Freemasons’ donations rebuild local school and help children overcome trauma of 2010’s devastating earthquake
In January 2010 an earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 230,000 people and causing much of the island’s infrastructure to crumble. Immediate emergency grants were made by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to the British Red Cross and Plan International for their relief efforts.
In addition, and in response to requests from members of the Craft, the council of the Grand Charity opened a dedicated Relief Chest and £93,000 was raised thanks to the generosity of Freemasons and their families. A decision was made to use the money to rebuild a community school in Léogâne, which was at the epicentre of the earthquake, in partnership with aid organisation Save the Children. The construction of six new primary school classrooms and an Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centre is now complete.
building for the future
New water and sanitation facilities have also been built, contributing to the health and well-being of both children and teachers. In contrast to the past, classes in the new buildings have not been interrupted due to bad weather conditions as the new structures can withstand Haiti’s heavy rains. Before the earthquake, Haiti’s education system was poorly resourced, with primary school teachers on average completing only one year of secondary education. Part of the donation has been used to train six teachers, and the community school director has also received training in leadership and supervision, to aid the effective running of the school.
Hermalie, 14, attended the school before the project started and hopes to become a nurse when she is older: ‘I feel safer in the new buildings. I now understand the lessons better and the teachers give me more explanations and encourage me to ask questions.’
New materials have also been supplied, with 500 textbooks, tables and chairs, as well as teaching kits ensuring that teachers have the equipment they need to run high-quality and inclusive primary education classes. Schoolchildren have also been provided with school kits, including notebooks, pencils, a school bag, raincoat and crayons.
The council of the Grand Charity would like to thank all those who have donated, and the local community in Léogâne has also expressed its deepest gratitude to Freemasons for their generous support.
For more information on how Gift Aid envelopes can enhance your fundraising efforts, please telephone the Relief Chest office on 020 7395 9246 or visit www.grandcharity.org/reliefchest
This year started on a high note. As part of our communication strategy and as a build-up to our tercentenary in 2017, we commissioned an independent report on the future of Freemasonry. This report, specifically for the media, was produced by the respected Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford.
To launch the report I have just completed a successful regional media tour around the Provinces, talking to local radio and press, followed by national media activity. This is a classic example of our proactive approach. I plan to tell you about the report and the actual tour in the next issue, but let me give you a flavour of some of the important and encouraging findings.
The Future of Freemasonry report suggests that, contrary to much misleading commentary, Freemasonry does in fact demonstrate genuine openness and transparency. It concludes that Freemasonry is arguably more relevant today than ever before. In particular, the report highlights that Freemasonry acts as a ‘constant’ and provides members with a unique combination of friendship, belonging and structure, all of which can sometimes be absent in today’s fragmented society.
The report covers a fascinating range of topics including a section that highlights the importance Freemasonry places on the role of the family and the care of the less fortunate in society. It goes on to say that Freemasonry instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: it seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things.
In this issue, you will find a fantastic collection of features and stories that clearly illustrate Freemasonry’s core values. On page 16 you can read about a Gravesend garage that is giving hope to unemployed young people by not just training them to be auto mechanics but also giving them the confidence to grow. Freemasons continue to support this and many other projects that are aimed at helping disadvantaged young people into employment or education.
Teddies For Loving Care donates teddy bears to comfort children in hospitals across the world. We talk to its founder, Freemason Ian Simpson, about how he started the project and the people whose lives it has touched. Later in the issue, we find out how Joshua Tonnar is rowing his way into Olympic contention with the support of a grant from the Freemasons. Meanwhile, a profile about the creation of the Royal Life Saving Lodge shows how the Craft brings together people from all walks of life, creating an environment where they not only discuss masonry but also share common interests, values and aspirations.
These stories all point to the sense of community, courtesy and honesty that are characteristic of the intrinsic strengths of Freemasonry today.
With the support of a grant from the Freemasons, Joshua Tonnar is rowing his way into Olympic contention as he subjects himself to a gruelling regime on the Thames, finds Miranda Thompson
The calm of a crisp January morning on the banks of the Thames is shattered by the hollering of eight sixty-somethings from a rowing boat looking for assistance. Luckily, there's an oar on hand to drag them back to shore. A twist of the Thames away from Hampton Court Palace, Molesey Boat Club welcomes rowing veterans onto the water. It's also home to the next generation of British rowers. Joshua Tonnar is a 21-year-old who is pursuing his Olympic dream with the help of funding from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys' (RMTGB) TalentAid scheme.
At six foot six inches, Joshua was originally a rugby fanatic. However, his Freemason grandfather Len Howard spotted the potential for his height after his wife Charlotte read about the Sporting Giants campaign. In 2007, Steve Redgrave spearheaded this initiative to find those who fitted the tall, athletic physical requirements for rowing.
'I went to a meeting at Stonemarket and Ray Collings, the fundraising manager at the RMTGB, was there,' remembers Len. 'I asked him whether they still supported Freemasons' grandsons and I put Josh's name forward. The money has been invaluable.'
Joshua has just completed a ferocious fifteen-minute testing session and is about to devour a gigantic plate of beans on toast – his exercise regime means he's got to consume six thousand calories a day. He recalls how he got started: 'I was talent tested in a national search for potential Olympian talent. According to the scores, you were categorised into the sports you were suited to.' Joshua was a natural, smashing three records on his first day and his first ever ergometer test on a rowing machine saw him finish just eight seconds behind a record set by Matthew Pinsent.
FUNDING POTENTIAL OLYMPIANS
In 2008, Joshua was taken on by the Sporting Giants scheme, which quickly propelled him into the GB Rowing Team Start Programme. His coach, Team GB Start's Neasa Folan, explains her role: 'We identify, recruit and develop potential Olympians. We try to develop them as athletes, so we look at their physical capacities and technical rowing skills.'
With the rowing season running from September to June/July, the months are packed with assessments and trials testing, before invitations to join a squad are issued. This year, the focus is on making the Under 23 World Championships squad. '2016 would be his Olympics,' says Neasa. 'I think he's got reasonable prospects – he's certainly got a lot of the physical characteristics and potential.'
Studying sports sciences at St Mary's in Twickenham, Joshua relishes the opportunity he has been given. 'I want to win gold at 2016 and the two after that,' he says. 'I'm here for 7am. We train until 9.30 or 10am at the first session, have breakfast and then we're back at 11. In the afternoon I go to university, but I'm back here in the evening.'
The amount of work Joshua has to do makes the funding from the RMTGB even more crucial, as Neasa says, 'The athletes might be part of the Team GB rowing programme but they're not funded.'
'Everything about rowing is expensive. I can't live off my student loan and sponsorship, I need constant funding and that's where the Freemasons are helping me. Without the RMTGB's support, I probably wouldn't be able to train full time. I'm very grateful,' says Joshua, hoisting his boat onto colossal shoulders before making his way to the banks of the Thames.
Founded in the eighteenth century, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), supports children and young people who have been affected by poverty, and aims to help improve their potential in life. TalentAid is just one of the schemes run by the charity and aims to ensure that those with exceptional talent pursue their dreams of becoming a professional in their field by providing grants to cover some of the costs associated with the talent. All TalentAid beneficiaries are required to have a masonic connection via their father, grandfather or guardian and all applications are subject to a financial test.
Since TalentAid’s launch in 2001, over two hundred and fifty exceptionally gifted young people have been supported by the RMTGB at a cost of around £3 million. Other TalentAid successes include rising stars in British swimming, kayaking and women’s football. Chief Executive Les Hutchinson explains, ‘These are the people with the highest level of talent, and quite often this talent represents their main opportunity to make a success of their lives. It’s vital they have support for it.’
Les is positive regarding the scheme’s support for Joshua. ‘It was obvious from the outset that he was participating in a very competitive training programme as well as being a holder of several records for his age. His desire to succeed and make a success in his chosen field was quite clear – and his potential ability to compete in the Olympics is very exciting. It really doesn’t come much more high profile than that.’
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Following your coverage of the RMTGB’s assistance to talented young people, I was prompted to let you know about another such case. Freemason Carlton Johnson was a massive influence on Beehive Lodge, No. 6265, and a masonic mentor for so many. Despite his ailments he was determined to participate in Freemasonry to his utmost, notably as a charity steward. Following a long battle with Motor Neurone Disease, he died in March 1996 in his mid-fifties.
Stephen Rolley is the grandson of the late Carlton Johnson. Now in the final year of his diploma at Italia Conti, Stephen has been helped by the TalentAid scheme through the RMTGB. The purpose of his course is to further equip him with the skills required to enable him to work in a very competitive industry.
That Freemasonry has been able to help Stephen is but a tiny repayment of the debt owed to Carlton for the support he was able to offer others. Stephen is clearly showing many of the qualities that characterised his grandfather, such as resilience, focus, resolve, determination, an ability to relate to people and a great natural talent.
When the brethren of King Henry the Eighth Lodge raised substantial funds for the charity Canine Partners two years ago, wheelchair-bound Brian Haynes and his dog Beasley were invited to the lodge to receive a cheque for the charity. He was so impressed with what he saw that he became a mason.
Last year, Brian presented another cheque on behalf of the lodge for £3,000 to Canine Partners, which enables working dogs like Beasley to assist disabled people in living an independent life. The lodge, which meets at St Albans in Hertfordshire, wants to fully fund the training of a puppy through to it becoming a fully-fledged canine partner. With the 22-month training of a dog costing up to £12,000, continued fundraising is needed.
Once trained, the dogs’ repertoire is virtually endless: they can pick up the phone, open doors, take off socks, open refrigerator or washing machine doors, help an owner who may have fallen, summon help, switch the lights on and off, and go shopping with their owner, where they can take items from the shelf before gently offering the sales person a credit card or wallet.
Specialist lodges offer the opportunity for members to combine their personal interests while learning about the principles of Freemasonry, as Terry Draycott shows in his history of the Royal Life Saving Lodge
At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that ‘Quemcunque Miserum Videris Hominem Scias’ is a quote from a Roman Emperor’s tomb. However, you would be wrong. It is actually the motto of the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), which was formed in 1891 by, among others, William Henry and Archibald Sinclair, and translates to: ‘Whomsoever you see in distress, see in him a fellow Man.’
Originally called the Swimmer’s Life Saving Society, the aims of the society were to try to reduce the significant numbers of fatalities caused by drowning, through teaching self-preservation and rescue skills. The title was subsequently changed to The Life Saving Society with members delivering lectures and demonstrations on life-saving techniques around not only the United Kingdom, but also the world. It is rumoured that William Henry visited almost every swimming pool in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden and several other countries, lecturing, teaching and promoting the work of the society. As a result, several life-saving organisations were formed within these countries.
In 1904, King Edward VI granted royal patronage and the Royal Life Saving Society was born. The society continued to flourish both within the UK and globally, and today there are RLSS clubs throughout the country. Its network of volunteers deliver instruction on water safety, life support and rescue. The society is a registered charity and a member of the RLSS Commonwealth as well as the International Life Saving Federation.
You may be asking, where is all this leading? Well, back in 1908, a group of RLSS members, finding themselves to also be masons, conceived the idea of forming their own lodge, which would be affiliated to the RLSS. Plans were made and a petition submitted to the Grand Master, and on 9 November 1908 a warrant was granted to the Royal Life Saving Lodge. The lodge was consecrated on 19 February 1909 at the Frascati restaurant on Oxford Street in London. The Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth, conducted the consecration, acting as Worshipful Master, assisted by Charles F Quicke, Senior Warden; James Stephen, Junior Warden; Rev H W Turner, Chaplain; Charles W Cole, Director of Ceremonies; and W J Songhurst, Inner Guard.
All these worthy brothers were elected honorary members of the lodge after the ceremony. The First Worshipful Master was Herbert Grimwade with Lord Desborough the first Immediate Past Master. All of the founders were active members of the RLSS, and included within the annual subscription was annual membership of the RLSS. William Henry became the first initiate into the lodge in April 1909 and rose to become Worshipful Master in 1917.
two societies, one bond
The connection between the lodge and the society remained strong for many years. When the society moved into premises in Devonshire Street, London, it immediately became Desborough House, with rehearsals and meetings regularly held there. Indeed, chairs for the Worshipful Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden were still in use up to the move to the society’s present headquarters in Broom. The Master’s Collar is adorned with several enamelled pictures of early life-saving scenes and the loose chain box is wrought in the form of a lifebelt.
Until a few years ago, a toast was taken by the Worshipful Master to all holders of RLSS awards. However, the connection with the RLSS has been reinforced recently, with several members becoming joining members and no doubt the toast will soon be reintroduced. Some of you might remember being taught rescue skills and might have gone on to take the society’s flagship award, The Bronze Medallion, or indeed may still be members of the RLSS but never knew of its own lodge.
I have been a member of the RLSS for over forty years and a Freemason for seventeen but only discovered the existence of the lodge thanks to the wonders of modern technology – the internet, and more specifically, eBay. Back in 1992, while surfing (the dry type), I saw a founder’s jewel for sale for the Royal Life Saving Lodge, No. 3339. I investigated and subsequently made contact with the secretary – and the rest, as they say, is history.
I believe that the principles of Freemasonry are compatible with the aims of a great number of other organisations. The creation of a specialist lodge means we can discuss Freemasonry and share common interests and values. The union of two worthy causes helps to keep the memory of William Henry alive and encourages the next generation of Freemasons.
Letters to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.18 - SUMMER 2012
With mentoring high on the agenda, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes takes the opportunity to give clarity and perspective to what it means for Freemasons
You have all heard that the Mentoring Scheme is designed to eventually mentor members at all stages of their masonic progress. Initially this is especially for candidates – the next generation – during the three degrees and then to encourage them to continue their progress into the Royal Arch. London and all Provinces now have a Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Mentor who currently is responsible for liaising with the lodge mentor. For the avoidance of doubt, the lodge mentor is responsible for coordinating and selecting suitable brethren to be the personal mentors. It is most certainly not the intention that the lodge mentor should carry out the task himself – the personal mentor is best described as a friend and guide.
We all have our own ideas about what mentoring is and, for that matter, what it is not. Indeed, some believe there is no need for mentoring and some believe they are already mentoring perfectly satisfactorily. These sentiments are understandable without an explanation of what we actually mean by mentoring and what we are trying to achieve. In an ideal world, mentoring would happen naturally, everyone would be looked after as a matter of course, and this, in turn, would take care of issues such as recruitment, retention and retrieval – the three ‘Rs’.
Whatever your idea of mentoring might be, one of the aims we should all keep in mind is the promotion of an environment of belonging, understanding, involvement and enjoyment within the lodge. The skill will be to achieve this with a ‘light touch’.
But first, let’s look at the word ‘mentoring’, which is translated in so many ways – rather like our masonry. Let me be quite clear: mentoring is not just about the Lodge of Instruction, valuable though that is for advancement in masonic ritual. Rather, it is mostly about pastoral care: seeing that the candidate is looked after, kept informed and that that support and care remains throughout each member’s masonic life.
In terms of the mentoring scheme, I see pastoral care being eighty per cent of what mentoring is all about. Put simply, the real test is how you would like to have been welcomed when you first joined and how you would like to have been supported from then onwards. I do not want to have a complicated or onerous scheme but rather one that is as natural as possible yet, at the same time, allows consistency of advice and support.
Mentoring has essentially three stages. The first two are straightforward as they cover logistics, basic ritual meaning and developing a sense of belonging. The third – how to talk about our Freemasonry to the non-mason – needs more explanation as it links in with our overall communications strategy that supports an external-facing organisation and underpins our new ambassadors’ scheme.
The first stage is for each candidate to understand the basic logistics that are involved in becoming a Freemason. Essentially, they should get a proper welcome. A candidate should never feel under-briefed and should be made aware of his financial and time commitments. During this stage the personal mentor answers any questions the candidate may have for him to gain a sense of belonging. In other words, there should never be any surprises.
The second stage is to understand the basics of the ritual, especially after initiation and then passing and raising. But this understanding should be about the ability to answer questions about the myths that non-masons have. Right from the start, members can counter the questions about the so-called funny handshakes, the nooses and trouser leg being rolled up. The questions need to be answered accurately and without embarrassment – I am not talking about an in-depth knowledge, but more a common understanding. The mentor can, of course, point them in the right direction for this additional and important information as they require it. It is not, however, part of the new mentoring scheme.
We all understand the need to look after candidates, but it is the third stage of giving them the confidence from the very outset in order that they can speak to family and friends about Freemasonry. This is vital to ensuring our future. A candidate needs to understand how to talk to the non-mason about what Freemasonry means and we aim to have as many members as possible being ambassadors for Freemasonry. An ambassador is not a rank or office, it is a mode of behaviour. On the fundamental understanding that we recruit only people who live up to our principles, an ambassador will not only understand the basics of ritual but will also talk to others about their Freemasonry.
To quote the Grand Master: ‘Talking openly about Freemasonry, as appropriate, is core to my philosophy, central to our communications strategy and essential to the survival of Freemasonry as a respected and relevant membership organisation.’ It is with these three stages in mind that the Grand Secretary’s working party is producing succinct mentor guidelines. I see mentoring as a ‘light touch’ resulting in everyone enjoying their Freemasonry even more and feeling comfortable in talking
to their family and friends in an informed and relaxed way.
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I believe the one-to-one relationship is essential between candidate and mentor and it is good to see the lodge mentor’s role described as ‘co-ordinating and selecting brethren to be personal mentors’. Freemasonry proved to be a strong bond between my father-in-law and myself and I have always been appreciative of the shared interest, as well as the support he gave me.
While organ music has become part of the rich fabric of masonic meetings around the country, Naunton Liles wonders whether lodges should seek to preserve these historic but expensive instruments
Look at any masonic music books in use today and you’ll find that the music you sing in your lodge would be familiar to your grandfather and those before him. Many lodges have a reluctant organist who has been persuaded to play a little and is unlikely to introduce fresh ideas while the senior grandees keep reminding everyone ‘that’s not how we used to do it’. So we sing music that is well known and well proven – we all enjoy singing familiar tunes.
Outside Freemasonry, the organ has been constrained in its development by cost. No church council or town hall likes spending money on organs when other priorities seem more worthy. It is the same within Freemasonry. If a masonic hall committee has to choose between a stairlift and a new organ, mandatory legislation and similar pressures push the organ aside.
So why do we continue to have music in masonic ceremonies? Most people agree music enhances the occasion and a private lodge meeting without music can be a bit dull. Our annual assemblies of Grand Lodge and of Provincial Grand Lodge and in all masonic orders need to be occasions of great dignity and splendour, and to give pleasure to those present.
Usually a venue is chosen with an organ suitable for playing processional music, fanfares for the high spots and background music to maintain a suitable atmosphere. For our big showcase events in London, the Grand Temples at Freemasons’ Hall and Mark Masons Hall are best. The history and costs of the instruments found in these buildings demonstrate two very different approaches to organ music.
In 1933, organ builder Henry Willis & Sons was commissioned to construct an instrument fitting for the new art deco building in Covent Garden. It was agreed the instrument would be heard but not seen, so it was placed behind grills. This concentrates the sound at one end and when accompanying 1,500 people, it can be a bit deafening for those occupying the tiered seats in the east of the temple. Another feature was to conceal the console so the organist was not higher than the Grand Master. There is many a non-conformist chapel where the organ occupies a prominent place and a flamboyant organist can outshine the preacher. Not so in Freemasonry.
The downside at the Grand Temple in Freemasons’ Hall is that the organist has no line of sight. Forty years later, CCTV was installed, with one camera and one screen. The organists could then see the assembled brethren, but not much of the west door where processions enter, so you will always see a second organist alongside advising the player what is going on. The 1970s equipment has been replaced by a flatscreen colour monitor, but still there is only one camera. By contrast, cathedrals have a split-screen system whereby the organist can see four views as the ceremony unfolds – but this costs money.
In 1933, organ builders were much exercised by the demands of the cinema, theatre and town hall clients. The thinking of the time was that you could produce a huge sound with fewer pipes by doubling up their use in an ingenious manner. The proposal for Freemasons’ Hall included this kind of scheme and the organ has a lot of sound in a compact space.
We live in a time when many people think any object worthy of its period – Willis’s design is an excellent example of mid-1930s workmanship – should not be altered or improved. Indeed, grant funds usually insist this is so. But few would disagree that a change that enabled the pipework to speak out more clearly, and enabled some additional resources, would be sensible if we are to serve the next generations well.
The Grand Temple is quite different at Mark Masons Hall. A long auditorium that seats four hundred, it has a relatively low ceiling, lots of carpet and a propensity to attract men in heavy suits. The acoustic is dead by comparison with any church. As a Grade II-listed building of great beauty, we are not permitted to alter the appearance by installing a pipe organ. An electronic organ was in use for around twenty-five years and in February this year it was replaced by the very latest digital organ.
Good digital technology has now been with us for a decade or more and a market has emerged far removed from the disco and home organ. It is said you can blindfold the experts in the back of a church, play them a pipe organ and a new digital organ, and they’d be hard-pressed to pick the imposter.
The process of acquiring a new organ for Mark Masons Hall was lengthy. Many orders, Provinces, lodges and individual brethren gave generously to raise the necessary funds. Three leading makers then submitted proposals for a digital organ and the contract was awarded to Wyvern, which builds its organs in the UK using mainly British components.
Digital organs now use a sampling technique. For this they record each individual note from the pipework of an organ of merit. During installation and commissioning much time was spent at night, when the surroundings were quiet, to voice each stop. It is this that makes the organ so much better than a standard one. Care was also taken to position the speakers to best effect.
Not every masonic temple can afford a custom-built organ and the story so far has described those used for important Grand Lodge ceremonies. Back at home, you may find a more modest instrument, but even these can be entirely suitable for our purposes. So, should we preserve and repair the old pipe organ or buy an electronic one? My guess is there are but a dozen pipe organs in masonic premises that are worth the cost of rebuilding, especially now that such good results can be achieved with digital equipment.
Within Freemasonry there is a shortage of funds, so it is prudent to go for the best sound per pound, and there is a compelling argument in favour of digital instruments for masonic purposes.
blow by blow: HISTORY OF THE PIPES
The origins of the organ can be traced back to the third century BC, when an octave of pipes was first strung together and attached to some fireside bellows. However, it took until the twelfth century AD to refine the organ into something workable that would become the ‘must-have’ accessory for every monastery. By the seventeenth century complex instruments were in use that would be broadly familiar to us today. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a religious revival and increased wealth led to the building of new churches. At the same time, Freemasonry expanded rapidly and organs were installed in every temple that was built.
By the end of the century there were many lodges and plenty of organists. Many people had a piano at home and a generation of Freemasons was born who were not bashful about singing. Small pipe organs appeared everywhere and survived because of their relative simplicity, and several masonic temples continue to use them a hundred years later.
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To the great majority of brethren, the difference in the tone of a pipe organ and the modern digital ones would certainly be unnoticeable, and for myself I look forward to being able to use the new one at Mark Masons’ Hall.
Lifelites, the children’s technology charity, has expanded its operations, picking up several awards and securing record funds in the process
A subsidiary of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), Lifelites donates packages of fun and educational technology for children who stay, learn and play in all 44 children’s hospices in the country.
In addition to providing the equipment, Lifelites installs and maintains it, as well as training care staff. It became a charity in its own right in 2006, and since then the RMTGB has provided in-kind assistance rather than financial support. This means Lifelites relies on donations from other sources including Freemasons, the public and companies such as Thomas Cook – whose Children’s Charity donated £60,000 in 2011 – and organisations like GamesAid, the gaming industry’s charity.
Most of the charity’s volunteers are Freemasons, who assist in providing technological support in many of the projects and acting as trustees. ‘Our success is underpinned by our links with Freemasonry,’ explains Lifelites chief executive Simone Enefer-Doy. ‘Their support is vital to our continued growth. We also have a great relationship with both the RMTGB and Provinces across the country.’
A major masonic contribution last year came from the West Riding Masonic Charities that enabled a Soundbeam to be installed at the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield. By using movement to produce sound, the Soundbeam enables children with even the most profound physical and learning disabilities to make music using whatever movement they can manage.
Provinces can become involved with Lifelites – who can showcase the equipment at masonic or other events – thanks to a donation from the Province of Surrey, which enabled the purchase of demonstration equipment. Lifelites staff can also attend after-dinner sessions and provide promotional material.
Phase 1 of the rebuild at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) care home James Terry Court, in Croydon, has been officially opened. The event was attended by more than 40 representatives from the Province of Surrey, the Association of Friends and the RMBI.
RMBI President Willie Shackell opened the event and spoke about the history of the RMBI, which started in East Croydon with its first home, named ‘Asylum for Worthy, Aged and Decayed Freemasons’ in 1850. Shackell went on to explain why the rebuild of the home was necessary, as it needed to adapt to the changing needs of older people.
Thanks were given to Dennis Vine, who oversaw the development of the home in his role as Co-opted Trustee. Julian Birch, Regional Property Operations Manager, who sadly passed away in October, was remembered for all his efforts in the rebuild. The Association of Friends and the Province of Surrey, Metropolitan Grand Lodge, and the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight were also thanked for their support. The event saw the official opening of the lounge and library by Eric Stuart-Bamford.
Freemasonry has thrived for centuries because it adapts while staying true to its principles, as Director of Special Projects John Hamill explains
As we begin the countdown to the tercentenary celebrations of Grand Lodge in 2017, a great deal of research is being undertaken to establish how Freemasonry has developed and what we have contributed to society. Despite nearly one hundred and fifty years of serious masonic research, we have yet to answer the questions of why, when and where Freemasonry as we understand it originated. Even with the great amount of work going on now, I doubt if those answers will be found by 2017.
There is another question, to my mind, as important and interesting as that of our origins: why has Freemasonry survived on the scale to which it exists today? Those four London lodges that came together in 1717 cannot in their wildest imaginings have thought that three hundred years later their Grand Lodge would have in excess of 250,000 members in more than 8,000 lodges across the world.
We regard Freemasonry as being something special and different. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, it was only one of a myriad of fraternal and benevolent societies and associations. Many of them copied Freemasonry in their organisation and use of ceremony and regalia. For the majority, the benevolent and charitable aspects predominated and the ritual became less important. Most of them completely disappeared in the twentieth century as the developing welfare state began to offer the safety net they had provided. Freemasonry, however, flourished.
For much of the eighteenth century Freemasonry was not so different from many other organisations. The ceremonies, while they attempted to instil a basic moral code, were often seen as simply a curious means of entering what was basically a social and benevolent association. The watershed came in the aftermath of the of the two Grand Lodges on 27 December 1813. A great deal of reorganisation and standardisation took place that resulted in the ceremonies, and above all the meaning behind them, becoming the basis of the institution itself.
This fundamental shift in emphasis was the first step in ensuring the survival of Freemasonry. It demonstrated an ability – sometimes deliberate and almost accidental at others – to adapt Freemasonry to its era. Changes were always made to the outward customs and never to the basic principles, tenets and landmarks of the Order. These are rightly seen as the essence of Freemasonry and are inalienable.
There are, however, deeper reasons as to why we are still a living organisation. Grand Lodge has always refused to define or explain the meaning of the several ceremonies. This has prevented the rise of any form of dogma. It is up to the individual to make their own journey and to find their own understanding. Hence, the membership forms a wide spectrum, from those who simply view it as a social opportunity to those who, wrongly, believe it will provide the answer to all of life’s questions!
Freemasonry has a breadth that appeals to those who are seeking friendship and moral guidance; an opportunity to be of service within the community; a quiet haven for a few hours from the troubles of the world; or just the pure, simple enjoyment in being in the company of like-minded people.
After forty years of study I remain convinced that, whatever fate may throw at Freemasonry – and provided we remain true to our principles yet adaptable to our times, and retain the breadth of our membership – the Order will survive. It will continue to give to future generations the pleasure that we and our predecessors have found in it.
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There is nothing wrong whatsoever in maintaining a building and using lodge non-charitable funds for this end. I believe that if a particular building suddenly requires major expenditure then that lodge should be allowed to say to the Province that their charitable donations for a short period of time may well be diminished while they give attention to whatever problem has arisen. This should be perfectly acceptable because it secures the lodge building for future generations. The lodge can return to charitable giving in due course and this further ensures that future generations also give to charity.