Wednesday, 14 March 2018 10:19

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2018

Quarterly Communication

14 March 2018 
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, it is always a pleasure to see this magnificent temple as full as it is today, although it is hardly surprising bearing in mind the special nature of today’s meeting. Our Provinces and Districts, as well as those involved here at the centre, have taken a great deal of trouble in identifying those brethren most deserving of the honour that they have received today. I hope it has been a very special day for them and I really do congratulate and thank them. As always brethren, whilst congratulations are very much in order for all that you have done, particularly during the Tercentenary year, it also raises great expectations for your endeavours in the future.

We also have the Soane Ark back with us today. As those of you who were at the Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, (or those of you who read Freemasonry Today) will know, the original of this beautiful mahogany piece, the “Ark of the Masonic Covenant”, was made by Bro Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the Union of the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813 and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.

It was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but UGLE commissioned an exact replica for our Tercentenary, which was dedicated at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Then, as in 1813, we placed a facsimile of the Articles of Union inside it, as well as the “Three Great Lights”.

It was on public display at the Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the months after the Royal Albert Hall celebration, but now it has returned to its intended place in Grand Lodge. Triangular in form, it has at each corner a column of the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian order representing Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, the three great pillars on which our lodges, including this Grand Lodge, are said to stand.

I am sure that it will grace our Grand Lodge meetings for centuries to come.

We have become only too well aware of the term 'fake news' in recent times and we began this year with our own encounter with 'fake news'. Many of you will have seen the coverage generated by the outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation and the Guardian newspaper and I trust you will have also seen our responses. Let me assure you that UGLE will always stand up for its members, their integrity and their care for the communities from which they are drawn. It is my firm belief that policemen are better policemen for their membership of our proud organisation. However, it is not just policemen who can benefit from membership – lawyers, public servants and indeed all men benefit from the teaching our ceremonies have to offer, and the time has come for the organisation to stand up and make these points loudly and clearly. Enough, brethren is enough.

I have said it before and I say again I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year which produced a surge of interest in the Craft. We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created and build on that legacy, and we will.

This year is very much a year of change, particular of key personalities both here and in the Provinces and Districts. On your behalf I welcome Geoffrey Dearing to his first Quarterly Communication as President of the Board of General Purposes and, in April, David Staples, our CEO will become our new youthful and dynamic Grand Secretary, bringing together all the activities here in Freemasons’ Hall. Already this year we have installed two new PGMs as well as new DGMs in New Zealand South Island and SA Western Division. Both John Clark from Buckinghamshire and Anthony Howlett-Bolton from Berkshire are able to be present and I welcome them to their first Quarterly Communication as Provincial Grand Masters. We now start a steady stream of installations: nine Provincial Grand Masters and ten District Grand Masters, plus many Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. This will keep the Rulers in both the Craft and Royal Arch busy this year as we catch up on the backlog.

Although we have plenty of ceremonial work to do, I am also keen that we continue to visit Provinces and Districts in a less formal way. We are here to provide help and support and we must show it.

This year, as you know, is the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War – 'The Great War'. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this, as appropriate in your area. This building was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial Building, but changed its name at the outbreak of the Second World War to Freemasons’ Hall. We shall commemorate the end of the First World War on 10th November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.

Brethren, I hope that today has been a memorable event for those I have invested. Many congratulations, once again, and remember there is no resting on your laurels.

Published in Speeches

Over 50 Freemasons from the Provinces of Cornwall and Devonshire assembled in the Cornish seaside resort of Bude for the annual installation meeting of Granville Chapter

The members and guests were delighted to be able to welcome the leaders of both provinces, David Pascoe from Cornwall and Simon Rowe from Devon. The Masonic Hall was packed to near capacity to witness the installation of E Comp Charles Yelland as MEZ of the Chapter.

Also elected and installed to serve alongside him for the next 12 months were Derek Prouse as H and Mike Johns as J. This is the second year running that three companions living in Devon have held the top offices in a Cornish chapter.

After their installation, the Principals appointed and invested their team of officers to work with them. The appointments always include a Secretary, Treasurer, Charity Steward and an Almoner, and these posts were filled by Keith Taylor, John Weller, Mike Johns and Barrie Rose respectively.

After the main meeting, a celebration dinner was held in the refectory and a toast was proposed to the three newly installed Principals. The MEZ replied on behalf of the Principals, and thanked everyone for attending and supporting a very special and happy occasion in the life of Granville Chapter.

A raffle and bottle draw was also held during the meal and raised £310 for Masonic charities.

Pause for thought

Having helped oversee the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Second Grand Principal Russell Race now wants to give Craft members enough time to understand the Royal Arch

What have you taken from your professional career?

I did an economics degree at Liverpool and worked initially for British Steel, then for an administrative body looking after the fishing industry. When I was 24, I went into the City as an investment analyst. I was there for the rest of my working life, for the last 20 years in corporate finance, and retired in my early 50s.

I found my enjoyment was in building good working relationships, and ultimately friendships, with colleagues and clients – which, on the corporate side, is crucial. I had around 30 clients and if you did a good job for them, they would not seek to move somewhere else for a quarter per cent on a deal. And relationships take us into Freemasonry. It’s all about working with people, interacting with them and enjoying their company.

When did you find out about Freemasonry?

I was born in Gloucester, and the first 12 years of my life were spent there. My father joined a lodge just after the war and he went into the Chair in 1956, two years before we moved to Kent, where he became a founder of what became my mother lodge in Rochester.

Lodges had a big social calendar and as a teenager I went to many lodge events with my parents. When I came back from university at 21, and was still living in Kent, my father said to me, ‘Well, you know something about masonry and you’ve met many members of the lodge, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know.’ It was a very smart psychological move. Many fathers might have said, ‘Well, I’ve got you down to join at the next meeting, now you’re back in the area,’ but mine didn’t. I took about two years, got settled in a job, and then said, ‘I’d like to join.’ It was very much my decision, rather than feeling any obligation to join.

Did joining the Royal Arch feel like a natural progression?

I was 29 when I joined the Royal Arch, again in the local chapter in East Kent. I didn’t go into it with any preconceptions and I loved the ceremony from day one – despite being on the receiving end of all three lectures on the evening of my exaltation! In those days, the Royal Arch was considered the completion of the Third Degree, which is now an area of debate. But you could also just say it was seen as the natural progression from the Craft, which is something we rightly still emphasise.

The pressure on chapters was rather less in the 1960s and 1970s, because our numbers were higher than they are today, albeit beginning to level out. Chapters were thriving with 30 or 40 members, but it’s when you get below critical mass of 20 to 15 that you suddenly start thinking, ‘What do we do?’ It’s only at this late stage that many chapters try to re-establish links with the mother Craft lodge, which may be too late.

Why did you become involved in Metropolitan?

As a member of London lodges and chapters, I was aware that Metropolitan was being set up as a separate entity, but my move to London was a complete shot out of the blue. As East Kent Deputy Provincial Grand Master, I had met the Pro Grand Master Lord Northampton for the first time at a dinner. A little later, Rex Thorne asked me out to lunch in Long Acre, and when I arrived Lord Northampton was with him. To my surprise, he asked me to move up to London to become the first Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.

I took some time to think about it because it was a new job and I knew the time commitment would be substantial. I asked the opinion of a few close friends who were unconnected with London, and they all said the same: ‘You can’t say no. It’s a great opportunity.’ Which indeed it was, but the workload proved to be quite heavy as well.

How did you feel leaving Metropolitan to become Second Grand Principal?

I think I made it known to people over time that Royal Arch is one of my great loves. Having completed six years as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and six years as Metropolitan Grand Master and Grand Superintendent, I knew it wasn’t a job I was going to do forever. I had a meeting with Peter Lowndes, who asked how I would feel about taking the position of Second Grand Principal, as George Francis was retiring. I paused slightly but, on this occasion, I didn’t ask for time to think about it, I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.’ The best things in life come unexpectedly, don’t they?

For my successor as Metropolitan Grand Master, Sir Michael Snyder, the intention is to perform the role in a slightly different way, which I am sure is right. It was important in the early days of Metropolitan Grand Lodge for the rulers to be seen to be out visiting lodges and chapters on a regular basis and to be visible to all London masons. I was able to do that, but it wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be carried on at the same pitch, because London now has a firmly established base and identity.

‘We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch’

What have you inherited from your predecessor in the Royal Arch?

I think one of the important things that George Francis brought to the job was being visible to companions all around the country, visiting widely in the Provinces and London. There is no substitute for hearing people’s views first-hand. Additionally, he was a keen promoter of making the ritual more dramatic and understandable for all participants.

What I would say is that we now need a slight pause for breath to allow the changes to sink in. We have a number of initiatives going on, following on from the ritual change a few years ago, and we have to get these embedded within each Province. Although there may be minor adjustments, I don’t envisage radical changes in the near term. We should continue to celebrate the great diversity of ritual practice within the Royal Arch.

In lodges where there is no active Royal Arch representative, or the Secretary’s not particularly keen on our order, the young mason coming through may have no awareness of the Royal Arch at all. Why should he be deprived of that experience? We need to ensure that all masons have the opportunity to join. I’m not saying you’re an incomplete mason if you’ve not come into the Royal Arch, but rather that your breadth of understanding is not as full as it might be.

Imagine when somebody’s interviewed for initiation and saying to them, ‘You are beginning an exciting four-stage journey.’ If you can get that message across on day one, it’s far easier than going to them after they’ve done their Third Degree and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s another step and here’s a leaflet about it.’

Even if, on a flat Craft membership, we can increase the conversion rate to 45% or 50% across the board, rather than current rate in the high thirties, that in itself will take up our membership to more acceptable levels.

Do you see your role as ambassador or enforcer?

Gareth Jones, the Third Grand Principal, and I are certainly ambassadors. I think it’s about communicating to Superintendents and their Deputies, as well as to all companions, that we’re here to help and guide them in the right direction. I sense a strong desire for consistency across the piece, and that has to come from Supreme Grand Chapter. A Province or a private chapter can’t take effective decisions about the direction in which they are going unless they have the proper information to start with. I think it’s quite compelling if you say to a Grand Superintendent that these initiatives are available, they’ve worked in other Provinces – look at the results, maybe there are lessons for you.

I mentioned before about taking a slight pause, giving yourself the time to think. I saw a very good demonstration in Freemasons’ Hall some years ago. At various stages in the ceremony they stopped and said, ‘Right, we’re about to do this. Somebody tell me why we do it this way.’ And the members hadn’t thought about it. They were just hearing the words. That was in a Craft lodge, but the moral applies equally to the Royal Arch.

Every now and again it behoves us all to stop and think, ‘What do the words mean? Why do we do what we do, for example, in terms of choreography of the ritual?’ I would like to reverse the trend in numbers, which we are beginning to do in some areas, but I believe that will only come through companions having a better understanding, and with it greater enjoyment of our unique order.

Published in SGC

First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent and Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes recognise the progress that is being made in the Royal Arch

I was delighted to be able to appoint and promote so many of you to celebrate my 50 years as First Grand Principal. This, of course, is in recognition for all you have done for the Royal Arch – but it is also, you may not be surprised to hear, in expectation of further services.

Although smaller than the Craft, there is no doubt that the Royal Arch holds a very warm and special place in our affections. Over the course of the last 50 years we have adapted our ritual to make it easier to understand, to remove some of the anomalies and to ensure a greater involvement from the companions. I am very pleased to see the progress that has been made.

While this year has been a great celebration for the Craft, I have no doubt that we too will benefit from the great success it has achieved, and I know that there are measures in hand that will ensure that Freemasonry has a prominent place in society for many years to come. Companions, I am greatly encouraged by all that I have seen this year and I thank you all for all of your hard work.

First Grand Principal
HRH The Duke of Kent

‘Freemasonry will have a place in society for many years to come’ HRH The Duke of Kent

Companions, I had the privilege of speaking at the Royal Albert Hall about the 50 years’ service our Grand Master had given to the United Grand Lodge of England. Those of you who were there, or have seen that remarkable event online, might have noticed that what I said seemed to go down reasonably well.

That took no account of the fact that the job of First Grand Principal and Grand Master run concurrently, and therefore any mathematician could work out that the First Grand Principal has also been head of our order for the same 50 years. I mentioned it as a remarkable achievement; it is even more remarkable when you look at it in that light.

Pro First Grand Principal
Peter Lowndes

Published in SGC

Last Wednesday’s Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter was a special meeting as HRH The Duke of Kent celebrated his Golden Jubilee as First Grand Principal with a special investiture of Grand Ranks

Afterwards HRH The Duke of Kent was photographed with the Pro First Grand Principal, Second Grand Principal and Third Grand Principal to mark the occasion.

Read the First Grand Principal’s address here.

Read the Pro First Grand Principal’s address here.

Published in SGC
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 14:35

First Grand Principal's address - November 2017

Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

8 November 2017

An address by the ME First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent

Thank you ME Pro First Grand Principal, for your exceedingly kind words and, companions, thank you all for your support which I do enormously appreciate.

I was delighted today to be able to appoint and promote so many of you to celebrate my 50 years as First Grand Principal. This, of course, is in recognition for all you have done for the Royal Arch, but it is also (you may not be surprised to hear) in expectation of further services.

Although smaller than the Craft, there is no doubt that the Royal Arch holds a very warm and special place in our affections. Over the last fifty years we have adapted our ritual to make it easier to understand, to remove some of the anomalies and to ensure a greater involvement from the companions, and I am very pleased to see the progress that has been made.

Whilst this year has been a great celebration for the Craft, I have no doubt that we too will benefit from the great success it has achieved, and I know that there are measures in hand which will ensure that Freemasonry has a prominent place in society for many years to come.

Companions, I am greatly encouraged by all I have seen this year and I thank you all for all your hard work – especially the Grand Scribe Ezra, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and their respective teams for their work in ensuring the success of this morning’s Investiture.

Published in Speeches

Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

8 November 2017

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

ME First Grand Principal, companions, over a week ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Royal Albert Hall about the 50 years’ service our Grand Master had given to the United Grand Lodge of England. Companions, those of you who were there, or have seen that remarkable event online, might have noticed that what I said seemed to go down reasonably well.

Companions, that took no notice of the fact that the job of First Grand Principal and Grand Master run concurrently, and therefore any mathematician can work out that the First Grand Principal has also been head of our Order for the same fifty years. It is quite remarkable. I mentioned it as a remarkable achievement; it is even more remarkable when you look at it in that light.

Companions, in a moment I shall ask you to show your appreciation of the service the First Grand Principal has given to this wonderful Order. But I am going to challenge you companions to make it slightly shorter than in the Albert Hall, but I know it will be no less heartfelt companions.

Published in Speeches

Travelling together

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes explains how strong leadership combined with a responsible approach will help to build a successful future for the Royal Arch

I congratulate all the Grand Officers whom I have invested on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I would remind you that with your new ranks come new obligations. 

Appointments and promotions are therefore not just a reward but an encouragement for further participation in the success of the Order, whether providing support for members of your chapters or giving encouragement to those in the vital role of Royal Arch representatives in your Craft lodges. If, indeed, you are not that representative yourself.

It has been a great pleasure to invest Most Excellent Companion Gareth Jones as Third Grand Principal in succession to Most Excellent Companion David Williamson, who was himself appointed in 2010. We owe Companion Williamson an enormous debt of gratitude for his many contributions, both in our Order and in many others as well. This succession, coupled with that of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race in November last year, continues the strong leadership that the Royal Arch has enjoyed for many years and ensures an exciting future for the Order.

I believe that the Royal Arch is in its strongest position for many years. The profile of the Order was greatly enhanced by the outstanding success of the bicentenary celebrations in 2013, coupled with several key initiatives during and since that time, including the Royal Arch participation in the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.

As a reminder, there are two Royal Arch fellows in every five fellowships supported. This is thanks to the incredible generosity of our members and the skilful management of our assets.

I take great pride in the work of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team and want to thank the retiring Grand Scribe Ezra for his work over the past nine years. We have travelled a lot together, although we have not always returned without mishap. But be it Icelandic volcanic ash, Barbadian hurricanes or Heathrow snow, we have made it in the end, one way or another. 

‘Appointments and promotions are not just a reward but an encouragement for participation in the success of the Order.’

Published in SGC

As part of the SVO Team Units Inter-Visiting and Hosting initiatives, The Metropolitan Royal Arch In Camera "Your Chapter in Focus" Presentation Team comprising E. Comps Ian Clark, Harvey Roland and Wayne Hirst visited the hosting Chapter, Kings Cross Chapter No. 1732 on the occasion of the Installation Meeting.

There were 40 Companions present including Distinguished Companions Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent Christopher Clark, PGSN, Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendent Ian Currans, PGSwdB, Metropolitan Grand Inspector John Hubbard, PGSoj, and Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Essex John Webb.

The Metropolitan team delivered a lively and informative presentation, punctuated with humour, which provided guidance on such matters as the RA protocols and procedures that should be observed, the wearing of the RA regalia, the opening, closings and perambulations relative to both the Domatic and Aldersgate rituals and explored some the inextricable links between Craft and Royal Arch Masonry. The Companions were enlightened to some of the RA symbolism coupled with descriptions of the characters represented and their background history, including the relationship to the Ceremony of the Veils.

Kings Cross Chapter then went on to install the Principals for the ensuing year and presented the Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent with a cheque for £500 in favour of the London Air Ambulance Appeal.

The evening was rounded off in good form with a "Burns Night" themed Festive Board with piper accompaniment.

White Ribbon Club formed for younger companions

With the success of Craft masonry in forming junior social clubs for members, such as Light Blue clubs, the Royal Arch Provincial Executive in Leicestershire and Rutland has sanctioned the creation of a similar scheme for the Royal Arch, which has been called the White Ribbon Club due to the white ribbons newly Exalted companions wear on their regalia.

The White Ribbon Club was officially launched at the recent Master Masons’ and New Exaltees’ evening held at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester. A number of White Ribbon Club events are already planned for 2016.

The club has been formed for Royal Arch masons within Leicestershire and Rutland, and will also work alongside the Leicestershire and Rutland Light Blue Club for Master Masons who are interested in taking the next regular step and joining the Royal Arch.

The aim of the White Ribbon Club is to promote Royal Arch Freemasonry by raising awareness, encouraging recruitment, retention and the inspiration of members throughout the Province by organising chapter visits and social events as well joining events of the Light Blue Club so that interested Master masons have the opportunity to discuss Royal Arch masonry and ask any questions.

The Grand Superintendent of Leicestershire and Rutland, E Comp Peter Kinder said: 'We were delighted to officially launch our Royal Arch White Ribbon Club at our recent Master Mason and New Exaltees evening in November. The Royal Arch Executive were delighted to approve the idea of forming this new club based on the amazing success of the Craft based Light Blue Club. It is hoped the the encouragement and recruitment of many new Craft members will equally apply to the Royal Arch membership. The new White Ribbon Club will co-exist with the Light Blue Club and we all in the Province of Leicestershire & Rutland are very excited about its future success.'

Comp Dale Page said: 'We are delighted the Royal Arch Executive has given us the opportunity to boost and foster Royal Arch Freemasonry within the Province. Our aim is to stimulate less experienced members of the order as well as encouraging Master Masons to complete their journey in craft masonry by joining the Royal Arch.'

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