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ROYAL ARCH INVESTITURE

28 APRIL 2011

An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

 

Companions

I know that you would want me to congratulate the Grand Officers whom I have invested on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I remind them that their new ranks are not the culmination of their Chapter careers. In accepting appointment or promotion, they have committed themselves to increased activity in the Royal Arch, especially with regard to recruitment and retention.

 At this investiture meeting last year I announced that as part of the Royal Arch celebrations in 2013 it had been decided that a donation be made to the Royal College of Surgeons. The Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal was launched at the November Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter. Our donation will help to fund the College’s successful surgical research fellowship scheme, which supports surgeons to undertake a surgical research project.

Freemasonry has had a long and close association with the College and we are their major benefactor. We were pleased to have several surgeons - who had been beneficiaries - come and present to us at the November Convocation. Although I was unable to be at that meeting, I have heard from many Companions how fascinating it was to hear about their research in surgical care for current and future generations. The Grand Scribe Ezra has written to all Grand Superintendents informing them how to request similar presentations from the College in their Provinces.

The information for donating to the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal is on the Grand Charity website and donation leaflets are available by request. We are grateful to those who have already donated.

Companions, as you are well aware changes were made to the general practice of the Royal Arch in 2004 affecting the ritual, together with certain permitted ritual alternatives. As a result, I wonder how many of you are like me and get thoroughly confused when deciding which version of the ritual to use. With this in mind, it is proposed to use 2013 as the catalyst to publish new ritual books, which would have the permitted alternatives as the main version and the original version printed out separately. For clarity, this is not a change to the ritual. It is intended to be helpful to Chapters by simplifying the printed material and to avoid any confusion the 2004 changes may have caused.

The aim is also to encourage those Chapters who have not yet made the change to the alternative form, to more easily adapt what is already widely practised and enjoyed. This alternative ritual involves more companions in the ceremony and I believe encourages greater delegation of the work. Interestingly, the 2013 Committee is proposing that a demonstration of the alternative exaltation ceremony form part of the bi-centenary celebrations, to be performed by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards demonstration Team in the Grand Temple on the morning of the special celebration Convocation in October 2013.

Finally, Companions, I must on your behalf and mine, thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for conducting today’s proceedings so successfully and the Grand Scribe E and his staff for all the arrangements for this important day. Most of you will be aware that the Grand Scribe E and his Secretary were working here on Monday to ensure the smooth running of yesterday and today.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 16:19

Pro Grand Master’s address - March 2011

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 MARCH 2011

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, 
In February, accompanied by a Grand Lodge team, I consecrated the Grand Lodge of Monaco. It was an enormously successful occasion with representation from many Grand Lodges from around the world - all meeting in harmony.

The Lodges that make up the new Grand Lodge are from the English, French and German constitutions and we were delighted to be asked, as the mother Grand Lodge, to run the Consecration assisted by the Grand Master of Germany and a past Grand Master of France. On behalf of the Grand Master, I presented them with a fine sword. For the rest of the day we found ourselves on the receiving end of countless handshakes and heartfelt congratulations on the ceremony, which had been superbly organised by the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team.

I am delighted to tell you that Freemasonry Today, due in early April, will be the first of the newly designed issues to reflect the magazine as the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England. The editorial side will evolve to align the content more closely with our communications strategy, as the magazine is an ideal way for us to communicate our key messages to our members, their families and potential members.

To that end the Strategic Communications Committee, which I told you about in my September Quarterly Communication speech, has asked the Board of General Purposes to agree a clear policy on editorial content for the future. Our aim is that you enjoy the magazine, are proud to show it to your family and that it becomes an award winning journal.

It was very timely to have the head of Disaster Management at the British Red Cross talk to us today. Most particularly we are mindful of the plight of our Brethren in Christchurch, New Zealand. Although there has been terrible damage to many of their homes none of them are amongst those who have been killed. The District Grand Master’s home is in ruins but they are doing the best they can to maintain morale. It is suggested that at least one third of the buildings will have to be destroyed.

When I attended the one hundred and fiftieth celebration of their District in Christchurch at the end of 2009 we changed in the Cathedral before our street march to the civic centre where the celebrations were held. The following day The Dean invited us to attend their Holy Comm service in regalia and I read the lesson. It is particularly distressing to see on the news that the Cathedral spire has collapsed and I am informed that the civic centre, where we held the main celebration, has been completely destroyed. The Grand Charity immediately sent £30,000 via the Red Cross to Christchurch.

But Brethren, there have also been, for example, the floods in Brazil where another emergency grant of £20,000 has been made to the District Grand Lodge of South America, North Division, to assist with the devastation after the mudslides and flooding north of Rio de Janeiro. The key is that the Grand Charity sends the money through the Red Cross and we know that they will use the money properly at the beginning of these disasters.

On the subject of charity, many of you may be aware that the Attorney General has referred to the Court questions directed to clarify the law relating to some Charities for the relief of poverty among those who fall within a particular class or category and the public benefit requirement following the coming into effect of the Charities Act 2006.

The Reference has potential implications for Masonic Charities at various levels although it would seem that it will not affect our four main Masonic Charities.

I wish to assure you that both the Rulers and the Board of General Purposes are treating the Attorney General’s Reference seriously. A leading firm of solicitors specialising in Charity Law have been retained and we are in the process of instructing Leading Counsel to advise and represent us. The initial advice that we have received is that any of our Lodge Benevolent Funds which have been established using the Objects Clauses in the Model Trust Deed we have been promulgating for over sixty years are unlikely to be affected.

We intend to apply to be joined as a party to the Reference Proceedings and hope that our vast experience of charitable activities for the public benefit will be of assistance to the Court, the Charity Commission and all who will be participating in the Reference.

To keep this in perspective, the Attorney General is looking at Charities in general, and although in the Schedule to the Reference they have named over one thousand of our Charities we do not believe this to be in any way discriminatory. On the contrary – and it is very good that there are so many Masonic Charities –we should look at this as a reflection of the extent of our Charitable activity. There are few organisations who can boast such a large number of Benevolent Funds.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 10:44

Pro Grand Master’s address - December 2010

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

8 DECEMBER 2010

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
Since the September Quarterly Communication I have completed my regional conferences seeing all the Provincial Grand Masters. These conferences have been very useful and an opportunity to discuss a large range of interesting issues. I am confident that we are continuing to work closely with the Provinces and that we have good communications between us.

I also have attended, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, the eighth regional conference of District Grand Masters of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic in Barbados. The conference was a great success. However, early the following morning we were hit by Hurricane Tomas damaging houses, knocking out power lines and blocking roads with flooding and debris. The District planned to hold their District Meeting that afternoon. This could not take place, but by using great ingenuity they manage to rearrange the Meeting for later in the evening followed by an impromptu drinks party.

I can only say that our experience with volcanic ash and the ensuing problems of returning home from South Africa in April this year stood us in good stead, as we eventually made our way back to England via the tender mercy of the Miami Immigration Authorities!

I have been looking at opening up, on a regulated basis, those who can attend Quarterly Communication. The changes we have brought in, in this regard, for Supreme Grand Chapter seem to have been popular. Currently the meetings of Grand Lodge are attended by Wardens and above. This has purely been to control numbers.

Keeping numbers in mind, I am interested in giving the opportunity to Master Masons to attend. This, very probably, would mean allocating numbers to Provinces on a rotational basis and it would also mean that we would need to be told, via the relevant Provincial Grand Secretary, the numbers attending on any one occasion. The Board has agreed to look at ways of enabling Master Masons to attend certain of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge.

We are all delighted about the engagement of His Royal Highness Prince William to Catherine Middleton. They have chosen the 29th April as their wedding day, which will be a bank holiday – two days after the Craft Investiture and the day after the Royal Arch Investiture. I wanted to confirm that both Investiture days are unaffected by the Royal wedding.

I wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 17:03

Pro Grand Master’s address - September 2010

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

8 SEPTEMBER 2010

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I hope you have all had a good summer and have come back refreshed to start the new Masonic season.

In July we hosted the annual Tripartite meeting with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland. This is always a particularly important meeting, not only to maintain our excellent relations, but because it gives an opportunity to liaise on mutual issues to do with our respective Constitutions around the world. For example – and this is of specific significance to our Districts – the topic of precedence, when the English, Irish and Scottish Constitutions are present, in all scenarios, was discussed in detail. The result is that the Grand Secretary will shortly be writing to all our Districts to give the mutually agreed clarifications.

The Board of General Purposes has set up a Strategic Communications Committee to agree the content and design of the various initiatives to successfully achieve the new communication strategy up to our tercentenary in 2017. The Committee consists of the Craft Rulers, the President and Deputy President of the Board and the Grand Secretary.

One of the core objectives of the communication strategy is to help members to describe Freemasonry openly to anyone who is interested. I know that most Provinces have made advances to help this objective. Although openness has been a feature of our Masonic lives for some time now many members are still not clear about what they can talk about – either because they have not been told or because they have been incorrectly briefed. It is therefore very important, as we set out with this new communications strategy, to give clarity to the important question of ‘what can I talk about?’

The short answer is that there is very little in our Freemasonry that we cannot share with our families, friends and colleagues. Our principles and tenets, our traditions, our charitable activities and our history are all subjects we can share with others – acknowledging that each of us is likely to see freemasonry in slightly different ways because our reaction to it is a very personal one. We can all be helped to talk sensibly about the aspects which attract us. But in sharing them we must have clarity and not use Masonic jargon.

Like most specialist groups Freemasonry has developed its own language, jargon and shorthand phrases. Catch phrases from our ceremonies trip easily off the tongue and in few words convey a wealth of meaning to those who are members – but are meaningless to those who are not. We need to learn to talk about Freemasonry in simple terms without jargon – particularly as its use tends to mystify non-Masons and can, in their minds, strengthen some of the myths that have grown up around Freemasonry. An element of the communications strategy is to dilute the many myths that abound – myths that are still believed by many to be fact.

One of the great myths we need to overcome is that a so-called Masonic “handshake” is given to get business or to do underhand deals. But Brethren, do remember that the signs, grips and words were never intended for casual use in everyday life – they have always been meant to be used deliberately and only in a formal way in Lodge. It is therefore wrong to describe them as recognition signals. Indeed, calling them such simply perpetuates the myth.

Brethren, we are rightly very proud of our Charities and I am strongly in favour of stating publicly all the tremendous good work that emanates from them. However it would be wrong for us to make out that it is our raison d’être. By all means bring them in to any discussions about Freemasonry, but let us not forget that are many and varied other very good reasons for our existence.

The one area we still regard as being private is the detail of our ceremonies. They are not “secret” – the books covering these ceremonies are available for purchase by anyone - nor, as you all well know, do they contain anything untoward. We regard them as being private simply to preserve that “shared experience” we all underwent when we joined Freemasonry, and which is an essential part of our system. Were we to publicly discuss our ceremonies or allow demonstrations of them we would spoil their effect on those who join us in the future and they would be deprived of that “shared experience”. The late Lord Farnham likened the discussing of our rituals with non-Masons to pulling up a prized plant to see how the roots are growing – you will find the answer but in doing so you damage the plant.

As it develops, Brethren, you will hear more about the new communications strategy because the whole Craft will have a part to play in it. It is not simply for Grand Lodge and the Metropolitan, Provincial and District executives to deal with but is one for the whole Craft and, we hope, will help define the future health and happiness of the Craft.

Brethren, you will be aware of the earthquake in New Zealand. Unfortunately it has had a disastrous effect on our Brethren in South Island, many of who have either lost their homes or have had them substantially damaged. Our brethren there need our support and I am pleased to say that the Board of General purposes have agreed to send significant financial assistance, on top of anything the Grand Charity feels that it is able to give, once details of the requirements are known.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 10:54

Pro Grand Master’s address - March 2010

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

10 MARCH 2010

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I believe it appropriate today to inform you of a matter that relates more particularly to the Royal Arch. As you will know the Third Grand Principal, the Very Reverend Neil Collings, has been unwell for over a year and sadly will not be returning to his Masonic duties. At the Convocation in April this year I will be installing his successor as Third Grand Principal.
The Grand Master, in his capacity of First Grand Principal, has decided to appoint the Assistant Grand Master as Third Grand Principal. Right Worshipful Brother David Williamson is, of course, extremely well known and respected in the Royal Arch as well as in the Craft and has frequently carried out Royal Arch duties in his Royal Arch capacity of Past Third Grand Principal.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 10:59

Pro Grand Master’s address - December 2009

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 DECEMBER 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
We have had a fairly full agenda today, with the Grand Charity Meeting and the excellent talk from Bros Hamill and Redman. I shall, therefore, be brief.

Brethren, as I hope they know, our Districts are an immensely important and valued part of UGLE. I hope and believe that communications with our Districts are as good as they have ever been. We are delighted when they visit us, as they frequently do, and we always try to be present with them on important occasions.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 12:02

Pro Grand Master’s address - September 2009

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

9 SEPTEMBER 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I welcome you to this September Quarterly Communication and I trust you have all had an enjoyable summer.

I am sure that many of you will think that Masonic activity slackens off in July and August. At private Lodge level this may be true, but let me assure you, brethren, we keep going here!

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 10 June 2009 12:05

Pro Grand Master’s address - June 2009

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION

10 JUNE 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
It is not very long since I addressed Grand Lodge at the Annual Investiture and, therefore, I do not want to take up too much of your time today and I will be brief.

I am delighted to see so many of you here today. I expect you had a very difficult journey due to the tube strike and so congratulations to everybody who has fought their way here. It is important that as we are all members of the Grand Charity as many as possible do attend. For your information the annual meeting, usually held in March, will now continue to be part of each June’s Quarterly Communication. In actual fact this is returning to the format that was in place until 1989.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 12:07

Pro Grand Master’s address - April 2009

ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE

29 APRIL 2009

An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren,
I trust that you will forgive me if I start with a skiing analogy. Those of you who know me will be aware that when I speak I prefer to go “off piste”. However, today there is an avalanche warning and, as what I am about to say this afternoon will appear on the UGLE website, in Freemasonry Today and in the Minutes of the Meeting, I think that it is best if I stick to the prepared surface.

Brethren the turn out today is, as always, magnificent - from the Provinces, the Districts and, of course, London. In these difficult times it says a great deal about the morale within the Craft that so many travel so far to attend this important meeting. For those not specifically receiving honours today and who come to support their Provincial and District Grand Masters and their friends who are receiving honours, a particularly warm welcome. I assure you that this is greatly appreciated by those at Headquarters.

I must first congratulate all those that I have invested this afternoon. Grand Rank is not only conferred for your past services to the Craft, but equally for the expectation of your future commitment to ensuring that Freemasonry continues to excel.

In his address to Grand Lodge in March, the Grand Master outlined the tremendous work carried out by my predecessor Lord Northampton and I want to put on record my own appreciation of all that he did for Freemasonry over many years and for handing over to me with the Craft in as buoyant a mood as it has been for some years. Don’t misunderstand me, there is still plenty to be done, but I believe it is most important to ensure that all the initiatives that have been started in recent years are given the attention and support that they need to ensure that they have long lasting benefits for the Craft.

Much has been said about the Mentoring Scheme - and rightly so. I want to emphasise the importance of what the Grand Master said in March - that it does not matter how much mentoring we give a new member after he has been initiated, if we don’t ensure that all candidates for initiation have a proper understanding, before they join, of what we expect of them and, indeed, what they can expect from us. If all of us get that right AND we look after them properly once they are members, then we will lose far fewer members in their early months and years and have a much more enlightened and satisfied membership.

Brethren, I don’t believe that there has been any time during my years as a member of the craft (and that is 37 years nearly to the day) when there has been so much pride shown in being a member. Gone are the days when we might shy away from having a conversation with our non-masonic friends about our involvement.

At long last we have the confidence to explain that we expect, and generally speaking get, all our members to behave in a way that benefits society at large. That does not just mean the considerable sums that Freemasonry gives to non-Masonic Charities every year, and we must emphasise that all our members are expected to behave in a civilised, lawful and neighbourly fashion at all times.

We have a strict code of conduct and action is taken if a member steps out of line. This applies to his behaviour in everyday life as well as within the confines of the Craft. Of course, going back to what I have just said, if we vet candidates properly, we will go a long way to reducing the possibility of misconduct.

Our disciplinary procedures are very firm and hopefully fair. Sadly, from time to time, members are expelled or suspended. One of the main issues that is looked at is: “does the Brother’s behaviour bring Freemasonry into disrepute?”

I hope that we would all agree that, if a Brother is behaving in an antisocial or dishonest manner, he is not only bringing this Order into disrepute, but also he is behaving in a way that is unacceptable to society in general. We want all our members to be good members of society and useful in the community. As, in the vast majority of cases, this is exactly what our Brethren are, it naturally follows that we should be very proud to be members of such an organisation.

Finally, Brethren, today does not just happen. A huge amount of organisation is involved. This building is a busy place most days of most weeks and, as you will all have seen today, it really buzzes on a big occasion like this. I am sure you would all like to join with me in thanking the Grand Secretary and his team for the highly efficient way that they have arranged everything for us today.

Brethren, you may not be entirely surprised to hear that both myself and, I suspect, the Deputy Grand Master have been keeping a watchful eye on the ceremonial today with perhaps rather more than just a passing interest. For my part I have only one word to describe it - impeccable. I really do congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for running the show so smoothly.

Published in Speeches

Regular Convocation 
12 November 2008 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal 

Companions, I announced in Grand Lodge in September that I have decided to step down as Pro Grand Master next March and that the Grand Master has been pleased to appoint the Deputy Grand Master to succeed me. He will, therefore, also succeed me as Pro First Grand Principal. I wish Companion Lowndes every success in his new role and I will support him in any way possible.

As this is the last Grand Chapter over which I shall preside as Pro First Grand Principal, I would like to say a few words about the Royal Arch. I have tried over the past eight years to encourage Masons to think of the Order as the climax of Craft Masonry, which it is, but it has been difficult to devote as much time to it as I would have liked when so much of my job as Pro Grand Master has been concerned with Craft Masonry worldwide. That was one of the reasons I was keen to separate the roles of Deputy Grand Master and Second Grand Principal, to make the latter a Companion who would be dedicated solely to the Order. I think Companion Francis is doing an excellent job and I am sure he will continue to devote himself wholeheartedly to the Royal Arch. I have likewise been very fortunate to have Companion Collings as the Third Grand Principal, and there have been many occasions when I have sought his wise counsel. Sadly, he has just had a major operation so he was unable to be with us today. We all wish him well, and a speedy return to full health. Companion Bryce was also a great support to me when he stepped down as Deputy Grand Master but continued as Second Grand Principal.

His knowledge and experience were invaluable during a time of much change.

But for all the efforts that so many Companions have made and continue to make for the good of the Royal Arch, we have to ask ourselves why some of the other side Orders are growing substantially, while the Royal Arch is not. I fully accept that it is not for everyone being a more mystical Order, but that does not explain why much less than half our members join it. I think one of the reasons that it is less popular is that its ritual is profound and few Companions really understand its meaning and purpose. When I chaired the Working Party which I set up to look at ways of making it more intelligible and user-friendly we spent more time discussing the detail of what existed than exploring the possibilities of what, in an ideal world, it might become. There is always a danger that by being too radical one ends up destroying what one is trying to improve, but I think we could have gone further with the revisions and made even more of the important parts of the ceremony for the benefit of our exaltees.

However, the alternative ritual has been adopted by many Chapters and is helping more of us take an active part in the ceremony. Sharing the work with as many Companions as possible is vital for the health of a Chapter. It makes the ceremony more enjoyable for everyone.

There are of course other measures we can adopt, following the report of the Second Grand Principal’s committee. I think it would be a positive step to have a Royal Arch representative in the Lodge who can encourage Brethren to complete their pure Antient Masonry, always bearing in mind that this Order is not for everyone and no undue pressure should ever be exerted. I see no reason why we could not also develop a stand-alone Royal Arch Orator scheme, with short papers on the meaning and relevance of the ritual, but it may be preferable to wait until any teething problems with the Craft equivalent have been resolved.

I do believe we should consider importing the mentoring scheme from the Craft as soon as possible. It must make sense to have a mentor for every exaltee – someone with more experience in the Chapter who can offer guidance, introduce him to the other members and help him to bond with them. Because our Chapters are traditionally smaller than our Lodges, this should make it easier and quicker to get to know everyone.

I hope before long we may also have a Royal Arch tie, which can be worn by Companions in their Lodges. Whatever means we use to promote the Order it is clearly important to maintain strong and close links between the Craft and the Royal Arch, and encourage as many Brethren as possible to complete their pure Antient Masonry.

Companions, I have two people to thank, without whom my tenure as Pro First Grand Principal would not have been possible. The first is my wife, Pamela, who has encouraged me at all times to enjoy my Masonry to the full. Her love, support and commitment to me, and to Freemasonry in general, have made my job that much easier and enjoyable.

The second is of course the ME First Grand Principal for allowing me the opportunity of serving the Craft and Royal Arch as his Pro. He takes a keen personal interest in all things Masonic and his wealth of experience spanning over forty years has been invaluable. We are indeed fortunate to have him as our head and, like him, I believe also that Masonry, above all else, must be enjoyable. And finally Companions, I thank all of you who have supported me in any way.

Published in Speeches
Page 14 of 15

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