Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

14 November 2018 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

Companions, it is a great pleasure to see so many of you here this morning, and I wish to particularly welcome those of you who are attending Supreme Grand Chapter for the first time.

Our journey through Masonry can be thought of as a series of ‘First times’. Of course, we all remember our initiation, but this is followed by a number of other masonic milestones. One learns and delivers the first piece of ritual, visits another Lodge or Chapter for the first time, gains a first office, and passes through a first chair. For some, other offices beckon whilst others are content to direct and, on occasions, ‘tut’ from the back benches.

One ‘First Time’ that all of us here this morning have shared is the moment in the Royal Arch ceremony where the blindfold comes off and the vault is revealed. We find ourselves surrounded, more often than not, by our friends and the banners of the Tribes of Israel. That is a truly unique moment in Freemasonry and one which candidates frequently comment on later in the evening.

The ability to think back and re-live that moment, and all the other moments we have enjoyed in our lives is one of the wonders of being human. The desire to share those experiences we value, and pass them on to others, so that they too might experience them in the same fashion, is something we value enormously. Our masonic experiences are, of course, no different. We invite people to join those chapters whose membership we have enjoyed and we ask people into those Orders that we value.

We won’t always get this right and I urge you, think hard about why that might be. What might we have been able to do to improve things for those we ask to join us to ensure that they get the most from their membership? Were we perhaps more interested in ensuring that there was another candidate for Exaltation rather than thinking whether we were prepared to be as welcoming as we ought?

Just as could be said for the Craft, it is an undoubted truth that the Royal Arch is not for everybody. Our detractors, even within the masonic community speak of impenetrable ritual and overly long lectures. This need not be the case and with a little imagination the work is easily shared and, as I have often said in the past, a change of voice can reinvigorate both the candidate and the ceremony.

I have often wondered, and, indeed, spoken about why quite so many masons, after their third degree, fail to seek those further explanations offered by the Holy Royal Arch, yet it appears that many still do not. We should not be shy about explaining to those who are not yet our Companions the benefit of ensuring that they have as complete a picture as possible of the masonic journey.

In a world ever more willing to draw conclusions from a paucity of evidence, from unsubstantiated opinion or from the salacious gossip of others, something which teaches us the importance of seeking more of the ‘Whole Picture’ should never be underestimated.

With the upcoming launch of Solomon, another first for UGLE, and its numerous articles on the Royal Arch, its origins, ceremonies and splendour, we have begun to address the lack of understanding that puts some candidates off as they pass through unfamiliar territory. Solomon, of course, is a large learning resource and it covers not only the Royal Arch but the three Craft degrees as well. It is quite right that those whose curiosity is aroused, and who have chosen to complete their Craft journey should be able to explore the thoughts and meaning behind such a wonderful legacy of fundamental truths.

It is a great sadness to me that in some parts of the world, and even in some parts of our own constitution, the Craft and Royal Arch are uncomfortable bedfellows. However, I also derive great pleasure from seeing the large number of instances where this is clearly not the case and Royal Arch membership is actively promoted throughout the Constitution as I strongly feel it should be.

The Craft and the Royal Arch should get on together not because the Book of Constitutions tells us that they must, but rather because there is an obvious synergy between the two. The Royal Arch completes Craft Masonry and it is the obvious and right next step in the masonic journey. For me, it has provided great enjoyment over the years and I know that there are thousands of Brethren out there for whom the same could be true. Let us all consider what we can best do about this.

Published in Speeches

Metropolitan Grand Secretary David Swain has taken to the skies as part of a sponsored tandem skydive, in aid of Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London’s Lift for Life appeal

After the success of last year’s event, James Macdonald, of Gresham Lodge No. 7651 in London and a skydiving instructor, organised a second event. This appeal will see London Freemasons buy two super-aerial platforms for the London Fire Brigade at a cost of £2.5 million, which when online, will be the highest of any platforms in Europe.

The call went out on social media and through the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London website and a number of members quickly signed up to take part. Following in the footsteps of Metropolitan Grand Inspector Mark Stollery, who took part last year, Metropolitan Grand Secretary David Swain was keen to be involved.

With the places booked, the members went to work to raise money for this very worthy cause. The combined total so far stands at almost £13,000.

When the day came, the nervous group arrived bright and early to an airfield just north of Peterborough, where James Macdonald was waiting to give them a full safety briefing and an outline for the morning. Once complete, everyone donned their jumpsuits, collected a ridiculous looking hat and met their instructors ready to board the aircraft. 

Tentatively, the group boarded the aircraft and were quickly flying up to the exit altitude of 13,000ft. The nerves were growing, but the camaraderie in the cosy light aircraft helped maintain a relatively jovial mood. Beautiful views from the plane were soon forgotten however, as the door opened, letting in a cool breeze and an element of realised fear.

One by one, the group and their instructors edged towards the door and rolled out, exiting high above the Peterborough skies, reaching speeds of 130mph on the way down. After about 45 seconds the parachutes were deployed and the noisy, overwhelming excitement of freefall became the peaceful bliss of flying under their parachutes. 

After circling around for about five minutes and taking in breath-taking views, everyone landed safely on the landing area, all sporting some of the biggest smiles they’d ever experienced. As if the skydiving wasn’t enough, Scott Moffat of Veritas Lodge No. 4983, got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, who had also just jumped. Thankfully, she said yes.

Those who took part included David Swain, Scott Moffat, Paul Skipper of Old Foresters Lodge No. 7726, Alasdair Brown of Hampden Lodge No. 2427, Frederico Pessoa of Bee Hive Lodge No. 2809, Chris Griggs of Cholmeley Lodge No. 1731 and Maria Jeffery on behalf of Lloyds Lodge No. 5673.

After the event, David Swain said: 'The tandem skydive in support of our Lift for Life appeal for the London Fire Brigade was very well organised and slickly executed. Blessed with perfect skydiving weather, clear skies and great visibility, it was a fantastic experience and one I would recommend to anyone. Grateful thanks to James MacDonald and all at UK Parachuting for a seamless day.'

If you'd like to donate to the cause, please click here.

Suffolk Freemasons Andy Gentle and Nick Moulton cycled all the way down to Freemasons' Hall on 12 September 2018, completing the final part of a four year challenge which has helped to raise over £21,600 towards their Festival 2019 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution

The Provincial Grand Master of Suffolk Ian Yeldham, together with his partner Amanda, wishing to show their support, accompanied Andy and Nick on this last cycle. All arrived safely and were greeted by Sir David Wootton, UGLE Assistant Grand Master, and James Newman, Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, along with around 70 supportive members from Suffolk.

Back in 2014, Andy and Nick came up with the idea of cycling to every lodge within the Province to attend a meeting, looking to raise awareness of the Festival whilst also hoping to gain an extra donation from each lodge they visited. With the added bonus of getting a little fitter and also being some of the very few to have visited all 68 lodges in the Province.

Their original target of £6,600 had to be re-evaluated due to fantastic support, as in the end the total amount raised was over £21,600 with 2,260 miles cycled. 

Andy commented: 'The cycling challenge has been just that, no easy task either physically or logistically, with one of the hardest aspects being the juggle with work trying to fit in around all the various lodges meeting dates. 

'But it was rewarding in so many ways, seeing the beautiful Suffolk countryside in a way we would never have otherwise seen it, making so many new friends amongst brothers and of course being so very well supported by all the lodges.'

‘Suicide is the major cause of death in all people under 35 years of age’. That alarming statistic is one that will probably come as a major shock to many people. It certainly was to the group of West Lancashire Freemasons who were visiting the Warrington headquarters of the charity Papyrus, who have received a grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) of £65,342

The MCF has made the grant on behalf of the Province of West Lancashire, but on this occasion the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison was accompanied by his colleague from the neighbouring Province of Cheshire, Stephen Blank.

Papyrus, which was formed in 1997 in Lancashire, has three simple aims: provide confidential help and advice to young people and anyone worried about a young person; help others to prevent young suicide by working with and training professionals; and campaign and influence national policy. They summarise this as: Support, Equip and Influence.

The visitors were welcomed by CEO Ged Flynn, who explained the work that the charity does and also outlined the problems that are being faced nationally, as they try to de-stigmatise suicide and raise awareness of this tragic loss of young people. Ged stressed that the charity has values that it strongly promotes.

He said: 'We believe that many young suicides are preventable, and that no young person should suffer alone with thoughts or feelings of hopelessness. We believe that everyone can play a role in preventing young suicide.'

Stephen Habgood, who is the Chairman of Papyrus, then very movingly related his own story of the loss of his only child, Christopher 26, to suicide in 2009. Sarah Fitchett, a trustee of the charity, also shared her own tragic experience in speaking of the death of her 14-year-old son, Ben by suicide in 2013.

Their openness in speaking so frankly about their emotional experiences was a very moving revelation to the visitors but also cause for admiration, as they explained how they are working to try and prevent others having to experience the same trauma.

The £65,000 grant will enable the charity to engage another advisor to work on their HOPELineUK helpline (0800 068 4141), which is there to provide confidential support and advice to young people struggling with thoughts of suicide, and anyone worried about a young person.

The Masonic Temple on Stopford Road in Jersey is one of the most impressive of its kind, so much so that local Freemason Julian Spurr believed it would be a fitting venue for his wedding

The Temple has recently benefitted from a complete refurbishment which saw the addition of a new bar, provincial robing room, disability access points, lady’s toilets plus a complete interior and exterior redecoration. Once again, the building is a fantastic hub for the members of the Island and fit to serve the Craft long into the future.

It wasn’t always so well polished, built in 1864 the property suffered heavily during the Nazi Occupation of Jersey and was ransacked by Nazi treasure hunters in 1941. Those dark days are now a distant memory and a new chapter has begun. Earlier in the year, history was made once more when Julian Spurr, of St Aubin's Lodge No. 958, and his blushing bride Karen tied the knot in the Corinthian-styled surroundings of the Jersey temple. 

Julian said: 'Karen and I were discussing wedding venues one evening, and I reminded her that someone had mentioned to me that the Province had been toying with the idea of possibly promoting weddings at the Temple.'

When Julian and Karen arrived at the Temple, he took her inside and told her to close her eyes before turning the lights on – she said: 'This is the place. This where I want us to get married.'

The couple had already decided on a Great Gatsby theme and felt that the building would more than lend its colours and majesty to the 1920s style, not to mention the beauty of the exterior featuring in the all-important photographs. The newlyweds entertained 85 guests, with everyone throwing themselves into the glamorous theme.

Pre-ceremony drinks were held in the rear courtyard of the Temple, and the reception and sumptuous buffet wedding feast in the dining room.

Julian said: 'We danced the night away to music from the Charleston and Gatsby eras, the fifties and sixties, right up to Jess Glynne and Ed Sheeran – the Temple had never rocked like that before.'

During and after the event, countless guests commented on the fact that they had never been to such a wedding before, in such magnificent surroundings – a hugely successful first wedding held in Jersey’s Masonic Temple.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 11:23

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2018

Quarterly Communication

12 September 2018 
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, it is a pleasure to see you all back after the long, hot summer, and I would like to particularly welcome again those younger members of our Universities Scheme and, indeed, anyone else making their first visit to Quarterly Communications this September.

Brethren, this year we will see perhaps the greatest change in senior leadership within the Craft that there has ever been - and I'm not of course referring to the three of us! No fewer than 12 Provincial Grand Masters and seven District Grand Masters will have retired and their successors Installed by the end of this year. With each Installation ride the hopes of not just the members of that particular Province or District but, to a certain extent, the success and longevity of the Craft itself. More than ever before we expect so much from our leaders. We hold them accountable for the guardianship of a heritage stretching back centuries, and also for the future of the Craft, its growth and development and, dare I say, the innovation and change needed to allow it to flourish and grow. 

If we are to attract and engage our membership, and those who might flourish as members, we need to be not only responsive to the society in which we live, but also mould and form the perceptions of that society. It is quite right and proper that I pay tribute and thank those who, often for a decade or more, steward and safeguard the Ideals of the Craft for future generations.

Historically we have been a melting pot for ideas, a Brotherhood where concepts at the forefront of science and social change could be debated. We have been fortunate to count amongst our members some of the greatest minds of any age, Alexander Fleming and Edward Jenner; Scott of the Antarctic and Ernest Shackleton; Pope, Trollope, Burns, Kipling, and, like Sir Winston Churchill, those who truly valued service above the external advantages of rank and fortune.

Then, as now, there was not a ‘Right’ way of thinking, but a respect for all ways of thinking - some orthodox, some challenging. If we, as an organisation have a ‘unique selling point’ ghastly expression, I know, we respect each other, irrespective of our beliefs.

I know that some of our members were uncomfortable with the direction the Law has taken on issues such as gender fluidity and the obligation that puts upon us as individuals who pay due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become our place of residence.

I know from the debates that have been held up and down the country that there are similarly a large number of you who feel that our response to recent changes in the Law is generous, decent and open minded and you applaud it. 

Throughout our history our members have held vastly different views on many different subjects. It is one of our great strengths to encompass this breadth of views. Unlike the echo chambers of social media, we meet people who are different to us, who think differently, but that does not set us apart, or put us at variance; it binds us together as it did for those many freemasons who have gone before us. 

Brethren, this is one of the many things that, in my view, we have to offer society, and that so many outside the Craft could learn and prosper from, and it is just one of the many reasons I am proud to be Pro Grand Master.

Published in Speeches

There was a large gathering of Freemasons from all across Buckinghamshire at Newton Longville Free Church, as they came together to attend a coffee morning in response to a letter which had been received alerting them to the situation of two-year-old Dexter Ward

Dexter is going blind due to infantile glaucoma, a rare condition unrelated to adult glaucoma, but still has a little sight. His mother, Julie- Ann, has been training in reading braille and is anxious to start teaching Dexter as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, both the NHS and the Royal National Institute of Blind People are unable to provide a braille machine on loan until Dexter reaches five years of age. By this time, he is expected to be completely blind, making the teaching more difficult.

Sue Sparling, and other representatives from the Church, got together to organise a coffee morning, raffle and bring and buy to help towards raising the £1,700 cost of a basic machine. It was at this point that it came to the attention of Buckinghamshire’s Assistant Provincial Grand Master Phil Blacklaw.

Phil put out the call to invite any Freemasons who were able to support the event to attend. On the day, there was an excellent attendance of members from both the north and south of the Province including Tom Davies, Provincial Grand Tyler for Buckinghamshire. Tom presented Dexter’s mother with £500 towards the machine explaining that the money was raised by his restoration and recycling of Masonic regalia. Winslow Lions Club also made a generous donation of £500.

By the end of the morning, the event had surpassed the target allowing Dexter’s family to purchase a Tiger Cub braille embosser which costs £3,700 and will enable him to use it well into his teenage years and beyond. Dexter’s mother was astonished and delighted by the turnout, expecting that the event would only make a contribution to the target amount.

The Braille embosser has now been purchased and is being used to print braille books by Dexter’s parents. After the event, Dexter’s parents sent a letter of thanks: ‘The picture shows Dexter sitting next to the Braille embosser. The embosser is like a big dot matrix printer which punches the dots on to paper or clear acetate.

‘Dexter is holding one of his favourite Mr Men books. It is the first book we have converted to braille for him. We type the words into the braille software which then converts it into the dots and then feed a clear sheet of acetate into the embosser which punches the braille on to it. We then cut the side off the book, insert the acetate pages and then rebind the book.

‘Dexter loves his new book which will be the first of many. We would very much like to thank everyone for their generosity in helping a little boy access his favourite books.’

Derbyshire Freemasons have donated £1,700 to the Jon Egging Trust, which supports young people who find themselves in difficult circumstances

On 20th August 2011, Flt Lt Jon Egging lost his life whilst completing a display at the Bournemouth Air Festival. He was coming to the end of his first year with the world-famous Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team ‘The Red Arrows’, flying in the position of Red 4.

In 2012, the Jon Egging Trust was formed to help realise Jon’s dream of inspiring young people through his love of aviation, teamwork and leadership – helping them to overcome adversity, identify their strengths and work towards their ambitions.

The staff and volunteers for the Trust are all chosen for their ability to act as positive role models; in turn they inspire and enthuse young people to reach their full potential. Their accredited programmes increase young peoples’ self-confidence, self-esteem and other vital life and work skills, empowering them to become role models within their own communities. 

Derbyshire Freemason Adrian Clarke, Worshipful Master of Bradelei Lodge No. 9205, and his brother-in-law Flight Lieutenant Chris Lyndon-Smith (Red 4) were acutely aware of this very worthy charity and inspired the lodge to make a much welcome contribution to the Trust. The funds principally came from the fundraising from Adrian’s Lodge Ladies Evening, where the Red Arrows had generously donated some of the raffle prizes.

When match funded by the Provincial Grand Charity of Derbyshire Freemasons, they were pleased to be able to present the Jon Egging Trust with a donation of £1,700. They were then invited to make the presentation at RAF Scampton where the Red Arrows are stationed and met with the pilots and ground crew.

This donation is a fitting preface to even more Derbyshire masonic support for organisations associated with the RAF taking place this year in the Province. In October 2018, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire will be making substantial donations to the each of the Air Training Core units in Derbyshire.

A 15-year-old son and grandson of two Bristol Freemasons has completed four endurance challenges in six weeks to raise over £5,000 for a national prostate cancer charity

When Dr Richard Hayes was suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in April this year, his grandson Edward felt pretty powerless and didn’t know what to do to help, so he decided to undertake a series of challenges to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. A retired GP, Richard was having an annual PSA blood test due to a family history of the disease.

Even though he had no symptoms, his PSA level was a little bit raised, which prompted referral to a specialist. The specialist turned out to be a member of his own lodge in Bristol, but unfortunately after he was investigated it was shown that the cancer had already spread to his bones.

Edward spoke to his teachers at Beechen Cliff School in Bath about what he could do to try and raise money. As Edward recalls: 'My school organises lots of outdoor activities and the teachers organise training and supervision to allow us to take part in a number of events. Normally, we would do one or two of these, but this year I thought I would do the Ten Tors, The March for Men, National Three Peaks Challenge and Centurion Challenge all together, to try to raise money to support Prostate Cancer UK and make sure that more people are aware of this disease and try to help men get diagnosed earlier so that they can be treated.'

For the Ten Tors, Edwards was the leader of his team which involved hiking 35 miles over the rough terrain of Dartmoor at the end of May 2018, visiting 10 different nominated tors in under two days. In the middle of June, he took part in The March for Men in Bristol. Organised by Prostate Cancer UK, it gives families the opportunity to walk in support or in memory of someone they know with prostate cancer. Edward did this walk with the rest of his family, but to make sure it was a proper endurance challenge he ran the whole 10K course twice.

In the last weekend in June, Edward completed the National Three Peaks Challenge with lots of other pupils from his school. This involved climbing the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales over one weekend – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Mount Snowdon. They walked 23 miles and climbed the overall total of 10,052ft.

The last challenge was the school’s annual Centurion Challenge. This event has been running at the school for 50 years now and is a 100 mile walk from Bath to Hungerford and back. It must be completed within 48 hours in order to be a “Centurion”. Yet because it was so hot this year, for safety reasons, the walk was shortened to 50 miles in 24 hours. 

Edward added: 'I was really disappointed because I wanted to do the full 100, but the teachers had to make sure we were all safe. Even though he’s on chemotherapy at the moment, my grandpa got to watch me come in at the finish and gave me a massive hug. We were both a bit tearful. I had a big blister on my heel, but I managed to complete the course in 8hrs 57 minutes.

'My dad is a Freemason in Bristol and last year he was Provincial Senior Grand Warden, so when they heard about grandpa’s illness, lots of the people in Bristol lodges sent me sponsorship money to support my fundraising. It’s brilliant what fundraising support the Bristol masons have given me and I hope that I can join my grandpa’s lodge when I’m old enough.

'When I got home after the Centurion Challenge, my great uncle Roy, who is a Freemason in Gloucestershire, presented me with an old ice axe. He was one of the first young people to do the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award in 1959 and went on an expedition to Greenland with Sir John Hunt and Sir Edmund Hillary, who were both famous mountaineers. This was the axe that he took on that expedition and he gave it to me to celebrate successfully finishing these challenges. I’m really grateful to everyone who has sponsored me for doing these four events, to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.'

Prostate Cancer affects one in eight men in the UK. A man who has a father or brother who has been diagnosed, is two and a half times more likely to also be affected. You can contribute to the fundraising initiative here.

United Grand Lodge of England has been presented with a new organ in Temple 10 at Freemasons’ Hall, which has been generously donated by The Grand Stewards’ Lodge

The funds for the new organ were raised over a three-year period, through a combination of the generosity of individual members of the lodge and through donations from some of the 19 ‘Red-Apron’ Lodges which nominate Grand Stewards.

A total of £65,000 was raised to pay for the new organ, which was installed in the latter part of 2017 by Viscount Organs and inaugurated at The Grand Stewards’ Lodge installation meeting on 17th January 2018 by the then Grand Organist, Carl Jackson MVO.

The journey started when The Grand Stewards’ Lodge were looking for a suitable project they could support to commemorate the Tercentenary of the first Grand Lodge on 24th June 1717. It was during this time that the organ in Temple 10, roughly 50 years old, stopped working and so it was decided that its replacement would be chosen as the lodge’s project to celebrate the Tercentenary.

The Organ Committee decided that the new instruments specification and layout should mirror the fine renovated Willis III pipe organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall. The organ console is made of oak, stained to match the existing furniture, it has three manuals (Great, Swell and Choir) and a full pedal board, 55 speaking stops and a full set of couplers, together with the same number of thumb and toe pistons as are available on the Grand Temple Organ.

UGLE has established close links with the Royal College of Organists, which was founded by Freemason Richard Limpus in 1864, and now funds the RCO Freemasons’ Prize, as well as providing Freemasons’ Bursaries to cover items such as tuition fees and travelling expenses. As a result, the new organ in Temple 10 will be available to pupils who wish to practise for their exams from September 2018.

Read more about the history of The Grand Stewards’ Lodge

Published in UGLE
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