Women's rites

With its roots in social reform, the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, also known as Freemasonry for Women, is a force for empowerment, says Grand Master Christine Chapman

What inspired you to become a Freemason?

My father was a mason and he loved every minute of it. He came to it late in life, but made some wonderful friends. It meant so much to him to belong. My mother joined at his behest and my husband was one, too, so I knew quite a lot about it. My mother asked me to join, so I took the plunge and entered the Constance Leaver Lodge, No. 39, in Marble Arch. I’ve now been a Freemason for 42 years. And I’ve never regretted it for a minute! 

You became Grand Master in 2014. How have you found it?

It’s almost 24/7 now. I’m always at the end of my mobile and on social media, looking for opportunities to promote the fraternity. I had quite a rapid rise after a number of years as a ‘pale blue brother’. My first office was as a Grand Steward and by then, I’d made Freemasonry my life and I think they recognised I was dedicated. You can’t take on the responsibilities of a Grand Master without giving yourself to it 100 per cent. 

What are the origins of women’s Freemasonry?

The old myth that it began with inquisitive women being discovered hidden in lodge cupboards, grandfather clocks and under floorboards – and that they were made masons to protect the secrets – is entertaining, but none of these women went on to develop women’s Freemasonry. 

It began in prerevolutionary 18th-century France with the Lodges of Adoption, which were female masonic societies under the adoption of masculine lodges. When the French Revolution arrived, all these lodges were for the chop, at least metaphorically. However, women were coming to the forefront of French intellectual society and Maria Deraismes, a well-known writer and supporter of women’s rights, was invited to become a full member of Loge des Libres Penseurs, working under the Grande Loge Symbolique de France. Her initiation in 1882 caused a schism, so this lodge and nine others seceded to form a new Grand Lodge called La Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise. And a new parallel movement was formed that eventually became known as Le Droit Humain, or the International Order of Co-Masonry. 

Not long after this, the radical feminist Annie Besant travelled to France to join this movement and when she returned to England, she decided to formed the British Federation of the International Order of Co-Masonry in 1902, and remained its leader until her death in 1933. However, in true masonic fashion, there was a breakaway by members who wanted their Freemasonry to run along similar lines to UGLE. So in 1908 a new Grand Lodge was formed called the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry, or HFAM, although they later added The Order of Women Freemasons to their title and are now usually referred to as the OWF. Up until this point, female Freemasons had used the term ‘sister’. But now they decided that as members of a universal brotherhood, it was more suitable to be styled as ‘brother’. 

‘It’s almost 24/7 now. I’m always at the end of my mobile and on social media, looking for opportunities to promote the fraternity’

What type of Freemasonry was practised in the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Masonry?

For the first five years of its existence, they practised only the Craft degrees, but some members wished to introduce the Royal Arch. And having received the degree from former members of an extant UGLE chapter, they formed one themselves to practise the Royal Arch. But the Grand Lodge of HFAM decreed that the time was not yet ripe for this introduction. 

So on 27 November 1913, Mrs Elizabeth Boswell Reid and her daughter Mrs Lily Seton Challen set up their own Grand Lodge to be known as The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, or HFAF, which is my Grand Lodge. Elizabeth Boswell Reid became our first Grand Master. So in 1913 we had three masonic Grand Lodges admitting both men and women, although women outnumbered the men in both HFAM and HFAF. Eventually these fraternities decided to become single-sex, and by 1933, we had achieved this aim in HFAF.

So HFAF was founded on the wave of social change in 1913? 

We were inspired by the suffragettes and were founded on a streak of rebellion, because we’d broken away from another group. But they were all founded with the same principles – to empower women. We had one suffragette I know of – Helen Fraser, a great orator who inspired women to join the suffrage movement. 

What’s the difference between the HFAF and OWF societies?

The OWF are much larger than us. But we like to think we’re more flexible and can react more quickly to initiatives and seize opportunities. Carpe Diem is one of my mantras and another is that there are no problems, only solutions. Take the consecration of our New Delhi Lodge. We had an Indian lady who came over to the UK, joined a lodge and took her degrees because she was determined to take Freemasonry to India. But she couldn’t get other Indian women to come over to England to take their degrees. So we went out there to make it happen. 

‘We have to fight people who think we’re upset that we can’t join the men. At HFAF, we want to work as women, for an organisation of women, doing things for women’

What are the misconceptions about women’s Freemasonry?

We sometimes come across men who don’t think we could possibly be doing it at the same level as them. So we’ve had to fight that. Nowadays they’re much more supportive and UGLE is in particular. We also have to fight people who think we are somehow upset that we can’t join the men. At HFAF, we want to work as women, for an organisation of women, doing things for women. We have a saying: it’s a bit like football – the same game, the same rules, but different teams. 

How is the relationship between you and UGLE? 

We have a very good working relationship. Take the Gender Reassignment Policy; we worked together on that. Our policy mirrors UGLE’s, so if any of our members want to become a man, they can remain a member. And we have an agreement to accept members from each other’s organisations if they’d feel happier in an organisation filled with members of their new gender. We’ve also been working with UGLE in the Universities Scheme since 2016, as students now demand that women be given the same opportunities to become Freemasons. 

What else are you doing to grow your membership?

Growing our membership is a slow process, because to be honest, as fast as we get new members in, older members either stop coming due to old age, or because they’ve passed on. But although we’re small, we punch above our weight with our initiative and innovation. We have very committed and enthusiastic overseas lodges in Spain, Gibraltar, Romania and India, and next year a lodge is opening in Washington, DC. 

Why do you think a woman should join your fraternity?

I think that even nowadays, women need to feel empowered. Freemasonry offers that by making women confident, self-aware and self-assured. It’s a wonderful system of morality and guidance to help you lead a better life, achieved through allegory and symbolism. Women appreciate belonging to a group of other women. Especially today, when people have hundreds of friends online, but might not have real people who they can connect with. Women take Freemasonry every bit as seriously as the men. I can honestly say that my life has been transformed immeasurably by being a female Freemason and a member of HFAF. And I will defend the right of women to be Freemasons until my dying day.

Published in Features

Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter

14 November 2018 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes

Companions, it is a great pleasure to see so many of you here this morning, and I wish to particularly welcome those of you who are attending Supreme Grand Chapter for the first time.

Our journey through Masonry can be thought of as a series of ‘First times’. Of course, we all remember our initiation, but this is followed by a number of other masonic milestones. One learns and delivers the first piece of ritual, visits another Lodge or Chapter for the first time, gains a first office, and passes through a first chair. For some, other offices beckon whilst others are content to direct and, on occasions, ‘tut’ from the back benches.

One ‘First Time’ that all of us here this morning have shared is the moment in the Royal Arch ceremony where the blindfold comes off and the vault is revealed. We find ourselves surrounded, more often than not, by our friends and the banners of the Tribes of Israel. That is a truly unique moment in Freemasonry and one which candidates frequently comment on later in the evening.

The ability to think back and re-live that moment, and all the other moments we have enjoyed in our lives is one of the wonders of being human. The desire to share those experiences we value, and pass them on to others, so that they too might experience them in the same fashion, is something we value enormously. Our masonic experiences are, of course, no different. We invite people to join those chapters whose membership we have enjoyed and we ask people into those Orders that we value.

We won’t always get this right and I urge you, think hard about why that might be. What might we have been able to do to improve things for those we ask to join us to ensure that they get the most from their membership? Were we perhaps more interested in ensuring that there was another candidate for Exaltation rather than thinking whether we were prepared to be as welcoming as we ought?

Just as could be said for the Craft, it is an undoubted truth that the Royal Arch is not for everybody. Our detractors, even within the masonic community speak of impenetrable ritual and overly long lectures. This need not be the case and with a little imagination the work is easily shared and, as I have often said in the past, a change of voice can reinvigorate both the candidate and the ceremony.

I have often wondered, and, indeed, spoken about why quite so many masons, after their third degree, fail to seek those further explanations offered by the Holy Royal Arch, yet it appears that many still do not. We should not be shy about explaining to those who are not yet our Companions the benefit of ensuring that they have as complete a picture as possible of the masonic journey.

In a world ever more willing to draw conclusions from a paucity of evidence, from unsubstantiated opinion or from the salacious gossip of others, something which teaches us the importance of seeking more of the ‘Whole Picture’ should never be underestimated.

With the upcoming launch of Solomon, another first for UGLE, and its numerous articles on the Royal Arch, its origins, ceremonies and splendour, we have begun to address the lack of understanding that puts some candidates off as they pass through unfamiliar territory. Solomon, of course, is a large learning resource and it covers not only the Royal Arch but the three Craft degrees as well. It is quite right that those whose curiosity is aroused, and who have chosen to complete their Craft journey should be able to explore the thoughts and meaning behind such a wonderful legacy of fundamental truths.

It is a great sadness to me that in some parts of the world, and even in some parts of our own constitution, the Craft and Royal Arch are uncomfortable bedfellows. However, I also derive great pleasure from seeing the large number of instances where this is clearly not the case and Royal Arch membership is actively promoted throughout the Constitution as I strongly feel it should be.

The Craft and the Royal Arch should get on together not because the Book of Constitutions tells us that they must, but rather because there is an obvious synergy between the two. The Royal Arch completes Craft Masonry and it is the obvious and right next step in the masonic journey. For me, it has provided great enjoyment over the years and I know that there are thousands of Brethren out there for whom the same could be true. Let us all consider what we can best do about this.

Published in Speeches

A unique event took place on 22nd October 2018, as the Provinces of East and West Lancashire joined forces to create the fourth Chapter of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Universities Scheme

Palatine Chapter No. 2447, which is proud to have as honorary members the Grand Superintendents of both Provinces, Sir David Trippier and Tony Harrison, meets twice a year – once in East Lancashire and once in West Lancashire – and now has over 40 members from both Provinces.

This inaugural meeting of the Chapter worked an Installation Ceremony and then exalted into the Order three members from the Universities Scheme’s Craft lodge Old Mancunians’ with Mount Sinai No. 3140.

Published in Universities Scheme

The friends and colleagues of Tom Jackson gathered at Chorley Masonic Hall, in the Province of West Lancashire, for a meeting of St George’s Lodge of Chorley No. 7161 to celebrate Tom's 50 years in the Craft

Tom has been a very well-known figure in Masonic circles nationally for many years, not least because of his current status as Grand Master of the Order of the Allied Masonic Degrees.

Indeed, in this Masonic Order, Tom has a ‘Council’ (the equivalent of a Craft lodge) named after him. It was a tribute to the regard in which Tom is held, that saw so many leaders of other Masonic Orders join him at his celebration.

As expected, the turnout was high with 105 lodge members and guests. The lodge was opened by Worshipful Master Paul Greenway who welcomed Tony Harrison, Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, into the lodge. On this occasion, Tony retained the gavel of the lodge to lead the celebrations.

Tom was initiated into St George’s Lodge of Chorley 50 years ago, being installed as Master in 1982. Since then he has found his way into Royal Arch, Mark Masons and many more Masonic Orders.

In UGLE, he was given Grand Rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies from 2000-2012 and appointed Past Senior Grand Deacon in 2012.

In summarising Tom’s achievements and service, Tony Harrison said: 'Tom is a fine example to the members of this lodge and indeed to us all. Now, having served as a Freemason for a period of 50 years, may I offer you my heartiest congratulations on this marvellous achievement and great milestone in your life.

'As the head of this great Province of West Lancashire, I have issued a certificate to commemorate this special day.'

The certificate of appreciation was then read and shortly afterwards, the celebrant and his many friends enjoyed a meal and the opportunity to reflect on 50 eventful years.

Quarterly Communication

12 September 2018 
An address by RW Bro Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, and RW Bro Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire

A programme to promote learning and development

CASH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, on behalf of the Improvement Delivery Group, we would like to spend a few minutes explaining the learning and development programme that has evolved over the last three years and will be introduced in two month’s time.

AHB: So Stuart where has this learning and development intiative come from?

CASH: Three years ago, the Membership Focus Group was formed to consider what needed to be done to promote Freemasonry as a relevant, worthwhile and attractive organisation in the 21st century. It undertook a series of surveys that enabled members to express personal views, experience and expectations. Over 80,000 responses were received.

AHB: What did they discover?

CASH: The majority of responders stated that understanding our symbolism, moral and philosophical issues was essential or at least very important. Significantly, many expressed interest to learn more of our history and traditions. Royal Arch members had the greatest interest. This interest and expectation to learn was evident across all age groups, particularly amongst newer and younger members.

AHB: And what did you find out about their learning experiences?

CASH: Many reported that they had unmet learning expectations and needs, that too little time, guidance and support was offered to extend learning beyond performing the ritual and ceremonial well. The results also very stongly suggested that many members have a general lack of understanding and a relative dearth of accessible resources to refer to.

AHB: So what did the MFG conclude?

CASH: That whilst the performance of ritual is a highly valued tradition of our constitution and social and charitable aspects are of key importance, we were failing many new and current members who seek to improve themselves through greater insight, knowledge and understanding of Freemasonry. Furthermore, that only through a personal ability to communicate and share these values can Freemasonry hope to demonstrate its worth and value in the 21st century. Our Members are a vital communication channel and need help and support to fulfil this.

Now Anthony, you’ve asked the questions so far and I’m sure that many, especially those behind us, are up to speed with much of what I’ve already said. We ought now to turn to the specifics of what we have been preparing and how this will address these findings.

AHB: Absolutely right, ask me anything you like!

CASH: OK. I imagine there will be some here today who will feel that this is a bit over the top. After all, if you are really keen to learn you will find a book or search the net won’t you? Surely, it’s a personal journey?.

AHB: In some respects yes, but the starting point for most of us is to have what we have experienced explained. The opportunity to offer an explanation in the lodge or chapter can be much more effective. This can signpost relevant material and help us along our own personal masonic journey.

CASH: Tell me more.

AHB: Ritual and ceremonies are core to Masonic life. Whilst many members enjoy learning and performing ritual, often key messages and nuances are missed. The opportunity to explore and understand is rarely provided at Lodge or Chapter meetings or is considered a poor alternative to a ceremony.

Many members are curious and have a sincere wish to improve their understanding. They have expectations when they join and these should evolve over time. We have a responsibility to ensure that our members have ready access to the intellectual and practical resources to enhance their Freemasonry, fulfill their interest and help them become more rounded and committed members. There is a genuine concern that a concentration on the performance of ritual, without appreciating what we are doing and why, overlooks the important messages that lie within and is one reason why some members choose to leave.

CASH: So what benefit will a learning and development approach offer the individual member?

AHB: Greater understanding will add to enjoyment and improve ceremonies. Being more knowledgeable will boost confidence to talk in a comfortable and open way about what Freemasonry means personally. When learning becomes a regular Lodge and Chapter activity, membership should be more fulfilling and meaningful. In turn, this should aid attendance, retention and engagement.

CASH: So what is Solomon?

AHB: A good question, although a wide selection of books and online resources are available, it takes effort to identify appropriate pieces to use within the lodge environment. Solomon is a central repository of informative material that will answer some of the questions and point members along the path of daily advancement in masonic knowledge.

CASH: Who can use it?

AHB: It is designed to be used by individual masons, lodges, chapters, Provinces and Districts and to fit comfortably with the needs of all levels of experience and interest. Solomon will be beneficial to everyone. It can be used on multiple platforms such as smartphones, tablets and computers and currently contains over 350 items. It will continue to grow and evolve.

CASH: So does Solomon provide definitive answers?

AHB: No, there is no definitive UGLE view. Solomon is a collection of credible views and interpretations. So, you may find different explanations of a symbol or ceremony. This variation in interpretation should stimulate discussion and debate. Such is the nature of Freemasonry.

CASH: I’m pretty busy. I need to find things quickly and easily. How will Solomon help me?

AHB: Once you have registered and enrolled in one or more modules, you will be able to explore Solomon to your hearts content. It has been designed to foster curiosity and to draw you in to seek answers. There are various ways to search so you can expect to quickly find, read or download as much as you wish. Given smart phone access, Solomon could for instance readily provide an answer to a question at a Class of Instruction.

I would add caution however and Solomon also flags this up. Material is separated into modules for each degree and the Royal Arch. We ask users not to explore prematurely beyond the degrees that they have had already conferred so as not to spoil the revelations of their personal journey; to do so would be a shame.

CASH: The benefits to the individual are clear. But how will Solomon help my Lodge or Chapter?

AHB: The material provided by Solomon complements both the Members Pathway and individual mentoring programmes. Materials include a wide range of “nuggets”, papers for presentation and demonstrations with supporting explanation. Collectively, they provide a selection of interesting and accessible material that, if suitably chosen and well delivered, will complement or replace a ceremony. They will be favourably received, encourage attendance and interest. Ideally, learning activities will become an appreciated and regular feature of lodge and chapter meetings.

CASH: You’ve referred to ‘Nuggets’. Just what are they?

AHB: A Nugget is a five to ten-minute item of interest that will easily fit into a lodge evening; possibly to set the scene for the meeting, or as a short conclusion, or even when the candidate retires. They are flexible and may be delivered by a selected member. They are also very suitable for personal study and a great source of information for lodge quizzes. Nuggets may also lead to a presentation that expands on a topic of interest.

CASH: No doubt some will feel that there is no spare time at a meeting or that this is another imposition?

AHB: We hope that the benefits of making time for learning will readily become apparent and that all Members will increasingly value the time devoted to it. A well organised lodge or chapter will have a programme that reflects the needs and interests of all its members, that they enjoy and which encourages them to attend. Learning may also extend beyond the regular meeting to Class of Instruction or special events for a masonic centre or special interest group. Rather than view this as an imposition, we should view it as an opportunity and an easy way to keep and develop interest and enjoyment.

Now Stuart you’ve been a Provincial Grand Master for longer than me, surely introducing Solomon will have implications for Provinces and Districts too?

CASH: You’re right Anthony, delivering the change agenda for Freemasonry does place additional demand on Provincial rulers and their Teams. Whilst it would be very easy to see Solomon as just another initiative conceived centrally, it is based on expressed member feedback and will, we hope, be favourably received. The reaction of those that have had access to the material already is extremely positive and I am sure that its general use, as outlined today, will lead to a more confident, enthusiastic and informed membership, well equipped to explain and communicate Freemasonry to friends, family, potential members and the public.

AHB: Would you accept that Provinces and Districts may need some help with this?

CASH: Yes absolutely. We have anticipated this and are providing resources to help them to introduce Solomon and develop local learning activities and resources. We wish to be supportive and to work with the appointed lead in each Craft and Royal Arch Province and District.

One of the key areas will be to ensure that material that needs to be presented is delivered in an understandable and engaging way. This takes skill and so we are asking Provinces to identify suitable members to be presenters, develop their skills and promote their use. A critical goal is to move away from the days of the boring lecture.

Many Provinces have provided educational activities for some time, so for them this is not a new topic. We are eager to promote and share good examples, these include specialist lodges and working with light blue clubs. We encourage a collaborative approach between the Craft and the Royal Arch.

AHB: Stuart, it may be that you haven’t convinced everyone this morning about the need?

CASH: Well, firstly, lets remember that none of this is prescriptive. We are however responding to the wishes of members and I hope that in these few minutes, we have demonstrated that Solomon has real benefits across the board. It will help to attract, retain and produce well informed and capable members and leaders for the future. Learning and development is closely intertwined with the Members Pathway and in that sense is an essential component of our membership strategy.

AHB: How and when can I access it and find out more?

CASH: There is an introductory article from Sir David Wootton in this month’s Freemasonry Today. All Craft and Royal Arch Provinces have been advised of a special event in late November. This will be an important opportunity for them to be briefed, have advance access to Solomon and to begin to plan their support. Important elements of the launch will be videoed to support the Districts. The December edition of Freemasonry Today will carry a more detailed article and provide each member with an explanatory leaflet. So, from December, everyone will be able to register and enjoy full access to Solomon.

I suggest we conclude with a little about the future?

AHB: Yes indeed. We intend that Solomon will expand in volume, range and diversity of material. We wish to promote Solomon wherever we can, to share best practice and to offer support. There will always be a need to commission and source new and credible material. There is plenty out there waiting to be shared and willing able members eager to write material for us. We will provide guidance for potential contributors later this year.

CASH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, I should like to place on record that the development of Solomon is the result of a huge commitment of time, energy and determination on the part of the Project Team, the Panel of Editors and indeed the authors, provinces and publishers that have provided some first class material for us to work with.

May I leave you all with a concluding thought that there are three clear golden-threads to bring together, the Members Pathway, Mentoring and Learning & Development. Integrating them into a seamless whole will ensure that lodges and chapters are in a strong position to grow and fulfil their obligations to their Members.

Solomon is part of the solution. It will foster curiosity, develop understanding and continue to evolve over time.

Published in Speeches

It's the start

With an emphasis on professionalism and transparency, President of the Board of General Purposes Geoffrey Dearing wants to take Freemasonry to a new level of alignment

How would you describe your masonic progression?

It was a very slow burn. I helped to manage a law practice in East Kent and became a Freemason in 1974 when two of my partners, whom I respected, proposed and seconded me. I only used to go to four meetings a year as I couldn’t do more than that; I was very busy working around the courts. But I found that those four evenings were very relaxing, because you’re with different people who have a similar view of life. 

I joined the Royal Arch in 1981. That was purely accidental: somebody’s son was a member of our lodge, and I got talking to his father, who turned out to be the Grand Superintendent for the Province of East Kent. But, again, I was very busy with the business, so nothing else happened until the end of the 1980s, when I was made a Steward in the Province in the Craft and the following year Senior Warden. 

Along the way I spent a year as president of the Kent Law Society and became a Past Assistant Grand Registrar in 1994, which is a common office for a lawyer to take in Grand Lodge. But I wasn’t involved at all in the Province, as I had been made managing partner of one of Kent’s largest law firms. I just had no time for anything other than getting on with the business.

When did your focus change?

In 2004, I stepped down as managing partner. My firm very kindly kept me on as a consultant, and I found the change quite reinvigorating. When you’re responsible for two or three hundred people, you’re not able to do your own thing, because you are looking for consensus. I was able to go off and do things that interested me. I did a lot of lecturing on various legal-related bits and pieces and worked with some small companies.

By 2011, I had ceased to be a consultant and coincidentally received a telephone call asking if I would become Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for East Kent. I’ve never had any grand career plan; if I have been asked to do a job and think I can do it, I’ve done it, simple as that. So that’s really why I’m sitting here now – it was never my ambition.

How did you approach the PGM role?

I went in there entirely cold. I hadn’t been on the executive and knew nothing about how the office ran. But I had run a business. So, I went in there and started asking questions – it was not commercial, and there was a lot that I could bring to it that would make it work better. 

I believe strongly that communication is fundamental. Most of the really big errors and some of the biggest claims as a lawyer that I’ve been involved in were avoidable. Things get to where they get to because of poor communication or, indeed, a total lack of it. So, when I started in East Kent in 2011, I supported a communications team. 

We don’t tend to know enough about what Freemasons do for a living, but I found that we had web designers, we had people who really understood software and we had people connected with the media and the written word. It meant that when we had the Holy Royal Arch 200-year celebrations in 2013, we were able to interest the media, and ITV came down.

‘When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right’

How have you found becoming President?

You’re in touch with every single aspect of how the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) runs, which is fascinating. I’m trustee of the Library and Museum, I’m on the Grand Master’s Council and I’m involved with the External Relations Committee. All aspects of what’s happening in Grand Lodge are ultimately the responsibility of the Board. It gives you an insight into the entire picture, and very few have that privilege.

When you have to make big calls, you need as much information as possible in order to get it right. I think in order to get everything joined up, to get alignment, the communication with the Provinces is very important. What goes on outside UGLE is every bit as important as what goes on inside it, so coming from the background I’ve had, I know about what goes on around the country in the Provinces. I’ve dealt with the same problems that other Provinces have experienced; I’ve got some understanding and some sympathy. 

What do you mean by alignment?

The biggest thing in terms of what I hope can be achieved is improving alignment. If you ask what Freemasonry is about, it might be expressed entirely differently if it’s in Cornwall, Durham, Carlisle or London, but it should be broadly the same message. This hasn’t necessarily been the case, because everyone’s in their own areas, not always talking to others.

After the Second World War, there was a period when you just didn’t talk about Freemasonry, and people thought that was the norm. That did us no favours at all. You’re always going to have a lot of conspiracy theorists, and if you’re not providing correct information, that’s their oxygen. If they put false accusations in enough newspapers and say it often enough, people will believe it. We have to communicate.

What role does communication play in alignment?

What you do with communications and how you address those people who are talking nonsense is important. If someone publishes a newspaper article that says Freemasons have a lodge in Westminster with many MPs in it, that’s untrue. So challenge it. You do it quietly, but you do it fairly. And you make sure there’s an audit trail. I know the truth is far less exciting, but why don’t we have transparency? Why don’t we have complete openness? Why aren’t we relaxed? Why don’t we encourage the Library and Museum to talk openly about Freemasonry to people who visit us? I think that’s exactly how it should be and how it should develop.

How are you different to your predecessors?

I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve. That’s how it has managed to survive for 300 years. My responsibility as President of the Board of General Purposes is to try to ensure that we stay relevant. It is our job to look at the big picture and the messages we put forward. We’ve got to get our thinking straight at the centre and then consider how to get the messages out there, making sure that all our organs of communication are going down the same lines.

The more we communicate, the better. David Staples is going to be a very good CEO for the organisation, and I think his approach to management has not been seen before at UGLE. But that is how it needs to be in the modern world. If we get the set-up, professionalism and the operation here as good as it can be, it’s the start. 

Why should someone become a Freemason?

One of the attractions of Freemasonry is that it actually takes away a lot of insecurity, because it creates stability and has very good support mechanisms. If you think about the world today, a bit of consistency doesn’t go amiss. 

If we can get alignment, I think Freemasonry will become more normal, more accepted and more understood. And that’s a good thing. It’s not for everybody; a lot of people don’t like the ceremonial that goes with it, but others do. 

I don’t think it’s any accident that those who have been involved in the armed services or organisations that have a certain disciplinary culture find Freemasonry very attractive. I absolutely get that, but we all have different reasons. For me it’s actually about the people. I have met some terrific people along the way, and it’s been my privilege to know them and to spend time with them. 

‘I’m hugely respectful of tradition and history, but the success of Freemasonry will come from it being able to evolve’

Where do you want masonry to be in five years?

It’s a big question. I don’t have a burning ambition for massive change, but I do have a goal to improve and evolve. The basics would be that we have good alignment within UGLE, including the Library and Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. They’re separate and independent operations, but they’re both masonic and are golden opportunities for communication with the wider world. 

I mentioned relevance before, because if Freemasonry is going to regenerate and be here in another 50 or 100 years, staying relevant will be part and parcel of that journey. Then there’s the way in which we communicate what we’re about – we have to do this in a much better way in order to strengthen our membership. It’s a big ambition, and I’m not sure that it can be achieved in five years, but we can certainly start the process. 

We have a fantastic opportunity here. Today is not going to repeat itself tomorrow, or any other time, so we need to make the most of it. I always have the ambition that, every day, something constructive gets done.

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 11 September 2018 00:00

The Masonic Family: Knights Templar

With their own terminology and structures, masonic Orders offer new opportunities for growth, development and friendship in Freemasonry. We look at the origins, requirements and beliefs of the Knights Templar

When did it begin?

The earliest records of the masonic Knights Templar can be found in the minutes of the Chapter of Friendship in Portsmouth dated 1778. At that time, the degree was worked under lodges and chapters warranted by the Antient Grand Lodge using a variety of rituals. Lancashire had 10 of the first 40 encampments (now called Preceptories).

When did the Knights Templar become popular? 

In 1791, Templar Masonry entered a new era with the formation of its first Grand Conclave (now Great Priory). Thomas Dunckerley was Grand Master. At that time, there were just seven encampments in existence;  it wasn’t until after 1851 that the Order began to expand in response to the standardisation of the ritual.

Did the masonic Knights Templar fight in the Crusades?

There is no historical connection between the medieval Christian military order and the masonic body known as the United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta of England and Wales and its Provinces overseas – more commonly referred to as the Knights Templar.

What does the Order believe in?

Thomas Dunckerley wanted to promote a concept of chivalry and Christianity within a masonic framework.

So is it open to all faiths now? 

The Order is one of several in masonry in which membership is open only to Freemasons who profess a belief in Christianity.

 How many members are there? 

The Order numbers just under 12,500.

How do I join? 

Membership can be achieved through the recommendation of an existing member.

Is it difficult to progress?  

Having joined the Knights Templar, the next step is to take the Malta Degree, which is a two-stage process: first becoming a Knight of St Paul by taking the Mediterranean Pass, and then becoming a Knight of Malta.

Can anyone from the Craft become a member?

To become part of the Order, a brother must be a Master Mason and a member of the Royal Arch.

Who heads up the Knights Templar? 

The Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master is Paul Raymond Clement, who joined the Order in 1984 and was installed as its Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master in May 2017.

Where is the  nerve centre? 

The headquarters of the Order is Mark Masons’ Hall, St James’s, London, from where all administration activities are conducted.

What causes does it support? 

The Order has a favoured charity that members have supported since 1915 – the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital, which is the main provider of charitable eye care in the West Bank, Gaza and the East Jerusalem area.

Published in More News

Hungary is a long way from Middlesex, but in the quest for disseminating masonic enlightenment and learning, several Royal Arch Freemasons from Middlesex made the journey

Their destination was the City of Kecskemét, which is the eighth largest city in Hungary with a population of circa 110,000. On the weekend of 29th/30th June 2018, a team of Middlesex Royal Arch Provincial Grand Stewards, with permission from Supreme Grand Chapter and accompanied by Andrew Ford from Surrey and Sean Austin from Middlesex, made a visit to the Symbolic Grand Chapter of Hungary, to deliver a demonstration of the Passing of the Veils ceremony. 

The demonstration gives an insight into what precedes the Exaltation ceremony in a Bristol Chapter. Since 1834, within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Somerset, it is the only Province in England where the ritual is performed, but only in Chapters in the City of Bristol itself. However, it is used elsewhere as part of the Royal Arch workings in the United States of America, Scotland and Ireland. English Royal Arch Masons in the other Provinces will know of this working and of the fraternal invitation that extends to them by Freemasons in Bristol to witness the working.

The Passing of the Veils ceremony refers to and uses the Ark of the Covenant: ‘a table on which rested the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of stone and the pot of manna.’ One was not available in Hungary, and given the significant size and weight of transporting this piece of furniture, Middlesex Freemason Steve Heynes requested that one be produced locally. This was duly done using supplied photographs.

However, there was no scale supplied and the Hungarian craftsman looked up the dimensions – some wires were crossed though and an impressively larger version was produced instead.

An informal BBQ was held on the Friday night after arrival where, as well as being treated to a wonderful feast, the demonstration team were entertained by Márk Beke, Hungary's young musician of the year who gave a lovely evening of Trombone playing interspersed with traditional Hungarian dancing from children from the Kodály Zoltán School of Music. The following morning, the Symbolic Grand Chapter of Hungary held a meeting with the team from Middlesex delivering the demonstration of the Passing of the Veils ceremony, which was enjoyed by all that attended.

On the Saturday afternoon, the St Stephen Lodge No. 7 of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary held its Installation meeting. St Stephen’s Lodge under the guidance of Mark Walton and Seamus Conlan hosted the weekend. This was also an unusual meeting as St Stephen Lodge use the old workings and did the full Installation in the Board of Installed Masters, including proving the Master Elect in all three degrees before he was entrusted.

The Festive Board took place afterwards where each member of the visiting team was presented with a decanter of Pálinka (Hungary fruit brandy) engraved with the crest of the Symbolic Grand Chapter.

Changing  of the guard

Graham Ives reflects on 10 years of teamwork free from preaching and dictating as he prepares to step down as Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent

In the middle of May 2008, Graham Ives received a letter from the Grand Secretary that would change his life. The Grand Secretary had been instructed by the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, to offer Graham the position of Provincial Grand Master for Lincolnshire. 

Graham was installed as Provincial Grand Master one month later. ‘I didn’t really know what the role held for me; it was a steep learning curve,’ he says. ‘For a time, I felt like a fish out of water, but I received much support, advice and friendship, and soon became very comfortable with the role.’

Graham’s rise to the role of Grand Superintendent in the Royal Arch happened at a more leisurely pace. ‘I had been a member of the Provincial Executive of the Royal Arch for a number of years before I became Grand Superintendent. I understood that role more fully and was immediately at ease with it,’ he says of the office, which he has held for as long as he has been Provincial Grand Master.

Occupying the two most senior roles in Lincolnshire Freemasonry, Graham knew there would be a tremendous amount to do in the years ahead. ‘Fundamental to my time in office has been a desire to reach out to every mason in the Province, whatever their rank. Whenever I was on an official visit, I ensured that I was talking not just to senior brethren and companions, but to everyone. 

‘My hope was always that when I left the lodge or chapter, everyone would be smiling and would have enjoyed my presence as much as I had enjoyed their company – from the newest Entered Apprentice to the longest-serving Grand Officer. I genuinely believe that I have achieved that goal.’

Graham recognises how crucial those around him were during his time as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent. ‘It would have been impossible for Lincolnshire to have achieved what it has without the capable and dedicated teams I have had the privilege of working with.’

Looking forward, Graham acknowledges that given the pace and form of modern Freemasonry, no one individual can accomplish all the tasks required. ‘The modern roles of the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent are very similar now to those of a chief executive. I believe that it is an exciting time to be a Freemason and that we can all look forward with confidence to the future.’

HIGHLIGHTS FROM A DECADE AS PGM

Far exceeding Festival targets

‘Against a target of £1.5 million, Lincolnshire raised £2.75 million for the 2014 Festival for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. This was right at the top of my achievements during my term of office. I was overwhelmed by the way in which the brethren and their families donated their hard-earned money to this very worthy cause, especially when you recall that for part of the time, the country was in recession.’

The Tercentenary service in Lincoln Cathedral

‘In Lincolnshire, we celebrated the Tercentenary in fine style, culminating in a magnificent service in Lincoln Cathedral. It took a lot of organising by a large number of people, but it paid off handsomely. It was a splendid and moving feeling to see the brethren and their companions, together with families and friends, filling the cathedral to capacity, wearing full masonic regalia.’

The commitment to involving Provincial officers

‘I made a decision to invite the year’s acting Provincial officers to accompany me on all my official visits. I wanted to create the opportunity for it to be something very special, but this is a big Province, stretching from the Humber almost to Peterborough. Would the officers want to make those journeys? It turned out that they did, and the visits have been a resounding success for the acting Provincial officers as well as the brethren and companions of the lodges and chapters visited. I suspect that I shall miss those official visits more than anything else.’

Consolidating the Royal Arch in Lincolnshire

‘I was determined that the Royal Arch would play a prominent part during my terms of office, not only as Provincial Grand Master but also as Grand Superintendent. A number of successful initiatives have taken place, and I am very grateful to all the dedicated Royal Arch masons who have supported me in these ventures. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Lincolnshire has one of the country’s highest percentages of Royal Arch masons in relation to Craft masons. We have consolidated the strength of the Royal Arch in Lincolnshire over the past 10 years, and there is a very sound platform to move forward.’

Our public position

Following the Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter, Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes hails the progress made in converting members in the Craft to Royal Arch

Grand Rank in the Royal Arch is both a senior and, in many cases, a public position within the organisation. I would hope that you all feel willing to communicate the pride you now feel to those you meet, and to act as ambassadors for the Royal Arch not only to those within your lodges and chapters, but also to the general public at large. I do appreciate that the general public might not understand the relevance of the Royal Arch, but it clearly demonstrates your seniority within Freemasonry as a whole.

I have heard it said that the Royal Arch might have been somewhat eclipsed by the Tercentenary celebrations in the Craft, but far from it. The Royal Arch completes the Craft degrees, and increased interest and membership in the Craft can only be to the good of our Order. 

A new injection of pride and confidence in Freemasonry – in what we do, and in our relevance to the wider community from which we herald – can only result in a strong, confident and successful future.

WE ARE WINNING

We must be careful to maximise the momentum, energy and enthusiasm that surrounds Freemasonry at the moment as well as ensure that it is neither wasted nor neglected. We must make the effort and spare the time to explain who we are and what we do, and also ask ourselves why some of those brethren in our lodges have not taken that extra step to become our companions. We must listen to them and think hard on the answers they give. 

I believe we are winning. If we turn the clock back 10 years, we were experiencing a 30 per cent conversion rate from Craft to Royal Arch. Now there are very few Provinces or Districts where the ratio is under 40 per cent, and some are considerably higher.

May I take this opportunity to bid a fond farewell to Excellent Companion Willie Shackell, Grand Scribe Ezra, who has served in a number of senior appointments over the last 11 years. We all wish him well in his fourth, and what I am sure he hopes will be his final, retirement. 

Companions, I look forward to hearing of and reading about your exploits over the summer, and also to welcoming you back in the autumn.

‘A new injection of pride and confidence in Freemasonry can only result in a strong, confident and successful future’

Published in SGC
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