Despite its small size, the Province of Shropshire knows how to punch well above its weight. Back in 2014 when the then Provincial Grand Master Peter Taylor launched a Festival for the Province (the fifth smallest of the 48 Provinces) its 1,200 members found themselves facing the challenge of raising no less than £1 million over the following five years
Undaunted, the then 34, although now 36, Lodges inspired their members to rise to that challenge magnificently.
Under the chairmanship of the provincial grand charity steward, Simon Aucott, a Festival Fundraising Committee organised, co-ordinated and supported the work of the lodge charity stewards throughout the Province in finding ever more inventive ways by which they, their families and friends might go about raising the vital contribution to the work of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF).
Members of the Province jumped out of aircraft, held promise auctions, went on a group cycle ride from Telford to Rotterdam, held dinners, garden parties and wine tastings. There were christmas fairs and a spectacular concert. The Provincial Director of Ceremonies organised a competition for members to guess his annual mileage on masonic business during a single year; the answer was tens of thousands!
And just to prove that the having wheels is not the only way of fundraising, international walking champion Roger Michell walked between all the lodges of the Province to present a travelling Maul which then accompanied him and his wife Linda on a walk from Freemasons' Hall in Shrewsbury to Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street for quarterly communication in June 2019, where Roger's achievement of walking over 1,000 miles was recogised by the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. UGLE donated £1,000 to the appeal.
Eventually, the appeal came to a close and at a spectacular gala celebration event at the Telford International Centre, organised by the festval celebration committee chaired by Melvin Gough, the final total was revealed: an astonishing £1,217,094! This is the second highest per capita contribution ever made to the MCF. The Provincial Grand Master went on to praise the efforts of everyone who had worked so hard over the period of the Festival, singling out in particular the committee chairman and the festival treasurer, Dennis Hill.
The Gala was a brilliant celebration of all the efforts of the many Freemasons, families and friends and was attended by 580 people, including HM Lord Lieutenant in Shropshire, Anna Turner, and civic dignitaries as well as other guests including the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, and the President of the MCF, Richard Hone, and Chief Operating Officer, Les Hutchinson. Shropshire Freemasons were proud to welcome them all and to showcase who they are and what they do in the community. In addition to the sumptuous dinner, guests were entertained by magicians and singing waiters to add to the special evening.
Shropshire won't be required to hold another Festival until 2030, but the fundraising efforts won't stop any time soon: the Province, Lodges and indivdual Freemasons will build on the experience gained over the period of the Festival to continue to raise funds for many local charities, as they have over many years. Although there may be fewer parachute jumps by the Provincial Grand Master!
11 December 2019
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren. If you look up, you will see one of the finest mosaics in London. It took Italian craftsmen 10 man-years to create and, like so much of our Craft, it is laden with symbols, allegory and meaning. But look more closely, especially in the South-West and you will see that all is not quite as it should be. Cracks have been appearing over the last few years. Tesserae have fallen, and the Grand Superintendent of Work’s brow has furrowed, but he informs me that you are not in immediate danger!
After extensive research, chemical analysis, ultrasounds, X-Rays, thermal studies, endoscopies, not to mention all manner of expert opinion, we are now able to confidently conclude that we have no idea why. We do know the many things that are not responsible for these cracks, and contrary to scurrilous rumour, hot air from this chair has nothing whatsoever to do with it, but pinning down the exact cause has proved elusive. Take a good look Brethren because in a few weeks’ time, it will be shrouded in scaffolding, and for the first time in nearly a hundred years, men, and probably women, will begin work on restoring it to its former splendour.
We recently heard from the Grand Superintendent of Works about his role within the organisation and some of the work being done by his team to ensure that not only this building, but all of our masonic halls up and down the country are up to scratch. A huge amount of work has been put into producing the Masonic Halls Guide, available in the members’ section of the UGLE website, to provide a ‘Best Practice’ guide to help Lodges and Provinces improve their Halls and meeting places, and how they are managed.
I was recently told of a Lodge in Cambridgeshire (Stone Cross) which has transformed its own hall from a rather dingy affair to something the whole community can be proud of. Members, under the guidance of more expert Craftsmen – also members of that Lodge – have spent weekends, and time over consecutive summers to transform it into a venue that they can all look forward to using – and it has made a huge difference to the first impressions and attendance of new members.
As we actively seek out new members to join us, we should ensure that we are examining what it is that we would expect them to find – not just in the physical spaces we occupy, but in our Lodges too.
Many of us find a great deal of fulfilment in volunteering and giving of our time for the benefit of the community at large. We will shortly be sending out a survey to estimate just how great an impact we, as Freemasons have within our local communities – our last estimate was that our members contribute over 5 million hours volunteering for worthy causes.
We must be unique as an organisation in that we have premises embedded in almost every community in the Country. Just as we draw our members from all walks of life and all backgrounds, so our halls are found in village and cities, in areas rich and poor. Over the next few months, the Communications Working Party of the Board, made up of Provincial Grand Masters from each region of the country, will be looking at what we might do to raise our profile by putting these to better use – not only for ourselves, but also for those communities from which we are drawn. What does your Hall say about you, and the wider organisation, to a person seeing it for the first time and, indeed, to that potential new member, or that member of public giving blood, being screened, or just looking around?
Many of our Halls are both precious and beautiful; some, cracking a little around the edges and in need of loving care. But I’m sure, Brethren, we all feel like that at times. Let us remember that we are custodians not just of the Craft and its heritage and traditions, but also those meeting places which have, for generations, inspired our members.
I wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas period and I look forward to seeing you again in the New Year.
As part of the Tercentenary celebrations back in 2017, Norfolk Freemasons decided to create a single source containing a definitive written historical record of all their lodges
To that end a small committee was formed with the aim of gathering together and compiling all available histories into a single document. The overriding brief being that the histories included must have been produced by and for the Lodges – their own histories, in their own words.
The resultant three-volume history of their individual lodges provides a comprehensive overview of Freemasonry in Norfolk and includes all available material to 31st December 2018.
Ahead of Grand Lodge Quarterly Communications in September, the Provincial Grand Master for Norfolk Stephen Allen, together with other members of the Norfolk Provincial Executive and two members of Norfolk Blues, their group for newly joined Norfolk Freemasons, were pleased to present a copy of the Compiled History of Norfolk Lodges to Martin Cherry, Librarian at the Museum of Freemasonry, at Freemasons' Hall.
Martin Cherry said: 'It was a real pleasure to meet Stephen and his team to receive this fantastic record of Norfolk Freemasonry into the Museum collection.'
11 September 2019
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren I have been a Freemason for nearly 50 years and there have been so many changes during that time that one might think it has been all change. However, that is not the case and the principles emphasised at that time are still very much at the centre of what we all do and strive to pass on today.
What has changed, and I hope very much for the better is our ability to discuss our membership and what we do, with non members, as well as a greatly improved internal communications system.
Since my first involvement at Grand Lodge there have been four Pro Grand Masters, Lords Cornwallis, Farnham and Northampton and myself. Those three predecessors were acutely aware of the need for change, as, indeed, were their senior advisers. They, with the tremendous and very much continuing support of the Grand Master, started and continued the process. Where I have been lucky is that so much of it seems to have come to fruition on my watch. It would be very easy for me to claim credit for this. However, I hope that those of you who know me well enough, appreciate that it is not my style, but, much more importantly, it would be totally untrue.
Very little gets done in the world in general and certainly not in Freemasonry unless it is overseen by a strong team and I have been fortunate in having had excellent support from exceptional people throughout my period of office.
It is, perhaps, now a rather hackneyed expression, but Mark McCormack’s saying that there is no 'I' in team still rings true. Everything works better when there is collective responsibility and everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
In Freemasonry we should look at the whole membership as one team. Provinces and Districts are teams in their own right, as are individual Lodges and I would go further and say that the executives at the head of all these bodies should consider themselves teams. We must all pull in the same direction and support each other.
Reverting to the team theme, there will, inevitably, be some decisions made with which not all in the team agree, but again there should be collective responsibility and support should be given.
If this is not the case, we run the risk of being 'picked off' by ill wishers both externally and, dare I say, internally as well.
Of course, we won’t all agree on everything, but mutual support and respect goes a long way to finding the right answers, even if there has to be tinkering along the way.
I really do believe that during the last 10 years we have made giant strides in the right direction, but I do stress again that this was enormously helped by the building blocks that had started to be put in place earlier. We have a long way to go, but I can’t remember a time when I have seen so much enthusiasm around the world and I am primarily, but by no means solely, referring to UGLE members because they are the ones that I meet most. We have a large number of visitors from other Constitutions with us today and I hope that they would concur with what I have said.
Wherever I go in the world I find our Brethren openly talking to non masons about their membership. There is no embarrassment and no secrecy involved. I even had a most convivial conversation with the Passport Control Officer in Kingston, Jamaica. I didn’t manage to sign him up, but he showed great interest in our visit to the Jamaica Cancer Charity.
Brethren we should all consider ourselves lucky to be members of our Order at this exciting time, but I make no apology for repeating that the current positive situation is very largely down to team work in every aspect of what we do, most certainly not forgetting the incredible teams who raise money for and manage our Charities. Please don’t forget Brethren that when anything has gone well, none of us should say 'I have done such and such' we should say 'we have done such and such'. I feel certain that I have just made a rod for my own back and, no doubt, I shall fall into my own trap perhaps even later today, and I can think of a few people sitting not far from me who will delight in picking me up on it.
Brethren, please forgive me if I finish by saying I know that I have spoken for quite long enough and WE must go to lunch.
Thank you, Brethren.
11 September 2019
A talk by RW Bro Stephen Blank, Provincial Grand Master for Cheshire and Chairman of the Hermes ‘To Be’ working party
I am grateful to have the opportunity to say a few words about Project Hermes which will revolutionise the work of the Lodge Sec and Chapter Scribe Ezra. From now on I will just refer to the Lodge Sec but please understand this applies to Chapters as well. I will also lapse occasionally and only say ‘Provincial’ when I mean ‘Metropolitan’ and ‘District’ as well!
It is perhaps a little strange that I find myself involved with the workings of the Lodge Sec. In my 40+ years as a Freemason, I have been Lodge Treasurer, Lodge DC – actually I still am – Provincial DC, DepGDC, APGM, DGS and now Provincial Grand Master - but never Lodge Sec. However, all my various jobs have served to make it clear to me that the most important job is that of Lodge Secretary; it is very rare to find a good and successful Lodge that does not have a good Secretary.
After that flattery, and as a matter of interest, would those of you who are or have been Lodge Secretaries put their hands up? Okay, so for the benefit of those who are not, a little bit of explanation may be helpful.
UGLE maintains all of our details, including those of past members, on a database system called ADelphi, which is Greek for brother. This records our Lodges and Chapters, the offices we have held within them and, if relevant, our Provincial and grand rank. It records your passing and raising dates and the number of your grand Lodge certificate. Of course, it also records your contact details and your Lodge’s details, such as Lodge officers and where and when the Lodge meets.
It is a web-based system available to MetGL, Provinces and Districts. Typically, only the ProvGSec, PGM and designated Met / Prov / District leaders have access plus Prov office staff or volunteers.
ADelphi is ‘fed’ by all the various forms which the Lodge Secretary has to prepare; the form M/P/A for new candidates, the Annual Return, the Installation Return. The Annual Return is created by ADelphi and is the basis for the request for payment of dues that UGLE - and many Provs / Dists - make every year to every Lodge and Chapter. The Secretary also has to create the summons for each meeting.
In doing all of these tasks, the Sec has to ensure all of his work complies with the Book of Constitutions. And when it doesn’t, he gets an email from his Provincial office – or Prov office gets an email from Registrations dept here at GQS and then Prov office emails Lodge Sec telling him to put it right.
Two examples of problems that the Lodge Sec can encounter. Rule 158: if someone applies to join a Lodge but doesn’t live or work in that Province, the Lodge Sec has to make enquiries of that person’s local Province. How the other Province responds – and when – is out of his control.
Let’s look at rule 163 specifically rule 163(c). When an existing member wants to join a new Lodge, the joiner must obtain clearance certificates to show to the Lodge Sec that he doesn’t owe subs to another Lodge because, if he does, rule 163(d) says that the new Lodge is liable.
That means the Sec must be told all the Lodges of which he is and has been a member, whether within the same Province or not. Some of those Lodges may have closed. And for some of us, remembering all the Lodges we are and have been members of can be a problem. When I applied to join my first Cheshire Lodge, I forgot one and started life in trouble with my Prov office! But this information is all on ADelphi; the catch being that the Lodge Sec does not have access to ADelphi and, thanks to GDPR, even ProvGSecs don’t have access to other Provinces’ data.
Last year, the process whereby PGMs apply for grand ranks for their members was automated via ADelphi. There are, as you might imagine, rules as to who is eligible which are very convoluted. In the original system, emails and forms went in to GQS and if you transgressed, as I did - accidentally - in one year, I received a polite letter two weeks later suggesting that I rethink. Then I had to revisit my plans in a hurry. In the new system, the PGM does it online and his request to the mw the gm is validated as he enters it. This saved me and those who manage the process within UGLE a huge amount of time.
The GSec wants the same ability for Lodge Secs when it comes to creating their summons, at least for matters covered by the BoC. When the Sec enters a potential joining member, any decent modern computer system should instantly look him up and flag him as ‘clear’ i.e. not in arrears anywhere in the constitution. It should ‘talk’ the Sec through the application process. Rather than relying on the Prov office to key in a candidate’s name and address or date of birth from a handwritten form, the candidate himself should do it and have it validated by the Lodge Sec.
We should do the standard id checks to protect ourselves and our members and capture photos while we’re at it as well. Updating Lodge records should be made easy and flow straight from the summons – so if a resignation is on the summons, the resignation process is triggered – copy to Prov retrieval officer - and once confirmed after the meeting, the member doesn’t appear erroneously on the next annual return. So, the annual return will be accurate.
My Province’s reported exaltation numbers for 2018 changed only last month as a form relating to an exaltation in 2018 was finally submitted correctly by the se in July! This makes monitoring progress in anything like real time very hard. Hermes will make this virtually impossible and, perhaps more importantly, there will be no reason any more for the Lodge Sec to delay.
So, I hope you are all convinced this is worthwhile; how are we going about it?
The present version of ADelphi went live in the summer of 2015 which is more or less when I became PGM of Cheshire. It is fair to say that the launch did not go well. As I have been involved in trying to make computers work in organisations for over forty years – although always from the business perspective rather than the technical side – I found myself becoming very voluble about its shortcomings. When you do that in freemasonry you usually find yourself on a committee charged with sorting matters out and that is exactly what happened to me.
That committee, the ADelphi senior user group was set up at the end of 2016 by RWBro David Macey and is now chaired by RWBro Ian Chandler. It records and prioritises developments of new features and bug-fixes requested by Provinces or UGLE and has been bringing about improvements to ADelphi ever since.
In 2018, the GSec presented his proposal to the BGP, to extend ADelphi’s availability to Lodge Secs where, I am told, it was readily accepted. But we had learnt the lesson from the ADelphi launch and did not rush into coding. Instead UGLE formed a steering group and recruited two people to work exclusively on Hermes: tony Keating, a project manager, and Nigel Codron, a business analyst and senior Middx freemason.
One early decision was that we would not, in fact, extend ADelphi itself to Lodge Secs. ADelphi was designed as a tool for Provinces, aimed at people who would work with it all day every day. Instead we would commission a new web-based system designed to be intuitive for Lodge Secs, we call it the Hermes front-end or just Hermes.
We will provide on-line training, but the expectation is that this will be as easy to use as amazon or your on-line banking system. The two systems, Hermes and ADelphi, will talk to each other so updates by Lodge Secs will require validation by UGLE or Prov offices before they actually update ADelphi. But if we get the summons creation right, there won’t be a need for too much validation.
A second early decision was that, before we started creating new digital processes, we should make sure we understood the existing paper processes, especially who does what and where interactions with BoC take place.
Well, I said ‘paper processes’, but that implies they existed on paper. In fact, they exist in a bio-computer running on the oxford classics operating system – UGLE’s Deputy Grand Secretary Graham Redman! – so, we have spent many months carefully documenting the ‘as-is’ processes as we call them by talking at length to brother Redman himself, bro Andy Croci in registrations and a sample of Provincial, Lodge, and Chapter Secretaries.
A third early decision was that we could not engage simultaneously with every one of the forty-seven Provinces and MetGL not to mention the Districts overseas. So, we formed a small group termed the pilot Provinces consisting of MetGL, Hampshire and the isle of Wight, Cheshire and Bristol plus the Districts of Cyprus and eastern archipelago who in turn formed their own little consulting groups of selected Lodge Secretaries and Chapter Scribes E. These are the ones we consult on a regular basis to keep us ‘real’, as they say.
The results of documenting the ‘as-is’ processes can be viewed on flowcharts with swim-lanes for each relevant department.
The complexity of all of this meant that we were only ready to start thinking about the new way forward at the end of June at which point a working party was formed, known as the 2b working party and, since I was out of the room at the time, I was designated its chairman. As well as Tony, Nigel and myself, the members of the working party are: Richard Gardiner, Neil Tomkinson, Prity lad and David bell.
Richard fulfils a dual role; he is a pivotal member of the ADelphi senior user group, designated the Provincial and metropolitan user representative, but he is also a senior member of MetGL and an experienced met Lodge and Chapter Secretary. I will come back to the position of MetGL in a minute. Neil Tomkinson is the ADelphi guru from UGLE’s ICT department; Mrs Prity lad is director of member services and David Bell is the interim finance director of UGLE.
What became clear very quickly is that significant changes will also be required to ADelphi itself which is why Neil Tomkinson’s presence on the 2bwp is critical. He regards it as so important that he put on a tie especially for this photo – the first time he’s worn one in 20 years, he said. Many of the changes needed were already logged as feature requests with the ADelphi senior users’ group and have been passed over to form part of the Hermes requirements catalogue.
UGLE’s overall strategic imperative is to start our membership growing again and Hermes has to contribute to this, and more directly than just by making the Lodge Secretary’s life easier, important though that is. This is Prity’s department. More and more new members are finding us via the internet rather than traditional routes and we must be able to track what works and what doesn’t. We also have to retain them. We want to capture more information such as where the candidate heard about us, members’ attendance or, more significantly, non-attendances at meetings, a key indicator of problems building up.
Many Provinces send particular letters to candidates at certain stages of their masonic journey; the updated ADelphi system will be ‘told’ by Hermes when it has happened and then do this automatically or at least prompt the Province to action.
For the first time ADelphi will interface with UGLE finance by creating requests for payment for dues, registration fees and dispensations together with bacs references for each as they are generated.
On an opt-in basis, it will interface with Provinces’ finances as well. Mentioning that, can I give a big thankyou to my colleague PGMs up here? I sent out a questionnaire via bUGLE on 19 July with a series of questions about how they charge their Lodges, asking for a reply by 31 July. Every single craft Province responded within the time scale. This was greatly appreciated and enabled the 48 responses to be analysed by my office manager, Liz wright, so they could be discussed in detail at the 2bwp meeting on 6 august last.
When those of us in the Provinces consider the changes that Hermes will bring, it’s easy to overlook the effect on MetGL. Yes, it’s a lot bigger than any of us with 30,000 + members. But it is MetGL that will see the biggest change brought about by Hermes. Once upon a time, London’s Lodges were dealt with by UGLE itself and that of course included all their registration processes i.e. feeding ADelphi. When ‘London’ was devolved into MetGL these processes were left with UGLE – where they remain today. When Hermes is launched, MetGL will govern all of its own processes just like the Provinces – only bigger.
This working party has been tasked by our GSec and CEO with thinking outside of our current boxes. Our ideas and plans will of course be discussed with and validated by the DepGSec, the registrations department and the pilot Provinces before any coding starts. When we have obtained a consensus on the ways forward from that relatively small group, a process that is well under way, they will be exposed to all Provinces for their comments.
We anticipate that changes to the book of constitutions will be required and a separate committee has been set up to consider and draft them; I will leave you to guess who the chair of that committee is! Of course, the final decisions will rest with BGP and this, the grand Lodge
Let me finish with two examples of the new approach we are planning. Rule 158 may be tricky to administer but can flush out timewasters. There are people who start applying but then go radio silent. A few years later they decide to have another go and apply to a different Province. There are even people who are initiated in one Province, stop attending, then try and get initiated again somewhere else. GDPR prevents one Province from having access to the records of another Province.
We propose to have a database of enquiries available nationally, so anyone expressing interest via a website or open day will have his basic details captured and held for, say, 10 years. If the PMO assigns him to a Lodge those details form the basis of his application form. If it goes nowhere, it will be noted but he will remain on the database and if he approaches another Province or Lodge, those details will appear.
Clearance certificates are a little tricky because neither ADelphi nor Provinces record details of payments within Lodges; they only deal with payments by Lodges. So, we propose that as part of each attendance register that the Lodge Sec populates after each meeting – using a dropdown list of members – he also marks any members who are in arrears according to his Lodge’s bylaws. The existence of this flag will be picked up by any other Lodge he applies to join and the applicant invited to ‘check his records’.
Last year, Cheshire’s Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank set a challenge to members to organise an event promoting awareness and building support for the Cheshire Freemasons Charity
John Miller was first to step forward and so developed the idea of organising a sponsored bike ride from Chester to London, utilising only the intricate canal network and towpaths that weave between Cheshire’s’ county town and capital city.
The route was agreed from the Masonic Hall in Queen Street, Chester, to Freemasons’ Hall at Great Queen Street following the Shropshire Union Canal to Wolverhampton, then the routes through Birmingham, picking up the Grand Union Canal near Solihull and following that into the heart of London, some 230 miles and crossing several masonic Provinces.
The team consisted of 16 riders with a support team of two and given the rough terrain and general riding conditions it was agreed to limit each day to between 40 and 50 miles allowing the challenge to be completed within five or six days. Riders were tasked with raising sponsorship and several Cheshire businesses sponsored the exclusive team shirts produced in order to support logistical costs such as travel, accommodation and food.
A black tie benefit event was also held within the Province which greatly contributed to the costs of the task ahead. To make the most of the fine English weather, the departure date was set for 6th June and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master David Dyson was present to see the team off safely from the Chester start point, and the Provincial Grand Master put a date in his diary to meet the exhausted riders outside the doors of Great Queen Street on the 11th June, what could possibly go wrong? The answer is Storm Miguel – which for three days of the journey tested each and every rider for their tenacity, and for how waterproof their kit truly was.
In the main the team discovered that waterproofs aren’t that effective in the face of a tropical storm, and indeed for two of the riders who managed to fall in to the canal, and are now affectionately referred to as the ‘Cheshire Splash Masters’. Cheshire’s Provincial Office reached out to Provinces that the riders would pass through en route.
Shropshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire were all kind enough to offer a warm welcome and kind words of encouragement, as well as contributions, a true reflection of communication, commitment and teamwork by Freemasons. It is noteworthy that during the ride, many conversations with members of the public took place, lifting the profile of Freemasonry in general, and additional contributions were made by many of these non-Masons met along the way in support of the rider’s objectives.
A joint effort between the riders and HQ meant the Communications team were able to promote the event on social media platforms, using the dynamic mapping of GPS, daily blogs and great pictures sent by the riders each day.
Followers loved watching the daily progress made by the cyclists. The event organiser, John Miller, was keen to ensure the fundraising aims were kept clearly in the spotlight throughout the event via the online donation link and ‘interviewed’ members of the team at each overnight stay so this could be broadcast. The ride ended with the entire team completing the journey.
The total fundraising was then announced that over £22,000, which this was increased at Quarterly Communications the following day when the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes made a donation to the Cheshire Freemasons Charity of a further £1,000.
12 June 2019
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren we have a number of firsts today. It is June and, therefore, the first meeting of Grand Lodge since the investiture of the new team of Acting Grand Officers. Some old hands, some new, including, of course, the Grand Director of Ceremonies. We wish them all well and hope they enjoy their term of office how ever long that may be.
Another first is the luncheon arrangements. This is not the place to go into the whys and wherefores of the action that the Grand Secretary has taken. Many of you will be aware of the reasoning. What I will say is that the Grand Secretary deserves our support and, whilst I know how reluctant you all are ever to comment on such issues, I am sure that he would welcome constructive comments.
Changing the subject: I was in Stockholm three weekends ago at the Installation of the new Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons. In his address the new Grand Master laid out his vision for the future which included ensuring that all new candidates who wished to join their Order were properly interviewed and briefed prior to their initiation so that they knew what was expected of them as Freemasons and what they, as Freemasons, should and should not expect from their membership. This struck a slight chord with me, Brethren. Are we, perhaps, ahead of the game with Pathway which is now being so widely used within our Constitution?
I am quite certain that Pathway is a 'game changer' for many of our Lodges and I am so pleased that so many of you have embraced it, as it makes attracting new Brethren much more effective and we are far more likely to effectively engage our new members if they have been introduced to Freemasonry in this way.
I have also been delighted to have seen the use of Solomon in a number of Lodges not least on my visit to Cyprus in April. Many of the excerpts are ideal for filling in idle moments in Lodge, when there is a natural gap in proceedings, without extending the overall time of the meeting.
I have said before, but it bears repeating. Time is a precious commodity in most people’s lives and becomes more so as time goes on. The time that we meet and the time we spend in Lodge are very relevant. Personally it might suit me very well to meet at 5 o’clock or even earlier, spend two hours in the meeting and then be finished by 9 to 9.30, but that would be a pretty selfish attitude when it comes to the younger brethren and in the case of most Lodges, a sure way of reducing its popularity for new members.
Brethren, let’s all be flexible and listen to each others’ requirements. If suitable, the meeting times can be varied from meeting to meeting as many Lodges already do, and we should not be afraid to consecrate new lodges that meet the needs of those we hope to attract rather than blindly supporting lodges that don’t. Every Lodge has a natural life span.
Brethren that is enough lecturing for one day. The gap between now and our meeting in September has the natural summer break from which I am sure we will all emerge with renewed vigour.
12 June 2019
A presentation by Dr Ric Berman
Some years ago I was invited to a lodge in Greensboro, North Carolina. Having been seated, my neighbour informed me in a low voice that the ritual – like that elsewhere in North Carolina - was modelled on the form used in England in the early nineteenth century. However, much to my surprise, before the lodge was opened, the master asked the senior warden to order the deacons to ‘take the word’ from each of those present. And as the deacons walked the lines to receive the whispered password from each attendee, I was thankful that I had recently visited a lodge in Dublin and knew what was required. But rather than focus on my potential embarrassment, the more important point is this: North Carolina’s Masonic ritual was not from nineteenth-century England but had descended from the Irish and Antients, with roots dating back another sixty years to the mid-eighteenth century.
This made me think about historical context and how an awareness of the background to our ceremonies and ritual helps inform our understanding of Freemasonry and why we do what we do.
Many people consider that the origins of our Constitutions, published in 1723, lies in the ‘Old Charges’. These were the documents that governed the creation and regulation of stonemasons’ lodges and guilds, the first known of which – the Regius manuscript, dates from around 1390-1400. The second, the Cooke manuscript, is believed to date from around twenty to thirty years later. And there are more than a hundred such documents that reach from the end of the fourteenth century into the early eighteenth.
Each document follows almost exactly the same format. They begin with a statement of belief in God and the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; continue with a pledge of allegiance to the king and lawful authorities; contain a ‘traditional history’ of Freemasonry; and conclude with the regulations governing the operation of the guild or lodge.
There is a reason for this structure. Anti-labour legislation enacted by Parliament rendered wage bargaining illegal and in order to circumvent this the guilds need to demonstrate that they were not seeking to disrupt but rather respected the established order of Church and State, and that their demands for ‘fair wages’ were part of a long tradition that dated back centuries and was associated with leading historical figures.
The Regius manuscript dates the arrival of Freemasonry in England to King Athelstan, an Anglo-Saxon king reigning in the tenth century. He is regarded as the first true English king, a man who united England against the Vikings and an iconic figure to mediaeval Britons. The Cooke manuscript pushed the date back 700 years further to the third century and St Alban, the earliest English Christian martyr. The manuscript notes that ‘Saint Alban loved well masons, and gave them … their charges and manner first in England’.
Cooke also states that the level of wage rates the stonemasons were seeking to obtain had been ‘approved’ by Athelstan, who had also given his imprimatur to masonic guilds and assemblies: ‘and he loved well masonry and masons. And he became a mason himself, and he gave them charges and names as it is now used in England, and in other countries. And he ordained that they should have reasonable pay and purchased a free patent of the king that they should make [an] assembly when they saw a reasonable time.’
And James Anderson’s 1723 Constitutions appear to follow a similar vein, with Anderson noting that Freemasonry began with ‘Adam, our first parent … [who] had Geometry written on his Heart’.
It is important to understand that such histories were not to be taken literally. As with the Old Charges, Anderson’s historical account was designed to set a literary context for Freemasonry. By positioning it as an ancient institution linked to icons from the past, the narrative afforded the organisation legitimacy and gave it an aura and attraction that was important in a society that valued tradition.
But although the overall form and structure of the 1723 Constitutions may have been similar to that found in the Old Charges, the substance was fundamentally different.
The most important aspect of the 1723 Constitutions is a section known as the Charges. This was written by Dr Jean Theophilus Desaguliers, a Huguenot, the third grand master and a subsequent deputy grand master. Desaguliers’ Charges comprise a set of Enlightenment principles and provide the foundations for the creation of what is now modern Freemasonry. The philosophical outlook that Desaguliers’ Charges embrace was radical at the time, and the thoughts expressed remain valid today.
The first masonic charge - Concerning God and Religion - replaced the traditional invocation to the Trinity and formal declaration of Christian belief. As written, the charge obliged Freemasons only to ‘obey the moral law’ within a framework of ‘that Religion in which all Men agree’. It would no longer be the case that a mason should ‘be of the religion of that country or nation’ where he resided, but necessary only to believe in God and be a ‘good man and true’.
The charge was not an avowal of support for a specific religious canon or church. The new Masonic oath was a simple declaration of faith in a divine being without a stated preference for any given form of worship. It was openly latitudinarian, if not almost deist, and represented a denial of the importance of doctrine and of ecclesiastical organisation.
The second charge - Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate - made plain that there would no longer be fealty to a divinely-appointed absolute monarch – instead, a Mason will be ‘a peaceable subject to the Civil Powers wherever he resides’. He would also respect civil order – ‘A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers … is never to be concerned in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation.’
At a deeper level, the second charge echoed the changes to England’s constitutional structure in the wake of the 1688 Glorious Revolution. Where allegiance to the crown – ‘to be a true liege man to the king’ – was core to the Old Charges, the 1723 Constitutions and later oaths would state that Freemasons were subject to the ‘supreme legislature’. For Desaguliers and the new Grand Lodge of England, the ideal political structure was that ‘which does most nearly resemble the Natural Government of our System’. Grand Lodge and hence Freemasonry would be supportive of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary government aligned with an independent judiciary - the ‘supreme legislature’.
The implication was that resistance to the crown could be justified where a king was in breach of his Lockean moral contract with those he governed. This had been the basis of the Glorious Revolution and the justification for replacing James II with William and Mary. It was no longer obligatory for Freemasons to be bound to ‘be true liegemen to the King of England without any treason or falsehood’. They would instead ‘attend’ and ‘respect’, but be ‘guided, not enslaved’.
And in the fourth charge there would be a rejection of patronage, the wheel upon which eighteenth-century Britain turned: in Freemasonry, ‘all preferment is to be grounded upon real worth and personal merit’.
Taken as a whole, this was a social and political manifesto born of Enlightenment values and based on Enlightenment philosophical ideas pioneered by John Locke, Isaac Newton and others.
In June 1723, Freemasonry faced a threat to these tenets from one of its own – the Duke of Wharton, the second noble Grand Master. During his term of office the duke had embraced the Jacobites – the supporters of the exiled Pretender, James Stuart. In response, and at Desaguliers’ request, the Grand Lodge of England resolved ‘that it is not in the power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry without the consent first obtained of the Annual Grand Lodge’.
2023 will of course be the tercentennial anniversary of the publication of Anderson’s Constitutions and of Desaguliers’ Charges. The Constitutions and Charges provide the cornerstone upon which English and much of international Freemasonry rests. And it is not only appropriate but incumbent upon us to mark and celebrate this event. To paraphrase T. S. Elliot, we should explore our past and, at the end of so doing, arrive where we began and know the place for the first time.
But as we look back over three hundred years along the Road to 1723, it is also incumbent upon us to turn and to look forward.
Here to serve
From continuing modernisation to clearer communication, Grand Secretary Dr David Staples reveals some of the major improvements being made to the United Grand Lodge of England
You spoke in the Winter 2018 issue about the ongoing modernisation of UGLE. What improvements were made in 2018?
The biggest change has been bringing together masonic and commercial staff at Freemasons’ Hall, which started with the Board’s appointment of a CEO. This meant that for the first time in a number of years a single person would be in charge of and responsible for delivering for the organisation as a whole.
Staff have taken part in a number of workshops to understand what we stand for and why; what our values are as the ‘headquarters’ – a distinct organisation separate from UGLE or Supreme Grand Chapter. They have agreed a set of organisational values and goals which have resulted in the introduction of new appraisal processes, mandatory training, pay scales and benefits. Alongside this, regular communication with our staff through ‘Town Hall’ and departmental meetings has ensured people know what is going on and how this fits in to the bigger picture, all of which will help us attract and retain the best possible staff. A restructuring of the organisation and of the various business functions held within the building has allowed me to establish clear lines of accountability and allowed the new directors to facilitate change and improvement in their respective areas. This work has resulted in us being awarded Investors in People accreditation – a ‘kitemark’ not only of excellent people management, but also of normality for how a professional organisation is expected to run.
All of this may sound like management speak, but what it means in reality is that we have ensured the ‘Centre’ is up to the task of both serving our members and representing them effectively in the modern world.
In addition to these changes affecting staff, there have been many other smaller projects aimed at improving how professional we are, and enhancing what we can do and how we deliver. These have touched virtually every aspect of our operations. For example, an archiving project has examined the kilometres of shelving and paperwork stored in Freemasons’ Hall and helped us to develop a document retention policy. Clearing shelving from the main office has allowed us to consider exciting new options for the space that has been created.
A web-based booking and payment system has gone live for those attending Supreme Grand Chapter and Quarterly Communications, drastically reducing the number of cheques we need to process and bringing us in line with the modern-day expectations of our members.
In preparation for an increased focus on communications, we have brought FMT in-house and appointed a new editorial team, while the Directory of Lodges and the Masonic Yearbook are now online living documents. We have trained a number of members as media ambassadors to represent us at events and in the press. We have commissioned a communications capability assessment and have undertaken polling of the general public to find out what people really think of us, and what opportunities might present themselves to improve their understanding of who we are and what we’re about.
We now have new phone systems and video conferencing suites to improve communications across our worldwide organisation, and these are saving both time and money while improving engagement with our members. The new Events Management Team has been tasked with engaging with our members and encouraging them to use and visit Freemasons’ Hall – a home for all English Freemasons, and we are starting a programme of community engagement projects to broaden our public footprint.
We have converted disused flats into three new lodge rooms in response to an ever-increasing demand for temples, and supported the Improvement Delivery Group in the creation of Operational Membership Dashboards, the Solomon online learning resource and the Members’ Pathway. All of these will directly inform our drive to improve our attraction to potential members and our retention of existing ones.
We have anticipated changes in the legal framework and have issued guidance on transgender members and data protection. We have blended the Grand Ranks system into ADelphi, thereby saving both our Provinces and Districts days of back-and-forth letter writing.
A huge amount happened in 2018 and has continued to do so in 2019 to ensure that we are a professional, fit-for-purpose and efficient central organisation which is held in high esteem by the membership and the public and which communicates an appealing, confident, relevant and consistent message to the outside world.
What are the key objectives of this process of modernisation?
Simply put, to better serve the members of both UGLE and Supreme Grand Chapter. UGLE needs to be ready for the challenges set by the Rulers and the Board, but also needs to meet the expectations of our members. When I was a lodge Secretary a few years ago, I wanted my Grand Lodge membership fees to be wisely spent, and I wanted to see some tangible benefit for what I pay for in terms of a confident organisation ready to represent itself on the public stage and to stand up for its members. I also wanted to interact with it in a modern and accessible way. That principle still holds true now that I am the CEO.
You also spoke about making the headquarters more ‘transparent’. How is this being done and why?
More open communication between the Provinces, our members and UGLE allows us to ensure an aligned approach to our common challenges – how people perceive us; how we represent ourselves to the outside world; how we normalise Freemasonry in the eyes of the public; how we attract and retain members. We are developing a new communications strategy with an appropriately resourced department to deliver it. We have a new Member Services Department to help streamline the relationship between our members and their organisation, and to implement the various initiatives being carried out by those groups with a care for Freemasonry.
What methods will the organisation be using to put a greater focus on attracting new members?
I see this very much in terms of normalising the environment from which our members are drawn in terms of public opinion. I’m a scientist by training and I like to see the evidence for something before we invest resources in it. We know that 87 per cent of the public know of our organisation, and 49 per cent of the public have a firm opinion of us. We also know that the majority of those do not necessarily hold an opinion that we might like! That is despite all the good works we do, despite all the money we raise for charity and despite everything else we are doing to rehabilitate ourselves in the public eye. We recognise that the majority of new members join after personal conversations with those who already enjoy Freemasonry, but we must make sure that those to whom we speak already have a fair opinion of us. To these ends we will be embarking on a focused series of interventions to bring about just that – an understanding of what Freemasonry is, what its values are, what we stand for and why we are relevant in today’s society. In conjunction with the newly rolled-out Members’ Pathway, we hope to ensure that no opportunity is wasted.
What are some of the more important changes planned for 2019?
We want to find new ways to open up our headquarters to as many people as we can, and to ensure that every one of those contact moments affords those individuals a greater understanding of Freemasonry. Staff will be moving out of the old central office space, which we hope to develop into a public area containing a temporary exhibition space, a café and a very public-facing office for Metropolitan Grand Lodge.
The introduction of an expenses policy, travel policy and purchase order system will improve our financial controls, but the most important change will be our ability to deliver an overarching communications strategy aimed at taking back control of the public narrative on Freemasonry.
In terms of day-to-day processes, you will have already read about our ambition to revolutionise how we administer the organisation. Changes being planned through Project Hermes aim to replace paper forms with web-based systems, removing the need for endless form-filling and drastically reducing turnaround times. In short, we want to make the lives of lodge, Provincial and District Secretaries much easier. We want to streamline our ability to collect dues and improve our ability to analyse and spot trends in membership data, which will help us to identify and propagate best practice wherever it arises. I truly believe we have exciting times ahead.
‘Simply put, to better serve the members of both UGLE and Supreme Grand Chapter, UGLE needs to be ready for the challenges set by the Rulers and the Board, but also needs to meet the expectations of our members’
13 March 2019
A talk by RW Bro John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren
If you want to understand the responsibilities which you have as a Grand Lodge Officer you can do one of two things. Consult the Book of Constitutions, or speak to Graham Redman.
Rule 35 states – ‘The Grand Superintendent of Works shall advise the Board of General Purposes when required on any matter in connection with the building and the works. He shall furnish reports on the state of repair of the properties of the Grand Lodge when required’.
When I asked Graham if this meant that I simply had to submit periodic reports on necessary works we intended to carry out to keep this building in repair his reply was to the effect that ‘well - you may find that in practice it is rather more than that’
He was right.
I will start with Freemasons’ Hall.
You are surrounded in the Grand Temple by the centrepiece of one of this country’s foremost art deco buildings with a heritage value sustained by the fact that it remains today in use for the purpose for which it was originally designed and built. We are in the middle of a Conservation Area, and the building itself is Listed Grade 11*. What this means in practice is that anything which we do which affects the exterior of the building requires planning permission, and anything other than very minor like for like repairs to both the interior and the exterior must be notified to, and approved by, the Conservation Officer.
Planning Officers have to work within National Planning Policy Guidelines, and they are required to implement Local Plan Policies. Conservation Officers on the other hand have responsibility for protecting the heritage value of buildings of architectural and historic interest which, by their nature, are individual. They have wide ranging powers, which frequently involve subjective judgements which, even with professional advice, can be hard to predict.
Carrying out work to a listed building which requires, but does not have, Listed Building consent is a criminal offence. As I have no wish to return to address Grand Lodge on my experience as Grand Superintendent of Works after 12 months in Ford Prison I treat the need for works in this building to be approved by the Conservation Officer with the utmost care and respect.
Late and unexpected interventions by the Conservation Officer can be a very real problem, as we discovered when we renewed the West Door steps. To avoid this in the future we are at an early stage in negotiations with the Conservation Officer and Historic England for an HPA, a Heritage Partnership Agreement, which will give pre-approval in principle to specified works which we are likely to carry out, often repeatedly. Examples range from future phases of repairs to the building’s steel frame ( Regents Street Disease ), through work to repair and refurbish the many original toilets in the building ( not very glamorous, but nevertheless necessary ) down to the specification of the paint to be used when redecorating some of the more elaborately embellished Lodge Rooms.
HPAs are complex, time consuming, and costly, but the prize is securing for UGLE ownership and control of the timing and phasing of major works of repair which we need to carry out.
Keeping a building in repair can require reacting to the unexpected, but for the most part it can be anticipated through planned property maintenance. We are working to a ten-year time horizon in implementing recommended works within this building so that, for example, phased repairs to deal with RSD will include routine maintenance and general repairs within the same area. As far as possible once we have access to any hard to reach area within this building, or for that matter any area, our aim is to complete all necessary work properly and to a high standard so that an early return is not needed.
I have concentrated up to this point on repair, but the more interesting challenge is working to deliver changes to the way in which Freemasonry needs to use Freemasons’ Hall to support the vision of the Craft’s place in society today which the Grand Secretary outlined at the Quarterly Communication in December.
Freemasons’ Hall is and will remain a Masonic building, but our needs are changing. Many of you will know from personal experience that most of the Lodge Rooms here in Freemasons’ Hall, with the notable exception of Lodge Room No 10, were designed to accommodate meetings with an attendance of between 70 and 80. Today average attendance is in the mid 20s.
We cannot subdivide Lodge Rooms in response to this. Their scale and proportions were an important element within the original design of the building, and we know that any attempt to change this would meet with strong opposition from the Conservation Officer.
We can, however, adapt space to form smaller Lodge Rooms from accommodation in the building designed for other uses. Examples of where this has been achieved are the conversion of two committee rooms on the Sussex Corridor to provide two Chapter Rooms, and the three Lodge Rooms created on the third floor in what was originally two caretaker’s flats.
While these changes take place we are also looking at how this building can play its part in encouraging a wider understanding of Freemasonry in society. This means improving public access, both generally and through supporting outside hire events. Both encourage improved awareness, while providing the opportunity for education through community engagement.
Improving public access, while at the same time meeting the continuing needs of UGLE as well as those of MetGL, the Library & Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation is far from straightforward, and we always have to keep in mind that our ideas and ambitions may not always meet with approval from the Conservation Officer if work is involved requiring Listed Building Consent.
I don’t want to overstate the problem. There are projects which receive immediate support, at least in principle.
Freemasons’ Hall, like many public buildings, fails to provide enough female toilets. The building was designed to provide toilets for the convenience of members, and the paid employees of Grand Lodge were thought unlikely to include women. How the world has changed.
We have legal obligations to provide facilities for both men and women who work in the building, and if we are serious in wanting to host events such as Letters Live and London Fashion Week we must provide facilities which are as good, if not better, than competing venues. The unisex toilets off the vestibule and those on the floor below meet this need, and as we approach the refurbishment of the Gallery Suite to improve the facilities available for Masonic use and outside hire in what was Lodge Room 1 and its ante room, we will be restoring to their original use nearby toilets on the lower ground floor. These will, however, be designed with flexible male / female use use in mind.
As I and others on the Hall Committee oversee these projects I do so in the knowledge that my responsibilities as Grand Superintendent of Works do not end at the front door.
From the very early years of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge has owned a number of buildings in Great Queen Street. These include the Grand Connaught Rooms and the Sway nightclub, together with most of the buildings opposite on the north side of Great Queen Street. They are in the same Conservation Area as Freemasons’ Hall, and many of them are listed, including several which are Grade 11 *.
A diverse property portfolio such as this is by its nature management intensive, and just over 10 years ago the Board of General Purposes received a report from the then Grand Superintendent of Works John Edgcumbe drawing attention to the possibility of selling the properties to reinvest in a modern, well let commercial property which might provide better growth prospects without the need for continuous oversight, and periodic investment in refurbishment and repair.
Mindful of the importance which heritage has to Freemasonry, and the fact that ownership provides control over the setting of Freemasons’ Hall, the decision was taken by the Board that the buildings should be retained.
Maximising value by improving tenant mix, and income quality, while refurbishing and modernising the properties where necessary, became a long-term objective of the Property Investment Committee chaired by the Grand Treasurer, Quentin Humberstone. As well as being Grand Superintendent of Works I am a Chartered Surveyor with practical experience of property investment and asset management, and the valuation of commercial properties. With this background I should perhaps have expected that my work would extend beyond looking after Freemasons’ Hall to include contributing to the work of the Property Investment Committee.
Pausing at this point it is perhaps worth drawing attention to the fact that the Property Investment Committee’s investment objectives have served Grand Lodge well.
The accounts of Grand Lodge are not exactly bedtime reading, but in 2006 the north side of Great Queen Street had a book value in the region of £14.5m. By 2011 an external independent valuation confirmed that the value of the whole portfolio including the Grand Connaught Rooms, and with the benefit of investment in the refurbishment of several of the properties, had risen to £31.1m, and as at 31st December 2017 the figure in the UGLE accounts was just over £56.5m. You must wait for publication of the 2018 accounts for the corresponding value as at December last year, but I can reveal that a further increase in value will be reported.
Given the long-term commitment of Grand Lodge to holding this portfolio improvements in capital value, while reassuring, are perhaps less important than rental income. This is currently just over £2.5m pa. which contributes to the investment income which is available for Grand Lodge to maintain, repair and improve Freemasons’ Hall without making a call on individual members’ Grand Lodge dues.
Masonic ownership of land and building extends well beyond Great Queen Street to the many Masonic Halls and Centres throughout the country. These are the responsibility of their owners. Whilst Freemasonry is a Craft, running and managing Masonic Halls and Centres is a business. Over the years there have been many successes, but occasionally things have gone wrong, and the accompanying adverse publicity compromises years of hard work in promoting the reputation of Freemasonry for the better.
We have within our membership valuable knowledge and experience of how to manage a Masonic Hall and Centre in a way which is both sustainable, and financially viable. What we did not have until recently was a reference resource which brought together in one place experience and best practice. This gap was recognised by the Membership Focus Group in 2015 which set up a Masonic Halls Working Group tasked with creating a Guidance Manual to share knowledge of best practise.
Unlike the Book of Constitutions compliance with the Guidance Manual is not mandatory, although ignoring advice inevitably leaves room for criticism if things go wrong.
As Grand Superintendent of Works I am now responsible for issuing updates to the Masonic Halls Best Practise Guidance Manual. Working with a Steering Group we issue periodic updates – best practise is not static. It evolves in the light of new legislation, and widened experience. We hold annual seminars here at Freemasons’ Hall as a way of making sure that Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and those looking after Masonic Halls and Centres can contribute their knowledge and experience to the Guidance Manual and its advice.
As Grand Superintendent of Works here at Grand Lodge I am as much a user of the Guidance Manual as my counterparts in MetGL and across the Provinces.
As you can see Graham Redman was correct when he explained to me that I would be spending my time doing rather more than simply submiting periodic reports to the Board of General Purposes on the condition of this building.