Bicentenary of the union between the Antients and Moderns Grand Lodges

Thursday, 06 June 2013

Cause for celebration

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains that while Freemasons should be proud when a lodge celebrates a milestone anniversary, the creation of a new lodge can be an equally significant landmark

Last December I commented that we should be proud of our history. I therefore have no qualms in mentioning – indeed I believe it is important to do so – that this year marks a key landmark in the history of our Grand Lodge: the two-hundredth anniversary of the union between the Antients and Modern Grand Lodges. The actual – forming the United Grand Lodge of England – took place in 1813 at Freemasons’ Hall on St John’s Day, 27 December.

It is therefore more appropriate that we mark this major anniversary later in the year at the December Quarterly Communication. At that time I hope that John Hamill and Graham Redman, authorities on masonic history and protocol, will give us an account of the intriguing story of how the was finally achieved and its importance to English Freemasonry in particular, as well as Freemasonry around the world.

Order of the day

I mention this anniversary here, however, for two main reasons. Firstly, because those of you who are also members of the Royal Arch know that the Order is holding its own celebration in October of this year. It is to mark the decision, achieved during the negotiations leading to the , that the Royal Arch be recognised as an essential part of ‘pure ancient masonry’, forging an indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.

Secondly, and importantly for us, rather than making major celebrations this year we have decided to concentrate our efforts on 2017 and the celebration of our tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. This is considered the more important of the two events and a celebration of both would inevitably stretch all resources beyond any reasonable limit. It is intended that these celebrations will take place throughout the constitution, both at home and overseas.

Freemasonry is good at celebrations. Lodges are usually very keen to celebrate their important anniversaries, and rightly so. There can be few, if any, other organisations that have so many individual component parts that survive to celebrate fifty, one hundred, two hundred years and beyond.

We should be immensely proud that our lodges not only survive and thrive, in most cases, for so long, but that they also keep full and accurate records of all their meetings. It is, of course, a prerequisite of the granting of a Centenary or Bicentenary Warrant that the lodge can show continuous working. Some latitude is given to take account of wartime conditions, but, otherwise, we are firm about this.

We do have lodges that fail and at every Quarterly Communication there is a list of lodges to be erased. Sad as this is, it is inevitable when overall numbers have fallen, the redressing of which is on the top of any list of priorities that is drawn up. Conversely, we still have new lodges being consecrated, which may seem somewhat surprising in the face of falling numbers.

I would argue that, if there is a group of like-minded people who want to get together to form a lodge and they can show reason for doing so as well as an ability to sustain it in the future, why not? The members will have considered the sustainability of the lodge carefully and, even if it only survives for, say, fifty years, many people will have derived great enjoyment from it and many will have been introduced to our great institution who might otherwise have missed out. Let’s celebrate on all possible occasions.

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