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

The District Grand Master of Cyprus, Michael Hadjiconstantas, has presented a cheque for €15,000 to the Grand Lodge of Greece to help the people of Mati, who suffered from Greece's worst wildfire last summer

The District Grand Master was accompanied by the Assistant District Grand Master, Leandros Zachariades, District Officers and other members of the District, who visited the Grand Lodge of Greece on 6th December 2018 to present the donation to their Grand Master Constantinos Politis.

On arriving to Athens, they were welcomed by the Grand Treasurer Pavlos Sarof before the Grand Master of Greece hosted a luncheon in their honour. In the evening, they then attended a joint meeting of Asklipios Lodge No. 159, Pistis Lodge No. 71 and Vyzantion Lodge No. 60, at the newly erected magnificent Masonic Centre at Kifissia.

The Temple was filled to its capacity with over 180 members in attendance. The original delegation of nine from Cyprus was further enhanced by the arrival of a dozen members of King Tefkros Lodge No. 9786, who reside in Athens, headed by the Master of the Lodge and his Wardens, as well as Past Masters of the Lodge and holders of District Grand Rank.

After the lodge was opened, the Grand Master of Greece took to the Chair and in a most powerful and eloquent address, acknowledged the international senior and prestigious position of the United Grand Lodge of England and the symbolism of the District Grand Lodge of Cyprus’ visit, and recognised this as the beginning of a new chapter in their relations and a strengthening of the fraternal bonds.

Cyprus’s District Grand Master Michael Hadjiconstantas then presented the cheque for €15,000 to Constantinos Politis who thanked the Brethren from Cyprus and assured them that this sum would be faithfully applied to the worthy cause for which it was given. He then announced that the Council of the Grand Lodge of Greece had unanimously decided to proclaim Michael Hadjiconstantas an Honorary Member, in recognition of his efforts to bring about the unity of the members in Cyprus and those in Greece.

Michael Hadjiconstantas was presented with the Certificate of the Grand Lodge of Greece, confirming this honorary membership and a gold coin bearing its insignia.

The meeting then continued with a lecture presented by Greece’s Past Senior Grand Warden, Theodosios Tasios, on the symbolism of the Opening of the Lodge in the First Degree before those present retired from the lodge for the Festive Board held in the Masonic Centre at Kifissia.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 11:23

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2018

Quarterly Communication

12 September 2018 
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, it is a pleasure to see you all back after the long, hot summer, and I would like to particularly welcome again those younger members of our Universities Scheme and, indeed, anyone else making their first visit to Quarterly Communications this September.

Brethren, this year we will see perhaps the greatest change in senior leadership within the Craft that there has ever been - and I'm not of course referring to the three of us! No fewer than 12 Provincial Grand Masters and seven District Grand Masters will have retired and their successors Installed by the end of this year. With each Installation ride the hopes of not just the members of that particular Province or District but, to a certain extent, the success and longevity of the Craft itself. More than ever before we expect so much from our leaders. We hold them accountable for the guardianship of a heritage stretching back centuries, and also for the future of the Craft, its growth and development and, dare I say, the innovation and change needed to allow it to flourish and grow. 

If we are to attract and engage our membership, and those who might flourish as members, we need to be not only responsive to the society in which we live, but also mould and form the perceptions of that society. It is quite right and proper that I pay tribute and thank those who, often for a decade or more, steward and safeguard the Ideals of the Craft for future generations.

Historically we have been a melting pot for ideas, a Brotherhood where concepts at the forefront of science and social change could be debated. We have been fortunate to count amongst our members some of the greatest minds of any age, Alexander Fleming and Edward Jenner; Scott of the Antarctic and Ernest Shackleton; Pope, Trollope, Burns, Kipling, and, like Sir Winston Churchill, those who truly valued service above the external advantages of rank and fortune.

Then, as now, there was not a ‘Right’ way of thinking, but a respect for all ways of thinking - some orthodox, some challenging. If we, as an organisation have a ‘unique selling point’ ghastly expression, I know, we respect each other, irrespective of our beliefs.

I know that some of our members were uncomfortable with the direction the Law has taken on issues such as gender fluidity and the obligation that puts upon us as individuals who pay due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become our place of residence.

I know from the debates that have been held up and down the country that there are similarly a large number of you who feel that our response to recent changes in the Law is generous, decent and open minded and you applaud it. 

Throughout our history our members have held vastly different views on many different subjects. It is one of our great strengths to encompass this breadth of views. Unlike the echo chambers of social media, we meet people who are different to us, who think differently, but that does not set us apart, or put us at variance; it binds us together as it did for those many freemasons who have gone before us. 

Brethren, this is one of the many things that, in my view, we have to offer society, and that so many outside the Craft could learn and prosper from, and it is just one of the many reasons I am proud to be Pro Grand Master.

Published in Speeches
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00

With an eye to the future

Hundreds of Freemasons from north, south and central America and the Caribbean gathered in Montego Bay, Jamaica, for the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary

District Grand Master of Jamaica & the Cayman Islands Walter Scott said it was ‘a signal honour for Jamaica to be named hosts of this historical event in the Americas’.

Walter saw the Jamaica celebrations as an opportunity for members of church, state and the community to gather in harmony and share their thoughts and ideas. Running over four days, events included a grand banquet, cocktail reception, special commemorative lodge meeting, a Jamaica Night themed party and a two-day academic programme under the subject ‘Looking back with an eye to the future’.

The District Grand Lodge of Cyprus was proud to host the visit of the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 20th October 2017, where he had the opportunity to meet many members of the District, visit a local lodge and attend a Gala Dinner

It was a very important day for the District with plans for the visit having been started by the District Grand Secretary Robert Humphries several months in advance.

Together with his own Director of Ceremonies Charles Hopkinson-Woolley, the Pro Grand Master visited Apollo Lodge in the village of Episkopi where they were welcomed by the Worshipful Master Alan Cook. During his visit, he was also introduced to Gordon Rowell, an active member of the lodge at the ripe old age of 89.

In common with other visitors to the rather ancient Nissen hut which houses Apollo Lodge, the Pro Grand Master was astonished to see the attractive and well maintained interior of the building, including the beautifully laid out dining room. 

The Pro Grand Master learnt a great deal about Apollo Lodge and the District Grand Lodge of Cyprus. On completion of his visit, he was then presented with a framed print of an original painting by Brian Howard which depicted the Apollo Lodge building and the surrounding gardens.

The day continued with a business lunch with the District Grand Master Theodosios Theodossiou and District Grand Secretary Robert Humphries. The main event in the evening was a Gala Dinner Dance in the Panorama Room of the St Raphael Hotel, which was attended by 160 Freemasons and guests including the Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Cyprus and the Grand Lodge of Greece.

During the evening, the Pro Grand Master addressed the assembly and explained some of the highlights of the Masonic year including visits to other Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka, where he had witnessed first-hand the charitable work that the Districts had been involved in. He also thanked the District Grand Master of Cyprus and the organisers of the visit.

After rousing applause, Theodosios Theodossiou thanked the Pro Grand Master on behalf of the District and presented a cheque for €10,000 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation – to which, in reply, the Pro Grand Master expressed his heartfelt thanks on behalf of the charity.

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes was present in September when the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra, Ghana, received a $42,000 X-ray machine from the District Grand Lodge of the country as part of Freemasonry’s Tercentenary celebrations

The equipment will help in the effective treatment of all forms of kidney stones. Along with the Pro Grand Master, Ghana District Grand Master Isaac O Hood led a delegation in order to present the machine’s documents to KBTH chief executive Dr Felix Anyah.

District help for  Dominica storm relief

Last August the small Caribbean island of Dominica was hit by tropical storm Erika. Five hours of the storm’s intense wind and rain provoked flooding and landslides, destroying hundreds of homes in the process.

St George Lodge, No. 3421, which has worked on the island for over 100 years, enlisted the help of brethren in the District of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, and took immediate steps to assist. The Freemasons’ Association of Jamaica, through District Grand Master Walter Scott and District Grand Secretary Robert Forbes, donated JMD 800,000 to The Salvation Army as its contribution to the Dominica Relief Fund. The presentation was received by the territorial commander, Commissioner Gerrit Marseille, and property officer Major Stanley Griffin.

Jamaica helps rebuild girls’ home

Walter Scott, District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, has presented a cheque valued at J$551,000 to Keith Sangster, chairman of the board of the Wortley Home for Girls, on behalf of the District. The donation will help the home recover from a fire that destroyed a section of the facility. 

Jamaica Grand Lodge funds children’s home

The District Grand Lodge of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands makes annual donations to the Jamaica National Children’s Home. These are funded by lodges making yearly contributions to District Grand Master Walter Scott’s Child Care month. Further donations are provided by the District’s Freemasons’ Association, a company that generates income by renting out its building space.

Ghana District sponsors university chair 

Working with the District Grand Lodge of Ghana (English Constitution), the Phillips family has presented GH¢20,000 to the Methodist University College Ghana to create a Chair in mathematics. It will be known as the JVL Phillips Chair of Mathematics, after the former District Grand Master of Ghana.

Presenting the cheque at the university campus in Dansoman, Accra, District Grand Master Kow Abaka Quansah said the doctor had served Freemasonry by establishing masonic charities such as the Samaritan Fund to cater for the poor and needy in society. ‘The late Dr James Villers Legge Phillips, affectionately known as “Uncle Jimmy”, was an icon who was eminently admired and respected.’

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