08 September 2021
An address from the Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence
Brethren, I am delighted to see so many of you here today as we continue to move towards a more normal rhythm in our meetings. We all very much hope that things will continue to improve as more and more of our Lodge and Chapter meetings are able to take place and our members return to a fuller enjoyment of their Freemasonry.
Having stated what I am sure we all hope may be the case, none of us is in any doubt that there is a continuing level of uncertainty on how things will develop with COVID-19 over the next few weeks and months, There will undoubtedly be a few alarms along the way, but as we move from a pandemic situation to one where we have an endemic infection in the population, we need to adjust and adapt our responses especially in our Lodges and Chapters. I mention both Lodges and Chapters as what I am about to say will surely apply to both the Craft and the Royal Arch.
A significant number of Lodges and Chapters have already met and more will do so over the next few weeks. I am sure you will all experience, as I have, that individuals respond differently to the current situation. Some of our members in meetings will just carry on as normal but others will wish to wear a mask or sit at more of a distance from others than before and I am sure there will be other responses. It is vitally important for every member of a Lodge or Chapter to feel comfortable in a meeting and we should all be entirely supportive of the choices individual members make to be able to attend. The important thing is for everyone to want to attend, be supported to do so and to be engaged with their Freemasonry. We should also be understanding of those members who may not yet feel able to attend a meeting in person and ensure they are very much supported in their continued membership. Such an approach will very much live up to our values.
As you will realise from the numerous communications over recent months, a great deal of work has been done over the last year or so in developing and enhancing our approach, both in engaging with existing members and in attracting new members. I would like to thank all those who have been involved in this work, particularly the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters, as it is only with their support, encouragement, and sound advice that we have been able to make as much progress as we have in these trying times.
Brethren, I think we all appreciate it is every bit as important to engage with those who are already members as it is to attract new members. It is you, our members, through your enthusiasm, who are the best advertisement and ambassadors for Freemasonry. One has only to think of the extraordinary levels of engagement in our communities by our members, particularly in recent times, to realise how critical this is for any organisation that wishes to thrive.
Very shortly an up-dated Member’s Pathway will be rolled out across the Provinces and individual Lodges and you have all seen the material sent in preparation for this. This is an exciting development and enhancement to what we have done over the last three years or so and has been warmly welcomed by Provincial Grand Masters and Provincial Membership Teams. I am sure it will be equally well received in Lodges.
Brethren, as you will also be aware, we are going to launch towards the end of September a National Digital Marketing Campaign, which is a first for us. This campaign will be promoted under the auspices of, “Why Freemasonry?”, with short, memorable sentences which try to capture the essence of Freemasonry. This builds on the Mission Statement published with the Annual Report in April.
Creating “Why Freemasonry?”, in other words why become a Freemason and why remain a Freemason, was not as straightforward a task as some might imagine. We all have our own, individual reasons why we became a freemason and the different aspects that strike a chord within us to maintain our interest and enthusiasm. I am sure we will all do as much as we can to ensure this campaign is a great success. It is essential all new members, whether arising from this national campaign or through existing ways of joining, are properly looked after and welcomed into their Lodges and Freemasonry more widely and, most importantly, remain engaged with Freemasonry for many years to come. This is a responsibility for all members of a Lodge, not just the Lodge Membership Team.
And while on the subject of the Lodge Membership Team and in particular the Lodge Membership Officer, as you all know a number of changes to the Rules in the Book of Constitutions have been introduced over the last year. One of these was the creation of the office of Membership Officer, both at Lodge level and at Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodge level. What you may not realise is that the jewel for the Lodge Officer is available exclusively from the Shop on the first floor of Freemasons’ Hall, and I hope those of you who have not yet seen it may wish to inspect it before you leave the building today and, perhaps, even buy one for your own Lodge if you wish.
Brethren, I was recently discussing the nature of Freemasonry with one of my friends aged in their mid-thirties, and we concluded that one of the strengths of the organisation is that it is truly inter-generational in its membership. This, together with Freemasonry being a rare facilitator for us all to meet others from different backgrounds, religions and races who we might otherwise not get a chance to meet and enjoy their friendship and company, is something of which we must never lose sight.
Notwithstanding the tragedies, difficulties, and challenges of the last eighteen months Brethren we have a rare opportunity to ensure Freemasonry thrives. I am clear we should not aspire to return just to the status quo prevailing before the pandemic, that would be a failure of imagination on all our parts.
We must aim to be better and stronger than we were before with strong member engagement, thriving Lodges and Chapters with every member engaged and looking forward with anticipation to the next meeting and a convivial meal afterwards. Our aim must be to become an organisation with members who continue to act with confidence. This is the raison d’etre of both the up-dated Member’s Pathway and the National Digital Marketing Campaign. I would like to express my gratitude to all the members of the Working Parties who have contributed to these two important developments.
I believe every single member can and should be able to contribute to ensuring Freemasonry thrives, both as individuals and within our respective Lodges. With your support we will succeed. I very much hope we will all grasp this opportunity as we come out of the pandemic with unbridled enthusiasm to ensure Freemasonry under the United Grand Lodge of England thrives over the years to come.
Brethren, thank you.