From the Grand Secretary & Grand Scribe E
At the September Quarterly Communications, the Pro Grand Master’s address spoke of the importance of teamwork in governing and managing Freemasonry. UGLE has traditionally been a federal amalgamation of ‘city states’, each ruled by a Provincial or District Grand Master, whose patents were granted by the Most Worshipful Grand Master. It was not uncommon, in decades past, for those chosen few to be given their patent and told to ‘get on with it’, but with very little instruction or guidance as to what the ‘it’ either was or entailed.
We like to think that we are more enlightened now, and take some time and effort to explain what we think a Provincial or District Ruler might want to consider, and what the Rulers and Board/Committee of General Purposes think their priorities should be when taking up their important office.
It will not surprise you to learn that membership and communications are very high up on that list, and as UGLE evolves to meet the challenges of our very different world, so this old system must evolve to ensure consistency of message and image across our organisation as a whole.
We have also come to realise that the ‘Bright Ideas Club’ at the centre may not have all of the answers, and initiatives rolled out with little or no consultation with our membership or their leaders are unlikely to be successful in the longer term, if at all.
Lord Northampton, as Pro Grand Master, set up a system of Regional Communication Groups which divided the Provinces into nine geographical clusters, and which provided a means for Provincial Rulers in each group to meet regularly and exchange ideas on matters of import. Under Sir David Wootton, these assumed a greater sense of purpose, with the representation of each integrated into the Improvement Delivery Group, with its remit to deliver the 2020 strategy conceived five years ago. Now, under Geoffrey Dearing, they form the backbone of our ability to consult with the Provinces and to set the agenda and direction of the organisation with strong representation on both the Membership Working Party and the Communications Working Party of the Board.
Both groups have a wide remit to shape the direction the organisation will take, and their influence will be wide ranging. They are no paper tigers, and are considering questions which will affect each and every one of us as Freemasonry evolves into a more transparent, accountable and respected organisation within the public consciousness.
The representatives on these various committees can, of course, accomplish nothing without the hard work and dedication of the teams that support them – making it vital that those team members have the ability, enthusiasm and professional capabilities and knowledge to deliver what is needed. Professional expertise is by no means short in an organisation such as ours, and Provincial leaders are well used to tapping into the potential of their membership to fulfil important roles within the Province. What perhaps is changing is the willingness to recognise that many individuals are much busier in their family and work lives than perhaps their predecessors were. As such, those who are less senior within Freemasonry and less experienced are finding themselves working on major Provincial portfolios while balancing very busy lives.
We should not shy away from using the talent that we have within our ranks. Neither should we shy away from altering the way ‘things have always been done’ to allow those individuals to flourish and to serve. It is inconceivable that the Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents of the future will be able to dedicate the time and effort to Freemasonry that perhaps some of their predecessors have managed, without detriment to their family or personal connections. Their teams around them become of paramount importance if the organisation as a whole is to grow and develop. Similarly, if we want leaders who are truly exceptional and able to carry the organisation forward, we must be willing to accommodate the many other things that will call on their time – not least their greater involvement in the running of the ‘Centre’.
We will do our bit here at UGLE to listen to those ideas coming out of the Provinces, and to ensure that others can benefit from them; to ensure that ‘best practice’ is shared, such as the membership initiatives in Bristol and the communications strategies of Buckinghamshire and Cheshire.
We will also continue to listen to you, our members, paying heed to what you think is important, and what our priorities should be for the years ahead.
Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E
‘If we want leaders who are truly exceptional and able to carry the organisation forward, we must be willing to accommodate the many other things that will call on their time’
In 2018, the Leicestershire & Rutland Light Blue Club successfully bid to host the 2019 New & Young Masons Clubs Conference. Beating competition from other clubs throughout the country, the Light Blue Club’s winning theme of 'Building Bonds’ was the foundation for months of hard work, culminating in the conference that was held at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester on 28th September 2019
The New & Young Masons Club (NYMC) was created to bring together all of the Light Blue Clubs from around the country, to share ideas and best practices and to ensure their continued success. Representatives from 31 of these clubs descended on Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, to enjoy an action packed and informative day, with friends, acquaintances, new members and a great line up of speakers.
After welcoming their guests, a tour was conducted by our Light Blue Club members of the magnificent building we have at London Road, culminating in a talk in the Holmes Lodge Room by Richard Barnett and a viewing of their museum.
By 10am, the 100 seats in the magnificent Holmes Lodge Room were filled as their Light Blue Club Chairman Bob Reay opened the conference. Bob gave a welcoming speech and introduced the Provincial Grand Master for Leicestershire & Rutland David Hagger, who thanked everyone for attending and introduced the day’s guest speakers. Next to take to the stage was the President of the Light Blue Club, Peter Kinder, who gave an insight into the origins of the Light Blue Club, along with his thoughts and aims for the day.
Samuel Harris of the Light Blue Club then took great pleasure in introducing the next two sets of speakers, with whom he had been liaising to secure their time for a ground breaking set of presentations. First to the stage was the Grand Master of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, Christine Chapman, to give an insight into the history and background to Women’s Freemasonry in England.
There are two Grand Lodges of Women Freemasons in England, and the second presenter was Elaine Malone, Deputy Grand Secretary, accompanied by Mia Cameron-Dungey, from the Order of Women Freemasons. This presentation was very well received and gave the audience a better understanding of where the Order originated from, as well as an insight into their future plans.
The first ‘Break out session’, with the theme entitled The Foundation Stone, involved a move downstairs to the Oliver Dining Room, which was set up by the superb team at Devonshire Place. The round table discussions proved to be a huge success, with energy and enthusiasm for understanding what it is our New & Young Masons Clubs need to be successful.
After lunch, the team from Solomon, David Pratt, Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, West Riding, together with Dr. Craig Johnson and Ken Wootton, gave a valuable insight into the Learning & Development programme.
Breakout sessions two and three, ‘Raising a Superstructure’ and ‘Building Bonds’ were equally a success, with great feedback from all participants as the attendees worked towards sharing ideas and developing a mission statement.
Then in the Holmes Lodge Room. Focusing on the Future of Freemasonry and how we can all help to achieve this bright future, David conducted a captivating presentation, which was followed by a question and answer session before the day's proceedings were brought to a close. To round off an exhausting yet captivating day was Mitch Merrick-Thirlway, the Administrator of the NYMC, as it was down to him to announce the winners who would host the conference to held in 2022. And the winners were, the Fleet House Light Blues Club from the Province of Hertfordshire.
After such a superb day, of learning, listening, education, and sharing of ideas, many of the attendees stayed on to enjoy the hospitality of the Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448 to complete the day.
David Hagger said: ‘I would like to thank all of the organisers and members of our Light Blue Club for what has been an excellent day. I would also like to thank all of our guests and speakers for their valuable time and also to all of the members from up and down the country for their energy and enthusiasm. You are the future of Freemasonry and today has demonstrated what a bright future we have.’
From the Grand Secretary
I trust you have all had an enjoyable summer and are looking forward to the new Masonic season. September marks the start of my third year in post, and how time flies when you’re busy! UGLE thankfully quietens down in August, giving staff and the Organisation time to take stock of what we have achieved over the last year, and where we want the next 12-18 months to take us.
Undoubtedly one of the major highlights this year was the dedication of a memorial stone to those, our members, awarded the Victoria Cross. The Most Worshipful Grand Master commented that, having served in the armed forces for more than 20 years, he understood the common values shared by Freemasonry and the services – camaraderie, respect, integrity – and the ideals of service and tradition. It is an extraordinary fact that 14 per cent of all Victoria Cross recipients have been Freemasons and we were proud to be able to recognise and celebrate this at Freemasons’ Hall in London. Perhaps we should be mindful of that part of our ritual, delivered on the presentation of a Hall Stone Jewel to a new Worshipful Master, which tells us that it should ‘ever provide an inspiration to every Brother to put service before self’.
Freemasons’ Hall was, of course, built as a peace memorial to those brethren who lost their lives in the Great War and we have been thinking hard about how we can use our fabulous Grade II-listed building to help inform and educate people about Freemasonry. By the time you read this, having worked closely with the Museum of Freemasonry, the first members of the public will have undertaken a redesigned tour of Freemasons’ Hall. It sets out to explain not only our history, but also our contemporary relevance, and includes a newly commissioned 10-minute film, which will be seen by our 40,000-plus visitors a year. It helps us launch a new approach as to how we define and regard ourselves. We are less apologetic for the misguided views of others, and instead talk about the positives of membership, both in terms of the benefits for the individual member and for society at large. What other organisation can boast charitable donations of more than £45 million a year? What other boasts an annual delivery of over five million hours of unpaid community and voluntary service? What other seeks to make people better individuals through philosophical and philanthropic engagement?
Freemasonry offers a simple philosophical message to its members and one that we should all be proud of: that within each of us is a thoughtful, kind, tolerant and respectful individual. Our purpose is not only to promote virtue, but also to promote a thoughtful approach to being virtuous. It is centred around an analogy of building, or creating, and thus by chipping away our rough edges, Freemasonry teaches us to chip away at our inadequacies, revealing the better person we can be, one more fit to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, those who have fared less well in life than us, and those communities from which we are drawn. Of course, all Freemasons will know and appreciate these points, but it is now our aim and intention to share these messages with the public, starting with the new public tour and closely followed by other supportive material.
We have an amazing history, often at the forefront of monumental social and economic change, as anyone who has watched the DVD of our Tercentenary celebrations cannot fail to appreciate. We have such a story to tell and intend to be confident and committed when speaking about our many strengths and the reasons why we are just as relevant today as we have been in decades and centuries past. Watch this space, and let us know how you think we are doing!
In other developments, we intend to produce, for the first time in our history, an annual report explaining to you, our membership, how your fees and dues are spent, while explaining to both you and the public what it is that UGLE does and how well we do it. Many of you will be involved in helping us collate the information we need, so look out for this over the coming months as we work towards a publication date of March 2020.
‘Project Hermes’ is in full swing, looking at how we can update our processes to modernise the management of our membership, ensuring that some of the more laborious and outdated demands placed upon Lodge and Provincial Secretaries concerning collecting data, paying dues and keeping up-to-date records are simplified and made more accessible to those who need to see, use and work with them. We hope to be able to have a much fuller article explaining this in our next edition.
In short, as ever, there is plenty going on to keep us all busy, but if you find yourself in London with an hour or so to spare, please do book into our new tour via the Museum of Freemasonry website – we can guarantee an enjoyable way to make that all-important daily advancement in Masonic knowledge!
Dr David Staples
‘Our redesigned tour of Freemasons’ Hall sets out to explain not only our history, but also our contemporary relevance, and includes a newly commissioned 10-minute film, which will be seen by our 40,000-plus visitors a year’
Dwight St. George Reece was installed as the new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica & the Cayman Islands on 20 July 2019, with UGLE’s Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, conducting the ceremony
Alongside the other Caribbean District Grand Masters, those from Bahamas & Turks, Bermuda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, as well as Suffolk’s Provincial Grand Master Ian Yeldham, they joined UGLE’s Grand Secretary, Dr David Staples, and Grand Director of Ceremonies, Charles Hopkinson-Woolley, in participating in the ceremony held at the AC Hotel Kingston in St Andrew, Jamaica.
After being installed, Dwight thanked his predecessor Walter Scott who served 10 years as District Grand Master.
The ceremony was then followed by a celebratory banquet at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
In honour of all English Freemasons awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross (VC), the United Grand Lodge of England’s (UGLE) Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, unveiled a unique Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall on 27th June 2019
The Remembrance Stone was commissioned in 2016 by Granville Angell to commemorate all English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the British Armed Forces and since its introduction in 1856, more than 200 Freemasons have been awarded the Victoria Cross – making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients.
The Remembrance Stone was carved by Emily Draper, who was Worcester Cathedral’s first female Stonemason apprentice, having been sponsored by local Freemasons. During the preparation stage of the stone, Emily also found out that her Great Uncle was a Freemason VC recipient.
The event was opened by Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, followed by readings from Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire (My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling) and Brigadier Peter Sharpe, President of the Circuit of Service Lodges (The Soldier by Rupert Chawner Brooke).
Over 130 guests were in attendance including serving military personnel, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and Sea Cadets, as well as Sergeant Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving the lives of his unit – Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – while serving in Iraq in 2004. Johnson is also a Freemason and a member of Queensman Lodge No. 2694 in London.
Music was provided by Jon Yates from the Royal Marines Association Concert Band, who performed the ‘Last Post’, a minute’s silence and the ‘Reveille’.
This was proceeded by the grand Unveiling and Dedication of the Remembrance Stone by The Duke of Kent, as a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of those Freemasons awarded the VC. The Duke of Kent also presented Emily with a stone carving toolset to aid her future projects.
The event was concluded with a speech by Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, Past Grand Secretary of UGLE and Past President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, said: “It’s been a huge honour to mark the dedication of this wonderful Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone and another significant milestone in our longstanding history.
“It is even more remarkable in the context that 14% of all recipients of the Victoria Cross have been Freemasons and I can think of no more fitting home than for it to be placed here at Freemasons’ Hall – a memorial to the thousands of English Freemasons who lost their lives during the Great War.”
Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone
27 June 2019
Introduction and welcome, Dr David Staples, UGLE's Chief Executive and Grand Secretary
Your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen, Brethren.
Welcome to Freemasons’ Hall. Each year over 40,000 members of the public visit this building to learn a little more about the values and purpose of Freemasonry, and to marvel at this art deco masterpiece, one of the finest art deco buildings in London still used for its original purpose. It was conceived and built out of great conflict, as a lasting memorial to Peace, and to those thousands of Freemasons who lost their lives in the Great War.
Those Lodges that contributed to the building of this great memorial are carved for posterity into the stones of its very walls, and the scroll of honour, the centrepiece of our building, just there, lists the names of our fallen. A closer look at those names shows that many Lodges held, amongst their memberships, NCOs, enlisted men and officers who would have met, and dined together, revealing something quite revolutionary at that time – that Freemasonry broke down the deeply ingrained barriers of class within British society. Those scholars of Kipling amongst you and those who are familiar with his poem ‘The Mother Lodge’ will recognise the same sentiments expressed within; that irrespective of the prevailing political and social climate, those of all races, classes, of differing religions, creeds and backgrounds have, for centuries, found a welcome within our Lodges. They are spaces where people could forget their differences and celebrate their common humanity with that most basic of human gestures – a handshake. They would be there for each other, through births and deaths, marriages, the good times and the bad as alluded to by the black and white squares of the floor carpet in every lodge room throughout the world. How ironic then that since that Great War, so many more lives have been lost, and so many more battles fought over those things which are seen, not as bringing people together, but as setting them apart.
Within our ritual, every Lodge listed on the walls around us has the right to bestow upon their Master a ‘Hall Stone Jewel’ to be worn during his period in office. I would like to read to you the part of our ritual pertaining to that presentation:
“The Hall Stone Jewel was conferred on this Lodge by the MWGM. Its form is symbolic, for on the side squares are inscribed the dates 1914-1918; four years of supreme sacrifice. In the centre is a winged figure, representing Peace, supporting a temple in memory of those Brethren who made the supreme sacrifice in the cause of King and their country. It should ever provide an inspiration to every Brother to put service before self.”
On this, the eve of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which consigned to history the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers, we gather here to remember and honour those, our members, who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The Treaty of Versailles serves, as every student of history will tell you, as a potent reminder that our leaders’ best intentions can lead to events never conceived without the benefit of hindsight.
The Victoria Cross is awarded for “most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy”. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command. It was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,358 times. The metal from which the medals are struck is traditionally believed to be derived from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol and latterly from two cannons captured from the Chinese during the first Opium War.
More than 200 Freemasons worldwide have been awarded the Victoria Cross since its creation, making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients and some of their citations may be read in your leaflets.
Freemasonry offers a simple philosophical message to its members – that within each of us is a thoughtful, kind, tolerant and respectful individual. The purpose is not only to promote virtue, but also to promote a thoughtful approach to being virtuous. It is centred around an analogy of building, or creating, and thus by chipping away our rough edges, much as Emily has done to the rough quarried stone to reveal this within; Freemasonry teaches us to chip away at our inadequacies revealing the better person we can be, one more fit to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, those who have fared less well in life than us, and those communities from which we are drawn.
As Herman Hesse said ‘What we can and should change is ourselves: our impatience, our egoism, our sense of injury, our lack of love and forbearance. Every other attempt to change the world, even if it springs from the best intentions, is futile”.
That sounds very dry and serious, but Freemasonry is anything but. We have an enormous amount of fun along the journey, meeting people we would never have otherwise met, making friends the world over, and raising £48m for charity last year and donating and estimated 5 million hours of our time to community voluntary service
It is no wonder that so many servicemen, and women, through their two Grand Lodges, find a parallel between the lives they have led in uniform and the camaraderie, support and friendship they find within lodge.
It is for those men and women, and those still serving, and in recognition of the very high regard that the members of the United Grand Lodge of England have always had for our Armed Forces, that I am delighted to welcome you all to the dedication of this Remembrance Stone. After today’s ceremony it will be carried to its permanent home in the South West staircase of our main ceremonial entrance (just over there), under the watchful gaze of a bronze bust of Bro Sir Winston Churchill, thereby aptly filling a space that has lain empty since this building was first conceived over a century ago. It will serve as a mark of our deep respect and gratitude to those who, for their comrades, their friends, their Regiments and Ships and their country, have put service before self. May we have the courage, in our lives, and in our own little ways, to follow their example.
12 June 2019
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren we have a number of firsts today. It is June and, therefore, the first meeting of Grand Lodge since the investiture of the new team of Acting Grand Officers. Some old hands, some new, including, of course, the Grand Director of Ceremonies. We wish them all well and hope they enjoy their term of office how ever long that may be.
Another first is the luncheon arrangements. This is not the place to go into the whys and wherefores of the action that the Grand Secretary has taken. Many of you will be aware of the reasoning. What I will say is that the Grand Secretary deserves our support and, whilst I know how reluctant you all are ever to comment on such issues, I am sure that he would welcome constructive comments.
Changing the subject: I was in Stockholm three weekends ago at the Installation of the new Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons. In his address the new Grand Master laid out his vision for the future which included ensuring that all new candidates who wished to join their Order were properly interviewed and briefed prior to their initiation so that they knew what was expected of them as Freemasons and what they, as Freemasons, should and should not expect from their membership. This struck a slight chord with me, Brethren. Are we, perhaps, ahead of the game with Pathway which is now being so widely used within our Constitution?
I am quite certain that Pathway is a 'game changer' for many of our Lodges and I am so pleased that so many of you have embraced it, as it makes attracting new Brethren much more effective and we are far more likely to effectively engage our new members if they have been introduced to Freemasonry in this way.
I have also been delighted to have seen the use of Solomon in a number of Lodges not least on my visit to Cyprus in April. Many of the excerpts are ideal for filling in idle moments in Lodge, when there is a natural gap in proceedings, without extending the overall time of the meeting.
I have said before, but it bears repeating. Time is a precious commodity in most people’s lives and becomes more so as time goes on. The time that we meet and the time we spend in Lodge are very relevant. Personally it might suit me very well to meet at 5 o’clock or even earlier, spend two hours in the meeting and then be finished by 9 to 9.30, but that would be a pretty selfish attitude when it comes to the younger brethren and in the case of most Lodges, a sure way of reducing its popularity for new members.
Brethren, let’s all be flexible and listen to each others’ requirements. If suitable, the meeting times can be varied from meeting to meeting as many Lodges already do, and we should not be afraid to consecrate new lodges that meet the needs of those we hope to attract rather than blindly supporting lodges that don’t. Every Lodge has a natural life span.
Brethren that is enough lecturing for one day. The gap between now and our meeting in September has the natural summer break from which I am sure we will all emerge with renewed vigour.
From the Grand Secretary
This Saturday, I attended a masonic event that will live with me until the end of my days. My mother lodge, Apollo University Lodge, No 357, met at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford – a building I last visited for my graduation in 2001 – to celebrate its bicentenary. In attendance were the Most Worshipful Grand Master, the Pro Grand Master, the Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters and the Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire, as well a host of friends, members and past members.
The lodge was opened in a room adjoining the theatre, called off and there followed a potted presentation on the history of the lodge, and the presentation of a badge to UGLE for the use of the lodge by the Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary to Her Majesty The Queen – something rather unusual I gather. All this in front of the families and friends of lodge members past and present, the Grand Master and Grand Secretary of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons and a host of invited guests from the university and beyond. It was, of course, an opportunity to showcase Freemasonry to a wider audience, to bust myths, talk of the bursaries the lodge funds for underprivileged students at the university, and remind the academics visiting us that we are one of the oldest and one of the very few university student societies to be able to claim uninterrupted meetings for over two centuries.
All this was done in the unselfconscious, one might even say brazen style, exemplified by the 19-year-old undergraduate who, after speaking to the Pro Grand Master, attended by his DepGDC, for five minutes, had the disarming naivety to exclaim, ‘I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t quite catch who you are…’
The reception followed at the Ashmolean Museum under the gaze of a 2,000-year-old statue of Apollo and a rather raucous dinner ensued at Keble College, finishing when the bar shut at 4am with a round of McDonald’s with port chasers (I had made a dignified exit around midnight you understand…).
The event brought home to me happy memories of my initiation and my first meetings and introductions to Freemasonry. It also reminded me of what I consider to be a universal fact about Freemasonry, which is that, almost without exception, we consider our first tentative steps in the Craft, and the lessons that they teach us, to be the quintessential masonic experience. To me, nothing will ever surpass Apollo University Lodge. But to those of you reading, I suspect you would say exactly the same thing about your mother lodges, and no matter where we go, and how much we enjoy our Freemasonry elsewhere, few of us would admit the ceremony we had just seen, or the atmosphere we had enjoyed, could hold a candle to those meetings we remember from our formative steps in the Craft.
And therein lies a problem, one with which we all must grapple. There is no doubt that my idea of a wonderful lodge meeting would leave some of you stone cold. We do not all like the same things, and there are as many different types of lodges as there are types of Freemason. Through its ritual, traditions and customs, Freemasonry seeks to inspire its members. It encourages them, through dramatic shared experience, to seek for knowledge, and to put service before self. It does this in myriad different ways that appeal to different people. Times change though, and what may have worked in the past might not attract members now. Some lodges are simply unable or unwilling to communicate happiness or connect across generational divides. It is a source of great pride that my mother lodge, over its 200-year history, has numbered among its members many men who have made significant contributions to wider society, in all walks of life. In order for a lodge to continue to do this, and to thrive, it must find ways to keep its members engaged, interested, and coming back for more. It must also find ways to replace those members who leave or who die. It seems to me that there are a number of lodges which, put simply, don’t really mind either way, and perhaps we should all be a little more relaxed about this. Lodges exist to serve a purpose for their members, but some have no interest in keeping going forever.
I remember my time as a Metropolitan DepGDC and the wonderful and moving ceremonies that the Met performed when a lodge handed back its warrant. There was an honest acknowledgement that lodges come together for a purpose, and for some, that purpose runs its course. The Craft has the means to create new lodges which meet the needs of present-day petitioners. Lodges which are able to attract and retain members will survive and thrive, perhaps even spawning daughter lodges in their own image, while those that can’t will, in all likelihood, pass into history. Which sort is your lodge, dear reader, and more importantly, are you content with that?
Dr David Staples
‘There is no doubt that my idea of a wonderful lodge meeting would leave some of you stone cold. We do not all like the same things, and there are as many different types of lodges as there are types of Freemason’
Here to serve
From continuing modernisation to clearer communication, Grand Secretary Dr David Staples reveals some of the major improvements being made to the United Grand Lodge of England
You spoke in the Winter 2018 issue about the ongoing modernisation of UGLE. What improvements were made in 2018?
The biggest change has been bringing together masonic and commercial staff at Freemasons’ Hall, which started with the Board’s appointment of a CEO. This meant that for the first time in a number of years a single person would be in charge of and responsible for delivering for the organisation as a whole.
Staff have taken part in a number of workshops to understand what we stand for and why; what our values are as the ‘headquarters’ – a distinct organisation separate from UGLE or Supreme Grand Chapter. They have agreed a set of organisational values and goals which have resulted in the introduction of new appraisal processes, mandatory training, pay scales and benefits. Alongside this, regular communication with our staff through ‘Town Hall’ and departmental meetings has ensured people know what is going on and how this fits in to the bigger picture, all of which will help us attract and retain the best possible staff. A restructuring of the organisation and of the various business functions held within the building has allowed me to establish clear lines of accountability and allowed the new directors to facilitate change and improvement in their respective areas. This work has resulted in us being awarded Investors in People accreditation – a ‘kitemark’ not only of excellent people management, but also of normality for how a professional organisation is expected to run.
All of this may sound like management speak, but what it means in reality is that we have ensured the ‘Centre’ is up to the task of both serving our members and representing them effectively in the modern world.
In addition to these changes affecting staff, there have been many other smaller projects aimed at improving how professional we are, and enhancing what we can do and how we deliver. These have touched virtually every aspect of our operations. For example, an archiving project has examined the kilometres of shelving and paperwork stored in Freemasons’ Hall and helped us to develop a document retention policy. Clearing shelving from the main office has allowed us to consider exciting new options for the space that has been created.
A web-based booking and payment system has gone live for those attending Supreme Grand Chapter and Quarterly Communications, drastically reducing the number of cheques we need to process and bringing us in line with the modern-day expectations of our members.
In preparation for an increased focus on communications, we have brought FMT in-house and appointed a new editorial team, while the Directory of Lodges and the Masonic Yearbook are now online living documents. We have trained a number of members as media ambassadors to represent us at events and in the press. We have commissioned a communications capability assessment and have undertaken polling of the general public to find out what people really think of us, and what opportunities might present themselves to improve their understanding of who we are and what we’re about.
We now have new phone systems and video conferencing suites to improve communications across our worldwide organisation, and these are saving both time and money while improving engagement with our members. The new Events Management Team has been tasked with engaging with our members and encouraging them to use and visit Freemasons’ Hall – a home for all English Freemasons, and we are starting a programme of community engagement projects to broaden our public footprint.
We have converted disused flats into three new lodge rooms in response to an ever-increasing demand for temples, and supported the Improvement Delivery Group in the creation of Operational Membership Dashboards, the Solomon online learning resource and the Members’ Pathway. All of these will directly inform our drive to improve our attraction to potential members and our retention of existing ones.
We have anticipated changes in the legal framework and have issued guidance on transgender members and data protection. We have blended the Grand Ranks system into ADelphi, thereby saving both our Provinces and Districts days of back-and-forth letter writing.
A huge amount happened in 2018 and has continued to do so in 2019 to ensure that we are a professional, fit-for-purpose and efficient central organisation which is held in high esteem by the membership and the public and which communicates an appealing, confident, relevant and consistent message to the outside world.
What are the key objectives of this process of modernisation?
Simply put, to better serve the members of both UGLE and Supreme Grand Chapter. UGLE needs to be ready for the challenges set by the Rulers and the Board, but also needs to meet the expectations of our members. When I was a lodge Secretary a few years ago, I wanted my Grand Lodge membership fees to be wisely spent, and I wanted to see some tangible benefit for what I pay for in terms of a confident organisation ready to represent itself on the public stage and to stand up for its members. I also wanted to interact with it in a modern and accessible way. That principle still holds true now that I am the CEO.
You also spoke about making the headquarters more ‘transparent’. How is this being done and why?
More open communication between the Provinces, our members and UGLE allows us to ensure an aligned approach to our common challenges – how people perceive us; how we represent ourselves to the outside world; how we normalise Freemasonry in the eyes of the public; how we attract and retain members. We are developing a new communications strategy with an appropriately resourced department to deliver it. We have a new Member Services Department to help streamline the relationship between our members and their organisation, and to implement the various initiatives being carried out by those groups with a care for Freemasonry.
What methods will the organisation be using to put a greater focus on attracting new members?
I see this very much in terms of normalising the environment from which our members are drawn in terms of public opinion. I’m a scientist by training and I like to see the evidence for something before we invest resources in it. We know that 87 per cent of the public know of our organisation, and 49 per cent of the public have a firm opinion of us. We also know that the majority of those do not necessarily hold an opinion that we might like! That is despite all the good works we do, despite all the money we raise for charity and despite everything else we are doing to rehabilitate ourselves in the public eye. We recognise that the majority of new members join after personal conversations with those who already enjoy Freemasonry, but we must make sure that those to whom we speak already have a fair opinion of us. To these ends we will be embarking on a focused series of interventions to bring about just that – an understanding of what Freemasonry is, what its values are, what we stand for and why we are relevant in today’s society. In conjunction with the newly rolled-out Members’ Pathway, we hope to ensure that no opportunity is wasted.
What are some of the more important changes planned for 2019?
We want to find new ways to open up our headquarters to as many people as we can, and to ensure that every one of those contact moments affords those individuals a greater understanding of Freemasonry. Staff will be moving out of the old central office space, which we hope to develop into a public area containing a temporary exhibition space, a café and a very public-facing office for Metropolitan Grand Lodge.
The introduction of an expenses policy, travel policy and purchase order system will improve our financial controls, but the most important change will be our ability to deliver an overarching communications strategy aimed at taking back control of the public narrative on Freemasonry.
In terms of day-to-day processes, you will have already read about our ambition to revolutionise how we administer the organisation. Changes being planned through Project Hermes aim to replace paper forms with web-based systems, removing the need for endless form-filling and drastically reducing turnaround times. In short, we want to make the lives of lodge, Provincial and District Secretaries much easier. We want to streamline our ability to collect dues and improve our ability to analyse and spot trends in membership data, which will help us to identify and propagate best practice wherever it arises. I truly believe we have exciting times ahead.
‘Simply put, to better serve the members of both UGLE and Supreme Grand Chapter, UGLE needs to be ready for the challenges set by the Rulers and the Board, but also needs to meet the expectations of our members’
Seeing the light
Freemasons’ Hall welcomed more than 100 guests for a special event on 16 May, with renowned war artist Arabella Dorman the guest speaker for the Anthony Wilson Memorial Lecture
The event was opened by Dr David Staples, the United Grand Lodge of England’s Grand Secretary and CEO, as he introduced Arabella to the stage and announced the two charities it was in aid of – Beyond Conflict and Age Unlimited.
The lecture was in honour of Anthony Wilson, who served as the President of the Board of General Purposes at UGLE from 2004 to 2017. Anthony’s widow, Vicky, was also in attendance, as well as Peter Lowndes, Pro Grand Master, and Geoffrey Dearing, the current President of the Board of General Purposes.
Dorman opened by paying tribute to the great man that Anthony was and telling the audience what a pleasure it had been to paint his portrait, which was placed at the front of the stage throughout the event. She has also been commissioned to paint a scene from UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations in 2017, and this will soon be displayed in Freemasons’ Hall.
Dorman gave a vivid and insightful talk, opening with a poem and asking the audience to ‘think about our one life’, as she spoke in detail about her journeys across a number of war-torn countries.
Displayed behind her were images both harrowing and beautiful, including a bombed mosque in Syria, as Dorman argued that the destruction of ancient sites had only added to the tragedy that has befallen that country. The artist also explained how her belief in the idea of permanence was changed by her visit, telling the audience that history can be rebuilt, but that the past is lost to this present.
Dorman said the voices she had heard in Syria were not broken, but full of defiance and longing. This was even more inspiring when she recalled how one woman had told her that she had lost her car and carried on; she had lost her house and carried on; and she’d then lost her family and thought that she couldn’t carry on, but still did.
This was one of many real-life examples Dorman detailed throughout the night, as she shared her hope that even though art couldn’t change the world, it might help people feel a calling to resist corruption and war. In conclusion, she asked that her own work be seen as a salute to the power of peace, courage, faith and hope – as well as a call to reach out to others with compassion.