Members of Dorset were entertained to a short playlet which has been performed over 200 times across 40 Provinces

‘Talking Heads’ portrays an encounter between two lodge members – one, an experienced Past Master (and a Royal Arch Companion) and the other, a Master Mason curious to know more. Jeffrey Chitty, Master of Loyal Manor Lodge, hosted a Metropolitan Grand Chapter lecture team who delivered a presentation that had originally been intended for new Master Masons. The playlet introduces the Holy Royal Arch (or Chapter) to Craft Masons wanting to know more about the Royal Arch, as well as reminding those who had been members or for whom Chapter did not 'click'.

The presentation highlights the path along a member's masonic journey from 'Initiation to Exaltation'.  It covers the history of the Order, explanations of the regalia, links to the Craft and why the Royal Arch is considered the climax and completion of pure Ancient Freemasonry. A member's time commitment and financial aspects in being a member is explained, as well as how to discover more and – importantly - how to find a Chapter to join.

The playlet starts with an encounter, at a Craft meeting, in the ante room just outside the lodge room. Two members open their cases and are preparing for the meeting. The presentation lasts about 35 minutes and covers questions ranging from idle curiosity - 'Why is the Royal Arch a separate Order?' to more personal speculations, such as 'What is the Master Mason in the 21st century missing by not being a member of the Royal Arch?'.

Chris Bond, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, was impressed with the professional and clear manner in which the Metropolitan Grand Chapter team presented the educational initiative.

Royal Arch Freemasonry in Dorset was well represented by a number of Chapter Officers including Mike Worne, Deputy Provincial Grand Superintendent, and Julian Mitchell, 2nd Provincial Grand Principal. Among the many visitors was Chris Hare, the first undergraduate to be initiated in Dorset through the UGLE Universities Scheme.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in UGLE

Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter

25 April 2019 
An address by the ME First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent

Companions. It is an enormous pleasure to be with you today. May I first offer my congratulations to all of those whom I have invested today. Grand Rank in the Holy Royal Arch is an achievement to be proud of, and serves not only to recognise your contributions to our order, but also as an inducement to your future efforts in explaining and representing the Royal Arch to our brethren in the Craft and beyond. It is not only a senior position within the order, but also a public position and one which should only be held by those Companions who publicly exemplify our principles, enjoy their Freemasonry, and go out of their way to welcome and support others in their masonic journeys.

This year I have invested new Companions into one of the most senior roles within our order – President of the Committee of General Purposes, and also one of our most visible roles – that of the Grand Director of Ceremonies. It is only right and proper that I pause to again pay tribute to those companions who have held these offices before them, in both cases for more than a decade.

So, to companions Malcolm Aish and Oliver Lodge, on behalf of all the Companions here present, I thank you for your leadership, patience, wise counsel, stewardship and good humour. You will be missed and we wish your successors good fortune for the future. They both have quite a task ahead of them, defining the Royal Arch for a younger generation of Masons, ensuring that it is both relevant and enjoyable, but I have no doubt that they will find no shortage of volunteers to help them in that task from amongst those other Companions that I have invested today.

One aspect that I am sure they will want to emphasise is that no Mason should be joining other orders without first completing their journey in Pure Antient Masonry by becoming a member of the Holy Royal Arch.

Companions, events like this do not just happen and I would like, on your behalf, to congratulate the new Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for once again arranging such an impressive ceremony and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his team for ensuring all the other arrangements have gone so smoothly.   

Companions, I congratulate you all on your preferment and wish you peace, happiness and good will in the next stage of your masonic journeys.

Published in Speeches

Local charities gathered at Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester on 6th April 2019 to tell their story and receive generous donations from lodges, chapters and the Leicestershire & Rutland Masonic Charity Association

The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire & Rutland David Hagger opened proceedings by welcoming everyone and introducing the assembled charities to the work of the Leicestershire & Rutland Masonic Charity Association in the community.   

The first guest to be introduced was the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Michael Kapur OBE, who was not only present to receive £1,000 for his Charity Award for Young People, but to also assist in presenting donations to other well deserving organisations. Michael said: ‘This award scheme helps to shine a light on our brave young people in Leicestershire.’

The Hinckley based SNIPS (Special Needs Integration Project) received £2,000 to aid their mission of providing Saturday sessions, Summer play schemes and residential breaks for children with special needs. Phil Hall of SNIPS said: ‘This donation will go towards supporting the children and help us achieve our funding targets.’

Holmes Lodge No. 4656 from Leicester donated £3,000, split between Wishes 4Kids, Jakin Pregnancy Care and Counselling and Alex’s Wishes. 

The Rainbows Hospice for Children & Young People were represented by Gary Farnfield and Dee Sissons to receive a donation of £8,318. Gary said: ‘We would like to say a huge thank you to the Freemasons’ for their continued support of Rainbows.’

Noel Manby, the Grand Superintendent of the Leicestershire & Rutland Royal Arch Freemasons, was on hand to present £3,700 to local charities including Bloodwise, Hope Against Cancer, Mesothelioma UK, and Shopmobility Melton Mowbray. 

To round off the event, David Hagger said: ‘Freemasons are proud to support you, the workers and volunteers who give up your time to help those in need within our local community.’

Lodges and chapters in Dorset have come together in an effort to support Budmouth College with a potentially life-saving donation in the form of defibrillator equipment

Together with the Craft and Royal Arch Provinces of Dorset, Rose Croix, Mark and Royal Ark Mariners, local lodges and chapters have donated more than £2,000 of defibrillator equipment to the school in Weymouth, Dorset. The defibrillator was installed at the entrance to the secondary school building and is available for use by the public.

Graham Glazier, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, said: 'As Freemasons we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures. It’s an honour to be able to supply this machine to the school.'

A defibrillator gives a high energy electric shock to the heart through the chest wall to someone who is in cardiac arrest. It's an essential lifesaving step in the chain of survival.

This defibrillator is the latest in a succession of similar donations by Dorset Freemasons who have placed public access defibrillators on all 17 masonic buildings across Dorset. The cost of the Defibrillator was £2,398.80 with donations from a number of lodges and chapters in the local area as well as contributions from the Provincial Grand Master's Discretionary Fund.

Alongside the Province of Dorset, the lodges and chapters who donated were Portland Rose Croix, All Souls Lodge No. 170, Dorset District Rose Croix, Quintus Lodge No. 8118, All Souls Mark Lodge No. 126, Portland Royal Arch Mariners No.133 and Portland Lodge No. 1037.

Kinson Chapter No. 5331 in Dorset have made a £700 Donation to support a local homeless charity

Based in Bournemouth, Hope Housing Training and Support is a charity for single homeless individuals aged between 18 to 65. Last year, 150 people were encouraged to move forward into independent living through addressing their needs, which included substance misuse, crime, poverty, mental health and unemployment.

Members of Kinson Chapter presented a cheque for £700 to Garth Underhill, Hope Trustee, who promised this would help to improve people’s lives.

60 vulnerable people are housed by the charity, whilst trained counselling and support workers help to overcome personal issues faced.

Hope believes in the right of the individual to be treated with respect and due regard at all times, adhering to a comprehensive Equal Opportunities ethos. They aim to offer the highest possible quality of service which reflects the diversity of each individual needs.

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.’

With their own distinctive terminology, structures and practices, each masonic Order is different from the others. Here Brian Price breaks down the origins, requirements and organisation of Royal and Select Masters.

When was it constituted? 

The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of England and Wales and its Districts and Councils Overseas was constituted on 29 July 1873 by four councils chartered two years earlier by the Grand Council of New York. They organised themselves into a sovereign body under the patronage of Canon Portal, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, who was installed as the Grand Master of the Order. After World War II, the Order grew rapidly and there are now over 250 councils and nearly 5,000 members.

Where is it based?

The original councils met in Red Lion Square in London, but moved to Great Queen Street (to today’s Connaught Rooms). The Order is now administered from Mark Masons’ Hall at 86 St James’s Street, London.

Who can join the Order?

It welcomes Master Masons in good standing who are also Companions of the Royal Arch, and Mark Master Masons. Members are called Companions.

What is the emblem of the Order?

It is a stylised depiction of the Ark of the Covenant surrounded by a triangle and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Beneath is a scroll bearing the motto ‘Ego Alpha et Omega Sum’ - meaning ‘I am alpha and omega’.

What is the relationship between the Craft and Royal and Select Masters?

Although UGLE’s position is that ‘pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more’, during an address in 2007 the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, acknowledged the existence of many masonic Orders and accepted their sovereignty. He included Royal and Select Masters as one of those which had a role in providing Freemasons with additional scope for extending their research in interesting and enjoyable ways.

Is the country divided into Provinces in the same way as the Craft?

Yes, although in this Order they are called Districts. Each is headed by a District Grand Master and a team of District Grand Officers. And individual units are referred to as councils rather than lodges.

Does the Order have distinctive regalia?

It has crimson and gold regalia with a triangular apron. The Grand Officers collar and apron bear the emblem of the Order of the Silver Trowel. The Order also features some distinctive jewels.

Who runs it?

The Order is controlled by a Grand Council headed by the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master and a Principal Conductor of the Work. The current Grand Master is Most Illustrious Companion Kessick Jones.

Isn’t it sometimes called the ‘Cryptic Order’?

The four core degrees (with ceremonies based on the Old Testament Solomonic legends) are Select Master, Royal Master, Most Excellent Master and Super Excellent Master. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘Cryptic Degrees’, and the Order as ‘Cryptic’, as the traditional history of the Degree of Select Master references the underground ‘crypt’ of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, which also features in Royal Arch and other masonic ceremonies.

I have a friend who’s a member overseas. Is he allowed to visit here?

So long as he’s taken the four core degrees of the Order in a recognised jurisdiction – subject to invitation, of course. However, in many jurisdictions, the degree of Most Excellent Master is not a ‘Cryptic Degree’ but part of the Royal Arch.

Published in More News
Thursday, 07 March 2019 00:00

Solomon: learning from the best

Two Master Masons share their experiences of using Solomon, the new online learning resource from the UGLE Learning and Development Programme

 Launched in December 2018, Solomon has a straightforward goal: to help members, lodges and chapters learn more about Freemasonry. And with over 10,000 members visiting solomon.ugle.org.uk in the first month after its launch – and over 4,000 transactions being made each day – it appears that Freemasons all over the world are sharing Solomon’s wisdom. But how does it work? We spoke to two Master Masons who have been using it, Mike Milner and Ben Mowatt, to find out.

What are your early impressions of Solomon?

Mike Milner: I’m impressed with the range of content on the website – and pleased to hear that there will be more resources in the future. I’ve browsed the material myself and our lodge has already started using some of the ‘nuggets’ [five to ten-minute ‘items of interest’ that can easily fit into lodge evenings]. The website is easy to navigate and has a professional quality in its presentation.

Ben Mowatt: I’m still new to Freemasonry, so having a place to go and discover content relevant to my own interests has been a great help. It’s something I can refer to when needed: a single reference point for authentic facts and knowledge – kind of like an encyclopaedia for Freemasonry.

How’s the website?

MM: At first, it seems a little different, but it’s actually straightforward. There are different ways to navigate the website if you’re looking for something specific. However, it’s been easy to find articles of interest by simply browsing the complete list in each section. The titles of the resources are clear and helpful, too.

BM: It’s easy to use and understand. The layout and navigation made searching really simple and I could find related topics based on my initial search. It’s what you’d expect: well-structured pages, easy-to-read text and fast loading times. The site’s very accessible, and the content is displayed in a PDF format, which makes it easy to read.

'Solomon provides a quick and easy way to access information to help you make advancements'

Does it work on all of your devices?

MM: Yes, I usually use my iPad as it allows the content to be read easily without needing to print. However, I can also view the site on my computer screen and – at a push – on my smartphone!

BM: I’ve used both my laptop and my smartphone. I found the website responsive and it adapts to each screen seamlessly, which is really great.

How has Solomon helped you so far?

BM: Being a candidate can be overwhelming, making it difficult to take everything in on the night, but with Solomon, I was able to revisit my previous ceremonies and gain a better understanding of what I’d experienced. I remember not fully understanding what a ‘cowan’ was, so I decided to see what Solomon had to say about it.

MM: I have a fairly busy life, which means that finding time to read long books can be difficult, so I like that the information is presented in short chunks, which I can dip into when I have a spare moment. Some of our lodge members have found interesting items for discussion on Lodge of Instruction nights, which has enriched the evening, while I’ve found some of the longer papers on Freemasonry’s history particularly stimulating.

So your Lodge uses the resource too?

MM: That’s right. The ‘nuggets’ are great for the Lodge of Instruction, as well as regular meetings, and there are items of interest for most meetings. Our next step will be starting to use the longer papers to help newer members develop an interest and a better understanding of what we do. The nuggets are also useful in adding additional explanation to the published ritual, or in helping the candidates to understand a little more about what they have experienced. 

BM: Our Worshipful Master has asked brethren to present information about Freemasonry on selected practice nights, so we’ll be using Solomon to research topics of interest to help form these presentations. We also use the nuggets on lodge nights to enhance the ceremony.

What specifically have you learned thanks to Solomon’s help?

MM: The Royal Arch material has been helpful, as I’m fairly new to that. The history is a bit more complicated than Craft Freemasonry, but Solomon has given me the ability to learn more about it without spending money on books!

BM: It’s introduced me to topics that I might not have otherwise come across or thought to ask about. One example is the ‘forget-me-not’ pin. I hadn’t realised that it had a significance in Freemasonry, but I saw a nugget about it and decided it was time to learn more about its history.

Would you recommend it to other Freemasons?

MM: Absolutely. We’re often reminded to try and make advancements – Solomon provides a quick and easy way to access information to help this. For lodges that have new initiates joining, it will help support them and provide answers to their questions. But there’s so much material, more experienced Freemasons will be able to find items of interest too. 

BM: I’d recommend it. If you’re new to Freemasonry and want to get to know new words and concepts or understand lodge matters, it’s a fantastic place to start. Plus it’s all in one place so you can learn about the degree relevant to you without being overwhelmed. For Freemasons looking to refresh their understanding and continue their daily advancement, it’s a convenient place to discover more, and you can even track your reading progress, so I’d recommend it to anyone.

Visit solomon.ugle.org.uk to access Solomon.

Published in UGLE

Quarterly Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Published in Speeches
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