Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
9 November 2016
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you here both from our Districts overseas and from our Provinces, including sixty companions from Cambridgeshire. Since our last meeting in April the Most Excellent First Grand Principal has been pleased to appoint Comp Willie Shackell as Grand Scribe Ezra and we wish him well. He was, of course, formally invested as Grand Secretary at the June Quarterly Communication.
This meeting, companions, always falls near to 11th November, Armistice Day, and as you are well aware this marvellous building is a peace memorial to all those who gave their lives for us during the First World War. It is worth, therefore, drawing your attention to two events taking place next year.
The first is on 18th April 2017 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, when the newly constructed Masonic Memorial Garden in memory of all those masons who gave their lives during conflict in the service of our country will be opened. You are all invited.
The second is the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Memorial by the Grand Master on 25th April 2017. It will be placed on the pavement in front of the Tower Entrance of this building and will take the form of a number of paving stones with the names of the 63 Victoria Cross holders who were awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I and who were members of UGLE. Of these, 17 were also companions in the Royal Arch.
Companions, this seems to be an appropriate time to say a few words about Comp Denis Beckett who was one of the companions we stood in memory of earlier in the meeting. Comp Beckett was a very remarkable man and I had the good fortune to know him well. Indeed he was President of the Committee of General Purposes when I joined it in 1987. He was a Craft mason for 71 years and a Royal Arch mason for 59 years. He was initiated immediately after World War 2 in which he served with such distinction. He was awarded the DSO for his extraordinary courage during the battle of Monte Cassino. There were those who felt a VC would have been more appropriate.
Companions, we were privileged to have him as a member and particularly so that he presided over the Committee of General Purposes for 7 years.
Companions, whilst it is clearly important to remember the past, we must also look to the future. I am therefore very pleased that the successor to the Membership Focus Group, the Improvement Delivery Group, is composed of both Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, with our Third Grand Principal, Gareth Jones, as its Deputy Chairman. It will be designing and delivering the future direction of both the Craft and Royal Arch.
Companions, you may have seen that, after my address at Quarterly Communications in June, I have been accused in the national media of suggesting that masons are all grumpy and boring – a misrepresentation, companions. At least I consider it to be a misrepresentation, but, if any of you think otherwise, I apologise. I said that if an amusing incident occurs at one of our meetings, it should not be frowned upon as had sometimes been the case in the past. It is not a capital offence to smile during meetings. Whilst I was not suggesting we should turn our meetings into a pantomime, there is no harm in us being seen to enjoy ourselves.
I believe this to be particularly so in the Royal Arch, as our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest and, in my experience, candidates derive great enjoyment from it. I think this is particularly so when the new format of the ritual is used which involves more of the companions and has the benefit of changing the voice that the candidate hears which I always feel refreshes his interest.
Finally, since Supreme Grand Chapter arranged the refurbishment of our magnificent organ, we have been treated to a number of superb concerts in this temple and I congratulate the Organ Committee on its achievements to date. I am very keen to draw your attention to the next concert at 5.00 pm, on 14th December, after the Quarterly Communication, to be given by the international concert artist, Jane Parker-Smith. The concerts are free, companions, and, so far, they have been wonderfully entertaining, and I am quite certain that this will be no exception.
Companions, I have no doubt that after our closing, you will enjoy listening to a team from the Royal College of Surgeons led by Professor Neil Mortensen, RCS Research Board Chairman at Oxford University, who will enlighten us on what has been achieved through your most generous support.
Thank you, companions.
14 September 2016
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence
Brethren, I am delighted to see so many of you here today and I hope you have all had a suitably refreshing summer. I am particularly pleased to see a large number of younger masons amongst us, especially the delegations from the Provinces of Cambridgeshire and Durham, members of the Universities Scheme and especially those of the Apollo University Lodge in Oxford.
Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group over the last two and a half years. I hope that you are all still referring to the UGLE strategy, which was a significant development resulting from the group’s work.
We have now moved to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the Membership Focus Group has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group. This group will, rather like a well- known wood treatment product, “do exactly what it says on the tin”. Its remit is to facilitate the delivery of change throughout the Craft in order to secure a successful future for Freemasonry by meeting the needs of “modern man” while retaining our traditional standards; it is chaired by the Assistant Grand Master, the Third Grand Principal is Deputy Chairman and the membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces.
This group will be “bedding in” for the next year, but will be reporting to Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication in September 2017. There is a considerable amount of work to do and we wish them all well in their endeavours.
Brethren, the Tercentenary celebrations have already begun and I am very pleased to see the variety and breadth of events that are planned to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events are being planned throughout the English Constitution.
So far well over 100 events are scheduled ranging from Cathedral Services, Race Meetings, and Classic Car Rallies; Family Fun Weekends, supporting Youth Activities, to Dinners and Balls, including “The Grand Ball” which will take place here next September and will see this Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in LondAs the premier Grand Lodge it is appropriate we also celebrate this achievement with the other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, which we will do with the event at the Royal Albert Hall. I very much hope there will be a full cross section of our membership, including Master Masons, from London, Provinces and Districts and elsewhere overseas attending the meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.
As you are all aware 2017 will start with the broadcast in January of the Sky observational documentary. I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group that has seen all the programmes and whilst, for confidential reasons, I am unable to say more about their content, I can assure you our privacy has been respected entirely for those matters that ought to remain private for our members.
Brethren, it has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described with some use of either uncertain or uncertainty, or a variation thereof. Uncertainty is used to describe many aspects of our national life almost as a default mechanism. In many ways our predecessors who were there at the foundation of the Grand Lodge would have felt a certain affinity and seen possible parallels with their own time, although they would probably have used the word turbulent to describe the second decade of the eighteenth century.
In their case the uncertain times included significant change with a new ruling dynasty following the accession of King George I in 1714, a significant rebellion from supporters of the old dynasty defeated in 1715 and an incipient share scandal with the South Sea Bubble gently inflating until the spectacular bust. In those and, indeed , in the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent three hundred years, the principles of the Craft have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then.
We may now restate them in more modern language as integrity; honesty; fairness; kindness and tolerance, but their essence is unchanged and we should all be justly proud of them and, needless to say, act in accordance with them.
To finish, I will quote King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia who said his support of the Craft came from its objectives being, “ the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable”. I do not think that his view can be bettered.
8 June 2016
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, those of you with keen eyesight will have noticed that I am wearing a new breast jewel. It is based on the Arms of the Grand Lodge and has been approved by the Grand Master as a permanent jewel to commemorate the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge. It will go on sale in time for the start of the 300th year on the 24th of this month, and those entitled to wear it are those Master Masons and above who at any time between then and the end of 2017 will have been members of a Lodge in this Constitution. I hope that Grand Officers – who normally wear no breast jewels other than the Royal Arch jewel – will wear it throughout that period, and will not feel obliged to stop wearing it once we reach 2018. I think it is a particularly attractive jewel and I am sure that many, if not most, members of the English Craft will want to wear it. Those of you with even keener eyesight may have noticed that I am also wearing a new tie. At a distance it looks very similar to the Craft tie introduced about 15 years ago, but it incorporates the new version of the square and compasses which has been adopted as our new logo in the run-up to the Tercentenary. While the old Craft tie may continue to be worn, it will go 'off-sale' from 24th June – so if anyone offers to sell you an 'old' tie brand-new after that date, you will know how to react.
Brethren, as many of you know 2017 will see a large number of special events to celebrate the Tercentenary. There are 106 events planned so far, of which 4 have actually taken place. Not the least of these events relate to the 62 paving stones that will be laid outside the front of this building to commemorate the 62 Victoria Crosses awarded to masons in the First World War, and also the formal reopening of the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Arboretum.
Brethren, during May I was lucky enough to attend two splendid Festivals. The first was for the Samaritan Fund and was held at Old Trafford by the Province of Cheshire and the second was for the Grand Charity and was held in Norwich by the Province of Norfolk. Cheshire raised just over £3m and Norfolk just over £2m. Both are remarkable results and very much on par with each other bearing in mind the relative sizes of the Provinces. Our congratulations go to both.
It never ceases to amaze me how good our members are at fund raising. Every year the 4 Charity Festivals raise getting on for £10m and over and above that there are the Provincial charities as well as the individual lodge Charities. That, of course, doesn’t include the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research (formerly the 250th Anniversary Fund) which provides the funding for all the marvelous work carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons about which we have been well informed today. Indeed there are several other exceptional Masonic charities, but time doesn’t permit me to mention them all today. Suffice it to say that the Central Masonic Charities gave over £4.8m to 393 non-masonic charities last year and I have little doubt that the Provinces and lodges added considerably to this figure.
Not only are our members good at fund raising, but, just as importantly, they have a huge amount of fun in the process. It is astonishing the diverse ways they find of raising money and the underlying theme is that each project should be enjoyed by all concerned, whether raising or giving the money.
I mention the enjoyment created by these events as surely that must be the aim of all of us at all of our meetings. I think we have come a long way since the time that I was initiated 44 years ago. I enjoyed my early meetings, but possibly despite some of the more elderly members rather than because of them. In those days it was nearly a capital offence to smile in lodge, but now, more often than not, some amusing incident occurs and it is allowed to be seen as such and not frowned upon. I am not for one minute suggesting we try to turn our meetings into a pantomime, but most certainly I am saying that there is no harm in being seen to enjoy ourselves.
Those of you who were at the Annual Investiture meetings may have noticed how many members from our Districts attended to receive their new ranks. It seemed to me to be rather more than usual. They were, rightly, greeted with significant applause. Naturally I didn’t know all the brethren concerned, but I do know many of their Districts and I know the pride they have in being members of UGLE; and they do us proud, brethren. I have often thought that if a lodge in this country has lost its way, it could do a lot worse than to get some members to visit some of our Districts, particularly, dare I say in West Africa and the Caribbean, where I have experienced this myself, but many other places as well, to see how much enjoyment can be derived from their meetings.
We can probably all cite instances when a more senior member of a lodge is less than sympathetic to a newer member who has, perhaps, had a few lapses during the ritual. In my view exactly the opposite reaction has the right effect and encouragement is what is required and this will almost certainly give him the confidence to improve, thereby increasing his enjoyment of our proceedings. I am in absolutely no doubt, brethren, that, if we encourage and congratulate, rather than routinely castigate our new members we will go a long way to retaining them as members and finally turn around our drop in numbers, which, incidentally, is already happening in some Provinces and Districts.
Brethren, I should probably warn you that I have developed a liking for visiting lodges and chapters unannounced. Whether the lodge or chapter has enjoyed it, I don’t know, but they have been kind enough to say that they have. A chapter that I went to in West Wales recently, performed an excellent installation ceremony and I heard at least 3 pieces of ritual that I had not come across before and all were delivered without hesitation – I should, of course add that I had no idea whether it was correct or not! Above all brethren, it seemed to me that they – yes you’ve guessed it – thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Two last things, brethren. First, we have the television cameras running today, and one or two things have been filmed here and elsewhere in order to give a representative picture of Freemasonry and the filming of which should not be seen as precedents to be followed by individual lodges in future. Secondly, we are coming to the end of the current masonic season. Enjoy the summer break, and I look forward to seeing you again in September.
Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter
29 April 2016
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I know that you would want me to congratulate all of the Grand Officers whom I have invested today on behalf of the Most Excellent the First Grand Principal. At the same time I would remind you that with your new ranks come new obligations. Appointments and promotions are therefore not just a reward, but an encouragement for further participation in the success of the Order whether providing support for the members of your chapters or giving encouragement to those in the important role of Royal Arch Representatives in your Craft lodges. If, indeed, you are not that representative yourself.
It has been a great pleasure to invest today Most Excellent Companion Gareth Jones as Third Grand Principal in succession to Most Excellent Companion David Williamson who was himself appointed in 2010. We owe Companion Williamson an enormous debt of gratitude for his many contributions, both in our order and in many others as well. Today’s succession coupled with that of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race in November last year, continues the strong leadership that the Royal Arch has enjoyed for many years and ensures an exciting future for the Order.
Companions, I believe that the Royal Arch is in its strongest position for many years. The profile of the Order was greatly enhanced by the outstanding success of the bicentenary celebrations in 2013 coupled with several key initiatives during and since that time, including the Royal Arch participation in the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research. As a reminder, there are two Royal Arch fellows in every five fellowships supported. This is thanks to the incredible generosity of our members and the skilful management of our assets.
Finally, companions, I must, on your behalf and mine, thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team and the Grand Scribe Ezra’s staff for the success of today. Somewhat naturally I take great pride in the work of the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team, but on this occasion I want to thank, particularly, the retiring Grand Scribe Ezra for his work over the last nine years. We have travelled a lot together, although we have not always returned without mishap – be it Icelandic volcanic ash, Barbadian hurricanes or Heathrow snow, but we have made it in the end one way or another. I am sure he would agree with me that these were testing events and we were both extremely grateful for the calming influence of his PA, Louise, back at base.
Thank you companions.
Craft Annual Investiture
27 April 2016
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
Brethren, I start by congratulating all those that I have invested this afternoon. Grand Rank is conferred not only for your past services to the Craft, but equally for the expectation of your commitment to ensuring the long term future of the English Constitution.
The successful launch of the new Masonic Charitable Foundation, at the beginning of April, is a very significant milestone. The new charity has been formed following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities operated and how they could work together most effectively. A fundamental benefit for moving away from the model of four separate charities was to make the message easier to understand about what support and services are available to the many and varied stakeholders. I congratulate all those involved in achieving this.
The Tercentenary planning is progressing well with both the Provinces and Districts organising their own celebratory events throughout 2017, culminating in the main event at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2017. There is much enthusiasm building for this great anniversary. I see it also as presenting an ideal opportunity to demonstrate to the non-masonic world how relevant the organisation is in society today and that Freemasonry has a long term future.
I congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for an excellent ceremonial occasion. This is the point at which every year I also express my thanks to the Grand Secretary and his staff. My gratitude to them on this occasion is no less than it ever was, but it is this time tinged with a certain sadness, since after the Investitures Right Worshipful Brother Nigel Brown will be retiring as Grand Secretary. Brother Brown has supported and encouraged my open communications policy and brought both Provinces and Districts to a much closer relationship with Grand Lodge.
He has served the office at a time of rapid change and introduced new initiatives including Mentoring and Communications, to name but two, aimed at ensuring the future of Freemasonry.
On your behalf I wish Brother Brown good health and every happiness in the future.
9 March 2016
An address by VW Bro James Newman, Deputy President-designate, and David Innes, Chief Executive
RW Bro Deputy Grand Master and brethren, firstly thank you very much for unanimously approving the changes to the Book of Constitutions a few minutes ago. These changes, in essence, facilitate the creation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation and its strong links to Grand Lodge by the appointment of a President and Deputy President.
Indeed brethren, to paraphrase that part of our initiation ceremony, which specifically relates to charity, if you had not approved the changes, 'the subject of this presentation would have to have been postponed'.
Happily, it is now only three weeks until the official launch of our new charity. MCF, which I am sure it will be known as, will open for business on 1 April. Despite the date being April Fools' Day, for those of us involved, it will be no joking matter.
Your new charity has been established following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities currently operate, could work together in the future and how best they can collectively serve the masonic community in particular. The Bagnall Report in 1973 made quite a number of recommendations, some of which were implemented, but many others were not, as they were not felt appropriate at that time.
In those intervening 43 years, some attempts have been made to further integrate masonic charitable support but with little success. More importantly, both the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have been successfully established and society and Freemasonry have both changed beyond recognition, so another major review was long overdue.
So why has this review succeeded in getting to such an advanced stage. As with all things, especially in Freemasonry, it's all about people and their willingness to compromise and work for a better solution.
In traditional masonic style, I will start at the top. Deputy Grand Master, we would like to offer our sincere thanks to you, for all your active support and encouragement throughout this whole process as well as your guidance through the black, or perhaps I should say, dark blue hole, that is masonic politics. Although not planned, it is entirely appropriate that you, as the Ruler responsible for charity affairs, should be in the chair at this particular meeting.
With so many Provincial Grand Masters present today, it is also an ideal opportunity to thank you all, and your predecessors, for both your foresight and your patience. Some years ago, you collectively identified the need for change. Your concept of the future has helped us shape what has now been developed and many of you have made, and continue to make, valued contributions to the process.
As you will realise, I am making this presentation on behalf of my fellow Presidents, both present and past. We have worked together now for a good number of years on this review, had some robust discussions along the way but always came back to the overriding objective – how do we create the best, long term and the most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities.
Whilst the Presidents have set the policies and persuaded and sometimes had to cajole their Trustees to support the review’s recommendations, I hope you will all agree that we owe a big debt to our four Chief Executives and their respective staff teams for the professional manner in which they have approached this review, and indeed, are now implementing it.
Change can often be difficult, but our staff have been magnificent throughout and no matter what uncertainty they face for their own futures , they have ensured that the standard of service that you all have come to expect, has been maintained at a consistently high level.
By now I hope you are all aware of the main reasons why the review came to the conclusion that consolidating the charities, by creating an overarching parent charity, was the best and most sustainable solution for the future. The rationale for what we have done is to make best use of the money you all so generously donate and to have a structured and flexible system of support carried out in the most efficient way.
To do this, we will create a single charitable fund with as few restrictions as possible on how we spend it, which will allow us to react to the specific demand or need for support at any point in time from the masonic and non-masonic community. Of course, the existing funds of each of the charities will continue to be spent for the purposes for which they have been raised, as David will explain shortly.
Therefore, I am delighted to hand over to David, our new Chief Executive, who has the unenviable task of knitting all this together, so that he can tell you about our vision for the future and how we plan to realise it.
RW Deputy Grand Master and brethren all, as I am sure you appreciate only too well, the creation of the new Masonic Charitable Foundation is a very significant milestone in the evolution of charitable support, both within and by the masonic community. Although James has said I have an unenviable task, I feel deeply honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead this new charity during its all-important formative years – particularly as I am not a Freemason.
The logo of our new charity depicts a charitable heart at the centre of the widely recognised square and compasses symbol. It is our firm intention that MCF will become extremely well known and appreciated as a force for good by all Freemasons and their families, as well as by the wider charity sector and the public at large. At the same time, the MCF logo must become instantly recognisable as the symbol of masonic charity within the widest possible audience. We will all be working hard to ensure this happens.
I have also used our new logo to explain to staff the structure that we shall be implementing when the charities consolidate next month. The heart symbolises the core function of the charity, namely the provision of beneficial support to the masonic community. It also represents the continuation of the practical support provided to the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodges, in particular to Provincial Grand Almoners and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards who will remain as important as ever to the success of the new charity.
Similarly, the advice and support team will continue to be an integral element of this support network, operating as it does right in the heart of the masonic community. In time, we hope to expand our direct support by introducing new services – such as the Visiting Volunteer initiative – which we are currently piloting in a number of Provinces.
The heart also symbolises the extensive support available to the wider community through a variety of grants to other charitable causes and, when required, in response to natural disasters. The size and scale of the new charity will enable us to enter into major partnerships with other national charities, and to develop long term programmes of support of national significance, that will have a real and high profile impact. We shall also continue providing support to Lifelites and all the fantastic work it does in children’s hospices.
Another element of the operational support we provide to the masonic community and beyond, is our care homes. These will continue to be a very important part of what we do but, after 1 April, will be run by a separate charitable company within MCF known as RMBI Care Company. This company will have its own board of directors but will be fully accountable to the MCF Board.
Having decided to group all our current operations together for what I hope are obvious reasons, I am delighted that Les Hutchinson has been selected to be the Chief Operating Officer of our new charity and he is already hard at work.
The square underpins all these activities and represents the finance, secretariat and Relief Chest functions. The creation of a unified finance team will ensure that the very significant assets of the new charity are properly managed within all the appropriate regulations, and we are indebted to Chris Head for his help in getting this critical element up and running. Whilst we will be delighted to receive donations via any route, we would much prefer that the generous contributions of the Craft are made through the Relief Chest. It will also continue to deliver the valuable service that is already well-established on behalf of lodges, Provinces and festival appeals, and will be at the centre of our technological revolution.
Festival appeals will continue to be the main source of funding for MCF. During the first few years, those festivals that have already launched on behalf of one of the current four charities will continue to raise funds that will only be available for use according to the charitable objects of that particular charity.
However, this year will see the first MCF festivals launching in the Provinces of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The funds raised will be available for use according to need across the full spectrum of charitable support.
The third element of the MCF logo is the compasses.
I have described these as setting the key parameters for MCF and ensuring that our communication messages encompass everything we do. Specifically those working in this area will help set the strategic direction for the charity, devise ways to evaluate its performance and facilitate communication with all our stakeholders.
As a new charity, it is vitally important to create a vision, determine KPIs and monitor the effectiveness of all that it does, particularly the use of our resources. It is also important that we look to identify new opportunities in which the MCF, on behalf of Freemasonry, can increase its support to the masonic community and beyond. I’m delighted that Laura Chapman is bringing her considerable experience of masonic charitable support to bear in this important area.
One of the reasons for moving away from the current model of four separate charities was to simplify the message about what the central masonic charities actually do and for whom. We are determined to use the move to a single charity, with a single brand, as an opportunity to deliver a single and effective message to the widest possible audience. The MCF Communications Committee, very ably supported by Richard Douglas, is already hard at work refining a strategy that will cover all activities of the charity and will utilise the complete range of communication channels. The good old fashioned paper materials, like the leaflet that you were given as you arrived for this meeting, will still have an important role to play. Increasingly we will also embrace and exploit digital technology and social media. Beyond that there is also a need to support the Grand Lodge strategy for Freemasonry in the 21st century, and to increase awareness of Freemasonry amongst the charity sector and the wider community.
With the deadline of 1 April rapidly approaching, you will be delighted to hear that the first phase of what I see as a three phase consolidation process is nearly complete.
Having been formally appointed to my new position in December last year, I have focused on ensuring that the required foundations are in place. This has been mainly about developing a new, integrated organisation structure and systems suitable for the future. Another key task has been the formal TUPE consultation process in respect of the transfer of staff to the new charity. This is a time-consuming but vital step, and one that needs to be done properly and carefully. This phase is nearly complete and will see all staff from the three grant-making charities, as well as a few staff from the RMBI, transfer to MCF on 1 April. At the same time, the remainder of the RMBI staff will be transferring to the new RMBI Care Company.
Phase 2, between April and July this year, will see the actual reorganisation itself. Again, in full consultation with staff, it will involve changes to team structures and the physical relocation of staff within the office accommodation. It is quite likely that many employees will have a new line manager and will need to get used to different ways of working.
The transition from four charities to one has, as one of its main purposes, the improvement of the support and services provided to our many and varied stakeholders. This period of transition will be very challenging for everyone involved and I would wish to add my own tribute to the way in which all the staff have worked to bring about this major evolution in the way masonic charity is delivered. I have stressed from the outset that retaining their experience and expertise is vital to achieving change. I know that the staff and Trustees share my determination to prevent any disruption to, or degradation of, the services we provide. In particular, the needs of our beneficiaries will remain paramount throughout and I am absolutely determined that we do not drop the ball in the process – although I’m very happy for Wales to drop it a few times on Saturday!!
Following the reorganisation, there will need to be a period of bedding in. I anticipate this third phase beginning as the masonic year resumes and staff return from their summer holidays. It is my aim that, by December, all new working practices, policies and procedures are totally bedded in, the new grant-making software is fully operational and MCF is firmly established.
Looking beyond this year, I see 2017 as being a busy year for all concerned. In addition to delivering ‘business as usual’, MCF will be supporting the many and varied tercentenary celebrations in conjunction with Grand Lodge.
However, some things won’t change, such the wide range of support provided by the Masonic community for financial, health and family related needs. The simple difference will be that help will be available from a single source, via a single application process that uses standardised eligibility criteria. There will no longer be the need to remember what the four different charities do and risk applying to the wrong one in the wrong way. Further details are provided in the leaflet, which also contains all the relevant contact details for MCF and these are valid now.
Another thing that won’t change is our support to the wider, non-masonic community. Through MCF, Freemasons will continue to support registered charities that help those facing issues with education and employability, financial hardship, age related challenges, health, disability, social exclusion and disadvantage. Support will also continue to be available for the advancement of medical and social research, hospices throughout England and Wales, the air ambulance and other rescue services, as well as disaster relief appeals.
All in all, we anticipate no real change to the support available but a simpler, easier to understand, easier to access, more efficient and more responsive organisation delivering that support – which is considerable.
Each year, support is provided to over 5,000 Freemasons and their families which last year amounted to £15.5 million. In addition to the support given to the masonic community, MCF will also look to allocate between three and a half and five million pounds per year to non-masonic causes. There will also be extra money available next year to commemorate the Tercentenary and further details will be made available in due course. We would welcome your support in ensuring that these messages are communicated to all those who need to hear them.
I hope you will deduce from what I have said that this is an exciting and busy time for Masonic charity. The formation of MCF is good news for beneficiaries, good news for donors and good news for the wider community beyond Freemasonry.
Thank you for listening. I will now hand back to James who will tell you how MCF will be governed and remain accessible to its membership.
Thank you David. Before we finish this short presentation, it's important you all know how MCF is to be governed and how you and the Craft generally are all to be represented.
A Trustee Board has been formed, has already met three times and meets again tomorrow. It has representatives from each of the four current charities and an excellent mix of skills. We have set up a number of committees, who are already hard at work advising on new integrated policies, assisting the executive team and making recommendations to the Trustee Board.
So far, I am glad to say that all is going well, everyone is still talking to each other and there is, of course, lots of brotherly love!
So how will all of you and the Craft be represented and be able to get your views across to the new Trustee Board and executive team? The membership of MCF will consist of the Trustees themselves plus two appointees from Metropolitan Grand Lodge and two from each Province. These nominees will be approved at each Metropolitan or Provincial meeting so that you will all know who they are and can, therefore, ask them to represent your views. There will be at least two members' meetings each year, one of which will be outside London.
Brethren, I mentioned earlier the charity address in the NE corner during our initiation ceremony. That address to the candidate, clearly sets out that charity is one of the key principles of being a mason, one of which we should all be proud of.
That is why today is such a red letter day for Freemasonry in general and masonic charity in particular. We are about to create a very large and we hope nationally recognised, charity, which will become a beacon for us all. The funds we shall have at our disposal have been built up by our predecessors over two and a quarter centuries, and we owe it to them and our current donors and beneficiaries, to make it a success.
Deputy Grand Master and brethren, on behalf of everyone associated with MCF, we hope that you have found this presentation useful and that you will now spread the word about MCF across your Provinces and down here in London. Thank you for listening and we look forward to updating you later in the year.
9 March 2016
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence
Brethren, you will all have received a copy of the UGLE strategy with your last copy of Freemasonry Today. I hope you feel that the summary presented a clear outline of some of the steps we wish to take to ensure the long term future of the Craft as Grand Lodge enters its fourth century. The clear articulation of our values, in language appropriate for the 21st century, reflects that we are true to our history and traditions while adapting to the world as it continues to change. The work of the Membership Focus Group, which informed much of the document you received, is now moving from researching facts, surveying members and developing ideas to implementation of those ideas.
Brethren, it is often the case in many organisations when a revised strategy or change programme is introduced the initial expectations of those involved are overly optimistic and that may well be the case with our own members. It is very important we remind ourselves that we have taken nearly 300 years to reach where the Craft is today. It is, therefore, vital that, while we retain our important traditions, we also test and prove any new initiative to ensure it is appropriate and effective for the needs of the Craft before consideration is given to implementation across the English Constitution. Such an approach will allow us to move forward, confident that an individual idea will be successful. It has to be said clearly that it will take time and effort, rather than instant solutions, to ensure the Craft will be as attractive to, and well received by, future generations as it has been by the current and past generations.
There are a number of areas highlighted in the summary of the strategy you received and I would like to tell you of some of the recent progress that has been made.
Firstly, following three membership surveys undertaken by the Membership Focus Group, working with Provincial Grand Masters, it has created an Education Group. This group is considering how best we can assist all our members to have a better understanding and knowledge of Freemasonry which is the core of the initiative. Having a good understanding and knowledge will enable our members to explain Freemasonry confidently to a non-mason. Members from seventeen Provinces are assisting in the development of these ideas.
Secondly, we have identified the need to ensure the facilities provided by our masonic halls are of a standard to meet the expectations and needs of our members. A meeting involving 30 members from a number of Provinces, all with expertise in the successful management and improvement of masonic halls, has recently taken place. I think we all appreciate that the task is both enormous and delicate in nature and much time and effort will be needed to ensure their considerations and findings are appropriate for the needs of the future and to allow time for the management of masonic halls to gain confidence in the support and assistance we are collectively seeking to provide.
None of this, nor indeed the other initiatives which are being progressed, would be possible without a significant amount of time, detailed consideration and hard work being devoted to this by the members of the Membership Focus Group. I would like to express my gratitude to all of them for what they have achieved so far and for what I very much hope will be achieved in the future. In particular, I should like to thank, on behalf of the Rulers, the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, for his outstanding leadership of, and contribution to, the Membership Focus Group since its creation.
Brethren, the Tercentenary is almost upon us and it gives us, to my mind, an unrivalled opportunity to articulate clearly our values and the positive impact of the Craft on both individuals and the communities in which we live. You may be interested to know that in 2015, the media statistics show 90% of the coverage in local media was positive, a significantly higher level than that achieved in the previous year. You have just heard about the filming to produce a television documentary, which is an important part of the commencement of the Tercentenary celebrations both as a continuation of our policy of openness in communicating with the general public and as a means of encouraging those interested in becoming members. Much work also continues in Provinces, Districts and in Grand Lodge in preparation for this major landmark.
I am certain we are taking the right steps to ensure we will commence our fourth century confident of the future for the Craft and I very much hope all our members will be enthusiastic in support of these endeavours.
9 December 2015
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I am so pleased to see the excellent turnout today and I would like to extend a very special welcome to those of you attending a Quarterly Communication for the first time. It was four years ago that we decided to admit Master masons to our Quarterly Communications meetings and the number who attend indicate that it has been a popular decision. Whilst you cannot vote, I hope it is still a worthwhile visit and that you will continue to come and encourage others to join you.
Since the last Quarterly Communication in September, the Grand Master celebrated his eightieth birthday on 9th October. On behalf of all of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent.
2015 has been a very busy year. The particular emphasis has been on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the overall mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long term future.
Fundamental to ensuring that long term future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group, supported by 18,000 responses from members to the recent surveys, has shaped this strategy which, in turn, has been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. The strategy concentrates on our vision and our values. Our 2020 strategic objectives are attached to the front cover of the latest edition of Freemasonry Today.
This enables all our members to read the strategy, it also asks members to help in supporting both the strategy and the objectives. To be clear, this strategy can only be achieved with the support of the vast majority of the members.
Concurrently the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress whilst liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of the main events that are being planned locally – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces. I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm which is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration.
I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master and with most able help from the Charity Presidents, Chief Executives and Boards of Trustees We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.
Preparations for the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and during the past few weeks the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI has been selected as the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge about masonic charity and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities.
In advance of April’s launch, publicity about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond. As you leave today you will be handed a simple leaflet which introduces you to the identity and approach of the new charity.
Brethren, I am delighted to announce that the Most Worshipful The Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Excellent Companion Gareth Jones, Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer, who is better known in the Craft as Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed Most Excellent Companion David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016. On that day I hope to have the pleasure of installing him. The contribution made by ME Comp Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal for five years has been colossal, as, indeed, his contribution has been throughout masonry, but more about that on another occasion.
Brethren, it only remains for me to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas. In recent times, brethren, we have tended to refer to Christmas as the Festive Season. In Paris last weekend at the GLNF we were wished a Happy Christmas by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel during his speech in GLNF and afterwards I was wished the same by several brethren from other religious backgrounds. They all consider us to be grossly over sensitive on the subject. So, Happy Christmas, everyone!
11 November 2015
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
Companions, I am very pleased to see so many of you present today to witness the Installation of Most Excellent Companion Russell Race as Second Grand Principal. On behalf of all of you I wish him a long and happy tenure in this important role.
It is to the future that we should now look, but I would like to repeat my thanks to Most Excellent Companion George Francis for his many achievements and tireless work in raising the profile of the Holy Royal Arch since his own Installation in November 2005.
Companions, today, apart from celebrating the Installation of a new Second Grand Principal you will all be aware that it is also Armistice Day when we commemorate those who gave their lives in two World Wars. The observant amongst you will have noticed that a poppy wreath has been laid at the memorial shrine in the first vestibule to this Grand Temple, in front of the casket which holds the roll listing over 3,000 of our members who gave their lives on active service in the First World War.
I think it is worth reminding ourselves, however, that it is not just the shrine which is the memorial but the whole of Freemasons’ Hall itself. Indeed, during the planning stages in the 1920s and the first years of its existence, the building was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial.
As a memorial it was originally intended that the building should be reserved solely for masonic purposes but time and economics and the fact that the building is now Grade 2* listed both internally and externally have gradually led to the building being opened for non-masonic events and filming.
I would assure you however, companions, that our excellent and hard-working in-house events team take great care to ensure that outside events, especially filming, are consistent with the building’s origins and core purpose. We have a building of which we can be justifiably proud which is recognised as one of the landmark buildings of London.
Today we remember not only those in whose name the building was raised but also the many other thousands of our members who gave their lives during the Second World War and the other conflicts that have taken place since then. Although we have already stood in memory of recently departed members, in particular Most Excellent Companion Iain Bryce, Past Second Grand Principal, I believe that on this special day we should stand again to remember those who gave their lives to preserve those ideals which allow Freemasonry to flourish.
Companions, on September 30th this year, a packed Grand Temple enjoyed a magnificent Inaugural Concert to celebrate the refurbishment of our organ and when Supreme Grand Chapter is closed I am sure you will enjoy the talk by Ian Bell, Organ Consultant entitled ‘Achieved is the Glorious Work or Proof of the Pudding’, with musical illustrations played by Excellent Companion David Cresswell, Grand Organist.
Thank you, companions.
9 September 2015
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I am pleased to see such a good attendance at this important meeting and on a day that Her Majesty the Queen becomes the longest reigning British Monarch.
Brethren, I would like to thank those members who have participated in the Membership Focus Group’s first two surveys. These survey results have been a great help in deciding the best way ahead for Freemasonry and have provoked much constructive thinking. You will be able to see the results of the most recent survey in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today, which has just been published.
The results of that second survey highlight the importance to members of being valued and included, while developing knowledge and friendships at the same time. The Membership Focus Group is next planning to survey new initiates to assess how their expectations match their experience and whether this experience changes over time.
In December 2014, I announced that the Grand Master’s Council and the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum had endorsed proposals from the Charities to consolidate the activities of the four central Masonic Charities. Subsequently, the proposals were endorsed by the Grand Master. Over the last nine months, all four Charities have launched consultations with their members about the proposals. Having just formally finished the AGM of the Grand Charity, their consultation is now complete and the same process with the other Charities is due to conclude by the end of October. Should the members of each of the other Charities follow the lead of the Grand Charity and endorse the proposals, it is anticipated that a new charity will be legally established as soon as possible and become operational on 1 April 2016. This new charity, subject to legal approvals, will be called The Masonic Charitable Foundation.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation will continue to offer the same support and services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as providing support for the non-Masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist. Thus continuity of our charitable giving will be achieved.
The new charity will continue to rely on the generosity of Freemasons for its funds. The Festival system will therefore transition in favour of the new charity over the next few years.
A shadow board, comprised of trustees from the existing Charities has met and will, with the existing charities, oversee the creation of the new charity and transition from the existing four charities into a single one. The Board has elected Very Worshipful Brother James Newman as interim Chairman and Worshipful Brother Michael Heenan as interim Treasurer.
These changes will require amendments to the Book of Constitutions with formal notice of those amendments being brought to the December meeting of Grand Lodge. In the meantime, further details about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be made available over the next few months via a new website and general communications to the Craft.
Bringing the existing central Masonic Charities together means that the Trustees will be responsible for one of the largest charitable foundations in the country – a tremendous achievement and something of which we can all feel proud, particularly as we look towards the tercentenary celebrations in 2017.
When talking about our Charities, I am inevitably reminded of RW Bro Iain Bryce who so sadly died in July. Apart from his dedication to our Masonic Charities, he was also a long serving Treasurer of the RNLI.
I first met him at his Installation as PGM of Yorkshire N&E Ridings in 1984 and in the 30 years that I knew him, I can’t recall a cross word. He could upset people, can’t we all, but it was normally for a valid reason. When Bro Bryce became involved in something, he gave it his full attention. Masonically he was fully involved from Lodge level, through his Province to Grand Lodge and would take on any task asked of him.
I am sure that all the Charity Presidents who were in office during his time as Deputy Grand Master will have benefited enormously from his wise counsel. He was passionate about them all and held strong views on their management. His views were given in a forthright manner and were usually right. However, he would be first to admit he had got something wrong if that turned out to be the case.
Brethren, I shall miss him greatly and I know that I am far from alone in that.