Celebrating 300 years

Reflecting on the need to recruit new members, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why Freemasonry should remember its history while keeping an eye firmly on the future

Having finished the two yearly regional conferences with Provincial Grand Masters, I can report that one consistent theme was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases this has already started, which means that perhaps we are getting some things right.

I have frequently said that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock-on effect.

Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard in the last issue from Edward Lord and Julian Soper about the work of the Universities Scheme. I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how we can best implement some of the principles that were mentioned across the whole Craft.

Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However, this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.

Altruistic society

At the end of last year, I visited my great grandfather’s mother lodge in Hertfordshire – and a splendid occasion it was, with a nearly faultless Second Degree ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.

The reason for mentioning this is that in the reply for the visitors, the brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is ‘regard for others as a principle of action’ and it’s rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.

If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t go far wrong. Of course, it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point as it should naturally lead to a practice of brotherly love, relief and truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving.

During the past year, the Festivals for our charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the Masonic Samaritan Fund; Cambridgeshire raised £1.285m for the Grand Charity; and Devonshire raised £3.836m for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.

I hope that our membership, as a whole, is far more familiar with the activities of our charities than might have been the case twenty or so years ago. The charities’ promotion of their activities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.

While three of our charities are masonic in their giving, the Grand Charity has a wide brief for giving to non-masonic bodies, provided that they are also charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved, and we should be quick to point it out.

We should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future, in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.

 

Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013

 

Sir, as usual, the article from our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, in the spring 2013 edition of Freemasonry Today was both interesting and stimulating. The paragraph relating to our use of words without fully appreciating their meaning struck a very strong chord with me. 

 

From all the words available to them in the English language, our founders chose to use the word ‘speculative’ to describe our branch of Freemasonry (as opposed to the operative Freemasonry). In our modern idiom this word is defined as ‘to conjecture without knowing the full facts’. Does this describe a proportion of our brethren today?


In a recent reading of Bernard of Clairvaux, it describes his definition of this word as ‘the recollection that frees the mind of worldly distractions as a preparation for contemplation of God’. Was this definition more in the minds of our founders?


Gareth Price, Trafford Park Broad Oak Lodge, No. 4486, Manchester, West Lancashire

 


Published in UGLE

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why 2017 will be a unique opportunity to share masonic pride across the nation

As the masonic fraternity is a single, indivisible fellowship that is neither divided nor affected by local or national boundaries within our constitution, the word ‘united’ is extremely appropriate as we move forward to our three hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. Hence, Metropolitan Grand Lodge, the Provinces and Districts are united as part of one fellowship – that of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Celebration for all

So how should we be working together to plan the 2017 celebrations, remembering that this is just over four and a half years away? From the very outset, I want to make it clear that this is a celebration for every one of us – for the members throughout the English constitution, both here and in the Districts.

Celebrating three hundred years is a once in a lifetime event for us all, as is appropriately marking this wonderful achievement and, of course, being the first Grand Lodge to do so. We have seen two great events this summer – that of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games. Both these events proved highly successful and raised the morale and spirit of our nation. That is exactly what I want the members’ 2017 celebration to achieve for our united fraternity.

Planning ahead 

I am convinced that by working through the Metropolitan Grand Master and the Provincial and District Grand Masters we will encourage a large participation in this great occasion. Although there is much detail to be planned and to be communicated to you for your own planning, the main event will certainly include partners.

We are proud to be Freemasons and 2017 is a great opportunity to show that pride not only to our families and friends, but to the non-masonic community as well. To this end it will also be the natural culmination of the open public relations strategy we have embraced.

Published in UGLE
Friday, 14 December 2012 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2012

As we all know, time seems to go by at an ever-increasing rate and, with that in mind, our great celebrations in 2017 are not that far away. Just think, as the Mother Grand Lodge of the world, we will be the first Grand Lodge to reach three hundred years – what a fantastic milestone.

On this subject I want to address a point of huge significance. The Pro Grand Master in his last Quarterly Communication speech, which you can read in this issue’s Senior Insights, stressed that this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to celebrate the occasion is for everyone. It is quite simply the members’ celebration. To that end we will be working tirelessly with the Provinces and Districts to make this a memorable experience for us all.

Our magazine continues to go from strength to strength and this is supported by a recent online readership survey. We were particularly impressed that forty-six per cent of our readers’ wives and partners are now enjoying the magazine. I have also just heard that Freemasonry Today has been shortlisted for an award by an external body as a membership magazine that has made the most progress for its readers. This is fantastic news.

In this issue, we find out about brethren who are inspiring communities, challenging preconceptions and contributing to society. We fly back to the Second World War to find out how Squadron Leader, mason and secret hero Jerry Fray played a covert but hugely important role in photographing the destruction wrought by the Dambusters.

We explain why RMBI homes are now using pioneering techniques that focus on the quality of life for someone with dementia. And we go along to the ihelp finals to report on how Buckinghamshire Freemasons are giving young people the chance to show they care about the communities they live in.

I hope you enjoy the issue and that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 19:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2012

QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION
12 September 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes


Brethren,

It has been an exciting, if somewhat wet, summer throughout the country and I trust you have all come back refreshed for the new Masonic season.

I have just started the first of four regional business meetings with Provincial Grand Masters. Clearly this is an ideal opportunity to talk about the current initiatives we are all involved in and to share thoughts and ideas. Importantly, we are all united in our mutual commitment to recruit and retain the best people – men of quality.

As the Masonic fraternity is a single, indivisible fellowship which is neither divided nor affected by local or national boundaries within our Constitution, the word united is extremely appropriate – not only for what we are all doing together today – but especially as we move forward to our three hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2017. Hence Metropolitan Grand Lodge, the Provinces and Districts are united as part of one fellowship – that of the United Grand Lodge of England.

With this in mind, one of the agenda items on my regional business meetings covers how we want to be working together to plan the 2017 celebrations, remembering that this is just over four and a half years away. From the very outset, I want to make it clear that this is a celebration for every one of us – for the members throughout the English Constitution, both here and in the Districts.

Celebrating three hundred years is a once in a lifetime event for us all, as well as appropriately marking this wonderful achievement of reaching this significant milestone, and, of course, being the first Grand Lodge to do so.
We have seen two great events this summer – that of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games. Both these events proved highly successful and raised the morale and spirit of our Nation. That is exactly what I want the members’ 2017 celebration to achieve for our united fraternity.

I am convinced that by working through the Metropolitan Grand Master and the Provincial and District Grand Masters we will encourage a large participation in this great occasion. Although there is much detail to be planned and to be communicated to you for your own planning, the main event will certainly include partners.

Brethren, we are proud to be Freemasons and 2017 is a great opportunity to show that pride not only to our families and friends, but to the non-Masonic community as well. To this end it will also be the natural culmination of the open public relations strategy we have embraced.

I can tell you, even at this early stage, that the main event in June 2017 will be at the Excel Centre, near the Olympic Stadium. This is one of the few locations in the Country that has the necessary capacity and infrastructure to properly enable us to celebrate this once in a lifetime momentous event.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 02:00

Tuning In

The Grand Secretary embarked on a nationwide media tour to dispel some myths and spark discussion about Freemasonry. Sophie Radice reports

Nigel Brown, Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, has just been on a tour the length and breath of England – not forgetting an interview with BBC Wales – that would exhaust any electioneering politician or celebrity trying to promote a new book. Over just four days, Nigel gave 40 back-to-back interviews to national and local newspapers and radio stations. 

The publication of a new independent report The Future Of Freemasonry was the catalyst to generate discussion about the role of Freemasonry in the twenty-first century, while at the same time debunking certain persistent myths about the organisation. Both the tour and the report are the first stages in the build up to the 300th anniversary of the Freemasons in 2017 and to promote a better understanding of what Freemasonry means.

Nigel found it exhausting but exhilarating, particularly enjoying the direct contact he had with the public in the regional radio phone-in discussions: ‘People still believe certain things about the Freemasons, and of course the deep-seated myth that it is a secret society with unique business networking opportunities came up many times. It was really good to be able to say: “Look, would I be doing a tour of England if it was a secret society?”

‘I was able to tell people that the only time the Freemasons ever went underground was during the Second World War when more than 200,000 Freemasons were sent to the gas chambers by Hitler because he saw Freemasonry as a threat. Seeing Hitler’s persecution of Freemasonry, particularly after he invaded the Channel Islands, and fearing the invasion of England, members became alarmed,’ continues Nigel. ‘Many of the people I spoke to on the tour were very surprised to hear this.’

Nigel goes on to explain that Freemasonry then played an important role post-war for troops returning home, many of whom wanted to be with other men who had been through the same experience. ‘Many lodges were formed during the immediate post-war period. Perhaps too many because there was such a strong need for camaraderie and because of what had happened during the war. As a result they naturally became inward looking.’

need for belonging

While the number of lodges has now levelled out almost to its pre-war period, the sense of brotherly support remains in the 250,000 members in England and Wales. Among its conclusions, The Future Of Freemasonry report states that ‘there is a timeless need for a sense of affiliation and belonging’. The report also emphasises the importance that Freemasons place on helping others.

‘The only requisite we have for joining the Freemasons is that they are people of integrity, honesty, fairness and kindness who believe in a supreme being,’ explains Nigel. ‘We welcome people of all races and religions with different social and economic backgrounds. This kind of openness, and the fact that Freemasonry is a non-religious and non-political organisation means that the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Israel is a Palestinian, and that is because the decency and morality of our members is of paramount importance.’

When Nigel told people he met on his tour that the Freemasons were the biggest charitable givers after The National Lottery, donating £30 million last year, he was met with incredulity. ‘These very large contributions come from Freemasons’ own efforts rather than from street collections or any other type of external fundraising. Because the Freemason does not ask for thanks or reward it means that very few people know about our charitable donations, even though they are on such a large scale. For instance, we are the main donors to The Royal College of Surgeons, funding much of their research and donate generously to the Red Cross. I know it seems a small thing but it is something that I am particularly proud of. We are the people that provide teddies for all children going into surgery, to comfort them in that difficult moment.’

Questions about Freemasonry rituals, rolled-up trouser legs and secret handshakes were well prepared for. Nigel explained that he had never come across the secret handshake but was glad to shed light on the rituals as a series of ‘one-act plays’ performed by members as they moved up the ranks of the Freemasons. ‘I was happy to tell interviewers and those ringing in to radio discussion programmes that there was nothing sinister about it. I think that rituals are very important to a sense of belonging and our members thoroughly enjoy taking part in these performances and memorising their lines. They provide a distinctive character to joining and moving through the ranks of the Freemasons – our aim isn’t to make Freemasonry bland but to make the public more aware of what we do.’

CHANGING OPINIONS

Even in recent memory, Freemasonry has had to deal with discrimination against members. ‘On some job application forms there was the question, “Are you a member of a secret society, e.g. the Freemasons?” We got that removed by the European Court of Human Rights, but we still have to work hard to make sure that our members are not wrongly judged, or feel that it is something they have to hide. As the report shows, our members really value the feeling of belonging to an organisation that contributes to society and is a part of their life that they can be proud of. Freemasonry is more relevant than ever – in a competitive and fragmented society it provides a combination of friendship and structure.’

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:01

Principles with imagination

HRH The Duke of Kent explains why transparency is critical for Freemasonry and urges an active spirit of openness

Our concern must be for the future, especially with the approach of our three-hundredth anniversary in 2017. In planning for this great anniversary, I believe these times demand innovation, and imaginative thinking, while retaining our principles.

In this I make no apology for again reminding everyone of the need truly to demonstrate transparency, and to work towards regaining our enviable reputation in society. To do this we have to show how and why we are relevant and to concentrate on the positive aspects of Freemasonry, in particular our generous tradition of giving to a wide variety of causes.

In regards to transparency, we still have some way to go in dispelling the myths that remain deep rooted in many people’s minds, not least the media. Very considerable progress has been made in this direction already, but challenges remain, and there is still work to do to overcome prejudices and misconception.

I am very pleased that we have already achieved two firsts of some importance in tackling this challenge. The first of these was the commissioning of the first ever independent, third party report, written by non-masons, on the Future of Freemasonry. This report has been highly successful and has itself acted as the catalyst for the second of our two innovations, namely the first media tour, conducted by the Grand Secretary.

I recommend that you all take advantage of this active spirit of openness to talk with equal frankness to your family and friends. I think that if you follow this advice, you may well be surprised by the positive reception you will gain.

I want to congratulate all those whom I had the pleasure of investing. To attain Grand Rank in the Craft is a very high accolade of which you can feel justly proud. This promotion does, however, come with an obligation always to set the highest example in standards of integrity, honesty and fairness wherever you are.

Among those I have appointed to acting office are the new Grand Chancellor, the president of the Grand Charity and the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, and I want to take this opportunity of thanking their predecessors.

First of all, Brother Alan Englefield, who as the first Grand Chancellor, has made an invaluable contribution to bringing us closer to other Grand Lodges around the world, as well as to maintaining our position as the Mother Grand Lodge. Secondly to Grahame Elliott, who as president of the Grand Charity, as well as presiding over the Grand Charity itself, was instrumental in the successful move of the four charities into this building and thirdly, to Michael Lawson who has given a long and dedicated period of service on the board since 1988. To all three brethren we owe a considerable debt of gratitude.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 01:00

Grand Master's address - April 2012

CRAFT ANNUAL INVESTITURE 

25 APRIL 2012 
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE GRAND MASTER HRH THE DUKE OF KENT, KG 

Brethren, I start by congratulating most warmly all those whom I have had the pleasure of investing today. To attain Grand Rank in the Craft is a very high accolade of which you can feel justly proud. This promotion does, however, come with an obligation always to set the highest example in standards of integrity, honesty, and fairness wherever you are.

Among those I have appointed to acting office are the new Grand Chancellor, the President of the Grand Charity and the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, and I want to take this opportunity of thanking their predecessors. First of all, Brother Alan Englefield, who as the first Grand Chancellor, has made an invaluable contribution to bringing us closer to other Grand Lodges around the world, as well as to maintaining our position as the Mother Grand Lodge. Secondly to Brother Grahame Elliott, who as President of the Grand Charity, as well as presiding over the Grand Charity itself, was instrumental in the successful move of the four Charities into this Building and thirdly, to Brother Michael Lawson who has given a long and dedicated period of service on the Board since 1988.  To all three Brethren we owe a considerable debt of gratitude.

Brethren, today our concern must be for the future, especially with the approach of our three hundredth anniversary in 2017. In planning for this great anniversary, I believe these times demand innovation, and imaginative thinking, whilst retaining our principles. In this I make no apology for again reminding Brethren of the need truly to demonstrate transparency, and to work towards regaining our enviable reputation in society.  To do this we have to show how and why we are relevant and to concentrate on the positive aspects of Freemasonry, in particular our generous tradition of giving to a wide variety of causes.

In regards to transparency we still have some way to go in dispelling the myths that remain 'deep rooted' in many people's minds, not least the media. Very considerable progress has been made in this direction already, but challenges remain, and there is still work to do to overcome prejudices and misconception.

I am very pleased that we have already achieved two firsts of some importance in tackling this challenge. The first of these was the commissioning of the first ever independent, third party report, written by non-Masons, on the future of Freemasonry. This Report has been highly successful and has itself acted as the catalyst for the second of our two innovations, namely the first media tour, conducted by the Grand Secretary, and which achieved a reach of more than 117 million people.

I recommend that you all take advantage of this active spirit of openness to talk with equal frankness to your family and friends. I think that if you follow this advice, you may well be surprised by the positive reception you will gain.

Today's has been a memorable gathering and its undoubted success has been achieved by a great deal of careful planning and hard work, so that on your behalf, I want first of all to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the skill and precision with which the ceremony has been conducted, and secondly the Grand Secretary and his staff for their long hours of planning which have 'borne fruit' so excellently this afternoon.

Published in Speeches
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00

The essence in change

Freemasonry has thrived for centuries because it adapts while staying true to its principles, as Director of Special Projects John Hamill explains

As we begin the countdown to the tercentenary celebrations of Grand Lodge in 2017, a great deal of research is being undertaken to establish how Freemasonry has developed and what we have contributed to society. Despite nearly one hundred and fifty years of serious masonic research, we have yet to answer the questions of why, when and where Freemasonry as we understand it originated. Even with the great amount of work going on now, I doubt if those answers will be found by 2017.

There is another question, to my mind, as important and interesting as that of our origins: why has Freemasonry survived on the scale to which it exists today? Those four London lodges that came together in 1717 cannot in their wildest imaginings have thought that three hundred years later their Grand Lodge would have in excess of 250,000 members in more than 8,000 lodges across the world.

We regard Freemasonry as being something special and different. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, it was only one of a myriad of fraternal and benevolent societies and associations. Many of them copied Freemasonry in their organisation and use of ceremony and regalia. For the majority, the benevolent and charitable aspects predominated and the ritual became less important. Most of them completely disappeared in the twentieth century as the developing welfare state began to offer the safety net they had provided. Freemasonry, however, flourished.

For much of the eighteenth century Freemasonry was not so different from many other organisations. The ceremonies, while they attempted to instil a basic moral code, were often seen as simply a curious means of entering what was basically a social and benevolent association. The watershed came in the aftermath of the of the two Grand Lodges on 27 December 1813. A great deal of reorganisation and standardisation took place that resulted in the ceremonies, and above all the meaning behind them, becoming the basis of the institution itself.

This fundamental shift in emphasis was the first step in ensuring the survival of Freemasonry. It demonstrated an ability – sometimes deliberate and almost accidental at others – to adapt Freemasonry to its era. Changes were always made to the outward customs and never to the basic principles, tenets and landmarks of the Order. These are rightly seen as the essence of Freemasonry and are inalienable.

deeper reasons

There are, however, deeper reasons as to why we are still a living organisation. Grand Lodge has always refused to define or explain the meaning of the several ceremonies. This has prevented the rise of any form of dogma. It is up to the individual to make their own journey and to find their own understanding. Hence, the membership forms a wide spectrum, from those who simply view it as a social opportunity to those who, wrongly, believe it will provide the answer to all of life’s questions!

Freemasonry has a breadth that appeals to those who are seeking friendship and moral guidance; an opportunity to be of service within the community; a quiet haven for a few hours from the troubles of the world; or just the pure, simple enjoyment in being in the company of like-minded people.

After forty years of study I remain convinced that, whatever fate may throw at Freemasonry – and provided we remain true to our principles yet adaptable to our times, and retain the breadth of our membership – the Order will survive. It will continue to give to future generations the pleasure that we and our predecessors have found in it.

Letters to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.18 - SUMMER 2012

 

Sir,
I would like to comment on John Hamill’s ‘Reflection’ article in your Winter 2011 edition. If I may, I would like to put an opposing view. I suspect very few would like to return to earlier days of meeting in halls and pubs and not having a home for Freemasonry. Perhaps the real problem is that rather than spending money on the buildings, every penny has gone to charity.

 

There is nothing wrong whatsoever in maintaining a building and using lodge non-charitable funds for this end. I believe that if a particular building suddenly requires major expenditure then that lodge should be allowed to say to the Province that their charitable donations for a short period of time may well be diminished while they give attention to whatever problem has arisen. This should be perfectly acceptable because it secures the lodge building for future generations. The lodge can return to charitable giving in due course and this further ensures that future generations also give to charity.

 


Keith Metcalfe
Lodge of St Marychurch, No. 5148

Torquay, Devonshire

Published in Features

"The Future of Freemasonry" report is the first ever independent study conducted by a non-Masonic body, and was commissioned as part of the build-up to the United Grand Lodge of England's tercentenary in 2017.

Published in UGLE
Page 18 of 23

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