Speaking at Great Queen Street on 26 April, masonic leaders explained how Freemasonry can grasp success if members can learn to share ideas and work together
William Shakespeare, John F Kennedy and even Steve Jobs all managed to find their way into the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall in a typically entertaining afternoon of speeches at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting.
Before an audience made up of Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, speakers took their turn at the lectern to review the developments in Freemasonry in 2015 and looked forward to an exciting future for the Craft and Royal Arch.
Understandably, the Tercentenary featured heavily, but there was also much to discuss about the recommendations of the Membership Focus Group (MFG) on how best to attract, recruit and retain members at a time when membership has shown a decline. The overall message was overwhelmingly positive, with several new initiatives announced.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes kicked things off by reporting that a four-part television series on Freemasonry is under way. This will be broadcast to coincide with the Tercentenary celebrations and will include the Pro Grand Master’s fly-fishing technique at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight fishing day.
The Pro Grand Master then reported that commemorative paving stones containing the names of Freemasons who received a Victoria Cross (VC)
in World War I would be installed at the front of the Peace Memorial, adding that ‘there are 60 such VCs to be commemorated’. He also encouraged brethren to wear a special commemorative tie and jewel for the celebratory period, and announced that a major charitable gift of £3 million would be distributed by the Masonic Charitable Foundation in the form of 300 grants, allocated according to the outcome of votes cast both by masons and the general public.
The Pro Grand Master felt that the celebration of Grand Lodge’s 300th year is a great opportunity for publicity. ‘The Tercentenary gives us all a chance to reflect on the place of Freemasonry today and the role of our lodge and our brethren,’ he said. ‘This is an opportunity not to be missed and it is up to us to ensure that Freemasonry benefits.’
Facts and figures
Next up was Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), to discuss the 2015 financial accounts and recent BGP initiatives. He revealed a strong yearly surplus generated from investment income, which has supported capital expenditure and the ongoing maintenance required to deal with Regent Street disease (corrosion) at Freemasons’ Hall. Anthony emphasised the importance of the building for filming and events while also being mindful of its core purpose.
The cost of the Tercentenary celebrations were included in the 2016 forecast for the first time, but ‘there would be no call upon members for funds’, as this would be supported by events and reserves. Anthony asked brethren to spread the word about the benefits of the Masonic Insurance Mutual, and, most importantly of all, noted that Freemasonry Today costs less than £1 per member, per issue.
Second Grand Principal Russell Race discussed the ‘encouraging straws in the wind for membership of the Royal Arch’ before Sir David Wootton gave some thoughts on governance – ‘who does what with what authority’ – based on findings from the MFG.
‘If we can bottle the masonic sizzle from the best lodges and spread it around the rest, we can start to address all the issues.’ Michael Ward
Taking up the theme in more detail, Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones explained how ‘we need to build on the work that has been started, moving from securing evidence to emphasising delivery and implementation’. Gareth also talked about the importance of communication and spreading best practice from the Provinces and Districts.
Sir David then announced a proposal to take forward the work of the MFG: this would be a new body of a dozen members who would represent all ‘the talents, geographies and constituent parts of the Craft and Royal Arch’. The hope was to get this up and running by the end of 2017 to ‘develop and embed systems, ensuring that the necessary steps will be taken to continue and enhance Freemasonry’.
Looking after initiates
John Roscoe, an industrial psychologist, then presented the MFG’s findings on the negative effect of un-masonic conduct in lodges. John cited ‘the greatest cause for early dissatisfaction with initiates’ as being a perception of senior members dominating the lodge. He read out a number of testimonies in which masons recounted incidents of brethren being overzealous or overbearing.
John then asked those present to think of three ways to deal with behaviour that is not in keeping with the spirit of Freemasonry. Each table put their heads together to engage with this issue, and there was much debate as solutions were considered.
After a coffee break, PGM for Warwickshire David Macey led a commendation of ADelphi 2, showing some of the possibilities of the new membership database. ‘It’s now working well and is generally very stable. We are continuing to improve performance and security,’ he said. David gave a demonstration
of its promising new dashboard system. ‘The MFG gave us a very clear list of what PGMs and Grand Superintendents need,’ he said, showing how a simple dashboard will allow users to find a summary of every lodge in their Province, showing the 10 best and worst performing lodges, comparisons of members’ ages and contact information.
Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward then gave a careful analysis of the findings of an MFG survey that explored why so many initiates drop out soon after joining and what could be done to counteract this. It was vital, he said, to capitalise on work already done in the Provinces on these issues rather than try to ‘reinvent the wheel’.
Michael discussed what could be done to help lodges that were struggling to attract new members and finished by exhorting that, ‘success is within our grasp. If we can bottle the masonic sizzle from the best lodges and spread it around the rest, we can start to address all the issues. It’s in our hands.’
PGM for East Kent Geoffrey Dearing spoke about the importance of data protection and compliance before Malcolm Aish, President of the Committee of General Purposes, presented the annual report and statistics for the Royal Arch. Malcolm noted the enthusiasm for charitable contributions and also thanked brethren for completing the survey.
Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP Ray Reed then gave highlights from the Craft annual report, showing that new initiates were rising and resignations declining, with the annual membership loss down to 1.65 per cent. Lodges reported an 83 per cent reduction in resignations, while 69 per cent reported increasing initiate figures. Ray singled out areas for improvement, including a willingness to engage with ‘local press, business, civic and religious leaders’ and the importance of attracting and mentoring quality initiates.
Emphasising the need for Provinces to share ideas, Ray concluded by thanking brethren for their ‘support, energy, creativity, hard work and, most importantly, belief in helping make things happen’.
VC Grave Concern charity receives £500 donation
At the Installation meeting of Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters No. 7896 on Friday 10th April 2015 at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, the new Master, W Bro Ian Johnson presented £500 to guest speaker W Bro Granville Angell in support of his charity, VC Grave Concern, which restores and maintains the graves of holders of the Victoria Cross.
W Bro Ian Johnson was Installed by W Bro David Bull and continues the long line of distinguished brethren as Master of this prestigious lodge. At the meeting, the lodge was honoured to welcome W Bro Barrie Percival, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master, PSGD, as the representative from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Leicestershire and Rutland.
W Bro Ian was initiated into Lodge Semper Eadem No. 3091 in 1995 and became Master in its Centenary year in 2004. He served as Secretary for five years and is presently Director of Ceremonies. He was appointed Provincial Grand Mentor in 2009 and elected Provincial Grand Treasurer in 2011.
W Bro Ian joined the Leicestershire and Rutland Lodge of Installed Masters No. 7896 in 2005 and was appointed Junior Deacon in 2011. Having been a member of the Correspondence Circle since 1998, W Bro Ian became a full member of the Lodge of Research No. 2429 in 2011 and is presently Junior Deacon.
In 2015, W Bro Ian was appointed as a Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the United Grand Lodge of England. He is also active in many side degrees, including the Royal Arch and Mark Master Masons.
Installing Master, W Bro David Bull said: 'W Bro Ian brings a wealth of masonic experience to this office and I am sure that under his leadership the lodge will have another rewarding year.'
W Bro Ian was pleased to appoint W Bros John Pebderdy and Anthony Wood as his Senior and Junior Wardens respectively.
After the Installation, W Bro Granville Angell, PAGPurs, who was the Prestonian Lecturer in 2006, gave a very interesting talk entitled Lest We Forget, encapsulating the courage, bravery and resolute self sacrifice with which Freemasons risked their lives in the service of king and country, focusing on those brethren who received the Victoria Cross.
His talk was based on his book The Great War 1914-1918 – Victoria Cross Freemasons which reveals the unique deeds of outstanding valour of the 91 Freemasons gathered by the author's meticulous research in over 17 countries uncovering previously unknown facts.
Victoria Cross heroes
East Lancashire PGM Sir David Trippier took the chair of his own lodge, East Lancashire Centurion Lodge, No. 2322, when he headed a Provincial deputation to commemorate 100 years since the beginning of the Great War.
The event highlighted the heroism of masons within the Province who were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), and included an account of the origins and history of the VC by Essex mason Lt Col Mark Smith, curator at the Royal Artillery Museum.
With football and the Olympic Games dominating the news this summer, the Library and Museum’s latest exhibition at Great Queen Street celebrates freemasons’ sporting achievements.
Many freemasons have been active amateur or professional sportsmen, or have been involved with the administration of all types of sport. Did you know that the only man to win an Olympic Gold Medal and be awarded the Victoria Cross was also a freemason? The exhibition will be your chance to see Sir Alf Ramsey’s Masonic apron, along side medals from several Olympic Games.
The exhibition runs from 2nd July until the end of the year, and further details are available on the Library and Museum's website.