Celebrating 300 years

Justifiably proud

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes explains why Armistice Day should be a moment when we remember all the masons who have given their lives in times of conflict

Armistice Day commemorates those who gave their lives in two World Wars. To mark the occasion, a poppy wreath was laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to the Grand Temple. It sits in front of the casket that holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.

I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine that is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.

As a memorial, it was intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes. Time and economics, as well as the fact that the building is now Grade II* listed, have gradually led to it being opened for non-masonic events and filming.

I would assure you, however, that our excellent in-house events team takes great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud and that is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.

On Armistice Day we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many thousands of our members who gave their lives during World War Two and other conflicts that have taken place since then. I believe that on Armistice Day, we stand to remember those who sacrificed their lives to preserve those ideals that have allowed Freemasonry to flourish.

‘On Armistice Day we remember not only those in whose name Freemasons’ Hall was raised but also the many thousands of our members who gave their lives during World War Two.’

Published in UGLE

Mark at the helm in West Kent

Mark Estaugh has been installed as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for West Kent by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes.

In his acceptance speech, Mark said, ‘Our strategy will revolve around a trident of three key initiatives – membership, communication and the development of our masonic premises.’

Mark also announced the launch of the Province’s appeal to mark UGLE’s 2017 Tercentenary celebrations. The funds raised will go towards a major building project at Canterbury Cathedral. 

Masonic Charitable Foundation – A new charity for Freemasons, for families, for everyone

The Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes has announced that a new charity called the Masonic Charitable Foundation is to be established, bringing together the charitable activities of the four existing central masonic charities.

At Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge on Wednesday, 9 September, the Pro Grand Master said: 

'The Masonic Charitable Foundation will continue to offer the same support and services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as support for the non-masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation will be one of the largest charities in the country and will rely on the generosity of Freemasonry for its funds.

It is anticipated that the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be registered with the Charity Commission as soon as possible and that it will begin making grants from 1 April 2016. The proposals remain subject to the approval of some existing charity members.

A shadow board of trustees comprising individuals from the existing charities is overseeing the creation of the new charity and the transition into a single organisation. 

Further information about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be made available over the next few months.

Please visit mcf.org.uk for more information.

You can also find the Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

Quarterly Communication

9 September 2015

At today’s Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge the Pro Grand Master, MW Bro Peter Lowndes, has spoken of the consolidation of the charities and announced that the new charity, subject to legal approvals, will be called The Masonic Charitable Foundation. His full speech can be read here.

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2015

Quarterly Communication

9 September 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

I am pleased to see such a good attendance at this important meeting and on a day that Her Majesty the Queen becomes the longest reigning British Monarch.

Brethren, I would like to thank those members who have participated in the Membership Focus Group’s first two surveys. These survey results have been a great help in deciding the best way ahead for Freemasonry and have provoked much constructive thinking. You will be able to see the results of the most recent survey in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just been published.

The results of that second survey highlight the importance to members of being valued and included, while developing knowledge and friendships at the same time. The Membership Focus Group is next planning to survey new initiates to assess how their expectations match their experience and whether this experience changes over time.

In December 2014, I announced that the Grand Master’s Council and the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum had endorsed proposals from the Charities to consolidate the activities of the four central Masonic Charities. Subsequently, the proposals were endorsed by the Grand Master. Over the last nine months, all four Charities have launched consultations with their members about the proposals. Having just formally finished the AGM of the Grand Charity, their consultation is now complete and the same process with the other Charities is due to conclude by the end of October. Should the members of each of the other Charities follow the lead of the Grand Charity and endorse the proposals, it is anticipated that a new charity will be legally established as soon as possible and become operational on 1 April 2016. This new charity, subject to legal approvals, will be called The Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation will continue to offer the same support and services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as providing support for the non-Masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist. Thus continuity of our charitable giving will be achieved.

The new charity will continue to rely on the generosity of Freemasons for its funds. The Festival system will therefore transition in favour of the new charity over the next few years.

A shadow board, comprised of trustees from the existing Charities has met and will, with the existing charities, oversee the creation of the new charity and transition from the existing four charities into a single one. The Board has elected Very Worshipful Brother James Newman as interim Chairman and Worshipful Brother Michael Heenan as interim Treasurer.

These changes will require amendments to the Book of Constitutions with formal notice of those amendments being brought to the December meeting of Grand Lodge. In the meantime, further details about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be made available over the next few months via a new website and general communications to the Craft.

Bringing the existing central Masonic Charities together means that the Trustees will be responsible for one of the largest charitable foundations in the country – a tremendous achievement and something of which we can all feel proud, particularly as we look towards the tercentenary celebrations in 2017.

When talking about our Charities, I am inevitably reminded of RW Bro Iain Bryce who so sadly died in July. Apart from his dedication to our Masonic Charities, he was also a long serving Treasurer of the RNLI.

I first met him at his Installation as PGM of Yorkshire N&E Ridings in 1984 and in the 30 years that I knew him, I can’t recall a cross word. He could upset people, can’t we all, but it was normally for a valid reason. When Bro Bryce became involved in something, he gave it his full attention. Masonically he was fully involved from Lodge level, through his Province to Grand Lodge and would take on any task asked of him.

I am sure that all the Charity Presidents who were in office during his time as Deputy Grand Master will have benefited enormously from his wise counsel. He was passionate about them all and held strong views on their management. His views were given in a forthright manner and were usually right. However, he would be first to admit he had got something wrong if that turned out to be the case.

Brethren, I shall miss him greatly and I know that I am far from alone in that.

Published in Speeches

Pride and confidence

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why members should be proud to share aspects of masonic ritual with friends and family

In the middle of May I was at the Grand Charity Festival in West Wales. It exemplified how good we, as masons, are at raising money and, dare I say, at celebrating that achievement at the end of the road. A wonderful evening was had by all. 

I have said many times in the past that charity is not necessarily the masons’ raison d’être – but it is certainly a most important by-product of how all of us are taught to live our lives.

In this regard I have always thought that the Charge after Initiation is the best possible rule to guide us in what we do. 

It lays out quite clearly the duties that we owe to God, to our neighbours and to ourselves; how we should respect the laws of the country in which we live – whether that is the country of our birth or the country where we currently reside; how we should behave as individuals; and the other excellent qualities of character to which we should adhere.

Whenever I deliver this Charge, I am always struck by the important message that it contains. At a personal level, I find the lines ‘by paying due obedience to the laws of any state which may for a time become the place of your residence or afford you its protection’ extremely pertinent. This is as a result of having delivered this Charge on the evening of 9/11, and I have to admit to having stumbled a bit when I got to that section. I am still always reminded of those dreadful events every time I hear this Charge delivered.

As we all know, any member of the public can acquire their own copy of our ritual simply by going into a shop and making the purchase. We have no concerns in that regard, as there is nothing therein that we are not happy for them to know about. 

I would go further. I believe there are certain passages that we should be proud to show to non-members, most particularly to members of our families. Top of my list would be the Charge to the Initiate, with a close second being the Charity Charge, although that, perhaps, might need a bit of explanation.

‘We have so much to shout about – our history, charity work, enjoyment in life and code of conduct being just a few.’

Time to celebrate

As you know, 2017 is fast approaching. The run-up to it, as well as the celebrations during the year, are surely the right time to show our pride in being a member of our wonderful Order. We have improved our public image immeasurably over the past 20 years and now is the time to really push this aspect hard. 

We have so many things to shout about – our history, our charity work, our enjoyment in life and our code of conduct being just a few. Of course any organisation with 200,000 members is going to have a few rotten apples, but we have no more than our fair share, and I strongly suspect we have far fewer than most organisations of an equivalent size.

Given all this, let’s make sure we approach our Tercentenary with both pride and confidence.

Published in UGLE

More than £1m for West Wales

The Province of West Wales has raised £1,079,614 in its Festival for the Grand Charity, which was announced at an event in Llanelli attended by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes. Among other guests were President of the Grand Charity Richard Hone, Chief Executive Laura Chapman and Provincial Grand Master Stephen Hookey, who said: ‘The appeal was launched in May 2009 at a time when the global recession had taken hold and austerity was to become a watchword for several years to come. Thanks to your generosity in these difficult times, the figure for which we aimed has been surpassed significantly.’

Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 10:42

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2015

Quarterly Communication

10 June 2015 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, in the middle of May I was at the Grand Charity Festival in West Wales and, as you have heard, what a great success it was. It exemplified how good we, as masons, are at raising money and, dare I say, also at celebrating the achievement at the end of the road. A wonderful evening was had by all. However, I have said many times in the past that charity is not our raison d'être, but it is certainly a most important by product of how we are all taught to live our lives.

In this regard I have always thought that the Charge after Initiation is the best possible rule to guide us through life. It lays out quite clearly the duties that we owe to God, our neighbours and ourselves, how we should respect the laws of the country in which we live, whether the country of our birth or the country where we currently reside, how we should behave as individuals and then points out the other excellencies of character that we should adhere to.

Whenever I deliver this Charge it never fails to strike home to me the important message that it contains. At a personal level, I find the piece 'by paying due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become the place of your residence or afford you its protection' extremely pertinent. This is as a result of having delivered this Charge on the evening of 9/11 and I have to admit to having stumbled a bit when I got to that section and I am still always reminded of those dreadful events every time I hear this Charge delivered.

Brethren, as we all know, any member of the public can acquire a copy of our ritual simply by going into a shop and making the purchase. We have no concerns in that regard, as there is nothing therein that we are not happy for them to know about. I would go further. I believe there are certain passages that we should be proud to show to non-members, most particularly members of our families, and top of my list would be the Charge to the Initiate, with a close second being the Charity Charge, although that, perhaps, needs a bit of explanation.

Brethren, 2017 is fast approaching and the run up to it, as well as the celebrations during the year, are surely the right time to show our pride in being a member of our wonderful Order. We have improved our public image immeasurably over the last 20 years and now is the time to really push this aspect hard. We have so much to shout about – our history, our charity, our enjoyment and our code of conduct being just a few. Of course any organisation with 200,000 members is going to have a few rotten apples, but we most certainly have no more than our fair share and I suspect we have a great many fewer than most equivalent sized organisations.

Brethren let’s approach our tercentenary with both pride and confidence.

Letters to the Editor - No. 33 Spring 2016

Increased perceptions

Sir,

Further to Bob Needham’s letter in the last issue, I too read the recent article by the Pro Grand Master with great interest as I have thought for many years that the Charge to the Initiate is one of the best pieces of our ritual, so much so that during my year as Master I asked for Provincial approval to give each new member a copy on their first night. My reasons were firstly, I was aware that on going home after initiation candidates get asked what went on and can find it difficult to properly convey, whereas if we give them the Charge to take home specifically for this purpose, they feel much happier. Also, as most of us remember very little about our initiation, it gives each new member a chance to read and reflect on our principles. 

So, I had the Charge printed on vellum-type paper and from then on each new mason was presented with one, duly signed by the Master and the two Wardens. This practice proved to be a great success and I commend it to other lodges.

Roger Foulds, Lodge of Agriculture, No. 1199, Yatton, Somerset

Sir,

I read with great interest the letters headed ‘Changing Perceptions’ in the winter edition of the magazine. It led me to reflect on how many readers appreciate the enormous breadth of the Craft.

Three weeks after being initiated into Rhyddings Lodge, No. 5205, in East Lancashire I arrived in Aden to join my first operational squadron as a co-pilot on Beverley transport aircraft. I there quickly discovered the existence of Lodge Light in Arabia, No. 3870. There was also a Scottish lodge on the other side of the harbour in Little Aden. 

Arrangements were eventually made for me to be Passed and Raised there, as a visitor, in Light in Arabia. The regular membership was made up of both European and local brethren who lived and worked in Aden. There were also a number of transitory service people like me. 

But it was the range of religions and cultures that made Light in Arabia truly remarkable. Sitting down in the lodge, besides we Christians, there would be Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Parsee Indians. 

To witness all these brethren enjoying the masonic ritual together and afterwards sitting down together at the Festive Board was really quite something and made plain the true universality of Freemasonry: something I will never forget.

Bryan Lamb, Old Blackburnian Lodge, No. 7933, Blackburn, East Lancashire


Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Changing perceptions

Sir,

I have always enjoyed reading Freemasonry Today and I found the latest edition aligns to my views on how we should depict Freemasonry. I read the comments by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, where he comments that any member of the public can purchase a copy of the Charge after Initiation, adding that ‘there is nothing therein that we are not happy for them to know about’. 

I hold a view that we as Freemasons are far too modest about our society. 

As we approach the celebration of 300 years of modern Freemasonry, shouldn’t we make a point of removing the doubts and speculation at large with regard to Freemasonry by taking it upon ourselves to replace them with knowledge and truth?

Bob Needham, Colne Lodge, No. 2477, Wivenhoe, Essex

Published in Speeches
Friday, 05 June 2015 01:00

A year of masonic success

Annual briefing

On 28 April, masonic leaders celebrated the achievements of the past year, revealing an organisation that is embracing transparency and taking positive steps to ensure its long-term future

 Held in the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall, the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting brought together Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to hear about the state of Freemasonry and why its future is in their hands.

With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes welcoming attendees to the meeting, the President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), Anthony Wilson, ran through the accounts for 2014, showing United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) finances to be healthy. He also highlighted the increasing importance of hiring out Freemasons’ Hall to third parties as a source of income. 

Second Grand Principal George Francis and President of the Committee of General Purposes Malcolm Aish explained how the Royal Arch was faring. ‘The good news is that we had some magnificent figures on exaltations for 2014,’ said George, congratulating attendees for the results that return the Royal Arch to the level it was at six to eight years ago. ‘We’re now hitting the 50 per cent mark of initiations so the prospects for the Royal Arch really do look rather good. I think there’s still more to be done.’ 

Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire David Macey looked at the progress being made with the membership database, ADelphi 2, which goes live at the end of July this year. Offering improved reporting capability and ease of use, ADelphi 2 will give Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents all the membership information they need, at their fingertips. David also stressed that a structured training plan is in place to offer support to everyone using the new system.  

Taking virtual steps

With the Papers of Business for Quarterly Communications circulated electronically for the first time in 2014, James Long from the Electronic Systems Committee explained why it was felt necessary to make this change. ‘We were prompted to some degree by looking to save money and make efficiency enhancements,’ said James, ‘but there was something else that actuated our motive here: we thought it entirely appropriate for a modern membership organisation. We must be responsive and reactive to what our members want.’ 

Looking at the need to improve communication within UGLE, James congratulated the attendees for embracing new technology. ‘There are many Provinces and Districts that have well-constructed, thought-through and properly controlled communication strategies on social media. What we have to do is learn from all of those,’ he said. ‘We’re going to continue to ensure that UGLE is making the best use of all electronic media for communication, both internal and external.’ 

Landmark events 

Next on the agenda was the 2017 Tercentenary, which starts with events around the country in January 2017 and culminates with a celebration at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 October 2017. Anthony Wilson said that Grand Lodge expects to offer seats at the Royal Albert Hall to each Province and District on the basis of one place for every 80-90 members. Grand Lodge wants to widen the participation and is looking at ways to screen the event live in all the Districts and Provinces. 

Staying on the subject of the Tercentenary, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset Stuart Hadler announced the design of a new branding for UGLE, which will make its appearance in the run up to 2017. While the coat of arms has for generations been a mark of status and standing in society, Stuart said: ‘Society has changed over the past 50 years and a coat of arms no longer communicates the image and messages that a modern membership organisation needs to convey. One might also observe that we are seeking no longer to be silent.’ 

Stuart went on to discuss how the Membership Focus Group (MFG), the BGP and the Rulers believe that a positive and attractive image is vital. ‘To preserve the integrity of the brand and achieve a corporate image, there is to be a strict protocol for us all to follow that will dictate how the symbol is to be used,’ he said, adding that Provinces and Districts will need to review and revise their existing paperwork by 24 June 2016. 

Future-proofing

Freemasonry’s image is just one of the areas being explored by the MFG. Tasked with assuring the long-term success of both the Craft and the Royal Arch, the MFG has been talking to Provinces about their experiences of recruitment and retention. Assistant Grand Secretary and MFG member Shawn Christie highlighted that many growing lodges hold vibrant meetings and regular social events that are open to non-masons. These provide an opportunity for prospective candidates to ask questions in an informal environment, learn more about Freemasonry and possibly, in time, join if both sides feel the fit is right. 

Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire Robin Wilson explained that the road to retention starts with proper preparation. ‘For that to happen, the prospective members must be made aware of the essence of Freemasonry, what it involves and how it involves them,’ he said. For this to succeed, expectations must be managed: ‘Otherwise they could feel ambushed or disappointed by what they find on joining.’ (See here for more details about the MFG’s conclusions on membership retention.) 

Next on the podium, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward discussed how MFG research into leadership and education showed that many people, if not most, are motivated to join Freemasonry with an expectation of self-development. ‘The opportunity for specific leadership and management development tends to emerge as our brethren get into more senior roles,’ said Michael, adding that while there is a wealth of information available in all the Provinces, there has been limited sharing of best practices. ‘Provinces are consequently reinventing and duplicating.’ 

Michael believes that there is a window of opportunity to develop and deliver high-quality training material using some of the best practices from around the Provinces. ‘This creates a huge potential for us to enrich members’ experiences and demonstrate that we have listened to and understood their needs. It also shows that we are committed to modernising while maintaining our traditions,’ he said. ‘The alternative is to ignore reality and ignore the needs of our members. Our future depends on inspiring and re-energising our membership. This can only be achieved with the full and active support of the Provincial Grand Masters and the Grand Superintendents.’ 

Malcolm Aish echoed Michael’s sentiments when he outlined the MFG’s proposed strategy for Freemasonry going forward, which had been circulated to the attendees prior to the meeting. ‘The MFG feels a coordinated approach will achieve greater success but it is each Province that should consider its participation and support – for it is you that will implement a large part of the agreed strategy.’ 

Grand plans 

Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP, Ray Reed discussed the results from the annual survey for Provincial Grand Masters. He noted that 54 per cent of Provinces are providing training for new masters and 34 per cent for communications officers. ‘These must be two of the most important areas because they can make such a massive difference in our Provinces,’ said Ray. ‘It’s essential that we encourage those who don’t have training for lodge masters to contemplate giving it.’ 

In a 30-minute address, Ray touched on the need to innovate and speed up communication, adding that there is broad agreement on what the key areas for development are. ‘We’re talking about training and educating people, about effective mentoring and about best practice in recruitment, retention and retrieval,’ he said. ‘The MFG has sought to better understand the problems we face in Freemasonry and we are now ready to move from analysis to implementation.’

Ray ended on a strong message, saying ‘a successful future for Freemasonry will only come through quality leadership, consultation and collaboration’. 

The presentations at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting finished with a fitting quote from Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.’  

Published in UGLE

Pride in membership

When it comes to new candidates, first impressions count. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes urges lodges to embrace the mentoring scheme

 The last issue of Freemasonry Today covered the results of a Membership Focus Group (MFG) survey seeking members’ views on many aspects of Freemasonry including friendship, masonic ceremony and charity work. 

With 5,265 members taking part in the survey, I will let you read the full results, but I wanted to highlight the following four areas that scored highly. Having respect for others came first, closely followed by being with people who respect others, then meeting people with integrity, followed by the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry. I have said often in the past that it is no surprise that Freemasonry is such a remarkable fundraiser for charity, because of our code of conduct. 

I suggest, brethren, that these responses simply endorse that view.

This and future surveys support the MFG’s aim of ensuring that any decision about Freemasonry draws upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels – not least at lodge level. I take this opportunity to stress the continued importance of the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Mentors’ role.

I know that the majority of lodges have now appointed a mentoring coordinator but I still remain concerned that, in many cases, no personal mentors have been selected. Here there is a skill in matching the right personal mentor – that is to say, with the best personality characteristics and appropriate knowledge – with each candidate. This relationship will be ever-changing as the candidate develops his understanding.

There can be no doubt that the early days of a candidate’s membership are the most impressionable. It is therefore important that the right personal mentor is assigned as early as possible after the interview stage and, at any rate, from initiation onwards. Pastoral care will always be a vital part of this relationship and it is at this early stage that the candidate should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry and, indeed, be encouraged to do so, particularly as he becomes more experienced. In addition, they should demonstrate pride in their membership to their family, friends and acquaintances.

The Metropolitan, Provincial and District Mentors have played a significant role in the running of the mentoring scheme, and I look to the lodges to support them in their important task of helping develop and retain membership at lodge level.

‘Candidates should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry.’

Published in Membership Focus Group
Page 6 of 16

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