Autumn 2020 column - Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E Dr David Staples

Friday, 04 September 2020

From the Grand Secretary & Grand Scribe E

There is a lot of talk in business circles about the benefits of ‘disruptors’. People or events which bring about a re-examination of how and why things are done in this particular way or that. It cannot be denied that COVID-19 has been perhaps the biggest disruptor since the invention of the internet. For those that can, many people are finding that they work rather well from home, and are wondering why they ever fought their way into work on packed buses, trains or tube trains when they might have had an extra hour or two in bed instead.  

Similarly, in the masonic world, things which traditionally have taken decades, or even longer, have been created in a couple of weeks. ‘How could we alter our ceremonies to incorporate social distancing?’ asks the Pro Grand Master. 

‘We can’t,’ comes the reply.  

‘Try again,’ he says. 

Some months previously, the mere suggestion would have had monocles dropping into the soup in abject horror. Is the result to everybody’s liking? For certain, no, but it allows the Masters and Principals of lodges and chapters to choose for themselves what they are comfortable with doing, and what they might wish not to do until things can return to normal – and make no mistake, that may be some significant time yet.

Over the summer, masonic halls have seen a marked increase in Emergency Meetings, but the real work, and the real challenge, begins this autumn as the new season begins.

Sadly, we will all have come across those brethren who cannot contemplate the possibility that a lodge – their lodge – might meet without them; that Freemasonry may, out of necessity, continue in a different way to that which has gone before – at least for the moment. Those that feel that because their personal circumstances mean they cannot yet return to us, or they choose to stay home, that everything should be put on hold. Lodges can sometimes be dominated by such personalities, and perhaps the disruption of the status quo will remind us that our lodges and chapters are there for all their members, not just those few with the most strident opinions and the loudest voices. Members will need to be flexible and tolerant over the coming few months.

Another great change that has come out of this disruption is the way Provinces are working together to roll out national initiatives through the COVID Community Fund – a joint UGLE/MCF partnership. To date, it has delivered more than 300,000 meals to the vulnerable, donated 380 tonnes of food to food banks, provided tens of thousands of pieces of PPE to care homes and hospitals, supported hundreds of young carers, the homeless, women’s refuges up and down the country, and donated more than 1,000 tablets to allow relatives to meet virtually at times when visiting was so restricted. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed by the press, and speaking openly about what we are doing has, for the first time, brought about a real change in attitude, even from those who have traditionally been our most dogged detractors.  

It is worth also reflecting on all the little things we have been doing that have perhaps gone unnoticed. They are just as important, and perhaps more so than headline-grabbing initiatives. There are many things we have found the time to do that have a small effect on those around us, as well as perhaps those who we have not seen for some considerable time. The small acts of contact and of kindness. The checking in on a brother or their family to make sure that all remains well. The expansion of online communications to keep members in touch and to rekindle sometimes neglected friendships. Some say that we are extremely fortunate that COVID-19 hit in a time where keeping in touch is so easy. Those enduring the Spanish Flu in 1918 did not have the luxury of broadband internet with email or Zoom.  Most would not even have had access to a telephone.  

We are mindful, however, that a few of our members have no access to technology, and it is for them that UGLE has just published a guide to help all of our members connect. It is being sent in hard copy format to all Provincial Communications Officers, so please do ask for one if this might be of use to you. Anybody that has mastered elements of Masonic Ritual will have no problems navigating the digital world, if they are only able to overcome their nervousness. Both of my parents, in their late 80s, are on email and picked it up more easily than they anticipated.  

Let us all return to the ‘new normal’ gladly. We are all looking forward to joining together again to continue our masonic journeys, even if our path might be more winding and unfamiliar than usual. Companions and brethren, it’s good to be back. I wish you the very best for the new season.

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E

'Another great change that has come out of this disruption is the way Provinces are working together to roll out national initiatives through the COVID Community Fund’

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