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!
From the Grand Secretary & Grand Scribe E
At the September Quarterly Communications, the Pro Grand Master’s address spoke of the importance of teamwork in governing and managing Freemasonry. UGLE has traditionally been a federal amalgamation of ‘city states’, each ruled by a Provincial or District Grand Master, whose patents were granted by the Most Worshipful Grand Master. It was not uncommon, in decades past, for those chosen few to be given their patent and told to ‘get on with it’, but with very little instruction or guidance as to what the ‘it’ either was or entailed.
We like to think that we are more enlightened now, and take some time and effort to explain what we think a Provincial or District Ruler might want to consider, and what the Rulers and Board/Committee of General Purposes think their priorities should be when taking up their important office.
It will not surprise you to learn that membership and communications are very high up on that list, and as UGLE evolves to meet the challenges of our very different world, so this old system must evolve to ensure consistency of message and image across our organisation as a whole.
We have also come to realise that the ‘Bright Ideas Club’ at the centre may not have all of the answers, and initiatives rolled out with little or no consultation with our membership or their leaders are unlikely to be successful in the longer term, if at all.
Lord Northampton, as Pro Grand Master, set up a system of Regional Communication Groups which divided the Provinces into nine geographical clusters, and which provided a means for Provincial Rulers in each group to meet regularly and exchange ideas on matters of import. Under Sir David Wootton, these assumed a greater sense of purpose, with the representation of each integrated into the Improvement Delivery Group, with its remit to deliver the 2020 strategy conceived five years ago. Now, under Geoffrey Dearing, they form the backbone of our ability to consult with the Provinces and to set the agenda and direction of the organisation with strong representation on both the Membership Working Party and the Communications Working Party of the Board.
Both groups have a wide remit to shape the direction the organisation will take, and their influence will be wide ranging. They are no paper tigers, and are considering questions which will affect each and every one of us as Freemasonry evolves into a more transparent, accountable and respected organisation within the public consciousness.
The representatives on these various committees can, of course, accomplish nothing without the hard work and dedication of the teams that support them – making it vital that those team members have the ability, enthusiasm and professional capabilities and knowledge to deliver what is needed. Professional expertise is by no means short in an organisation such as ours, and Provincial leaders are well used to tapping into the potential of their membership to fulfil important roles within the Province. What perhaps is changing is the willingness to recognise that many individuals are much busier in their family and work lives than perhaps their predecessors were. As such, those who are less senior within Freemasonry and less experienced are finding themselves working on major Provincial portfolios while balancing very busy lives.
We should not shy away from using the talent that we have within our ranks. Neither should we shy away from altering the way ‘things have always been done’ to allow those individuals to flourish and to serve. It is inconceivable that the Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents of the future will be able to dedicate the time and effort to Freemasonry that perhaps some of their predecessors have managed, without detriment to their family or personal connections. Their teams around them become of paramount importance if the organisation as a whole is to grow and develop. Similarly, if we want leaders who are truly exceptional and able to carry the organisation forward, we must be willing to accommodate the many other things that will call on their time – not least their greater involvement in the running of the ‘Centre’.
We will do our bit here at UGLE to listen to those ideas coming out of the Provinces, and to ensure that others can benefit from them; to ensure that ‘best practice’ is shared, such as the membership initiatives in Bristol and the communications strategies of Buckinghamshire and Cheshire.
We will also continue to listen to you, our members, paying heed to what you think is important, and what our priorities should be for the years ahead.
Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E
‘If we want leaders who are truly exceptional and able to carry the organisation forward, we must be willing to accommodate the many other things that will call on their time’
Following several months of building work, the new refurbished Berkshire Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been opened by their Provincial Grand Master Anthony Howlett-Bolton, in the presence of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton
Also in attendance for the opening was Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of the Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in London, the Mayor of Wokingham and a number of invited guests.
The Library and Museum was started in 1896 at the Masonic Hall in Reading. It was created by the members of Grey Friars Lodge No. 1101 with assistance from members of other lodges in Reading. It was moved to the Berkshire Masonic Centre in Sindlesham in 1969, but space was not available, so all the contents were put into storage.
By 2002, a small, somewhat pokey, room was found and part of the contents were put on display, however, space was still at a premium, so the majority of the contents were kept in storage. This has all now been consolidated into two rooms in Sindlesham with state of the art display and racking with additional modern storage space developed elsewhere in the building.
When the Library and Museum moved to Sindlesham, it was funded by the sale of regalia donated to the Province and donations from individual masons and lodges. The then Librarian and Curator, Roger White, was still purchasing artefacts as when they became available so add to the collection.
The museum collections contain items of ceramics, glassware, regalia, jewels and a lot of other items such as horse brass, gavels, watches, paperweights, cufflinks and similar memorabilia. There is even have an American casket handle. There are about 3,500 items altogether some of which are more than 200 years old.
The library itself houses over 20,000 books on Freemasonry, including many rare editions – making the collection one of the largest in England. In addition to books, there are over 3,000 certificates, prints, postcards, photographs and other archival items, as well as a reference database in excess of 90,000 records. These collections continue to increase in size and provide a very valuable resource for reference and research by masons and non-masons alike.
Although the library was primarily established for the interest, education and information of its own members, it is also used by members of the general public wanting information on Freemasonry, or those researching the masonic membership of their ancestors. Equally, over the years, they have had a number of students using their resources to research materials for their academic degrees.
Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Berkshire’s Provincial Grand Master, said: ‘Whilst it has been something of a rollercoaster challenge to bring this project to fruition over several years, I am delighted that we have now succeeded in establishing this new facility and indeed as a consequence the provision of disabled access throughout the whole building.
‘All of this is a direct result of a very generous bequest from a former stalwart librarian Robin White whose unbounded enthusiasm resulted in the increase of the number of books from a few hundred to the sizeable number we hold today.’
Sir David Wootton, UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, said: ‘In London, we are also of the firm view that it is important that we ensure that the history of Freemasonry and its rationale is more widely understood both by Freemasons and the wider community alike. To this end, we are taking significant steps to ensure that we play our part in raising the positive profile of Freemasonry with the full understanding that we have, have always had and will continue to have an important role to play in civil society as a whole.
‘With this in mind, it is pleasing to see that you have taken the opportunity to rationalise and fresh these facilities so as to make them more accessible to all. I understand that you have firm plans in mind to ensure that the inter-connected Library and Museum are open on a regular basis for much wider use and that whilst your library catalogue is already online, you intend to explore further the use of modern technology to enhance the users experience.’
Historic stained glass windows have been returned to Barnstaple in Devonshire after 30 years
When St Mary Magdalene Church in Devonshire – built in 1842 – was demolished in 1988, it was to make way for a new inner relief road. That was until the Honourable Glaziers Company stepped in to rescue a pair of stained glass windows which depicted the building and Dedication of King Solomon’s Temple.
Those stained glass windows have lain since then in the cellar of Glaziers Hall in London. However, through the offices of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, who is also Worshipful Master of the Glaziers Company, the windows have been returned to members of Loyal Lodge No. 251 which meets in Barnstaple.
On 17th May 2019, Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire, Ian Roome, Mayor of Barnstaple, Alison Mills, Manager of Barnstaple’s Museum, and Robert Patterson, specialist glass Restorer, together with Roger Moore, Worshipful Master of Loyal Lodge, and members of the lodge accompanied by their families, welcomed members of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers.
The windows are an outstanding historical artefact which commemorates the life of a prominent member of the Barnstaple community and Past Master of Loyal Lodge, John Thomas Britton (1790 to 1855), and is a small piece of local history.
Thomas Britton was an active member within the community and of St Mary Magdalene’s Church. It was in 1859 that the members of Loyal Lodge decided that as a permanent memorial they would commission the stained glass south window of the Church to be dedicated to his memory.
In 1843, John Britton took a leading role in the acquisition of what is known as the Bath Furniture consisting of some of the finest masonic chairs, pedestals and pillars still in existence anywhere in the masonic world.
During the meeting a resume of the history of the windows and St. Mary Magdalene Church was very ably given by Estcourt Miller. In presenting the windows, Sir David Wootton said how pleased they were to be able to return them to North Devon and to know that in due course they will be displayed so prominently for all to see.
The Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass are one of the ancient livery companies of the City of London, its origins dating back to the 14th century. Through its charity – The Glaziers Foundation – it supports education, the training of stained glass artists, together with the conservation of stained glass and are devoted to promoting the art and craft of stained glass.
Roger Moore formally accepted possession of the windows and thanked all those who had been involved in their return and eventual display in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon when their refurbishment of the building is complete.
Granite Chapter No. 2028, in the Province of Leicestershire & Rutland, was honoured to receive many distinguished guests at the installation of Daniel Hayward as MEZ for the ensuing year on 18th March 2019
The Chapter at first was pleased to receive the Grand Superintendent Noel Manby together with his Provincial team. With Daniel being a member of the committee of the Universities Scheme, he was also pleased to have present at his installation the Past Third Grand Principal, and UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, as President of the scheme, and also the Chairman Mark Greenburgh.
The Holmes Lodge room at Freemasons' Hall in Leicester was in full splendour with the Royal Arch banners ready for the evening. All were treated to a superb installation ceremony as Don Salt handed over the running of the chapter to Daniel and his new team.
The warrant was expertly presented by the Grand Superintendent before everyone retired to enjoy the festive board, where Noel presented the Past Third Grand Principal with a bottle of Burleigh’s Tigers Gin, sporting the full colours of the Leicester Tigers.
Noel Manby said: ‘What a great occasion to have nearly 80 Companions present, a truly magnificent sight of all in their striking Royal Arch regalia.’
Solomon the teacher: Fostering curiosity – developing understanding
The launch of Solomon, an online learning resource, is making daily advancement a reality in the Craft and Royal Arch
Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master and Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, wrote in the last issue of FMT that the requirement to learn ritual by rote and then present it without any attempt at providing the most basic of context and understanding fails the candidate, because it overlooks the important messages that lie within.
Member surveys have highlighted learning as a major unmet need and a potential reason why members leave. Solomon has been created as an accessible online resource to stimulate interest and meet current and future needs.
WHO IS SOLOMON FOR?
Solomon will support the wants and needs of at least three groups:
- Those who want to learn more about their masonry.
- Those with programme planning or member development responsibilities in a lodge or chapter.
- Provincial or District Officers charged with promoting and providing learning resources and activities.
Solomon will support personal inquiry or study, irrespective of experience or prior knowledge. It brings together material from many sources to help answer common questions and improve masonic knowledge and understanding. The online resource can be accessed on multiple platforms such as smartphones, tablets and computers and currently contains more than 350 items.
Solomon is also designed to support the interests and requirements of lodges and chapters. The Lodge Mentor or Director of Ceremonies will be able to find material to help a member learn about or understand a topic or issue, or may introduce learning content into regular meetings. Solomon material comprises short ‘nuggets’, papers and demonstrations, as well as longer items for presentation and discussion. A regular presentation of these nuggets at meetings will stimulate a desire to learn more.
Solomon materials will complement material collected locally by Provinces and Districts and will guide and support them in the advancement of their learning.
WHAT WILL I FIND?
Solomon is devoted to the Craft and Royal Arch. It is organised into three categories:
- Seek & Learn: for individual exploration or presentation.
- Share & Encourage: for use by lodges and chapters.
- Support & Promote: for Provinces and Districts.
The first two categories have eight modules covering the Craft, the Royal Arch and more general areas, such as symbolism and history. This arrangement will enable users to focus and drill down to individual nuggets, papers and presentations. It will also help to confine the inquirer to those areas appropriate to his masonic progress.
Once registered, you can login and enrol in one or more modules and explore Solomon to your heart’s content. It is intuitive and has been designed to foster curiosity and draw you in to seek answers. You can use various search tools to find and refine your inquiry. You may then read or download as much or as little as you wish. With smartphone access, Solomon can readily provide an answer to a question at a Lodge of Instruction.
Solomon provides a range of interesting material that will complement or even replace a ceremony
HOW WILL SOLOMON BENEFIT A LODGE OF CHAPTER?
Solomon complements the Members Pathway and individual mentoring programmes. These encourage a personalised approach to development. This approach should be extended to develop the interest and enjoyment of all members, enabling them to benefit from a deeper understanding of our ritual and traditions. The result will be improved performance of ceremonies, better mentoring and greater confidence in explaining Freemasonry to others.
Solomon provides interesting and accessible material that, if well chosen and well delivered, will complement or even replace a ceremony. It is designed to be popular, boosting attendance and interest. Ideally, learning activities will become an appreciated and regular feature of lodge and chapter meetings.
A ‘nugget’ is a five to ten-minute item of interest that can be presented by a member. It will easily fit into a meeting; perhaps to set the scene, or to act as a conclusion, or even when the candidate retires. It is also suitable for personal study and can be a resource for lodge quizzes. It may also lead to a presentation that expands on a topic of interest.
While there may be some who feel there is no time at a meeting, it’s hoped that by making time for learning, the benefits will become clear and members will increasingly value time devoted to it. A well-organised lodge or chapter will have a programme that reflects the needs and interests of all its members, one which they enjoy and which encourages them to attend. Learning may also extend beyond the regular meeting to a Lodge of Instruction or special masonic events.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
As the success of the UGLE Learning and Development programme depends on local support, the Programme Support Team wishes to work collaboratively with Craft and Royal Arch Provinces and Districts. Solomon therefore includes resources to support local development.
In launching Solomon to Provinces, Stuart Hadler, the Programme Lead, emphasised the key importance of presenting and delivering material in an understandable and engaging way. This takes skill and so Provinces are being asked to identify suitable members to be presenters, to develop their skills and to promote their use. The skilled presenter will draw attendance and overcome the negative stereotype of the boring lecture.
The team also wants to share good examples; these include specialist lodges and working with light blue clubs. A collaborative approach between the Craft and the Royal Arch is encouraged.
Solomon is still in its early stages and will expand in volume, range and diversity. There will always be a need to commission and source new and credible material and the team looks forward to receiving the views and suggestions of Solomon users. For able members eager to write material for inclusion, Solomon provides guidance on the style and other format requirements.
Early feedback on Solomon has been positive from new and experienced masons alike. David Pratt, Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, West Riding, remarked that the nuggets are ‘solid gold’, packed with interesting topics to educate even experienced Freemasons. ‘They are so easy to access and use. Any lodge member can lead the activity… I shall be strongly supporting and promoting the use of Solomon within my Province.’
To access Solomon, go to https://solomon.ugle.org.uk
Today is the first anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England’s epic Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall – and to mark the occasion a DVD has been released
Over 4,000 Freemasons from Provinces and Districts were joined by representatives from over 130 sovereign Grand Lodges from around the world for this Especial Meeting to mark 300 years since the founding of the world’s first Grand Lodge for Freemasons.
The event started with the procession of Grand Officers entering the Hall, before the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, took his place in the Queens’s Box, accompanied by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence and Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton. The audience then witnessed a theatrical extravaganza which embraced the rich history and heritage of Freemasonry and featured a cast of renowned actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar.
The DVD is available to all UGLE members and has been distributed to Provincial Offices – please contact them if you have not received your DVD.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, spoke about the historic event, which you can view below.
Suffolk Freemasons Andy Gentle and Nick Moulton cycled all the way down to Freemasons' Hall on 12 September 2018, completing the final part of a four year challenge which has helped to raise over £21,600 towards their Festival 2019 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
The Provincial Grand Master of Suffolk Ian Yeldham, together with his partner Amanda, wishing to show their support, accompanied Andy and Nick on this last cycle. All arrived safely and were greeted by Sir David Wootton, UGLE Assistant Grand Master, and James Newman, Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, along with around 70 supportive members from Suffolk.
Back in 2014, Andy and Nick came up with the idea of cycling to every lodge within the Province to attend a meeting, looking to raise awareness of the Festival whilst also hoping to gain an extra donation from each lodge they visited. With the added bonus of getting a little fitter and also being some of the very few to have visited all 68 lodges in the Province.
Their original target of £6,600 had to be re-evaluated due to fantastic support, as in the end the total amount raised was over £21,600 with 2,260 miles cycled.
Andy commented: 'The cycling challenge has been just that, no easy task either physically or logistically, with one of the hardest aspects being the juggle with work trying to fit in around all the various lodges meeting dates.
'But it was rewarding in so many ways, seeing the beautiful Suffolk countryside in a way we would never have otherwise seen it, making so many new friends amongst brothers and of course being so very well supported by all the lodges.'
12 September 2018
An address by RW Bro Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, and RW Bro Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire
A programme to promote learning and development
CASH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, on behalf of the Improvement Delivery Group, we would like to spend a few minutes explaining the learning and development programme that has evolved over the last three years and will be introduced in two month’s time.
AHB: So Stuart where has this learning and development intiative come from?
CASH: Three years ago, the Membership Focus Group was formed to consider what needed to be done to promote Freemasonry as a relevant, worthwhile and attractive organisation in the 21st century. It undertook a series of surveys that enabled members to express personal views, experience and expectations. Over 80,000 responses were received.
AHB: What did they discover?
CASH: The majority of responders stated that understanding our symbolism, moral and philosophical issues was essential or at least very important. Significantly, many expressed interest to learn more of our history and traditions. Royal Arch members had the greatest interest. This interest and expectation to learn was evident across all age groups, particularly amongst newer and younger members.
AHB: And what did you find out about their learning experiences?
CASH: Many reported that they had unmet learning expectations and needs, that too little time, guidance and support was offered to extend learning beyond performing the ritual and ceremonial well. The results also very stongly suggested that many members have a general lack of understanding and a relative dearth of accessible resources to refer to.
AHB: So what did the MFG conclude?
CASH: That whilst the performance of ritual is a highly valued tradition of our constitution and social and charitable aspects are of key importance, we were failing many new and current members who seek to improve themselves through greater insight, knowledge and understanding of Freemasonry. Furthermore, that only through a personal ability to communicate and share these values can Freemasonry hope to demonstrate its worth and value in the 21st century. Our Members are a vital communication channel and need help and support to fulfil this.
Now Anthony, you’ve asked the questions so far and I’m sure that many, especially those behind us, are up to speed with much of what I’ve already said. We ought now to turn to the specifics of what we have been preparing and how this will address these findings.
AHB: Absolutely right, ask me anything you like!
CASH: OK. I imagine there will be some here today who will feel that this is a bit over the top. After all, if you are really keen to learn you will find a book or search the net won’t you? Surely, it’s a personal journey?.
AHB: In some respects yes, but the starting point for most of us is to have what we have experienced explained. The opportunity to offer an explanation in the lodge or chapter can be much more effective. This can signpost relevant material and help us along our own personal masonic journey.
CASH: Tell me more.
AHB: Ritual and ceremonies are core to Masonic life. Whilst many members enjoy learning and performing ritual, often key messages and nuances are missed. The opportunity to explore and understand is rarely provided at Lodge or Chapter meetings or is considered a poor alternative to a ceremony.
Many members are curious and have a sincere wish to improve their understanding. They have expectations when they join and these should evolve over time. We have a responsibility to ensure that our members have ready access to the intellectual and practical resources to enhance their Freemasonry, fulfill their interest and help them become more rounded and committed members. There is a genuine concern that a concentration on the performance of ritual, without appreciating what we are doing and why, overlooks the important messages that lie within and is one reason why some members choose to leave.
CASH: So what benefit will a learning and development approach offer the individual member?
AHB: Greater understanding will add to enjoyment and improve ceremonies. Being more knowledgeable will boost confidence to talk in a comfortable and open way about what Freemasonry means personally. When learning becomes a regular Lodge and Chapter activity, membership should be more fulfilling and meaningful. In turn, this should aid attendance, retention and engagement.
CASH: So what is Solomon?
AHB: A good question, although a wide selection of books and online resources are available, it takes effort to identify appropriate pieces to use within the lodge environment. Solomon is a central repository of informative material that will answer some of the questions and point members along the path of daily advancement in masonic knowledge.
CASH: Who can use it?
AHB: It is designed to be used by individual masons, lodges, chapters, Provinces and Districts and to fit comfortably with the needs of all levels of experience and interest. Solomon will be beneficial to everyone. It can be used on multiple platforms such as smartphones, tablets and computers and currently contains over 350 items. It will continue to grow and evolve.
CASH: So does Solomon provide definitive answers?
AHB: No, there is no definitive UGLE view. Solomon is a collection of credible views and interpretations. So, you may find different explanations of a symbol or ceremony. This variation in interpretation should stimulate discussion and debate. Such is the nature of Freemasonry.
CASH: I’m pretty busy. I need to find things quickly and easily. How will Solomon help me?
AHB: Once you have registered and enrolled in one or more modules, you will be able to explore Solomon to your hearts content. It has been designed to foster curiosity and to draw you in to seek answers. There are various ways to search so you can expect to quickly find, read or download as much as you wish. Given smart phone access, Solomon could for instance readily provide an answer to a question at a Class of Instruction.
I would add caution however and Solomon also flags this up. Material is separated into modules for each degree and the Royal Arch. We ask users not to explore prematurely beyond the degrees that they have had already conferred so as not to spoil the revelations of their personal journey; to do so would be a shame.
CASH: The benefits to the individual are clear. But how will Solomon help my Lodge or Chapter?
AHB: The material provided by Solomon complements both the Members Pathway and individual mentoring programmes. Materials include a wide range of “nuggets”, papers for presentation and demonstrations with supporting explanation. Collectively, they provide a selection of interesting and accessible material that, if suitably chosen and well delivered, will complement or replace a ceremony. They will be favourably received, encourage attendance and interest. Ideally, learning activities will become an appreciated and regular feature of lodge and chapter meetings.
CASH: You’ve referred to ‘Nuggets’. Just what are they?
AHB: A Nugget is a five to ten-minute item of interest that will easily fit into a lodge evening; possibly to set the scene for the meeting, or as a short conclusion, or even when the candidate retires. They are flexible and may be delivered by a selected member. They are also very suitable for personal study and a great source of information for lodge quizzes. Nuggets may also lead to a presentation that expands on a topic of interest.
CASH: No doubt some will feel that there is no spare time at a meeting or that this is another imposition?
AHB: We hope that the benefits of making time for learning will readily become apparent and that all Members will increasingly value the time devoted to it. A well organised lodge or chapter will have a programme that reflects the needs and interests of all its members, that they enjoy and which encourages them to attend. Learning may also extend beyond the regular meeting to Class of Instruction or special events for a masonic centre or special interest group. Rather than view this as an imposition, we should view it as an opportunity and an easy way to keep and develop interest and enjoyment.
Now Stuart you’ve been a Provincial Grand Master for longer than me, surely introducing Solomon will have implications for Provinces and Districts too?
CASH: You’re right Anthony, delivering the change agenda for Freemasonry does place additional demand on Provincial rulers and their Teams. Whilst it would be very easy to see Solomon as just another initiative conceived centrally, it is based on expressed member feedback and will, we hope, be favourably received. The reaction of those that have had access to the material already is extremely positive and I am sure that its general use, as outlined today, will lead to a more confident, enthusiastic and informed membership, well equipped to explain and communicate Freemasonry to friends, family, potential members and the public.
AHB: Would you accept that Provinces and Districts may need some help with this?
CASH: Yes absolutely. We have anticipated this and are providing resources to help them to introduce Solomon and develop local learning activities and resources. We wish to be supportive and to work with the appointed lead in each Craft and Royal Arch Province and District.
One of the key areas will be to ensure that material that needs to be presented is delivered in an understandable and engaging way. This takes skill and so we are asking Provinces to identify suitable members to be presenters, develop their skills and promote their use. A critical goal is to move away from the days of the boring lecture.
Many Provinces have provided educational activities for some time, so for them this is not a new topic. We are eager to promote and share good examples, these include specialist lodges and working with light blue clubs. We encourage a collaborative approach between the Craft and the Royal Arch.
AHB: Stuart, it may be that you haven’t convinced everyone this morning about the need?
CASH: Well, firstly, lets remember that none of this is prescriptive. We are however responding to the wishes of members and I hope that in these few minutes, we have demonstrated that Solomon has real benefits across the board. It will help to attract, retain and produce well informed and capable members and leaders for the future. Learning and development is closely intertwined with the Members Pathway and in that sense is an essential component of our membership strategy.
AHB: How and when can I access it and find out more?
CASH: There is an introductory article from Sir David Wootton in this month’s Freemasonry Today. All Craft and Royal Arch Provinces have been advised of a special event in late November. This will be an important opportunity for them to be briefed, have advance access to Solomon and to begin to plan their support. Important elements of the launch will be videoed to support the Districts. The December edition of Freemasonry Today will carry a more detailed article and provide each member with an explanatory leaflet. So, from December, everyone will be able to register and enjoy full access to Solomon.
I suggest we conclude with a little about the future?
AHB: Yes indeed. We intend that Solomon will expand in volume, range and diversity of material. We wish to promote Solomon wherever we can, to share best practice and to offer support. There will always be a need to commission and source new and credible material. There is plenty out there waiting to be shared and willing able members eager to write material for us. We will provide guidance for potential contributors later this year.
CASH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, I should like to place on record that the development of Solomon is the result of a huge commitment of time, energy and determination on the part of the Project Team, the Panel of Editors and indeed the authors, provinces and publishers that have provided some first class material for us to work with.
May I leave you all with a concluding thought that there are three clear golden-threads to bring together, the Members Pathway, Mentoring and Learning & Development. Integrating them into a seamless whole will ensure that lodges and chapters are in a strong position to grow and fulfil their obligations to their Members.
Solomon is part of the solution. It will foster curiosity, develop understanding and continue to evolve over time.
Assistant Grand Master and Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group Sir David Wootton explains how a new online service will allow members to access the learning resources necessary to enjoy Freemasonry to the full
A survey conducted three years ago by the Membership Focus Group found that 68 per cent of respondents thought that understanding the moral and philosophical issues underpinning Freemasonry and its symbolism was either very important or essential. These values and principles define us as Freemasons and our relevance as an organisation. Explaining them to our members is a strategic imperative of the Rulers.
Ritual and ceremonies are a core activity of lodge and chapter life. While many members attend Lodge of Instruction and enjoy learning and performing ritual, often key messages and nuances are simply missed. With the emphasis on performance, devoting time to gaining the underpinning knowledge about ritual and ceremony has all too often become peripheral or optional. The opportunity to explore and understand is often not provided at lodge or chapter meetings or is considered second best to a ceremony.
There are, however, growing instances of well-delivered presentations about masonry and an evident enthusiasm for more. So, it is important that we ensure that our members have ready access to the intellectual and practical resources necessary to enjoy their Freemasonry to the full.
UNDERSTANDING THE WAY
The history of Freemasonry and the evolution of our ceremonies is fascinating. Our ceremonies originated during a period of relative instability and intolerance, and our forebears saw a need to create a society founded on moral and social values.
Back in the 18th century (the Age of Enlightenment), Freemasons were stimulated by the desire to explore and explain the world through the application of moral, religious and intellectual principles. Over time, this intellectual aspect has dropped away.
But as we seek to demonstrate Freemasonry’s relevance in the 21st century, it is timely to remind ourselves of those moral and social lessons contained within our ritual and their fundamental value to our lives today.
There is a genuine concern that a concentration on the performance of ritual, without appreciating what we are doing and why, overlooks the important messages that lie within, and that this is one reason why some members choose to leave. Although a wide selection of books and online resources are available, it takes effort to identify appropriate pieces to use within the lodge environment. Additionally, there is a need to have someone with excellent presentation skills who can really engage members and stimulate lively discussions that will assist them along their individual masonic journeys.
This provides three key challenges. The first is to identify suitable material that is appropriate to any given situation. This might be a short nugget or a quick talk; at other times it may be a longer presentation with questions and answers. Or perhaps a demonstration of a ceremony with a detailed explanation of the underlying symbolism. A further development would be the provision of material in audiovisual formats.
The second is how to deliver the material. We need to identify, recruit and support people with the enthusiasm and ability to communicate the essence of the material, delivering it in an attractive, understandable and engaging way. This will also require investment in suitable equipment and resources.
The third and perhaps the biggest challenge is how to build and sustain the demand for and interest in learning to become a regular part of masonic activity. This is a challenge for Provinces as well as for those in lodges and chapters, such as Mentors and Directors of Ceremonies who have a responsibility for doing this anyway.
Learning and development is an important element of Freemasonry. On behalf of the Improvement Delivery Group, an online repository of masonic learning called ‘Solomon’ has been created. It will provide informative and accessible material to inform and point members along the path of a daily advancement in masonic knowledge. It is designed to be used by individual masons, lodges, chapters and Provinces, evolving over time.
Solomon will also offer examples of good practice – submitted by Provinces – to help develop and deliver learning activities and opportunities. It will facilitate the obtaining of knowledge at a local level and in forms that will fit comfortably with the needs of both the younger and the more experienced mason. Solomon will complement the Membership Pathway as well as individual Provincial mentoring programmes.
I look forward to the launch of our Learning and Development programme and the introduction of Solomon. It is due to be launched in November and will be explained in detail in the next edition of Freemasonry Today.