second Grand Principal Peter Lowndes – who is also Deputy Grand Master in the Craft – has recommended that there be no formal restriction on the number of promotions that may be made. The changes will also apply to Metropolitan and Overseas Grand Chapter Ranks.
A notice of motion to amend the Royal Arch Regulations was given at the November Convocation of Grand Chapter, but as the retention of the existing scale of acting ranks was only decided on after the paper of business had gone to press, the formal motion will be subject to amendment when it comes before Grand Chapter on 1 May.
Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia is Set Up
A Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia is expected to be formed in early April 2008 with Hackney Brook Dependable Chapter No. 7397 of London planned to appear, without number, at the head of the register.
The London Chapter is currently meeting by dispensation in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and is to retain its original charter, after cancellation, as an integral part of its history and that of the new Grand Chapter.
Subject to the Estonian Grand Chapter being constituted on or after 1 April, Hackney Brook Dependable Chapter will be erased from the register of the English Supreme Grand Chapter.
Two Chapters under the Grand Chapter of Finland have been exalting brethren from lodges under the Grand Lodge of Estonia with a similar view. All three Chapters will form the new Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia.
Every lodge in the English Constitution has a tracing board for each of the three degrees. What is their point? Do they actually add anything to our study of masonic symbols and allegories? Would the lessons imparted by each of the three degree ceremonies be any less complete without the tracing boards?
The Canonbury Masonic Research Centre Held its 11th International Conference: Michael Baigent Reports
‘There is no one fixed origin for Freemasonry.’ Professor Andrew Prescott, University of Wales, Lampeter, certainly gained delegates’ attention. ‘There are no unchanging landmarks in Freemasonry. Like all historical phenomena, it has no origin.’
James Bartlett Looks at the Growing Success of the Mentoring Programme
Each year about nine thousand men are initiated into our lodges and hopefully each one will be introduced to the meaning, teachings and traditions of our Craft. Those who do this introduction, whether formally appointed or not, will be mentoring the new Freemason.