The Pro Grand Master's address to the March Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge meeting
Brethren, over the last several months I have been trying to put a positive spin on where we are in Freemasonry. I have genuinely felt this to be the case, but I probably didn’t have any concrete evidence. I believe we have been given that evidence today in the talk we have received earlier. I have heard time and time again around the country about how many candidates there have been waiting in the wings – and this was most certainly not imaginary – however what I did not know was the numbers we were losing for whatever reason. Today’s figures are rather more than comforting.
This situation has, clearly, got much to do with the way the members of the Craft conduct themselves both in private and public. Our public image has improved immeasurably, and rightly so when you see all the fantastic work that has been done in our Provinces and Districts. This is, of course, not a new phenomenon, we have always done so much, but over this dire period we have achieved even more and, importantly, we have been able to get the general public to see all the good work and appreciate it. The rather improved attitude of the media towards us is an enormous advantage in all of this.
Of course Brethren, it does no harm to our public image when we are able to do what we did yesterday. The Grand Master hosted HRH The Earl of Wessex to the MCF meeting where we were able to donate the sum of £300,000 from our Duke of Edinburgh Memorial Fund Relief Chest to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Many of the recipient charities were represented and it was a most convivial occasion which showed Freemasonry at its best.
When I used the word “private” earlier I was referring to our behaviour in our own Lodges and other gatherings. It is no good having a mass of candidates if we don’t process them properly and look after them on the initial stages of their journey, so that they can get fully involved in all the workings of their Lodge and the Craft in general.
When we, as individuals, introduce someone to our Lodge, it is relatively easy to keep an eye on the ongoing process and ensure that all is well. However, so many of our new members now come to us through websites and the like and we must ensure that they are as well looked after as those we introduce ourselves. This must happen from the day they first make contact. The responsibility for this lies largely with the Province or District with whom the contact is made. They must ensure that the person concerned is worthy of our confidence and direct them towards what they consider to be the best Lodge for the individual. They then need to make certain that the journey continues in the right direction. It would seem from the reports that we are getting that this process is working pretty well in most places and we should be appreciative of all those spending their time overseeing this aspect. The majority are, of course, volunteers.
The Lodge itself must be responsible for organising when the ceremonies will take place and how they are conducted. I think we all know what a good impression a well conducted ceremony has on a candidate, just as the reverse is true. Br, I have said on several occasions in the past that the “time out” that we have all had to experience over the last 2 years should negate the oft used excuse for poor ritual of “I didn’t have time to learn it”.
I have been receiving reports from around the country that members are having difficulty getting back into the habit of learning the ritual and that standards are slipping. Brethren, please don’t let this happen. Surely looking the candidate in the eye when delivering the ritual has a so much greater effect on him than never looking at him at all while reading from the book or stumbling around looking for your place in some hastily written notes. I know it is not easy, but, let me assure you the satisfaction of a candidate thanking you for such a good experience after it is over, makes it all so worthwhile. I do know that Brethren as, believe it or not, it has occasionally happened to me.
Brethren, over the last 13 years you have had to listen for far too long to my end of meeting speeches. You will be glad to know that you will be saved from this as from next September. At that Quarterly Communication The Most Worshipful The Grand Master will install Right Worshipful Brother Jonathan Spence as his new Pro Grand Master. This change will also apply to the Royal Arch. Brethren I have had a wonderful time as Pro Grand Master and I will say a little more about that at my last Hoorah in June.
Thank you Brethren.