Wednesday, 30 April 2003 01:00

Grand Master's address - April 2003

30 APRIL 2003


I start by welcoming you all to our meeting this afternoon and I offer my warmest congratulations to all the Brethren I have had the pleasure of appointing to or promoting in Grand Rank today. I know they have all worked hard to further the interests of the Craft, but in recognising their achievements we do of course look to them for even greater exertions in the future.

I turn first to the most important issue to have exercised Grand Lodge during the past twelve months, namely the future of Masonry in London. The process of providing a new constitutional structure for London Masonry, which has been in progress for some years, culminated in an historic vote in Grand Lodge last month, following the most extensive consultation exercise ever undertaken in English Freemasonry. This process is not yet complete because Supreme Grand Chapter still has to make its decision on these proposals tomorrow. I recognise the widely differing opinions held on this matter, but have been impressed by the wholly Masonic spirit in which the debate was conducted. I am certain that the increased opportunities offered to London Masons by the new structure will enable them to play a more active part in their Masonry in the future.

Our “Freemasonry in the Community” week, which was such a success throughout the country, was more than the additional effort to raise money for charity which in some areas it became. It gave our Masonic centres and individual Lodges an opportunity to reach out to the “popular” world and put our strategy of openness into practical effect, so bringing Masonry closer to the communities in which our Lodges function and flourish, and from which we draw our members.

This special week showed clearly that Masons are part of their local community and that they work for it in many different ways. It also demonstrated to the country that we are a society with principles which we are determined to put into action for the good of our fellow men, and especially the less fortunate.

Although “Freemasonry in the Community” week was not planned as a charity event, it gave Provinces and Lodges in England and Wales additional opportunities to raise funds for, and make further donations to, non-Masonic charities in their own communities. Everyone taking part in these activities throughout the country enjoyed the experience enormously and many have resolved to continue their efforts in subsequent years.

Continuing in the theme of Charity, Charitable activity, which forms such a large part of Masonic life, in the form of fundraising has continued unabated during the year with the result that we gave approximately £17m to Masonic Charities. I know how hard the Councils work which administer those Charities, and I wish to thank them for all their efforts on our behalf. I am very pleased indeed that the work of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys has been recognised by the award of Royal status, and with effect from tomorrow it will be known as the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. It is also very good news that during the year donations to non-Masonic charities totalling in excess of £4m have been made by Masons under our Constitution throughout the world. This is a highly creditable achievement, and we can take satisfaction from it, but we must nevertheless remember that our Masonic Charities need our continued help, and should remain at the core of our charitable giving.

One of the effects of “Freemasonry in the Community” week has been to encourage many men to make enquiries about possible membership. In mentioning this I return to a topic which I last raised five years ago, namely the three “Rs,” — recruiting, retaining and retrieving. Recruiting is both acceptable and desirable, so long as it does not put undue pressure on potential candidates. Having succeeded in recruiting new Brethren it is clearly important that we make every effort to retain them. We all recognise the career and family pressures faced by younger men, so it is imperative that Lodges work to harness the enthusiasm of the new recruit and make him feel welcome. Retrieving lapsed members is initially a task for the Lodge Almoner, especially where financial or health difficulties have caused a brother to resign; but there is an increasing body of Masons who resigned from their Lodge because of business, career or family pressures, who may have found those circumstances have now eased or disappeared. Here we can all make a difference by encouraging them to rejoin their Lodge, or another Lodge, and once again become active in their Masonry.

I can assure you, however, Brethren, that in looking to you all to promote greater active membership of our Antient Institution, both new and old, I am not suggesting that we should ever contemplate the kind of mass recruitment which has recently been a feature elsewhere in the world. We are hardly going to strengthen our institution by relaxing the principles which we have established and maintained throughout our long history; rather we should respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing society, and show that our values have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they have always been. This is the example we have set to other Grand Lodges around the world, that the quality of our Masonry should always take precedence over the quantity of our membership.

In this connection I should point out that English Freemasonry recognises 156 Grand Lodges throughout the world, all of which adhere to the same landmarks as does this Grand Lodge. Maintaining good relations with them and responding to approaches from other Grand Lodges seeking recognition from us, is an important part of the work of the Grand Secretary and his staff. I was particularly delighted that, as a result of such efforts, we were able to resolve our difficulties with, and re-recognise, the Grand Lodge of India during the year. Inter-visiting is an important part of Masonic activity and I am certain that our members in India and elsewhere will be gratified that they are able to resume official contact once more with Brethren in the Grand Lodge of India.

Brethren, in conclusion, I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard throughout the year to ensure that we enjoy our Masonry. I wish to mention in particular the Grand Director of Ceremonies, who retires today after eight years. He has been a tower of strength during that time and has directed our ceremonies not only with efficiency but also with good humour and a light touch. I extend our thanks to his Deputies, who have helped him to make today run like clockwork. I also wish to thank the Grand Secretary and all the staff of this building especially the maintenance staff and porters, who look after this magnificent building so well, and finally, Brethren, I thank all of you for your attendance and support in such large numbers at this Investiture.

Published in Speeches

The following article is from a speech delivered by Laura Chapman, Grand Charity chief executive, at an evening hosted by the Grand Charity at Freemasons' Hall, London as part of Freemasonry in the Community week

My association with Freemasonry is very recent and confined to my role in the Grand Charity. 

My closest previous link, so my sister advised me when I was being interviewed for the job here, was that my Great Uncle Bill, from Buffalo, New York, had been a Mason some 50 years ago. Sadly, he died when I was very young and therefore was unable to share his Masonic experiences with me.

Before coming to work for the Grand Charity three years ago, my understanding of Freemasonry, its purpose and structure was, at best, limited. To the extent that I had perceptions at all, they were of an organisation that was introspective and secretive, and, therefore, was not likely to be of much use to anyone other than its members.

What a surprise I had!

I discovered that the Grand Charity alone over the past five years has made grants to charities of the wider community totalling nearly £11m. When the donations of the other central Masonic charities are included, that figure rises to £24m. This is before the donations made by Freemasons within their own communities through local and Provincial Lodges are considered.

No one has attempted to estimate the totality of Masonic giving to non-Masonic charities, but a conservative estimate would place the figure at well over £30m in this five-year period. In today's world of materialism and self-interest, one has to ask why Freemasons are so committed to community support?

The answer lies in the philosophical basis of the movement: a commitment to the three principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Of these, the most important is charity: providing 'relief' for those who are less fortunate. These philosophical tenets are expressed practically by committed support for charitable activities, at both local Lodge and national level.

The Grand Charity is the central Masonic charity and is the primary vehicle for making grants to national charities, serving the wider communities of England and Wales.

The Grand Charity receives many hundreds of grant applications each year. Over the years, the council, or trustees, of the Charity have given a great deal of thought to which of these should be supported, and have developed policy guidelines for the selection of grants.

But, at a broader level, what is the Grand Charity trying to achieve on behalf of more than 300,000 Freemasons who support it? Five key objectives guide the grant-making policy of the Grand Charity.

First and foremost, is making a profound and significant difference for someone who is in great need.

Of the hundreds of applications made each year, those that receive priority are for people in the greatest distress, whose lives can be profoundly improved by our support.

The second key objective is realising as significant and widespread an impact as possible.

The Grand Charity seeks to support problems that are widespread in the population or changes that will ultimately bring benefits to many people, rather than a few people helped directly. Third is identifying areas of need that individual Freemasons and their families are worried about and affect their daily lives, and that they can then feel proud to be supporting.

The Grand Charity acts on behalf of all Freemasons in England and Wales and seeks to support those issues of the greatest concern to them and their families.

Fourth is offering opportunities for further involvement by local Lodges or individual Freemasons.

Many of the charities supported by the Grand Charity have offices throughout England and Wales and offer opportunities for volunteering or further involvement by local Lodges.

Finally, an objective that has become increasingly important in recent years is offering opportunities for the grants to be seen publicly to be making a genuine contribution to the well being of the wider community.

Raising public awareness about the charitable activities of Freemasons is a slow and difficult task, but one that most Masons believe to be very important.

Through the Grand Charity, the other central Masonic charities and the more than 8,000 Lodges throughout England and Wales, Masons are committing millions of pounds to help those who are less fortunate than themselves.

Published in The Grand Charity

You have faith and I have works

Sermon of the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr John Moses, at the Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving for the United Grand Lodge of England, 18 June 2002

Some one will say, "You have faith and I have works". Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith". (James ii 18) 

Faith and works: these are the two words that lie at the heart of this verse as surely as they lie at the heart of Freemasonry. Faith and works: Yes they are words that beg many questions, words that can so easily be misunderstood; but words that are absolutely basic to our lives as human beings. Faith: Some will say that the long centuries of faith are receding fast, at least in the western world. We live in a secular age in which some of the most basic religious assumptions can no longer be taken for granted.

The idea of God; the idea of sin, of judgement, of accountability; the values by which we live: all these things are called in question at a philosophical and - no less importantly - at a practical level.

And yet I am far from being pessimistic that faith religious faith - belongs merely to our past. There is in many people some sense of God and of all that that word represents.

I can only speak as a Christian priest, but my experience suggests to me that there are large numbers of people who may not be in church every Sunday, but who want the church to be there, and who want it to hold certain priorities, certain values.

The dialogue is not easily achieved between those who live by faith and those who live - or appear to live - without faith. But let there be no doubt concerning the hunger - the spiritual hunger - that is to be found wherever we turn.

And if it is the case in some areas of life that faith is receding, then it will certainly come to pass - as surely as night follows day - that the gods, the pagan aberrations of all that we mean by God, will move quickly into the vacuum we create.

And we can say that with confidence, because we are not made to live our lives as self-sufficient, autonomous, pleasure-seeking human beings.

We cannot live - certainly we cannot live for long without some kind of relationship with the God who is the beginning and the end of all life, the God in whose image we are made, the God for whom our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

And that is why as we come to this Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving I am so grateful for the fundamental belief that unites all Freemasons in a Supreme Being. We may come from different traditions of faith, but let this be our starting point that the God in whom we live and move and have our being is the One in whom alone we can find our direction, our meaning, our destiny.

But it is not enough to rest there. And if faith religious faith - is looked upon by so many people today with indifference, with scepticism, it is because all too often faith appears to have no cash value.

What does it mean in practice? Does it still have the power to convert, to transform, to give a new sense of identity, of purpose? I shall never forget some twenty years ago listening to a young African priest from Kenya, speaking in one of our English cathedrals about the phenomenal growth of the church in his country.

When he had finished speaking, someone asked him: 'Why is it that in your country the church is advancing by leaps and bounds, but here we seem to be running flat out in order to stay in the same place?'

He hesitated for a moment, and then he said: 'I think that perhaps in my country people are not yet tired of Christianity:

I was always grateful for that answer, and I think I know what he meant. Again: whatever our tradition of faith, it is all too easy for faith to become just that - a tradition, a culture, a convention.

We think we can take it for granted. We think we know what it means for us and for other people; but unless faith is renewed in every age, unless the wellsprings of faith are renewed in us, it becomes tired and all too easily disposable.

The only thing that has to happen for evil to triumph is for good people - good men, good women - to do nothing. Works that are not rooted in faith can so easily become an end in themselves.

But faith that does not issue in works is not faith. Faith - like love - must overflow and give itself away. And that is why as we come to this Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving I am so grateful for the emphasis that I find in Freemasonry upon Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

Brotherly Love, because whether we acknowledge it or not we are all deeply bound up in one another, we are all profoundly interconnected. Every man is my brother, and my brother is every man. Relief, because life does not deal an equal hand to every one of us. Accident, tragedy, human failing - people will be touched by these things at any time. And there is a responsibility upon those of us who can help to ensure that those who are in need are properly assisted.

Truth, because at the end of the day what we are is deeply bound up with questions of integrity, of value. What are the things in which we believe?

What are the things for which we live and - yes - for which in some circumstances we are prepared to die? And for me - drawn as we are from different traditions of faith - truth is to be found not in books, not in ideas, not even in rituals, but in a person - in people - in whom we dare to believe we see the ultimate truth about God and man.

Some one will say, "You have faith and I have works". Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith".

Freemasonry in the Community Week speaks of your attempts to share with the wider public the meaning of Freemasonry and the part that it tries to play in community life.

I wish you well in that endeavour. You have an ancient history. Yes, there will be perceptions that need to be corrected; misunderstandings - at times wilful misunderstandings - that need to be better informed.

But if faith and works can be the main thrust of what you have to say, then you cannot fail to make a contribution an all-important contribution to the life of society today.

There has never been a time when we need more urgently men and women of faith, and men and women who are known not just by what they believe but also by what they do.

May God enrich and renew you as you go forward in the work to which you have put your hand.

Published in Speeches

Overseas District Grand Lodges also took part in Freemasonry in the Community Week

In Sierra Leone, the Irish and Scottish Constitution Masons joined in the celebrations.

There was a Masonic evening at the British Council Hall in Freetown, a sponsored walk in aid of charity, a Grand Thanksgiving Service at Wesley Methodist Church and a visit to the King George VI Home for the Aged.

The walk took place through a well-travelled and popular route through the major streets of Freetown, with the Masonic participants in t-shirts with the square and compasses on them.

The District Grand Master, Dr. R.N.F. Cummings, led the church service with K.A.B. Ferguson, Grand Inspector of Irish Lodges in Sierra Leone and Canon V.J. Hastings-Spaine, Depute District Grand Master, Scottish Constitution, also in attendance. 

Contributions were made to the rebuilding of Holy Trinity Church in Freetown and a mosque in Wellington, both destroyed during the civil conflict.

Published in More News
Wednesday, 12 June 2002 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2002

12 JUNE 2002
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE PRO GRAND MASTER the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL


Next Tuesday we are celebrating ‘Freemasonry in the Community’ week which is fast becoming ‘Freemasonry in the Community three weeks’, with a service in St Paul’s Cathedral at 11a.m. There are still a few places available and if you have not already done so please apply for tickets today using the form provided. You might be interested to know that we have well over 1,000 events taking place all over the country during this initiative.

On Wednesday, 26 June, the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys are holding a Grand Choral Celebration here in the Grand Temple. The choir will largely comprise choristers from all over the country who have been supported by the Charity. Tickets at £10 each are available outside the Grand Temple.

Many of you may have seen the recent series on television called ‘Spooks’, some of which was filmed in this building. Filming here has proved a useful source of income for Grand Lodge, and we are grateful to the London Film Commission for supporting us. In return we are sponsoring part of the costs of a free public showing which they are arranging of the film ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. This is due to take place next Saturday evening at the Paddington Recreation Ground at 7p.m. and is open to the first 3,000 people to arrive. I don’t know what the weather forecast is for next Saturday but if you like ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ do give your support.

Brethren, we have received 400 hundred possible designs for the tie competition from 124 applicants and I hope this summer will give an opportunity for the judges to suggest a short-list for consideration.

And finally, Brethren, on Thursday, 27 June, I shall be opening the exhibition of the works of the Artist-Photographer, Alvin Langdon Coburn, who was also a prolific Mason. It is being organised by the Library and Museum Charitable Trust, will be the first major exhibition of its kind that we have sponsored and I recommend a visit. Brother Coburn had a long and distinguished Masonic career in North Wales and Freemasonry was central to his life. He wrote an explanation of it which seems appropriate for our Freemasonry in the Community initiative. He said “that Freemasonry is not a thing apart, cut off from life, it is interwoven with it, and the more it is studied with a view to spiritual progress, the more enlightened one becomes, and the richer in consequence are our lives!”

Brethren, this is the last time I shall be able to address you before the summer break, but I wish you all a very time with your friends and families and look forward to seeing you again in September, when the new Masonic season starts.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 12 December 2001 00:00

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2001

12 December 2001


In November 1999 the Grand Master’s Council appointed a Committee to consider the basis on which appointments to Grand Rank were allocated to Provinces and Districts and various related matters, and to make recommendations to my predecessor as Pro Grand Master, the late MW Bro Lord Farnham.

The Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, RW Bro Iain Bryce, reported its interim findings to Lord Farnham in the middle of last year and those findings were considered by the Grand Master’s Council in September 2000 and have already been implemented.

In April 2001 I requested the Committee to carry out the second phase of the review, dealing principally with the basis on which appointments to London Grand Rank, Overseas Grand Rank and Provincial and District Grand Ranks are allocated. At the same time certain changes were made to the composition of the Committee. The Committee submitted its report and recommendations on 21st November and I have already authorised its distribution for comment by 1st February 2002 to the Grand Master’s Council, Provincial and District Grand Masters, Grand Superintendents, Grand Inspectors, the Board and Committee of General Purposes.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Committee for its work and, in particular, the Deputy Grand Master for his Chairmanship of it and to the Assistant Grand Secretary, Bro. Graham Redman for his excellent and painstaking work as the Clerk to the Committee.

Speaking of my predecessor, Lord Farnham, I am pleased to announce that the Grand Charity, at the next opportunity in March, is to propose two grants of £25,000 each in memory of Lord Farnham. The first is to the Cancer Vaccine Institute with the Division of Oncology at St. George’s Hospital Medical School to continue the development of the kidney cancer vaccine. The research has now reached the stage of clinical trials and the grant will allow thirty patients to be treated over the next two years.

The second grant is the Palliative Care Research Fund of the Royal Marsden Hospital. This grant will provide funding to investigate the clinical uses of cannabis and the effectiveness of morphine for the treatment of cancer pain.

Lord Farnham also was, of course, an Irish Mason and I had the pleasure of representing the Grand Master at the Installation of the new Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, MW Bro Eric Waller, in Dublin on 22nd November. It was a very happy occasion and we all wish him and his Grand Lodge every success for the future.

A few days later I was in Edinburgh for the re-Installation of the Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Bro. Archibald Orr Ewing, now in his third year in that office. This was my first visit in my present capacity and I can report that both our two sister Constitutions are in very good hands.

From Edinburgh I flew to Paris for the Installation of the new Grand Master of the Grande Loge Nationale Française, MW Bro Jean Charles Foellner. He too received from me a personal gift from our Grand Master, a medallion struck by the Royal Mint bearing on one side the Arms of the United Grand Lodge of England and on the other the signature of His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, as Grand Master. Brethren that was a remarkable occasion, with more than forty Grand Lodges represented, many of them recent creations in Africa by the GLNF. I took the opportunity to stress that the GLNF is the only regular Grand Lodge in France and to express the hope that it will soon be able to overcome the difficulties it has been facing from within and without.

Brethren, it has come to my attention that a reconstruction of an 18th Century variation of our ceremonies, including the opening and closing of a Lodge has been demonstrated by members of this Constitution when non-Masons, including ladies, have been present. This cannot be right. The essential parts of our ceremonies have hardly changed over the centuries and although they were exposed more than 250 years ago we have individually promised not to reveal them. I believe that the guidelines the Board of General Purposes has laid down for demonstrations of rituals, other than those practised by our own Lodges stand equally to historical reconstructions, but I have asked the Board to look into the matter and, if necessary to bring guidance before Grand Lodge at a future meeting.

Brethren, I would like to add my thanks to Bro Daniel for his work as Grand Secretary over the past three and a half years. His re-organisation of the staff structures in this building and the introduction of systems of management, both financial and administrative have helped ensure that the Craft is better run and his contribution to our external relations, with his wide experience of Freemasonry overseas has ensured that the voice of the United Grand Lodge of England is once again being heard as a force for common sense and stability. I am sure you will all join me in wishing him a very happy retirement in Cornwall and more time to spend with his wife Jenny and sailing his boat. 

Finally Brethren, I am pleased to tell you that we will be holding a service of celebration to launch the Freemasonry in the Community week on June 18th next year in St Paul’s Cathedral. While it will be a predominantly Christian service, Brethren of all faiths will be included and further details will be provided in due course.

Published in Speeches
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