From the Grand Secretary
Having been privileged to have participated in the Installation of its new District Grand Master, I am fortunate enough to be writing this from our sun-soaked District of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
As a doctor, I was always on the lookout for medical conferences in exotic places that happened to coincide with local lodge meetings. Escaping the ‘conference dinner’ in favour of meeting local brethren was never a difficult choice, and in the space of an evening I would find out, from those that knew, what was really worth doing and visiting for the remainder of my stay.
Our Districts are, and always have been, an integral and important part of the United Grand Lodge of England. For hundreds of years, they have represented and practised the finest values of English Freemasonry in far-flung corners of the globe. They count amongst their members those with power and influence, and those with little, and often bring together people who traditionally might not be easy bedfellows – much more so than we do in England. It is my stated intention to ensure that UGLE works ever more closely with our Districts and that we are able to recognise and support them in tackling not only the problems common to us all, but also those unique problems pertinent to their countries and environments.
Our Districts, of course, have many things to teach us. I have noticed that whilst it is always dangerous to generalise, the Districts I have visited differ from our Provinces in two respects. Firstly, I am struck by how important ‘family’ is to their success – and bear in mind that they are growing an average of 10 per cent year on year. Events which routinely include wives, partners and ‘significant others’ increase the sense of community and normality of their day-to-day business.
Secondly, they are much more visible in the communities they are drawn from. In terms of the time they give to serve those around them, they seem proportionally much more engaged with local events and issues than we are back in England.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ method for success – our lodges, Districts, Provinces and indeed members are not, cannot and should not all be the same. Climates of political and religious hostility or tolerance exist to varying degrees across the globe. I am minded of a certain District where religious leaders are openly calling for ‘a coffin for each Freemason’ as a way to deal with the ‘problem’. Such obvious persecution rather puts our own press in perspective, but one thing I feel it illustrates is that we must become known for who we really are, what we stand for and what we do in our communities in order to counter such abject prejudice and nonsense.
There are those members who feel that we should go about our business quietly with as little publicity or fuss as possible. Whilst respecting those of that opinion, they are wrong. Freemasonry must be associated in people’s minds with who we are, what we value and what we do if we are to have any chance of rehabilitating our reputation, and recent polling data shows that it is, indeed, in need of rehabilitation. In today’s age, burying our heads in the sand with a ‘who cares what they think’ attitude will, plainly and simply, seriously damage us further.
We must do everything we can, individually and as lodges and Provinces, to counter some of the unhelpful stereotypes we have picked up. How can we be viewed as secret if we are seen and known in our communities? How so sinister if those whose lives we touch think of us with fondness and gratitude? In an uncertain world, the masonic principles of integrity, respect and charity ring as true today as they ever have before. As W Bro the Right Reverend Albert Lewis, the District Grand Chaplain of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said in his sermon yesterday at St John’s Cathedral, Antigua – ‘Get out there and do something worthwhile’.
So brethren, if you are travelling this summer, or are abroad with work, and have a few evenings spare, be sure to contact your Provincial Secretary. Broaden your visiting horizons, do your part to bring our masonic family closer together and be sure to make the acquaintance of your brethren in our Districts overseas. And if you are reading this from a far-flung corner of a forgotten empire, and your curiosity has been piqued, you can be assured of a warm welcome should you be visiting London or our home Provinces.
Dr David Staples
‘I’m struck by how important ‘family’ is to our Districts’ success… events which routinely include wives and ‘significant others’ increase the sense of normality of their day-to-day business’