When the first lockdown began it was clear that a support network was required for the members of the two Craft Lodges, Mark Lodge and Chapter that meet in Ross on Wye Masonic Hall
Two members, Andrew Moore and Billy Russell set up an overall package of measures including buddy groups that spanned across the Lodges and Chapter, a weekly zoom call and a weekly newsletter. The weekly zoom calls are still going strong a year on and interestingly they have attracted many of the older members.
Following some one-to-one telephone support from Billy, members became comfortable in setting up and using zoom. Many Brethren have gone on to use their new skills to keep in contact with their families and friends and have spawned other zoom initiatives. The first newsletter edited by Andrew was published on 6th April 2020 and has been sent out weekly ever since. This provided useful community news including local shops with online delivery services and other useful information.
The Ross on Wye Masonic community got behind the initiative by contributing articles and regular features where Brethren shared their creative hobbies and pastimes, enabling us to learn a lot about each other and our hidden talents. Articles have included a number of members who enjoy bell ringing, wood turning, painting and model making as well as aikido experts and hockey players. Through the articles members have also had the opportunity to learn some of the history of the local area with long forgotten racecourses, long closed railway lines and the history of some of Lodge buildings. Gardens have featured heavily which spawned the idea for a Provincial gardening competition. The success of the Newsletter attracted not only a regular local following, but also the attention of the Province.
In November 2020 the Newsletter moved to a Provincial level taking in a wider audience across Herefordshire. It is now distributed across the Province via email and published on the Provincial website. A network of Communications Leads has been established to feed in regular articles. The newsletter has kept us entertained, not only in reading and taking part in the weekly puzzles, but also for members to contribute. Some have taken the time to pen a regular column with interesting and amusing tales of their lives. In fact, during lockdown, it is fair to say that we have learned more about each other than they possibly would have done had we been meeting regularly. The online skills learned have enabled members to keep in touch with their own families and friends. As a direct result of lockdown, we have also reconnected with Lodge members who have moved away and are unable to attend face to face meetings but are regular attendees to our zoom calls.
It has even been proposed to keep the zoom calls after we are back meeting face to face and we hope the newsletter will continue to grow from strength to strength.