Help when it's needed

While harder to quantify than fundraising, pastoral care is an integral part of Freemasonry. Caitlin Davies finds out about the compassionate support that masons are giving to fellow members and their families around the UK

'The phrase “pastoral support” gets used a lot,' says Mark Smith, Provincial Grand Almoner for Gloucestershire, ‘because it’s our duty. There’s a perception that Freemasonry is an inward-looking organisation – it’s not, it’s outward looking and founded on the principles of charity and benevolence. There’s the ritualistic aspect and the social side, but at its core it’s about helping those less fortunate than ourselves.’

Mark co-ordinates eighty Freemasons in Gloucestershire who ‘keep a caring eye’ on lodge widows, assist the elderly through times of illness, and look out for bereaved children and grandchildren. ‘What they need is someone to talk to, care and guidance,’ he says. ‘I might not have all the answers, but I know people who do.’

Central to pastoral care is the masonic network; if someone dies then ‘others will know the family’s circumstances, approach us and we ask if help is needed’. And do people say yes? ‘Undoubtedly they do. Just to have someone to chat to can be a great sense of relief, because there can be a huge amount of anxiety,’ says Mark.

A common source of anxiety is state benefits. The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution has a specialist advice team, providing free guidance on benefits and issues like care homes. ‘But older people can be confused and frightened about the system,’ explains Mark. ‘My experience is that it’s increasingly difficult to actually speak to somebody about benefits – you make calls, you get put on hold, you get told to speak to someone else and so on.’

Mark points to pension credit as a good example. ‘I have experience with my own father, I’m tenacious and I will get there in the end but I can see why someone older feels it’s not worth it and doesn’t bother to claim. People don’t know what they’re entitled to, and some have limited income.’

Yet unlike fundraising – for both masonic and non-masonic charities – it’s harder to measure the pastoral support that goes on. In Gloucestershire, the Provincial Grand Master set a fundraising target of £1 million in five years. In February this year the Province reached £1.6 million and recently gave £14,000 to seven local charities. Grants are measured, statistics are produced, but there is no means of quantifying community support and so the wider membership has little idea of the work that goes on.

Added to the lack of data is the sensitive nature of pastoral care. ‘Most people are too proud to let anyone know about the support they’ve received,’ explains Mark. ‘And the confidentiality of the job means their stories are often not told, especially if it’s financial help. They are too embarrassed to put their hand up and say, “I’ve received support.” There are misconceptions about Freemasonry and misconceptions within Freemasonry, so it’s sometimes difficult to share the positive stories.’

Support network

But Teresa Mills Davenport, from Newcastle upon Tyne, is happy to bear testament to how the masons helped her during a time of grief. One Saturday morning in the summer of 2010, her husband Rob set off on a bike ride. Teresa went about her normal business, taking care of her twenty-seven-year-old son Michael, who has severe learning disabilities, autism and epilepsy, and eleven-year-old Bobby.

An hour and a half later, there was a knock on the door. She opened it to find two policemen. When one said, ‘Teresa?’ she instantly knew what had happened. Rob, her husband of nearly twenty-one years, had been killed on his bike. Over the coming days she was full of despair, afraid of the future and how she would take care of her sons. But, she says, ‘I’m a strong believer and every night I talked to Jesus.’ She also discovered another kind of help in the form of the Widows Sons, an International Masonic Motorcycle Association founded in 1998 that Rob had recently joined. ‘The day Rob joined I said, “What’s that all about then?” He said it gives help to widows and orphans of Master masons and I said, “OK then.” It’s ironic, isn’t it.’ Teresa contacted Terry Fisk, a close friend of Rob’s and a brother in his lodge, as well as two other masons, Martin Coyle and Tom Parker. ‘I turned to Rob’s brothers and they couldn’t do enough to help me. They gave me emotional and financial support. I had to claim benefits and it was all new to me. They even took us to inquests.’

A couple of months later, Teresa had an idea. She would create a road-safety awareness group for motorcyclists: Dying to Ride. Martin advised her to contact Carl Davenport, the founder of Widows Sons in America. ‘I emailed him and I thought, “Well, he’ll help – he’s a mason and I’m a widow asking for help.”’ Carl replied that he would do everything he could to promote the group. The two kept in touch and then Teresa went to visit. ‘It was like a fairytale,’ she says, and in March 2011 they got married.

Dying to Ride now has three thousand, one hundred and seventy-eight members. ‘I don’t want to see others go through this, to get that unexpected knock on the door…’ Teresa explains, her voice breaking as she struggles to compose herself. ‘What I’m doing comes from a personal point of view.’

Nothing secret

The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) is helping the family too, contributing money for Bobby’s school uniform and a new laptop, and paying for private respite for Michael. A financial grant also came from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, to help with the family’s living costs before Teresa remarried. ‘The Freemasons have been brilliant. People say they are a secret society. I say there is nothing secret about them at all. I always defend masons because people haven’t got a clue – I’d be lost without them. The best thing Rob ever did was to become a mason, and then a Widows Son.’

For Mark, providing help where it’s needed is all about supporting others while achieving your potential. An electrician with his own business and a young family, his role as Provincial Grand Almoner is voluntary. Mark’s motivation is the fact that he is helping people who often don’t know where to go for support. ‘We make a real difference. If Freemasonry wasn’t there, they would have nowhere else to turn,’ he says, adding, ‘Freemasonry enables people to be the best they can. It has given me the opportunity to do this job and develop my skills.’

Extra bond

Malcolm Roy Elvy, Worshipful Master of the Elizabethan Lodge, No. 7262, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, has experienced the Freemasons’ community spirit. His desire to become a mason came out of curiosity: ‘I wanted to know if there was something there for me, an extra bond.’

Malcolm was born with syndactyly, meaning the digits on his hands and feet were fused. When he was four years old his legs were amputated, and after skin grafts and surgery his hands were partially separated to give him some ability to grip. Until he was twelve he spent most of his time in Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he joined the Scouts and went abseiling, hiking and sailing.

At twenty-one Malcolm started a transport company, although becoming an HGV driver wasn’t easy. So, Malcolm’s a determined man? ‘I’ve had no option. There was a lot of discrimination towards disabled people.’

After Malcolm joined the lodge, supported by Freemason Max Preece, he says he found a new bond of friendship: ‘I don’t belong to any religious organisation and it gave me that bit extra – I suppose you would call it spiritual depth, a bond that crosses all boundaries. I’ve been given support in all manner of ways. I got a lot of help at home, people visiting, and regular phone calls. When you’re ill you have to struggle on and the Freemasons were always there.’

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Gloucestershire charity boost

Over a five-year period Gloucestershire masons supported an appeal by Provincial Grand Master Adrian Davies to raise £1m towards an endowment fund to support local charities.

A gala celebration was held to mark the end of the Festival attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Dame Janet Trotter, at which it was revealed that £1,594,272 was raised, which far exceeded the target figure and will rise to £1.6m. The total included £390,000 matched funding from the government’s Grassroots Grants endowment initiative, through the Province’s partnership with the Gloucestershire Community Foundation.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 01:00

Big boost for Midlands Air Ambulance

At the annual meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Herefordshire, Rodney Smallwood, Provincial Grand Master, presented Midlands Air Ambulance with grants totalling in excess of £50,000. This represented money raised and given by local Freemasons over a three year period.

An additional £12,000 was also presented to Midlands Air Ambulance by the Provincial Grand Masters of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, on behalf of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. This donation is part of over £1 million donated by the Grand Charity since 2007 to air ambulances and similar rescue charities throughout England and Wales to support them in the delivery of their life-saving services.

Annie Newell, Fundraising Manager for Midlands Air Ambulance, on receiving these donations, expressed her sincere gratitude for the commitment, and generous support given to the charity by Freemasons over the years.

Rodney Smallwood emphasised how “Midlands Air Ambulance plays a vital role in our rural community, and without either government or National Lottery funding, their services are in need of support.  Helping local projects and such services, is important to Freemasons as these donations demonstrate. It is with a sense of pride that the masonic Square & Compass logo is displayed on the tail fins of the three distinctively coloured red and yellow Midlands Air Ambulance helicopters as they take to the air on their mercy missions.”

Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Robotic surgery launch

The recently registered charity appeal ROBOCAP, which uses state-of-the-art robotic technology treatment for prostate cancer, was officially launched in Herefordshire, in an event organised by local Freemason Howard Pitts.

Appeal chairman Les Kinmond introduced the three consultant urologists of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, Graham Sole, Biral Patel and Aloysius Okeke. They described this advanced form of keyhole surgery, which offers surgeons three-dimensional imaging and magnification in order to give greater precision and allow for minimally invasive surgery with the reduced incidence of complications.

Cllr Olwyn Barnett, chairman of Herefordshire Council, urged local mayors to support this appeal, and local mason Brian Wilcox, Mayor-elect for Hereford City, said that ROBOCAP would be his official charity during his term of office.

Friday, 25 November 2011 12:21

Support in Safe Hands

Rodney Smallwood, Provincial Grand Master for Herefordshire is piloting the county’s Masons in a sustained and dedicated programme of support for Midlands Air Ambulance.

At a recent meeting with Annie Newell Community Liaison Officer at Midlands Air Ambulance base at Strensham, Rodney Smallwood presented a donation of £25,000.

An annual national grant, this year totalling £192,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity which is distributed countrywide, formed part of this local donation, with the remaining £21,000 being the amount raised for the Air Ambulance within Herefordshire’s Masonic Lodges.

Such continued support over the years, both nationally and locally, has been acknowledged by Midlands Air Ambulance with the display of the Masonic Square & Compass logo on the tail fin of their three distinctly coloured helicopters.

Rodney Smallwood praised Midlands Air Ambulance staff for their dedication and expertise, and these sentiments were echoed by the Provincial Grand Masters of Gloucestershire, R W Bro Adrian Davies, and Worcestershire R W Bro Richard Goddard, both present on this occasion, who also presented donations to the Air Ambulance.

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 11:15

A Family Installation

Cherleton Lodge No.8439, which meets in Cheltenham, had a possibly unique occasion at the Installation of W Bro Craig Fellows on Tuesday 8th November 2011.

On hand to present the Working Tools to the newly installed Master were his father W Bro David Fellows, who presented them in the third degree, his older brother W Bro Matthew Fellows, who presented them in the second degree, and his twin brother W Bro Ashley Fellows, who presented them in the first degree.  Also on hand to offer support was his uncle, W Bro Bob Hill, who proposed him into freemasonry.

His father and elder brother are also currently serving as the Worshipful Masters of Hands of Friendship Lodge No.9758 and Seven Springs Lodge No.7223 respectively - not often that you get a father and two of his sons in the chair at the same time!

Mr. Graham Sole, Consultant Urologist at Hereford Acute Trust, meeting with local Freemasons, has welcomed the lead taken by Masons from Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and South Worcestershire in the launch of the “Robocap” appeal.

This is a newly Registered Charity set up to generate funds to purchase a 'da Vinci’ surgical system which uses the latest robotic technology to provide the most up to date and advanced form of treatment for prostate cancer. Approximately one thousand men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the three Shires.

Graham Sole speaking with Herefordshire Freemasons at Kyrle Street Hereford, supported the fact that such state-of-the-art robotic surgery will offer surgeons superior 3D HD imaging and magnification, with greater precision for the optimal performance of minimally invasive surgery, resulting in a quicker recovery and reduced incidence of complications.

The initial target of £400,000 would allow delivery and installation of such a unit at a location within the 3CCN area. The full cost of the robotic system is £1.6 million.

To date in excess of £100,000 has been raised following the lead taken by Freemasons from the three counties. Worshipful Brother David Sparrey of Eastnor Lodge Ledbury is a Fundraising Trustee of the Charity.

Very Worshipful Brother The Reverend David Bowen, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire, welcomed the opportunity given to local Freemasons to be in the vanguard of this public appeal, and ultimately achieving the appeal’s slogan “Taking surgery beyond the limits of the human hand” for local people.

Wednesday, 01 December 2010 15:53

From Market Stalls to Freemasonry

Yasha Beresiner Visits One Of Freemasonry’s Oldest Halls

In the city centre of Gloucester, in full view of the cathedral, stands the Masonic Hall. It comes with a history: the trees used for the roof and supporting beams were felled over five hundred years ago in order to construct this large and complex building which began its service to the city as an indoor market place.

The building was purchased by the Gloucester masonic lodges in 1955 and today is one of seventeen halls – many very ancient – used by some eighty lodges meeting in the province. Within the Hall, twelve Craft lodges meet along with various other Orders.
     The main temple, dominated by low ancient beams, has a very special atmosphere. This is greatly enhanced by a huge and impressive eighteenthcentury masonic painting hanging in the east, behind the Master’s chair. It is some eight feet in height and five and a half feet across.
     It was found in a damaged state by Samuel Bland, then Master of the Hall’s lodge, Royal Lebanon, No. 493. It was cleaned and restored at his expense and presented to the lodge in February 1887. The artist’s signature, Henry Barrett, and the date 1799, appear at the lower left corner of this outstanding painting.
     The vibrant colours revealed by the restoration emphasise the many symbols and emblems of Freemasonry. Two angels, swords in hand and a finger on their lips, protect the entrance to the archway and caution against revealing what mysteries lie beyond. The archway is supported by ten columns, five on each side. Beyond, the temple, drawn in a three-dimensional perspective, beckons the viewer to enter past the pillars and the black and white pavement.
     The keystone at the head of the arch depicts a triangle within a nimbus bearing a skull and cross-bones. Just above the keystone is a globe, signifying masonry universal and beyond it, a radiating pentagram with the letter ‘G’ in the centre flanked by the moon and the sun on either side. An All-Seeing Eye peers out through the ‘G’ itself.
     The name of the lodge, whose property the painting remains, is centrally placed and prominent in its gold lettering. This is a truly stupendous painting which depicts, by its symbolism alone, the heart and breadth of the masonic system. If, of course, we should stop long enough before it to ponder its meaning; it would make a great place for the Provincial Orator to begin!
     In the anteroom hangs an unusual modern mahogany barometer, the property of Chosen Hill Lodge, No. 8067, and dated 1971. The artist who constructed the piece used masonic symbols to their best effect showing that our artistic traditions are still alive. The barometer is headed by the three columns of the orders of architecture topped by a pediment. On this, inlaid into the wood, are the emblems of the senior and junior wardens, namely the level and plumb rule, both leaning toward a central terrestrial globe, the usual symbol of masonry universal. The 140mm diameter glass-cased dial has below it beautifully executed rough and smooth ashlars with the square and compasses, all set into the surface of a chequered floor.
     Within the building some valuable prints are to be found. Hanging in the dining hall are the six English Palser prints of 1813 in full colour depicting the various ceremonies of the degrees of Freemasonry; near to the entrance of the building is a lightly damaged original copy of the rare 1723 Piccart print ‘Les Freemasons’ which is the earliest depiction of Freemasons wearing their regalia.
     An upstairs room contains a number of interesting masonic items: the most beautiful is what appears to be an example of the popular Napoleonic prisoner of war handiwork, usually found as jewels in glass watch-cases.
     In the years that followed the French Revolution, as Napoleon expanded his Empire, Europe was at war and many French prisoners found themselves prisoners of the English forces. Here we find the true spirit of Freemasonry which was allowed to thrive in spite of the conflict, within the adverse confines of the prisons. It was under these circumstances that artefacts were being produced, depicting masonry and its symbolism in such a sophisticated manner.
     This piece is a finely detailed plaque much larger than standard, about 150mm square, with classic symbols representing every branch of Freemasonry and made from paper, wood and bone. The emblems are encased within a circular frame resting on a black square background the top corners of which are adorned with a gilt depiction of the radiating sun with the moon and stars. Below, the tools and the three lights of masonry, the square, compasses and Volume of Sacred Law, are delicately drawn.
     Familiar emblems of the Craft, the Royal Arch and several degrees beyond, crowd the miniature painting. The three lights are repeated, now centrally placed and flanked by the two great pillars forming an arch above. Three crowns with the plumb rule and level float in the space between these. To one side, the lamb, symbol of innocence, walks toward a burning bush, on the other, a cockerel stands by a cross and Jacob’s ladder leading to the heavens. Other symbols - candles, chalices, swords, angels and more, are headed by a striking depiction of the All-Seeing Eye at the top. Overall, this is an impressive piece of symbolic masonic art probably executed by a talented young French prisoner held by the British between 1803 and 1815.
     On a shelf in the same room is a splendid Scottish pottery maul - which serves as a whisky decanter - and a matching cup. These are exclusively Scottish objects and are a reminder that, unlike England, the gavel is a nonexistent implement in Scottish Lodges. Instead, they use the maul, the working mason’s tool.
     Thus the maul is here replicated as a whisky vessel made of pottery with elaborate masonic designs embedded into the surface. These have been salt glazed, that is, salt has been added to the chamber of the hot kiln giving the finished product a typical glossy and slightly orange-peel texture. Such pieces were produced in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century, this one being made by the Glasgow Grosvenor pottery that flourished between 1868 and 1923.
     A single room on the first floor houses an extensive library, somewhat in need of re-organisation and a quantity of documents and certificates. The Provincial Grand Master, Adrian Davies, who with the Provincial Grand Secretary, John Gillo, had kindly spent the morning with us, told us of the revival of the Masonic Society the custodians of this well stocked library, formed in 1930. A group of current members, supported by the Provincial Grand Master, are planning a revival of the Society and a meeting and lecture is now due to be held in February 2011. Further information may be obtained from John Gillo, Provincial Grand Secretary at the Provincial Office +44(0)1453 844388, or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 13:44

New Masons evening in Gloucestershire

The Hands of Friendship Lodge No. 9758 hosted an evening for Gloucestershire’s new Masons at its meeting on Wednesday, 2nd September. Tewkesbury Masonic Hall was filled to capacity, with over 80 Masons battling through the wind and rain to receive a warm welcome. Fifty-five new Masons (including 16 Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts) and Masonic Mentors were among the visitors, along with VW Bro Colin Bendon, Deputy Provincial Grand Master and W Bro John Thurston, Assistant Provincial Grand Master. The Lodge worked an abridged form of the First Lecture, led by W Bro James Bartlett PJGD. Every visitor was presented with an annotated copy of the abridged Lecture.

After the Lodge meeting the Brethren moved to the dining room for the Festive Board. More than £500 was collected for charitable causes. Feedback from the event has been extremely encouraging. The Provincial Grand Mentor W Bro Toby Jones announced that this first evening will be followed by a series of similar events for new Masons around the Province.

Published in Mentoring Scheme

James Bartlett Looks at the Growing Success of the Mentoring Programme

Each year about nine thousand men are initiated into our lodges and hopefully each one will be introduced to the meaning, teachings and traditions of our Craft. Those who do this introduction, whether formally appointed or not, will be mentoring the new Freemason.

Published in Mentoring Scheme
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