Canterbury Cathedral hosted a Tercentenary thanksgiving service in recognition of its close and long-standing relationship with Freemasonry
More than 1,500 masons and their families came from across the Provinces of East Kent, West Kent, Surrey and Sussex to attend the service, which was held in the presence of the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Kent and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury.
The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, thanked the Duke of Kent for his support of the church. He recalled how the royal family helped when the building was damaged by bombing during World War II. He also paid tribute to the generous support of the masonic community, whose relationship with the cathedral dates back more than 100 years.
‘The idea of men coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time’ Geoffrey Dearing
At the time of the service, the cathedral was undergoing the largest restoration project in its history, the interior and exterior covered in scaffolding to allow the ancient building to be returned to its former glory. A donation of £300,000 from the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex funded repairs to the North West Transept, including new tower pinnacles and a spiral stone staircase.
East Kent Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing said: ‘The existence of Freemasonry for over 300 years bears witness to the fact that the idea of men from all walks of life coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time and inspired successive generations.’
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has given a grant of £31,000 to the Canterbury Cathedral Trust to support training for a young stonemasonry apprentice
East Kent PGM Geoffrey Dearing presented a cheque to the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis. Canterbury has seven apprentices – four stonemasons, a painter/decorator, scaffolder and chef.
East Kent Freemasons have given a grant of £31,000 to the Canterbury Cathedral Trust to support the fourth year’s training for a young apprentice stonemason at the Cathedral, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation
At a recent ceremony, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing, presented the donation to the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, saying how pleased the fraternity was to be able to continue their support for the scheme.
In reply, the Dean thanked him and all who had contributed saying how much it meant to the Cathedral and to the young apprentices who were just coming into 'these wonderful crafts here at the Cathedral'.
The apprenticeship programme at the Cathedral offers vocational training to young people that is truly life-changing. Seven apprentices are currently employed at Canterbury – four stonemasons, one painter and decorator, one scaffolder and one chef.
Apprentices are recruited through Kent schools, colleges and advertisements in the local press. Coming from varied backgrounds, they are encouraged to explore their creative talents within the inspirational setting of the Cathedral as well as developing the technical and life skills needed for a career in their chosen trade or craft. Whilst these training placements are exceptional opportunities in their own right, the Cathedral also makes every effort to provide subsequent employment for the apprentices.
Heather Newton, the Head of Conservation at the Cathedral, explained how the donation would be used: 'We are incredibly grateful to the Freemasons of East Kent and to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for this continuing support. There are lots of expenses associated with training Craft apprentices.
'We need to cover everything from travelling costs to and from College, to tools, specialist clothing and the time of more experienced Masons who act as trainers and mentors for our young people.'
This latest grant is in addition to the gift of over £300,000 presented to the Cathedral by the Provinces of East and West Kent, Surrey and Sussex, as part of the celebration of the Tercentenary of the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717. It continues a long and much valued relationship with the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion which dates back over 150 years.
From the Grand Secretary
By the time you receive this issue, our Tercentenary year will be well under way and our Rulers will have already attended overseas events in Denmark, Mumbai, India, and Zakynthos, Greece, at our unattached Star of the East Lodge, No. 880. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent has also attended a church service at Canterbury Cathedral for the Provinces of East and West Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We now await the broadcast in April of the long-anticipated Sky TV documentary Inside The Freemasons.
It is an exciting year as we build towards our showpiece event at the end of October. So far, it is likely that we will welcome around 160 Grand Lodges from around the world to celebrate with us at the Royal Albert Hall and look forward to our next 300 years. We now need to build on our successes and use this year to show ourselves as the vibrant and relevant organisation which is Freemasonry.
Looking forward to the Tercentenary in this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert highlights the planning and organisation of celebratory events taking place across not just the UK but the entire world. As Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes notes in his Senior Insights column, these are exciting times, so we should celebrate in style by showing our pride in being Freemasons.
When it comes to showing the best in Freemasonry, Spinnaker Lodge in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight is a shining beacon. We find out how its members are encouraging younger Freemasons into the Craft with a shared interest in all things sailing. The sixth specialist lodge in the Province to be consecrated in the past four years, Spinnaker will be visiting new marinas and hosting social events at sailing clubs to raise both its own profile and that of Freemasonry in 2017.
Best foot forward
In the north-west of England, we meet a 54-strong group of Freemasons, their families and friends who trekked across Morecambe Bay. Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson and his intrepid travellers not only raised money to help victims of the Cumbria floods, but also showed how Freemasonry is connecting with local communities. The team joined some 1,000 walkers at Arnside Promenade to brave the wet and puddled sands for a memorable day that is now an annual event in the Provincial calendar.
The opportunities for Freemasonry are not just in the face we show the world, but are also in our governance, our leadership, our retention and our management of masonic halls. The Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, David Wootton, reports on how he and his team are leading the implementation and delivery of our agreed strategy for Freemasonry to 2020. As David notes, there is much to do but also much to enjoy.
‘We need to use this year to show ourselves as vibrant and relevant’
Brethren, 2017 is without doubt a landmark year in the history of our great organisation. It provides a wonderful opportunity both to celebrate past achievements and to ‘lay schemes and draw designs’ to ensure its future.
I am very conscious that we are already three months into the year and that a number of celebratory events have already taken place.
I was particularly pleased to be able to attend the service at Canterbury Cathedral on 18 February, which was a marvellous celebration of our achievements, and I look forward to taking part in other events during the year.
I am impressed by the number and variety of events that are taking place in the Metropolitan area and our Provinces and Districts. I know how you have all worked and are working tirelessly to ensure that our Tercentenary year is both memorable and enjoyable.
I wish you every success in 2017 and, above all, strength and stability in the future.
A Canterbury tale
The links between Freemasonry and Canterbury Cathedral have helped preserve this iconic building. Glyn Brown gets to the foundations of a historic relationship that was only renewed 10 years ago
Canterbury Cathedral is a place of strange and majestic beauty, from the echoing cloisters and soaring Bell Harry Tower to the dazzling stained-glass windows and vaulted ceilings.
Founded in AD597, rebuilt and enlarged, it seems to sanctify and protect Canterbury. With the pale Caen-stone grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage Site dwarfing the modern buildings around it, the Cathedral has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. Chaucer’s motley crew are perhaps the best known of those travelling to its sanctuary to worship at the seat of the Anglican church and the shrine of St Thomas Becket.
The sense of peace and the knowledge of the sheer human endeavour that went into its construction make the Cathedral a deeply moving place. Added to which, there are ties between Freemasonry and the very fabric of the Cathedral that go far back in time.
The building has survived all sorts of trauma, from the civil war to damage during World War II, and so requires ongoing restoration. And this, in part, is where Freemasonry comes in today. Not only does the Grand Charity donate regularly, but Kent Freemasons and their neighbouring Provinces have pledged to raise a substantial sum for a particularly urgent project.
Launched by Provincial Grand Master of East Kent Geoffrey Dearing, the 2017 Canterbury Cathedral Appeal is being coordinated by Roger Odd (pictured), Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master of East Kent: ‘For a long time, I had no idea there had been links between the Cathedral and Freemasons,’ Roger admits. ‘Then I realised Archbishops of Canterbury had been Freemasons – people like Geoffrey Fisher, who crowned our current Queen. I also saw a picture of Past Provincial Grand Master of Kent Lord Cornwallis at a service in 1936. There had been connections, but the relationship hadn’t been re-established for some time.’
It was 10 years ago, when Roger was asked to find out if Freemasons could attend a Cathedral Evensong service, that this all changed. ‘I made an approach, met someone from the Cathedral Trust, which was about to launch an appeal for restoration work funding, and our relationship started again. It was really just us asking what Freemasons could do to help.’
The relationship has since blossomed and Roger now visits the Cathedral several times a month, often going behind the scenes. ‘It is such a privilege. You see the actual construction of this glorious, iconic building, how it’s survived, how bits haven’t survived – and why it needs such tender loving care.’
‘It is such a privilege to see the actual construction of this glorious, iconic building.’ Roger Odd
Investing in craft
One of the more resonant things to have come out of the relationship is the grant of £22,000, given for the past three years by the Grand Charity towards funding an apprentice stonemason. ‘The trainees are passionate about what they’re doing, and it’s lovely to see some of them now becoming master masons and trainers themselves,’ says Roger.
The Kent Museum of Freemasonry is currently mounting a timely exhibition to explain the bond between Freemasons and the Cathedral building. A video features a stonemason at work: ‘He’s a young stonemason who we supported and he’s so dedicated, so enthusiastic, and only too pleased to show you how to try the job yourself – he let me handle the tools so I understood it.’
How did that feel? ‘I was scared, first of all! It’s the skill of being able to chip stone away at an angle, to use that heavy maul and chisel correctly. Some of these tools are years old, but the masons know exactly how to make the right groove and create the perfect figure or moulding.’
Heather Newton, stonemason and the Cathedral’s head of conservation, sees the Freemasons’ support as nothing less than a blessing. ‘We’re desperately in need of funds,’ she says. ‘It’s a huge building, and there’s always something that needs doing. The Freemasons have been immensely generous, but the fact that they’ve given much of their donation specifically for training apprentices is particularly helpful. It’s proper, practical help, and in many cases it’s been a lifeline for some very talented people. You see them develop over the course of the apprenticeship – the experience enriches them.’
For Newton, the stonemasons are the ‘guardians’ of the Cathedral. It’s almost as if the building is a living, breathing thing that holds people’s hopes and beliefs within it. ‘It’s exactly like that, an extraordinary place.’ But like any living thing, it needs support. ‘The weather throws everything at the Cathedral. The south side gets lashed by rain and wind, then hot sun in summer. The north side is attacked by cold.’
Does it cause you pain when you see it start to crumble?
‘It does sometimes, when you see really old little bits of detail just hanging on by a whisker. If something precious is on the brink we take it out and put it in a safe place, replacing it with as accurate a copy as we can. After all, the original will still bear that first stonemason’s marks.’
The most pressing issue is the deterioration of the north-west transept and its pinnacles. One of the oldest parts of the building, dating back to the 11th century, it supports the area of the Martyrdom, the small altar to St Thomas Becket, as well as one of the breathtaking stained-glass windows Freemasons of the past helped provide, dating from 1954.
With the Cathedral in need of support, it was a happy coincidence that Roger was considering how best to mark the Freemasons’ Tercentenary. The result is that the Provinces of East and West Kent, Sussex and Surrey have pledged to raise £200,000 by the end of the year to enable restoration work already underway to be completed.
‘The Freemasons have been immensely generous. They’ve given proper, practical help.’ Heather Newton
And so to the Kent Museum of Freemasonry, where you will discover – if you don’t already know – that Freemasonry is thought to have origins in English stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and churches of the Middle Ages.
Tony Eldridge, a museum trustee and volunteer, says visitor numbers have risen notably since its refurbishment in 2012: ‘We’ve had 9,000 visitors in the past 12 months, over 5,000 of those non-masons.’ From the interactive children’s area to the surprising list of masons (including George Washington and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin), the museum opens a door on Freemasonry, particularly through the current exhibition tracing modern – and ancient – bonds with the Cathedral.
A semi-professional singer, Tony often sings at Canterbury Cathedral and knows it well: ‘A Canon, Tom Pritchard, once said to me, “If you think of the prayers that have soaked into the walls, it’s no wonder people feel so uplifted here.”’ Or as Roger says, ‘The more I get involved with the Cathedral, the more I feel, “Aren’t I lucky to be a part of this?” ’
Find out more about the Kent Museum of Freemasonry at www.kentmuseumoffreemasonry.org.uk
An exhibition has opened in East Kent that reveals the enduring link between Canterbury Cathedral and local masons. Heather Newton, head of conservation at the cathedral, said, ‘[We are] grateful to the Freemasons for their support over many years. The exhibition allows us to celebrate this and give the public an insight into our craft.’
Roger Odd (above), Past Deputy PGM for East Kent, said, ‘Our connections with the cathedral are not just local, with the national Freemasons’ charity recently donating £22,000 to fund an apprentice stonemason. And to celebrate the Tercentenary, the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex have pledged to raise £200,000 towards the restoration of the north-west transept and its pinnacles.’
Read more about the links between Canterbury Cathedral and Freemasonry here.
Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation David Innes explains how he intends to use the leadership and operational expertise he gained in the military to take the new charity forward
What did you do before entering the charity sector?
I joined the army after finishing my A levels in 1971, which was the start of a 34-year career that saw me rise through the ranks and end up a Brigadier and Engineer-in-Chief. During that time my career had two main elements – the first was regimental duty, using leadership, man management and operational planning skills. The other half was in office jobs ranging from strategy, intelligence and budgets through to training, human resources and change management jobs. Consequently, I ended up with a broad spectrum of abilities in a number of areas.
What drew you to the charity sector?
Growing up, I’d been in the Cubs, the Scouts and the Pony Club, so I was aware of charitable activities from an early age, but had little chance to volunteer myself. I left the army in 2005 when I was 51, but didn’t feel it was time to retire and wanted to have a second career. The military sector is all about people and the motto from Sandhurst is ‘Serve to Lead’. You are under intense pressure to deliver on the tasks you’re given but you need to look after the people, otherwise you can’t deliver those outputs.
I thought it was a chance for me to use the experience I’d gained and put that back into the charity world.
What was your first charity position?
I headed up the fundraising at Canterbury Cathedral, which was very interesting. It’s been around for many hundreds of years but has only occasionally had to fundraise. We set up a new campaign, which required working with the Charity Commission and charity lawyers. It was a great start for me in the charity world but it wasn’t utilising all my leadership skills. I was approached to put my hat in the ring for Chief Executive at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) and was successful.
How did the RMBI compare with Canterbury Cathedral?
I started with the RMBI in 2008 and it was very different from Canterbury. It was about delivering an operational output and I realised there were huge parallels between delivering military operations and care operations.
We look after 1,100 people in our care homes and we need to make sure each one of them is given the best possible care. There are 1,500 people employed in the RMBI, which is the size of a very large regiment in the military, so it’s about harnessing those skills, getting the right people in the right place at the right time with the right equipment, training and motivation, and operating as a team.
How has the RMBI changed over the past eight years?
The RMBI has had to adapt to social and economic pressures. When I arrived, the vast majority of our residents were active and mobile, and many had been with us for five, 10 or even 20 years. Today, the residential sector has shifted to high-dependency and end-of-life dementia care. Residents stay for a much shorter time and their requirements are more demanding. Therefore, the number of staff we need is higher and the unit cost of care has gone up, but local authority or NHS funding has not matched it, so the economic challenges have been very significant. We’ve had to find a lot of efficiencies, which has proved intellectually stimulating as well as rewarding.
Is the Masonic Charitable Foundation going to operate differently?
In the RMBI, I insist that everyone speaks about the residents first, the staff second, the relatives third and everyone else fourth. That way the primary focus is on the residents. Similarly, with the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) I will encourage people to talk about our beneficiaries first because looking after them is the single most important thing we will do.
By bringing the four charities together we are improving the service by providing a single point of contact and a single process. Whether it’s advice or financial grants, we’re trying to make support easier to access. We are also providing increasing support to the masonic community – to Provincial Grand Almoners and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards. I’d like to see that strengthened as a result of being a single organisation.
Will the MCF have more of a voice?
When we bring all the charities together, we will be a sizeable organisation in the UK charity sector and, as such, we should be recognised. We should be a voice contributing to the third sector in giving our point of view. The masonic community has not been well represented because it has comprised many small elements. One of the things that I hope the MCF will do is bring them together and be a strong voice in an important sector.
‘We have more than 400 years of history and that will be the foundation for the MCF.’
What challenges do you face as a charity with a membership organisation behind it?
There are very few charities that operate across quite such a broad spectrum. Many tend to focus on one area, whereas we provide whole-life support to the masonic community, at whatever age the help is needed. That’s one of our strengths, but we also have to be mindful that, as our funds come from the masonic community, we spend those funds on causes that the community supports.
How is the MCF affected by the need to recruit and retain more masons?
By the end of this decade, 50 per cent of Freemasons will be over 70. Clearly those masons will be relying on their pensions and savings, so we need to be mindful that income to the charities may well go down. We must look for efficiencies wherever we can, to get as much as we can out of every penny.
I do believe, however, that by working with UGLE in supporting its future strategy for Freemasonry, we will be able to stem the decline in membership.
What is planned for the MCF?
Between the four charities, we have more than 400 years of history and that will be the foundation for the MCF. There is a lot of work to do and the integration will have an impact on staff. That will take a bit of time so I’ve allocated 2016 to getting us fully operational in our new organisation.
As 2017 is the Tercentenary year, our focus will be on supporting a huge number of exciting initiatives. In 2018-19 I’m looking to start growing the MCF, to provide services where we currently don’t and to reach out to more beneficiaries. We need to build our brand, and our single name will make it easier to get that out into the community. The MCF has an exciting future and I feel hugely privileged to have been selected to lead it during these early years.
Mark at the helm in West Kent
Mark Estaugh has been installed as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for West Kent by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes.
In his acceptance speech, Mark said, ‘Our strategy will revolve around a trident of three key initiatives – membership, communication and the development of our masonic premises.’
Mark also announced the launch of the Province’s appeal to mark UGLE’s 2017 Tercentenary celebrations. The funds raised will go towards a major building project at Canterbury Cathedral.
Canterbury evensong for Royal Arch
The choral evensong congregation at Canterbury Cathedral was enhanced by almost 500 companions, brethren, their families and friends coming together for the Province of East Kent’s Royal Arch biennial church service.
Led by Grand Superintendent Geoffrey Dearing, distinguished guests included Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, Third Grand Principal David Williamson, the then Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race and several neighbouring Provincial Grand Masters.
Guests were able to view the Ancestors exhibit, a series of life-size figures representing the Ancestors of Christ that date to the 12th and early 13th centuries. These beautiful examples of medieval stained glass had been temporarily removed from the Cathedral’s Great South Window while conservation work was carried out on its crumbling stonework. They were on display in the Chapter House, the East Window of which was a gift from the Freemasons of Kent.