Peter Roberts, Master of Stivichall Lodge No. 5799, presented a cheque for £500 to the Children’s Air Ambulance charity at their summer Sunday lunch, held at Guy's Cliffe Masonic Rooms in Warwick in August. Natasha Hannon received the donation on behalf of the charity, and explained their work and the difference donations like this makes to children’s lives. The money was raised by brethren at W Bro Peter Wright's annual summer pig roast held earlier in the summer. The Sunday lunch, expertly organised by the lodge Almoner, W Bro Colin Sallis was well attended by brethren, their families, friends and lodge widows, proving to be a most enjoyable event. The lunch was followed by a most fascinating tour of Guy's Cliffe from its historic past to through to its present masonic use.
In a journey that stretched from Mumbai to Miami, John Bailey from Wakefield Lodge, No. 495, visited lodges around the globe to experience how masonic ceremony and fraternity is interpreted worldwide
In October 2007, I started on a 14-month journey that would have me back in the UK just in time for Christmas 2008. Armed with a 65-litre rucksack holding, among other things, a Past Masters apron, a copy of the UGLE Masonic Year Book and my Grand Lodge certificate, I hoped to have the opportunity to visit a lodge overseas. Hitherto, my lodge visits had been confined to Yorkshire and Wiltshire. In the event, I was able to make 26 foreign visits – 13 to UGLE lodges and 13 to lodges of foreign constitutions.
IT’S ALL IN THE PLANNING
I had established contact with Peter Roberts in the Grand Secretary’s office and quickly found that arranging a visit to a UGLE lodge in an overseas district was basically the same as in the UK. However, the protocol for arranging a casual visit to a lodge in a foreign constitution required some preparation. An email to Peter was always required to check that the constitution concerned was in amity with UGLE. By return, he would also provide contact details for the foreign grand lodge in question. No contact can be made with a foreign constitution until you arrive in their territory. Of course, there is no restriction on the research that you can do beforehand, for which the internet was an indispensable supplement to Peter’s information. Suitably prepared, I was usually invited to a foreign lodge within a day or two of making contact. In Adelaide, I made enquiries of the Grand Secretary at lunchtime, only to be invited to an installation meeting that very evening.
What to wear to a meeting was always going to be a problem for me, as I could not carry a jacket in the rucksack that would remain presentable. Gloves, shirt, tie, dress shoes and black stay-pressed trousers were an ever-present part of my kit. They, of course, were easy to maintain. The jacket problem was frequently resolved by helpful secretaries or lodge members, who were only too willing to loan me one when my circumstances were explained.
Arriving as an ‘unknown’ visitor at any lodge is always a challenge. You will need to provide vouchers of your bona fides and be expected to demonstrate proof that you are indeed a brother. My ‘provings’ ranged from a friendly chat with a group of Past Masters, to the more usual one-to-one testing by the Junior Warden. At the Chula Lodge, No. 9745, in Bangkok, I was well and truly tested by the District Grand Secretary and a senior Past Master from the lodge into matters concerning all three degrees and the installation inner workings.
It is impossible in this short piece to detail the ceremonies and procedures that I witnessed in the 26 overseas lodges. That there were some differences from the way that we do things in the Wakefield Lodge, No. 495, would be to seriously understate the case. Generally, I was very familiar with most of the practices in all of the English lodges that I visited, but there were many subtle differences – not least with knocks, openings and closings.
I am often asked which was the best lodge that I visited and it was a privilege to have visited so many. All of them had something which was memorable, but the St Helena Lodge, No. 488, in the South Atlantic stands out. It is so remote that it is not administered by an overseas UGLE District or by a Grand Inspector. It is one of only a handful of lodges that reports directly to Great Queen Street. The lodge room is tiny, and I believe that due to the absence of outside influences, its rituals and procedures have remained exactly as when the lodge was founded.
Looking back on my back-packing trip, it was a wonderful journey, made all the more fulfilling because of my masonic experiences. I would certainly recommend an overseas visit as the perfect way in which to advance your masonic knowledge. I will be looking to add to my 26 visits in the future.
John's World Tour
Wynberg Lodge No. 2577 Cape Town
Alan Englefield, the Grand Chancellor, addresses Grand Lodge on his new role in external relations
From time immemorial – or from at least the 1750s! – Grand Lodge’s relations with our sister Grand Lodges have been managed by a combination of the Board of General Purposes (and its predecessors), the Grand Master’s advisers and the Grand Secretary.
For much of the period up to the late 20th century external relations was a gentle art which took up little time. Occasionally there were explosions of activity such as the decision in 1876 by the Grand Orient of France to drop the requirement that candidates must have a belief in a Supreme Being.
Then there was the decision to remove all references to the Great Architect from their rituals and the proliferation of new Grand Lodges in Europe with the redrawing of the map of Europe after the cataclysm of the First World War.
But, in general, it was simply a case of occasionally having to decide whether or not a new Grand Lodge met our standards of regularity and could be recognised as part of the world wide family of Freemasonry.
After the Second World War the map of Europe was again re-drawn into the Eastern and Western blocs, leading to a reduction of Freemasonry in Europe when it was forced underground in the Eastern bloc countries.
At the same time, in what was becoming an increasingly politicised world, there was a growth of irregular Freemasonry with bodies springing up claiming to be Masonic.
But they did not accept our basic principles, in particular the bar on Grand Lodges or brethren in their Masonic capacities making public statements on matters of religious, political or social policy.
As the oldest Grand Lodge, we have had thrust on us the role of being the guardians of regularity and in many ways are expected to police what is regular and what is not.
Those are not roles that we have sought and we cannot be an international policeman solving problems within and between Grand Lodges.
This role came very much to the fore in the 1990s after the demise of the Eastern bloc, the return of democratic institutions in those areas and the very welcome reestablishment of dormant, and making of new Grand Lodges there.
This alone brought heavy pressure on the Grand Secretary. For example, in 1989 we recognised 17 regular Grand Lodges in Europe, today we recognise 34 with another four under consideration! As a result, the office of Grand Chancellor was created.
The Chancellor’s main roles are to chair the External Relations Committee, to advise the Rulers, the Grand Master’s advisers and the Board of General Purposes. He must ensure that Grand Lodge’s policy on external relations is carried through, and to ensure that all correspondence in this area is dealt with in a timely fashion.
As the Grand Chancellor is not a full time employee, I shall be assisted by John Hamill, Director of Communications and Peter Roberts, our long-term External Relations Adviser.
The Grand Chancellor will also assist the Grand Master and the Rulers in representing Grand Lodge on formal visits to sister Grand Lodges and at international gatherings of regular Freemasonry. With the revolution in fast communication systems and the ease and reasonable cost of travelling today, the Masonic world is coming closer and closer together and inter-visitation and the regular exchange of information can only be good for the future of regular Freemasonry in general.
External relations cover our relations with other Constitutions outside our own and are my responsibility. England still has over 800 Lodges meeting outside these islands under District Grand Masters, Grand Inspectors or being governed directly from London.
Although many of them are separated from us by great distances, they are still very much an important part of the United Grand Lodge of England and will continue to come under the jurisdiction of the Grand Secretary.
Normally, when they are visited by a Ruler, the Grand Secretary will accompany them, not the Grand Chancellor. He has already visited Ghana and in the autumn he will accompany the Pro Grand Master when he visits our Districts in India.
There are also areas where the Grand Secretary and Grand Chancellor will work together. During the summer we had our usual tripartite meeting with Ireland and Scotland. Because that meeting involves both practical matters of Craft administration and jurisprudence as well as the discussion of relations between the Home Grand Lodges and other Grand Lodges, both the Grand Secretary and I were present. The same applies with the annual meeting of the European Grand Secretaries and Grand Chancellors. Co-operation between the two of us becomes even more important in those areas overseas in which we share territory not only with Ireland and Scotland, but also with a local sovereign Grand Lodge.
External relations are crucial to the future harmony and stability of Freemasonry on a global level.
Many readers will know that from time to time the United Grand Lodge of England recognises and very occasionally withdraws recognition from another Grand Lodge. Peter Roberts explains why this affects us all
In September, the United Grand Lodge of England adopted the resolution to recognise the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Indiana, bringing the total now recognised to 136. This may sound just like high-level masonic diplomacy, but in fact it can make a very real difference to our members if they travel abroad. When another Grand Lodge is recognised it means that United Grand Lodge of England members can visit its lodges and their members can visit ours.
Freemasonry over the centuries has had plenty of imitators and splinter groups which have established their own self-styled forms of Freemasonry. Some of them allow or even encourage their members to become involved in politics or ethically dubious practices which are unacceptable to the United Grand Lodge of England.
Some people might argue that there is no real harm in quietly visiting a lodge under an irregular or unrecognised body. But just as in football, where it only takes one player to bring the game into disrepute, so someone visiting an unrecognised body could be misinterpreted as the United Grand Lodge of England tacitly approving the irregular body and, by extension, the rest of its members condoning it too. The United Grand Lodge of England is rightly scrupulous about not allowing this to happen.
It is with these bodies in mind that recognition becomes particularly important and why we spend a very great deal of time and effort looking into an individual Grand Lodge's wish to be recognised.
To be recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England a Grand Lodge must meet certain standards. These standards - the basic principles of Grand Lodge recognition - are published in the Book of Constitutions, the Masonic Year Book, in the booklet Information for the Guidance of Members of the Craft and Grand Lodge’s leaflet Freemasonry’s External Relations.
The most important standards are that the petitioning Grand Lodge must have undisputed authority over Craft masonry in its jurisdiction. Furthermore, its members should not be racists or atheists, nor should they practice religious intolerance. Its members must also only be men who take their obligations on a book held sacred to them. They must also not discuss religion or politics in lodge.
Important too is regularity of origin - in other words a Grand Lodge must have been formed either by a recognised Grand Lodge or by at least three regularly constituted lodges established by an already recognised Grand Lodge or Grand Lodges.
An example is the Grand Lodge of Russia (recognised in December last year) which was formed from four lodges set up in Russia by the already recognised Grand Loge Nationale Française. Although United Grand Lodge of England members were able to visit the lodges before the Grand Lodge of Russia was formed, after it was formed they were not allowed to visit until recognition had been granted.
The Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland are the exception to the principle of regularity of origin because they were formed by lodges which had already existed before any Grand Lodge (commonly known as time-immemorial lodges). These three Grand Lodges went on to form lodges all over the world, many of which later formed their own Grand Lodges.
It is also important that members of the subordinate lodges of the Grand Lodge seeking recognition can show that they were made masons under the Grand Lodge which sponsored it or a Grand Lodge which was recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England at the time of their becoming masons. One difficulty that can arise here is that the sponsoring Grand Lodge may recognise a Grand Lodge that the United Grand Lodge of England does not.
A yet further aspect is exclusive territorial jurisdiction (particularly practised in the United States) where one Grand Lodge claims masonic sovereignty within the state it covers and does not accept the existence of any other masonic body in that state. Although the United Grand Lodge of England accepts this policy, it does not conform to it itself, believing that masonic sovereignty is over members and not geographical territory.
If a Grand Lodge does not meet all of the basic principles it is considered irregular. An irregular Grand Lodge cannot by its nature be recognised but Grand Lodges and their members which fall within this category can vary in degrees of irregularity based on what is known about a Grand Lodge’s origins, practices and professions.
Regularity is sometimes confused with recognition. Although a regular Grand Lodge may meet the basic principles of Grand Lodge recognition, it can still nevertheless be unrecognised. This sometimes happens when a regular Grand Lodge works within an area where another recognised Grand Lodge already operates. The United Grand Lodge of England will usually only recognise one Grand Lodge in any one particular country, state or territory, unless with the express agreement of the Grand Lodge already recognised in that area.
France is a good example of this where there is the Grande Loge National Française (which is recognised), the Grand Lodge of France (regular but not recognised) and the Grand Orient of France (irregular).
Now and then restrictions have to be imposed on United Grand Lodge of England members visiting recognised Grand Lodges around the world. This can occur because a particular Grand Lodge has recognised another Grand Lodge which we have not and there is a strong possibility of our members attending a meeting where members from that unrecognised Grand Lodge may be present.
When granted, recognition takes immediate effect, and means that the United Grand Lodge of England believes that the Grand Lodge and its members profess and practice Freemasonry as it has been practised since its inception. The members of the two Grand Lodges can then truly regard each other as brethren and be permitted to visit each others lodges. It does not in any way mean, however, that if you find yourself talking about Freemasonry to someone in your local bar who happens to belong to an unrecognised constitution that you have to stop talking or walk away. You are obviously free to carry on talking about whatever you wish.
So if you are ever planning to going abroad and want to visit lodges of other constitutions it is therefore vital to check with Freemasons’ Hall first, otherwise you could not only end up in an embarrassing situation, but also inadvertently bring the United Grand Lodge of England and the rest of its members into disrepute.