Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft
How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.
Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.
What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.
How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’
Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.
Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.
What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.
What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.
At the suggestion of Anthony West, Chairman of the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, arranged a Fellows Presentation at The Royal College of Surgeons of England in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in the presence of The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
The 250th Fund was set up in 1967 to support the college in making annual grants to support research Fellows, and currently there are three Freemasons’ research Fellows each year. In connection with the bicentenary of Supreme Grand Chapter in 2013, an appeal is in progress, the funds of which will be applied for a similar purpose.
Other distinguished guests included the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and the Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge.
The guests were welcomed by Professor Norman Williams, President of The Royal College of Surgeons, while plastic surgeon Professor Gus McGrouther expressed his gratitude to the masonic community for its support. Professor McGrouther explained that the college receives no NHS funding for research and that this all has to be paid for by voluntary contribution. The college supports 20 researchers annually chosen from 150 applications.
Three Freemasons’ Research Fellows gave talks. They were Vaibhav Sharma, on improving hearing through reducing scar tissue; Miss Ming He, on tissue engineering for transplantation; and Satoshi Hori of the Uro-Oncology, Hutchinson/MRC Research Centre, University of Cambridge. A member of Isaac Newton University Lodge No.859 also spoke on targeting growth factors in prostate cancer.
Royal Arch Investiture
28 April 2011
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, this is a special day for those of you who have been appointed to Grand Rank or have been promoted. Grand rank is sparingly awarded and I congratulate you on your achievement. In recognising that the Royal Arch is the completion of pure ancient masonry, exaltation into the Order should neither be hurried nor obligatory, as not all Craft Brethren will wish to take this final step immediately upon being raised. However, it is hoped that you as Grand Officers will be able to communicate something of the colour, enjoyment and essence of the Royal Arch to committed members of the Craft.
As we move towards the bi-centenary 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.
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 and several Provinces and Districts are already presenting a letter to the newly made Master Mason on the merits of the Royal Arch. This practice is highly recommended by the Working Party. Efforts to improve the profile of the Order in all website contexts is underway and will help the potential exaltee to have a better understanding of the Order he is about to join.
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 amongst all Companions, as well as lending clarity to the Royal Arch teachings, 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. For your interest, all these are likely to be reprinted in the next eighteen months.
The celebration of the bi-centenary next year will be held on Wednesday 16 October. This earlier date will replace the November Convocation – for that year only. The planned events of the day will begin with a demonstration by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter Demonstration Team – in the Grand Temple – to encourage the use of the Permitted Alternative Variation that I have just referred to. This will be followed by lunch in the Grand Connaught Rooms. The main celebration will take place in the afternoon - again in the Grand Temple, followed by a dinner at the Savoy. You will appreciate that these events will be restricted by numbers. The Grand Scribe Ezra will be briefing Grand Superintendents and Provincial Scribes Ezra on the detail in good time.
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, so that we can then further help the research fellowship scheme, run by the College, by financially supporting additional fellowships. I encourage you to keep up your efforts.
Finally Companions, on your behalf I congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the excellent way in which today’s meeting has been conducted and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for their hard work in ensuring a successful Investiture.
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.
The group visited St George’s Hospital to see the work of the Think Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation supported by the District Grand Lodge of Bombay. The foundation coordinates and collects more blood than any other non-governmental organisation in Mumbai. It also runs the only structured programme for prevention of thalassaemia major, a serious genetic blood disorder where survival is dependent on lifelong blood transfusions. Vinay Shetty, vice president at the foundation, gave an address at the hospital to the English visitors, who then toured the hospital with Bombay District Grand Master Percy Driver.
The calling notices for the Investiture meeting on Thursday 20th October were termed 'Special' and how right that proved to be. Many attending would be used to the pomp and ceremony of the annual Provincial Craft and Royal Arch Festivals, but few would have experienced the spectacle served up in the Winter Gardens at Margate that day under the ecellent direction of RWBro Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master, and the careful control of VWBro Oliver Lodge, Grand Director of Ceremonies, and his team. Such a treat has not been served up since 2004 when Michael Robin Bailey was invested, and another is unlikely to be witnessed this decade.
The comment 'that's another one done' was pronounced by one of the distinguished guests on retiring to the East Room after the morning ceremony. He hadn't appreciated that he was passing a secondary staircase which was open to the Kings Hall and his remark was clearly audible to all those assembled within, to their combined amusement. It wasn't just 'another one done' as far as the members of the Province were concerned, it was their Geoffrey Gordon Dearing who had just been invested as Grand Superintendent in and over the Province of East Kent that morning and later after the lunch interval, Provincial Grand Master of East Kent.
The day was very much a Kent affair, as Jonathan Spence reminded the companions and brethren that East Kent is his home Province, he being a member of Pentangle Chapter No. 1174 and Sir Joseph Williamson Lodge No. 4605, both meeting at Gundolph Square, Rochester.
In his addresses Geoffrey Dearing gave tribute to those who had worked to make the day such a success. He acknowledged that he was not yet well known in every Centre in the Province and intended to put that right, but not all at once, so requested all to exercise patience. He remarked that he would never have believed how rapidly one could advance in Freemasonry in just six months!
It’s probably fair to say that Freemasonry in Monaco has been low-key for a number of years, following its conditional acceptance by the Monégasque authorities in the first half of the twentieth century.
The Port of Hercules Lodge was formed in 1924 under the English Constitution, and many Monégasques who wished to become Freemasons sought membership outside the principality. In more recent years, three lodges were formed under the German Constitution, but it became apparent that the Monégasques who had joined lodges in France would like one of their own. Accordingly, the first steps were taken three years ago to establish a Grand Lodge in Monaco, and this meticulous planning came to fruition on 19 February in Monte Carlo.
The Grande Loge Nationale Regulière de la Principauté de Monaco was formed by seven lodges, one formerly meeting under the English Constitution and three each under the German and French.
The consecrating officer was Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, assisted by the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, Rüdiger Templin, as Senior Warden; and the Past Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of France, Jean-Charles Foellner, as Junior Warden. The ceremony was directed by Oliver Lodge (Grand Director of Ceremonies) with the help of Nick Bosanquet and Sebastian Madden (Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies) and Malcolm Brooks (Grand Tyler). The team from UGLE also included Nigel Brown (Grand Secretary), Alan Englefield (Grand Chancellor), Reverend Dr John Railton (Grand Chaplain) and Ron Cayless (Grand Organist).
The consecration ceremony proceeded without a hitch, and included the unveiling of the lodge boards, the familiar scriptural readings from the Bible, the symbolic use of corn, wine and oil, and the censing of the lodge and its officers. It was conducted almost entirely in English, but the Rulers-designate took their obligations in their own languages. Jean-Pierre Pastor was installed as the first Grand Master, and he then appointed and installed Claude Boisson as Deputy Grand Master, and Rex Thorne, Knut Schwieger, Renato Boeri and John Lonczynski as Assistant Grand Masters.
Other Grand Lodges were represented by more than a hundred delegates and many presented gifts to the newly installed Grand Master, including a magnificent ceremonial sword from the United Grand Lodge of England. The new Grand Master appointed and installed his officers, before the UGLE team withdrew, leaving the Grand Master and his new team to complete essential business. Monaco’s Grand Lodge had been launched in splendid style.
As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge
On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.
What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.
Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.
In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.
By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.
Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.
The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.
The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.
The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.
The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.
By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.
As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.
Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.
I start by welcoming you all to our meeting this afternoon and I offer my warmest congratulations to all the Brethren I have had the pleasure of appointing to or promoting in Grand Rank today. I know they have all worked hard to further the interests of the Craft, but in recognising their achievements we do of course look to them for even greater exertions in the future.
I turn first to the most important issue to have exercised Grand Lodge during the past twelve months, namely the future of Masonry in London. The process of providing a new constitutional structure for London Masonry, which has been in progress for some years, culminated in an historic vote in Grand Lodge last month, following the most extensive consultation exercise ever undertaken in English Freemasonry. This process is not yet complete because Supreme Grand Chapter still has to make its decision on these proposals tomorrow. I recognise the widely differing opinions held on this matter, but have been impressed by the wholly Masonic spirit in which the debate was conducted. I am certain that the increased opportunities offered to London Masons by the new structure will enable them to play a more active part in their Masonry in the future.
Our “Freemasonry in the Community” week, which was such a success throughout the country, was more than the additional effort to raise money for charity which in some areas it became. It gave our Masonic centres and individual Lodges an opportunity to reach out to the “popular” world and put our strategy of openness into practical effect, so bringing Masonry closer to the communities in which our Lodges function and flourish, and from which we draw our members.
This special week showed clearly that Masons are part of their local community and that they work for it in many different ways. It also demonstrated to the country that we are a society with principles which we are determined to put into action for the good of our fellow men, and especially the less fortunate.
Although “Freemasonry in the Community” week was not planned as a charity event, it gave Provinces and Lodges in England and Wales additional opportunities to raise funds for, and make further donations to, non-Masonic charities in their own communities. Everyone taking part in these activities throughout the country enjoyed the experience enormously and many have resolved to continue their efforts in subsequent years.
Continuing in the theme of Charity, Charitable activity, which forms such a large part of Masonic life, in the form of fundraising has continued unabated during the year with the result that we gave approximately £17m to Masonic Charities. I know how hard the Councils work which administer those Charities, and I wish to thank them for all their efforts on our behalf. I am very pleased indeed that the work of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys has been recognised by the award of Royal status, and with effect from tomorrow it will be known as the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. It is also very good news that during the year donations to non-Masonic charities totalling in excess of £4m have been made by Masons under our Constitution throughout the world. This is a highly creditable achievement, and we can take satisfaction from it, but we must nevertheless remember that our Masonic Charities need our continued help, and should remain at the core of our charitable giving.
One of the effects of “Freemasonry in the Community” week has been to encourage many men to make enquiries about possible membership. In mentioning this I return to a topic which I last raised five years ago, namely the three “Rs,” — recruiting, retaining and retrieving. Recruiting is both acceptable and desirable, so long as it does not put undue pressure on potential candidates. Having succeeded in recruiting new Brethren it is clearly important that we make every effort to retain them. We all recognise the career and family pressures faced by younger men, so it is imperative that Lodges work to harness the enthusiasm of the new recruit and make him feel welcome. Retrieving lapsed members is initially a task for the Lodge Almoner, especially where financial or health difficulties have caused a brother to resign; but there is an increasing body of Masons who resigned from their Lodge because of business, career or family pressures, who may have found those circumstances have now eased or disappeared. Here we can all make a difference by encouraging them to rejoin their Lodge, or another Lodge, and once again become active in their Masonry.
I can assure you, however, Brethren, that in looking to you all to promote greater active membership of our Antient Institution, both new and old, I am not suggesting that we should ever contemplate the kind of mass recruitment which has recently been a feature elsewhere in the world. We are hardly going to strengthen our institution by relaxing the principles which we have established and maintained throughout our long history; rather we should respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing society, and show that our values have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they have always been. This is the example we have set to other Grand Lodges around the world, that the quality of our Masonry should always take precedence over the quantity of our membership.
In this connection I should point out that English Freemasonry recognises 156 Grand Lodges throughout the world, all of which adhere to the same landmarks as does this Grand Lodge. Maintaining good relations with them and responding to approaches from other Grand Lodges seeking recognition from us, is an important part of the work of the Grand Secretary and his staff. I was particularly delighted that, as a result of such efforts, we were able to resolve our difficulties with, and re-recognise, the Grand Lodge of India during the year. Inter-visiting is an important part of Masonic activity and I am certain that our members in India and elsewhere will be gratified that they are able to resume official contact once more with Brethren in the Grand Lodge of India.
Brethren, in conclusion, I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard throughout the year to ensure that we enjoy our Masonry. I wish to mention in particular the Grand Director of Ceremonies, who retires today after eight years. He has been a tower of strength during that time and has directed our ceremonies not only with efficiency but also with good humour and a light touch. I extend our thanks to his Deputies, who have helped him to make today run like clockwork. I also wish to thank the Grand Secretary and all the staff of this building especially the maintenance staff and porters, who look after this magnificent building so well, and finally, Brethren, I thank all of you for your attendance and support in such large numbers at this Investiture.