13 SEPTEMBER 2006
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
Brethren, a very warm welcome to you all and I hope that you have had a good summer break. As we begin a new Masonic season it is an opportunity to think about our priorities.
A lot of effort has gone into attracting quality young men to join the Craft and one initiative which I commend to you is the Universities Scheme, led by a group of Masons under the Assistant Grand Master.
The scheme aims to introduce Freemasonry to undergraduates and anyone else connected to their universities. The Assistant Grand Master has visited lodges in eight of our Provinces already and has appointed a co-ordinator from his central group for each of them.
I hope this scheme will introduce thinking young men into Freemasonry, many of whom might otherwise not have discovered it until much later in life, or possibly not at all. It may also provide an opportunity for members to introduce their sons and nephews to the Craft.
I hope also that the initiatives taken by the Universities Scheme will encourage other Lodges to take pro-active steps to recruit all young men of good standing regardless of their educational background. The recent agreement by Grand Lodge to reduce the fees by half for under-25s, coupled with the proposal by the Grand Charity today to do likewise for its contributions, should act also as an encouragement.
I am grateful to all those who are helping the Assistant Grand Master with this exciting venture and I am sure those Lodges that are participating will find it a rewarding challenge.
As I have said on a previous occasion the annual intake of initiates is not our main problem as long as we continue to introduce only good men into the Craft. Our biggest concern should be the large number of drop-outs who lose interest within a relatively short period of being raised. Retention is therefore the key to our future success.
There are two aspects to Freemasonry. The first is the inner work that is done in the Lodge room in harmony with the other members. For this we must concentrate our efforts on the individual Mason and encourage him to develop those qualities which will transform him into a better person and thereby reflect well on the ethos of Freemasonry.
The outer work is done by practising in his everyday life those qualities he has been taught in his Lodge. Here we must also include his wife or partner and family as much as possible and make them feel a part of the organisation he has joined.
In this way membership of Freemasonry will become accepted as being relevant to the society in which we live by both his family and the popular world. These different aspects of Freemasonry have to be enjoyable albeit a certain amount of commitment and effort is required for both.
Brethren, I have recently convened a Strategic Working Party under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master to consider the role and functions of a Grand Secretary.
They have recommended that the office should be split, with the Grand Secretary having responsibility for matters Masonic and a Chief Operating Officer, who need not be a Freemason or indeed male, having responsibility for the management of Freemasons’ Hall and its services.
The Strategic Working Party has also recommended that the Grand Secretary, while remaining fully responsible for our Districts and Lodges overseas, will have a reduced role in the conduct of our external relations. It is proposed that a new office of Grand Chancellor should be created to oversee our relationship with other Grand Lodges. It is not intended that he should be a paid employee, but he will have available to him a Secretariat and he will be a member of both the Grand Master’s Council and the Board.
It is worth mentioning that the concept is not new and that many Grand Lodges entrust their external relations to a Grand Chancellor. This will in effect mean that the Grand Secretary will be able to concentrate his energies on Masonic matters for the benefit of English Freemasonry in England and Wales and its Provinces and Districts.
These recommendations have the support of the Grand Master’s Council and the Board of General Purposes. Notice of appropriate amendments to the Book of Constitutions will be given in December for consideration by Grand Lodge next March.
We will shortly be starting the recruitment process for the positions of Grand Secretary and Chief Operating Officer.
Finally Brethren, for a little much needed light relief there is to be another Royal Masonic Variety Show in the presence of the Grand Master on Remembrance Sunday, 12th November at the Prince Edward Theatre in Old Compton Street, starting at 7.30pm. Details can be found on the website address atwww.royal-masonic-variety-show.uk7.net.
The site also gives details of the show’s producers and directors who have all been involved over many years in the production of the annual Royal Variety Show. I hope as many of you as possible will attend the event to support the Grand Master and by doing so raise funds for charity. One half of the profits will go to the RMBI and the remainder to other non-Masonic charities.