Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why 2017 will be a unique opportunity to share masonic pride across the nation
As the masonic fraternity is a single, indivisible fellowship that is neither divided nor affected by local or national boundaries within our constitution, the word ‘united’ is extremely appropriate as we move forward to our three hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. Hence, Metropolitan Grand Lodge, the Provinces and Districts are united as part of one fellowship – that of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Celebration for all
So how should we be working together to plan the 2017 celebrations, remembering that this is just over four and a half years away? From the very outset, I want to make it clear that this is a celebration for every one of us – for the members throughout the English constitution, both here and in the Districts.
Celebrating three hundred years is a once in a lifetime event for us all, as is appropriately marking this wonderful achievement and, of course, being the first Grand Lodge to do so. We have seen two great events this summer – that of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games. Both these events proved highly successful and raised the morale and spirit of our nation. That is exactly what I want the members’ 2017 celebration to achieve for our united fraternity.
I am convinced that by working through the Metropolitan Grand Master and the Provincial and District Grand Masters we will encourage a large participation in this great occasion. Although there is much detail to be planned and to be communicated to you for your own planning, the main event will certainly include partners.
We are proud to be Freemasons and 2017 is a great opportunity to show that pride not only to our families and friends, but to the non-masonic community as well. To this end it will also be the natural culmination of the open public relations strategy we have embraced.
Raising the bar in Cambridgeshire
The twenty-seventh annual Festival for The Freemasons’ Grand Charity was held in September at Queens’ College, Cambridge, under the presidency of Rodney Wolverson, Provincial Grand Master of Cambridgeshire. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes was in attendance, to acknowledge the impressive £1,283,164 raised by Freemasons in Cambridgeshire.
Grand Charity President Richard Hone was thrilled with the generosity shown, remarking: ‘It has been an honour to attend this wonderful event in Cambridge, showcasing the culmination of this festival on behalf of the Grand Charity. The total amount raised is truly inspirational, especially considering the many economic pressures of recent times. Thank you to all those who worked so hard to raise these funds, we will ensure they are put to good use helping people in need.’
12 September 2012
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I have recently finished the two yearly Regional Conferences that I have with Provincial Grand Masters. These are relatively informal affairs and cover a wide range of subjects. I find them extremely useful and they are kind enough to say the same – but, of course, what else could they say!
One theme that ran through them all was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases, this has already started. This means that perhaps we are getting some things right.
I have said frequently that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock on effect.
Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard from Brothers Soper and Lord at the September Quarterly Communication about the work of the Universities Scheme. Following that talk I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how best we can implement some of the principles that were mentioned, across the whole Craft.
Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.
Brethren, in November I visited my Great Grandfather’s mother Lodge in Hertfordshire and a splendid occasion it was, with an almost faultless 2nd Degree Ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.
The reason for mentioning this today is that in the Reply for the Visitors the Brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is “regard for others as a principle of action”. Rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.
If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t be going far wrong. Of course it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point, as it should naturally lead to a practice of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving, which seems to be second nature to us.
During this year the Festivals for our Charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the RMBI; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the MSF; Cambridgeshire £1.285m for the Grand Charity and Devonshire £3.836m for the RMTGB. In these troubled economic times this, Brethren, is remarkable and I congratulate all those concerned.
I hope that our membership, as a whole, are far more familiar with the activities of all our Charities than might have been the case 20 or so years ago. The promotion of their activities by the Charities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.
Whilst 3 of our Charities are Masonic in their giving, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that - quite the contrary in my view, the Grand Charity, of course, has a wide brief for giving to non Masonic bodies, provided that they are also Charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved and we should be quick to point it out.
Brethren, since 2007 we have had excellent and amusing talks on the past at the December Quarterly Communication from Brothers Hamill and Redman and we should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.
Brethren, I wish you all a very relaxing break over Christmas, particularly if, like me, you will be having your Grand Children to stay.
14 November 2012
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, after Supreme Grand Chapter has been closed we will be receiving presentations from Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
I am delighted to say that, with the generosity of so many of you individually and collectively from Chapters, we are well on our way to meeting the target for the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. Indeed with £900,000 already raised, I hope we will be able to exceed our original target by a very considerable margin. During the year presenters from the College have attended several Provincial meetings to explain what they do. I am told that these have all been very well received. I would particularly like to highlight an event earlier in the year when the First Grand Principal attended a fascinating presentation at the College in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Four Freemasons’ research Fellows gave talks on their vital research projects that we had funded. These talks dealt with very technical research, but were delivered in such a way that even laymen such as myself could understand them. The importance of their research cannot be over emphasised and as you know the College receives no NHS funding for research, so this has all to be paid for by voluntary contribution.
We remain justly proud to be the major benefactor and I thank all of you who have, and will be, contributing to this worthwhile Appeal. I am sure we are all looking forward to hearing the presentations shortly.
To mark the culmination of the Appeal and the Bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure ancient Masonry, the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter in November 2013 has been moved to the third Wednesday in October – the 16th of October – to take advantage of what is hoped will be more clement weather, both for travelling to and from the meetings and when we have to move from here to The
Savoy in the evening. Rest assured Companions the meetings themselves will be under cover.
The President of the Committee of General Purposes has already outlined the provisional programme for the day here in the Grand Temple, the Grand Connaught Rooms and at the Savoy.
Companions, you will appreciate that each of these venues is restricted to the numbers we can fit in. Clearly there are key members of the Royal Arch who must attend, for example, acting officers of the year and representatives from foreign Grand Chapters. At this planning stage it is most important to us that we ensure that qualified Companions at every level, from London and all Provinces and Districts, are strongly represented.
More importantly Companions, this celebration should be a catalyst to encourage more Freemasons to join our wonderful Order.
Bicentenary celebratory Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
Wednesday 16 October 2013
To mark the bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure antient Masonry and the culmination of the appeal in favour of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter in November 2013 has been moved to the afternoon of the third Wednesday in October to take advantage of what it is hoped will be more clement weather before the clocks go back.
The provisional programme for 16 October is:
|11.00 a.m.||Convocation of Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter No. 9812 in which a demonstration of the Ceremony of Exaltation using the changes authorised in 2004 will be given||Grand Temple|
|1.00 for 1.30 p.m.||Luncheon presided over by the ME Pro First Grand Principal||Grand Connaught Rooms|
|4.30 p.m.||Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter, presided over by the ME The First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent, KG||Grand Temple|
|6.15 for 7.00 p.m.||Dinner, presided over by the ME The First Grand Principal||Savoy Hotel|
The above timings are approximate
It is not proposed to levy any charge for attending either the Demonstration or the Convocation of the Grand Chapter. The cost of the luncheon in the Grand Connaught Rooms, including a reception, is expected to be between £70 and £85, and the cost of the dinner at the Savoy Hotel between £120 and £150.
PROVISIONAL REGISTRATION FORMS
The Committee of General Purposes thanks all Companions who sent in completed Provisional Registration Forms: the results have been extremely useful in confirming interest for the various events.
Please Note: Completion of the Provisional Registration Forms has not committed any Companion to taking up, nor guaranteed, a place at any of the events.
Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft
How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.
Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.
What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.
How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’
Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.
Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.
What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.
What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.
With both Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, it has certainly been a memorable summer.
Since the last issue we have successfully released a new core leaflet. The title, What's It All About?, was inspired by our most frequently asked - and probably hardest to answer - question from non-masons. This is another milestone in our strategy for making people understand the relevance of Freemasonry in modern society which, in turn, will help both recruitment and retention. Do please look at the leaflet on our website. I think it is important to note that the leaflet is written in plain English for both the potential candidate as well as for all our families and friends.
It is a great 'myth buster'; showing that our values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Additionally, it talks about friendship, openness, giving, our purpose and how we all grow by our membership. Very different to anything we have done before, the leaflet has some outstanding black and white photography. Indeed, the initial distribution to London, the Provinces and Districts has proved so popular that we have already had to order another print run.
We have another thought-provoking issue of Freemasonry Today for you all, including a fascinating interview with the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. He talks openly about what he has got out of Freemasonry as well as the responsibility of this key leadership role and his hopes for the Craft. Dr Roman Hovorka goes on the record to discuss the creation of an artificial pancreas - the result of medical research that has been funded by the Freemasons and which could transform the way children with Type 1 diabetes manage this chronic condition. We spend a day on the lake with the Masonic Fishing Charity in Northamptonshire to see how young people are finding new ways of interacting with the world. Finally, ex-soldiers and Freemasons Michael Allen and Sandy Sanders reveal the camaraderie they have found in becoming Chelsea Pensioners.
Letters to the editor - No. 20 Winter 2012
In reading the Grand Secretary’s column and hearing about the new Core Leaflet it occurred to me that Freemasonry is not just a charitable institution – a view held by the mundane world and many brethren alike. We all know that charity is the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart and most apply this virtue without vaunting it. It is natural that the Craft should defend itself against the many unfair accusations made against it, but in doing so in public our charitable virtues should not be overstated. The Craft is far more than a charity.
Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013
Keeping up standards
I read with great interest and agreement the correspondence from Herbert Ewings and Tom Carr in the winter 2012 edition and felt somehow that the two letters were intrinsically linked.
At the suggestion of Anthony West, Chairman of the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, arranged a Fellows Presentation at The Royal College of Surgeons of England in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in the presence of The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
The 250th Fund was set up in 1967 to support the college in making annual grants to support research Fellows, and currently there are three Freemasons’ research Fellows each year. In connection with the bicentenary of Supreme Grand Chapter in 2013, an appeal is in progress, the funds of which will be applied for a similar purpose.
Other distinguished guests included the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and the Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge.
The guests were welcomed by Professor Norman Williams, President of The Royal College of Surgeons, while plastic surgeon Professor Gus McGrouther expressed his gratitude to the masonic community for its support. Professor McGrouther explained that the college receives no NHS funding for research and that this all has to be paid for by voluntary contribution. The college supports 20 researchers annually chosen from 150 applications.
Three Freemasons’ Research Fellows gave talks. They were Vaibhav Sharma, on improving hearing through reducing scar tissue; Miss Ming He, on tissue engineering for transplantation; and Satoshi Hori of the Uro-Oncology, Hutchinson/MRC Research Centre, University of Cambridge. A member of Isaac Newton University Lodge No.859 also spoke on targeting growth factors in prostate cancer.
Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes discusses the mechanisms that have been put in place to promote the Royal Arch within Freemasonry
As we move towards the bicentenary of the Order in 2013 we have taken the opportunity to further ensure the long term future of the Royal Arch. In raising the profile to achieve this, it is important to make sure we are seen as appealing, inspiring and relevant. To that end, a strategic working party, under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, reported their nine recommendations to me in March. The first of these recommendations in their report was that the strap line ‘initiation to exaltation’ be adopted to promote the Order.
The working party looked at mentoring and how it should align to the work being done on this in the Craft. Here it was suggested that the Craft personal mentor and the Royal Arch representative actively guide a new master mason towards membership of the Royal Arch at an appropriate point in his masonic journey. Also that once exalted the new companion has a knowledgeable Royal Arch mason to help him better understand the ceremony and meaning of the Royal Arch and how best to become involved in the Chapter.
PROMOTING THE ORDER
The role of the lodge Royal Arch representative is fundamental to the promotion of the Order and it is recommended that Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges continue to encourage Craft lodges to make this appointment and to develop the role. It is also considered important that the adoption of the permitted ritual variations, introduced by the 2004 Royal Arch Strategic Working Party, be encouraged in Chapters.
I am aware that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, as well as several Provinces and Districts are already presenting a letter to the newly made master mason on the merits of the Royal Arch. Efforts to improve the profile of the Order in website contexts is also underway.
Two clear outward ways to promote the Order are emphasised. First, the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at selected Craft Festive Boards and secondly, that the wearing of the official Royal Arch tie be further encouraged. The final recommendation is that Chapters be encouraged to re-engage with lodges from which they have traditionally derived members.
In order to encourage a greater participation among all companions, the working party looked at the layout of the ritual books so that the revised and permitted alternative variations adopted in 2004 be encouraged as the standard. I emphasise that nothing is now being suggested which in any way enforces or changes what was introduced by Supreme Grand Chapter in 2004.
A wider participation in the ritual is clearly beneficial in encouraging a deeper understanding of the teaching and by giving the permitted variations of 2004 a greater prominence in the various printed and authorised rituals – for example, Aldersgate, Domatic, Perfect and Metropolitan – I trust more Chapters will be encouraged to adopt them and benefit accordingly.
The 2013 Royal Arch Appeal for The Royal College of Surgeons is progressing well – with over half a million recorded so far. This means that we are well on our way to exceeding our target. I encourage you to keep up your efforts.
An open and sensible approach to Freemasonry could have a significant impact on public perceptions of the Craft, according to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. In most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject. The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open.
I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins.
We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworth’s and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained. It is important to explain to people that there are very few things we keep private in masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.
We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another as, ‘doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us’. Instead, we would say something like, ‘we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us’. To put it another way, this isn’t rocket science.
I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others. I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally, I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred. However, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.
We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a lodge, they will be among men who behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve.
You will be thinking that I have left out an important aspect: our charities. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say that we do a vast amount of charitable work. I most certainly am not saying don’t talk about our charities, quite the reverse, but don’t use our charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of enjoyment that we derive from our membership.