Trevor Sherman on the Northants and Hunts Provincial Demonstration Group
The mandate was clear from the start: in May 2008, Derek Young, then Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, asked me to set up a Provincial Demonstration Group, requesting that I, ‘Research for material that can be presented in dramatic form to inform, inspire and entertain Brethren regarding the history, origins and meaning of Craft Freemasonry and the Royal Arch’.
Don Peacock Relects on Modern Masonic Recruitment
During my forty year career in telecommunications, I was often struck by the rate of change not only in the technology we were producing but also our business processes and methods. When you are in the middle of all this change it is at times frustrating and annoying. However, on looking back it is very much apparent that we had to evolve or the world would have passed us by.
Julian Rees Gives Some Tips for the Keen Aspirant
It has often been said that Freemasons are quite good at recruiting, not so good at retaining, newly-made masons. And it is a fact that most people join Freemasonry without knowing what they are getting into. Should they know more? Could this be part of the reason for any later loss of enthusiasm? Certainly up to now there has not been a comprehensive guide to Freemasonry for the non-Freemason, despite the many good publications which deal with the detail of masonic custom and practice. The scarcity of books written for the non-mason has been due partly to the old idea that Freemasonry should be shrouded in secrecy, that what Freemasons do is for them only to know, that if you wanted to know more, you should find a way of joining.
Travelling with David Williamson, the Assistant Grand Master, to Singapore for the celebrations of the District Grand Lodge of Eastern Archipelago’s 150th anniversary provided a good opportunity to reflect on the Universities Scheme. The Assistant Grand Master is the President of the Universities Scheme, while Eastern Archipelago is the first District in the United Grand Lodge of England to discuss involvement.
Masonic mentoring has been with us for many years in various guises and yet Grand Lodge records show that we are still losing one in four of our initiates within the first five years of membership. Somewhere something has failed.
Mark St John Qualter and John Grange Explain the Idea Behind the Revival of Lodge Orators
The future wellbeing of the Craft critically depends on its ability to recruit new members and, even more importantly, to retain them. Freemasonry should both challenge and inspire the Candidate from the moment of his initiation. Experience shows, however, that he often remains in the darkness of ignorance simply because nobody has taken the trouble to explain what it all means as he passes through the degrees. This lack of encouragement in the early days may result in our newly made brother leaving the Order following a short period of bewilderment.
I am at present ascending the ladder of my lodge, to the Chair this year. I bring to Masonry many years of study and experience of the wisdom traditions of the world. It all started from an impulse in childhood to get at what is beneath the surface of things, developing into uncovering the Truth at the heart of matters, that which is indicated by the Delphic maxim Know Thyself, or the expression Thou Art That from the Upanishads. I see in Masonry the embodiment of the same essence, although I also see that many Masons seem near to blind to that essence. I have no doubt that any institution can benefit from examination by a fresh eye.
This was in fact appreciated early in the Christian centuries, when St Benedict composed what became the centrepiece of Benedictine Monasticism, the Rule of St Benedict. He enjoined the Prior to allow the monks to hear the view of the novices, before they became influenced by the established ways of the institution, before they discovered what could not be done.
This ‘fresh eye’ came into play at my interview by the lodge committee, before I was accepted as a candidate, and as a result I was cited, although not identified, in an article in Freemasonry Today before I was ever a Freemason. I was asked, as I knew I would be, ‘Do you believe in a supreme being?’, and I answered ‘Well, it depends what you mean by ‘believe’ and what you mean by ‘a supreme being’, and I mentioned the implausibility of a bearded old man sitting in the sky (which generated several nods of agreement!).
I had not long before read a book on ‘Faith’ by the then Dean of Exeter, for whom I had given a talk on the spiritual nature of Gothic architecture, and he said of faith that it was not so much a matter of an intellectual acceptance of an hypothesis, but a way of living. This also is how I consider ‘belief’ – I believe you when you tell me your address, and I believe that there are penguins in the Antarctic, but profound matters of philosophy the concept of ‘belief’ is simply inadequate.
What then of ‘a supreme being’? What do you mean by that? What do I understand? I had occasion to invite the Regius Professor of Divinity to give a talk (on ‘God’!) a couple of years ago, and I told him this story. He fell about laughing, and said ‘C.E.M Joad – the ‘Brains Trust’ - First define your question!’ (The Brains Trust was a radio programme a few decades ago.) This came up again recently, when I asked an avowed atheist ‘What is it that you do not believe in?’, and she replied ‘Well, all right then, perhaps I am actually an agnostic.’
Well, in the event, the committee and I agreed on a formulation acceptable to both, and the matter was concluded. I felt that there had been no dissatisfaction that the matter had been raised.
Of course an easier solution was suggested in a belated letter responding to the report, in a quite recent issue of Freemasonry Today, saying ‘Why didn’t the candidate just lie? I did!’ Well I certainly considered the easy option of just saying ‘yes’, and depending upon what ‘supreme being’ meant to those present, that might have been true, but on such an issue I am not willing to lie, although I might not tell the truth if you ask me whether I like your tie or hat!
I now turn from that early moment to what I have seen since. As I said, I have had a good deal of experience of wisdom traditions, and it is my general view that there is one Truth, which is just differently expressed in the many traditions. This view is not original to me: I recall it being wonderfully put by the late Father Bede Griffiths. I see this same truth explicit in Masonic ritual.
With respect to secrets, in 1932 Maurice Maerterlinck (author of the very wise play The Blue Bird) wrote a book The Great Secret, in which he set out that there was a perennial idea that there was a secret which each needs to uncover, but added that the secret was never hidden, always available, the only snag being that acceptance requires a sacrifice which few are willing a make, a sacrifice related to ego. I see this within Masonic ritual, unseen, apparently, by most, and including the idea that the secret cannot actually be put into words, which merely express a substitute for the secret.
When I attend church, or many another form of event, I ask myself ‘Can’t they hear what they are saying?’ because in so many ways the expressed truth is not enacted in life, or even uttered with conviction. This I also find the case within Freemasonry. For Heaven’s sake, listen to the ritual. Not only listen to it, but participate with attention: attention to the living moment can bring penetrating insight. This I experienced a year or so ago during an installation: the ritual was perfect both in form and in expression, and these came together into something very profound.
I repeat: Pay attention to the ritual!
Mark Sutherland Describes the Anniversary of Anchor & Hope Lodge No. 37
The United Grand Lodge of England can be justifiably proud that it will celebrate its tercentenary in 2017, just eight years from now and plans are afoot to mark such an auspicious occasion. But what of celebrating significant lodge anniversaries before then?
Lodges consecrated within a few years of the establishment of Grand Lodge are about to mark their 275th anniversaries and they too can be equally proud of such a great achievement. The first of such ‘antiquarian’ lodges to reach the grand old age of 275 was Anchor & Hope Lodge No. 37 which has met continuously since its consecration in the town of Bolton in the Province of East Lancashire in 1732, making it the premier lodge of the provinces.
Anchor & Hope Lodge – as it was named in 1767 - was warranted on 23 October 1732 by the Grand Master, Lord Montague and duly constituted on 9 November 1732. Soon afterwards, on 7 December 1732, was the opening of the first Royal Opera House in Covent Garden! That same year the American colony of Georgia had been founded by Freemason General James Oglethorpe.
Originally lodge No.105, it appears in Pine’s Engraved List of Lodges for 1734. It was renumbered as No. 37 in 1863.
The lodge celebrated its 275th anniversary on 12 November 2007: this article looks at some of the key features involved in planning a lodge anniversary with a view to making it a success.
Logistics and preliminaries
Early preparation is key and in this case No. 37 started planning eighteen months before the big day. Indeed, the Province of East Lancashire was contacted well before then to ascertain if it would be possible to invite one of the Rulers from Grand Lodge. Regular dissemination of information to lodge members is crucial in order to fix the event in everybody’s minds and busy diaries! Mention in the lodge minutes as to how the planning was going helped in this regard as well as regular updates at lodge meetings.
Seven make a perfect lodge organising committee and this proved to be a workable solution. One member looked at the lodge history which was to form part of the celebration’s proceedings whilst another dealt with its proof-reading, one dealt with catering and wines and the Lodge Secretary supervised the invitations. A computer ‘buff’ masterminded the table plan and personalised place cards bearing the name and ranks of all members and guests. The volunteers who made up the team each contributed in different ways depending on his particular area of interest and expertise.
Mail merge was used to generate the invitations which were sent out well in advance - six months before the event to be precise. The lodge organising committee met at last four times in the six months prior to the event and other ad hoc meetings were held as and when necessary. A reserve list was established for those who had expressed an interest in attending but who were not directly invited. In the end most could be accommodated but being firm on abiding by response deadlines was important to a hassle free event.
All of the lodge’s artifacts were studied carefully and only the more unusual items were selected for display and explanation on the big night. After all, early minute books and correspondence is fairly commonplace amongst old lodges so the lodge committee wanted to ensure that unique items of interest would be the focus of attention and the lodge’s historian was charged with this particular mandate.
The contents of the lodge history was carefully considered and it was a given that close cooperation with the Province was required in order to avoid any duplication of effort between the lodge historian and the Provincial Assistant Grand Chaplain who was to give the oration.
Of course, the finances of the anniversary need careful thought and the ticket price was set to break even but pitched at a level that would not deter members inviting a large number of personal guests. The main out-of-pocket expense was the Provincial delegation which numbered about ten and this was met from lodge funds. With e-mail, postage and paperwork expenses were kept to a minimum.
A souvenir programme is a worthwhile investment as a future reminder of the event and of the happy times enjoyed by the member and guests.
Remembering one of the aims of Freemasonry, the lodge set out to make a substantial gift to charity which it was able to meet through donations. The local Parish Church was one beneficiary as it graciously allowed free visitor car parking. In arranging the celebratory banquet, consideration was given to striking the right balance between a ensuring a memorable occasion for members and guests whilst not discouraging charity giving both before and at the event.
A dress rehearsal on the morning of the event and a large number of Stewards and lodge officers/ushers were in place to ensure all ran smoothly on the night. So how did it all go?
The Anniversary Celebrations
The 275th Anniversary Meeting of No. 37 was opened by the Master of the lodge, Graham Stratford and his officers supported by 110 guests emanating from a wide range of lodges from No. 2 through to No. 8816.
The Reverend David Halford, Provincial Assistant Grand Chaplain, delivered a moving Oration which reflected upon the reality of the times: the Jacobite rebellions, the reign of King George II, Prime Minister Walpole and Louis XV of France and the Spanish siege of Gibraltar. Halford recalled the first and founding Master of the Lodge, Edward Entwistle, who went on to be installed as the first Provincial Grand Master of Lancashire holding the post from 1734 to 1743. The Lodge has since seen two further Provincial Grand Masters from within its ranks – Brother Stephen Blair (1856 - 1870) and The Earl of Derby (1899 - 1948).
David Hawkins, the lodge’s Senior Warden and historian, presented an epitome of the Lodge’s History updated since its 250th Anniversary in 1982 which was presided over by Lord Cornwallis, the then Pro Grand Master.
The careful preservation of the Lodge ‘gems’ was emphasised. The Lodge possesses the oldest known copy of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge held on 21 November 1732 held at the Devil Tavern within Temple Bar.
The Guest of Honour, Paul Rink, then Provincial Grand Master of East Lancashire, accepted the gavel of the lodge and gave his personal reflections and invited Brethren present to contemplate what life must have been like in the early 1700’s. He commended the Lodge upon its happy achievement and the long-suffering Lodge Secretary, Richard Sutherland whose sterling supervisory efforts had made the celebration possible. Paul Rink mused as to how Sutherland would look donning a powdered wig - the head gear of the times - and sporting a silver-handled quill pen!
Paul Rink presented the lodge with a Certificate of Appreciation and was in turn presented by the Master with a cheque for the East Lancashire Masonic Charity. There are undoubtedly many different ways of marking an occasion such as a 275th anniversary, or indeed any anniversary but our way proved effective and enjoyable.
INVITE THE MAYOR AND THE MEDIA
Any lodge which has been working in a town for 250 years or more, will have contributed much to the history of that city, to the business and social worlds. Mayors will have been members as will undoubtedly have been editors of the local newspaper.
Freemasonry has a good relationship with almost all local media so invite their representatives and the Mayor along to the dinner as guests of the lodge. Draw up an outline (around 500 words) of a short history of the Lodge and the City noting the contribution which members of the lodge have made to civic life and give this to all media outlets: newspapers, radio, television.
Make a list of who to contact and give them plenty of warning so that they can accommodate the celebration in their schedules. Make sure that all publicity sent out has a contact number or email address.
The Pro Grand Master Speaks to the Editor About Freemasonry
Lord Northampton has been a much admired ruler and charismatic leader of English Freemasonry for fourteen years, first as Assistant Grand Master from 1995 and since 2001 as Pro Grand Master. He has worked tirelessly and travelled extensively throughout the Provinces and our Districts and lodges overseas as well as to other Grand Lodges on behalf of the Craft. He has been a great ambassador for English Freemasonry all over the world. It was then, with a sense of loss and sadness that we learned of his decision to retire next March. ‘The Craft is now going through a time of consolidation,’ he explains, ‘and I will have been in high office for fourteen years. It is time to give someone else a chance.’Lord Northampton has helped usher in a new way of defending and advancing Freemasonry with the introduction of changes to its corporate structure and augmenting the experience of its ritual and the understanding of its profound philosophical side which arise from the deepest meaning of those central masonic principles, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Vision and Management
Under his guidance the management of the Craft was revised: Lord Northampton explains: ‘You cannot have a vision without a strategy. This is pointless. The vision needs to be grounded.’
In the past the Rulers came up with ideas, the Board of General Purposes devised the strategy and the Grand Secretary implemented it; this did not always work. Now those at the top of Freemasonry meet on a regular basis to consider the vision, the strategy and implementation together. The strategy is then proposed to the Board and, if agreed, passed to the Grand Secretary for implementation. Thus vision, strategy and implementation operate on a more integrated and consensual basis.
The daily management of Freemasonry too received his attention; the aim has been to introduce corporate business practices into a smaller, more accountable, Board of General Purposes bringing efficiency of practice and transparency of decision making. At the same time he started business meetings each December with Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to discuss the direction he thought the Craft and Royal Arch should be taking.
All Provincial Grand Masters have direct access to the Rulers in the case of any problems.
The role of the Grand Secretary has also changed. In the past he was an often remote and powerful figure and this attitude, coupled with the undue secrecy Freemasonry pursued, had a negative effect on both members and the public. Today the Grand Secretary concentrates on our brethren in England and Wales; our relations with other Grand Lodges is the concern of the recently appointed Grand Chancellor.
There is, of course, a healthy overlap since the Grand Secretary is still responsible for Grand Lodge’s Districts and lodges overseas.
Lastly, Lord Northampton has encouraged more integration between the Centre and the Provinces through better communication. He believes strongly in the sovereignty of each lodge and encourages them to introduce changes that will enhance the enjoyment their members get out of freemasonry. ‘We place too much importance on the form our meetings take and not enough on their content’.
Research into Freemasonry
Academic research too has received Lord Northampton’s attention. He helped found, and personally helped to fund, the academic centre at Sheffield University which offers Doctoral and Masters degrees in masonic research. He also was instrumental in the formation of the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre which holds lectures and organises annual international conferences and the Cornerstone Society which aims to increase knowledge of the Craft amongst Master Masons. He encourages too the growth of organisations of younger masons which involve their friends, girlfriends and wives. He is concerned that the important support of Freemason’s families should receive recognition. He has been very lucky to have the support of his wife Pamela who understands the transformative nature of the Craft and has been a great source of strength and advice. ‘I could not possibly have carried out my role as Pro Grand Master without her love and support’. It is important that younger masons and especially their partners ask questions about the Craft so that they can understand the symbolic nature of its teachings. The Mentoring and Orator programmes which have recently been introduced will aid this.
The Wisdom of Freemasonry
Lord Northampton was first initiated into Ceres Lodge No.6977, Northampton, in 1976. His enthusiasm has never diminished and as anyone who has heard him speak will know, he is eloquent and inspiring on Freemasonry and is a strong advocate of its importance to our often troubled modern society.
‘I don’t think that any other Order could do what Freemasonry does,’ he explained. ‘A moral system which can transform a shy and insecure man into a confident and compassionate, kind and trusting person; and all this within everyday life. Freemasonry teaches social conscience and brings leadership qualities; it breaks down the barriers raised by religion and politics.’
In an important move the Royal Arch has been brought into closer communication with the Craft. It is no longer considered as the completion of the Third Degree but as a completion of all the Craft degrees, the apex of the masonic journey.
‘Why,’ I asked Lord Northampton, ‘in the twenty-first century, should anyone become a Freemason?’
‘The idea of “becoming a Freemason” is something of a misnomer. I think that you are born a Freemason. There is something within you which leads you to want to develop in an integrated way, to seek self-development to become a better person. And part of this search involves considering the major questions about life and death. You should join Freemasonry if you are looking for moral and spiritual values in a world which is predominantly focussed upon material concerns.’
Values of the Heart
Why are spiritual values so important within Freemasonry?
Lord Northampton is clear: ‘Our basic precepts of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, by their very nature, invoke spiritual values. Brotherly Love or compassion is a value of the heart: if the mind deals with reason, the heart is concerned with the spiritual values of compassion and clarity. And nothing could be more archetypal than truth but it is difficult to explain: we can view it as that which integrates, as the oneness of all reality, but there are many different ways of looking into reality and we get many different perceptions of truth. The ritual and symbols reveal signposts on your personal journey of experience.’
‘Absolute truth is outside time and place; it is a constant from which all things flow. This has to be the highest state of integrity possible. We can best explain this symbolically and one very good symbol is that of Jacob’s ladder which is depicted on the First Degree Tracing Board. This ladder reaches from earth to heaven; as you climb higher on the ladder you can see further. You can see how you are connected with, and contribute to, the whole, you can see that integrity, truth and freedom are all connected.’
‘Just before we take our obligation in the first degree we are told that “Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination.” That is, we must try and put aside any preconditions. This is not easy as we are so dominated by our culture from birth; we are encouraged to think from the mind not from the heart but the Craft needs more humanity, more heart.’
‘We are all on the level and we need to be able to talk to anybody. I have always enjoyed conversations with less experienced brethren. Everyone has something interesting to say. I will always seek out the young masons and encourage them to question what we do and why. The Orator scheme’s importance is very much found in the discussions which take place after the Oration is delivered.’
‘I think Freemasonry is the most wonderful male life-changing experience and we could make so much more of it. And that is the challenge faced by each one of us from the moment that we freely begin our personal journey by stepping into the lodge for the first time.’