10 JUNE 2009
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
It is not very long since I addressed Grand Lodge at the Annual Investiture and, therefore, I do not want to take up too much of your time today and I will be brief.
I am delighted to see so many of you here today. I expect you had a very difficult journey due to the tube strike and so congratulations to everybody who has fought their way here. It is important that as we are all members of the Grand Charity as many as possible do attend. For your information the annual meeting, usually held in March, will now continue to be part of each June’s Quarterly Communication. In actual fact this is returning to the format that was in place until 1989.
30 April 2009
An address by the ME The First Grand Principal
Companions, let me begin by saying a very warm welcome to everyone attending our Royal Arch meeting today and I want especially to congratulate those whom I have had the pleasure of investing with their new ranks. Whether you have been promoted or appointed this morning, you will I know be aware that your rank brings with it certain responsibilities. In particular, I shall rely upon you to encourage members of the Craft to join this beautiful degree and then, once they have been exalted, to mentor and support them through their journey as Royal Arch Masons. You will also be expected to play a major role in helping them to clearly understand the meaning of the ritual.
As you heard earlier, on the eleventh of March I invested Most Excellent Companion Peter Lowndes as Pro Grand Master in the Craft and, on that day, he also became Pro First Grand Principal. It was therefore with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to formally invest and install him this morning. I know you would wish to join me in congratulating him on this important role. I also want to acknowledge the enormous contribution that the Past Pro First Grand Principal, Lord Northampton, made to the Order, for example, in creating an alternative ritual that has been adopted by many Chapters and is helping more of you take an active part in the ceremony. The result is that the work is shared with as many Companions as possible which is vital for the health of a Chapter. And it makes the ceremony more enjoyable for everyone.
Most Excellent Companion George Francis continues as Second Grand Principal, as does Most Excellent Companion Neil Collings, as Third Grand Principal. Many of you will know that Most Excellent Companion Collings has suffered from ill-health for some time, and we all wish him continued progress with his recovery.
You should all be aware that there are several initiatives under way for the good of the Royal Arch. I give you three examples of these. First, the Committee of General Purposes will shortly distribute a booklet entitled A Guide to Chapter. This will go a long way to explaining what the Royal Arch is all about.
As I mentioned earlier, I consider the Royal Arch a most beautiful degree – the culmination of the candidate’s journey through pure Antient Masonry – the climax of Craft Masonry. The booklet will explain the wonderful balance between the serious Mason’s degree, against at the same time the great friendliness of this degree.
Secondly, I am delighted that the majority of Lodges now have a Royal Arch Representative who can encourage those interested to complete their pure Antient Masonry. This is a very positive step, and I hope that such Representatives will also take responsibility for retaining new members once they have been exalted.
And thirdly, the Committee of General Purposes will soon agree a Royal Arch tie which, with the approval of the Board of General Purposes, you will also be able to wear in Craft Lodges.
So, Companions, with your help and the support of initiatives such as those I have just mentioned, recruiting will, I am confident, increase, and the Order continue to thrive.
Finally, I would thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Assistants for conducting an excellent ceremony; and Grand Scribe Ezra and his dedicated team for organising this successful meeting.
ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE
29 APRIL 2009
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I trust that you will forgive me if I start with a skiing analogy. Those of you who know me will be aware that when I speak I prefer to go “off piste”. However, today there is an avalanche warning and, as what I am about to say this afternoon will appear on the UGLE website, in Freemasonry Today and in the Minutes of the Meeting, I think that it is best if I stick to the prepared surface.
Brethren the turn out today is, as always, magnificent - from the Provinces, the Districts and, of course, London. In these difficult times it says a great deal about the morale within the Craft that so many travel so far to attend this important meeting. For those not specifically receiving honours today and who come to support their Provincial and District Grand Masters and their friends who are receiving honours, a particularly warm welcome. I assure you that this is greatly appreciated by those at Headquarters.
I must first congratulate all those that I have invested this afternoon. Grand Rank is not only conferred for your past services to the Craft, but equally for the expectation of your future commitment to ensuring that Freemasonry continues to excel.
In his address to Grand Lodge in March, the Grand Master outlined the tremendous work carried out by my predecessor Lord Northampton and I want to put on record my own appreciation of all that he did for Freemasonry over many years and for handing over to me with the Craft in as buoyant a mood as it has been for some years. Don’t misunderstand me, there is still plenty to be done, but I believe it is most important to ensure that all the initiatives that have been started in recent years are given the attention and support that they need to ensure that they have long lasting benefits for the Craft.
Much has been said about the Mentoring Scheme - and rightly so. I want to emphasise the importance of what the Grand Master said in March - that it does not matter how much mentoring we give a new member after he has been initiated, if we don’t ensure that all candidates for initiation have a proper understanding, before they join, of what we expect of them and, indeed, what they can expect from us. If all of us get that right AND we look after them properly once they are members, then we will lose far fewer members in their early months and years and have a much more enlightened and satisfied membership.
Brethren, I don’t believe that there has been any time during my years as a member of the craft (and that is 37 years nearly to the day) when there has been so much pride shown in being a member. Gone are the days when we might shy away from having a conversation with our non-masonic friends about our involvement.
At long last we have the confidence to explain that we expect, and generally speaking get, all our members to behave in a way that benefits society at large. That does not just mean the considerable sums that Freemasonry gives to non-Masonic Charities every year, and we must emphasise that all our members are expected to behave in a civilised, lawful and neighbourly fashion at all times.
We have a strict code of conduct and action is taken if a member steps out of line. This applies to his behaviour in everyday life as well as within the confines of the Craft. Of course, going back to what I have just said, if we vet candidates properly, we will go a long way to reducing the possibility of misconduct.
Our disciplinary procedures are very firm and hopefully fair. Sadly, from time to time, members are expelled or suspended. One of the main issues that is looked at is: “does the Brother’s behaviour bring Freemasonry into disrepute?”
I hope that we would all agree that, if a Brother is behaving in an antisocial or dishonest manner, he is not only bringing this Order into disrepute, but also he is behaving in a way that is unacceptable to society in general. We want all our members to be good members of society and useful in the community. As, in the vast majority of cases, this is exactly what our Brethren are, it naturally follows that we should be very proud to be members of such an organisation.
Finally, Brethren, today does not just happen. A huge amount of organisation is involved. This building is a busy place most days of most weeks and, as you will all have seen today, it really buzzes on a big occasion like this. I am sure you would all like to join with me in thanking the Grand Secretary and his team for the highly efficient way that they have arranged everything for us today.
Brethren, you may not be entirely surprised to hear that both myself and, I suspect, the Deputy Grand Master have been keeping a watchful eye on the ceremonial today with perhaps rather more than just a passing interest. For my part I have only one word to describe it - impeccable. I really do congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for running the show so smoothly.
11 MARCH 2009
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
First thank you for re-electing me as Grand Master and let me say a very warm welcome to you all at this historic Quarterly Communication. Historic, as I have just had the pleasure of installing Most Worshipful Brother Peter Lowndes as the Pro Grand Master, and Right Worshipful Brother Jonathan Spence as the Deputy Grand Master. This is a major event in our Masonic history that will long remain in your memories. I know that you will want to join me in offering these two distinguished Brethren our heartfelt congratulations. I am delighted that Right Worshipful Brother David Williamson has agreed to continue as Assistant Grand Master and I thank him for all he has already achieved in this important office. This team, with their wealth of experience will, I know, build on our recent successes and lead the Craft with inspiration towards 2017 - our three hundredth anniversary.
10 DECEMBER 2008
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master The Most Hon The Marquess of Northampton, DL
As this is the last Grand Lodge at which I shall preside I would like to take the opportunity to put on record some of my thoughts about English Freemasonry. Looking back over the past 300 years it is clear that Freemasonry has adapted to fit the society of the day from which it draws its members, and to ensure its future will have to continue to do so. In fact the cause of many of its recent problems was that it lost touch with a changing society and stopped communicating with the popular world. It shows the resilience of the Craft and the strength of its ethos that in so short a time it has been able to adjust itself to a new openness without in any way compromising its basic tenets.
12 November 2008
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal
Companions, I announced in Grand Lodge in September that I have decided to step down as Pro Grand Master next March and that the Grand Master has been pleased to appoint the Deputy Grand Master to succeed me. He will, therefore, also succeed me as Pro First Grand Principal. I wish Companion Lowndes every success in his new role and I will support him in any way possible.
As this is the last Grand Chapter over which I shall preside as Pro First Grand Principal, I would like to say a few words about the Royal Arch. I have tried over the past eight years to encourage Masons to think of the Order as the climax of Craft Masonry, which it is, but it has been difficult to devote as much time to it as I would have liked when so much of my job as Pro Grand Master has been concerned with Craft Masonry worldwide. That was one of the reasons I was keen to separate the roles of Deputy Grand Master and Second Grand Principal, to make the latter a Companion who would be dedicated solely to the Order. I think Companion Francis is doing an excellent job and I am sure he will continue to devote himself wholeheartedly to the Royal Arch. I have likewise been very fortunate to have Companion Collings as the Third Grand Principal, and there have been many occasions when I have sought his wise counsel. Sadly, he has just had a major operation so he was unable to be with us today. We all wish him well, and a speedy return to full health. Companion Bryce was also a great support to me when he stepped down as Deputy Grand Master but continued as Second Grand Principal.
His knowledge and experience were invaluable during a time of much change.
But for all the efforts that so many Companions have made and continue to make for the good of the Royal Arch, we have to ask ourselves why some of the other side Orders are growing substantially, while the Royal Arch is not. I fully accept that it is not for everyone being a more mystical Order, but that does not explain why much less than half our members join it. I think one of the reasons that it is less popular is that its ritual is profound and few Companions really understand its meaning and purpose. When I chaired the Working Party which I set up to look at ways of making it more intelligible and user-friendly we spent more time discussing the detail of what existed than exploring the possibilities of what, in an ideal world, it might become. There is always a danger that by being too radical one ends up destroying what one is trying to improve, but I think we could have gone further with the revisions and made even more of the important parts of the ceremony for the benefit of our exaltees.
However, the alternative ritual has been adopted by many Chapters and is helping more of us take an active part in the ceremony. Sharing the work with as many Companions as possible is vital for the health of a Chapter. It makes the ceremony more enjoyable for everyone.
There are of course other measures we can adopt, following the report of the Second Grand Principal’s committee. I think it would be a positive step to have a Royal Arch representative in the Lodge who can encourage Brethren to complete their pure Antient Masonry, always bearing in mind that this Order is not for everyone and no undue pressure should ever be exerted. I see no reason why we could not also develop a stand-alone Royal Arch Orator scheme, with short papers on the meaning and relevance of the ritual, but it may be preferable to wait until any teething problems with the Craft equivalent have been resolved.
I do believe we should consider importing the mentoring scheme from the Craft as soon as possible. It must make sense to have a mentor for every exaltee – someone with more experience in the Chapter who can offer guidance, introduce him to the other members and help him to bond with them. Because our Chapters are traditionally smaller than our Lodges, this should make it easier and quicker to get to know everyone.
I hope before long we may also have a Royal Arch tie, which can be worn by Companions in their Lodges. Whatever means we use to promote the Order it is clearly important to maintain strong and close links between the Craft and the Royal Arch, and encourage as many Brethren as possible to complete their pure Antient Masonry.
Companions, I have two people to thank, without whom my tenure as Pro First Grand Principal would not have been possible. The first is my wife, Pamela, who has encouraged me at all times to enjoy my Masonry to the full. Her love, support and commitment to me, and to Freemasonry in general, have made my job that much easier and enjoyable.
The second is of course the ME First Grand Principal for allowing me the opportunity of serving the Craft and Royal Arch as his Pro. He takes a keen personal interest in all things Masonic and his wealth of experience spanning over forty years has been invaluable. We are indeed fortunate to have him as our head and, like him, I believe also that Masonry, above all else, must be enjoyable. And finally Companions, I thank all of you who have supported me in any way.
10 DECEMBER 2008
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master The Most Hon The Marquess of Northampton, DL
I have had the great privilege of being Pro Grand Master since March 2001 and before that I was Assistant Grand Master for five years in charge of London. I have decided that the time has come for me to step down in March and give someone else the chance to steer the Craft for the next few years.
These past eight years have continued a process of great change for English Freemasonry, helping it to come through one of the most difficult periods in its history.
As the Grand Master pointed out recently, we are entering a period of consolidation, and if we continue to build on the foundations of openness we have laid for the 21st century there is every chance that we will start to grow again. I welcome an increase in our numbers as long as we continue to maintain the highest standards and concentrate on the quality of our candidates.
I am pleased to tell you that the Grand Master has appointed RW Bro Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master, to succeed me. He will be installed as Pro Grand Master at the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge in March. He will be succeeded as Deputy Grand Master by RW Bro Jonathan Spence, Grand Director of Ceremonies, and he in turn by W Bro Oliver Lodge, Past Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies. I am pleased to say the Assistant Grand Master will be continuing in office. I shall be presiding at Grand Lodge for the last time in December.
I wish Bro Lowndes every success in his new important role and have every confidence that the Craft will be in very capable hands. For my part I shall continue to enjoy my Masonry, albeit at an easier pace and with less direct responsibility.
I look forward to helping in any way I can to ensure the future good health and happiness of English Freemasonry. It has been an honour to serve the Craft.
11 JUNE 2008
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE PRO GRAND MASTER THE MOST HON THE MARQUESS OF NORTHAMPTON, DL
On the nineteenth of July, this very fine building – created as a Masonic Peace Memorial – will be seventy-five years old. At the June Quarterly Communication in 1933, held seventy-five years ago last Saturday at the Central Hall Westminster, Lord Ampthill, the then Pro Grand Master, thanking Lodges for their generous response to the appeal for the erection of this building said that, “it would be an outward sign of our pious memory of the Brethren who fell in the Great War and, at the same time, a fulfilment of the duty we owe those who came after us.”
I believe that the building remains today as a fitting memorial for the Brethren who fell in the Great War. And a fitting fulfilment of the duty the planners and builders owed to those who came after them. I am confident that that fulfilment will continue for many generations of future Masons.
Referring to the building the then Pro Grand Master continued, “it is a duty we owe to the cause of Masonry, and to Freemasons all over the world, that the headquarters of the English Constitution should be worthy of the honour and reputation that we enjoy, and that the place of assembly of the Grand Lodge of England should be fully significant of our faith and cause, our confidence in the future, and our determination to make Freemasonry more and more a potent influence for the good in national life.”
Shortly afterwards, the Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn held an especial meeting in connection with the dedication of this Masonic Peace Memorial at the Royal Albert Hall, followed the next day – 19 July 1933 – by the dedication itself, here at Great Queen Street. So, the first Quarterly Communication was held here on 6 September 1933. To commemorate that, at our next Quarterly Communication in September, I have asked Brother John Hamill, Director of Communications, to talk about the history of the building.
Towards the end of last year I launched a survey of Lodge and Chapter records. This survey will be an important building block for the book on Masonic history which we are planning to publish in 2017 as part of the Tercentenary celebrations of the formation of the first Grand Lodge. Undertaking this survey within an organisation of this size and age is ambitious. But I am confident that, with your help, it will be successful and that the results will also be important in encouraging further research into our history.
I have been following the results very closely and I am pleased that the project has been enthusiastically supported. All our Provinces have now appointed a volunteer co-ordinator to organise the survey. Most of these co-ordinators have taken the opportunity to attend a briefing meeting here at Freemasons' Hall, and have already started the survey in their Provinces. We hope to have completed the survey by the summer of 2009.
At the end of May the Deputy Grand Master opened the Women and Freemasonry Exhibition in the Library and Museum. It covers the development of Freemasonry for Women in the early years of the last century. At the preview guests included lady representatives from the various women’s organisations including the Order of Women Freemasons and the Honourable Fraternity of Antient Freemasons. We maintain our independence from the women’s organisations and they are happy to maintain their independence from us. Apart from the historical interest, the Exhibition has a valuable public relations benefit. It will help to dispel the commonly held myth, among non-Masons, that there are no women in Freemasonry! I commend the Exhibition to you.
The Hampton Court Flower Show in July will feature a garden with a Masonic theme which I hope will encourage some of you to visit, if you have an interest in gardens. It is sponsored by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and twelve Provinces in the south of England. I am looking forward to attending and the dates and details can be found on the UGLE website. Brethren, returning to the words of the Pro Grand Master in 1933, and comparing those words with the situation today: this fine building is fully significant of our faith and cause; we have confidence in the future and we remain determined to make Freemasons more and more a potent influence for good in our national life. In fact, I believe that the Craft is in a much stronger position now than it has been for many years, and I end my remarks by wishing you and your families a very happy summer.
1 May 2008
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal
Companions, I welcome you all on this happy occasion and congratulate those that I have had the pleasure of investing with their new ranks. As Grand Officers you have responsibilities to Supreme Grand Chapter. Not least is the responsibility for recruiting and helping to retain new Companions. I impress on you the importance of being able to explain the Royal Arch to potential exaltees as well as demonstrating a clear understanding of the ritual. Your support and encouragement to Companions in your own Chapters, at whatever stage of their progress, will be a key factor in retaining them.
Members of the Craft, who are not members of the Royal Arch, still need a greater awareness of the indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch.
Last year I set up a working party under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal to look into the questions of recruitment and retention. One of the recommendations was the appointment of a formal Royal Arch representative in each Lodge. I am pleased to hear that where this has been implemented positive results are being achieved.
Any published figures are a snapshot at the time, but I was delighted to see that there has been an increase in Grand Chapter Certificates presented in 2007. It is encouraging also to see on the Paper of Business that, on this occasion, there were more exaltations during the year than the number of Chapters on the Roll.
The Committee of General Purposes is proposing to publish a booklet on the Royal Arch for new members to explain what the Royal Arch is, a little of its history, how it is organised, how it forms part of “pure antient Masonry” and how it fits into the Masonic system as practised in England and Wales. This was planned originally as part of the changes to the ritual and will soon be finalised. The Committee is also looking at designs for a Royal Arch tie.
The immediate Past Second Grand Principal has just attended the inauguration of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia. We are delighted to have played a part in introducing Royal Arch Masonry into Estonia. This developed when a London Chapter, in difficulties, was approached to be a host Chapter to enable a number of Estonian Brethren, including their Grand Master, to experience the Royal Arch. The influx of Estonians saved the Chapter, warm friendships developed and they were delighted to be included as one of the founding Chapters of the Estonian Grand Chapter. So much so that some of them are going to continue their membership in Estonia.
Most Excellent Companion His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent was installed as First Grand Principal in November 1967, just over forty years ago. Our heartfelt thanks go to him for his contribution throughout those forty years to enhancing the dignity of this beautiful and impressive Order.
I take this opportunity to remind you that all our Companions are entitled to attend Grand Chapter and I hope to see as many as possible at our November meeting.
Finally, Companions, I thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the efficient way they have run the ceremony today and the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for organising this successful meeting.
ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE
30 APRIL 2008
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE GRAND MASTER HRH THE DUKE OF KENT, KG
I begin as always by saying a very warm welcome to everyone attending our Grand Lodge meeting today and I warmly congratulate all those whom I have had the pleasure of investing with Grand Rank or promoting to higher office. As Grand Officers you have an important leadership part to play in the future of Freemasonry. By leadership, I mean setting consistently high standards in your own Masonic life as well as demonstrating your understanding of the meaning of the ritual and the principles and tenets of the Craft. This understanding will help you to guide others at all stages of their Masonic journey, whilst encouraging them all to talk openly about their Freemasonry to potential candidates, family and acquaintances.
There is, however, a caveat. Brethren, although you will naturally feel some personal satisfaction at achieving such offices, I know you will all remember the words we hear each year at our Lodge installations, that humility in each is an essential qualification. And I have no doubt that that injunction should apply at least as much to those who are Grand Officers as to more junior Brethren.
Last November, I hosted a reception and dinner on the eve of the European Grand Masters’ Meeting. This was the first such meeting and was thus an historic occasion for representatives of forty-four European Grand Lodges, which included no less than forty-one Grand Masters. It was the most representative gathering of the leaders of regular Freemasonry in Europe that has ever been held. The Pro Grand Master planned it as a one-off meeting so that we, as the mother Grand Lodge, could make clear our views on regularity, recognition and sovereignty.
The Pro Grand Master set out our position on regularity emphasising that it is not Freemasonry as a whole, but the individual Mason, instilled with the principles and tenets of the Craft, who has a positive influence on society. My view is that communication between us all is essential to the future well-being of regular Freemasonry, and I can see no reason why such gatherings should not occur from time to time in the future.
I spoke last year about the Rulers’ Forum, and said then that I should be happy if it achieved a focus for grass-roots Masons to debate issues, which concern you all, with the Rulers and other senior members of the Craft and to act as a conduit for disseminating the results through their Groups to Lodges. I was, therefore, happy to hear that during the year three of the Rulers’ Forum Groups were given the task of identifying and collating best practice from Mentoring Schemes across the country. The project team has seen Masons from eight different Provinces working together, sharing ideas and, importantly, learning from each other. They have now presented their conclusions both to the Rulers’ Forum and at the last Quarterly Communication.
Their ideas support the aim of recruiting and then retaining men of quality. The successful retention of these men will involve the careful selection of Mentors at Lodge level so that, once initiated, each member is fully supported throughout his Masonic journey. The Brethren selected as Mentors will be those who can provide the time and knowledge required to care for the candidate and then to develop his understanding of our Order and how it translates into his everyday life.
Brethren, there have been a number of advances since this time last year which I believe will bring substantial benefits. For example, the new magazine, Freemasonry Today, has been successfully launched, and I am confident it will become a major channel for our open communications. In addition, the four Masonic Charities have all now congregated in this building, a move which will result in cost savings as well as leading, I hope, to a better understanding by the Brethren in London and the Provinces of the roles of each of the Charities. With so many successful initiatives having been launched since I last addressed Grand Lodge, I see this coming year as one of consolidation.
Finally, Brethren, I know you would all want me to express our thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the meticulous way in which they have run this meeting, as well as to the Grand Secretary and his staff for their careful and thorough organisation.