12 September 2012
An address by W Bro CE Lord OBE PAGDC and W Bro JR Soper PAGDC
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren,
As the National and the London Chairmen of the Universities Scheme, we were honoured to be asked to give thought to this crucial topic of how we make the Craft relevant to all generations.
Recruitment and retention of members is a key theme that every lodge has high on its agenda and it is important whether a newly made Brother joins us aged eighteen, twenty eight, forty eight or sixty eight!
Inevitably, our own focus has been looking at how we can include younger men in masonry as not only is that the role of the Universities Scheme, but it is also a reasonable proposition that if we can encourage men to join and develop a love of the Craft in their twenties, then we can hope to keep them throughout their lives, providing us with a steady stream of Lodge officers who may, we hope, also become active in their provinces and the metropolitan area.
That said, we believe our findings – based on qualitative research, having consulted a range of Provincial leaders and lodge secretaries – are relevant to the vast majority of lodges, as we are sure that every one of you will be keen to expand their lodge’s membership and encourage participation, as individual circumstances permit.
Therefore in our talk to today we are going to focus on a number of issues, giving some tangible examples of good practice and some suggestions that lodges may wish to try. And the good news is - that recognising that taking notes wearing regalia and gloves isn’t easy – the Grand Secretary has agreed to publish the text of this talk on the UGLE website within the next week, and there will also be an article based on the speech in the next edition of Freemasonry Today.
To set things in context though, we thought you might be interested to know how our membership breaks down by age group at the moment:
- Of our members across the English Constitution, only nine per cent are aged under 40. And to put that percentage in perspective, it is 3,000 less than the number of members we have aged over 80!
- Indeed the vast bulk of our members, some 65 per cent, are aged between 50 and 80
- The average age at initiation is 44 and the average age of those attaining the chair over the last four years was 63
We are not saying there is anything wrong with that in principle, but with 55 per cent of our members in, or reaching retirement, it does set a generational challenge. Also if the average age of reaching the chair is 63, one can assume that most of the decision makers in a Lodge are near to, or in retirement, which leads one to question the degree of representation that younger members have in a Lodge.
So how do we attract younger men to join masonry, and retain them, whilst ensuring that our existing membership still enjoy their participation and don’t feel excluded by change?
In our research we have found that one crucial element is recognising that masonry is in increasing competition with many other calls on the leisure time of prospective members. It is also clear that working patterns have changed significantly and it is less easy for those in employment to leave their workplace early in order to get to a lodge meeting. Nor for that matter do younger brethren (especially those with growing families) want to stay late all the time – something that is equally true of more senior members.
Many successful lodges don’t start their work until 6 or 6.30 in the evening and they still finish in good time to enjoy their after-proceedings and get home at a reasonable hour. They do this by taking a number of simple steps that cut out time consuming yet peripheral activities. Some, for example, don’t process in and out of the lodge. Most circulate rather than read their minutes, and do the same for the Almoner’s and Charity Steward’s reports as well as much of the business normally done under the risings. Ceremonies can be reduced in length too, without taking out any of the essential elements that make our ritual so special. For example at installation there is no necessity to present the working tools or to formally re-invest those officers being re-appointed. At the meal, there are opportunities to shorten proceedings, and we would make a plea that all long speeches should be avoided - with no exceptions(!).
All of the above not only cuts down the time taken by the formal proceedings, but also increases the pace of a meeting, which is important if one wants to keep the attention of a younger member. The “impatience of youth” is something we can all remember, and need to acknowledge!
Of course, there are often significant time commitments beyond the Lodge meetings themselves such as Lodges of Instruction, rehearsals, Lodge social functions etc. The overall time commitment that is being asked of a member needs to be critically reviewed by the Lodge.
However, it is not as simple as saying that the time commitment should be reduced. Regular meetings, often informal, and perhaps involving members’ partners and family can be important in fostering a feeling of membership, and this sense of being a member and of belonging is very important. Indeed a good mentor should greatly assist in helping a new member to feel he belongs, and the formal creation of Lodge Mentor as a Lodge office should help ensure that this happens.
So we have so far discussed three key points:
- the need to be mindful of the time commitment that we are asking of members,
- keeping up the pace of a meeting,
- and the importance of fostering a feeling of membership.
These are all important to ensuring a lodge is welcoming to all generations. What we have also found is the way a lodge looks and feels is absolutely vital too. A lot of this has already come out from the ground-breaking research undertaken for Grand Lodge earlier this year in the ‘Future of Freemasonry’ report. For example the language we use to describe freemasonry is key to it having a broader appeal as is dispelling many of the myths that still surround us as an organisation. Being able to describe in simple laymen’s terms, using modern vocabulary, what freemasonry is about is crucial; emphasising the social side of our activities as well as making a contribution to society both through our charitable activities and by helping each individual Mason to become the best person he can be. But changing our language doesn’t mean changing our principles. In his address to university scheme lodges, the Assistant Grand Master has so rightly said: “the society of today lives in a seemingly increasing moral vacuum, a space which freemasonry, with its Grand Principles … can fill, and to which young intelligent men can look for inspiration, self-improvement and fulfilment.”
Experience has shown that, approached correctly, young men – indeed men of all ages – find considerable appeal in joining an organisation which is secular, multi-faith, cross denominational and which shares their values. Indeed, in explaining Freemasonry to new and potential members, a Lodge should consider emphasizing such features as
- lifetime friendships
- location flexibility, should they move
- personal development possibilities
- and new experiences
I imagine some of you are thinking that this is all very well, but where exactly do we get these new younger members from? Of course, the basic approach of ‘member-get-member’ remains the best. But some lodges, particularly those that are affiliated to a school or university say, find that discreet advertisements letting people know they exist often attract initial enquiries. And in some cases, the adverts are less discreet. The Province of West Lancashire took the back page of last year’s Freshers’ Handbook, which went out to over 20,000 students in Liverpool. That resulted in a bumper crop of new candidates for the University Lodge of Liverpool. But many enquiries are now coming through the internet. Every day we are receiving hundreds of hits on the Grand Lodge, Provincial and lodge specific sites, which then translate into expressions of interest from prospective members. This is rapidly becoming one of the most important marketing methods for the Craft. So if your lodge doesn’t yet have a website, then it should consider investing in one. But do remember to keep a website up to date as there is nothing worse than finding that all the information is three years old and no longer relevant.
We can also use social media such as Facebook to communicate with our members outside lodge meetings. A number of lodges, including Apollo University Lodge, in Oxford, and the Metropolitan Grand Stewards have established an active presence on Facebook, for example. Not only can this be used to organise social events, but it also helps develop the feeling of membership. And if you don’t know what Facebook is, ask your children or grand-children as it’s a great way of keeping in touch with them too.
These direct benefits of embracing the internet also help in making Freemasonry in general, and a Lodge in particular, more modern, and thus more relevant to younger masons. An important challenge to us all is to respect our traditions, stay faithful to our values, whilst appearing modern and thus relevant to younger generations.
We have now covered the interlinked key points of the importance of appearing up to date, embracing the internet, and using clear modern vocabulary when describing masonry. Such marketing and communication is all very well at attracting initial interest, but we have found that lodges that have successfully spanned the generations have other attributes as well, not least in making new members feel welcome.
An aspect of Freemasonry that can be off-putting to newer and/or younger members is rank, particularly if it is interpreted as “superiority”. We would suggest, for example, that lodges avoid being too hide bound by rank or seniority and that Grand Officers and Provincial Grand Officers should spread themselves around both in the lodge room and at the festive board, actively engaging younger members in conversation. Involving younger members is a common theme that we have heard from successful lodges. Involvement in ceremonies is important – but involve them at a pace that is right for them – let them if they want to, but don’t force them up the ladder if they do not. However also involve them in the organisation of social events, and also in the decision making of the Lodge. Some lodges, in order to do just that, have abolished the Lodge Committee so that decisions are taken by the whole Lodge – this ties in with our early comment about the relatively high average age of decision makers. And if you find you have a Masonic star in waiting, let him move forward quickly and become a young Master as the chances are he could help ensure the future of your lodge as well as being of huge benefit to your Province or the Metropolitan Grand Lodge.
That does lead to a respectful request to Provincial Grand Masters and Provincial Grand Secretaries that when you do invite younger Masons to become members of committees or working groups, please avoid having all meetings in the middle of the working day!
Provinces can also help retain younger members through initiatives like London’s Connaught Club which welcomes all masons in the capital aged under 35, to socialise together and which, by encouraging better connections, also supports inter-visiting. It may also accelerate the feeling of belonging, by causing a young mason to be surrounded by a number of like-minded people, and reinforces the idea that masonry is for all age groups. Another approach is for provinces to help create lodges specifically designed for younger professional people. For example the establishment of the Leeds Lodge last year in the West Riding, which meets four times a year in the centre of the city at a time suitable for people coming straight from the office.
There are many more ideas that came from our research that we believe will help assure the future of freemasonry, and make it relevant for all generations, but time today is against us. We very much hope that this has proved interesting and thought provoking and thank you Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master for inviting us to make this presentation and thank you, brethren for the way you have received it.
Grenville Lodge No. 1787, is the first lodge in the Province of Buckinghamshire to be admitted to the UGLE Universities Scheme. With two Nigerian students from the University of Buckingham joining the lodge in April 2012, it is the 52nd lodge to be admitted to the scheme.
Buckingham is the only private university in the United Kingdom and was opened in 1973. It was the first UK university to condense the academic content of a standard three-year degree into a two-year programme, running over four terms per year, and 80 per cent of its students come from overseas, although many stay in England to work or gain postgraduate qualifications. It is hoped that the scheme will also further enhance the link between the lodge, the university, the Province and Freemasonry in general.
As Provinces around the UK welcome university students into the Craft, the biennial Universities Scheme Conference focused on why students are vital in ensuring the future of Freemasonry
More than 130 brethren gathered at Freemasons’ Hall, London, for the third Universities Scheme Conference. The Scheme is a pioneering initiative by Grand Lodge under the auspices of the Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson, to help forge links between well-placed, enthusiastic lodges and the many students – as well as other young people – seeking to become involved in Freemasonry.
There are currently 50 lodges under the Scheme across England and Wales, the West Indies and South Africa. In 2010 these lodges held 159 initiations of candidates found through the Scheme, and between them had over 300 members who were under 30. This year, the conference included presentations on recruitment, retention and break-out sessions on making masonry affordable.
A tremendous level of Provincial support has greatly contributed to the success of the Scheme. Five final-year students at the University of Bath have been initiated by St Alphege Lodge, No. 4095, Province of Somerset. Meanwhile over in Leicestershire and Rutland, Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448 has forged links with Leicester University students.
The mood of the day was encapsulated by Mike Jones from the University Lodge of Liverpool: ‘Student recruitment is an ongoing process. You need to engage with students not only when they make their first enquiry, but all the way through the application process. You need to mentor them so that they feel comfortable.’
Go to www.universitiesscheme.com for more details on the conference
St Alphege Lodge is responsible under the UGLE Universities Scheme, for forging links with the University of Bath
As a result of considerable interest generated by the Scheme and from members already recruited through it, Christmas came early this year with five candidates being initiated into the Lodge in a multiple ceremony.
St Alphege last carried out such a ceremony in 1925, so this was a very special evening for everyone concerned.
The Assistant Grand Master, RW Bro David Williamson, who is President of the Universities Scheme, attended along with the Provincial Grand Master for Somerset, RW Bro Stuart Hadler. The Assistant Grand Master subsequently wrote to the Lodge saying "I sat in Lodge, enthralled and touched by what we witnessed."
The Provincial Grand Master described it as "a great success and a landmark in the history of the lodge"
The Ceremony concluded with a presentation of a 50-year certificate by the Provincial Grand Master to Brother Keith Brown, the significance of which made an important impression on the five young Initiates.
The notice of motion was proposed by Rodney Wolverson, Provincial Grand Master of Cambridgeshire and seconded by Edmund Brookes, Lodge Secretary.
Alma Mater Lodge has a requirement for admission that the candidate must be a graduate of a recognised university, and it is hoped that it will be able to offer membership to suitably qualified freemasons moving into the Cambridge area, who do not have any links with a Cambridge lodge.
Ostrea Lodge No. 8209 has become the designated lodge for the Masonic University Scheme in the Province of Essex in a ceremony held in the presence of the Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, Provincial Grand Master John Webb and regional co-ordinator for the scheme, Dr Richard Lewin.
Ostrea Lodge is the 37th lodge to become part of the scheme and experience in other areas showed that membership was gained from students, whether graduate, undergraduate or postgraduate. The Alumni Society at Essex University was showing interest in the scheme and two possible applications had been received through the provincial website. The scheme itself would have a website in the near future.
Provincial Grand Master John Webb said that other local lodges could assist with the scheme in due course and long term it might become possible to form a university lodge. The lodge was reminded that, under the scheme, members under the age of 25 paid only half the Grand Lodge and Charity dues.
Travelling with David Williamson, the Assistant Grand Master, to Singapore for the celebrations of the District Grand Lodge of Eastern Archipelago’s 150th anniversary provided a good opportunity to reflect on the Universities Scheme. The Assistant Grand Master is the President of the Universities Scheme, while Eastern Archipelago is the first District in the United Grand Lodge of England to discuss involvement.
How the Universities' Scheme is gathering pace explained by Oliver Lodge
In pursuit of its objective, 'to establish and/or enhance the opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to join and enjoy freemasonry', the Universities Scheme Group has, over the past year or more, provided direct support to the nine Lodges that make up the Scheme.
The nature of that support has varied considerably according to the needs of the individual Lodge. In all cases, the Lodges have had notable success in their participation and pursuit of the objective, which they have embraced with great enthusiasm.
I have been not just impressed, but excited by the degree of commitment that has emerged as, in some cases, Lodges have made the decision to bring about quite significant change to their composition and nature.
The nature of the Scheme is such that, while the most important work is indisputably that which takes place in the Scheme Lodges, some elements of the administration of the Scheme are more efficiently centralised.
The Scheme Group have attempted to serve the Lodges involved by offering advice drawn on experience of university Masonry and by seeking to ensure that as many as possible in the Craft are fully aware of the Scheme’s existence and the scope for undergraduates to join the Craft, without having to wait to attain the grand old age of 21 years. Before too long we will have to declare ourselves as failures if there are Masons left in this country who have not heard this message!
Our early efforts at raising awareness have had profound effects. The marvellous advent of the internet has assisted our efforts formidably. The very simple expedient of establishing a presence in a small corner of the UGLE website, with an appropriate mail box for contact, has produced enquiries of all sorts, some anticipated, other less so.
Having deliberately raised awareness in order to support the objective – ensuring that no one is missing out through want of information – the most welcome surprise of all has been the level of interest and enthusiasm that the Scheme has attracted from all corners of the Craft.
Most striking of all is the desire among a number of Lodges to participate in the Scheme. While it has always been intended that we should expand the Scheme to a wider range of Lodges, our timeframe on this has been driven by demand.
Recognising that it is no longer feasible to provide all support from the Scheme Group itself, the Assistant Grand Master (AGM), RW Bro David Williamson, the Scheme’s Founding President, has asked Provinces where there are Lodges that want to participate in the Scheme to look at providing the necessary support from within their own ranks.
This step, with all its appearance of being purely administrative, has the fundamental impact of enabling the widening of the Scheme to meet the enthusiastic demand that is surfacing. This is the most welcome challenge faced by the Group to date – the sensation of pushing at an open door.
As well as driving the timing, this development has obliged the Group to be more explicit about the necessary criteria, indeed the essential qualifications, for any Lodge wishing to participate (see table opposite). Some of these are marvellous in their blatancy; others may not be so obvious; all are vital. Supporting the objectives of the Scheme goes, in one sense, without saying.
But an unequivocal statement from the Lodge to that effect is essential.
The agreement of the Provincial Grand Master and AGM are also necessary steps. This will ensure that the Lodge has fully understood the implications of its participation, as well as providing a degree of co-ordination and the avoidance of overcrowding – too many Lodges in one location – which could lead to the dissipation of undergraduates where what is needed is critical mass.
The question of passing on to young members the reduction in dues to Grand Lodge and the Grand Charity, now available to all Masons under 25, is important to ensure the avoidance of financial exclusion.
It is, of course, essential that Lodges joining the Scheme should fully understand the implications of doing so and commit themselves in open Lodge. They will need to consider some difficult questions about their own structure, including practicalities relating to meeting dates and time, the cost of dining and regalia and their style and dress code.
They will also need to look at the more challenging questions of how best to involve undergraduates during their probably all too-short time in the area and how they help those same members, when they graduate and move on, to join convivial Lodges in their new location.
For Lodges in the Scheme, this is the steep and rugged pathway. Those looking for soft options will have to look elsewhere; those looking to re-invigorate not just their own lodge but the Craft as a whole, should look no further.
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.”