I am delighted to see so many of you here this morning for this Quarterly Communication and I bid you all a very warm welcome. I thank you all for the honour you have done me by re-electing me as your Grand Master and I look forward to another busy and challenging year at the head of English Freemasonry.
I should like to start by expressing my thanks and that of the Craft to two distinguished Brethren who have just retired from high office.
RW Bro Iain Ross Bryce has been a Grand Officer for 21 years, which includes 8 years as Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Yorkshire, North and East Ridings and 12 years as Deputy Grand Master. In addition to the extensive duties attached to the offices he has held, Bro Bryce has spent a considerable amount of his time working with and co-ordinating the Masonic charities. His chairmanship of the Committee which decided the future of the Foundation for the Aged and the Sick in 1988, and of the Sick fund in 1989 which later developed into the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, was followed by his work on creating the Charity Festival matrix in 1992. More recently he chaired the Committee looking at the allocation of Grand and Provincial Ranks. He intends to remain active, you will be pleased to know, in Masonry and is currently the founding Master of Bridlington Bay Lodge, No 9778, which was consecrated in November 2003. Bro Bryce will continue in office as Second Grand Principal in the Royal Arch so his experience and advice will not be lost to us.
RW Bro Earl Cadogan has been a Grand Officer since 1969 when he served as Senior Grand Warden. His 34 years as a Grand Officer include 11 years as President of the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick, 6 years as President of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and 4 years as President of the Board of General Purposes. Bro Lord Cadogan first joined the Board as an appointed member as long ago as 1983. He served on the Finance Committee from then until he became its Chairman in 1991, and relinquished this office only when he became President in 1999, having also acted as Vice-President of the Board in 1991 and 1992.
The Craft owes both these Brethren an immense debt of gratitude for their hard work, which they have undertaken over so many years, and their dedication to Freemasonry. We thank them for everything they have done for us and wish them many more happy and rewarding years in Freemasonry.
Brethren, you will know that I normally attend the Craft Annual Investiture and take the opportunity of addressing Grand Lodge. This year however I shall attend the Annual Investiture of the Royal Arch on 29th April and it is my intention to address Supreme Grand Chapter. I want to take this opportunity, therefore, of dealing with some important issues which affect the Craft in particular.
It was a great pleasure for me to be able to take part in the splendid ceremonies at the Royal Albert Hall last October, setting up both the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London. It was a magnificent occasion and reflects great credit not only on the staff of London Management who worked long hours over many months in preparation for the event, but also the volunteers of the London Grand Rank Association. We also owe a debt of gratitude to those in the Grand Secretary’s office without whose dedication and support no great occasion of Grand Lodge would be possible, and in particular to the Assistant Grand Secretary for his work on the complex changes to the Book of Constitutions. Praise is also due also to Bro John Wright who acted as overall Project Manager, and his team of Stewards under the leadership of Bro Andrew Wigram, and of course to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies, who conducted the ceremonial activities of the day so smoothly.
It will take time for the new structure to bed down because this is the biggest change in Freemasonry for almost 200 years, but there are already welcome signs that a new spirit of co-operation and companionship is beginning to transform the newest Masonic venture into something of which we will be very proud.
The Strategic Working Party, set up by the Pro Grand Master to review the Royal Arch, has worked hard on the proposed revisions, and Grand Lodge has already taken an historic step by adding a paragraph to the “1813 Declaration.” This allows us to recognise, formally, that the Royal Arch is a separate Order of Masonry and will strengthen the status of Supreme Grand Chapter without affecting the relationship of the Royal Arch to the Craft. I know that some of you have expressed concern that this change may tend to weaken those historic ties, but I want very strongly to endorse the phrase used by the Pro Grand Master in his speech last September, when he emphasised that the Royal Arch is to remain “indissolubly linked to the Craft”. There is no compromise here, Brethren: that bond is to remain as strong and as close as ever, and the Royal Arch should be regarded by all as the important final step in pure Antient Freemasonry. I shall have more to say about the future of the Royal Arch at the Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter, but in the meantime I wish to thank all the members of the Strategic Working Party for their hard work.
Support of our Masonic charities has always been one of the Keystones of Freemasonry. It is very important, I believe, that in addition to the great Masonic causes we also reach out to the public and ensure that our charitable giving also extends as well to non-Masonic causes, which indeed is a necessary part of our duty to society. It is vital, nevertheless, that our Masonic Charities have the funds they need to fulfil their primary purpose of looking after our beneficiaries, and that is why I welcome today’s initiative to increase the contribution which we all pay to the Grand Charity.
I have been reflecting on the changes in Masonry since you honoured me 36 years ago by electing me as your Grand Master. Membership during this period has declined, it is true, from its post-war boom back to the levels seen in the interwar years. At the same time the almost obsessive secrecy of the thirty years from the 1950s onwards has been followed by a policy of increasing openness which has encouraged us to be more outward looking.
The consequence of this has been a greater desire to defend ourselves against unwarranted external attack and a willingness to correct malicious falsehoods about the Craft spread by those who do not wish to hear the truth.
The Craft has shown in recent years that it is prepared to adapt itself to the changing circumstances of modern life to a greater degree than ever before in its history. Only thus, as the Royal Arch ritual tells us, can it ‘survive the wreck of mighty empires and resist the destroying hand of time’, and I welcome the flexibility which enables us to react so positively at a time of unparalleled changes in society at large.
Before closing, I would like as usual, to express our thanks once again to all those who make our meetings run so smoothly, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team who have conducted today’s proceedings with their customary calm competence, and the Grand Secretary and his staff who ensure that our organisation is administered and serviced so efficiently. Finally Brethren I would like to thank all of you who have attended in such large numbers today.
I start by welcoming you all to our meeting this afternoon and I offer my warmest congratulations to all the Brethren I have had the pleasure of appointing to or promoting in Grand Rank today. I know they have all worked hard to further the interests of the Craft, but in recognising their achievements we do of course look to them for even greater exertions in the future.
I turn first to the most important issue to have exercised Grand Lodge during the past twelve months, namely the future of Masonry in London. The process of providing a new constitutional structure for London Masonry, which has been in progress for some years, culminated in an historic vote in Grand Lodge last month, following the most extensive consultation exercise ever undertaken in English Freemasonry. This process is not yet complete because Supreme Grand Chapter still has to make its decision on these proposals tomorrow. I recognise the widely differing opinions held on this matter, but have been impressed by the wholly Masonic spirit in which the debate was conducted. I am certain that the increased opportunities offered to London Masons by the new structure will enable them to play a more active part in their Masonry in the future.
Our “Freemasonry in the Community” week, which was such a success throughout the country, was more than the additional effort to raise money for charity which in some areas it became. It gave our Masonic centres and individual Lodges an opportunity to reach out to the “popular” world and put our strategy of openness into practical effect, so bringing Masonry closer to the communities in which our Lodges function and flourish, and from which we draw our members.
This special week showed clearly that Masons are part of their local community and that they work for it in many different ways. It also demonstrated to the country that we are a society with principles which we are determined to put into action for the good of our fellow men, and especially the less fortunate.
Although “Freemasonry in the Community” week was not planned as a charity event, it gave Provinces and Lodges in England and Wales additional opportunities to raise funds for, and make further donations to, non-Masonic charities in their own communities. Everyone taking part in these activities throughout the country enjoyed the experience enormously and many have resolved to continue their efforts in subsequent years.
Continuing in the theme of Charity, Charitable activity, which forms such a large part of Masonic life, in the form of fundraising has continued unabated during the year with the result that we gave approximately £17m to Masonic Charities. I know how hard the Councils work which administer those Charities, and I wish to thank them for all their efforts on our behalf. I am very pleased indeed that the work of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys has been recognised by the award of Royal status, and with effect from tomorrow it will be known as the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. It is also very good news that during the year donations to non-Masonic charities totalling in excess of £4m have been made by Masons under our Constitution throughout the world. This is a highly creditable achievement, and we can take satisfaction from it, but we must nevertheless remember that our Masonic Charities need our continued help, and should remain at the core of our charitable giving.
One of the effects of “Freemasonry in the Community” week has been to encourage many men to make enquiries about possible membership. In mentioning this I return to a topic which I last raised five years ago, namely the three “Rs,” — recruiting, retaining and retrieving. Recruiting is both acceptable and desirable, so long as it does not put undue pressure on potential candidates. Having succeeded in recruiting new Brethren it is clearly important that we make every effort to retain them. We all recognise the career and family pressures faced by younger men, so it is imperative that Lodges work to harness the enthusiasm of the new recruit and make him feel welcome. Retrieving lapsed members is initially a task for the Lodge Almoner, especially where financial or health difficulties have caused a brother to resign; but there is an increasing body of Masons who resigned from their Lodge because of business, career or family pressures, who may have found those circumstances have now eased or disappeared. Here we can all make a difference by encouraging them to rejoin their Lodge, or another Lodge, and once again become active in their Masonry.
I can assure you, however, Brethren, that in looking to you all to promote greater active membership of our Antient Institution, both new and old, I am not suggesting that we should ever contemplate the kind of mass recruitment which has recently been a feature elsewhere in the world. We are hardly going to strengthen our institution by relaxing the principles which we have established and maintained throughout our long history; rather we should respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing society, and show that our values have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they have always been. This is the example we have set to other Grand Lodges around the world, that the quality of our Masonry should always take precedence over the quantity of our membership.
In this connection I should point out that English Freemasonry recognises 156 Grand Lodges throughout the world, all of which adhere to the same landmarks as does this Grand Lodge. Maintaining good relations with them and responding to approaches from other Grand Lodges seeking recognition from us, is an important part of the work of the Grand Secretary and his staff. I was particularly delighted that, as a result of such efforts, we were able to resolve our difficulties with, and re-recognise, the Grand Lodge of India during the year. Inter-visiting is an important part of Masonic activity and I am certain that our members in India and elsewhere will be gratified that they are able to resume official contact once more with Brethren in the Grand Lodge of India.
Brethren, in conclusion, I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard throughout the year to ensure that we enjoy our Masonry. I wish to mention in particular the Grand Director of Ceremonies, who retires today after eight years. He has been a tower of strength during that time and has directed our ceremonies not only with efficiency but also with good humour and a light touch. I extend our thanks to his Deputies, who have helped him to make today run like clockwork. I also wish to thank the Grand Secretary and all the staff of this building especially the maintenance staff and porters, who look after this magnificent building so well, and finally, Brethren, I thank all of you for your attendance and support in such large numbers at this Investiture.
12 JUNE 2002
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE PRO GRAND MASTER the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
Next Tuesday we are celebrating ‘Freemasonry in the Community’ week which is fast becoming ‘Freemasonry in the Community three weeks’, with a service in St Paul’s Cathedral at 11a.m. There are still a few places available and if you have not already done so please apply for tickets today using the form provided. You might be interested to know that we have well over 1,000 events taking place all over the country during this initiative.
On Wednesday, 26 June, the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys are holding a Grand Choral Celebration here in the Grand Temple. The choir will largely comprise choristers from all over the country who have been supported by the Charity. Tickets at £10 each are available outside the Grand Temple.
Many of you may have seen the recent series on television called ‘Spooks’, some of which was filmed in this building. Filming here has proved a useful source of income for Grand Lodge, and we are grateful to the London Film Commission for supporting us. In return we are sponsoring part of the costs of a free public showing which they are arranging of the film ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. This is due to take place next Saturday evening at the Paddington Recreation Ground at 7p.m. and is open to the first 3,000 people to arrive. I don’t know what the weather forecast is for next Saturday but if you like ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ do give your support.
Brethren, we have received 400 hundred possible designs for the tie competition from 124 applicants and I hope this summer will give an opportunity for the judges to suggest a short-list for consideration.
And finally, Brethren, on Thursday, 27 June, I shall be opening the exhibition of the works of the Artist-Photographer, Alvin Langdon Coburn, who was also a prolific Mason. It is being organised by the Library and Museum Charitable Trust, will be the first major exhibition of its kind that we have sponsored and I recommend a visit. Brother Coburn had a long and distinguished Masonic career in North Wales and Freemasonry was central to his life. He wrote an explanation of it which seems appropriate for our Freemasonry in the Community initiative. He said “that Freemasonry is not a thing apart, cut off from life, it is interwoven with it, and the more it is studied with a view to spiritual progress, the more enlightened one becomes, and the richer in consequence are our lives!”
Brethren, this is the last time I shall be able to address you before the summer break, but I wish you all a very time with your friends and families and look forward to seeing you again in September, when the new Masonic season starts.