The Grand Secretary & Grand Scribe E Dr David Staples was kind enough to address the Cheshire Masters’ and Masons’ Forum in the first week of January. With an online audience of over 250 Freemasons in attendance, Dr Staples wished the members a Happy New Year, describing 2021 as 'the year Freemasonry gets going again.'
The special event, organised by Michael Shiels, Chairman of the Cheshire Masters’ and Masons’ Forum, was framed around a series of questions put forward by the audience, which included many distinguished guests, who were also addressed by the Provincial Grand Master of Cheshire, Stephen Martin Blank, who was very pleased to congratulate Brian Mayoh on reaching exactly 50 years in Freemasonry that evening. Amongst some of the areas discussed, Dr Staples told the assembly that a key priority for Freemasonry this year will be to ensure an even greater level of transparency between the fraternity and the general public, in order to finally put an end to the often talked about misconceptions surrounding the organisation.
He was also able to shed light on some of the valid fears surrounding the manner in which Freemasons meetings will be held in a post-vaccination world, stating that the medical guidance is at the forefront of their rationale behind UGLE’s decision. Linked to the pandemic, the work done by Masonic Halls across the country was applauded, with a special mention to the use of Cheshire View which is being used as a vaccination station.
Following a series of questions discussing the use of online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Dr Staples indicated that modernisation of the fraternity will inevitably take place, but will be proportionate. He assured members that such modernisation would not dilute the significance of actual Lodge meetings, stating that they need take place in a tyled room. However, new forms of communication such as the successful First Rising will continue after the pandemic is over, with Dr Staples recognising the importance of communication and its relationship with membership retention. As a result, UGLE are now moving to a position where there is an expectation for all of its members to use email, highlighting that emails are now a fact of life.
On a light hearted note, Dr Staples confessed to the fact that one of his more humbling moments was during the Tercentenary celebrations in 2017, whilst acting in his then role as Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, he arrived at his seat in the Royal Albert Hall to find that had been acquired by none other than one of the Grand Master’s Royal Protection Officers, and forcing him to stand up throughout the duration of the three hour event.
The opportunity to pose questions, and to have the Grand Secretary respond in such a knowledgeable, forthright and clear manner was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone involved, with Dr Staples noting that the audience number did not drop at all once the Manchester City v Manchester United football match started 45 minutes into his address, much to his relief!