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.
Because this Quarterly Communication has included the presentation of the Rulers’ Forum Mentoring Project and the meeting of the Grand Charity, I will keep my remarks brief.
I am pleased that the legislation has been passed enabling the appointment of Provincial and District Grand Orators. This means that we can now start the Orator Scheme in earnest. I have asked for intended orations to be approved before they are delivered and the Orators will now be fully briefed on the procedure for this.
In January you will have received your copy of the new Freemasonry Today. I was impressed with all the work done on this first issue and I know that it will become a valuable tool for promoting a better understanding of the Craft and Royal Arch as well as wider topics of interest. The next issue will be with you at the beginning of April.
Since the last Quarterly Communication the Deputy Grand Master has installed the District Grand Master for Gibraltar and the Assistant Grand Master inaugurated the new District of Northern India before installing the District Grand Master. He also attended the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Combermere Lodge in Melbourne, Australia.
The lunch after Quarterly Communication is restricted to Grand Officers. I am minded that from the June Quarterly Communication this should be extended to include anyone who is qualified to attend Grand Lodge. In order to control the numbers it is likely that, at least initially, applications should be made through Provincial Grand Secretaries or the London Office or alternatively Grand Officers will be allowed to invite guests who are qualified to attend. The Grand Secretary will be explaining how this will work in practice when he sends you the usual form.
12 DECEMBER 2007
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
You will have seen reference, in the Paper of Business, to the European Grand Masters’ meeting held here on the 5th and 6th of November. This was an historic occasion, and was planned as a one-off meeting so that we, as the mother Grand Lodge, could make clear our views on regularity, recognition and sovereignty. We had been under pressure, for some time, to give guidance and a clear stance on our position. This we did, and my speech to open the conference is printed in full as an appendix to the Paper of Business. I draw your attention to the first paragraph where I set out our position on regularity, and later I make the important point that it is not Freemasonry but the individual Mason, imbued with the principles and tenets of the Craft, who has a positive influence on society.
The Grand Master hosted an enjoyable reception and dinner on the eve of the formal meeting for representatives of forty-four European Grand Lodges, which included no less than forty-one Grand Masters.
What was apparent from the meeting is that while we may have a wide diversity of customs and practices in European Freemasonry, we all subscribe to the same basic principles and tenets and are determined to maintain and preserve regularity. From the feedback we have received the meeting was considered a success and there is now a determination to continue the contacts which were made and to strengthen the lines of communications between European Grand Lodges. This can only be good for the future of regular Freemasonry.
It was an historic occasion, and like all major meetings did not just happen. I would like to place on record my thanks to VW Bro John Hamill and all the other members of the Grand Secretary’s staff who worked so hard to make it enjoyable and successful.
Brethren, you should know that at the meeting of Supreme Grand Chapter in November I announced that the working group set up last year under the Chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, had now published its report into the recruitment and retention of Royal Arch Masons. The first conclusion of the report relates to the additional paragraph to the 1813 Declaration in the preamble to the Book of Constitutions, relating to the status of the Royal Arch. This was added to by Grand Lodge, in December 2003. In short, this describes the Royal Arch as “an extension to, but neither a superior nor subordinate part of the Degrees which precede it”. There is no doubt that the Royal Arch is not the completion of just the third degree. But it is not felt that the 2003 declaration accurately reflects the relationship of the Royal Arch to the three Craft degrees. The result is that it has not been helpful to those joining or seeking to recruit new members. So, I am minded to request Grand Lodge to give careful consideration to replacing the 2003 paragraph with a fresh definition. I feel that, in general terms, we should all seek to describe the Royal Arch as the next step in Freemasonry after the Craft degrees and the final step in pure Antient Masonry.
The other important conclusion of the report, in relation to recruitment, is a recommendation to Grand Lodge from Supreme Grand Chapter, that a Royal Arch representative should be appointed in each Craft Lodge. This representative, at least until further research and consideration, would not be a Lodge officer. But he would have responsibility for promoting the Royal Arch within the context of the Lodge. Where his role has already been implemented in some Lodges, it has had a dramatic effect on the levels of recruitment and retention. Representatives need to be carefully chosen and the report gives advice and guidance on this matter.
Since the last Quarterly Communication I have visited our three Districts in India, accompanied by the Grand Secretary. This proved to be a very successful trip visiting the District of Bombay and Northern India in Mumbai; the District of Bengal in Kolkata and the District of Madras in both Chennai and Bangalore. This was my first visit to India and we were greeted by everyone with great warmth. I held a business meeting in each District and we met as many of the Brethren and their wives, as possible.
At the request of the District Grand Master of Bombay and Northern India we are reforming the District back into two Districts. The District has been a happy one and the split is purely based on the enormous distances between some of the Lodges. The inauguration of the District of Northern India will take place in early January.
At the third Rulers’ Forum meeting yesterday, Brethren from three of the Groups gave a presentation on the best points from all the mentoring schemes that exist and more. Retention depends on mentoring and education and the CD-ROM which they have produced contains information and guidance for mentors from the interview stage through to third degree and beyond. It was so impressive that I have asked them to repeat the presentation at our next Quarterly Communication in March.
Finally, Brethren, I wish you and your families every joy for the Festive Season and a very happy New Year.
14 November 2007
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal
Companions I welcome you all to Grand Chapter today and it is good to see so many of you attending. I am pleased to announce that the working group set up last year under the chairmanship of the Second Grand Principal, has now published its report into the recruitment and retention of Royal Arch Masons. The report is in the process of being sent to all Grand Superintendents. I hope that they will make it more widely available in their Provinces. This will assist more Companions to understand and help meet the challenges facing the Royal Arch.
As you will no doubt be aware, our overall numbers have been dropping steadily.
That is broadly in line with the falls in membership which are being experienced in the Craft. One more welcome development is that the Royal Arch
membership – as a proportion of the total membership of the craft – has been rising very slightly over the past ten years. However, there is much to do; both in attracting Master Masons who are not in the Royal Arch and then, almost more importantly, retaining their interest and involvement once they have joined us. That, in turn, will encourage further recruitment.
As part of their brief the working group has consulted nearly all our Provinces in England and Wales, but this report does not cover the Metropolitan Grand Chapter, as they are shortly due to bring out their own report on recruitment and retention in London. And neither does it cover our Districts overseas. Having said that, I am sure the report will be useful to both London and our Districts.
The first conclusion of the report relates to the additional paragraph to the 1813 Declaration in the preamble to the Book of Constitutions, relating to the status of the Royal Arch. This was added to by Grand Lodge, in December 2003. In short, this describes the Royal Arch as ‘an extension to, but neither a superior nor a subordinate part of the Degrees which precede it’. There is no doubt that the Royal Arch is not just the completion of the third degree. But it is not felt that the 2003 declaration, as to the status of the Royal Arch, has been entirely satisfactory. Or, that it helps in any way to describe the relationship of the Royal Arch to the three Craft degrees. The result is that it has not been helpful to those joining or those seeking
to recruit new members.
I am minded to request Grand Lodge to give careful consideration to replacing this 2003 paragraph with a fresh definition. A number of Companions will be assisting me in trying to find a more suitable form of words for consideration. I feel that, in general terms, we should all seek to describe the Royal Arch as the next step in Freemasonry after the Craft degrees and the final step in pure Antient Masonry.
It is, of course, both an integral part of Craft Masonry as well as being its completion.
The other important conclusion of the report, in relation to recruitment, is a recommendation to Grand Lodge from Supreme Grand Chapter, that a Royal Arch representative should be appointed in each Craft Lodge. This representative, at least until further research and consideration, would not be a Lodge officer. But he would have the responsibility of promoting the Royal Arch within the context of the Lodge. Where this role has already been implemented in some Lodges, it has had a dramatic effect on the levels of recruitment and retention. Representatives need to be carefully chosen and the report gives advice and guidance on this matter.
On the subject of retention, the report makes a number of recommendations. It draws attention to the dangers of allowing Chapters to become smaller and smaller to the point where they will no longer become viable. And to look for ways of holding joint meetings with other Chapters from time to time – with a possible view to encouraging amalgamations rather than inevitable closures. The sharing of work is made much easier by the new ritual, but greater efforts are needed to include as many Companions as possible in ceremonies. This is to prevent boredom on the part of experienced Companions, and fear and trepidation among newer Companions.
I wish to thank all members of the working group, for their time and efforts in producing this practical report. And although their work as such is finished, I trust that the channels established by individual members with Provinces will continue to remain in place informally, in order to improve and maintain communication with the centre.
Companions, you will have seen in the Paper of Business for this meeting that one of our Chapters has been erased for a good reason. It is to be one of the founding Chapters of a new Supreme Grand Chapter of Estonia. Those of you who were present in Grand Lodge in September and heard the Grand Chancellor’s talk will no doubt remember his comment on the huge growth of regular Freemasonry in Europe over the last twenty years and the establishment of new or revived Grand Lodges. A number of those Grand Lodges now feel settled enough to consider completing “pure Antient Masonry” within their jurisdictions by including the Royal Arch and have approached us for advice and assistance.
Such is their keenness that they are not only willing to travel to England on a regular basis to be exalted into failing Chapters, but they are making huge efforts to learn the complex ritual in what is to them a foreign language.
One project was completed last year when two of our Chapters were transferred to the authority of the Grand Lodge of Andorra to form the basis of a Grand Chapter there. Another two of our Chapters are meeting by dispensation in Budapest to form the nucleus of a Grand Chapter of Hungary and one Chapter is meeting in Belgrade to exalt members of the Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia. Added to which, senior members of the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria are already members of two Chapters in London. Last week Grand Lodge hosted the largest gathering of European Grand Lodges ever held, with forty-four European Grand Lodges represented. Whilst the Royal Arch was not on the formal agenda, during the lunch and coffee breaks we were approached by a number of other Grand Lodges who are now seeking to complete pure Antient Masonry in their territories with our help.
This is surely positive news as we help to spread the message of the Royal Arch more widely.
Finally Companions I wish you and your families peace and happiness as we approach the festive season and I look forward to our next meeting in April.
12 SEPTEMBER 2007
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
In his speech to Grand Lodge, the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, referred to the Universities Scheme and the decision to amalgamate MQ and Freemasonry Today.
He said: “Last year I mentioned the establishment of the University Scheme under the guidance of the Assistant Grand Master. The intention of the scheme was to provide opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy Freemasonry.”
The scheme, he added, had attracted interest from more Lodges than originally planned and had generated much interest from local and national press, and would now cover many more universities than the original nine.
He added: “Any lodge wishing to participate may do so as long as it can persuade its PGM that its members are committed to the challenges of change which the scheme is implementing. I wish all the participants every success in this exciting initiative.”
Lord Northampton said that the Board of General Purposes had agreed a merger between MQ and Freemasonry Today. The first issue, which will be distributed free to members in England and Wales, will be coming out in January and will retain the name of Freemasonry Today and will be the house magazine of the United Grand Lodge of England.
He continued: “I believe the criteria for this new magazine should be that it makes our members proud to belong to English Freemasonry, with lots of pictures and interesting news from all over our Constitution.
“It should educate our brethren and their families into a better understanding of Freemasonry with articles which promote the Craft – its charity, its three Grand Principles, its moral and spiritual virtues and its tolerance. It should make a young man keen to join us if he is looking for moral stability in his life, free from doctrine or dogma.”
Lord Northampton said the magazine “is part of our need to preserve our heritage and our uniqueness at a time when society is questioning past values in a rush to embrace anything new. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked hard to produce MQ over the past few years.”
13 JUNE 2007
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
Brethren, today it is exactly 40 years since HRH the Duke of Kent KG was elected as our Grand Master. On behalf of all our members I have written to congratulate him on such a remarkable achievement and expressed our wish that he will enjoy good health to enable him to continue as our Grand Master for many years to come.
More good news … I have just announced the remarkable sums raised by four Provinces for our Masonic charities. That makes a total of £14.6 million. I attended the festival in Nottingham on Sunday when a new record was set of over £1,000 per member in the Province. These are very large sums of money indeed and our thanks go to all those who have been responsible for such outstanding generosity.
Brethren, I am looking closely at our marketing and public relations. I believe that this is a very important area when it comes to attracting and retaining quality candidates. However, it needs a new dynamic approach. There are many initiatives taking place around the country, including open days and stands at county shows, all of which play a useful part in spreading our message to a wider audience.
At the Centre we are particularly looking at improving our website and MQ magazine. This will all help to underpin our open approach on communication.
Open communication is important to the way we are perceived and therefore crucial to the future health of the Craft.
I have said it before, but it is worth repeating, that this is best achieved by Masons talking openly about the Masonry they enjoy to their families, friends and anyone who shows an interest in knowing more about us.
I have started my regional conferences with Provincial Grand Masters, accompanied by the Grand Secretary.
The first of these was held at Sindlesham at the end of May, with three more to be held in Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham.
I am also visiting our brethren overseas, beginning with a trip to our Districts in India in November accompanied by the Grand Secretary.
In July, the Assistant Grand Master is visiting the District Grand Lodge of Sri Lanka for their centenary and the installation of their new District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent.
In early November we are hosting a special meeting of European Grand Masters to discuss the issue of regularity. The Masonic world has expanded with the creation of new Grand Lodges in Europe, and as the mother Grand Lodge it is time to restate our fundamental beliefs when it comes to regular Freemasonry.
Finally, brethren, I wish you all a very pleasant summer and look forward to our next meeting in September when we shall hopefully all have benefited from some rest and relaxation.
ROYAL ARCH ANNUAL INVESTITURE
26 APRIL 2006
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
I welcome you all here today for this special meeting and congratulate all those Companions I have invested with their new ranks. Whether you have been promoted or appointed this morning your new rank brings with it certain responsibilities.
Chief among these is to promote the Order to Master Masons and encourage new Companions to understand and enjoy this new dimension to their Masonry. You can see from the paper of business that the number of Grand Chapter certificates issued last year has fallen by twelve and a half per cent in the past ten years.
ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE
25 APRIL 2007
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
I start by saying a very warm welcome to everyone attending our Grand Lodge meeting today and I congratulate all those whom I have had the pleasure of investing with Grand Rank or promoting to higher office.
As Grand Officers, I would remind you that you have an important leadership role to play in the Craft. As well as continuing to set high standards for the Craft to follow, I hope you will also be active in promoting greater openness about our Freemasonry, which I consider essential.
Together with helping us to understand our own place in Freemasonry, this more open approach should also ensure we are better prepared to explain our Masonry to our family, friends and acquaintances.
There is no doubt in my mind Brethren, that with today’s rapidly changing society, Freemasonry is more relevant than at any other time.
Many of you will be aware that the four main Masonic charities, the Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund will shortly all be under one roof here at Freemasons’ Hall.
This move will, I believe, bring enormous benefits. I have in mind, for example, increased liaison between the charities themselves and between them and the United Grand Lodge of England, as well as shared resources.
The Rulers’ Forum had its first meeting in December, and from all the comments I have had, it has got off to a good start. I will be happy if it achieves three things.
First, there are many excellent initiatives coming out of London and the Provinces which, because of geographical reasons and lack of communication, are only taken up by a few and not disseminated to a wider audience. The teddy bear children’s hospital scheme is an example of how slowly a good idea percolates through our organisation.
The Rulers’ Forum should act as a central exchange for new ideas.
Secondly, much effort is wasted duplicating things which could be used uniformly by us all. Many Provinces, for instance, have their own booklets for Initiates, Fellow Crafts and Master Masons.
Then there are booklets on the work of the Almoners, Charity Stewards and other Lodge Officers as well as on mentor schemes and our charities.
I believe a lot of effort and cost could be saved if we took the best points from all of them and created something uniform which we could all use.
One group in the Rulers’ Forum is doing just that for mentor schemes, and it will be interesting to see how that develops.
Thirdly, it must act as a forum for grass roots Masons to debate issues, which concern us all, with the Rulers and other senior members of the Craft, and act as a conduit for disseminating the results through their groups to the Lodges.
In the course of the memorable and most enjoyable meeting of the 150th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, where I was present as a guest of their Grand Master, my brother Prince Michael, I had the opportunity to see also many other long established, well-known and respected Orders of Masonry to which many Craft members belong. I believe this may be a good moment for me to say something about them.
The Preliminary Declaration of the Act of of the two Grand Lodges in December 1813, says that it was ‘declared and announced that pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more’, that is to say ‘Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch’.
This has been the position for nearly 200 years and will remain unchanged.
However, since many members of the Craft are members of these Orders, I am pleased to acknowledge formally their existence and regularity, and in particular their sovereignty and independence.
The best known of these orders are:
Mark, Ancient and Accepted Rite, Knights Templar, Royal and Select Masters, Royal Ark Mariner, Red Cross of Constantine, Allied Masonic Degrees, Order of the Secret Monitor and Knight Templar Priests.
I also accept the valuable role they play in providing additional scope for Brethren to extend their Masonic research in interesting and enjoyable ways.
The Orders I have just mentioned are simply the best known and largest of those practised in London, the Provinces and Districts overseas. I am aware that there are in addition others that have a valid place in Freemasonry and with whom we enjoy a good relationship. What is important is that Brethren who join these other Orders still retain their membership of a Craft Lodge, and I am pleased that the Orders will be encouraging their members to do so.
In early March, Brethren, I was in Ghana to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that country’s independence. During my visit I also attended the 75th anniversary of the District Grand Lodge of Ghana. At the meeting, attended by nearly 500 Brethren, I appointed Brother His Majesty Osei Tutu, King of the Ashanti, to Past Senior Grand Deacon and I am pleased to have invested him here today.
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 behind the scenes.
14 MARCH 2007
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
Today it has been my pleasure to invest Bro Nigel Brown as Grand Secretary. The new role of Grand Secretary means that he can concentrate on our Provinces and Districts and I look forward to visiting many of them with him in the forthcoming months.
Although the number of Grand Lodge Certificates issued in 2006 showed a drop of nearly ten per cent over the previous year, this is an exciting time for Freemasonry.
I believe we are at a turning point. This is a turning point for the better.
With this in mind we should all be renewing our efforts to find men of quality to join us. To do so we need to be able to openly voice the objectives and merits of our Freemasonry. And we need to do this from the very beginning. By beginning, I mean from the moment we first interview a potential candidate. I am looking at initiatives to help this process.
It has always seemed strange to me that – for example – we ask the candidate those three very important questions after the ceremony has begun. He is in a state of darkness – has little understanding of the criteria for membership, and even less chance of giving a reasoned answer.
So what we need to do is to give clear guidelines for these interviews. We must tell the candidate what he can expect from us – and what we will expect from him. I am on record as saying that in this age of openness we should be able to discuss the purpose of our rituals with a candidate before he decides whether to join.
To put it another way – no thinking man is going to join and then stay committed to an organisation that cannot talk about itself openly and with clarity. So we have to be clear in our own minds what the purpose of Freemasonry is and what our ritual means.
When we are clear – we need to become good at marketing ourselves. Then, in the interview we can explain our Freemasonry in a way that fits the 21st century and why it will be relevant to the candidate. That will allow us a better chance of competing for his leisure time, his finances and his intellectual stimulation.
I am sure, like me, many of you must feel frustrated when you open your newspapers and read how leaders in our society have been emphasising recently the importance of morality and tolerance. Yet as Freemasons we practise both those virtues and have been doing so for a very long time.
We do not shout about it from the rooftops, but quietly practise in our everyday lives those lessons we are taught in our Lodges. I spoke at Quarterly Communication in December 2005 about the need to explain ourselves through the virtues of tolerance and trust, but there are other ways in which Freemasonry helps us.
Anyone who has seen a timid brother climb through the offices and pass through the Chair of his Lodge with new-found confidence can see first-hand how Masonry instils leadership qualities in its candidates.
It also provides a welcome social outlet for the lonely and bereaved.
How many times have we heard a brother praising the support he received from his Lodge when he lost a loved one, discovered he had a life-threatening illness or just felt lonely and needed someone to talk to? These are some of the things we can explain to our candidates and the popular world to show the benefits we get from our Freemasonry.
Following my remarks at the last Quarterly Communication about the success of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield, I learnt soon after that Professor Andrew Prescott would be leaving his post there.
I am pleased to say I have received a positive letter from the Vice Chancellor pledging the University’s strong commitment to the continuation and development of the Centre. He goes on to say that ‘they will shortly be advertising for a successor and will provide the necessary funding to ensure that this is a sufficiently long-term appointment to attract a strong field of candidates’.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Prescott for all the efforts he has made to get Freemasonry recognised as a serious and worthwhile subject for academic research.
Since our last meeting the Grand Master has attended the 75th anniversary of our District of Ghana. Last weekend I visited the Grand Lodge of Spain to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the re-establishment of regular Freemasonry in that country.
In May I shall be going to Edinburgh to represent the United Grand Lodge of England alongside the Grand Masters of Ireland and Scotland at the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry, which is being hosted by the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
It will be a remarkable gathering of academic lecturers drawn from all over the world and details can be found on their website, which will be published in MQ for anyone who is interested, at www.ichfonline.org.
Brethren, on another subject, you should know that at the Annual Investiture the Grand Master is minded to make a positive statement about our relationship with the other long-established and well-known Orders of Masonry to which many Craft members belong. I believe this will be most welcome.