13 March 2019
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I have recently had the privilege of visiting a number of our Districts, and although each trip was a unique experience, I became acutely aware that they all had something striking in common – how well the local Freemasons are an integral, and highly visible, part of their local communities. This January, the Deputy Grand Master had the pleasure of installing the new District Grand Master for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Amongst the various Masonic activities, he took part in a large procession, in full regalia, to the local Cathedral for the Sunday service. He tells me the sense of pride from the members and their families was overwhelming. This was a group of men who are supported and encouraged by their families, and are warmly welcomed by the communities in which they reside. There was no sense of trying to hide the fact that they are Freemasons or justifying why they are members. It was simply the case that Freemasonry was not just an integral part of their lives, but also the lives of those around them.
Brethren, it could be seen as being fairly obvious that where a member has the support and backing of his family, he will fare better. What is not so obvious is the underlying need to encourage and nurture that support network. Bringing our families, and indeed our communities, into the fold, so to speak, is in my opinion vital to the future success of the Craft and it is telling that a number of Provinces now interview prospective candidates along with their partners present so that they too can ask questions and understand who we are and what we do.
Programmes of events designed to assist and engage with those around us will go a long way towards educating the two fifths of the public who know that we exist, but have no idea what we do, and you will soon hear about some National Initiatives we are planning to accomplish just this. The Districts certainly have a winning formula in this respect. In each District I have visited, families have been heavily involved in the events surrounding our visits. When we bear in mind that the Districts are growing by 10 per cent year on year on average, we may be able to learn a few things from them.
I was thinking recently on how much time Freemasons in the UK spend on unpaid charitable, philanthropic, or civic activities. This includes those things our members do for others with an educational, sporting, charitable, religious or military bent; what they do for others in any spare time they might have when they are not in Lodge or learning ritual!
We have looked into this and it will not surprise you to learn that early indications suggest that our members spend millions of hours collectively giving of themselves for the benefit of others.
I began to think how one might possibly put an hourly ‘value’ on the contributions that our members make to their communities and the people around them, but then the core values that all Freemasons hold in high estimation cannot be quantified. How can we ‘calculate’ our contributions? There seems to be a clear link between what we do ‘as Freemasons’ and what we do as good members of our community.
Returning to the Deputy Grand Master’s trip to Antigua, Members, and their families, were proud, and it showed immensely. That visibility, engagement and sense of pride at both being a Freemason and a good person were palpable, and that obvious connection has been passed down through generations of Masons in our ritual – Freemasonry does indeed “rest upon the practice of every Moral and Social virtue”.
We all should be striving towards ensuring that we are visible, engaged and proud of our achievements, both as Freemasons and as people.
Brethren, we are referees, volunteer readers in school, church wardens, members of care home boards, Rotarians, poppy sellers and countless other ‘volunteer’ positions. Most of these will have nothing or very little to do with our Lodges or Province, but they all have a connection to a fundamental aspect of Freemasonry – making a positive impact in the lives of others. And Brethren, we certainly need to be more visible and more proud of these roles if we are to positively define what Freemasonry stands for to the next generation. Also, Brethren, if I were a betting man, which I am not, - well just the odd flutter - I would certainly have a bet that the Provinces that have the most family involvement are those with the best membership statistics. Let us all work on this aspect.
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’
The recent Installation of the new District Grand Master/Grand Superintendent of the District Grand Lodge and Chapter of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Clement Bird, saw the District welcome an NUD (Not Under a District) Lodge and Chapter into its fold when St. George Lodge and Chapter No. 3421 officially became part of the District
The Installation Ceremonies of the new District Grand Master/Grand Superintendent Clement Bird was conducted by United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE)'s Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence.
The transition from being an NUD Lodge to becoming part of the District is the first time such an event has happened in 30 years, when two other NUD Lodges in the Caribbean, St Ursula’s Lodge No. 8952 (British Virgin Islands) and Harmonic Lodge No. 356 (U.S. Virgin Islands), became part of the same District in 1989.
Until November 2018, St. George Lodge No. 3421, which was consecrated in March 1910, was one of only nine NUD Lodges that report directly to UGLE. However, after due consideration and long-term discussions amongst its current membership – and given its geographic location – the lodge requested that it be allowed to become part of the District.
St George Lodge’s members have been regular visitors to some of the 20 lodges in the islands that comprise Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and felt that becoming part of a larger entity would offer them more support and enable them to tap into a greater educational resource function.