Wednesday, 12 June 2019 15:31

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2019

Quarterly Communication

12 June 2019 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren we have a number of firsts today. It is June and, therefore, the first meeting of Grand Lodge since the investiture of the new team of Acting Grand Officers. Some old hands, some new, including, of course, the Grand Director of Ceremonies. We wish them all well and hope they enjoy their term of office how ever long that may be.

Another first is the luncheon arrangements. This is not the place to go into the whys and wherefores of the action that the Grand Secretary has taken. Many of you will be aware of the reasoning. What I will say is that the Grand Secretary deserves our support and, whilst I know how reluctant you all are ever to comment on such issues, I am sure that he would welcome constructive comments.

Changing the subject: I was in Stockholm three weekends ago at the Installation of the new Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons. In his address the new Grand Master laid out his vision for the future which included ensuring that all new candidates who wished to join their Order were properly interviewed and briefed prior to their initiation so that they knew what was expected of them as Freemasons and what they, as Freemasons, should and should not expect from their membership. This struck a slight chord with me, Brethren. Are we, perhaps, ahead of the game with Pathway which is now being so widely used within our Constitution?

I am quite certain that Pathway is a 'game changer' for many of our Lodges and I am so pleased that so many of you have embraced it, as it makes attracting new Brethren much more effective and we are far more likely to effectively engage our new members if they have been introduced to Freemasonry in this way.

I have also been delighted to have seen the use of Solomon in a number of Lodges not least on my visit to Cyprus in April. Many of the excerpts are ideal for filling in idle moments in Lodge, when there is a natural gap in proceedings, without extending the overall time of the meeting.

I have said before, but it bears repeating. Time is a precious commodity in most people’s lives and becomes more so as time goes on. The time that we meet and the time we spend in Lodge are very relevant. Personally it might suit me very well to meet at 5 o’clock or even earlier, spend two hours in the meeting and then be finished by 9 to 9.30, but that would be a pretty selfish attitude when it comes to the younger brethren and in the case of most Lodges, a sure way of reducing its popularity for new members.

Brethren, let’s all be flexible and listen to each others’ requirements. If suitable, the meeting times can be varied from meeting to meeting as many Lodges already do, and we should not be afraid to consecrate new lodges that meet the needs of those we hope to attract rather than blindly supporting lodges that don’t.  Every Lodge has a natural life span. 

Brethren that is enough lecturing for one day. The gap between now and our meeting in September has the natural summer break from which I am sure we will all emerge with renewed vigour.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication

12 June 2019 
A presentation by Dr Ric Berman

Some years ago I was invited to a lodge in Greensboro, North Carolina. Having been seated, my neighbour informed me in a low voice that the ritual – like that elsewhere in North Carolina - was modelled on the form used in England in the early nineteenth century. However, much to my surprise, before the lodge was opened, the master asked the senior warden to order the deacons to ‘take the word’ from each of those present. And as the deacons walked the lines to receive the whispered password from each attendee, I was thankful that I had recently visited a lodge in Dublin and knew what was required. But rather than focus on my potential embarrassment, the more important point is this: North Carolina’s Masonic ritual was not from nineteenth-century England but had descended from the Irish and Antients, with roots dating back another sixty years to the mid-eighteenth century.

This made me think about historical context and how an awareness of the background to our ceremonies and ritual helps inform our understanding of Freemasonry and why we do what we do.

Many people consider that the origins of our Constitutions, published in 1723, lies in the ‘Old Charges’. These were the documents that governed the creation and regulation of stonemasons’ lodges and guilds, the first known of which – the Regius manuscript, dates from around 1390-1400. The second, the Cooke manuscript, is believed to date from around twenty to thirty years later. And there are more than a hundred such documents that reach from the end of the fourteenth century into the early eighteenth.

Each document follows almost exactly the same format. They begin with a statement of belief in God and the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; continue with a pledge of allegiance to the king and lawful authorities; contain a ‘traditional history’ of Freemasonry; and conclude with the regulations governing the operation of the guild or lodge.

There is a reason for this structure. Anti-labour legislation enacted by Parliament rendered wage bargaining illegal and in order to circumvent this the guilds need to demonstrate that they were not seeking to disrupt but rather respected the established order of Church and State, and that their demands for ‘fair wages’ were part of a long tradition that dated back centuries and was associated with leading historical figures.

The Regius manuscript dates the arrival of Freemasonry in England to King Athelstan, an Anglo-Saxon king reigning in the tenth century. He is regarded as the first true English king, a man who united England against the Vikings and an iconic figure to mediaeval Britons.  The Cooke manuscript pushed the date back 700 years further to the third century and St Alban, the earliest English Christian martyr.  The manuscript notes that ‘Saint Alban loved well masons, and gave them … their charges and manner first in England’.  

Cooke also states that the level of wage rates the stonemasons were seeking to obtain had been ‘approved’ by Athelstan, who had also given his imprimatur to masonic guilds and assemblies: ‘and he loved well masonry and masons.  And he became a mason himself, and he gave them charges and names as it is now used in England, and in other countries.  And he ordained that they should have reasonable pay and purchased a free patent of the king that they should make [an] assembly when they saw a reasonable time.’

And James Anderson’s 1723 Constitutions appear to follow a similar vein, with Anderson noting that Freemasonry began with ‘Adam, our first parent … [who] had Geometry written on his Heart’.

It is important to understand that such histories were not to be taken literally. As with the Old Charges, Anderson’s historical account was designed to set a literary context for Freemasonry.  By positioning it as an ancient institution linked to icons from the past, the narrative afforded the organisation legitimacy and gave it an aura and attraction that was important in a society that valued tradition. 

But although the overall form and structure of the 1723 Constitutions may have been similar to that found in the Old Charges, the substance was fundamentally different.

The most important aspect of the 1723 Constitutions is a section known as the Charges.  This was written by Dr Jean Theophilus Desaguliers, a Huguenot, the third grand master and a subsequent deputy grand master.  Desaguliers’ Charges comprise a set of Enlightenment principles and provide the foundations for the creation of what is now modern Freemasonry.  The philosophical outlook that Desaguliers’ Charges embrace was radical at the time, and the thoughts expressed remain valid today.

The first masonic charge - Concerning God and Religion - replaced the traditional invocation to the Trinity and formal declaration of Christian belief. As written, the charge obliged Freemasons only to ‘obey the moral law’ within a framework of ‘that Religion in which all Men agree’.  It would no longer be the case that a mason should ‘be of the religion of that country or nation’ where he resided, but necessary only to believe in God and be a ‘good man and true’.

The charge was not an avowal of support for a specific religious canon or church.  The new Masonic oath was a simple declaration of faith in a divine being without a stated preference for any given form of worship.  It was openly latitudinarian, if not almost deist, and represented a denial of the importance of doctrine and of ecclesiastical organisation.

The second charge - Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate - made plain that there would no longer be fealty to a divinely-appointed absolute monarch – instead, a Mason will be ‘a peaceable subject to the Civil Powers wherever he resides’. He would also respect civil order – ‘A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers … is never to be concerned in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation.’

At a deeper level, the second charge echoed the changes to England’s constitutional structure in the wake of the 1688 Glorious Revolution.  Where allegiance to the crown – ‘to be a true liege man to the king’ – was core to the Old Charges, the 1723 Constitutions and later oaths would state that Freemasons were subject to the ‘supreme legislature’.  For Desaguliers and the new Grand Lodge of England, the ideal political structure was that ‘which does most nearly resemble the Natural Government of our System’. Grand Lodge and hence Freemasonry would be supportive of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary government aligned with an independent judiciary - the ‘supreme legislature’.

The implication was that resistance to the crown could be justified where a king was in breach of his Lockean moral contract with those he governed.  This had been the basis of the Glorious Revolution and the justification for replacing James II with William and Mary.  It was no longer obligatory for Freemasons to be bound to ‘be true liegemen to the King of England without any treason or falsehood’. They would instead ‘attend’ and ‘respect’, but be ‘guided, not enslaved’.

And in the fourth charge there would be a rejection of patronage, the wheel upon which eighteenth-century Britain turned: in Freemasonry, ‘all preferment is to be grounded upon real worth and personal merit’.

Taken as a whole, this was a social and political manifesto born of Enlightenment values and based on Enlightenment philosophical ideas pioneered by John Locke, Isaac Newton and others. 

In June 1723, Freemasonry faced a threat to these tenets from one of its own – the Duke of Wharton, the second noble Grand Master.  During his term of office the duke had embraced the Jacobites – the supporters of the exiled Pretender, James Stuart. In response, and at Desaguliers’ request, the Grand Lodge of England resolved ‘that it is not in the power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry without the consent first obtained of the Annual Grand Lodge’.

2023 will of course be the tercentennial anniversary of the publication of Anderson’s Constitutions and of Desaguliers’ Charges. The Constitutions and Charges provide the cornerstone upon which English and much of international Freemasonry rests. And it is not only appropriate but incumbent upon us to mark and celebrate this event. To paraphrase T. S. Elliot, we should explore our past and, at the end of so doing, arrive where we began and know the place for the first time.

But as we look back over three hundred years along the Road to 1723, it is also incumbent upon us to turn and to look forward.

Published in Speeches

Here to serve

From continuing modernisation to clearer communication, Grand Secretary Dr David Staples reveals some of the major improvements being made to the United Grand Lodge of England

You spoke in the Winter 2018 issue about the ongoing modernisation of UGLE. What improvements were made in 2018?

The biggest change has been bringing together masonic and commercial staff at Freemasons’ Hall, which started with the Board’s appointment of a CEO. This meant that for the first time in a number of years a single person would be in charge of and responsible for delivering for the organisation as a whole. 

Staff have taken part in a number of workshops to understand what we stand for and why; what our values are as the ‘headquarters’ – a distinct organisation separate from UGLE or Supreme Grand Chapter. They have agreed a set of organisational values and goals which have resulted in the introduction of new appraisal processes, mandatory training, pay scales and benefits. Alongside this, regular communication with our staff through ‘Town Hall’ and departmental meetings has ensured people know what is going on and how this fits in to the bigger picture, all of which will help us attract and retain the best possible staff. A restructuring of the organisation and of the various business functions held within the building has allowed me to establish clear lines of accountability and allowed the new directors to facilitate change and improvement in their respective areas. This work has resulted in us being awarded Investors in People accreditation – a ‘kitemark’ not only of excellent people management, but also of normality for how a professional organisation is expected to run.

All of this may sound like management speak, but what it means in reality is that we have ensured the ‘Centre’ is up to the task of both serving our members and representing them effectively in the modern world.

In addition to these changes affecting staff, there have been many other smaller projects aimed at improving how professional we are, and enhancing what we can do and how we deliver. These have touched virtually every aspect of our operations. For example, an archiving project has examined the kilometres of shelving and paperwork stored in Freemasons’ Hall and helped us to develop a document retention policy. Clearing shelving from the main office has allowed us to consider exciting new options for the space that has been created. 

A web-based booking and payment system has gone live for those attending Supreme Grand Chapter and Quarterly Communications, drastically reducing the number of cheques we need to process and bringing us in line with the modern-day expectations of our members.

In preparation for an increased focus on communications, we have brought FMT in-house and appointed a new editorial team, while the Directory of Lodges and the Masonic Yearbook are now online living documents. We have trained a number of members as media ambassadors to represent us at events and in the press. We have commissioned a communications capability assessment and have undertaken polling of the general public to find out what people really think of us, and what opportunities might present themselves to improve their understanding of who we are and what we’re about.

We now have new phone systems and video conferencing suites to improve communications across our worldwide organisation, and these are saving both time and money while improving engagement with our members. The new Events Management Team has been tasked with engaging with our members and encouraging them to use and visit Freemasons’ Hall – a home for all English Freemasons, and we are starting a programme of community engagement projects to broaden our public footprint.

We have converted disused flats into three new lodge rooms in response to an ever-increasing demand for temples, and supported the Improvement Delivery Group in the creation of Operational Membership Dashboards, the Solomon online learning resource and the Members’ Pathway. All of these will directly inform our drive to improve our attraction to potential members and our retention of existing ones.

We have anticipated changes in the legal framework and have issued guidance on transgender members and data protection. We have blended the Grand Ranks system into ADelphi, thereby saving both our Provinces and Districts days of back-and-forth letter writing. 

A huge amount happened in 2018 and has continued to do so in 2019 to ensure that we are a professional, fit-for-purpose and efficient central organisation which is held in high esteem by the membership and the public and which communicates an appealing, confident, relevant and consistent message to the outside world.

What are the key objectives of this process of modernisation?

Simply put, to better serve the members of both UGLE and Supreme Grand Chapter. UGLE needs to be ready for the challenges set by the Rulers and the Board, but also needs to meet the expectations of our members. When I was a lodge Secretary a few years ago, I wanted my Grand Lodge membership fees to be wisely spent, and I wanted to see some tangible benefit for what I pay for in terms of a confident organisation ready to represent itself on the public stage and to stand up for its members. I also wanted to interact with it in a modern and accessible way. That principle still holds true now that I am the CEO. 

You also spoke about making the headquarters more ‘transparent’. How is this being done and why?

More open communication between the Provinces, our members and UGLE allows us to ensure an aligned approach to our common challenges – how people perceive us; how we represent ourselves to the outside world; how we normalise Freemasonry in the eyes of the public; how we attract and retain members. We are developing a new communications strategy with an appropriately resourced department to deliver it. We have a new Member Services Department to help streamline the relationship between our members and their organisation, and to implement the various initiatives being carried out by those groups with a care for Freemasonry. 

What methods will the organisation be using to put a greater focus on attracting new members?

I see this very much in terms of normalising the environment from which our members are drawn in terms of public opinion. I’m a scientist by training and I like to see the evidence for something before we invest resources in it. We know that 87 per cent of the public know of our organisation, and 49 per cent of the public have a firm opinion of us. We also know that the majority of those do not necessarily hold an opinion that we might like! That is despite all the good works we do, despite all the money we raise for charity and despite everything else we are doing to rehabilitate ourselves in the public eye. We recognise that the majority of new members join after personal conversations with those who already enjoy Freemasonry, but we must make sure that those to whom we speak already have a fair opinion of us. To these ends we will be embarking on a focused series of interventions to bring about just that – an understanding of what Freemasonry is, what its values are, what we stand for and why we are relevant in today’s society. In conjunction with the newly rolled-out Members’ Pathway, we hope to ensure that no opportunity is wasted.

What are some of the more important changes planned for 2019?

We want to find new ways to open up our headquarters to as many people as we can, and to ensure that every one of those contact moments affords those individuals a greater understanding of Freemasonry. Staff will be moving out of the old central office space, which we hope to develop into a public area containing a temporary exhibition space, a café and a very public-facing office for Metropolitan Grand Lodge.

The introduction of an expenses policy, travel policy and purchase order system will improve our financial controls, but the most important change will be our ability to deliver an overarching communications strategy aimed at taking back control of the public narrative on Freemasonry.

In terms of day-to-day processes, you will have already read about our ambition to revolutionise how we administer the organisation. Changes being planned through Project Hermes aim to replace paper forms with web-based systems, removing the need for endless form-filling and drastically reducing turnaround times. In short, we want to make the lives of lodge, Provincial and District Secretaries much easier. We want to streamline our ability to collect dues and improve our ability to analyse and spot trends in membership data, which will help us to identify and propagate best practice wherever it arises. I truly believe we have exciting times ahead.

‘Simply put, to better serve the members of both UGLE and Supreme Grand Chapter, UGLE needs to be ready for the challenges set by the Rulers and the Board, but also needs to meet the expectations of our members’

Published in UGLE

Quarterly Communication

13 March 2019 
A talk by RW Bro John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works

Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren

If you want to understand the responsibilities which you have as a Grand Lodge Officer you can do one of two things. Consult the Book of Constitutions, or speak to Graham Redman.

Rule 35 states – ‘The Grand Superintendent of Works shall advise the Board of General Purposes when required on any matter in connection with the building and the works. He shall furnish reports on the state of repair of the properties of the Grand Lodge when required’.

When I asked Graham if this meant that I simply had to submit periodic reports on necessary works we intended to carry out to keep this building in repair his reply was to the effect that ‘well - you may find that in practice it is rather more than that’

He was right.

I will start with Freemasons’ Hall.

You are surrounded in the Grand Temple by the centrepiece of one of this country’s foremost art deco buildings with a heritage value sustained by the fact that it remains today in use for the purpose for which it was originally designed and built. We are in the middle of a Conservation Area, and the building itself is Listed Grade 11*. What this means in practice is that anything which we do which affects the exterior of the building requires planning permission, and anything other than very minor like for like repairs to both the interior and the exterior must be notified to, and approved by, the Conservation Officer.

Planning Officers have to work within National Planning Policy Guidelines, and they are required to implement Local Plan Policies. Conservation Officers on the other hand have responsibility for protecting the heritage value of buildings of architectural and historic interest which, by their nature, are individual. They have wide ranging powers, which frequently involve subjective judgements which, even with professional advice, can be hard to predict.

Carrying out work to a listed building which requires, but does not have, Listed Building consent is a criminal offence. As I have no wish to return to address Grand Lodge on my experience as Grand Superintendent of Works after 12 months in Ford Prison I treat the need for works in this building to be approved by the Conservation Officer with the utmost care and respect.

Late and unexpected interventions by the Conservation Officer can be a very real problem, as we discovered when we renewed the West Door steps. To avoid this in the future we are at an early stage in negotiations with the Conservation Officer and Historic England for an HPA, a Heritage Partnership Agreement, which will give pre-approval in principle to specified works which we are likely to carry out, often repeatedly. Examples range from future phases of repairs to the building’s steel frame ( Regents Street Disease ), through work to repair and refurbish the many original toilets in the building ( not very glamorous, but nevertheless necessary ) down to the specification of the paint to be used when redecorating some of the more elaborately embellished Lodge Rooms.

HPAs are complex, time consuming, and costly, but the prize is securing for UGLE ownership and control of the timing and phasing of major works of repair which we need to carry out.

Keeping a building in repair can require reacting to the unexpected, but for the most part it can be anticipated through planned property maintenance. We are working to a ten-year time horizon in implementing recommended works within this building so that, for example, phased repairs to deal with RSD will include routine maintenance and general repairs within the same area. As far as possible once we have access to any hard to reach area within this building, or for that matter any area, our aim is to complete all necessary work properly and to a high standard so that an early return is not needed.

I have concentrated up to this point on repair, but the more interesting challenge is working to deliver changes to the way in which Freemasonry needs to use Freemasons’ Hall to support the vision of the Craft’s place in society today which the Grand Secretary outlined at the Quarterly Communication in December.

Freemasons’ Hall is and will remain a Masonic building, but our needs are changing. Many of you will know from personal experience that most of the Lodge Rooms here in Freemasons’ Hall, with the notable exception of Lodge Room No 10, were designed to accommodate meetings with an attendance of between 70 and 80. Today average attendance is in the mid 20s.

We cannot subdivide Lodge Rooms in response to this. Their scale and proportions were an important element within the original design of the building, and we know that any attempt to change this would meet with strong opposition from the Conservation Officer.

We can, however, adapt space to form smaller Lodge Rooms from accommodation in the building designed for other uses. Examples of where this has been achieved are the conversion of two committee rooms on the Sussex Corridor to provide two Chapter Rooms, and the three Lodge Rooms created on the third floor in what was originally two caretaker’s flats.  

While these changes take place we are also looking at how this building can play its part in encouraging a wider understanding of Freemasonry in society. This means improving public access, both generally and through supporting outside hire events. Both encourage improved awareness, while providing the opportunity for education through community engagement.

Improving public access, while at the same time meeting the continuing needs of UGLE as well as those of MetGL, the Library & Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation is far from straightforward, and we always have to keep in mind that our ideas and ambitions may not always meet with approval from the Conservation Officer if work is involved requiring Listed Building Consent.

I don’t want to overstate the problem. There are projects which receive immediate support, at least in principle.

Freemasons’ Hall, like many public buildings, fails to provide enough female toilets. The building was designed to provide toilets for the convenience of members, and the paid employees of Grand Lodge were thought unlikely to include women. How the world has changed.

We have legal obligations to provide facilities for both men and women who work in the building, and if we are serious in wanting to host events such as Letters Live and London Fashion Week we must provide facilities which are as good, if not better, than competing venues. The unisex toilets off the vestibule and those on the floor below meet this need, and as we approach the refurbishment of the Gallery Suite to improve the facilities available for Masonic use and outside hire in what was Lodge Room 1 and its ante room, we will be restoring to their original use nearby toilets on the lower ground floor. These will, however, be designed with flexible male / female use use in mind.

As I and others on the Hall Committee oversee these projects I do so in the knowledge that my responsibilities as Grand Superintendent of Works do not end at the front door.

From the very early years of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge has owned a number of buildings in Great Queen Street. These include the Grand Connaught Rooms and the Sway nightclub, together with most of the buildings opposite on the north side of Great Queen Street. They are in the same Conservation Area as Freemasons’ Hall, and many of them are listed, including several which are Grade 11 *.

A diverse property portfolio such as this is by its nature management intensive, and just over 10 years ago the Board of General Purposes received a report from the then Grand Superintendent of Works John Edgcumbe drawing attention to the possibility of selling the properties to reinvest in a modern, well let commercial property which might provide better growth prospects without the need for continuous oversight, and periodic investment in refurbishment and repair.

Mindful of the importance which heritage has to Freemasonry, and the fact that ownership provides control over the setting of Freemasons’ Hall, the decision was taken by the Board that the buildings should be retained.

Maximising value by improving tenant mix, and income quality, while refurbishing and modernising the properties where necessary, became a long-term objective of the Property Investment Committee chaired by the Grand Treasurer, Quentin Humberstone. As well as being Grand Superintendent of Works I am a Chartered Surveyor with practical experience of property investment and asset management, and the valuation of commercial properties. With this background I should perhaps have expected that my work would extend beyond looking after Freemasons’ Hall to include contributing to the work of the Property Investment Committee.

Pausing at this point it is perhaps worth drawing attention to the fact that the Property Investment Committee’s investment objectives have served Grand Lodge well.    

The accounts of Grand Lodge are not exactly bedtime reading, but in 2006 the north side of Great Queen Street had a book value in the region of £14.5m. By 2011 an external independent valuation confirmed that the value of the whole portfolio including the Grand Connaught Rooms, and with the benefit of investment in the refurbishment of several of the properties, had risen to £31.1m, and as at 31st December 2017 the figure in the UGLE accounts was just over £56.5m. You must wait for publication of the 2018 accounts for the corresponding value as at December last year, but I can reveal that a further increase in value will be reported.

Given the long-term commitment of Grand Lodge to holding this portfolio improvements in capital value, while reassuring, are perhaps less important than rental income. This is currently just over £2.5m pa. which contributes to the investment income which is available for Grand Lodge to maintain, repair and improve Freemasons’ Hall without making a call on individual members’ Grand Lodge dues.

Masonic ownership of land and building extends well beyond Great Queen Street to the many Masonic Halls and Centres throughout the country. These are the responsibility of their owners. Whilst Freemasonry is a Craft, running and managing Masonic Halls and Centres is a business. Over the years there have been many successes, but occasionally things have gone wrong, and the accompanying adverse publicity compromises years of hard work in promoting the reputation of Freemasonry for the better.

We have within our membership valuable knowledge and experience of how to manage a Masonic Hall and Centre in a way which is both sustainable, and financially viable. What we did not have until recently was a reference resource which brought together in one place experience and best practice. This gap was recognised by the Membership Focus Group in 2015 which set up a Masonic Halls Working Group tasked with creating a Guidance Manual to share knowledge of best practise.

Unlike the Book of Constitutions compliance with the Guidance Manual is not mandatory, although ignoring advice inevitably leaves room for criticism if things go wrong.

As Grand Superintendent of Works I am now responsible for issuing updates to the Masonic Halls Best Practise Guidance Manual. Working with a Steering Group we issue periodic updates – best practise is not static. It evolves in the light of new legislation, and widened experience. We hold annual seminars here at Freemasons’ Hall as a way of making sure that Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and those looking after Masonic Halls and Centres can contribute their knowledge and experience to the Guidance Manual and its advice.

As Grand Superintendent of Works here at Grand Lodge I am as much a user of the Guidance Manual as my counterparts in MetGL and across the Provinces.

As you can see Graham Redman was correct when he explained to me that I would be spending my time doing rather more than simply submiting periodic reports to the Board of General Purposes on the condition of this building. 

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 13 March 2019 12:05

Pro Grand Master's address - March 2019

Quarterly Communication

13 March 2019 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I have recently had the privilege of visiting a number of our Districts, and although each trip was a unique experience, I became acutely aware that they all had something striking in common – how well the local Freemasons are an integral, and highly visible, part of their local communities. This January, the Deputy Grand Master had the pleasure of installing the new District Grand Master for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Amongst the various Masonic activities, he took part in a large procession, in full regalia, to the local Cathedral for the Sunday service. He tells me the sense of pride from the members and their families was overwhelming. This was a group of men who are supported and encouraged by their families, and are warmly welcomed by the communities in which they reside. There was no sense of trying to hide the fact that they are Freemasons or justifying why they are members. It was simply the case that Freemasonry was not just an integral part of their lives, but also the lives of those around them.

Brethren, it could be seen as being fairly obvious that where a member has the support and backing of his family, he will fare better. What is not so obvious is the underlying need to encourage and nurture that support network. Bringing our families, and indeed our communities, into the fold, so to speak, is in my opinion vital to the future success of the Craft and it is telling that a number of Provinces now interview prospective candidates along with their partners present so that they too can ask questions and understand who we are and what we do.  

Programmes of events designed to assist and engage with those around us will go a long way towards educating the two fifths of the public who know that we exist, but have no idea what we do, and you will soon hear about some National Initiatives we are planning to accomplish just this. The Districts certainly have a winning formula in this respect. In each District I have visited, families have been heavily involved in the events surrounding our visits. When we bear in mind that the Districts are growing by 10 per cent year on year on average, we may be able to learn a few things from them.

I was thinking recently on how much time Freemasons in the UK spend on unpaid charitable, philanthropic, or civic activities. This includes those things our members do for others with an educational, sporting, charitable, religious or military bent; what they do for others in any spare time they might have when they are not in Lodge or learning ritual! 

We have looked into this and it will not surprise you to learn that early indications suggest that our members spend millions of hours collectively giving of themselves for the benefit of others.

I began to think how one might possibly put an hourly ‘value’ on the contributions that our members make to their communities and the people around them, but then the core values that all Freemasons hold in high estimation cannot be quantified. How can we ‘calculate’ our contributions? There seems to be a clear link between what we do ‘as Freemasons’ and what we do as good members of our community. 

Returning to the Deputy Grand Master’s trip to Antigua, Members, and their families, were proud, and it showed immensely. That visibility, engagement and sense of pride at both being a Freemason and a good person were palpable, and that obvious connection has been passed down through generations of Masons in our ritual – Freemasonry does indeed “rest upon the practice of every Moral and Social virtue”.

We all should be striving towards ensuring that we are visible, engaged and proud of our achievements, both as Freemasons and as people.

Brethren, we are referees, volunteer readers in school, church wardens, members of care home boards, Rotarians, poppy sellers and countless other ‘volunteer’ positions. Most of these will have nothing or very little to do with our Lodges or Province, but they all have a connection to a fundamental aspect of Freemasonry – making a positive impact in the lives of others. And Brethren, we certainly need to be more visible and more proud of these roles if we are to positively define what Freemasonry stands for to the next generation. Also, Brethren, if I were a betting man, which I am not, - well just the odd flutter - I would certainly have a bet that the Provinces that have the most family involvement are those with the best membership statistics. Let us all work on this aspect.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

13 March 2019 
Report of the Board of General Purposes

Minutes

The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 12 December 2018 were confirmed.

Election of the Grand Master

HRH The Duke of Kent was re-elected as Grand Master.

Grand Lodge Register 2009-2018

The tables below show the number of Lodges on the Register and of Certificates issued during the past ten years.

Lodges

Charges for warrants

In accordance with the provisions of Rule 270A, Book of Constitutions, the Board has considered the costs of preparing the actual documents specified in this Rule and recommends that for the year commencing 1 April 2019 the charges (exclusive of VAT) shall be as follows:

Charges

Installed Masters' Lodges

In December 2012 the wording of Rules 269 and 271 in relation to the definition of an Installed Masters’ Lodge was amended to include those Installed Masters’ Lodges serving a group of Lodges with a common affiliation. Because of the way the amendment was framed, the last sentence of each Rule was inadvertently omitted in the next and all subsequent reprints of the Book of Constitutions.

The Board, having considered the matter, is of the view that for the avoidance of doubt the lost wording should be restored by way of a formal amendment to the two Rules, and that for ease of reference the full wording of each Rule should be printed in the Paper of Business.

Amalgamation

The Board has received a report that Cleddau Lodge, No. 6952 has resolved to surrender its Warrant in order to amalgamate with Cambrian Lodge, No. 464 (West Wales).

The Board accordingly recommends that the Lodge be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamation.

Erasure of lodges

The Board has received a report that 13 Lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are:

Ellesmere Lodge, No. 3068 (West Lancashire), Hillingdon Lodge, No. 3174 (Middlesex), Ashfield Lodge, No. 4129 (Cheshire), Meridian Lodge, No. 5060 (Cheshire), Hadrian Lodge, No. 5216 (Cumberland and Westmorland), Byerley Lodge, No. 7853 (Durham), Lodge of Friendship, No. 7902 (Worcestershire), Ancient of Days Lodge, No. 9230 (West Kent), Caer Estyn Lodge, No. 9252 (North Wales), Southwood Lodge, No. 9293 (West Kent), Service above Self Lodge, No. 9537 (Durham), Black Country Heritage Lodge, No. 9702 (Staffordshire), and Essex Millennium Lodge, No. 9729 (Essex)

Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board is satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore has no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Amendments to the Book of Constitutions

For the next Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge, the President of the Board of General Purposes to move:

a. That Rule 269 be amended to read:

“269. There shall be payable to the Fund of General Purposes annual dues inrespect of each of its members by every Lodge

(i) in England and Wales that isunattached
(ii) in a Metropolitan Area or a Province
(iii) in a District and
(iv) abroad not in a District of such respective amounts as shall be fixed for each calendar year by resolution of the Grand Lodge in the preceding June.

Provided that any Lodge in a Metropolitan Area, Province, District or Group that is from time to time determined by the Board of General Purposes to be a Lodge the membership of which is restricted to Brethren who are Installed Masters but which is otherwise open without further restriction to all Brethren either within the relevant Metropolitan Area, Province, District or Group, or within a group of Lodges linked together by a common purpose or affiliation, shall pay annual dues in respect of those Brethren only who are not members of any other Lodge, and in the case of a Brother who is a member only of one or more such Lodges restricted to Installed Masters the Lodge of which he has been longest a member shall alone pay annual dues in respect of him. Such a Brother shall pay, by way of annual subscription, an additional amount equal to the dues payable in respect of him by such Lodge, but such additional amount shall be disregarded in determining for the purposes of Rule 145 whether all the members of the Lodge entitled to the same privileges pay the same subscription.”

b. That Rule 271 be amended to read:

“271. There shall be payable to The Masonic Charitable Foundation by every Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province or in England and Wales that is unattached in respect of each of its members annual contributions of not less than such amount as shall be fixed for each calendar year by resolution of the Grand Lodge in the preceding June. (No payment is due in respect of members of Lodges Overseas).

Provided that any Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or Province that is from time to time determined by the Board of General Purposes to be a Lodge the membership of which is restricted to Brethren who are Installed Masters but which is otherwise open without further restriction to all Brethren either within the relevant Metropolitan Area or Province, or within a group of Lodges linked together by a common purpose or affiliation, shall pay annual contributions in respect of those Brethren only who are not members of anyother Lodge, and in the case of a Brother who is a member only of one or more such Lodges restricted to Installed Masters the Lodge of which he has been longest a member shall alone pay the annual contribution in respect of him. Such a Brother shall pay, by way of annual subscription, a further additional amount equal to the annual contribution payable in respect of him by such Lodge, but such additional amount shall be disregarded in determining for thepurposes of Rule 145 whether all the members of the Lodge entitled to the same privileges pay the same subscription.”

Presentatation to Grand Lodge

A talk on A year in the life of the Grand Superintendent of Works by RW Bro John Pagella, PJGW, Grand Superintendent of Works.

List of new lodges

List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by The MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:

14 November 2018

9972 Hinckley Lodge of Installed Masters, Hinckley, Leicestershire and Rutland
9973 Epicurean Lodge, Kingston, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
9974 Ruck and Maul Lodge, Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire

12 December 2018

9975 Fidelity Lodge, Avellaneda, South America, Southern Division
9976 Ferring Contemporary Lodge, Worthing, Sussex
9977 Aubrey Shervington Jacobs Lodge, Kingston, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

A Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 13 June 2019. Subsequent Communications will be held on 11 September 2019, 11 December 2019, 11 March 2020 and 10 June 2020.

The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 24 April 2019), and admission is by ticket only.

Supreme Grand Chapter

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 25 April 2019, 13 November 2019 and 30 April 2020.

Published in UGLE

Quarterly Communication

12 December 2018 
A presentation by VW Bro Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary

Brethren, good morning. It is my great pleasure to be speaking to you here today.

As many of you will know, I used to work as a doctor. My clinical job was to work out why people were horizontal and try to get them vertical again. I shall try my hardest over the next 15 minutes or so not to reverse that process.

I left Derby Hospital four years ago to become Clinical Director for Medicine at Peterborough where I managed a whole host of awkward people and there, to my astonishment, I discovered that I rather enjoyed this thing called ‘management’. In fact, I found that I enjoyed it much more than medicine.

People were usually pleased to see me which made a change, and as someone who had always enjoyed solving problems I found that I was deluged with problems. It was not a great leap for me to move into another organisation with problems to solve.

I still practice medicine for half a day a week – it seemed foolish to burn all my clinical bridges in this particular role. The Board and Rulers hired me as Chief Executive with two main outcomes in mind. First, I was to bring the Corporate and Masonic sides of Freemasons’ Hall together – to meld 60 Great Queen Street into a purpose and values driven organisation which services the needs of the United Grand Lodge of England, Supreme Grand Chapter and of course you, our members.

Secondly, I was tasked with helping to formulate, coordinate and ensure the delivery of the United Grand Lodge of England’s strategies for the future as defined by the Rulers and the Board.

To my mind, the most important of these is rapidly becoming to ‘Normalise the perception of Freemasonry in the public consciousness’ – to make it as acceptable to say that one is going to a lodge meeting as it would be to say that one is going shopping, out for a meal, or to the golf course; and to make it a genuine choice for all of our members as to whether they wish to disclose their membership or not – rather than one mandated by the attitudes and prejudices of their colleagues.

Today I would like to try to give you a flavour for some of the challenges UGLE faces along that journey, and some of the things that we are doing to meet them. We are always, however, mindful of the need to respect the independence of individual lodges and Provinces, and only to mandate those things which are absolutely essential to the future of the Craft.

Things are not all rosy. In 1920, Grand Lodge issued around 30,000 Grand Lodge certificates each year. By 2015 this had dropped to 7,000 which equates to less than one new member per lodge per year. 20% of our members resign or never come back prior to receiving their Grand Lodge certificate. 60% of our membership is over 60 years of age. Membership remains one of our greatest challenges.

As an organisation, we are shrinking by 1% a year, although interestingly our districts are growing at 10% per year on average.

Attracting new members and engaging our membership so that they remain members is therefore of paramount importance, but the pool of candidates eligible to join Freemasonry is a fraction of what it was 50 years ago.

We can do little to change whether a person believes in a Supreme Being, or whether they have a criminal record, but UGLE has done a great deal to try to influence the opportunity that eligible members have to join us successfully; this has occurred most visibly through the Membership Pathway which was launched earlier this year – an initiative that seeks to ensure that potential members know what to expect, and to minimise the chances of them leaving.

What used to be ‘invitation only’ is now much more open. Lodges regularly exhibit at universities Freshers’ Fairs and all Provincial websites and the United Grand Lodge of England welcome online membership enquiries. We also seek to influence what is ‘findable’ on Google by engaging with the media. By having sensible stories which reflect what WE want about Freemasonry on the top three pages of a Google search, we are able to significantly alter our public footprint.

Before the Second World War, Freemasons would have been openly known and respected in their communities. Public parades of masons were common place. Masons were often asked to perform ceremonies around the laying of foundation stones for public buildings.

Then, Hitler murdered 200,000 Freemasons on the continent and looked as though he were poised to invade England. Suddenly, it didn’t seem quite such a good idea to be so open about our membership and we collectively retreated into a position of privacy that we have only just, with the Tercentenary celebrations last year, started to retreat from in a coordinated fashion.

The third factor which influences whether we attract new members is the environment – by which I primarily mean the court of public opinion. What do the public think of us? How likely is it that our members are happy to ‘come out’ as Freemasons? How likely or acceptable is it that an organisation or employer decides to discriminate against Freemasons? What is the political climate? What is the religious climate? – All of these issues form the environment from which our members are drawn.

The national press is obsessed with handshakes, trouser legs, nepotism, corruption and with events that may have happened 50 years ago in a then corrupt police force. Not a media interview has gone by over the last year when I have not been asked about one of these issues – yet only 4% of young people under 25 ever read the national press, and only 9% get their news from television. By far the predominant source for news in the under 30s is the internet. We need to ensure our media presence reflects this.

In centuries past, however, Freemasons and Freemasonry was enormously respected. Before the times of professional organisations and trade bodies such as the British Medical Associate, the Bar Association, The Law Society etc., if you wanted to employ the services of someone who wasn’t going to rip you off, a Freemason represented someone who openly ‘met people on the level’ and ‘treated them squarely’. It was the closest one could get at the time to a kite mark of decent and moral professional behaviour, and, for tradesmen, membership was a likely to result in both increased respect and increased business.

Unfortunately, how Freemasonry is explained to us as Entered Apprentices is not necessarily an easy and straightforward concept to grasp. We are told that Freemasonry is a ‘peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols’ . That its system of morality forms of a set of values and principles of conduct. Freemasons are the custodians of a way of behaving which takes good people and makes them better, doing so by acting out ancient myths and encouraging a study of the deeper meaning of symbols, so it is both a philosophical and philanthropic society. One can see how it might prove very difficult for us to explain what Freemasonry is to those who might be curious. And, of course, Freemasonry means many different things to different members.

If we talk about charity, we are no different to hundreds of other organisations who fight for space in a very crowded sector. If we talk about friendship or camaraderie then similarly we do not capture the unique aspects of Freemasonry which set us aside from a club or society.

We will never be able to, nor should we, reinvent ourselves to please the public, but we do need to nuance our message so that it can have the greatest effect on those who we might be able to influence, and what you will see over the next 18 months or so is a coordinated media and communications strategy that starts to deploy these messages. We started this year with ‘Enough is Enough’ and there is a great deal more to come.

We need to find something that communicates the unique nature of Freemasonry in a friendly, accessible fashion, and in a way which makes us an attractive use of our potential members’ precious time. So how do we achieve, in the minds of the public, a favourable opinion preconceived of the institution? We must define ourselves clearly and positively to the outside world. We must regain control of our own narrative, we need to promulgate the timeless principles of brotherly love and self-improvement. We need to inspire people to lead better lives and be a values driven, professional organisation.

So Communications and Membership are two of my top priorities as mandated by the Board, the Rulers and the various committees and groups that have a care for Freemasonry.

These priorities are clearly reflected in the restructuring of the United Grand Lodge of England communications apparatus, and by the creation of a new Membership Services Department, which will encompass a new department for the Districts which, in the past, have not perhaps received the attention that they deserve; the Chancellery which manages foreign masonic affairs and also all of your enquiries should you want to visit a lodge abroad as well as the membership and registration functions.

When I came to UGLE, the headquarters had been split along masonic and non-masonic lines, and it was fair to say that there was a degree of civil war existing between the two. What I found was a headquarters crying out for modernisation. I am pleased to say that following considerable effort by all the staff over the last year, UGLE has just been awarded Investors in People Accreditation – something that will help dispel our reputation as operating from a secret volcano base somewhere off the West Coast of Sumatra.

Bringing about change within UGLE is not a simple task. I have entitled my talk 'Risk Takers, Caretakers and Undertakers' which broadly explains the mindsets which govern all of us here today in some part. Some aspects of the organisation need curating – they are precious to us and to our members and should be preserved as part of our responsibility as the de facto caretakers of a three-hundred-year-old institution, other parts need to be allowed to run their course and die, for an organisation which never renews itself is unlikely to survive. We see this often in the lives of individual lodges, which come together to serve a need for their members, but as times change, or that need changes, some lodges pass away whilst others invigorate themselves and thrive. In order to thrive, we need to be prepared perhaps to take risks and to change in order to remain, or perhaps regain a relevance in the modern world. If we aren’t prepared to do this, we become undertakers and bury something enormously precious to us all.

Another key priority for us at UGLE is to modernise the processes by which the organisation is administered. This year, we will have performed 24 Installations of Provincial and District Rulers all of those, coordinated from this building. We are recognised the world over for our pre-eminent ceremonial. It is my intention to ensure that this excellence shows itself in all that we do. We have moved the Masonic Year Book and the Directory of Lodges and Chapters to living online documents, and now have a thriving members’ area on our website. For the first time, some of you will have booked your place here today online and made payment for the lunch that follows electronically – something you will no doubt have been doing in other areas of life for well over a decade.

Astonishingly this change will save over 1,800 man hours of work each year. Those of you who are Secretaries will be pleased to hear that we are aiming to ensure that Installation Returns are pre-printed, meaning that you will never again have to write out the names and numbers of all your past masters – something which has been done and remained unchanged for over 175 years.

But that is just the start. The Book of Constitutions lays out guidance on how a modern membership organisation should be run, but the problem is that its current iteration was written in the nineteenth century.

Imagine now an organisation where the Lodge Secretary could access the central database of their members’ information and keep it updated. Why should secretaries have to write clearance certificates when we already know who is paid up and who is in arrears? Why not just run a real time Masonic credit check when you want to join a new lodge? Why are forms needed in order to get a Grand Lodge certificate, when we already know all the information on those forms?

To start to modernise these internal processes is an enormous piece of work, but I know it will bring real benefits to our members and those who administer lodges and Provinces.

And these changes will alter the experiences of the everyday mason too. Can you imagine a system that sends links to articles that explains the ceremony of initiation to an initiate the day after he is brought in? Or a system that sends information about the Royal Arch to a newly made Master Mason? What about a system that flags to the Lodge Almoner when a member has missed three meetings in a row – a strongly correlated marker for poor engagement and retention. In this way we can start to influence how we engage our membership at a whole new level with that peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.

The Craft has an old, established teaching system, which uses role-playing, memory work and public speaking to enshrine its principles in the hearts of Masons. These techniques have evolved over many centuries and even more generations of Brethren, to pass on our traditions to benefit our members by making them better people, at peace with themselves and with the society in which they live.

We have recently launched ‘SOLOMON’, an online learning resource covering the three degrees and the Royal Arch which you are able to register for, access and read as you progress through your masonic journey. It has over 350 articles, graded for the correct degree which augment these established teaching methods within the Craft and make each candidate’s journey through Masonry a much more fulfilling experience.

So, Brethren, there is a huge amount going on in your organisation, and that is not counting the numerous happenings at Provincial and individual lodge level. UGLE is building an efficient and effective organisation. An organisation which provides a structure able to support and engage our members, attract new people to the Craft and Royal Arch, normalize Freemasonry in the public consciousness and stand up for our members whenever they are unfairly discriminated against or collectively attacked.

The United Grand Lodge of England is here to act as a custodian of the values and traditions of Freemasonry which inspire people to Lead Better Lives for the benefit of society, valuing Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. We should be a straightforward organisation that is supportive, self-confident, welcoming, member focused, friendly and fun because that is an organisation that good men will want to join and even better men will want to remain members of. It is the duty of all of us to make this an organisation we are proud to be a part of.

Thank you.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 12 December 2018 10:31

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2018

Quarterly Communication

12 December 2018 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, 2018 has brought many changes, not just within UGLE, but also across the masonic world. In the last three weeks there have been new Grand Masters in Scotland, France and Norway. The Deputy Grand Master was in Oslo and I went to Edinburgh and to Paris. Representing the MW Grand Master abroad fulfils and reinforces our reputation as the premier Grand Lodge and I strongly believe that the better we know our counterparts in the foreign constitutions, and the better they know us, the easier it is to have meaningful discussions on any points of mutual interest or indeed controversy that might arise.

At home, we have had 28 changes of Provincial or District Grand Masters. The Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters have been greatly involved and we have also had the benefit of the support of the Second and Third Grand Principals in the Royal Arch. We are enormously encouraged by the calibre and enthusiasm demonstrated by our new Rulers and I am pleased that we seem to have a strong team of leaders throughout our Constitution. 

Some years ago, Provincial Grand Masters suggested that the Rulers got even more involved in the appointment of their successors. This rather surprised us as we felt it could be seen as unwelcome interference. However, we were encouraged to think about the qualities that a good Ruler in the Craft might possess, and how this might manifest in the success of their Province. As a result, the whole system is now more robust and we are seeing the benefits. This is not in any way meant to denigrate those who have gone before – far from it, but with decisions being more transparent, I believe the sharing of the burden of decisions has been welcomed, and the Craft is benefitting as a result.

Brethren, I am sure that you will agree that it is so important that those appointed to any office within the Craft know what is expected of them. This is equally as true of those within a private lodge as it is at Grand Lodge or Provincial or District Grand Lodge level.

Believe it or not brethren, in addition to selecting those we think will do the best job and are the best fit, we now actually tell our Provincial and District Grand Masters what is required of them. About three times a year we run courses for future and new Provincial and District Grand Masters and the feedback that I have had from those who have attended has been extremely positive. I can emphasise what a success this project has been as I have had nothing whatsoever to do with it. A great deal of the credit for the quality of these courses goes to RW Bro Michael Ward, VW Bro Graham Redman and the team here at Freemasons' Hall and I thank them for their work on my behalf and on behalf of the recipients.

I sometimes wonder brethren if we take our private lodge officers for granted. Do we expect that each year the officers will automatically know what is expected of them? In the vast number of cases the main ceremonial offices are filled by those who are working their way up the lodge’s ladder and they will have benefitted from their Lodge of Instruction and rehearsals. It is the more administrative offices that may need assistance. That assistance is available from the centre or in the Provinces, particularly for Secretaries, Almoners and Charity Stewards. However, I believe there are still a large number of lodges who see the collar of the Almoner and Charity Steward as needing a pair of shoulders to sit on. Surely the offices deserve better than that, and care should be taken when making these appointments, after all they are both involved in the charitable work of the lodge, which is so dear to our hearts, and so important to the public perception of who we are and what we do.

There is one last lodge appointment that I would like to comment on, and, whilst not technically an officer of the lodge it is an important role. It is the job of the Royal Arch Representative. Many of you will have heard me advocating the encouragement of Craft masons to join the Royal Arch and I won’t go through the reasoning again today. Suffice it to say that one of the best recruiting tools is to have such a Royal Arch Representative in each lodge. It is a lodge appointment and it should be carefully thought through so that the member with right skill set has the job. It seems to me brethren that consultation with the Grand Superintendent, whether or not he is the Provincial Grand Master has merit. When a Province has separate leaders, I am sure they will both be equally keen for the right choice to be made and would welcome such consultation.

Brethren, as we come to the end of another calendar year, I really believe that we can look back with pride in what has been achieved in many aspects of our work and, equally, can look forward with great optimism to where we are going and how we are going to get there. To paraphrase the Grand Secretary at the start of the year, can we ever get enough of enough is enough.

Brethren I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday and enjoy a well-deserved break.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

12 December 2018 
Report of the Board of General Purposes

Minutes

The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 12 September 2018 were confirmed.

HRH The Duke of Kent KG was nominated to be Grand Master for the ensuing year.

Annual Investiture of Grand Officers – 24 April 2019

So that sufficient accommodation can be reserved for those Brethren who are to be invested and their friends, admission to the Annual Investiture is by ticket only. Brethren to be invested for the first time may invite to be present with them three qualified Brethren, and those to be promoted two qualified Brethren.

Allowance having been made for such an issue and for those whose presence in the Grand Lodge is essential, a few seats will remain. Written application for these seats may be made to the Grand Secretary between 1 March and 31 March by Brethren qualified to attend the Grand Lodge:

  1. Past Grand Officers;*
  2. Masters;
  3. Wardens (not Past Wardens);
  4. Past Masters qualified under Rule 9 of the Book of Constitutions.

Applications should state clearly the name, address and Lodge of the Brother concerned and under which of the four categories mentioned his application is made. If necessary, a ballot for the allocation of seats will be held in early April, and tickets will be posted to successful Brethren on or about 5 April. Brethren who have been unsuccessful will be so informed.

Possession of a ticket will not, of itself, ensure admission – Brethren who are not Grand Officers will be required to hand their tickets to the Scrutineers before examination by them in accordance with the usual practice at Quarterly Communications.

Past Grand Officers should sign the Attendance Books in the Past Grand Officers’ Room, and give up their tickets before being admitted to the Grand Temple. Grand Officers taking part in the procession will sign in the Grand Officers’ Room.

* Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters, all other Present Grand Officers, including Grand Stewards, Deputy Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters, and Assistant Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters should not apply in this way as they will be invited specifically by letter about a month before the day of Investiture and asked to indicate on a reply slip whether they intend to be present. Similar arrangements are made for District Grand Masters who are known to intend to be in the UK on 24 April and this can be extended to others, if they write indicating their wish to attend.

Masonic Year Book

The next edition of the Masonic Year Book, 2019–2020, will be available next autumn. The charge will be £15 per copy, plus postage and packing where appropriate. It is not proposed to produce a new edition of the Directory of Lodges and Chapters during 2019. Copies of the 2018 edition will still be available from Letchworth’s shop.

Every Lodge is provided access to an online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters free of charge via the designated website. The Board emphasises that this information should be available to all the members of private Lodges and not regarded as for the exclusive use of the Secretary to whom, for administrative reasons, access is provided.

Metropolitan and Provincial Lodges

Access to the online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters is provided to Secretaries of Lodges.

Lodges abroad

Access to the online version of the Masonic Year Book and Directory of Lodges and Chapters is provided to Secretaries of Lodges in the Districts as well as to Secretaries of Lodges abroad not in a District.

Prestonian Lectures for 2019

The Board has considered applications for the delivery of the official Prestonian Lectures in 2019 and has decided that these should be given under the auspices of the following:

Dean Leigh Masters Lodge, No. 3687 (Herefordshire)
Norfolk Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 3905 (Norfolk)
Leeds and District Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 7918 (Yorkshire, West Riding)
West Sussex Masters Lodge, No. 8963 (Sussex)

The Lecturer, W Bro Michael Karn, PAGSwdB, states that the title of the Lecture will be: English Freemasonry during the Great War.

The Board, when annually inviting applications for the privilege of having one of the official deliveries of the Lectures, invariably emphasises their importance as the only Lectures held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. The Board and the Trustees of the Prestonian Fund are correspondingly keen to ensure that Brethren come forward with potential future lectures on topics which will be of interest to English Freemasons. Brethren who consider that they have the requisite skill and knowledge are accordingly invited to submit their names to the Grand Secretary, through their Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretaries.

Lotteries

Since the Board last reported to Grand Lodge on lotteries in December 1994, there has been no significant change in the law on the subject, which is now contained in the Gambling Act 2005. There have, however, been some changes in the names of the various regulatory bodies and the classes of lotteries themselves, as well as minor changes to the rules applying to the various classes. The Board accordingly hopes that the Grand Lodge will endorse the following statement on lotteries, which takes into account the changes since it last reported on the subject.

There is no inherent Masonic objection to any form of lottery currently permitted by law, and a lottery with a Masonic character may, therefore, be used by members of the Craft to raise money for any lawful purpose, subject to the qualifications set out below. Such a lottery should, in general, be used to raise money only for charity, other benevolent purposes, or some other specific object not directed to private gain; no form of lottery should in any circumstances be used to defray the general running expenses of a Lodge, Metropolitan Area, Province or District.

A lottery has a Masonic character if it is promoted or run by Freemasons

  1. who declare their capacity as such; or
  2. for a purpose, or on behalf of a body, which is identifiably Masonic, whether or not the purpose or body includes words such as “Masonic” or “Freemason” in its title or description.

The Board considers it essential that the purpose for which any such lottery is held is clearly stated to anyone to whom chances in the lottery are offered for sale.

It does not accord with the spirit of Masonic charity or of Masonic bodies that lotteries should be held which seek money under the banner of Freemasonry from other than Masonic sources (Masonic sources include anyone who has a family or other close personal connection with the Craft or with any of its members). It is therefore inappropriate for tickets for a lottery with a Masonic character to be made available for sale to the public at large.

The responsibility for compliance with the provisions of the law rests firmly on those responsible for promoting and assisting in the running of lotteries. It is the duty of such Brethren to ensure, by obtaining where necessary appropriate procedural and legal advice, that the Craft is not brought into disrepute by any failure to meet all legal requirements, or for any other reason. Advice is readily available from, among others, the Gambling Commission, local authorities, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Institute of Fundraising.

The Gambling Act 2005 provides that all lotteries must be either licensed, or registered or fall within one of five statutory exemptions. The Board’s guidance on the three types of lottery most likely to be relevant for lotteries with a Masonic character is as follows:

  1. The Board sees no objection to “small lotteries incidental to events” (for example, a raffle at a dinner), provided that the entertainment is of a Masonic character.
  2. A “private society lottery” (for example a “100 club”) where tickets are sold only to members or visitors and the lottery is advertised only within the relevant Lodge: the Board considers that such lotteries, if appropriate for Masonic purposes, should be subject to the same restrictions as small society lotteries (see below).
  3. A “small society lottery”, for  which  registration  of  the  organisation is required, is appropriate for fundraising on a larger scale, for example a Provincial Benevolent Fund or one of the Masonic Charities or local charities, or when a Private Lodge sponsors a special appeal. The written leave of the Provincial or District Grand Master (or, in London, of the Board of General Purposes) must be obtained at the earliest opportunity, both before registration is applied for, and again before any individual lottery is organised.

Literature which includes Masonic forms of address in promoting the sale of lottery tickets is unacceptable, even if it emanates from Associations of Friends, over which Grand Lodge has no jurisdiction.

Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Masters of Lodges should refuse to permit the distribution of literature or tickets which clearly infringe any of the above principles, and may refuse to permit their distribution if in their opinion the spirit of those principles is infringed.

Recognition of foreign Grand Lodges

The Grand Chancellor to move that the following Grand Lodges be recognised:

Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama was originally formed as the Independent Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Alabama on 27 September 1870, by three regular Lodges of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, which was recognised by this Grand Lodge on 11 June 1997.

Grand Lodge of Paraná
The Grand Lodge of Paraná was formed on January 25th, 1941 by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio de Janeiro, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 12 December 2001. The Grand Lodge of Paraná’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Paraná.

Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás
The Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás was formed on 9 June 1951 by fifteen regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of São Paulo, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 8 December 1999. The Grand Lodge of the State of Goiás’ jurisdiction is limited to the State of Goiás.

Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina
The Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina was formed on 21 April 1956 by seven regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 12 December 2001. The Grand Lodge of Santa Catarina’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Santa Catarina.

Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima
The Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima was formed on 20 August 1981 by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Amazonas, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 14 March 2018. The Grand Lodge of the State of Roraima’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Roraima.

Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia
The Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia was formed on 10 April 1985, by three regularly constituted member Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Amazonas, which was itself recognised by this Grand Lodge on 14 March 2018. The Grand Lodge of the State of Rondônia’s jurisdiction is limited to the State of Rondônia.

Having shown that they have regularity of origin and that they conform to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge recognition, the Board, having no reason to believe that they will not continue to maintain a regular path, recommends that these six Grand Lodges be recognised.

Amalgamations

The Board has received reports that the following Lodges have resolved to surrender their Warrants: Palmer Lodge, No. 9255, in order to amalgamate with Heabrym Lodge, No. 7201 (Durham); and Blaauwberg Lodge, No. 9337, in order to amalgamate with Wynberg Lodge, No. 2577 (South Africa, Western Division).

The Board accordingly recommends that the Lodges be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamations.

Erasure of lodges

The Board has received a report that eighteen lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are:

Red Rose of Lancaster Lodge, No. 1504 (East Lancashire); Lodge of Charity, No. 1551 (Warwickshire); Epping Lodge, No. 2077 (Essex); Arthur Sullivan Lodge, No. 2156 (East Lancashire); Edward Terry Lodge, No. 2722 (London); Catford Lodge, No. 3649 (West Kent); Loyal Lodge, No. 5040 (East Lancashire); Father Thames Lodge, No. 5615 (Middlesex); Old Rectory Lodge, No. 6651 (Oxfordshire); Hurstwood Lodge, No. 6768 (East Lancashire); Syon Lodge, No. 7394 (Middlesex); Cathedral Lodge, No. 7814 (East Lancashire); Phaethon Lodge, No. 7820 (London); Alphin Lodge, No. 8461 (East Lancashire); Delphi Lodge, No. 9061 (East Lancashire); Blakewater Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 9574 (East Lancashire); Condate Cheshire Provincial Grand Officers Lodge, No. 9594 (Cheshire); and Kendalian Lodge, No. 9757 (Cumberland and Westmorland)

Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board was satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore had no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Presentation to Grand Lodge

A presentation on Risk Takers, Caretakers and Undertakers was given by VW Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary.

New lodges

List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by the MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:

12 September 2018

9967 Barão de Batovi Lodge, Campo Grande, South America, Northern Division
9968 Essex Cornerstone Lodge, Upminster, Essex
9969 Vectis Service Lodge, Ryde, Hampshire and Isle of Wight
9970 Swallowfield Pitt Bridge Lodge, Wokingham, Berkshire
9971 Shropshire Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held on 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019, 11 September 2019, 11 December 2019 and 11 March 2020.

The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers will take place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend.

Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 25 April 2019, 13 November 2019 and 30 April 2020.

Published in UGLE
Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2018

From the Grand Secretary

The Grand Secretary’s column is, of course, also the Chief Executive’s column and I would like to give you a feel for what we have been implementing over the past year, and our hopes for the future. As Chief Executive, one of the reasons I was hired was to oversee the modernisation of the organisation in terms of its administration. The Chief Executive and the 90 or so staff at 60 Great Queen Street are responsible for the 180,000 members in England and Wales and some 20,000 members in our Districts overseas, for the upkeep and commercial realisation of the headquarters – a Grade 2* art deco masterpiece – and for supporting the committees which give direction and strategy to the membership organisation. 

Some of the most important changes will not be obvious to you but will help build an organisation capable of delivering the will of the Rulers and the Board and Committee of General Purposes in a manner which serves and supports you, the members. There have been changes in roles and staff as is inevitable with any change management process, but we are moving, at pace, towards becoming a more transparent headquarters whose purpose is understood and appreciated.

Investors in People has advised us on some of these changes as we transform the way we do things, and we have just learnt that we have been awarded Investors in People accreditation. We are at the tail end of a wholesale restructure to ensure that ‘delivering for our members’ is at the heart of everything we do. The Directory of Lodges and Chapters and Masonic Year Book are now living online documents, and you may now book in, and pay for Quarterly Communications and Supreme Grand Chapter online (saving 1,800 man hours for the Secretariat a year). We have also increased the commercial hire of our wonderful building by 30 per cent year on year, without affecting our masonic hires, thereby offsetting the costs we have to pass on to you. New video conferencing suites enable members up and down the country to participate in the decisions being made here in London and we are training more people than ever before – from Provincial Grand Masters to Media Ambassadors, Provincial Grand Secretaries to Almoners and Communications Officers.

From January we will have a Member Services Department incorporating Registration, the Chancellery, and a Department for the Districts to support the Provinces and Districts as well as delivering our renewed focus on attracting new members and engaging our current membership. A new communications structure will focus on getting the positive messages of Freemasonry known, and ensuring the Court of Public Opinion is firmly on our side. Imagine an organisation ‘normalised’ in the public consciousness. Where going to a lodge meeting was regarded in the same manner as going out for a meal, going to watch the rugby or going to the cinema.

Imagine an organisation where writing the same details on different forms every step of your masonic journey was a thing of the past; where clearance Certificates could be obtained at the click of a button; where you could update your personal details in a few seconds and where candidates received information on the ceremonies they had just been through the following morning. Imagine lodges being visible in the community – volunteering to help with what matters to them – and being regarded as an outward expression of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth; where lodge secretaries didn’t spend hours on installation returns, and where Grand Lodge certificates were dispatched with the merest twitch of Bro Secretary’s index finger. These are some of the things the Executive and staff, the various committees, working groups and volunteers are looking at realising over the coming 18 months as we seek to improve how we administer your organisation.

These changes are not, of course, about altering our character or our essence. They are not about changing our rituals or outlook, or imposing faddish political correctness or unnecessary change for change’s sake. The United Grand Lodge of England will always be here to act as a custodian of the values and traditions of Freemasonry that inspire men to lead better lives for the benefit of society. We are here to curate those areas that are precious to us while promoting a straightforward organisation that is supportive, self-confident, welcoming, member focused, friendly and fun, because that is an organisation so many people would want to join, and would never dream of leaving.

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary

‘Imagine an organisation where going to a lodge meeting was regarded by the public in the same manner as going out for a meal, going to watch the rugby or going to the cinema’

Published in UGLE
Page 1 of 6

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