14 MARCH 2007
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
Today it has been my pleasure to invest Bro Nigel Brown as Grand Secretary. The new role of Grand Secretary means that he can concentrate on our Provinces and Districts and I look forward to visiting many of them with him in the forthcoming months.
Although the number of Grand Lodge Certificates issued in 2006 showed a drop of nearly ten per cent over the previous year, this is an exciting time for Freemasonry.
I believe we are at a turning point. This is a turning point for the better.
With this in mind we should all be renewing our efforts to find men of quality to join us. To do so we need to be able to openly voice the objectives and merits of our Freemasonry. And we need to do this from the very beginning. By beginning, I mean from the moment we first interview a potential candidate. I am looking at initiatives to help this process.
It has always seemed strange to me that – for example – we ask the candidate those three very important questions after the ceremony has begun. He is in a state of darkness – has little understanding of the criteria for membership, and even less chance of giving a reasoned answer.
So what we need to do is to give clear guidelines for these interviews. We must tell the candidate what he can expect from us – and what we will expect from him. I am on record as saying that in this age of openness we should be able to discuss the purpose of our rituals with a candidate before he decides whether to join.
To put it another way – no thinking man is going to join and then stay committed to an organisation that cannot talk about itself openly and with clarity. So we have to be clear in our own minds what the purpose of Freemasonry is and what our ritual means.
When we are clear – we need to become good at marketing ourselves. Then, in the interview we can explain our Freemasonry in a way that fits the 21st century and why it will be relevant to the candidate. That will allow us a better chance of competing for his leisure time, his finances and his intellectual stimulation.
I am sure, like me, many of you must feel frustrated when you open your newspapers and read how leaders in our society have been emphasising recently the importance of morality and tolerance. Yet as Freemasons we practise both those virtues and have been doing so for a very long time.
We do not shout about it from the rooftops, but quietly practise in our everyday lives those lessons we are taught in our Lodges. I spoke at Quarterly Communication in December 2005 about the need to explain ourselves through the virtues of tolerance and trust, but there are other ways in which Freemasonry helps us.
Anyone who has seen a timid brother climb through the offices and pass through the Chair of his Lodge with new-found confidence can see first-hand how Masonry instils leadership qualities in its candidates.
It also provides a welcome social outlet for the lonely and bereaved.
How many times have we heard a brother praising the support he received from his Lodge when he lost a loved one, discovered he had a life-threatening illness or just felt lonely and needed someone to talk to? These are some of the things we can explain to our candidates and the popular world to show the benefits we get from our Freemasonry.
Following my remarks at the last Quarterly Communication about the success of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield, I learnt soon after that Professor Andrew Prescott would be leaving his post there.
I am pleased to say I have received a positive letter from the Vice Chancellor pledging the University’s strong commitment to the continuation and development of the Centre. He goes on to say that ‘they will shortly be advertising for a successor and will provide the necessary funding to ensure that this is a sufficiently long-term appointment to attract a strong field of candidates’.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Prescott for all the efforts he has made to get Freemasonry recognised as a serious and worthwhile subject for academic research.
Since our last meeting the Grand Master has attended the 75th anniversary of our District of Ghana. Last weekend I visited the Grand Lodge of Spain to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the re-establishment of regular Freemasonry in that country.
In May I shall be going to Edinburgh to represent the United Grand Lodge of England alongside the Grand Masters of Ireland and Scotland at the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry, which is being hosted by the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
It will be a remarkable gathering of academic lecturers drawn from all over the world and details can be found on their website, which will be published in MQ for anyone who is interested, at www.ichfonline.org.
Brethren, on another subject, you should know that at the Annual Investiture the Grand Master is minded to make a positive statement about our relationship with the other long-established and well-known Orders of Masonry to which many Craft members belong. I believe this will be most welcome.