The first degrees
Through the Universities Scheme, Freemasonry is reaching a young, community-minded generation. Sophie Radice finds out what attracted five university recruits to Leicester’s Wyggeston Lodge
University is a place that encourages self-expression and personal discovery. Surely not a time when you would consider joining Freemasonry, with all its traditions and structures? Dr Andy Green of Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, disagrees: ‘Freemasonry is a sociable and supportive fraternity. This works very well with those just starting out on their adult lives and looking to meet a range of people with a solid moral code – it’s also a lot of fun.’
The first university lodge, Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, was founded at Oxford almost two hundred years ago, with Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, following some years later at Cambridge. Since then, many thousands of young men have been introduced to Freemasonry through these two lodges, and they provided the inspiration for the Universities Scheme. Set up in 2005, the scheme establishes opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to learn about Freemasonry and to bring fresh minds and ideas into the organisation. There are now more than fifty lodges pursuing a similar course. Their membership consists of undergraduates, postgraduates, senior members of the university and alumni, ranging in age from eighteen upwards.
Wyggeston Lodge in Leicester joined the Universities Scheme in 2011 to try to revive membership numbers – in the 1950s the lodge had one hundred and twenty members and in 2010 it had dwindled to thirty-two. In the past few years, however, the lodge has initiated twelve students. Last summer, four students from the University of Leicester were part of a special meeting of the lodge, when it carried out its first ever quadruple initiation ceremony. This saw Valentin-George Tartacuta, Yusif Nelson, Peter Clarke and Peter Shandley joining the Craft.
‘It’s very exciting to see the lodge filling up with the younger generation, all of whom seem to have great ideas about the future of the lodge and what might make Freemasonry more attractive to their age group,’ says Andy, Universities Scheme Subcommitee Chairman at Wyggeston. ‘We have already made good use of social networking sites – we have a strong Facebook and Twitter presence, as well as a website with film clips of our new members talking about why they joined, and a blog. I realised that it was essential to be able to contact and attract young members through these forums. It has made the lodge communications more dynamic, because we have all had to up our game in a way.’
Provincial Assistant Grand Master Peter Kinder, who is also the Provincial Universities Scheme Liaison Officer, says: ‘We are very lucky in this area with potential next-generation Freemasons because we have three very good universities – Loughborough (with the Lodge of Science & Art), De Montfort (with Castle of Leicester Lodge) and Leicester itself. When we first went to the University of Leicester freshers’ fair three years ago, we were really surprised at the interest. So many people wanted to talk to us and asked us to explain what we were doing there. We spoke about the history of Freemasonry and if they seemed interested, we suggested that they came and had a tour of the lodge.’
Peter recalls how, at the end of the freshers’ day, the floor was filled with flyers. ‘But you couldn’t see any of the Freemasonry ones chucked away. I suppose we were a little bit more unusual than the pizza and taxi firms. We gave out seven hundred leaflets that first year and one thousand this year. We seem to be going from strength to strength.’
Learning the ropes
Peter Clarke is in his third year studying history and knew very little about the Freemasons when he came across the stand at the freshers’ fair. ‘It took me a year to think about it and by the time my second freshers’ came up, I had done a bit of research and found out about the history of the Freemasons. I thought it would be something a bit different to join and take me out of my normal social circles. I like the feeling of being part of something bigger and, as a history student, I was fascinated by tracing back the roots of Freemasonry.’
‘It’s very exciting to see the lodge filling up with the younger generation, all of whom seem to have great ideas about the future of the lodge.’ Dr Andy Green Business and finance student Jeff Zhu also came across Freemasonry for the first time at a freshers’ fair. ‘It was my second year at university; I had just split up with my girlfriend and was feeling a bit down, so I went to the freshers’ day. I come from China and I have to say that I liked the historical look of the Freemasons’ stall, but I had never heard of them before.
Many Chinese students just stick together but I really wanted the chance to branch out. I also like the values of integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. It fits in with the way I want to live my life.’ Peter Shandley, who reads law and has just finished a year studying in Germany, was taken aback when he made his first visit to Wyggeston Lodge, which holds its meeting in Leicester’s Freemasons’ Hall – a Georgian building with stunning interiors. ‘From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but when I came inside and saw the main hall I was really interested in the heritage. e hall was built in 1910, when this area was really booming from the textile trade, and is one of the most impressive in the country. I feel really privileged to have been initiated into this lodge because it is such a distinguished one. I have so enjoyed my experience here that I have brought someone else into the lodge. He was initiated in December.’
‘I like the feeling of being part of something bigger and, as a history student, I was fascinated by tracing back the roots of Freemasonry.’ Peter Clarke
While initially surprised by the decision to join, friends of university lodge members have been receptive to hearing about the general ethos of Freemasonry. Andrew Slater, who is in his third year reading medical biochemistry, says that he was attracted by the international aspect of Freemasonry and the fact that ‘pretty much anywhere you end up in the world you could find a Freemasons’ lodge and be welcomed there’. He also goes to other lodges in the UK and enjoys being part of the events that they hold. ‘It’s a good feeling to know you have people who will welcome you everywhere.’
For Andrew, joining a brotherhood that brings him together with new people is important. ‘Andy Green is so great at promoting the values of decency, charity and brotherhood that it is hard not to be enthused by him. there is also the feeling that as well as having a great deal to teach us, the Freemasons here are very receptive to what we have to say about the way forward to keep membership alive. I have also become friends with students from different departments that I would never have met if I hadn’t become a Freemason.’
Alex Pohl is twenty-two and has enjoyed acting in the ceremonies. ‘I’m often nervous and things never go exactly to plan but it really helps with a sense of belonging and fraternity.
I am really committed to the Freemasons – it is a lifetime thing – and I joined because I knew about the huge amount Freemasons do for charity. I also really like the modesty behind the charitable giving. It’s not something that the Freemasons make a big deal of but so much of what we are about is the desire to help others as much as we can. I really respect that, and I am excited about being a part of a new generation of Freemasons.’
‘As well as having a great deal to teach us, the Freemasons here are very receptive to what we have to say about the way forward to keep membership alive.’ Andrew Slater
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains how UGLE has been supporting Districts across the world and looks closer to home at the recommendations of the Universities Scheme Committee
One of my pleasurable duties is, along with the other Rulers, visiting our Districts. In June I was in Trinidad and Tobago and, more recently, I visited Zimbabwe to install our new District Grand Master. We were given a very warm welcome and I was somewhat surprised that the last visit there from Grand Lodge was in 1989. I was even more surprised to find that two of our lodges are in Malawi, where seventy members ensure masonry thrives.
Apart from meeting many of the local brethren and their wives, we were driven to a school in a township seventeen miles west of Harare, where we were entertained by some very moving African dancing and singing. The education support programme that started here in 1992 now has four hundred and seven orphaned children. A trust fund has been set up for these children to provide school fees, books, uniforms, a daily hot meal, healthcare and sports activities. It was most impressive and exactly the type of charity the District should support.
On a different theme, following the presentation at the Quarterly Communication last year on assuring the future of Freemasonry, I challenged the Universities Scheme Committee to consider how the principles expressed in the address could be implemented across the whole Craft.
I have now had first sight of their report, which covers a series of recommendations and examples of good practice from lodges around the English Constitution. This is an excellent document and I will be discussing the proposals through the Provinces and Districts to lodge level. Brethren, how often do we hear that changes and progress in masonry take an eternity? This report has been put together with admirable speed and it is incumbent on the Rulers to ensure that there is no delay in passing them on.
We are united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons and these recommendations will give a better chance of strengthening all lodges, however successful, while not alienating established brethren.
‘We are united in recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining younger Freemasons.’
Varsity scheme gains pace
Four students from the University of Leicester were part of a special meeting of Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, at which the lodge carried out its first ever quadruple initiation ceremony. They bring the number of students from the University of Leicester initiated at the lodge to 11 since it joined the United Grand Lodge of England’s Universities Scheme in 2011. Among the guests was Provincial Grand Master for Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger, who witnessed the initiation of Valentin-George Tartacuta (reading Aerospace Engineering), Yusif Nelson (reading Economics), Peter Clarke (reading History) and Peter Shandley (reading Law).
The sesquicentenary University Lodges' Ball will take place on Saturday 23rd November 2013, at Armoury House, London, the headquarters of the Honourable Artillery Company
For more information and to buy your tickets, visit the University Lodges' Ball website.
About the Ball
At the first meeting of the Ball Committee, it was agreed that there were three central reasons to hold this ball. The first, simply, was to have fun - to organise a large event that could be enjoyed by friends, partners, and family, and hopefully repeated in years to come. The second was to do it for a good cause - to raise money for two very worthy charities. And the third was to resurrect and commemorate the great tradition of the masonic ball, of which can be found below.
It is hoped that this event will not only give guests an opportunity to meet and enjoy a lavish and unique celebratory evening, but will also give non-masonic guests the opportunity to learn more about Freemasonry by meeting members, asking questions, and finding out more about what we get up to!
The particulars for the event are still being confirmed, but it is possible at this stage to provide an outline. The ball will be preceded by a number of (optional) banquets, information about which can be found here. Guests will have the option to book places at these dinners once they have purchased their ball tickets.
The champagne reception will commence in the Prince Consort Rooms at 8.30, after which all guests will assemble in the Prince Consort Rooms to watch the opening ceremony at 9.15.
Once the opening ceremony has finished, Armoury House will be opened and the evening will really begin! The events programme is still being finalised, so check back soon for updates, but the night will feature:
- Dancing - traditional ballroom dancing in the Prince Consort Rooms, and more informal throughout Armoury House
- Live music of a variety of genres
- Magicians, acrobats, and other visual performers
There will also be a wide selection of food and drinks available on the night, all of which is included in your ticket price, so the only time you will have to open your wallet is to donate to charity!
Frequently asked questions
Do I have to be a Freemason to buy tickets?
No! The original University Masonic Balls were the highlight of the social calendars in both Oxford and Cambridge. Now, as then, anyone can attend - so if you have always been curious about what Freemasons get up to, you now have a chance to find out...
Why are there multiple banquets beforehand?
As is the case with almost all society Balls, it would be logistically impossible to have a seated banquet for 900 guests, then have the same rooms immediately available for the evening's entertainments. Traditionally, several parallel dinners have taken place before such events (in Clubs, nearby restaurants, and even in guests' houses), which end in time for guests to come to the Ball in time for the opening ceremony.
You can view details of these banquets here, and will be able to book places at them when you buy your tickets. However, please remember that it is not compulsory to dine beforehand - a variety of food and drink will be available throughout the night at no extra cost, so guests who have not dined will certainly not go hungry!
Can I sponsor the University Lodges' Ball?
What is the dress code?
Evening Dress. This means white tie and tails for gentlemen (although black tie and tuxedo are acceptable), and long gowns for ladies. Formal military Mess Dress and National Dress are also encouraged. To hire or buy Evening Dress, please visit our formalwear sponsor, Clermont Direct, who are kindly extending discounts to Ball guests.
There is a long history of Apollo and Isaac Newton University Lodges holding balls, garden parties, and other festive events at the end of the academic year at Oxford and Cambridge. The balls started early in both lodges' histories, and carried on well into the twentieth century, being considered one of the highlights of the social calendar in both universities.
The best known of these balls was the Grand Ball held by Apollo in 1863 at Christ Church to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales (later Grand Master and King Edward VII) and Alexandra of Denmark, who both attended. The ball cost £2,046 (the equivalent of around £220,000 now). Luckily, half the cost was borne by the college!
Attendances were large - in 1866, 750 attended the ball and over 3,200 attended the garden party - and, as you can see from the menu from an Isaac Newton University Lodge ball in the early twentieth century (in the gallery above), the refreshments were lavish. Unfortunately, after World War II, Freemasonry became less ostentatious, and the balls fell into abeyance.
In the late autumn of 2012, the Secretaries of Apollo and INUL, Chris Noon and Alistair Townsend, met for an ale or two, having both, independently, had the idea of resurrecting the ball tradition, noting that no equivalent existed for Freemasons today. They agreed that it would be difficult to achieve for either lodge on its own, but that, if resources were combined, and the ball were to be held for masonry as a whole, it could be a success.
It was also decided that, despite the short notice, 2013 would be an auspicious year to hold the event - marking the 150th anniversary of Apollo's Grand Ball, and the 200th year of Supreme Grand Chapter (the charitable appeal of which it therefore seemed sensible to support). The obvious location was London - neutral territory - and, after considerable investigation, Armoury House was chosen, as an outstanding venue with a suitable capacity.
It remains to be seen whether this sesquicentenary ball will be a one-off, whether it will be repeated in another 150 years, or whether it will become a regular event in the Masonic calendar. It all depends on how many tickets are sold...
As the Universities Scheme recruits younger members, Caitlin Davies reports on how older Freemasons are staying involved in the Craft
Three years ago, Steward Philip Hadlow heard some interesting news. Plans were afoot for a new lodge in Bedfordshire, one that would be geared towards keeping elderly Freemasons involved in the Craft.
‘The Provincial Grand Master, Michael Sawyer, and the provincial team realised we were not doing enough for our more elderly brethren,’ he explains. ‘Many have mobility problems, which means it’s difficult getting to meetings. We were looking after them when they were ill, supporting their family, but there was a need for something more proactive.’
In recent years Freemasonry has been keen to recruit younger members, but that doesn’t mean elders should be forgotten. And so Bedfordshire’s youngest lodge, the Michael Sawyer Lodge of Reunion No 9848, was born. Philip became involved because he thought it a ‘fantastic idea’.
The lodge began in 2009 and meets twice a year on a Saturday lunchtime, as some people are not keen to eat late or to go out at night at all. Philip doesn’t know of any similar scheme, and there’s been interest in the project from other Provinces.
While some members were already being picked up and taken to meetings by younger members, the lodge wanted to do more. So people were identified, sent invitations and offered travel arrangements – in some cases for a fifty-mile round trip.
‘When they come out with a smile on their face and say, “Thank you so much, I’ve had a wonderful time”, that’s what it’s all about’ Philip Hadlow
The lodge doesn’t do masonic work – meetings open with a welcome, then a lecture and the Festive Board. One of the annual meetings is held in Luton, the other in another Bedfordshire centre.
John Cathrine, Provincial Information Officer, is a founder member of the Michael Sawyer Lodge and last year’s Worshipful Master. ‘It’s such a great idea. It’s something that was missing from our Province. People get to the stage where they can’t drive to meetings and they drift away from masonry.’
Not forgotten, never sidelined
John cites a past Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Vic Lawrence, who lives at Prince Michael of Kent Court, a Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution care home. ‘He came to the previous meeting and he wanted to make a speech at the Festive Board. He said it was really great to be invited and see old friends, all of whom he said looked older than him!’
Freemasonry in Bedfordshire traces its history back to at least 1841, when the Bedfordshire Lodge of St John the Baptist was consecrated in Luton. By the time the Province celebrated its centenary, there were forty-five lodges; there are now fifty-five.
At the last meeting of the Lodge of Re there were sixty people, including twenty honoured guests. ‘It takes time to get something like this off the ground,’ says Philip, who was Chief Steward for two years, ‘but it’s getting bigger every meeting.’
Lodge members pay annual dues to cover being a member and having two guests. ‘It’s funded until the honoured guests outnumber us two to one. It means we can treat them well. You see them sitting there opposite their friends, and they’re having a whale of a time. When they come out with a smile on their face and say, “Thank you so much, I’ve had a wonderful time”, that’s what it’s all about.’
John is delighted by the letters of thanks that the lodge receives. ‘One brother is ninety-five and not able to get out much. We’ll invite him to the next meeting for a nice day out. The letters we get say the principles and ethos of the lodge are exactly in line with what we should be doing – taking care of those who could be sidelined and forgotten.’
Reflecting on the need to recruit new members, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why Freemasonry should remember its history while keeping an eye firmly on the future
Having finished the two yearly regional conferences with Provincial Grand Masters, I can report that one consistent theme was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases this has already started, which means that perhaps we are getting some things right.
I have frequently said that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock-on effect.
Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard in the last issue from Edward Lord and Julian Soper about the work of the Universities Scheme. I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how we can best implement some of the principles that were mentioned across the whole Craft.
Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However, this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.
At the end of last year, I visited my great grandfather’s mother lodge in Hertfordshire – and a splendid occasion it was, with a nearly faultless Second Degree ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.
The reason for mentioning this is that in the reply for the visitors, the brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is ‘regard for others as a principle of action’ and it’s rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.
If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t go far wrong. Of course, it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point as it should naturally lead to a practice of brotherly love, relief and truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving.
During the past year, the Festivals for our charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the Masonic Samaritan Fund; Cambridgeshire raised £1.285m for the Grand Charity; and Devonshire raised £3.836m for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
I hope that our membership, as a whole, is far more familiar with the activities of our charities than might have been the case twenty or so years ago. The charities’ promotion of their activities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.
While three of our charities are masonic in their giving, the Grand Charity has a wide brief for giving to non-masonic bodies, provided that they are also charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved, and we should be quick to point it out.
We should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future, in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.
Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013
Sir, as usual, the article from our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, in the spring 2013 edition of Freemasonry Today was both interesting and stimulating. The paragraph relating to our use of words without fully appreciating their meaning struck a very strong chord with me.
From all the words available to them in the English language, our founders chose to use the word ‘speculative’ to describe our branch of Freemasonry (as opposed to the operative Freemasonry). In our modern idiom this word is defined as ‘to conjecture without knowing the full facts’. Does this describe a proportion of our brethren today?
Established in 2005 to connect lodges with students country-wide, the Universities Scheme is flourishing, enabling a new generation to experience Freemasonry
Hartington Lodge, No. 1085, in the Province of Derbyshire, has become the 55th lodge to join the Universities Scheme, opening a path for it to welcome members of the University of Derby into the Craft from the age of 18.
The lodge was accepted into the scheme after a sub-committee, led by Alan Cudworth, met with Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, Scheme Chairman Edward Lord
and Midlands Co-ordinator David Staples.
David Williamson explained how the Universities Scheme makes it easier for young men to join the Craft, with Provincial Grand Master Graham Rudd then presenting the Assistant Grand Master with a Derbyshire tie and a Festival barbecue cook’s apron.
Hartington Lodge has proven successful in bringing young men into Freemasonry, with members including graduates and former staff of the University of Derby.
The national and the London chairmen of the Universities Scheme, Edward Lord and Julian Soper, give some advice on how to recruit and retain younger members
Of our members across the English constitution, only nine per cent are aged under forty. To put that percentage in perspective, it is three thousand less than the number of members we have aged over eighty. Indeed, the vast bulk of our members are aged between fifty and eighty. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these figures, it does set a generational challenge with fifty-five per cent of our members in, or reaching, retirement. If the average age of reaching the chair is sixty-three, one can assume that most lodge decision makers are near to, or in retirement, which leads one to question the degree of representation younger members have. So how do we attract younger men to join masonry?
Research we conducted found that masonry is in increasing competition with many other calls on the leisure time of prospective members. It is also clear that it is less easy for those in employment to leave their workplace early in order to get to a lodge meeting. Nor for that matter do younger brethren want to stay late all the time – something that is equally true of more senior members.
Many successful lodges don’t start their work until 6 or 6.30pm in the evening and they still finish in good time to get home at a reasonable hour. They do this by taking a number of simple steps. Some, for example, don’t process in and out of the lodge. Most circulate rather than read their minutes, and do the same for the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s reports.
All of the above not only cuts down the time taken by the formal proceedings, but also increases the pace of a meeting. However, it is not as simple as saying that time commitments should be reduced. Regular meetings, often informal, and involving members’ partners, can be important in fostering a feeling of membership. A good mentor should greatly assist in helping a new member to feel he belongs, and the formal creation of lodge mentor as a lodge office should help ensure that this happens.
The language we use to describe Freemasonry is key to it having a broader appeal, as is dispelling many of the myths that still surround us as an organisation. Being able to describe in simple laymen’s terms what Freemasonry is about is crucial; emphasising the social side of our activities as well as the contributions we make to society, both through our charitable activities and by helping each individual mason to become the best person he can be.
Much to offer
Experience has shown that, approached correctly, young men – indeed men of all ages – find considerable appeal in joining an organisation that is secular, multi-faith, cross denominational and shares their values. Indeed, in explaining Freemasonry to new and potential members, a lodge should consider emphasising the lifetime friendships, development possibilities and new experiences that are on offer.
So where exactly do we get these new younger members from? Of course, the basic approach of ‘member-get-member’ remains the best. But some lodges, particularly those that are affiliated to a school or university, find that discreet advertisements letting people know they exist often attract initial enquiries. And in some cases, the adverts are less discreet. The Province of West Lancashire took the back page of last year’s Freshers’ Handbook, which went out to over twenty-thousand students in Liverpool. That resulted in a bumper crop of candidates for the University Lodge of Liverpool.
Many enquiries are now coming through the internet. Every day we receive hundreds of hits on the Grand Lodge, Provincial and lodge specific sites, which then translate into expressions of interest from prospective members. This is rapidly becoming one of the most important marketing methods for the Craft. So if your lodge doesn’t yet have a website, then it should consider investing in one.
Communication is crucial but lodges that have successfully spanned the generations have other attributes as well, not least in making new members feel welcome. Involvement in ceremonies is also important, but involve them at a pace that is right for them – don’t force them up the ladder.
And if you find you have a masonic star in waiting, let him move forward quickly as the chances are he could help ensure the future of your lodge.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 23 Autumn 2013
As a young Freemason (thirty years old), I felt compelled to respond to the letter by Harry Sykes in the recent edition of Freemasonry Today. I was initiated into my lodge (Lodge of Asaph, No. 1319) in 2008 and am currently the installed Master of the lodge.
Whilst brother Sykes makes an extremely valid point that no-one wishes to be suffering through ceremonies where the ritual is poor, I don’t subscribe to the view that this is a result of younger masons being fast-tracked to the chair. Yes, there may well be an element of this occurring, but this is surely a more widespread problem of lodges being unable to keep up to date and attract new, higher calibre brethren.
In fact, brother Harris-Cooksley makes a fine point on the same letters page that his lodge has been adapting to the times and people are being promoted based on merit and ability. I know of many young Freemasons, who are superb ritualists and do put in the time and effort to learn, perfect and polish their performance in lodge. I certainly take pride in my ability to perform the ritual and to understand the meaning behind it.
Equally, I have seen many masons who have been in lodges far longer than ten years whose ritual is poor. Instead of a ten-year barrier to entry, surely a progression to the chair should be based on ability, young or old?
Dan Roback, Lodge of Asaph, No. 1319, London
I read with interest Harry Sykes’s letter in the summer 2013 edition regarding falling standards. He seems to be blaming it on new brethren getting to the chair too quickly and suggests a new rule that you have to be in Freemasonry for ten years before being allowed to take the chair.
I feel in this regard the last thing we need is more rules. I was installed in under five years from my initiation. I’m sure I can hear ‘tut tut, shouldn’t be allowed’, but with the encouragement of my proposer, I visited at least as often as attending my own lodge, I joined chapter, I read and most importantly, I hardly missed a lodge of instruction.
I was one of three initiates who joined in consecutive years; there was a tiny bit of competitiveness between us when performing at lodge of instruction and also lots of support. We were all inspired by our preceptor who earned our respect by using a carrot NOT a stick; each of us conducted a first, second and third ceremony before taking the chair and we even held our own lodge of instruction in the summer. Since becoming a Past Master, I have been Director of Ceremonies for eight years; the other two have served as Secretary.
How to inspire brethren: by Past Masters setting an example with their ritual; by holding regular lodges of instruction with a good number of Past Masters present to support the brethren; not forcing junior brethren to rise up through the offices just to prevent another Past Master from taking the chair; and not being afraid to hold them back if you feel they need a bit more experience.
Remember we are all different. I felt very ready for the chair and holding me back for some arbitrary period may well have had an adverse effect.
Paul Gosling, William de Warenne Lodge, No. 6139, Uckfield, Sussex
Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013
The future of Freemasonry
This year the Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Inner Guard and Stewards of our lodge are all in their twenties. I joke that I feel the years – at my ripe old age of twenty-eight.
I read with great enthusiasm the article entitled ‘No Time To Be Retiring’ in the winter 2012 publication. Of particular interest and surprise was the startling fact that maybe ‘only nine per cent [of Freemasons] are aged under forty’.
Being part of the Universities Scheme has undoubtedly helped attract young men to our lodge, but this by no means tells the whole story. The traditional approach of ‘member-get-member’ is strongly encouraged and utilised. It has been remarked by our visitors over the years that our lodge has a very special atmosphere and feeling. Indeed, the presence of young men in the lodge allows our numerous and distinguished past masters to impart their knowledge and experience. They teach, and our lodge is the richer for it – Lodges of Instruction really are an education in masonic knowledge.
Candidates, young or old, who approach and join our lodge form part of a close circle of friends. Our newer brethren are encouraged to progress at their own pace, and to attend our social events whenever possible. Whether it be open lodge or the Festive Board, age really isn’t an issue. We have Freemasons who are knowledgeable and those with much to learn. We move forward as one, and are reminded of our lodge motto, which is translated from the original Latin: ‘The one light brings us together in comradeship’.
We have embraced the web and social media and look forward to our eightieth anniversary in 2014, as well as Grand Lodge’s three-hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. We are fortunate, and the future promises to be bright.
Ben Gait, Universities Lodge, Cardiff, No. 5461, Cardiff, South Wales
Keeping up standards
I read with interest the article ‘No Time To Be Retiring’ in the winter 2012 edition. While the I concur with the sentiments expressed by Edward Lord and Julian Soper, I take issue with the suggestion that lodges should consider dispensing with the processions in and out of the temple in order to save time, as is apparently the way forward of some lodges. Indeed, most past master lodges do not process in, but in my experience mostly process out. If we go down the road of continually reducing the time spent in the temple we will lose the traditions and the history of lodges. Cutting down the time taken by ceremonial proceedings will deprive the new masons of the solemnity of the Craft.
Barry A Fennings, Merchant Navy Lodge, No. 781, London
I have read with interest the recent letters regarding ‘keeping up standards’.
I wonder if falling standards in some lodges is a contributory factor in the reduction in their membership. Young Freemasons to whom I have spoken clearly did not join Freemasonry to participate in slipshod lodge workings and noisy conduct at the Social Board. Equally, older brethren do not want to see a lodge taken over by brethren to whom learning the ritual is a bore or who find the social side of Freemasonry is not what they or their partners expect.
When young men are installed in the Chair after a few years, as opposed to the fourteen to fifteen years it took yesteryear, their approach to Freemasonry can be somewhat limited and they may see promotion to higher rank as theirs by right, as their masonic education has been neglected. Perhaps ten years of membership should be a minimum for Masters of a lodge?
I consider we rank and file Freemasons fortunate to have a platform like Freemasonry Today in which we can express our views for consideration by the brethren.
Harry Sykes, Ben Brierley Lodge, No. 3317, Middleton, East Lancashire
12 September 2012
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I have recently finished the two yearly Regional Conferences that I have with Provincial Grand Masters. These are relatively informal affairs and cover a wide range of subjects. I find them extremely useful and they are kind enough to say the same – but, of course, what else could they say!
One theme that ran through them all was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases, this has already started. This means that perhaps we are getting some things right.
I have said frequently that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock on effect.
Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard from Brothers Soper and Lord at the September Quarterly Communication about the work of the Universities Scheme. Following that talk I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how best we can implement some of the principles that were mentioned, across the whole Craft.
Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.
Brethren, in November I visited my Great Grandfather’s mother Lodge in Hertfordshire and a splendid occasion it was, with an almost faultless 2nd Degree Ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.
The reason for mentioning this today is that in the Reply for the Visitors the Brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is “regard for others as a principle of action”. Rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.
If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t be going far wrong. Of course it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point, as it should naturally lead to a practice of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving, which seems to be second nature to us.
During this year the Festivals for our Charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the RMBI; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the MSF; Cambridgeshire £1.285m for the Grand Charity and Devonshire £3.836m for the RMTGB. In these troubled economic times this, Brethren, is remarkable and I congratulate all those concerned.
I hope that our membership, as a whole, are far more familiar with the activities of all our Charities than might have been the case 20 or so years ago. The promotion of their activities by the Charities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.
Whilst 3 of our Charities are Masonic in their giving, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that - quite the contrary in my view, the Grand Charity, of course, has a wide brief for giving to non Masonic bodies, provided that they are also Charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved and we should be quick to point it out.
Brethren, since 2007 we have had excellent and amusing talks on the past at the December Quarterly Communication from Brothers Hamill and Redman and we should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.
Brethren, I wish you all a very relaxing break over Christmas, particularly if, like me, you will be having your Grand Children to stay.
Jack Whalley (MEng Aerospace Engineering 2012) explains how he joined his local Freemasons’ Lodge through a new scheme to attract university students:
'A friend of mine joined Freemasonry a year ago and spoke about what an amazing time he had, meeting new people and the things they were up to. Considering the mystery and secrecy that can sometimes surround it, I asked for a bit more information. He introduced me to the Universities' Scheme liaison officer, who showed me around and talked me through what goes on behind the ‘closed doors’.
'He explained that Freemasonry isn’t as secret as everyone makes out and that the secrecy aspect arose after World War II where Freemasons were persecuted, which drove the fraternity underground. Since then things have evolved and the public perception is not the modern day reality. Something that sparked my interest further was the amount of charity work that Freemasons get involved with. After the National Lottery, Freemasons give the largest donations to charity in the UK – all through donations from its members.
'At my first meeting I was joined by four other students from the university as part of the Universities' Scheme. The scheme engages students with Freemasonry to help continue the strong traditions. We were made to feel incredibly welcome by everyone, which helped overcome any nerves we may have had. Everyone was interested in who we were, what we were doing and offering encouragement. A huge part of Freemasonry is the fact we are all equal; it is one of the few places where you can sit down for a meal with people from all walks of life, ages, races, and careers and have a great, relaxed time.
'I have enjoyed meeting so many different people, whom as a student I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It has become something that I look forward to each month, where I continue to learn things and I’m really looking forward to getting more involved next year.'