Despite its small size, the Province of Shropshire knows how to punch well above its weight. Back in 2014 when the then Provincial Grand Master Peter Taylor launched a Festival for the Province (the fifth smallest of the 48 Provinces) its 1,200 members found themselves facing the challenge of raising no less than £1 million over the following five years
Undaunted, the then 34, although now 36, Lodges inspired their members to rise to that challenge magnificently.
Under the chairmanship of the Provincial Grand Charity Steward, Simon Aucott, a Festival Fundraising Committee organised, co-ordinated and supported the work of the Lodge Charity Stewards throughout the Province in finding ever more inventive ways by which they, their families and friends might go about raising the vital contribution to the work of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). Events ranged across and beyond the usual spectrum.
Members of the Province, among many other events, jumped out of aircraft, held promise auctions, went on a group cycle ride from Telford to Rotterdam, held dinners, garden parties and wine tastings. There were Christmas Fairs and a spectacular concert to mark the end of the First World War. The Provincial Director of Ceremonies organised a competition for members to guess his annual mileage on masonic business during a single year; the answer was tens of thousands!
And just to prove that the having wheels is not the only way of fundraising, international walking champion Roger Michell walked between all the Lodges of the Province to present a travelling Maul which then accompanied him and his wife Linda on a walk from Freemasons' Hall in Shrewsbury to Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street for Quarterly Communicatiion in June 2019, where Roger's achievement in walking over 1,000 miles was recogised in Grand Lodge by the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, and UGLE donated £1,000 to the appeal.
Eventually, the appeal came to a close and at a spectacular Gala Celebration Event at the Telford International Centre, organised by the Festval Celebration Committee chaired by Melvin Gough, the final total was revealed: an astonishing £1,217,094! This, pointed out the current Provincial Grand Master Roger Pemberton is the second highest per capita contribution ever made to the MCF. The Provincial Grand Master went on to praise the efforts of everyone who had worked so hard over the period of the Festival, singling out in particular the committee Chairmen and the Festival Treasurer, Dennis Hill.
The Gala was a brilliant celebration of all the efforts of the many Freemasons, families and friends and was attended by 580 people, including HM Lord Lieutenant in Shropshire, Anna Turner, and civic dignitaries as well as other eminent guests including the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, and the President of the MCF, Richard Hone, and Chief Operating Officer, Les Hutchinson. Shropshire Freemasons were proud to welcome them all and to showcase who they are and what they do in the community. In addition to the sumptuous dinner, guests were entertained by magicians and singing waiters to add to the special evening.
Shropshire won't be required to hold another Festival until 2030, but the fundraising efforts won't stop any time soon: the Province, Lodges and indivdual Freemasons will build on the experience gained over the period of the Festival to continue to raise funds for many local charities, as they have over many years. Although there may be fewer parachute jumps by the Provincial Grand Master!
Following several months of building work, the new refurbished Berkshire Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been opened by their Provincial Grand Master Anthony Howlett-Bolton, in the presence of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton
Also in attendance for the opening was Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of the Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in London, the Mayor of Wokingham and a number of invited guests.
The Library and Museum was started in 1896 at the Masonic Hall in Reading. It was created by the members of Grey Friars Lodge No. 1101 with assistance from members of other lodges in Reading. It was moved to the Berkshire Masonic Centre in Sindlesham in 1969, but space was not available, so all the contents were put into storage.
By 2002, a small, somewhat pokey, room was found and part of the contents were put on display, however, space was still at a premium, so the majority of the contents were kept in storage. This has all now been consolidated into two rooms in Sindlesham with state of the art display and racking with additional modern storage space developed elsewhere in the building.
When the Library and Museum moved to Sindlesham, it was funded by the sale of regalia donated to the Province and donations from individual masons and lodges. The then Librarian and Curator, Roger White, was still purchasing artefacts as when they became available so add to the collection.
The museum collections contain items of ceramics, glassware, regalia, jewels and a lot of other items such as horse brass, gavels, watches, paperweights, cufflinks and similar memorabilia. There is even have an American casket handle. There are about 3,500 items altogether some of which are more than 200 years old.
The library itself houses over 20,000 books on Freemasonry, including many rare editions – making the collection one of the largest in England. In addition to books, there are over 3,000 certificates, prints, postcards, photographs and other archival items, as well as a reference database in excess of 90,000 records. These collections continue to increase in size and provide a very valuable resource for reference and research by masons and non-masons alike.
Although the library was primarily established for the interest, education and information of its own members, it is also used by members of the general public wanting information on Freemasonry, or those researching the masonic membership of their ancestors. Equally, over the years, they have had a number of students using their resources to research materials for their academic degrees.
Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Berkshire’s Provincial Grand Master, said: ‘Whilst it has been something of a rollercoaster challenge to bring this project to fruition over several years, I am delighted that we have now succeeded in establishing this new facility and indeed as a consequence the provision of disabled access throughout the whole building.
‘All of this is a direct result of a very generous bequest from a former stalwart librarian Robin White whose unbounded enthusiasm resulted in the increase of the number of books from a few hundred to the sizeable number we hold today.’
Sir David Wootton, UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, said: ‘In London, we are also of the firm view that it is important that we ensure that the history of Freemasonry and its rationale is more widely understood both by Freemasons and the wider community alike. To this end, we are taking significant steps to ensure that we play our part in raising the positive profile of Freemasonry with the full understanding that we have, have always had and will continue to have an important role to play in civil society as a whole.
‘With this in mind, it is pleasing to see that you have taken the opportunity to rationalise and fresh these facilities so as to make them more accessible to all. I understand that you have firm plans in mind to ensure that the inter-connected Library and Museum are open on a regular basis for much wider use and that whilst your library catalogue is already online, you intend to explore further the use of modern technology to enhance the users experience.’
From the Grand Secretary
This Saturday, I attended a masonic event that will live with me until the end of my days. My mother lodge, Apollo University Lodge, No 357, met at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford – a building I last visited for my graduation in 2001 – to celebrate its bicentenary. In attendance were the Most Worshipful Grand Master, the Pro Grand Master, the Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters and the Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire, as well a host of friends, members and past members.
The lodge was opened in a room adjoining the theatre, called off and there followed a potted presentation on the history of the lodge, and the presentation of a badge to UGLE for the use of the lodge by the Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary to Her Majesty The Queen – something rather unusual I gather. All this in front of the families and friends of lodge members past and present, the Grand Master and Grand Secretary of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons and a host of invited guests from the university and beyond. It was, of course, an opportunity to showcase Freemasonry to a wider audience, to bust myths, talk of the bursaries the lodge funds for underprivileged students at the university, and remind the academics visiting us that we are one of the oldest and one of the very few university student societies to be able to claim uninterrupted meetings for over two centuries.
All this was done in the unselfconscious, one might even say brazen style, exemplified by the 19-year-old undergraduate who, after speaking to the Pro Grand Master, attended by his DepGDC, for five minutes, had the disarming naivety to exclaim, ‘I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t quite catch who you are…’
The reception followed at the Ashmolean Museum under the gaze of a 2,000-year-old statue of Apollo and a rather raucous dinner ensued at Keble College, finishing when the bar shut at 4am with a round of McDonald’s with port chasers (I had made a dignified exit around midnight you understand…).
The event brought home to me happy memories of my initiation and my first meetings and introductions to Freemasonry. It also reminded me of what I consider to be a universal fact about Freemasonry, which is that, almost without exception, we consider our first tentative steps in the Craft, and the lessons that they teach us, to be the quintessential masonic experience. To me, nothing will ever surpass Apollo University Lodge. But to those of you reading, I suspect you would say exactly the same thing about your mother lodges, and no matter where we go, and how much we enjoy our Freemasonry elsewhere, few of us would admit the ceremony we had just seen, or the atmosphere we had enjoyed, could hold a candle to those meetings we remember from our formative steps in the Craft.
And therein lies a problem, one with which we all must grapple. There is no doubt that my idea of a wonderful lodge meeting would leave some of you stone cold. We do not all like the same things, and there are as many different types of lodges as there are types of Freemason. Through its ritual, traditions and customs, Freemasonry seeks to inspire its members. It encourages them, through dramatic shared experience, to seek for knowledge, and to put service before self. It does this in myriad different ways that appeal to different people. Times change though, and what may have worked in the past might not attract members now. Some lodges are simply unable or unwilling to communicate happiness or connect across generational divides. It is a source of great pride that my mother lodge, over its 200-year history, has numbered among its members many men who have made significant contributions to wider society, in all walks of life. In order for a lodge to continue to do this, and to thrive, it must find ways to keep its members engaged, interested, and coming back for more. It must also find ways to replace those members who leave or who die. It seems to me that there are a number of lodges which, put simply, don’t really mind either way, and perhaps we should all be a little more relaxed about this. Lodges exist to serve a purpose for their members, but some have no interest in keeping going forever.
I remember my time as a Metropolitan DepGDC and the wonderful and moving ceremonies that the Met performed when a lodge handed back its warrant. There was an honest acknowledgement that lodges come together for a purpose, and for some, that purpose runs its course. The Craft has the means to create new lodges which meet the needs of present-day petitioners. Lodges which are able to attract and retain members will survive and thrive, perhaps even spawning daughter lodges in their own image, while those that can’t will, in all likelihood, pass into history. Which sort is your lodge, dear reader, and more importantly, are you content with that?
Dr David Staples
‘There is no doubt that my idea of a wonderful lodge meeting would leave some of you stone cold. We do not all like the same things, and there are as many different types of lodges as there are types of Freemason’
Historic stained glass windows have been returned to Barnstaple in Devonshire after 30 years
When St Mary Magdalene Church in Devonshire – built in 1842 – was demolished in 1988, it was to make way for a new inner relief road. That was until the Honourable Glaziers Company stepped in to rescue a pair of stained glass windows which depicted the building and Dedication of King Solomon’s Temple.
Those stained glass windows have lain since then in the cellar of Glaziers Hall in London. However, through the offices of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, who is also Worshipful Master of the Glaziers Company, the windows have been returned to members of Loyal Lodge No. 251 which meets in Barnstaple.
On 17th May 2019, Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire, Ian Roome, Mayor of Barnstaple, Alison Mills, Manager of Barnstaple’s Museum, and Robert Patterson, specialist glass Restorer, together with Roger Moore, Worshipful Master of Loyal Lodge, and members of the lodge accompanied by their families, welcomed members of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers.
The windows are an outstanding historical artefact which commemorates the life of a prominent member of the Barnstaple community and Past Master of Loyal Lodge, John Thomas Britton (1790 to 1855), and is a small piece of local history.
Thomas Britton was an active member within the community and of St Mary Magdalene’s Church. It was in 1859 that the members of Loyal Lodge decided that as a permanent memorial they would commission the stained glass south window of the Church to be dedicated to his memory.
In 1843, John Britton took a leading role in the acquisition of what is known as the Bath Furniture consisting of some of the finest masonic chairs, pedestals and pillars still in existence anywhere in the masonic world.
During the meeting a resume of the history of the windows and St. Mary Magdalene Church was very ably given by Estcourt Miller. In presenting the windows, Sir David Wootton said how pleased they were to be able to return them to North Devon and to know that in due course they will be displayed so prominently for all to see.
The Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass are one of the ancient livery companies of the City of London, its origins dating back to the 14th century. Through its charity – The Glaziers Foundation – it supports education, the training of stained glass artists, together with the conservation of stained glass and are devoted to promoting the art and craft of stained glass.
Roger Moore formally accepted possession of the windows and thanked all those who had been involved in their return and eventual display in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon when their refurbishment of the building is complete.
Over 700 Freemasons packed the magnificent Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall to witness a world first creation of a new lodge for young Freemasons – Essex Cornerstone Lodge No. 9968
A number of years ago, the Essex Cornerstone Club committee started to think about the formation of a new lodge, specifically for young Freemasons. They had a dream of what its purpose would be and what it might achieve. There followed a long period of planning and preparation and as time went by and progress was made, the realisation dawned that the lodge really would become a reality.
From then on, the excitement and anticipation built and reached their peak on Saturday 2nd March 2019 – the day Essex Cornerstone Lodge was Consecrated. The Grand Temple was the stage for this special occasion with over 700 Freemasons from across the English Constitution travelling to witness the ceremony.
The sponsoring lodge, Essex Provincial Grand Stewards' Lodge No. 8665, started the proceedings by opening the meeting. UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, and the Provincial Grand Master of Essex, Rodney Bass OBE, were then welcomed into the Grand Temple to rapturous applause.
The main event, the Consecration ceremony, was beautifully and memorably delivered by Rodney Bass, who commented: ‘This new lodge will encourage and support young Freemasons in their journey, providing a gathering place for young masons to increase their masonic knowledge and experience, and enabling Cornerstone Club Members to maintain strong relationships.’
The Founders of the lodge were presented to the Provincial Grand Master and reminded of their obligation to support and nurture their new lodge and uphold the values of Freemasonry for future generations.
Following this, those below the rank of Installed Master retired from the Temple which amounted to over 300 members. That included many from over 15 new and young masons’ clubs across England, who came to show their support and demonstrate the very essence of new and young Freemasons.
The Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Essex, Paul Reeves, then installed the Primus Master, Elliott Chevin, who went on to invest his officers. The Address to members was delivered by Sir David Wootton.
The Essex Cornerstone Lodge then presented a cheque for £2,022 to the Essex Festival 2022, making them Vice Patrons of the Festival.
The Provincial Grand Master then presented the lodge with a set of gavels, commissioned from an acacia tree from his own grounds. Following the meeting, a spectacular Festive Board was held for nearly 600 Freemasons where they experienced a musical treat including trumpeters, a string quartet playing modern music, and a unique performance of the Masters’ Song performed by a female singer acapella.
The members were also able to interact with a live photo mosaic display by uploading photos from the day and evening. The photos came alive culminating in a large mosaic of the Cornerstone Lodge crest, which provided a magnificent background to the banquet capturing memories of the historic event.
Perhaps the most unexpected part of the evening was when the waiters pouring coffee began to bang on the tables, then their coffee pots and they miraculously turned into a most impressive drumming act. Not only that, all 600 diners were given their own drum kit and in unison, joined together and delighted in a memorable and incredibly fun act.
Granite Chapter No. 2028, in the Province of Leicestershire & Rutland, was honoured to receive many distinguished guests at the installation of Daniel Hayward as MEZ for the ensuing year on 18th March 2019
The Chapter at first was pleased to receive the Grand Superintendent Noel Manby together with his Provincial team. With Daniel being a member of the committee of the Universities Scheme, he was also pleased to have present at his installation the Past Third Grand Principal, and UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, as President of the scheme, and also the Chairman Mark Greenburgh.
The Holmes Lodge room at Freemasons' Hall in Leicester was in full splendour with the Royal Arch banners ready for the evening. All were treated to a superb installation ceremony as Don Salt handed over the running of the chapter to Daniel and his new team.
The warrant was expertly presented by the Grand Superintendent before everyone retired to enjoy the festive board, where Noel presented the Past Third Grand Principal with a bottle of Burleigh’s Tigers Gin, sporting the full colours of the Leicester Tigers.
Noel Manby said: ‘What a great occasion to have nearly 80 Companions present, a truly magnificent sight of all in their striking Royal Arch regalia.’
Solomon the teacher: Fostering curiosity – developing understanding
The launch of Solomon, an online learning resource, is making daily advancement a reality in the Craft and Royal Arch
Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master and Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, wrote in the last issue of FMT that the requirement to learn ritual by rote and then present it without any attempt at providing the most basic of context and understanding fails the candidate, because it overlooks the important messages that lie within.
Member surveys have highlighted learning as a major unmet need and a potential reason why members leave. Solomon has been created as an accessible online resource to stimulate interest and meet current and future needs.
WHO IS SOLOMON FOR?
Solomon will support the wants and needs of at least three groups:
- Those who want to learn more about their masonry.
- Those with programme planning or member development responsibilities in a lodge or chapter.
- Provincial or District Officers charged with promoting and providing learning resources and activities.
Solomon will support personal inquiry or study, irrespective of experience or prior knowledge. It brings together material from many sources to help answer common questions and improve masonic knowledge and understanding. The online resource can be accessed on multiple platforms such as smartphones, tablets and computers and currently contains more than 350 items.
Solomon is also designed to support the interests and requirements of lodges and chapters. The Lodge Mentor or Director of Ceremonies will be able to find material to help a member learn about or understand a topic or issue, or may introduce learning content into regular meetings. Solomon material comprises short ‘nuggets’, papers and demonstrations, as well as longer items for presentation and discussion. A regular presentation of these nuggets at meetings will stimulate a desire to learn more.
Solomon materials will complement material collected locally by Provinces and Districts and will guide and support them in the advancement of their learning.
WHAT WILL I FIND?
Solomon is devoted to the Craft and Royal Arch. It is organised into three categories:
- Seek & Learn: for individual exploration or presentation.
- Share & Encourage: for use by lodges and chapters.
- Support & Promote: for Provinces and Districts.
The first two categories have eight modules covering the Craft, the Royal Arch and more general areas, such as symbolism and history. This arrangement will enable users to focus and drill down to individual nuggets, papers and presentations. It will also help to confine the inquirer to those areas appropriate to his masonic progress.
Once registered, you can login and enrol in one or more modules and explore Solomon to your heart’s content. It is intuitive and has been designed to foster curiosity and draw you in to seek answers. You can use various search tools to find and refine your inquiry. You may then read or download as much or as little as you wish. With smartphone access, Solomon can readily provide an answer to a question at a Lodge of Instruction.
Solomon provides a range of interesting material that will complement or even replace a ceremony
HOW WILL SOLOMON BENEFIT A LODGE OF CHAPTER?
Solomon complements the Members Pathway and individual mentoring programmes. These encourage a personalised approach to development. This approach should be extended to develop the interest and enjoyment of all members, enabling them to benefit from a deeper understanding of our ritual and traditions. The result will be improved performance of ceremonies, better mentoring and greater confidence in explaining Freemasonry to others.
Solomon provides interesting and accessible material that, if well chosen and well delivered, will complement or even replace a ceremony. It is designed to be popular, boosting attendance and interest. Ideally, learning activities will become an appreciated and regular feature of lodge and chapter meetings.
A ‘nugget’ is a five to ten-minute item of interest that can be presented by a member. It will easily fit into a meeting; perhaps to set the scene, or to act as a conclusion, or even when the candidate retires. It is also suitable for personal study and can be a resource for lodge quizzes. It may also lead to a presentation that expands on a topic of interest.
While there may be some who feel there is no time at a meeting, it’s hoped that by making time for learning, the benefits will become clear and members will increasingly value time devoted to it. A well-organised lodge or chapter will have a programme that reflects the needs and interests of all its members, one which they enjoy and which encourages them to attend. Learning may also extend beyond the regular meeting to a Lodge of Instruction or special masonic events.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
As the success of the UGLE Learning and Development programme depends on local support, the Programme Support Team wishes to work collaboratively with Craft and Royal Arch Provinces and Districts. Solomon therefore includes resources to support local development.
In launching Solomon to Provinces, Stuart Hadler, the Programme Lead, emphasised the key importance of presenting and delivering material in an understandable and engaging way. This takes skill and so Provinces are being asked to identify suitable members to be presenters, to develop their skills and to promote their use. The skilled presenter will draw attendance and overcome the negative stereotype of the boring lecture.
The team also wants to share good examples; these include specialist lodges and working with light blue clubs. A collaborative approach between the Craft and the Royal Arch is encouraged.
Solomon is still in its early stages and will expand in volume, range and diversity. There will always be a need to commission and source new and credible material and the team looks forward to receiving the views and suggestions of Solomon users. For able members eager to write material for inclusion, Solomon provides guidance on the style and other format requirements.
Early feedback on Solomon has been positive from new and experienced masons alike. David Pratt, Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, West Riding, remarked that the nuggets are ‘solid gold’, packed with interesting topics to educate even experienced Freemasons. ‘They are so easy to access and use. Any lodge member can lead the activity… I shall be strongly supporting and promoting the use of Solomon within my Province.’
To access Solomon, go to https://solomon.ugle.org.uk
Today is the first anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England’s epic Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall – and to mark the occasion a DVD has been released
Over 4,000 Freemasons from Provinces and Districts were joined by representatives from over 130 sovereign Grand Lodges from around the world for this Especial Meeting to mark 300 years since the founding of the world’s first Grand Lodge for Freemasons.
The event started with the procession of Grand Officers entering the Hall, before the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, took his place in the Queens’s Box, accompanied by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence and Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton. The audience then witnessed a theatrical extravaganza which embraced the rich history and heritage of Freemasonry and featured a cast of renowned actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar.
The DVD is available to all UGLE members and has been distributed to Provincial Offices – please contact them if you have not received your DVD.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, spoke about the historic event, which you can view below.
Suffolk Freemasons Andy Gentle and Nick Moulton cycled all the way down to Freemasons' Hall on 12 September 2018, completing the final part of a four year challenge which has helped to raise over £21,600 towards their Festival 2019 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
The Provincial Grand Master of Suffolk Ian Yeldham, together with his partner Amanda, wishing to show their support, accompanied Andy and Nick on this last cycle. All arrived safely and were greeted by Sir David Wootton, UGLE Assistant Grand Master, and James Newman, Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, along with around 70 supportive members from Suffolk.
Back in 2014, Andy and Nick came up with the idea of cycling to every lodge within the Province to attend a meeting, looking to raise awareness of the Festival whilst also hoping to gain an extra donation from each lodge they visited. With the added bonus of getting a little fitter and also being some of the very few to have visited all 68 lodges in the Province.
Their original target of £6,600 had to be re-evaluated due to fantastic support, as in the end the total amount raised was over £21,600 with 2,260 miles cycled.
Andy commented: 'The cycling challenge has been just that, no easy task either physically or logistically, with one of the hardest aspects being the juggle with work trying to fit in around all the various lodges meeting dates.
'But it was rewarding in so many ways, seeing the beautiful Suffolk countryside in a way we would never have otherwise seen it, making so many new friends amongst brothers and of course being so very well supported by all the lodges.'
Assistant Grand Master and Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group Sir David Wootton explains how a new online service will allow members to access the learning resources necessary to enjoy Freemasonry to the full
A survey conducted three years ago by the Membership Focus Group found that 68 per cent of respondents thought that understanding the moral and philosophical issues underpinning Freemasonry and its symbolism was either very important or essential. These values and principles define us as Freemasons and our relevance as an organisation. Explaining them to our members is a strategic imperative of the Rulers.
Ritual and ceremonies are a core activity of lodge and chapter life. While many members attend Lodge of Instruction and enjoy learning and performing ritual, often key messages and nuances are simply missed. With the emphasis on performance, devoting time to gaining the underpinning knowledge about ritual and ceremony has all too often become peripheral or optional. The opportunity to explore and understand is often not provided at lodge or chapter meetings or is considered second best to a ceremony.
There are, however, growing instances of well-delivered presentations about masonry and an evident enthusiasm for more. So, it is important that we ensure that our members have ready access to the intellectual and practical resources necessary to enjoy their Freemasonry to the full.
UNDERSTANDING THE WAY
The history of Freemasonry and the evolution of our ceremonies is fascinating. Our ceremonies originated during a period of relative instability and intolerance, and our forebears saw a need to create a society founded on moral and social values.
Back in the 18th century (the Age of Enlightenment), Freemasons were stimulated by the desire to explore and explain the world through the application of moral, religious and intellectual principles. Over time, this intellectual aspect has dropped away.
But as we seek to demonstrate Freemasonry’s relevance in the 21st century, it is timely to remind ourselves of those moral and social lessons contained within our ritual and their fundamental value to our lives today.
There is a genuine concern that a concentration on the performance of ritual, without appreciating what we are doing and why, overlooks the important messages that lie within, and that this is one reason why some members choose to leave. Although a wide selection of books and online resources are available, it takes effort to identify appropriate pieces to use within the lodge environment. Additionally, there is a need to have someone with excellent presentation skills who can really engage members and stimulate lively discussions that will assist them along their individual masonic journeys.
This provides three key challenges. The first is to identify suitable material that is appropriate to any given situation. This might be a short nugget or a quick talk; at other times it may be a longer presentation with questions and answers. Or perhaps a demonstration of a ceremony with a detailed explanation of the underlying symbolism. A further development would be the provision of material in audiovisual formats.
The second is how to deliver the material. We need to identify, recruit and support people with the enthusiasm and ability to communicate the essence of the material, delivering it in an attractive, understandable and engaging way. This will also require investment in suitable equipment and resources.
The third and perhaps the biggest challenge is how to build and sustain the demand for and interest in learning to become a regular part of masonic activity. This is a challenge for Provinces as well as for those in lodges and chapters, such as Mentors and Directors of Ceremonies who have a responsibility for doing this anyway.
Learning and development is an important element of Freemasonry. On behalf of the Improvement Delivery Group, an online repository of masonic learning called ‘Solomon’ has been created. It will provide informative and accessible material to inform and point members along the path of a daily advancement in masonic knowledge. It is designed to be used by individual masons, lodges, chapters and Provinces, evolving over time.
Solomon will also offer examples of good practice – submitted by Provinces – to help develop and deliver learning activities and opportunities. It will facilitate the obtaining of knowledge at a local level and in forms that will fit comfortably with the needs of both the younger and the more experienced mason. Solomon will complement the Membership Pathway as well as individual Provincial mentoring programmes.
I look forward to the launch of our Learning and Development programme and the introduction of Solomon. It is due to be launched in November and will be explained in detail in the next edition of Freemasonry Today.