Tuesday, 08 March 2016 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2016

From the Grand Secretary

Welcome to the spring 2016 issue of Freemasonry Today. With 2017 fast approaching, we thought it timely to have an interview with the Tercentenary Planning Committee Coordinator to give the latest brief on the rationale and planning for the celebrations. What a joy to be a member of such an illustrious organisation that has adapted to the many social changes over 300 years, ensuring that we are still relevant in today’s rapidly evolving society.

On the topic of keeping relevant, the Membership Focus Group has, among many other initiatives, been looking at what Freemasonry has to offer in the 21st century. 

In an insightful article you will read about image, recruitment, retention, understanding, and supporting those who lead at all levels.

Also in this issue of the magazine, we interview the Masonic Charitable Foundation’s Chief Executive, David Innes, to learn how bringing the four central masonic charities together will improve the service they give to beneficiaries. He also explains how the new charity will give a stronger voice to the causes that the masonic community cares about.

On the subject of charity, members of Thorpe Bay Lodge in Essex reveal the origins of Lest We Forget, a special bitter they have been brewing to raise funds for the Royal British Legion and military charity SSAFA. While the project’s goal was to fundraise for good causes, the brewers all agree that it has had a wider effect for Thorpe Bay Lodge, improving members’ morale by trying something new. 

The emotional as well as financial support that Freemasons give is the subject of a profile piece on Paula Kilshawe-Fall. The wife of a Freemason, Paula has managed to get back on her feet thanks to the almoner network in West Lancashire. Her story reveals some of the core values of Freemasonry: that of pastoral care and the desire to help those in your community.

The Iron Bridge Lodge in Shropshire is ensuring that it stays true to Freemasonry’s traditional values. However, it also wants to provide a meeting place that accommodates modern life in order to recruit and retain the next generation of masons. By drawing upon social media and streamlining its ceremonies, the lodge is now attracting younger masons who are not only bringing ideas of their own but also introducing new members into the fold.

As we look forward to the Tercentenary, I think you will find so much in this issue that shows why Freemasonry is as meaningful in society today as it was 300 years ago.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘What a joy to be a member of such an illustrious organisation that has adapted to the many social changes over 300 years.’

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2015

From the Grand Secretary

On behalf of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent to the Grand Master on the occasion of his 80th birthday. How fortunate we all are to have such a dedicated royal leader since his installation as Grand Master by the 11th Earl of Scarbrough on 27 June 1967.

Thank you to those readers of Freemasonry Today who have participated in the recent Membership Focus Group surveys. One of the results from your feedback has been the creation of a clear strategy to make sure there is a sound future for Freemasonry. This strategy has been agreed at the highest levels throughout the organisation and we now wish to share it with all our readers. You will find a copy of this strategy attached to this issue of the magazine. 

I trust you will find it fascinating, and that it gives you added confidence for the future and your continued enjoyment of Freemasonry.

New enthusiasm

In this issue of the magazine, we find out how Freemasonry is helping to build confidence among our members. Our article on the first New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference at Freemasons’ Hall reveals a support network of light blue clubs that are helping initiates get the most out of Freemasonry from day one. We look at how these clubs are giving new members an outlet for the energy and excitement that they want to put into the Craft.

Overcoming challenges

The values of Freemasonry proved vital for Arthur Vaughan Williams, who, following a car accident, went from peak physical fitness to being unable to control two-thirds of his body. In our interview with Arthur, he explains how Freemasonry helped him to re-engage with society and create a new life for himself. With a reinvigorated sense of self-belief, Arthur has learned how to fly and is carving out a successful career as a television presenter.

Also in this issue, London’s new Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder discusses what motivated him to modernise the City, not only the way it runs but also the business buildings that populate London’s skyline. Meanwhile, our feature on deaf communications organisation Signature shows how masonic support is aiming to put British Sign Language on the curriculum and open up the education system for deaf youngsters.  

I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘We look at how light blue clubs are giving new members an outlet for the energy and excitement that they want to put into the Craft.’

Published in UGLE
Friday, 04 September 2015 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Autumn 2015

From the Grand Secretary

We have another fascinating issue for you about what is happening in Freemasonry today. The results from the latest survey conducted by the Membership Focus Group concentrate on the joining experience of new members. 

The moment that they join is a deeply significant time, and ‘feeling valued as a member’ came out top of the factors that contributed to their overall satisfaction as Freemasons.

It is pleasing, too, to hear about what The Masonic Mutual has achieved in its first year. 

This success has been driven by reducing spend, improving available cover, enhancing risk-management practice and establishing a vehicle through which any surpluses generated can be retained for the good of Freemasonry.

As we look forward to the long-term future of Freemasonry, we need to make sure that we are seen by the public as relevant to modern society. 

I believe this must continue to be the editorial direction of our magazine, which I hope you will enjoy in this latest issue.

Helping others grow

With Freemasonry sharing many of the same values as the Scouting movement, we find out about the ongoing support that our masonic charities have provided to encourage more young people to join their local groups. Over the past seven years, our grants have been used to pay for Scouting premises and training volunteers, as well as to buy much-needed materials and equipment – all with the aim of helping young people grow and develop.

Across the country, Freemasons and their families are making a difference to the communities they live in. Down in Cornwall, we meet Freemason Roy Newport, who takes retired military personnel out on the open water to help them adjust to life in the ‘normal’ world. Up in Lancashire, we follow the daughter of respected local mason Geoff Cousen as she runs across the Lake District to raise money for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, the charity that supported him after two crippling strokes. 

Our piece on the Talking Heads initiative looks at why chapter members have been performing to lodges across the country to explain the progression into Royal Arch. We also interview consultant surgeon Stephen Large about how masonic funding has been crucial to new research that could massively expand the number of donor hearts available for transplantation. At both a local and a national level, these stories reveal Freemasonry at its best, as members provide care, support and inspiration. 

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘At both a local and a national level, the stories in this issue of the magazine reveal Freemasonry at its best, as members provide care, support and inspiration.’

Published in UGLE
Friday, 05 June 2015 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2015

From the  Grand Secretary

 As you read the summer edition of  Freemasonry Today, you will see that we have a great deal to be proud of and many successes to celebrate. As well as the numerous examples of charity on home soil, the Grand Charity was, as usual, quick to send donations in emergency aid via the British Red Cross to Vanuatu following the severe tropical cyclone in March, and to Nepal following the devastating earthquake in April.

The Pro Grand Master has stressed the importance of mentoring to retain members, not least to encourage initiates to talk openly about Freemasonry to their family, friends and acquaintances from the very outset of their membership. The Pro Grand Master also called upon lodges to work with their Provincial and District Grand Mentors.

To further support our collaborative approach, the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting was an outstanding success. Our report on the proceedings presents the highlights and reveals ‘an organisation that is embracing transparency and taking positive steps to ensure its long-term future’.

While the future of Freemasonry involves modernisation, maintaining tradition is also important. Pastoral care has long been a key strand of our organisation, so we find out about the ongoing work of Ernie Greenhalgh and his team of almoners in West Lancashire. We also talk to Dame Esther Rantzen about her Silver Line charity and the importance of offering support and comfort to older people.

Dame Esther is not the only celebrity gracing the pages of this issue, however, with Benedict Cumberbatch visiting Freemasons’ Hall to read at Letters Live. Our feature on the star-studded event demonstrates a membership organisation that is happy to open its doors to the world.

Transparency was one of the motivating factors in forming the Devonshire Masonic Art Group. We interview its members to discover how painting and raising money for good causes is taking the message of Freemasonry to local communities across the region. In our cover story, creativity is also being used as a way to connect with others; we learn how masonic funding is helping disadvantaged young people to take their first steps in the music industry. 

Whether the beneficiaries are old or young, masons or non-masons, there are many stories in this issue of Freemasonry Today that celebrate the support we give. I hope they will make you proud.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘While the future of Freemasonry involves modernisation, maintaining tradition is also important, and pastoral care has long been a key strand of our organisation.’

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - April 2015

Craft Annual Investiture

29 April 2015 
An address by the MW Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, I welcome you all to this Annual Investiture and I congratulate those of you I have had the pleasure of investing with their various ranks. Grand Rank has been awarded for your contribution to English Freemasonry, here and in our Districts. I take this opportunity to remind you that further great things are expected of you and you will be required to shoulder greater responsibilities, particularly with helping to implement initiatives for improving our freemasonry which may be brought in by the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters.

At my Annual Briefing meeting yesterday, the Metropolitan Grand Master, Provincial Grand Masters, District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents were brought up to date on the various initiatives that have been taken to make Freemasonry fit to celebrate its Tercentenary with confidence in its future. This confidence will show that Freemasonry is as relevant today as it has been over all of the last 300 years.

To achieve this, we will continue to work closely with Provincial and District hierarchy to develop a clear strategy on sound leadership, the involvement of the membership with clear focus on future needs, all backed up by sufficient factual information. I am determined that this level of involvement and cooperation, which is already showing great benefit, continues to succeed.

As I have indicated earlier, it is essential that Grand Officers set good examples in their Lodges and help with the training of the next generation. They should be expected to carry out any duties for which they may be called upon to support the strategy.

I am sure we would all like to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the usual immaculate way this memorable ceremony has been conducted and the Grand Secretary and his Staff, all of whom have devoted an enormous amount of time and experience to organising this happy occasion.

Finally, I again congratulate those that I have invested and also say how pleased I am to see so many of you here today to witness your friends receiving Masonic honours.

Thank you brethren.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 06 March 2015 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2015

From the Grand Secretary

We are delighted at the response to the first Membership Focus Group survey with 5,265 of you taking part. Please do read the very interesting results in this issue on page 16, as they reveal how members cherish mutual respect and moral values while still embracing fun and enjoyment.

The Membership Focus Group survey is a classic example of involving members in the future of Freemasonry – not least members at lodge and chapter level. Our ability to communicate with individuals in order to seek their views is increasingly important to ensure the success of our organisation going forward. 

It is therefore crucial that we recognise that it is right and proper to talk openly about our membership and to feel proud of that membership. To that end, we must meet the challenge to find a simple manner of communicating our unique offering to new members, as well as to family, friends and acquaintances. Actions speak louder than words and we are increasingly convinced that the challenge of communicating what Freemasonry means will be met by members at lodge and chapter level. 

In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we talk to masons who are sharing the message at a local level. Our profile of Somerset’s Adair Club reveals how combining a modern outlook with traditional values can ensure new recruits to Freemasonry feel part of their Province. Meanwhile, we look at the masonic contributions to sports charity Street League that are giving unemployed young people career direction by encouraging them to use the team-building skills found in football.

Our feature on the pioneering work being carried out in RMBI care homes shows how residents can be made to feel more secure. The charity is finding that, whether it’s memories of flying with Franklin D Roosevelt or pretending to be Father Christmas over the phone, life stories can be used to better understand and care for its residents.

Looking further back, the spirit of Freemasonry is revealed in a fascinating document held by the Library and Museum. We learn about the hundreds of Freemasons held at Ruhleben internment camp in Germany during World War I and the launch of a campaign to send food parcels to their aid. It is just one of the many stories in this issue of Freemasonry Today that show why we should be proud to be members of this fraternal organisation.

Nigel Brown

Grand Secretary

‘Actions speak louder than words and we are increasingly convinced that the challenge of communicating what Freemasonry means will be met by members at lodge and chapter level.’

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 00:00

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2014

Quarterly Communication

10 December 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, a lot goes on during a period of 12 months in Freemasonry. Much of this all our members see in their lodges, as well at Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges and Grand Lodge. However what is not seen is all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that all runs smoothly and, even more importantly, that the Craft is fit for purpose for the future.

Over the last 40 odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on making sure that we know as much as possible about our membership and what we can do to stabilise membership numbers and increasingly attract natural leaders and high quality members.

The Membership Focus Group under the chairmanship of the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval, all vital to the success of any organisation. The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months which will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that over 5,500 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.

Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it so often that which appears trivial that introduces a debate which widens and becomes, dare I say, a cornerstone. One such idea has been put to me by Bro Reed and came from a chance conversation that he had with a certain Deputy PGM, who shall remain nameless but his Province has a county town called Lincoln! Amongst several very useful points that he made was that the word “recruitment” has connotations of press ganging into the services and that, rather than talking about “recruiting” new members, why not think about “attracting” them. This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.

The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this – I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded out with emails so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.

There have also been a number of changes within the secretariat and those working in this building. As most of you will have noticed by now, we are leading up to a very major event in 2017 and this is going to take a huge amount of organisation. For this reason it was decided to ask the Grand Secretary to concentrate his time and efforts on the purely masonic side of his current role and to separate away the operational side of the building, along with the finance and IT departments, which will be run by a Chief Operating Officer, Nicola Graham-Adriani who has been working for us here for over 13 years, latterly as Deputy Chief Executive.

Brethren, this meeting of Grand Lodge marks a watershed by having the Paper of Business circulated electronically. This was not as easy as it may sound, as, amongst other things, it required changes to the Book of Constitution. A team led by VW Bro James Long and including the current Grand Pursuivant have spent many hours ensuring that the circulation went smoothly and I congratulate all of them on doing so.

Another area where there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main Charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the Charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, which at that time was myself, but was soon to become RW Bro Jonathan Spence who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The Charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in this building.

The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the Charity Presidents and their Chief Executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the Charities for many years to come. 

I am pleased to announce that the MW The Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnell Report of 41 years ago.

The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main Charities into a new overarching charity managed by a single board of Trustees under a single Chief Executive Officer with a single staff team.

Further details will be made available via the individual Charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today. 

At the Annual General Meeting of The Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of The Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be far more appropriate for the 21st century. I congratulate all those involved in this review and commend their recommendations to you.

Brethren, I have spoken for rather longer than usual, but I trust that you will agree that some important issues have been covered and I believe that it is right for Grand Lodge to be kept up to date on such matters.

Last year I mentioned that I was expecting a tiring Christmas with my grandchildren. It wasn’t just them who were exhausting. My three sons, who are all in their thirties, passed my two grandsons on the stairs. One set were on their way to bed, the other on their way to open their stockings. I leave it to you, brethren, as to which lot was going in which direction!

Whoever you spend your holiday period with, may I wish you all a very happy and relaxing time.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 05 December 2014 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2014

From the Grand  Secretary

Gathering the views and opinions of our members has never been more important. We are determined to continue to work closely with Metropolitan London, the Provinces and the Districts throughout the English Constitution. This is demonstrated by an inclusive approach when deciding new initiatives.

Let me give you some examples from this year. The Pro Grand Master has met with all Provincial Grand Masters, the Second Grand Principal has met with the Grand Superintendents, and we have paid attention to our District Grand Masters, attending the regional Conference of Caribbean District Grand Masters in Bermuda. We were also present at the Freemasons’ Conference, organised by the District of East Africa and held in Dar es Salaam. More recently, we attended the second Asia Pacific Conference in Hong Kong with District Grand Masters from the Eastern Archipelago, India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand South Island. 

It is not just the senior members of the organisation, however, who we invite views from. The Membership Focus Group is still seeking assistance from members by way of short surveys. This is a great opportunity to have your say and I encourage you to register to take part at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg 

In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at how the future of our organisation is in the hands of a new generation. We profile three young men who have joined the Craft: Mat Tindall is a stonemason working on Castle Drogo; Anthony Hall is a choreographer in London; and John Henry Phillips is a student archaeologist in Leicester. Carving out careers in three very different trades, these masons all feel that they have much to learn, but also something important to contribute.

Our feature on Ruspini House explores a unique masonic building that is enabling young people to learn and work in London. Masonic support is also crucial to Lifelites, a charity that helps disabled children to explore the world in new ways thanks to cutting-edge technology; we talk to Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy about its work. Further afield, we report on how Freemasons helped to rebuild the Philippines’ shattered infrastructure after the cyclone that tore across the islands in 2013.

As a new generation joins the Craft and we continue to support those around us, this issue of Freemasonry Today shows an organisation with a strong future. I hope that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘Gathering the views and opinions of our members has never been more important.’

 

Published in UGLE

These boots are made for walking

A team of Nottinghamshire masons, led by Provincial Grand Master Robin Wilson, assembled at Freemasons’ Hall in London to begin a sponsored walk to their headquarters in Nottingham. The 175-mile route between the two cities followed the towpaths of the Grand Union Canal and took the walkers 11 days to complete.

After setting off from Great Queen Street in the presence of Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and members of the Board of General Purposes, they passed through several Provinces, allowing other walkers to join them. The unique walk was one of Nottinghamshire’s major fundraising events in support of the 2018 Festival for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.

Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Autumn 2014

 From the Grand Secretary

We have recently completed another readership survey about Freemasonry Today, which shows encouraging results supporting its editorial approach and philosophy. Let me give you some examples of those interesting results. Three quarters of readers think the magazine is excellent, with seventy-five per cent believing that Freemasonry Today is a forward-looking publication, and seventy-three per cent agreeing that it helps change perceptions about Freemasons for the better. Eighty-four per cent say the magazine shows us in a modern light and portrays the openness of the United Grand Lodge of England. 

More than half our readers have encouraged friends and family to read the magazine, while three quarters have discussed an article with them. Forty-four per cent of readers say their wives and partners read Freemasonry Today with eighty-nine per cent being more positive about the Craft after doing so.

We have had fantastic feedback from our new DVD, What’s It All About? The film has been shown successfully at county shows and received more than 30,000 views on YouTube.

In this issue of the magazine, you will find myriad examples of what our members enjoy about the Craft – for some it’s supporting charity, while others are looking to find a greater understanding of themselves. 

We follow a group of Welsh lodges as they trek around the coastline to support a local charity. While the money raised will help fund a state-of-the-art children’s hospital in Cardiff, one of the masons on the walk admits that the reward of making lifelong friendships is what drives him to take part in these activities.

For Frank Lee, a volunteer at a local RMBI care home, his Freemasonry is about looking after the elderly and doing what he can to help them. Our report on the Association of Friends scheme explains why Frank counts many of the James Terry Court residents as friends, as they see him as one of the family.

Our feature on Ian Mcilquham profiles a Freemason who received crucial assistance when he needed it most. His local lodge and the MSF were on hand to give financial and pastoral support following Ian’s diagnosis with prostate cancer. His story is not unique. Since 2005, local masonic lodges have raised £476,000 for Prostate Cancer UK in a bid not only to raise awareness, but also to improve ways of treating the condition.

The fact that Freemasonry can encompass all these things (and more) reveals an organisation that has a great deal to offer to both existing members and potential recruits.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘Eighty-four per cent of readers say the magazine shows Freemasons in a modern light and portrays the openness of the United Grand Lodge of England.’

Published in UGLE
Page 5 of 12

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