Hundreds of young people descended on Freemasons’ Hall when it hosted the launch party of a kids’ TV show set in an English boarding school. Anneke Hak reports
It’s a balmy spring day and for anyone enjoying the sunshine near Great Queen Street, a sense of intrigue must surely have caught them. For, snaking around the corner of the Freemasons’ Hall front entrance, is a queue of young children and their parents, hundreds long. Some have been there for hours, others have made their way to Covent Garden from as far afield as Chester, and they are all here for one thing: the launch of Season Two of a teen-mystery series called House Of Anubis that will air on the Nickelodeon television channel.
In the grand building, through the Tower entrance on the corner of Wild Street, stands a man dressed in long black robes, with thick eyeliner framing his eyes and completing his Egyptian god get-up. Photos are taken and the children are given orders to pass up the stairs and try to unlock the secrets to the temple. Some children quake with fear as loud, doom-laden music blasts through the stone building, others take it in their stride, keen to get going on their quest.
‘This kind of looks like a church, it’s so cool!’ one child exclaims. He’s right. Freemasons’ Hall couldn’t have been a better location for the party – its high ceilings, temple-like atmosphere and brilliant ambience fit perfectly with the show’s theme about children at an English boarding school who discover hidden mysteries and House Of Anubis’s secrets.
Running up the stairs, the children head eagerly towards the first section of the temple, where they receive the riddle sheets they must complete to gain the sacred access. Two figures dressed in black robes explain the rules. ‘We’re actually Egyptian cult followers of the fearful brother Eden,’ the gentleman tells me, staying in character and refusing to divulge his real name. ‘We are in charge of making sure that only the very wise can enter the inner sanctum of the Temple of Anubis’, he explains, adding ‘We’ve set them a series of difficult challenges, and I don’t think all of them will make it through. Those who don’t will, of course, be sacrificed. Or else they’ll probably just have to leave.’ After this gruesome revelation the cult follower did come out of character long enough to confide, ‘I didn’t even realise non-Freemasons were allowed in. I mean, there’s a gift shop. It’s not what you imagine Freemasonry to be, is it?’
It really isn’t. A lot of work has gone into the event, which includes popcorn stalls, magicians, themed characters from the show and, of course, a dress rehearsal. ‘It’s funny,’ laughs the robed one, ‘because when we were rehearsing, we were told to take our cloaks off as there was a guided tour coming through and they were worried that the tour group would believe all the silly conspiracy theories that Freemasonry was some sort of cult, which this event being held here today disproves.’
science and riddles
As the children march around looking for the next answer, riddle sheets in hand, it becomes clear that not all of the answers are obvious and some are even hidden. On entering one room, I come face to face with a herd of children huddled around what looks like a science experiment as they try and guess how long it will take a piece of metal spinning on glass to stop – will it be shorter or longer than the time it takes to stop on wood? I leave, not confident about my GCSE physics, and bump into another Egyptian Cult Follower in the Hall.
‘I used to fly but now I’m stuck on the ground, black as night in the caretaker’s office I can be found! What am I?’ he crows. Yet again completely stumped, I move on swiftly. That’s the delightful thing about these riddles: you need to be a big House Of Anubis Season One fan to understand them, and therefore gain entrance to the main temple, where House Of Anubis Season Two’s first episode will be screened at 4pm.
A crowd gathers outside the hall, and I ask a few of the children about the fun they’ve been having while we wait. ‘We’ve had a great time,’ says Millie, aged seven. ‘The best bit has been meeting Jamie and Hannah from the show, who were walking around too. We got to speak with them!’
‘I like the mystery of today. I’m kind of good at solving the riddles,’ says Kerry, who is nine. ‘We’ve got all the clues today. Meeting all the famous people has been great – we’ve had our picture taken with Heather from EastEnders.’
Of course, this wouldn’t be a launch event without some well-known faces, and soap actors can be seen flitting around with family and friends. I stop to have a chat with Patsy Palmer, who plays EastEnders’ Bianca. ‘I know nothing about House Of Anubis, you’ll have to ask my children,’ she laughs as they run up to tell her about what they’ve seen. ‘This place is pretty impressive though.’
Finally the clock strikes four and the doors open. We all lurch forward, keen to get a look inside the Grand Temple. I find a seat behind eight-year-old Ryan. ‘I’m really brave, so the building hasn’t been that spooky,’ he tells me. ‘But I thought it would be a bit smaller than this – this is probably the biggest room I’ve ever been in!’
It’s also the first time a screening has been held inside the Grand Temple. Head of Events at Freemasons’ Hall Karen Haigh tells me that the venue is well prepared for the influx of hundreds of young people into the building. ‘Nothing’s going to go wrong,’ she smiles. ‘We’ve checked and double-checked everything – and it’s great to be able to hold new kinds of events. Especially ones like this, which the kids enjoy so much.’
The characters from the show are introduced to screams of applause as they gather on stage to answer questions from a compere, and the audience buzzes with anticipation of what is to come. It’s time for the lights to go down and a hush instantly falls over the 1,400 crowd of young children, teenagers and parents. The premiere of Season Two of House Of Anubis begins and another event at Freemasons’ Hall can be claimed a roaring success.
Commonwealth Games medallist Mike Winch explains the history of Spencer Park Lodge and how it has managed to draw Olympic hopefuls like James Ellington into its fold
At first glance, Spencer Park Lodge is indistinguishable from any other post-war London lodge. It was formed in the wake of devastation, and founded on the camaraderie instilled by years of shared hardships. However, over the past sixty-six years, the lodge has counted runners, cyclists, football referees and sports coaches among its members.
One of its newest members is James Ellington. Under the watchful eye of another Spencer Park member, John Powell, James has forged his way into the Olympic relay squad as well as looking a good bet for an individual two hundred metres place. He finds Freemasonry an enjoyable release from life as an increasingly high-profile international athlete: ‘It’s a great way to switch off from a pretty high pressure life right now, and I’ve met some terrific people. The lodge is an ideal opportunity to do good while having a bit of fun with the other members.’
James is a great believer in giving something back, coaching disadvantaged youngsters in the Met-Track scheme in London, as well as doing as much work as he can within the lodge. Spencer Park can be proud of the fact that its members have supported James in his efforts and can look forward to watching him grace the Olympic stage. So what is it about the lodge that tempts world-class athletes?
Like most lodges over the years, Spencer Park has experienced several incarnations. It was formed in the 1940s and during the early years it was the founders and their candidates who kept the lodge solid and functional. In the late 1980s, the nature of the membership changed with an influx of prison officers from the local Wandsworth and Brixton jails.
The future looked rosy, but the light rapidly faded as the leader departed for northern shores. Fortunately, south London businessman, Mehmet Gursel-Cimen, a high-level weightlifter, joined Spencer Park at a crucial time. He encouraged me to look into masonry, and I joined in 1994. We formed the nucleus of the new direction that the lodge was to take, and indeed is continuing to take to this day.
Soon after my initiation, Russell Hart, karate player, and top-notch cyclist Simon McCarthy joined, giving us a firm foundation for a strong sporting future. My own success in international athletics included a couple of Commonwealth silver medals in the shot put, before moving into coaching.
In Freemasonry, I found men with competitive but also caring and loyal instincts. I was at home in the organisation and motivated to spread that word among friends and colleagues. By 2003, having occupied the Master’s Chair for two years, I slotted in as secretary, feeling this to be an ideal chance to work on expanding the sporting membership.
The first new member at this time was John Powell, an international coach with a squad of south London youngsters who were making waves in the sprinting world. John was a superintendent in the Metropolitan Police and a highly motivated man. Once on board he showed a strong commitment to the lodge. His influence extended into the younger generation, whom he encouraged to look at masonry in a new light. This started the lodge’s revival.
For many years, our organisation has been viewed with suspicion by the general public, and Spencer Park saw it as part of its raison d’être to spread a positive word. Although we are only a small part of the whole, it was felt that we could make a contribution towards helping masonry flourish by enlisting sporting youngsters in our activities.
The pressures of life for the younger generation are immense so the lodge instituted a commitment to a Lodge of Instruction with built-in flexibility to account for the difficult hours now worked by younger members. We also looked at bringing more sports coaches in to balance the younger intake. Two very important sportsmen became members at this time. Donovan Reid was an Olympic finalist in 1984 in Los Angeles. He moved from competing to coaching and has had many successes to his name in track and field over the past twenty-plus years. A close friend and coaching colleague of his, Clarence Callender, ex-army man and now Olympic team coach in the relays, also joined Spencer Park’s ranks.
The core of the membership continued to support this new direction. Terry Cover-White, who had joined from Rhetoric Lodge, became a central pillar and, along with John Hardy, formed the heart of the lodge. At this point, Mark Chapman joined our ranks. An international coach, he has been a major asset to Spencer Park, setting a superb example of how masonry and work can fit together harmoniously.
From the spark of an idea, Spencer Park has come a long way. Doubtless in the future it will take on other guises and strong membership groups, but in 2012, it is very much a sporting lodge.
|In 2007, Spencer Park Lodge’s senior members decided to promote the idea of a masonic celebration for the 2012 London Olympics. As part of this process, a study was conducted on how many masons had sporting connections. The results revealed strong links between Freemasonry and sport up to the highest level. Historically, that connection has influenced the development of sport worldwide and led to the setting up of many lodge and Provincial sporting groups. In the light of these findings, Spencer Park linked with the Royal York Lodge of Perseverance to organise a gala dinner at the Grand Connaught Rooms on 21 July this year to celebrate Freemasonry and sport. On 10 August, the two lodges are also hosting a joint meeting.|
The RMTGB’s Stepping Stones scheme is giving young, disadvantaged people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel and develop new skills
Last year, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) awarded a grant of £15,000 from its Stepping Stones scheme to the British Schools Exploring Society. This charity aims to advance the education of young people by providing inspirational and challenging expeditions to remote, wild environments. The expeditions develop confidence, teamwork and leadership, and foster a spirit of adventure and exploration. The grant was awarded specifically to support the Dangoor Next Generation Programme, a joint outreach initiative with youth charity Catch22.
The RMTGB grant enabled some of the country’s most disadvantaged young people to participate in an overseas expedition. All of the participants have experienced a difficult childhood, but the programme provides them with a unique opportunity to develop the skills they need to seize new opportunities. Last year, 60 young people took part in the programme which involved training in remote areas of England, Wales and Scotland, before commanding a tall ship across the North Sea to Norway. The return voyage concluded on the River Thames following a spectacular pass through Tower Bridge. Following the completion of each expedition, the programme continues to assist participants by helping them into employment or training or supporting them to return to education.
The lasting effect of the programme is best explained by the participants themselves. ‘It was an amazing experience,’ says Nadia, ‘it made me realise who I am as a person and it was good to challenge myself.’ Another participant, Alfie, explains how the project has changed his life: ‘It’s given me so much confidence that I’ve gone back to college and now also volunteer on the ship. It’s made me so happy to have been part of the project.’
The RMTGB’s grant enabled 15 young people to participate on the 2011 expedition. The grant will also support the same number of disadvantaged young people on the 2012 expedition to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where participants will learn to navigate by the stars and camp with the Bedouin in one of the harshest environments on the planet.
Since its launch, Stepping Stones has awarded more than £230,000 to around 15 charities, with additional funds available to award further grants this year. The RMTGB is only able to make these grants because of the generosity of its supporters. Through their donations and fundraising, Freemasons and their families are making a valuable contribution to the development, education and future career prospects of disadvantaged young people in wider society.
Please visit the website www.rmtgb.org to find out how you can support this work
Since 2007, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has supported air ambulance and similar rescue charities in the delivery of their life-saving services and this year marks the giving of more than £1 million in total donations. These charities are considered to be the busiest voluntary emergency services in the country. Operating almost entirely from donations, air ambulance services save thousands of lives each year by getting doctors to patients in emergency situations as quickly as possible.
In regions where no air ambulances currently operate, the Grand Charity has supported other rescue services, including Channel Islands Air Search, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and St John Ambulance. Since April 2012, Provincial and Metropolitan Grand Lodges have been invited to help distribute a total of £192,000 to their regional rescue services.
The Grand Charity has commemorated this £1 million overall donation by creating a short video, which can be viewed on its website.
Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes discusses the mechanisms that have been put in place to promote the Royal Arch within Freemasonry
As we move towards the bicentenary of the Order in 2013 we have taken the opportunity to further ensure the long term future of the Royal Arch. In raising the profile to achieve this, it is important to make sure we are seen as appealing, inspiring and relevant. To that end, a strategic working party, under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, reported their nine recommendations to me in March. The first of these recommendations in their report was that the strap line ‘initiation to exaltation’ be adopted to promote the Order.
The working party looked at mentoring and how it should align to the work being done on this in the Craft. Here it was suggested that the Craft personal mentor and the Royal Arch representative actively guide a new master mason towards membership of the Royal Arch at an appropriate point in his masonic journey. Also that once exalted the new companion has a knowledgeable Royal Arch mason to help him better understand the ceremony and meaning of the Royal Arch and how best to become involved in the Chapter.
PROMOTING THE ORDER
The role of the lodge Royal Arch representative is fundamental to the promotion of the Order and it is recommended that Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges continue to encourage Craft lodges to make this appointment and to develop the role. It is also considered important that the adoption of the permitted ritual variations, introduced by the 2004 Royal Arch Strategic Working Party, be encouraged in Chapters.
I am aware that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, as well as several Provinces and Districts are already presenting a letter to the newly made master mason on the merits of the Royal Arch. Efforts to improve the profile of the Order in website contexts is also underway.
Two clear outward ways to promote the Order are emphasised. First, the taking of wine with Royal Arch members at selected Craft Festive Boards and secondly, that the wearing of the official Royal Arch tie be further encouraged. The final recommendation is that Chapters be encouraged to re-engage with lodges from which they have traditionally derived members.
In order to encourage a greater participation among all companions, the working party looked at the layout of the ritual books so that the revised and permitted alternative variations adopted in 2004 be encouraged as the standard. I emphasise that nothing is now being suggested which in any way enforces or changes what was introduced by Supreme Grand Chapter in 2004.
A wider participation in the ritual is clearly beneficial in encouraging a deeper understanding of the teaching and by giving the permitted variations of 2004 a greater prominence in the various printed and authorised rituals – for example, Aldersgate, Domatic, Perfect and Metropolitan – I trust more Chapters will be encouraged to adopt them and benefit accordingly.
The 2013 Royal Arch Appeal for The Royal College of Surgeons is progressing well – with over half a million recorded so far. This means that we are well on our way to exceeding our target. I encourage you to keep up your efforts.
The Cornwall Provincial crest includes 15 bezants (gold coins), a fitting emblem in Olympic year as the Province embarks on its final 12 months of fundraising on behalf of the Masonic Samaritan Fund 2013 Festival. On a gloriously sunny day, Provincial Grand Master Peter George hosted the Fund’s Annual Meeting in Falmouth. In addition to welcoming members who had travelled from all parts of the Province, Peter thanked staff, Trustees and members of the Fund who had made even longer journeys. He was particularly pleased to welcome the ladies present, who hopefully left the meeting better informed about the work of the Fund. The Olympic theme was evident as Tony Evans, Provincial Grand Charity Steward, implored all present to ‘Go for Gold’ in one final fundraising effort on behalf of the Festival appeal.
An open and sensible approach to Freemasonry could have a significant impact on public perceptions of the Craft, according to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. In most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject. The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open.
I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins.
We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworth’s and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained. It is important to explain to people that there are very few things we keep private in masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.
We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another as, ‘doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us’. Instead, we would say something like, ‘we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us’. To put it another way, this isn’t rocket science.
I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others. I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally, I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred. However, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.
We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a lodge, they will be among men who behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve.
You will be thinking that I have left out an important aspect: our charities. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say that we do a vast amount of charitable work. I most certainly am not saying don’t talk about our charities, quite the reverse, but don’t use our charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of enjoyment that we derive from our membership.
East Lancashire Province is doing a great job of raising money for the 2015 RMBI Festival thanks to Freemasons Steve Grummett and Ryan Yates. Steve will be completing the Three Peaks Challenge over the weekend of 22-24 June 2012. This involves tackling the three highest peaks in the home nations: Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales.
Meanwhile, Ryan will be completing a 12-mile assault course set by UK ex-Special Forces members. Participants need to run, swim, climb, crawl, and have to suffer being electrocuted and burned along the way. As a serving soldier with two tours of Afghanistan behind him we are sure that he is up to the challenge.
A badly read piece of ritual is infinitely worse than a badly remembered piece, explains Director of Special Projects John Hamill
When dealing with the media on behalf of Grand Lodge, one of the comments that I regularly received from journalists was that if the ceremonies are the main purpose of lodge meetings it must eventually become very boring to see the same ceremonies year after year. My answer was always a resounding ‘no’.
No two ceremonies can ever be the same. The candidate is different each time, the officers taking part regularly change and those attending the meeting are never exactly the same. Although the basic words and actions of each ceremony may be the same each time it is worked, those changes of personnel can make an enormous difference.
One of the most memorable meetings I have attended was a Third Degree, the candidate for which was in a wheelchair. You could almost feel the atmosphere of good will in the room with the officers concentrating on the comfort of the candidate and those on the sidelines silently willing the officers to do a good job for the candidate. It was Freemasonry at its best.
Our ritual did not simply happen. It went through a long gestation in the eighteenth century, moving from simple lessons in morality to a complex series of catechetical lectures in which the principles and tenets of the Craft, as well as the symbolism and content of the ceremonies, were explained. A watershed came in 1814 when, as a result of the of the two Grand Lodges, a Lodge of Reconciliation was set up to reconcile the two former systems of ritual and bring about a standard form of the ceremonies to be adopted by all lodges.
Like many special committees, the Lodge of Reconciliation went way beyond its brief and extended the original simple ceremonies by introducing material from the catechetical lectures, and brought about the basis of our present ceremonies. One of the sad effects of that was that the lectures gradually dropped into disuse, except in places like the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, where they are still worked every Friday evening during the masonic season. It’s sad because they contain a wealth of explanation that would increase the brethren’s understanding of the ceremonies.
WORD OF MOUTH
The aim of producing a standard form of ritual was not achieved. In those days writing down ritual matters was a heinous masonic crime. Ritual was passed on by word of mouth. Its work having been agreed by Grand Lodge in 1816, the Lodge of Reconciliation gave weekly demonstrations of the new rituals in London. Lodges were invited to send representatives to the demonstrations to pass on the new method to their lodges.
This method of transmission and a failure to suppress cherished local traditions has resulted in a richness and variety of working in our lodges, which makes visiting all the more interesting for us.
In recent years there have been calls for officers to be allowed to read the ritual in lodge. For two reasons I think this would be a retrograde step. First, having seen ritual read in lodges in Europe, a badly read piece of ritual is infinitely worse that a badly remembered piece. More importantly, by learning the ritual we increase our understanding of it.
Whoever we are we all come into Freemasonry in the same way. Our progress through the three ceremonies is what the late Canon Tydeman so aptly described as ‘the shared experience’. Combined with our belief in a supreme being, it is what unites us, whatever our backgrounds, and gives us the basis to build and be of service to our communities.
Today the formation of a Grand Chapter would be widely reported. As John Hamill explains, such was not the case for the Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter of England
As I wrote in the last issue of Freemasonry Today, the Royal Arch was brought into being by the signing of the document now know as the Charter of Compact on 22 July 1766, although the date was later tampered with. Strangely, there is no mention of that charter within the minutes of the chapter, which turned itself into the Grand Chapter. So exactly how did events pan out?
1765: The signing of a manifesto
On 12 June 1765, a group of twenty-nine companions met at the Turk’s Head Tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho and signed a manifesto by which they constituted themselves into an independent Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. The manifesto – a set of rules to govern the operation of the chapter – was copied into the minute book in an illuminated style and was signed by those present and then by every brother on his exaltation within the chapter.
1766: Grand Chapter catalyst
Among those who joined were many of the major figures then involved in the running of the premier Grand Lodge. Exactly a year after its formation, the success of the chapter was crowned by the candidate at the meeting on 11 June 1766 being the then Grand Master – Cadwallader, Lord Blayney. It would appear that this event was the catalyst for the formation of a Grand Chapter, although the minutes are silent on this matter, any discussion of the Charter of Compact, or even to its signing. The only reference in the minute book is in the accounts where it is noted that a Mr Parkinson was paid two guineas for engrossing the charter.
1769: Just a private chapter?
The chapter continued to work as a private chapter, regularly exalting new members and it is not until 1769 that the minutes begin to show evidence of it acting as a Grand Chapter. In that year it began to issue charters to form new chapters. Of these foundations five are still in existence today. It would appear from the minute books that the chapter continued a dual role as both a private chapter and a Grand Chapter until it evolved into Supreme Grand Chapter in 1817. From 1795 it began to function on a regular basis as we would expect today.
1778: Spreading the message
In 1778, the chapter began to organise Provinces with the appointment of Grand Superintendents, whose main function appears to have been to stimulate the formation of new chapters. Thomas Dunckerley, who did so much to promote the Royal Arch in the late eighteenth century between 1778 and his death in 1795, was appointed Grand Superintendent in no less than eighteen counties.
1795: Grand Lodge softening
Despite many of its leaders being involved in the Grand Chapter, the premier Grand Lodge consistently refused to acknowledge the Royal Arch as part of its system. By 1795 that attitude had softened and the premier Grand Lodge announced, rather condescendingly, that it had no objections to the Royal Arch as a separately organised society.
1809: Royal Arch an integral part
With HRH The Duke of Sussex becoming both Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge and First Grand Principal of the Grand Chapter, the latter body gave him full powers to negotiate on their behalf whatever settlement could be achieved as to the position of the Royal Arch, once the of the two Grand Lodges had been carried through. It was as a result of that, and his position as Grand Master, that a compromise was achieved and the Royal Arch was accepted as an integral part of pure antient masonry.
1817: Birth of the Supreme Grand Chapter
The Grand Chapter continued to exist until 1817 when, with the Craft arrangements being almost completed, The Duke of Sussex turned his mind to the Royal Arch. The Grand and Royal Chapter merged with the former members of the Antients Royal Arch, with the Supreme Grand Chapter coming into being. Surprisingly after 1817, the dual nature of the original Grand Chapter – acting both as a regulatory body and a private chapter – continued with men of eminence being exalted within the Grand Chapter itself.
1832: Last exaltations
The last occasion the Grand Chapter acted as both regulator and private chapter was in May 1832 when the Marquis of Salisbury, the Marquis of Abercorn and Lord Monson were exalted at an emergency meeting of Grand Chapter.