Tuesday, 11 June 2019 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2019

From the Grand Secretary

This Saturday, I attended a masonic event that will live with me until the end of my days. My mother lodge, Apollo University Lodge, No 357, met at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford – a building I last visited for my graduation in 2001 – to celebrate its bicentenary. In attendance were the Most Worshipful Grand Master, the Pro Grand Master, the Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters and the Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire, as well a host of friends, members and past members. 

The lodge was opened in a room adjoining the theatre, called off and there followed a potted presentation on the history of the lodge, and the presentation of a badge to UGLE for the use of the lodge by the Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary to Her Majesty The Queen – something rather unusual I gather. All this in front of the families and friends of lodge members past and present, the Grand Master and Grand Secretary of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons and a host of invited guests from the university and beyond. It was, of course, an opportunity to showcase Freemasonry to a wider audience, to bust myths, talk of the bursaries the lodge funds for underprivileged students at the university, and remind the academics visiting us that we are one of the oldest and one of the very few university student societies to be able to claim uninterrupted meetings for over two centuries. 

All this was done in the unselfconscious, one might even say brazen style, exemplified by the 19-year-old undergraduate who, after speaking to the Pro Grand Master, attended by his DepGDC, for five minutes, had the disarming naivety to exclaim, ‘I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t quite catch who you are…’

The reception followed at the Ashmolean Museum under the gaze of a 2,000-year-old statue of Apollo and a rather raucous dinner ensued at Keble College, finishing when the bar shut at 4am with a round of McDonald’s with port chasers (I had made a dignified exit around midnight you understand…).

The event brought home to me happy memories of my initiation and my first meetings and introductions to Freemasonry. It also reminded me of what I consider to be a universal fact about Freemasonry, which is that, almost without exception, we consider our first tentative steps in the Craft, and the lessons that they teach us, to be the quintessential masonic experience. To me, nothing will ever surpass Apollo University Lodge. But to those of you reading, I suspect you would say exactly the same thing about your mother lodges, and no matter where we go, and how much we enjoy our Freemasonry elsewhere, few of us would admit the ceremony we had just seen, or the atmosphere we had enjoyed, could hold a candle to those meetings we remember from our formative steps in the Craft.

And therein lies a problem, one with which we all must grapple. There is no doubt that my idea of a wonderful lodge meeting would leave some of you stone cold. We do not all like the same things, and there are as many different types of lodges as there are types of Freemason. Through its ritual, traditions and customs, Freemasonry seeks to inspire its members. It encourages them, through dramatic shared experience, to seek for knowledge, and to put service before self. It does this in myriad different ways that appeal to different people. Times change though, and what may have worked in the past might not attract members now. Some lodges are simply unable or unwilling to communicate happiness or connect across generational divides. It is a source of great pride that my mother lodge, over its 200-year history, has numbered among its members many men who have made significant contributions to wider society, in all walks of life. In order for a lodge to continue to do this, and to thrive, it must find ways to keep its members engaged, interested, and coming back for more. It must also find ways to replace those members who leave or who die. It seems to me that there are a number of lodges which, put simply, don’t really mind either way, and perhaps we should all be a little more relaxed about this. Lodges exist to serve a purpose for their members, but some have no interest in keeping going forever. 

I remember my time as a Metropolitan DepGDC and the wonderful and moving ceremonies that the Met performed when a lodge handed back its warrant. There was an honest acknowledgement that lodges come together for a purpose, and for some, that purpose runs its course. The Craft has the means to create new lodges which meet the needs of present-day petitioners. Lodges which are able to attract and retain members will survive and thrive, perhaps even spawning daughter lodges in their own image, while those that can’t will, in all likelihood, pass into history. Which sort is your lodge, dear reader, and more importantly, are you content with that?

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary

‘There is no doubt that my idea of a wonderful lodge meeting would leave some of you stone cold. We do not all like the same things, and there are as many different types of lodges as there are types of Freemason’

Published in UGLE

Membership & modernisation

At the heart of UGLE’s membership system is the new Director for Member Services. Prity Lad takes us on a tour of Freemasons’ Hall and reveals UGLE’s forward-thinking support programme for current and future members

Prity Lad has just finished her photoshoot for FMT, which saw her leading the photographer around Freemasons’ Hall looking for the perfect location to sum up the welcoming nature of her new position, while being careful not to lose us in its labyrinthine interior. She’s worked in the building since 2007, but notes, ‘It’s rare that I have time to look around this amazing place. It’s vast.’

Prity’s time has been particularly precious recently, having taken up her new position as Director for Member Services. The role was created as part of the internal restructure of UGLE under Grand Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Dr David Staples. 

‘There’s been a shift in the way we operate here at UGLE,’ explains Prity. ‘Departments originally reported directly into the Grand Secretary. Dr Staples has brought in a new level of senior management to develop a professional, fit-for-purpose headquarters for the benefit of our members and staff. I work closely with the Director of Masonic Services with whom I share an office. It works well, as there is a need for cooperation internally and communication externally to look after our members’ interests.’

SHARED VALUES

Before taking up her new position, Prity had worked for UGLE as a software training consultant, focused on ADelphi, UGLE’s internal membership system. She had read law at university, after which there was a period of working in education and training, during which time she obtained a post-graduate certificate in education. In 2000, she changed tack and moved into the IT sector. Her role as a training manager for a software house involved implementing training and managing change for the Ministry of Defence, NHS and cruise sectors, both in the in the UK and overseas. She started working at Freemasons’ Hall in 2007, but left after a year to raise her family, before returning in 2012. 

‘I had no prior knowledge of the world of Freemasonry,’ Prity says. ‘The attraction for me was working in IT in a unique business setting,’ she says. ‘I’ve learnt a lot about the Craft since then and I find it fascinating – the traditions, the values, things that don’t feature prominently in most working environments, and things that I have come to respect – I’m happy to be part of it.’

Prity’s role allows her to draw on her admiration for Freemasonry as she helps to develop new ideas and methods. Her department oversees three primary components: Registration, External Relations and District support. Part of this involves reaching out to people interested in Freemasonry. ‘Areas we want to focus on include attracting new members, but also finding better ways to engage with our existing membership. In order to do this, we want to identify and promote what Freemasonry represents and the values the organisation has,’ says Prity. ‘Respect, integrity and charity are core to Freemasonry and are the reasons many people join in the first place. We want to emphasise that, and show the inclusive nature of the organisation.’ 

That is only one element of Prity’s job. An overarching goal across the three departments is to streamline, simplify and modernise processes without making them inaccessible to Freemasons who might be less comfortable with technology. The registration team deal with all aspects of membership, enabling them to build a complete picture of somebody’s masonic record, ensuring it remains updated with the relevant degrees, offices and certificates. ‘The intention is to modernise the process,’ says Prity. ‘We want to eliminate paper and repetition, reduce delays and make it easier for the lodge Secretaries and, ultimately, the members themselves.’

FOSTERING CURIOSITY

When it comes to Districts, part of the focus recently has been on improving the administrative support supplied by UGLE. The Districts are experiencing annual growth of 10 per cent, and UGLE wants to support and amplify the work they do within their communities. As regards external relations, process and protocols must be followed to ensure UGLE’s polices are adhered to correctly. And this is one area where Prity’s IT background comes in handy. 

‘We receive a lot of enquires from people around the world interested in Freemasonry, and the external relations team is looking at modernising that interface so people can get the information they need online,’ she says. ‘We are always here to support potential members, and want to make information accessible, such as automating some processes in a secure environment. That way, if somebody is interested in becoming a Freemason, they can visit the website, put in their information and we can advise them which Grand Lodge to contact depending on where they are located. We want to make the website more informative and easier to use. We don’t just want to modernise, we want to enhance what we offer without excluding any of our existing membership.’

LIFELONG LEARNING

Prity then turns to two initiatives that  Grand Lodge would like to roll out to the Districts to help with learning and development. Solomon is a collection of online material facilitating the members’ learning – it contains presentations, essays and ‘nuggets’ of knowledge and information from a variety of sources that will help in any stage of a masonic career. ‘This has already been rolled out across our Provinces. It is our intention to introduce Solomon and The Members’ Pathway to the Districts,’ she says. 

‘The Members’ Pathway was launched in 2017 and provides a series of steps that lodges and chapters can follow to attract, encourage and introduce new members. An important element of both initiatives is keeping current members engaged and adding value to help with their journey, to keep it relevant to them as they continue. It’s a different way of working and can help in the way they liaise with their members.’ 

That commitment to the members is central to everything Prity is doing, just as it is at the heart of what Dr David Staples and UGLE are working towards. ‘There’s a refreshing change taking place,’ she says. ‘There are so many ways to move forward and the senior team is bringing together a skill set with fresh ideas from which the members will ultimately benefit. That’s the long-term goal. It’s about our current members, what we can do for them to improve our services, but also for those who want to learn more about Freemasonry. There’s a vast amount of good work done in the Provinces that benefits the communities around them and we want to make potential members aware of that when they visit the website and read our literature. We want to raise the profile of the incredible work that members are engaged in – at all levels.’

‘We want to eliminate paper and repetition, reduce delays and make it easier for the lodge Secretaries and, ultimately, the members themselves’

Published in UGLE

The first Women’s Regular Masonic Lodge in the United States, was consecrated in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, 25 May 2019, by the Honorable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF)

Immediately following the consecration, the officers of the newly created Lodge were installed with Lourdes (“Lou”) P. Elias as the Lodge’s first Worshipful Master.

The Lodge’s consecration and the installation of its officers were conducted in a closed ceremony. However, HFAF gave exclusive access to Audiovisual Media, Inc. to film rehearsed parts of both ceremonies for the purpose of producing a documentary underwritten by the John E. Fetzer Memorial Trust to mark this historic occasion. The late John E. Fetzer, former owner of the Detroit Tigers and a radio pioneer, was a 33rd degree Mason in Michigan.

At the Gala Celebration that followed the consecration, Lou Elias, the Worshipful Master of America Lodge No. 57, described the significance of the event: 'In a few days, on June 4th, America will celebrate the Centenary Anniversary of the passage of the legislation by the United States Congress that became a year later the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution granting women in our country the right to vote.

'To mark this important anniversary, our British Brethren brought once again to our shores the light of Freemasonry, except that this time around they brought us the light of Regular Women Freemasonry working in the same tradition and practice of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).'

The Gala Celebration was held at the Almas Shriners Center in Washington, D.C. as an open event that included a traditional Masonic Festive Board and was attended by the Grand Master of Free And Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia along with several former Grand Masters.

Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary of UGLE, commented: 'Many congratulations to the HFAF and their Grand Master Christine Chapman for the historic consecration of the first ever regular Freemasons Lodge for women in America.

'Having met their new Worshipful Master Lou Elias a number of times, I know the Lodge will be in very safe hands.'

Published in International

Freemasons’ Hall – the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) – has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence for the fifth year running

Now in its ninth year, the achievement celebrates businesses that are consistently excellent, having earned great traveller reviews on the TripAdvisor website over the past year. As a result of earning a Certificate of Excellence every year for the past five years, Freemasons’ Hall has also qualified for the Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame.

Freemasons’ Hall is a stunning Grade II listed Art Deco building in the heart of London’s West End and welcomes over 200,000 visitors from across the world every year. The building was originally built as a peace memorial between 1927 and 1933 to honour the 3,000 English Freemasons who fought and died during the First World War.

Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, said: ‘This is a wonderful accolade to receive five Certificates of Excellence in a row for Freemasons’ Hall. The architecture and history of the building have made us an iconic landmark and we’re delighted with the many positive comments we’ve received.

‘We’re now busy working hard on a number of projects to enhance the experience for visitors – including taking part in the world’s largest architecture festival Open House this September – and continue to make us a popular tourist destination in London.’

The Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and timeliness of reviews submitted by travellers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.

Freemasons’ Hall is open to the public Monday to Saturday and includes free guided tours of the building, which incorporates the Museum of Freemasonry and the magnificent Grand Temple.

Read all the reviews of Freemasons’ Hall on TripAdvisor here.

Published in UGLE

The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) welcomed members from across the globe to join the Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, and Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, for this year’s Craft and Royal Arch Annual Investitures at Freemasons' Hall

Investiture week saw the District Support Team of Lister Park and Louise Watts taking the opportunity to organise a number of District-centric events. On 24th April 2019, new District Grand Masters and Provincial Grand Masters were given a guided tour of Freemasons’ Hall, followed by a presentation and luncheon with the Chief Operating Officer of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, Les Hutchinson, and Senior Grant Officers.

A Workshop for District Grand Secretaries filled the afternoon before the day was concluded by a Fellowship Gathering for all District members, with their wives and significant others, in the Vestibules area outside the Grand Temple. It was a relaxed and informal evening hosted by Dr Jim Daniel, UGLE’s Past Grand Secretary, who gave a short and amusing welcome speech, alongside Willie Shackell CBE, another Past Grand Secretary, the Rt Hon Lord Wigram, Past Senior Grand Warden, and Bruce Clitherow, Past Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies.

Following the Royal Arch festivities on 25th April 2019, District Grand Masters and their guests were then invited to join the Grand Secretary, Dr David Staples, for a relaxed drinks evening.

As a result of an organisational restructure at UGLE in January 2019, the department for Member Services, under the Directorship of Prity Lad, has a renewed focus on attracting new members and engaging with its existing membership.

Comprised of three key functions, the Registration Department, District Support and External Relations, they are committed to a common goal of making UGLE an organisation that is fit for purpose and an efficient headquarters for its members.

Prity Lad, UGLE’s Director of Member Services, said: ‘Being our first opportunity this year to welcome and entertain our District guests, these events were hugely important to us. It is our commitment to work in partnership with the Districts more closely than ever by creating a function of expertise, training and events and to support and raise the profile of the charitable work which our Districts are engaged in.

‘It was a huge honour for me to meet with many of those who attended and I look forward to working together over the next coming months. I would also like to give grateful thanks to Jim, Willie, Lord Wigram and Bruce for supporting this inaugural event, which we intend to be the first of many.’

Published in UGLE
Friday, 08 March 2019 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2019

From the Grand Secretary

Having been privileged to have participated in the Installation of its new District Grand Master, I am fortunate enough to be writing this from our sun-soaked District of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

As a doctor, I was always on the lookout for medical conferences in exotic places that happened to coincide with local lodge meetings. Escaping the ‘conference dinner’ in favour of meeting local brethren was never a difficult choice, and in the space of an evening I would find out, from those that knew, what was really worth doing and visiting for the remainder of my stay.

Our Districts are, and always have been, an integral and important part of the United Grand Lodge of England. For hundreds of years, they have represented and practised the finest values of English Freemasonry in far-flung corners of the globe. They count amongst their members those with power and influence, and those with little, and often bring together people who traditionally might not be easy bedfellows – much more so than we do in England. It is my stated intention to ensure that UGLE works ever more closely with our Districts and that we are able to recognise and support them in tackling not only the problems common to us all, but also those unique problems pertinent to their countries and environments. 

Our Districts, of course, have many things to teach us. I have noticed that whilst it is always dangerous to generalise, the Districts I have visited differ from our Provinces in two respects. Firstly, I am struck by how important ‘family’ is to their success – and bear in mind that they are growing an average of 10 per cent year on year. Events which routinely include wives, partners and ‘significant others’ increase the sense of community and normality of their day-to-day business.

Secondly, they are much more visible in the communities they are drawn from. In terms of the time they give to serve those around them, they seem proportionally much more engaged with local events and issues than we are back in England.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ method for success – our lodges, Districts, Provinces and indeed members are not, cannot and should not all be the same. Climates of political and religious hostility or tolerance exist to varying degrees across the globe. I am minded of a certain District where religious leaders are openly calling for ‘a coffin for each Freemason’ as a way to deal with the ‘problem’. Such obvious persecution rather puts our own press in perspective, but one thing I feel it illustrates is that we must become known for who we really are, what we stand for and what we do in our communities in order to counter such abject prejudice and nonsense. 

There are those members who feel that we should go about our business quietly with as little publicity or fuss as possible. Whilst respecting those of that opinion, they are wrong. Freemasonry must be associated in people’s minds with who we are, what we value and what we do if we are to have any chance of rehabilitating our reputation, and recent polling data shows that it is, indeed, in need of rehabilitation. In today’s age, burying our heads in the sand with a ‘who cares what they think’ attitude will, plainly and simply, seriously damage us further.

We must do everything we can, individually and as lodges and Provinces, to counter some of the unhelpful stereotypes we have picked up. How can we be viewed as secret if we are seen and known in our communities? How so sinister if those whose lives we touch think of us with fondness and gratitude? In an uncertain world, the masonic principles of integrity, respect and charity ring as true today as they ever have before. As W Bro the Right Reverend Albert Lewis, the District Grand Chaplain of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said in his sermon yesterday at St John’s Cathedral, Antigua – ‘Get out there and do something worthwhile’.

So brethren, if you are travelling this summer, or are abroad with work, and have a few evenings spare, be sure to contact your Provincial Secretary. Broaden your visiting horizons, do your part to bring our masonic family closer together and be sure to make the acquaintance of your brethren in our Districts overseas. And if you are reading this from a far-flung corner of a forgotten empire, and your curiosity has been piqued, you can be assured of a warm welcome should you be visiting London or our home Provinces.

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary

‘I’m struck by how important ‘family’ is to our Districts’ success… events which routinely include wives and ‘significant others’ increase the sense of normality of their day-to-day business’

Published in UGLE

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes welcomed five recipients of the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry (OSM) for a special lunch at Freemasons’ Hall on 21st February 2019

OSM recipients Sir John Welch, Charles Grace, Edward Ford, Professor Aubrey Newman and Keith Gilbert were in attendance for the first event of its kind. They were also joined by Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary, and Quentin Humberstone, Grand Treasurer.

Instituted in 1945, the OSM is an acknowledgement of exceptional service to Freemasonry and is the highest honour the Grand Master can confer on any member of the Craft.

The Order is a neck decoration in the form of a Garter blue ribbon from which hangs the jewel of the Order. The jewel is of silver-gilt, being a double-circle with a pair of compasses extended on the segment of a circle, and the letters O S M; beneath it is the motto In Solo Deo Salus “In God alone is our safety”.

Read the OSM citations of each of the recipients:

Sir John Welch
Charles Grace
Edward Ford
Professor Aubrey Newman
Keith Gilbert

Read Graham Redman’s presentation on the Grand Master’s Order of Service

Published in UGLE

United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) is delighted to announce that it has been awarded Investors in People accreditation

Investors in People is the Standard for people management and UGLE has been accredited at ‘Developed Level’ until 2021, which is based on a tried and tested framework and a rigorous process of assessment.

Work has gone on throughout the year to implement a number of strategies to improve communication and consistency in the way people are led, managed and developed at UGLE.

In part, accreditation has been awarded as a result of a wholesale restructure at UGLE centred on delivering for its members, alongside new organisational values, appraisal system and pay structure, recognition and reward scheme and improved internal communications.

Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, said: ‘When I was appointed Chief Executive last year, I was charged with making UGLE a fit for purpose and efficient central headquarters, and this is a significant milestone towards achieving that overall goal. We have worked hard to create a positive working environment where people enjoy coming to work, driving excellence and enhancing the support we give to our 200,000 members – being awarded this accreditation underpins that commitment.

‘This is an enormous achievement in such a short space of time, and I am rightly proud of all those who have played a part in achieving it.’

Investors in People works with thousands of top businesses across the country. With a community of thousands of organisations across 58 countries, successful accreditation against the Standard is the sign of a great employer, an outperforming place to work and a clear commitment to sustained success.

Published in UGLE

Quarterly Communication

12 December 2018 
A presentation by VW Bro Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary

Brethren, good morning. It is my great pleasure to be speaking to you here today.

As many of you will know, I used to work as a doctor. My clinical job was to work out why people were horizontal and try to get them vertical again. I shall try my hardest over the next 15 minutes or so not to reverse that process.

I left Derby Hospital four years ago to become Clinical Director for Medicine at Peterborough where I managed a whole host of awkward people and there, to my astonishment, I discovered that I rather enjoyed this thing called ‘management’. In fact, I found that I enjoyed it much more than medicine.

People were usually pleased to see me which made a change, and as someone who had always enjoyed solving problems I found that I was deluged with problems. It was not a great leap for me to move into another organisation with problems to solve.

I still practice medicine for half a day a week – it seemed foolish to burn all my clinical bridges in this particular role. The Board and Rulers hired me as Chief Executive with two main outcomes in mind. First, I was to bring the Corporate and Masonic sides of Freemasons’ Hall together – to meld 60 Great Queen Street into a purpose and values driven organisation which services the needs of the United Grand Lodge of England, Supreme Grand Chapter and of course you, our members.

Secondly, I was tasked with helping to formulate, coordinate and ensure the delivery of the United Grand Lodge of England’s strategies for the future as defined by the Rulers and the Board.

To my mind, the most important of these is rapidly becoming to ‘Normalise the perception of Freemasonry in the public consciousness’ – to make it as acceptable to say that one is going to a lodge meeting as it would be to say that one is going shopping, out for a meal, or to the golf course; and to make it a genuine choice for all of our members as to whether they wish to disclose their membership or not – rather than one mandated by the attitudes and prejudices of their colleagues.

Today I would like to try to give you a flavour for some of the challenges UGLE faces along that journey, and some of the things that we are doing to meet them. We are always, however, mindful of the need to respect the independence of individual lodges and Provinces, and only to mandate those things which are absolutely essential to the future of the Craft.

Things are not all rosy. In 1920, Grand Lodge issued around 30,000 Grand Lodge certificates each year. By 2015 this had dropped to 7,000 which equates to less than one new member per lodge per year. 20% of our members resign or never come back prior to receiving their Grand Lodge certificate. 60% of our membership is over 60 years of age. Membership remains one of our greatest challenges.

As an organisation, we are shrinking by 1% a year, although interestingly our districts are growing at 10% per year on average.

Attracting new members and engaging our membership so that they remain members is therefore of paramount importance, but the pool of candidates eligible to join Freemasonry is a fraction of what it was 50 years ago.

We can do little to change whether a person believes in a Supreme Being, or whether they have a criminal record, but UGLE has done a great deal to try to influence the opportunity that eligible members have to join us successfully; this has occurred most visibly through the Membership Pathway which was launched earlier this year – an initiative that seeks to ensure that potential members know what to expect, and to minimise the chances of them leaving.

What used to be ‘invitation only’ is now much more open. Lodges regularly exhibit at universities Freshers’ Fairs and all Provincial websites and the United Grand Lodge of England welcome online membership enquiries. We also seek to influence what is ‘findable’ on Google by engaging with the media. By having sensible stories which reflect what WE want about Freemasonry on the top three pages of a Google search, we are able to significantly alter our public footprint.

Before the Second World War, Freemasons would have been openly known and respected in their communities. Public parades of masons were common place. Masons were often asked to perform ceremonies around the laying of foundation stones for public buildings.

Then, Hitler murdered 200,000 Freemasons on the continent and looked as though he were poised to invade England. Suddenly, it didn’t seem quite such a good idea to be so open about our membership and we collectively retreated into a position of privacy that we have only just, with the Tercentenary celebrations last year, started to retreat from in a coordinated fashion.

The third factor which influences whether we attract new members is the environment – by which I primarily mean the court of public opinion. What do the public think of us? How likely is it that our members are happy to ‘come out’ as Freemasons? How likely or acceptable is it that an organisation or employer decides to discriminate against Freemasons? What is the political climate? What is the religious climate? – All of these issues form the environment from which our members are drawn.

The national press is obsessed with handshakes, trouser legs, nepotism, corruption and with events that may have happened 50 years ago in a then corrupt police force. Not a media interview has gone by over the last year when I have not been asked about one of these issues – yet only 4% of young people under 25 ever read the national press, and only 9% get their news from television. By far the predominant source for news in the under 30s is the internet. We need to ensure our media presence reflects this.

In centuries past, however, Freemasons and Freemasonry was enormously respected. Before the times of professional organisations and trade bodies such as the British Medical Associate, the Bar Association, The Law Society etc., if you wanted to employ the services of someone who wasn’t going to rip you off, a Freemason represented someone who openly ‘met people on the level’ and ‘treated them squarely’. It was the closest one could get at the time to a kite mark of decent and moral professional behaviour, and, for tradesmen, membership was a likely to result in both increased respect and increased business.

Unfortunately, how Freemasonry is explained to us as Entered Apprentices is not necessarily an easy and straightforward concept to grasp. We are told that Freemasonry is a ‘peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols’ . That its system of morality forms of a set of values and principles of conduct. Freemasons are the custodians of a way of behaving which takes good people and makes them better, doing so by acting out ancient myths and encouraging a study of the deeper meaning of symbols, so it is both a philosophical and philanthropic society. One can see how it might prove very difficult for us to explain what Freemasonry is to those who might be curious. And, of course, Freemasonry means many different things to different members.

If we talk about charity, we are no different to hundreds of other organisations who fight for space in a very crowded sector. If we talk about friendship or camaraderie then similarly we do not capture the unique aspects of Freemasonry which set us aside from a club or society.

We will never be able to, nor should we, reinvent ourselves to please the public, but we do need to nuance our message so that it can have the greatest effect on those who we might be able to influence, and what you will see over the next 18 months or so is a coordinated media and communications strategy that starts to deploy these messages. We started this year with ‘Enough is Enough’ and there is a great deal more to come.

We need to find something that communicates the unique nature of Freemasonry in a friendly, accessible fashion, and in a way which makes us an attractive use of our potential members’ precious time. So how do we achieve, in the minds of the public, a favourable opinion preconceived of the institution? We must define ourselves clearly and positively to the outside world. We must regain control of our own narrative, we need to promulgate the timeless principles of brotherly love and self-improvement. We need to inspire people to lead better lives and be a values driven, professional organisation.

So Communications and Membership are two of my top priorities as mandated by the Board, the Rulers and the various committees and groups that have a care for Freemasonry.

These priorities are clearly reflected in the restructuring of the United Grand Lodge of England communications apparatus, and by the creation of a new Membership Services Department, which will encompass a new department for the Districts which, in the past, have not perhaps received the attention that they deserve; the Chancellery which manages foreign masonic affairs and also all of your enquiries should you want to visit a lodge abroad as well as the membership and registration functions.

When I came to UGLE, the headquarters had been split along masonic and non-masonic lines, and it was fair to say that there was a degree of civil war existing between the two. What I found was a headquarters crying out for modernisation. I am pleased to say that following considerable effort by all the staff over the last year, UGLE has just been awarded Investors in People Accreditation – something that will help dispel our reputation as operating from a secret volcano base somewhere off the West Coast of Sumatra.

Bringing about change within UGLE is not a simple task. I have entitled my talk 'Risk Takers, Caretakers and Undertakers' which broadly explains the mindsets which govern all of us here today in some part. Some aspects of the organisation need curating – they are precious to us and to our members and should be preserved as part of our responsibility as the de facto caretakers of a three-hundred-year-old institution, other parts need to be allowed to run their course and die, for an organisation which never renews itself is unlikely to survive. We see this often in the lives of individual lodges, which come together to serve a need for their members, but as times change, or that need changes, some lodges pass away whilst others invigorate themselves and thrive. In order to thrive, we need to be prepared perhaps to take risks and to change in order to remain, or perhaps regain a relevance in the modern world. If we aren’t prepared to do this, we become undertakers and bury something enormously precious to us all.

Another key priority for us at UGLE is to modernise the processes by which the organisation is administered. This year, we will have performed 24 Installations of Provincial and District Rulers all of those, coordinated from this building. We are recognised the world over for our pre-eminent ceremonial. It is my intention to ensure that this excellence shows itself in all that we do. We have moved the Masonic Year Book and the Directory of Lodges and Chapters to living online documents, and now have a thriving members’ area on our website. For the first time, some of you will have booked your place here today online and made payment for the lunch that follows electronically – something you will no doubt have been doing in other areas of life for well over a decade.

Astonishingly this change will save over 1,800 man hours of work each year. Those of you who are Secretaries will be pleased to hear that we are aiming to ensure that Installation Returns are pre-printed, meaning that you will never again have to write out the names and numbers of all your past masters – something which has been done and remained unchanged for over 175 years.

But that is just the start. The Book of Constitutions lays out guidance on how a modern membership organisation should be run, but the problem is that its current iteration was written in the nineteenth century.

Imagine now an organisation where the Lodge Secretary could access the central database of their members’ information and keep it updated. Why should secretaries have to write clearance certificates when we already know who is paid up and who is in arrears? Why not just run a real time Masonic credit check when you want to join a new lodge? Why are forms needed in order to get a Grand Lodge certificate, when we already know all the information on those forms?

To start to modernise these internal processes is an enormous piece of work, but I know it will bring real benefits to our members and those who administer lodges and Provinces.

And these changes will alter the experiences of the everyday mason too. Can you imagine a system that sends links to articles that explains the ceremony of initiation to an initiate the day after he is brought in? Or a system that sends information about the Royal Arch to a newly made Master Mason? What about a system that flags to the Lodge Almoner when a member has missed three meetings in a row – a strongly correlated marker for poor engagement and retention. In this way we can start to influence how we engage our membership at a whole new level with that peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.

The Craft has an old, established teaching system, which uses role-playing, memory work and public speaking to enshrine its principles in the hearts of Masons. These techniques have evolved over many centuries and even more generations of Brethren, to pass on our traditions to benefit our members by making them better people, at peace with themselves and with the society in which they live.

We have recently launched ‘SOLOMON’, an online learning resource covering the three degrees and the Royal Arch which you are able to register for, access and read as you progress through your masonic journey. It has over 350 articles, graded for the correct degree which augment these established teaching methods within the Craft and make each candidate’s journey through Masonry a much more fulfilling experience.

So, Brethren, there is a huge amount going on in your organisation, and that is not counting the numerous happenings at Provincial and individual lodge level. UGLE is building an efficient and effective organisation. An organisation which provides a structure able to support and engage our members, attract new people to the Craft and Royal Arch, normalize Freemasonry in the public consciousness and stand up for our members whenever they are unfairly discriminated against or collectively attacked.

The United Grand Lodge of England is here to act as a custodian of the values and traditions of Freemasonry which inspire people to Lead Better Lives for the benefit of society, valuing Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. We should be a straightforward organisation that is supportive, self-confident, welcoming, member focused, friendly and fun because that is an organisation that good men will want to join and even better men will want to remain members of. It is the duty of all of us to make this an organisation we are proud to be a part of.

Thank you.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

12 December 2018 
Report of the Board of General Purposes

Minutes

The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 12 September 2018 were confirmed.

HRH The Duke of Kent KG was nominated to be Grand Master for the ensuing year.

Annual Investiture of Grand Officers – 24 April 2019

So that sufficient accommodation can be reserved for those Brethren who are to be invested and their friends, admission to the Annual Investiture is by ticket only. Brethren to be invested for the first time may invite to be present with them three qualified Brethren, and those to be promoted two qualified Brethren.

Allowance having been made for such an issue and for those whose presence in the Grand Lodge is essential, a few seats will remain. Written application for these seats may be made to the Grand Secretary between 1 March and 31 March by Brethren qualified to attend the Grand Lodge:

  1. Past Grand Officers;*
  2. Masters;
  3. Wardens (not Past Wardens);
  4. Past Masters qualified under Rule 9 of the Book of Constitutions.

Applications should state clearly the name, address and Lodge of the Brother concerned and under which of the four categories mentioned his application is made. If necessary, a ballot for the allocation of seats will be held in early April, and tickets will be posted to successful Brethren on or about 5 April. Brethren who have been unsuccessful will be so informed.

Possession of a ticket will not, of itself, ensure admission – Brethren who are not Grand Officers will be required to hand their tickets to the Scrutineers before examination by them in accordance with the usual practice at Quarterly Communications.

Past Grand Officers should sign the Attendance Books in the Past Grand Officers’ Room, and give up their tickets before being admitted to the Grand Temple. Grand Officers taking part in the procession will sign in the Grand Officers’ Room.

* Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters, all other Present Grand Officers, including Grand Stewards, Deputy Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters, and Assistant Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters should not apply in this way as they will be invited specifically by letter about a month before the day of Investiture and asked to indicate on a reply slip whether they intend to be present. Similar arrangements are made for District Grand Masters who are known to intend to be in the UK on 24 April and this can be extended to others, if they write indicating their wish to attend.

Masonic Year Book

The next edition of the Masonic Year Book, 2019–2020, will be available next autumn. The charge will be £15 per copy, plus postage and packing where appropriate. It is not proposed to produce a new edition of the Directory of Lodges and Chapters during 2019. Copies of the 2018 edition will still be available from Letchworth’s shop.

Every Lodge is provided access to an online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters free of charge via the designated website. The Board emphasises that this information should be available to all the members of private Lodges and not regarded as for the exclusive use of the Secretary to whom, for administrative reasons, access is provided.

Metropolitan and Provincial Lodges

Access to the online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters is provided to Secretaries of Lodges.

Lodges abroad

Access to the online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters is provided to Secretaries of Lodges in the Districts as well as to Secretaries of Lodges abroad not in a District.

Prestonian Lectures for 2019

The Board has considered applications for the delivery of the official Prestonian Lectures in 2019 and has decided that these should be given under the auspices of the following:

Dean Leigh Masters Lodge, No. 3687 (Herefordshire)
Norfolk Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 3905 (Norfolk)
Leeds and District Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7918 (Yorkshire, West Riding)
West Sussex Masters Lodge, No. 8963 (Sussex)

The Lecturer, W Bro Michael Karn, PAGSwdB, states that the title of the Lecture will be: English Freemasonry during the Great War.

The Board, when annually inviting applications for the privilege of having one of the official deliveries of the Lectures, invariably emphasises their importance as the only Lectures held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. The Board and the Trustees of the Prestonian Fund are correspondingly keen to ensure that Brethren come forward with potential future lectures on topics which will be of interest to English Freemasons. Brethren who consider that they have the requisite skill and knowledge are accordingly invited to submit their names to the Grand Secretary, through their Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretaries.

Lotteries

Since the Board last reported to Grand Lodge on lotteries in December 1994, there has been no significant change in the law on the subject, which is now contained in the Gambling Act 2005. There have, however, been some changes in the names of the various regulatory bodies and the classes of lotteries themselves, as well as minor changes to the rules applying to the various classes. The Board accordingly hopes that the Grand Lodge will endorse the following statement on lotteries, which takes into account the changes since it last reported on the subject.

There is no inherent Masonic objection to any form of lottery currently permitted by law, and a lottery with a Masonic character may, therefore, be used by members of the Craft to raise money for any lawful purpose, subject to the qualifications set out below. Such a lottery should, in general, be used to raise money only for charity, other benevolent purposes, or some other specific object not directed to private gain; no form of lottery should in any circumstances be used to defray the general running expenses of a Lodge, Metropolitan Area, Province or District.

A lottery has a Masonic character if it is promoted or run by Freemasons

  1. who declare their capacity as such; or
  2. for a purpose, or on behalf of a body, which is identifiably Masonic, whether or not the purpose or body includes words such as “Masonic” or “Freemason” in its title or description.

The Board considers it essential that the purpose for which any such lottery is held is clearly stated to anyone to whom chances in the lottery are offered for sale.

It does not accord with the spirit of Masonic charity or of Masonic bodies that lotteries should be held which seek money under the banner of Freemasonry from other than Masonic sources (Masonic sources include anyone who has a family or other close personal connection with the Craft or with any of its members). It is therefore inappropriate for tickets for a lottery with a Masonic character to be made available for sale to the public at large.

The responsibility for compliance with the provisions of the law rests firmly on those responsible for promoting and assisting in the running of lotteries. It is the duty of such Brethren to ensure, by obtaining where necessary appropriate procedural and legal advice, that the Craft is not brought into disrepute by any failure to meet all legal requirements, or for any other reason. Advice is readily available from, among others, the Gambling Commission, local authorities, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Institute of Fundraising.

The Gambling Act 2005 provides that all lotteries must be either licensed, or registered or fall within one of five statutory exemptions. The Board’s guidance on the three types of lottery most likely to be relevant for lotteries with a Masonic character is as follows:

  1. The Board sees no objection to “small lotteries incidental to events” (for example, a raffle at a dinner), provided that the entertainment is of a Masonic character.
  2. A “private society lottery” (for example a “100 club”) where tickets are sold only to members or visitors and the lottery is advertised only within the relevant Lodge: the Board considers that such lotteries, if appropriate for Masonic purposes, should be subject to the same restrictions as small society lotteries (see below).
  3. A “small society lottery”, for  which  registration  of  the  organisation is required, is appropriate for fundraising on a larger scale, for example a Provincial Benevolent Fund or one of the Masonic Charities or local charities, or when a Private Lodge sponsors a special appeal. The written leave of the Provincial or District Grand Master (or, in London, of the Board of General Purposes) must be obtained at the earliest opportunity, both before registration is applied for, and again before any individual lottery is organised.

Literature which includes Masonic forms of address in promoting the sale of lottery tickets is unacceptable, even if it emanates from Associations of Friends, over which Grand Lodge has no jurisdiction.

Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Masters of Lodges should refuse to permit the distribution of literature or tickets which clearly infringe any of the above principles, and may refuse to permit their distribution if in their opinion the spirit of those principles is infringed.

Recognition of foreign Grand Lodges

The Grand Chancellor to move that the following Grand Lodges be recognised:

Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama was originally formed as the Independent Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Alabama on 27 September 1870, by three regular Lodges of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, which was recognised by this Grand Lodge on 11 June 1997.

Grand Lodge of Paraná
The Grand Lodge of Paraná was formed on January 25th, 1941 by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio de Janeiro, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 12 December 2001. The Grand Lodge of Paraná’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Paraná.

Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás
The Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás was formed on 9 June 1951 by fifteen regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of São Paulo, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 8 December 1999. The Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás’ jurisdiction is limited to the State of Goiás.

Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina
The Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina was formed on 21 April 1956 by seven regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 12 December 2001. The Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Santa Catarina.

Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima
The Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima was formed on 20 August 1981 by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Amazonas, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 14 March 2018. The Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Roraima.

Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia
The Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia was formed on 10 April 1985, by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Amazonas, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 14 March 2018. The Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Rondônia.

Having shown that they have regularity of origin and that they conform to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge recognition, the Board, having no reason to believe that they will not continue to maintain a regular path, recommends that these six Grand Lodges be recognised.

Amalgamations

The Board has received reports that the following Lodges have resolved to surrender their Warrants: Palmer Lodge, No. 9255, in order to amalgamate with Heabrym Lodge, No. 7201 (Durham); and Blaauwberg Lodge, No. 9337, in order to amalgamate with Wynberg Lodge, No. 2577 (South Africa, Western Division).

The Board accordingly recommends that the Lodges be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamations.

Erasure of lodges

The Board has received a report that eighteen lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are:

Red Rose of Lancaster Lodge, No. 1504 (East Lancashire); Lodge of Charity, No. 1551 (Warwickshire); Epping Lodge, No. 2077 (Essex); Arthur Sullivan Lodge, No. 2156 (East Lancashire); Edward Terry Lodge, No. 2722 (London); Catford Lodge, No. 3649 (West Kent); Loyal Lodge, No. 5040 (East Lancashire); Father Thames Lodge, No. 5615 (Middlesex); Old Rectory Lodge, No. 6651 (Oxfordshire); Hurstwood Lodge, No. 6768 (East Lancashire); Syon Lodge, No. 7394 (Middlesex); Cathedral Lodge, No. 7814 (East Lancashire); Phaethon Lodge, No. 7820 (London); Alphin Lodge, No. 8461 (East Lancashire); Delphi Lodge, No. 9061 (East Lancashire); Blakewater Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 9574 (East Lancashire); Condate Cheshire Provincial Grand Officers Lodge, No. 9594 (Cheshire); and Kendalian Lodge, No. 9757 (Cumberland and Westmorland)

Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board was satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore had no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Presentation to Grand Lodge

A presentation on Risk Takers, Caretakers and Undertakers was given by VW Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary.

New lodges

List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by the MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:

12 September 2018

9967 Barão de Batovi Lodge, Campo Grande, South America, Northern Division
9968 Essex Cornerstone Lodge, Upminster, Essex
9969 Vectis Service Lodge, Ryde, Hampshire and Isle of Wight
9970 Swallowfield Pitt Bridge Lodge, Wokingham, Berkshire
9971 Shropshire Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held on 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019, 11 September 2019, 11 December 2019 and 11 March 2020.

The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers will take place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend.

Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 25 April 2019, 13 November 2019 and 30 April 2020.

Published in UGLE
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