From the Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E
As Percy Shelley once said, ‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’. As I pen this column, snow falling silently outside, I cannot help but wonder where things will be by the time this hits members’ doormats in March. I hope for spring and for brighter days – the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by mass vaccination but, like so much in life, there are no guarantees.
It is looking increasing unlikely that our Annual Investitures and Grand Festival will be able to go ahead this year as normal, and that ordinary meetings will not be possible until later in the year. I am immensely grateful that, very soon, our older, more vulnerable members should all be protected from this devastating virus, and I have no doubt that this year Freemasonry will be back to where it was before the lockdowns – significantly invigorated by the pent-up enthusiasm of our members.
In the coming months there are a number of projects that will affect our lodges, chapters and our members more directly. The most obvious of these will be Hermes, which will give every Lodge Secretary and Chapter Scribe E access to our membership database for their units. This will allow them to keep records updated in real time and save them huge amounts of time and effort on some of the many paperwork-based tasks expected of them today. Every Province has now designated a team to train the individual members who will need to use it.
‘It is important that in our eagerness to get back to how things were, we do not forget those lessons that we have learnt over the past year or so – the importance of keeping in touch’
Towards the end of the year, we will also be embarking on a focused marketing campaign aiming to target those who we think Freemasonry will appeal to. Many Provinces are now starting to plan in earnest how best to support these projects, and how to ensure that transition from pandemic to business as usual goes as smoothly as possible for you all.
Neither has Freemasons’ Hall in London been idle in the long months of lockdown. You may have seen our new shop being heralded in The Times as well as across a host of other media. The administrative staff have moved office from the huge area under the Grand Temple and this is now being redeveloped as a new café and bar that will also be able to offer some lodge and chapter dining in the evenings. Contrary to ‘well informed’ sources on the Metropolitan Grand Lodge Facebook page, I can confirm that we are not leasing the area to Costa or, indeed, anyone else!
We are also planning a series of concerts, working with some fantastic local orchestras and choirs formerly of St Martin-in-the-Fields to help open up the building to the public and showcase Freemasonry to a whole new audience. It has been an enormous challenge to balance both the opportunity that an empty building presents in terms of redevelopment and maintenance, whilst juggling so many staff on furlough, ensuring, all the time, that we are stewarding wisely the organisation for generations to come.
As restrictions lift and life returns to normal, there will be very many lodges and chapters that have built up a long waiting list of candidates, and will be keen to progress other work. Freemasons’ Hall, and I am sure many other masonic halls across the Provinces, will be very glad to assist with as many emergency meetings as required across the summer and beyond to clear the backlog, and to ensure that our Freemasonry starts again with a bang. The return to some sense of commercial normality will be extremely welcome to masonic centres, some of which have been brought to their knees by the financial circumstances imposed upon them by the pandemic. However, it is important that in our eagerness to get back to how things were, we do not forget those lessons that we have learnt over the past year or so – the importance of keeping in touch, of making that extra personal effort to ensure that those we know are doing ok and are well supported.
Personally, I hope that the concept of Zoom meetings and get togethers will not be so quickly forgotten – keeping in touch with members who have found it difficult in recent years to attend lodge and chapter meetings continues, reminding them that they remain members of a bigger family and availing ourselves of their collective wisdom and experience.
Brethren and companions, I very much look forward to seeing you all again in the near future, confident in the hope that vaccination will offer us a route back to normality, and that with each and every passing day, these strange times draw to a close.
Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary and Grand Scribe E