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 form 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

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
Monday, 05 November 2018 00:00

The 2018 AMULL Festival: 'King finds a King'

Professor Turi King, the scientist at the heart of the project to find the remains of King Richard III, was the speaker at the 18th annual festival of the Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL) which was held on 6th October in the cathedral city of Leicester

Around 100 people attended and, despite the rain, everyone enjoyed a superb day of fraternity, festivity and fun.

The festival was hosted this year by Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448, the Universities Scheme Lodge for the University of Leicester, with the programme for the event devised and administered by Dr Andy Green with support from AMULL Secretary Athelstane Aamodt.

The festival guests assembled for tea and coffee in cloistral hush of Leicester Cathedral, the resting place of King Richard III and the venue for the interfaith service conducted by the Rev Canon Michael Wilson, Grand Chaplain, whose excellent proceedings and highly topical address were rounded off with a rousing rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ which the assembled congregation sang with gusto. 

After the service, the guests made their way to the beautiful Guildhall, one of the best preserved timber-framed halls in the country and with a history dating back 600 years. There, Professor Turi King gave an entertaining and interesting talk on the excavation in Leicester that led to the discovery of King Richard III, managing to inject wit and humour into subjects like mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosomes. Her talk, which entirely captivated the audience, was rapturously received.

Professor King’s talk was followed by AMULL’s now-traditional champagne reception and then lunch in St. Martin’s House, culminating in a toast to AMULL given by Paul Marvin, the current Master of Wyggeston Lodge, with the response given by the AMULL President, David Williamson. 

AMULL was delighted to make hardship grants totalling £5,000 to three excellent students: Naomi Amos, Andrew Slater, and Joshua Holford whose respective stories were filled with inspiring grit and determination. AMULL was also delighted to make an award of £1,000 to Leicester University Scholarship Fund, which was accepted by Michael Turnbull on behalf of the University. This donation was generously matched from the Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charitable Association presented by the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger. 

AMULL President David Williamson said: ‘All-in-all a truly memorable Festival from every aspect.’

Next year’s festival will be hosted in London by Think and Thank Lodge No. 4112, one of the latest additions to the Universities Scheme.

Published in Universities Scheme
Wednesday, 12 September 2018 11:23

Pro Grand Master's address - September 2018

Quarterly Communication

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

Brethren, it is a pleasure to see you all back after the long, hot summer, and I would like to particularly welcome again those younger members of our Universities Scheme and, indeed, anyone else making their first visit to Quarterly Communications this September.

Brethren, this year we will see perhaps the greatest change in senior leadership within the Craft that there has ever been - and I'm not of course referring to the three of us! No fewer than 12 Provincial Grand Masters and seven District Grand Masters will have retired and their successors Installed by the end of this year. With each Installation ride the hopes of not just the members of that particular Province or District but, to a certain extent, the success and longevity of the Craft itself. More than ever before we expect so much from our leaders. We hold them accountable for the guardianship of a heritage stretching back centuries, and also for the future of the Craft, its growth and development and, dare I say, the innovation and change needed to allow it to flourish and grow. 

If we are to attract and engage our membership, and those who might flourish as members, we need to be not only responsive to the society in which we live, but also mould and form the perceptions of that society. It is quite right and proper that I pay tribute and thank those who, often for a decade or more, steward and safeguard the Ideals of the Craft for future generations.

Historically we have been a melting pot for ideas, a Brotherhood where concepts at the forefront of science and social change could be debated. We have been fortunate to count amongst our members some of the greatest minds of any age, Alexander Fleming and Edward Jenner; Scott of the Antarctic and Ernest Shackleton; Pope, Trollope, Burns, Kipling, and, like Sir Winston Churchill, those who truly valued service above the external advantages of rank and fortune.

Then, as now, there was not a ‘Right’ way of thinking, but a respect for all ways of thinking - some orthodox, some challenging. If we, as an organisation have a ‘unique selling point’ ghastly expression, I know, we respect each other, irrespective of our beliefs.

I know that some of our members were uncomfortable with the direction the Law has taken on issues such as gender fluidity and the obligation that puts upon us as individuals who pay due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become our place of residence.

I know from the debates that have been held up and down the country that there are similarly a large number of you who feel that our response to recent changes in the Law is generous, decent and open minded and you applaud it. 

Throughout our history our members have held vastly different views on many different subjects. It is one of our great strengths to encompass this breadth of views. Unlike the echo chambers of social media, we meet people who are different to us, who think differently, but that does not set us apart, or put us at variance; it binds us together as it did for those many freemasons who have gone before us. 

Brethren, this is one of the mnay things that, in my view, we have to offer society, and that so many outside the Craft could learn and prosper from, and it is just one of the many reasons I am proud to be Pro Grand Master.

Published in Speeches

Wheelchair sports charity WheelPower partnered with the Middlesex Masonic Sports Association to deliver a ‘Feel Inspired’ junior disability sports event for 12 to 18-year-olds in Uxbridge on 7 June 2018

The event was a great success, with 52 children from three local schools taking part in a wide range of sports including wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair badminton, powerlifting, fencing, boccia, modern pentathlon shooting and zone hockey. 

Amongst the helpers and trainers was Great Britain powerlifting gold medallist Louise Sugden, who coached powerlifting, showed her medals and inspired all present with her story. 

'The junior camp was a resounding success and was thoroughly enjoyed by all who participated,' said Oliver Buncombe, WheelPower's Sport Development Officer. 

'We are extremely grateful for the support we received from Brunel University, who provided the sports facilities we required and whose students were fantastic volunteers. A big thank you must also be said to the sports coaches who gave of their time to deliver the sports sessions.  

'Finally, we cannot thank the Middlesex Masonic Sports Association enough for their support in not only providing brilliant volunteers but for also funding this event. We hope that we will be able to work alongside them again and host more events like this in and around Middlesex in future.' 

Paul Sully, Chairman of the Middlesex Masonic Sports Association, added: 'We are very proud to be associated with this event and able to help Wheelpower transform lives through sport. It was a great day and we already have plans to repeat the exercise.'

Also supporting the event were Middlesex Provincial Stewards and a number of the members of Ruislip St Martin's Lodge No. 9125, which is the Universities Scheme Lodge associated with Brunel University.

Published in Initiatives & Clubs

The university lodge, the Lodge of Fraternity No. 1418, welcomed Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and Provincial Grand Master of Durham Eric Heaviside as guests to witness a triple second degree ceremony on 24th May 2018

David Chapman, Lodge of Fraternity, Stephen Cullen, Mowbray Lodge No. 5373 and David Squirrell, Universities Lodge No. 2352, were all passed to the second degree.

The candidates were conducted around the lodge by the senior deacon of their respective lodges.

Published in Universities Scheme

David Kenneth Williamson Lodge No. 9938 held its first meeting outside of London at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, to conduct a quintuple Passing ceremony on behalf of the three Universities Scheme Lodges in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland

The lodge is the Installed Masters Lodge for the Universities Scheme and whilst consecrated in London in 2016, it was agreed that the lodge meet around the English constitution to undertake second and third degree ceremonies on behalf Universities Scheme lodges.

The meeting was held in the very decorative surroundings of the Holmes Lodge Room on 4th May 2018 and was opened in due form by the Master Oliver Lodge, Grand Director of Ceremonies, with 66 Brethren in attendance, including David Kenneth Williamson, Immediate Past Master, Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master, David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, David Pratt, Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, West Riding, Peter Kinder, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, and Derek Buswell, Past Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland.

The five candidates David Hames of Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448, Jonathan Haslam and David Veryan Jones of Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767, and Marat Guysin and Steven Brian Szukielowicz of Lodge of Science and Art No. 8429 were Passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft in a superbly conducted ceremony.

Sir David Wootton, President of the Universities Scheme, provided an update on the Scheme and made mention of a recent audit undertaken of all Scheme lodges to help identify those who may benefit from extra help and support. He also highlighted the four strategic aims the Scheme was pursuing, namely: 

  • Providing support to lodges and producing ‘know how’ guides on topics such as lodge finance and ritual. Also suggesting to Lodge Almoners that they could focus on understanding their student members and when they have exams coming up, when they are graduating, and celebrating their successes. 
  • Talent transfer - how to assist members to find a new masonic home after leaving university.
  • The Royal Arch – the Scheme now has five Royal Arch Chapters and is looking at how best to develop this important part of the Scheme. 
  • Overseas - students from districts graduation in England and helping Districts attract students in their home countries.

Also mentioned was the important work of the New and Young Masons Clubs (NYMC) and that the Scheme was increasing its engagement with NYMC both on a local and national level to ensure that with items, such as talent transfer, both groups can work together. He also referenced the links with the Association of Medical, University and Legal Lodges (AMULL). 

David Kenneth Williamson, Past Assistant Grand Master, concluded: 'It was a perfect demonstration of how a multiple ceremony can be done without detriment to the candidates, and brought much credit to the lodge.' 

The Brethren retired to the Holmes Lounge were they were welcomed with reception drinks before a four-course dinner.

After grace, Mo Afsa, of Old Mancunians’ with Mount Sinai Lodge No. 3140 in Manchester, presented the DKW Loving Cup to the lodge. Under the watchful eye of David Kenneth Williamson, whose initials the cup bears the name, as Founder President of the Universities Scheme, the Loving Cup circulated around the room. There being six members of Apollo University Lodge No. 357 present, Paul Grier rose to claim the Cup on behalf of that lodge and announced that the next meeting would be held on Saturday 2nd June 2018. 

Published in Universities Scheme

Ruislip St Martin’s Lodge No. 9125 in Middlesex is supporting a number of students at Brunel University in their research endeavours

The Lodge actively engages with research students, specialising not only in Medicine but also in Engineering to bring much needed improvements to peoples’ lives in the wider world. Brunel University are participants in the Middlesex Province Universities Scheme.

Over recent years, the lodge has been supporting students on a number of worthy projects, which has also gained support from the Middlesex Provincial Relief Fund. These have included:

  • The Medical Research faculty has undertaken research into finding a cure for Progeria; an extremely rare genetic disorder in which symptoms resembling aspects of ageing are manifested at a very early age in young children. The lodge has made several donations to this very important research.
  • Ugandan student Janna Deeble was keen to develop a wheelchair that would cover rough terrain in remote and poor communities in Africa and elsewhere. An initial donation from the lodge resulted in a further source of funding via Kickstarter which purports to be the world’s largest funding platform for design projects. So far in excess of £90,000 has been raised for SafariSeat.
  • Another project involving engineering design was the creation of a low-cost cart which would enable produce to be taken to market across rough terrain. Simplistic in concept but no doubt highly practical in situ.

A further two projects receiving support from Ruislip St Martin’s Lodge relate to water purification systems, which is essential in disease prevention and good health. These projects were undertaken in both Mexico and in the Cameroon:

  • In 2017, the lodge supported two students, Reece Kelly and Harry Stiles, who were looking to provide a cheap and effective water filtration system in Mexico City. This was by way of a donation of £1,300 from the Middlesex Provincial Relief Fund which assisted with the costs of air fares to Mexico. With Mexico City’s problem with water purity and the heavy dependence on water deliveries at exorbitant prices, these Brunel students developed a purification system which could be used to collect run off water which would be purified. This development of a filter system has already led to the idea being used as a prototype, which is being further tested by Isla Urbana, a local community organisation in Mexico City.
  • The lodge also sponsored student Matt McClampha, who has designed a solar disinfecting solution for pure quality water in the village of Bambui in the Republic of Cameroon.

Middlesex Freemasons are continuing to work with Brunel University and its students on a number of international community projects.

Published in Universities Scheme

A renewal  of pride

For Director of Special Projects John Hamill, the Tercentenary celebrations have been an opportunity to reflect on the past, enjoy the present and plan for the future

One thing that I hope will come through to readers of this special souvenir edition of Freemasonry Today is that not only were the celebrations successful, but also that the brethren, their families and friends who attended them had a great deal of enjoyment in taking part – whether it was at the dramatic performance and ceremonial at the Royal Albert Hall or one of the many smaller local events.

The activities that took place around the country and in our Districts overseas were worthy of such a notable anniversary. But the celebrations were not limited to our own members. Many of our sister Grand Lodges around the world regarded the anniversary not just as being the Tercentenary of the Grand Lodge of England, but also the Tercentenary of the start of the organised, regular Freemasonry of which they now form a part.

Throughout the year there was a steady stream of visitors from other Grand Lodges who came to Freemasons’ Hall in London, simply to be here during a very special year and to say thank you to the ‘Mother Grand Lodge’.

PLACE FOR HUMOUR

Sometimes we take ourselves a little too seriously and forget that Freemasonry is to be enjoyed. We take great pride in our work and carry it out with dignity and decorum, but even within the confines of a lodge meeting there are times when humour and gentle banter has its place.

We should keep in mind that part of the Address to the Brethren, given at each Installation meeting, in which we are reminded that we should ‘unite in the Grand Design of being happy and communicating happiness’. A great deal of happiness was communicated during the Tercentenary celebrations. That is something we should preserve and build on in the future.

When attending major celebrations as Pro Grand Master, the late Lord Farnham would often say that there were three things we should do at special anniversaries: reflect on the past, celebrate the present and plan for the future. Were he still with us, I think he would agree that we have followed his wish list during the Tercentenary year.

A RICH HISTORY

During the lead-up to the celebrations, we certainly reflected on the past. The history conference in Cambridge organised by Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, in September 2016; the new exhibition gallery at the Library and Museum in London; the splendid celebratory book The Treasures of English Freemasonry 1717 – 2017 and the amazing performance at the Royal Albert Hall will all be permanent records of that reflection. To this we should add the exhibitions that were mounted in masonic premises and public museums around the country, and the many talks given by masonic historians.

We celebrated in style, as the events recorded in this issue show. Our grateful thanks should go to everyone at both national and local levels who put so much work into making the celebrations a success. It was hard and, at times, exhausting work, but not without its moments and well worth the effort given the obvious enjoyment of those who attended.

As we reflected on our past, so we looked forward, too. The Membership Focus Group and its successor the Improvement Delivery Group, the University Lodges Scheme and the growing network of young masons groups across the country are all focused on the future.

As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year in December, we can now move forward from here with enormous self-belief. One of the intangibles that the Tercentenary celebrations has produced is a renewal of pride in Freemasonry among the members. These are all things that we should foster and build on so future generations can enjoy Freemasonry, as we and our predecessors have done.

‘The activities that took place around the country were worthy of such a notable anniversary’

Published in Features
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00

Modern masons: John Henry Phillips

Openness

Unlike many students, partying was the last thing on John Henry Phillips’ mind when he headed to the University of Leicester in 2013

After spending four years touring Europe as part of a rock band, John was eager to indulge in his archaeological passions.

It was the discovery of a World War I grenade during his first visit to the fields at Flanders in Belgium that inspired John to apply to study archaeology. After being accepted onto a course in Leicester (with the same university department that discovered Richard III’s remains in a local car park in 2012), John became interested in the Universities Scheme, which forges links between lodges and young people who are seeking to become involved in Freemasonry.

‘Student living can be quite intense,’ recalls John. ‘So Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all, to do something positive and unselfish rather than just going on a pub crawl.’ In December 2013, John was officially initiated into Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448.

The overlap between the history of Freemasonry and the world wars had a strong appeal for John. ‘As a historical fraternity, it ties in with my interests. I particularly like masonic traditions that originate from those eras – such as raising a glass to absent brethren at lodge dinners, which stems from World War I,’ he says.

It is this sense of tradition, combined with the support of the fraternity, that John believes young people could benefit from most. ‘It’s an uncertain time for young people. Freemasonry could be a welcome constant for many,’ he says. ‘But it’s a two-way street. Young people have more diverse experiences and perspectives than they did 50 years ago. I think we have just as much to offer in the way of new ideas.’

What does the Tercentenary mean to you?

‘It’s a real honour to think back over 300 years of history and know that you’re a part of a long line of people who achieved great things. I try and work the morals of Freemasonry into all of the work I do.’

Published in Universities Scheme
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