How open should we be?
London's Kent Club continued its series of educational events with a visit to Kent Lodge No. 15, who were receiving a talk by the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown, entitled: PR: How open should we be?
As this was a lodge meeting, the talk was preceded by work held over from the host lodge's previous meeting: a near-faultless explanation of the First Degree Tracing Board by W Bro Neil Ryce, which was received with great enthusiasm by the assembled brethren, and in particular by the three brethren who had been initiated at recent meetings.
The Grand Secretary then spoke, without notes, for around half an hour on this very important topic.
Most of us know that masonry is becoming more open, but it was good to hear the reasons why masonry had gone underground and become so secretive. And to see the contrast with the late nineteenth century when The Telegraph and other newspapers had their own masonic journalists to cover events on a constant basis as masonic news.
Bro Brown pointed out that that whilst there had been difficulties for some masons with their employers in previous years, Grand Lodge had gone to court to make sure that discrimination would not be tolerated. Questions on application forms, or other singling-out of brethren which could imply discriminatory intentions against masons, had been found by the court to be illegal. He went on to explain that the courts had not only ruled that Freemasonry was not a secret society, but also (in an earlier judgement) ruled that it was not a religion.
He urged us to assist in placing Freemasonry back at the heart of the community, by dispelling myths and incorrect assumptions.
Bro Brown cited an example of a typical conversation between friends and acquaintances at a dinner party where the question of Freemasonry might come up. Yes, he said, the conversation might start off with laughter about rolled-up trouser legs and talk of us being a secret society, bent on world domination or other nefarious objectives, but if these views were politely but firmly challenged, then it might very well end with those in the conversation revealing that their grandfather or uncle had been a mason, and how impressed they were with the tremendous fundraising done by masons!
This brought him to a further point regarding our strong charitable giving: he emphasised that whilst it was of course "blind" and that we did not expect to get anything in return, it was both fair and proper that we should be thanked for the difference our money was able to make and thanked publicly.
Part of engaging with the non-masonic world and being more open is engaging with the media, both traditional and social - and with the example of official tweets being sent from Quarterly Communications, he underlined that UGLE has embraced technological change.
He went on to say that all of the Provincial and Metropolitan Information Officers had been on training courses to equip them for the requirements of the post, including specific television/media training for those who might be called upon to act as spokesmen for masonry. He also disclosed that the title Information Officer was to change to Communications Officer to reflect this change and to underline our openness.
Diverse questions followed from members of all ages and ranks, including how to deal with unspoken disapproval of Craft membership from more senior colleagues being experienced by some junior professionals; whether the reintroduction of public processions in regalia would continue to be encouraged; how to tackle public misconceptions caused by those amongst our own members who themselves appear to be propagating poor information or pandering to sensationalism; and whether the Orator scheme could be developed as an adjunct to openness.
The questions were answered with the same warmth and wit as the delivery of the speech itself, with the underlying theme that we should be as open as we can (although without nullifying the appropriate mysteries of the Craft), thereby helping to overcome mistakes and negative opinions by setting the record straight. In particular, the Grand Secretary agreed that some Brethren had good reason to keep their membership confidential, explained how it is planned to build further upon the success of the public procession at the Lord Mayor’s Show, emphasized that some masons should be more careful not to endorse nonsense, and announced that the Orator scheme is currently being restructured for greater relevance and effectiveness.
The Grand Secretary sat down to prolonged applause, and afterwards joined the Brethren for a fine dinner with good cheer and traditional formalities.
I am pleased to let you know that your magazine, as part of our wider communications campaign, has been shortlisted for another award – this time within the Best Corporate and Business Communications category at the ‘Oscars’ of the PR industry, the CIPR Excellence Awards 2013. This is encouraging and supports the excellent feedback we receive from members and their families.
This year is proving to be very interesting, especially with the bicentenary of the Royal Arch. It is particularly gratifying that, at the time of writing, the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons stands at more than £1 million. And from first-hand experience and the comments we have received, the presentations by Fellows of the College have been a great success.
Writing in the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England, I want to remind you that we value the opinions of our members. To that end, we spend a lot of effort surveying members’ views, as well as visiting and talking to members of all ages and all backgrounds throughout the English Constitution, at home and abroad. This gives us a good grasp of the issues for discussion.
Sometimes those holding minority views will be disappointed. A classic example is a tiny minority who think that by removing the need for a belief in a Supreme Being we would increase our potential for recruitment. This is an example where we think change would not be for the best. There are many other areas where we have been proactive and made changes to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation. A typical example being in the area of talking openly about Freemasonry and showing that the organisation is relevant today – and is one that members should be proud to belong to.
We all enjoy reading about masonic history, how our members have achieved great things and what they are doing to help those less fortunate in the community. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at an RMBI cookbook that has helped older citizens connect with the recipes from their past and the people in their present. A profile of the Rough Ashlar Club shows how the use of social media is bringing younger Freemasons together for a friendly pint. Meanwhile, we trace the origins of the Crimestoppers initiative back to a couple of masons in Great Yarmouth. I hope you find something that makes you proud to be a Freemason.
‘We have been proactive to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation’
The consecration of the Armed Forces Lodge No. 9875 was all set to take place the third week of January with many prominent masons booked in to attend. Unfortunately Mother Nature does what she often does, and completely disregards the preparation and organisation committed to the consecration of a new lodge with almost a foot of snow postponing the event.
After much consideration and consultation with Grand Lodge the meeting was rearranged for the 19th April. It was good to see such a full turnout from the founders and the consecrating team the second time around. The afternoon and evening was a resounding success and the event was enjoyed by all who attended. As charity is one of the main reasons for our existence, it was encouraging to see such a young lodge make a donation to the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (the charity currently being supported by the Province) by donating over £700 within five hours of their existence to this very worthwhile cause.
Hopefully the lodge will attract members from far and wide and become a valuable addition to the 29 lodges currently meeting in Monmouthshire. The picture above is the founders and the consecrating officers, which included two Provincial Grand Masters, the Grand Secretary and many prominent masons, along with the current Provincial team, several of which were active participants in the consecration.
24 April 2013
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I congratulate all those of you that I have had the pleasure to invest today. This is, I hope, a memorable occasion and an important milestone in your Masonic life. I trust that you will carry your Grand Rank with humility and continue to support your fellow members to the best of your ability.
I have consistently stressed both the importance of recruiting high quality candidates and then ensuring that they understand what masonry stands for and how enjoyable it can be. If we are successful in this we stand every chance of retaining them. Clearly good mentoring plays a key part in retention and here I see all Grand Officers playing a significant role. Some will act as Lodge mentors or personal mentors, but all of us should assist in this task particularly for our newer members so that they enjoy their Freemasonry and want to stay.
These are exciting times for all of us to be Freemasons and we can be justly proud of our membership. However, as with any other large organisation, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure the long term future for the generations to come. To do so we have both a pro-active and collaborative approach. By pro-active, I mean looking at initiatives that we need to be putting into place now to retain our members. Above all we must clearly demonstrate to the non-Mason that we are a relevant and outward facing organisation in today’s society. And by collaborative, I mean that we work closely with Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges to mutually agree plans for the future. As Grand Officers several of you are already part of your executive teams. But whatever your role within the hierarchy, or the responsibilities you hold or will hold, please remember you are all members of the English Constitution with a common cause working together to ensure the future.
Today is a day of celebration for those I have invested and for the friends you have invited to witness this special ceremony. It is good to see you all and I wish you every success and happiness as you continue to enjoy your Freemasonry.
Finally Brethren, I constantly receive comments about the outstanding quality of our organisation and ceremonial at Grand Lodge. This applies to the Quarterly Communications as well as today, but today is, of course the real showpiece. I can assure you that a great deal of work goes into ensuring the success of these great occasions and on your behalf I thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the highly efficient conduct of the ceremony and the Grand Secretary and all his staff for all the weeks of planning and preparation that have been devoted to this Annual Investiture.
I have long been fascinated by the study of the source and development of words, and with this comes a realisation that a word can be interpreted in several different ways. I mention this in relation to the challenge of explaining Freemasonry. This is something that remains at the forefront of my mind with all our communications – not least the recent successful media tour.
Due to the fact that we are not prescriptive, it is hard to explain Freemasonry while avoiding jargon. This has led us to explain our principles as kindness, honesty, fairness, tolerance and integrity. These words clearly explain our essential nature.
As you know, we had an excellent reception from local media and I have valued the feedback and support from fellow members. It is fair to say that some members were surprised at some of the words I used in interviews and this brings me back to my earlier point on how people analyse words.
Most interviews were very short, with the interviewer having researched Freemasonry on a strange website. So I used words like ‘fun’ when describing Freemasonry. I would not change the word in the context that it was said, but what I meant was that I find Freemasonry ‘enjoyable and rewarding’.
Another example of describing Freemasonry comes from one of the pieces from our ritual that ends with being happy and communicating that. ‘Happy’ is another word that can mean many things but I know as Freemasons we can embrace it.
I hope you will find something to make you feel happy among the features that make up this issue. Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason apprentice reveals how masonic support is helping her. As the Royal Arch marks its two-hundredth anniversary in 2013, we look at how members and the chapters are helping the Royal College of Surgeons. And as smaller charities struggle in this economic climate, we shine a light on how Freemasons are helping swimming pools stay open, challenging discrimination and supporting air ambulances. These are all stories that show Freemasonry at its best.
‘The challenge of explaining Freemasonry remains at the forefront of my mind’
Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013
Charity for all
Sir, I read with interest the last paragraph of the Grand Secretary’s forward in the last copy of Freemasonry Today.
Peter Borst, Ludgrove Lodge, No. 7766, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire
Lodge of Union, No. 38, celebrated its bicentenary at Goodwood House. The country estate, near Chichester in Sussex, is the seat of the Duke of Richmond, many of whom have been masons over the centuries. Lodge officers wear gold on their collars to commemorate the close connection between Chichester Freemasonry and the ducal family, whose colour it is.
The event was attended by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Grand Secretary Nigel Brown, Grand Director of Ceremonies Oliver Lodge and Sussex Provincial Grand Master Kenneth Thomas.
As we all know, time seems to go by at an ever-increasing rate and, with that in mind, our great celebrations in 2017 are not that far away. Just think, as the Mother Grand Lodge of the world, we will be the ﬁrst Grand Lodge to reach three hundred years – what a fantastic milestone.
On this subject I want to address a point of huge signiﬁcance. The Pro Grand Master in his last Quarterly Communication speech, which you can read in this issue’s Senior Insights, stressed that this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to celebrate the occasion is for everyone. It is quite simply the members’ celebration. To that end we will be working tirelessly with the Provinces and Districts to make this a memorable experience for us all.
Our magazine continues to go from strength to strength and this is supported by a recent online readership survey. We were particularly impressed that forty-six per cent of our readers’ wives and partners are now enjoying the magazine. I have also just heard that Freemasonry Today has been shortlisted for an award by an external body as a membership magazine that has made the most progress for its readers. This is fantastic news.
In this issue, we ﬁnd out about brethren who are inspiring communities, challenging preconceptions and contributing to society. We ﬂy back to the Second World War to ﬁnd out how Squadron Leader, mason and secret hero Jerry Fray played a covert but hugely important role in photographing the destruction wrought by the Dambusters.
We explain why RMBI homes are now using pioneering techniques that focus on the quality of life for someone with dementia. And we go along to the ihelp ﬁnals to report on how Buckinghamshire Freemasons are giving young people the chance to show they care about the communities they live in.
I hope you enjoy the issue and that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.
Would the of the two Grand Lodges have gone ahead in 1813 if the Royal Arch had not been recognised? John Hamill takes a whistle-stop tour through Antient history
The earliest documentary evidence for the Royal Arch in England comes in the minutes of the Antients Grand Lodge. At their meeting on 4 March 1752, charges were laid against a group claimed to have been made masons ‘for the mean consideration of a leg of mutton’. Of one of the miscreants it was said that he had not ‘the least idea or knowledge of Royal Arch masonry’. A small detail, perhaps, but over the next 60 years the relationship between the Antients and the Royal Arch was to prove pivotal in shaping English Freemasonry.
1752: Antient recognition
At a meeting on 2 September 1752, the minutes of the Antients Grand Lodge record that ‘every piece of Real Freemasonry was traced and explained: except the Royal Arch’ by the Grand Secretary, Laurence Dermott. An Irishman who had become a mason in Dublin before moving to London, Dermott claimed to have entered the Royal Arch in Dublin in 1746.
1759: Part of the Craft
It was ordered at an Antients meeting on 2 March 1759 that ‘the Masters of the Royal Arch shall also be summoned to meet and regulate things relative to that most valuable branch of the Craft’. Those last few words encapsulate the Antients’ attitude to the Royal Arch. They regarded it as a part of the Craft and considered their lodge warrants as sufficient authority to work the Royal Arch. In later years they often called themselves ‘the Grand Lodge of the four degrees’. Dermott himself characterised the Royal Arch as ‘the root, heart and marrow of masonry’ and ‘the capstone of the whole masonic system’.
1771: Dermott protects
Dermott, who had a positive loathing for the premier Grand Lodge, was clearly far from happy when its members formed the first Grand Chapter in 1766. He had to wait, however, until 1771, when he had become Deputy Grand Master, before he could take action. During that year he engineered a question in the Grand Lodge as to whether or not the Grand Master was Grand Master ‘in every respect’. His successor as Grand Secretary, William Dickey, stated that he had heard it claimed that the Grand Master ‘had not a right’ to enquire into Royal Arch activities. The Masters of the Royal Arch were summoned to discuss this and other Royal Arch matters.
1773: Royal Arch regulates
In November 1773, Dermott got his way when it was agreed that ‘a General Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch shall meet on the first Wednesdays in the months of April and October in every year to regulate all matters in that branch of masonry’. Whether or not the General Grand Chapter ever met it is not possible to say as no minutes for it survive and there is no further reference to it in the Antients Grand Lodge minutes. If it did meet it can have had no greater status than as a special committee of qualified members of the Antients Grand Lodge. Any decisions it might have made would have to have been ratified by the Grand Lodge itself. Certainly there was no separate administration, list of Grand Officers or individual Chapters under the Antients system.
1794: In black and white
It was not until 1794 that regulations for the Royal Arch were printed, and these were incorporated as a supplement to their Book of Constitutions. These regulations would be used within their lodges as and when candidates came forward. Some Antients lodges had, by the 1790s, developed a regular progression of degrees within the lodge. After the three Craft degrees you moved towards the Royal Arch but first went through the Mark Degree, Passing the Chair (if the candidate was not already a Master or Past Master of a Lodge) and the Excellent Mason Degree. After the Royal Arch you could then join the Knights Templar followed by an early version of the Rose Croix, which they termed the Ne Plus Ultra of Masonry.
This progression was often depicted on the aprons worn by members of the Antients, which in addition to symbols of the Craft would include those for the degrees listed above. A very rare example of a multi-degree tracing board turned up some 20 years ago at an auction in Suffolk with other masonic artefacts, which had been in the possession of a local clerical family for more than 150 years. East Anglia had been a stronghold of the Antients and it may well have been commissioned by one of the local lodges.
1813: A very English compromise
That the Antients did much to foster the Royal Arch is beyond doubt. It could also be argued that it was their attitude towards the Royal Arch that preserved it and produced that very English compromise: the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, by which the premier Grand Lodge acknowledged the Royal Arch as the completion of ‘pure ancient masonry’, provided that it was worked separately from the Craft in chapters rather than in lodges as had been the Antients’ custom.
I think it more than probable that had that compromise not been reached the Antients would have withdrawn from the negotiations, the would not have taken place and the future progress of English Freemasonry would have taken a very different path.
Freemasonry has given Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes the confidence to stand up in front of people and make himself heard. He talks to Freemasonry Today about responsibility and his hopes for the Craft
How were you introduced to Freemasonry?
The first place was in the Rising Sun pub on Ebury Bridge Road as it’s where I found out about Freemasonry. A friend there was wearing an Old Etonian tie and I asked why he was wearing it, he said he was ‘off to the lodge’. I said, ‘What happens there?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to find out sometime?’ So I did and it was as simple as that.
Did you ever have any doubts?
If I’d gone into a much bigger lodge I think I might have dropped it, but the fact that the lodge was smaller meant that it pushed you out of your comfort zone. I’d never been someone who liked doing things in front of people but suddenly pride takes over – you decide that if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it well. Then I discovered I enjoyed it.
What did you learn from Freemasonry?
During my work, I did property auctioneering and I remember being terrified of the first one I did. But the fact that I was getting up in Freemasonry and talking in front of people was beneficial. I hope I was a good property auctioneer, but if I was it was down to the confidence I got from Freemasonry. And vice versa. It’s the confidence of hearing your own voice, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. I believe that Freemasonry inevitably leads you to being absolutely clear about your principles; it concentrates the mind.
How did you become Pro Grand Master?
Like many things in life, becoming Pro Grand Master was about being in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in Grand Lodge because I’d been recommended. Once you have achieved a senior position, you get pushed in whichever direction you have the most use. I became Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1995 and was delighted when Lord Northampton asked me to be Deputy Grand Master in 2004 as I felt that was way above my rank. When he then told me he was giving up and that I was taking over in 2009, I asked him if I could have 24 hours to think it over. I remember asking my wife for her thoughts and she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me because you’re going to do it anyway.’
Did your life change?
As Deputy Grand Master I could work full-time but I couldn’t as Pro Grand Master. Everybody is coming to you with everything and while you can delegate, it still all needs to come through you first. But I knew what to expect when I took the position and I think I’m the first commoner to do it, which is a good thing. Since I’ve become Pro Grand Master, the position has become so much more visible. Compared to 10 years ago, the questions I’m asked tend to be about finding answers to something, rather than somebody having a go. When you’re junior, you can clam up about Freemasonry, but I’m confident now and love talking about it to non-masons.
Has the role of Pro Grand Master changed?
Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Freemasonry was run by the Grand Secretary, who would probably keep the Pro Grand Master, Deputy and Assistant informed. That’s now completely changed and it was Lord Farnham who started the process. He was a big man in the city and probably thought that if he was going to be head of something, he ought to take control of it. Farnham said that it must be the three rulers who dictate, through the Board of General Purposes, and that more people should be consulted about what is going on. Therefore, the three of us are involved in everything that happens in Freemasonry.
What would you change about Freemasonry?
I would love to leave behind the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when we didn’t communicate with the outside world. That all stems from Freemasons in Germany being treated the same way as the Jews. The local papers between the wars had pictures of new Provincial Grand Masters parading the streets but with everyone in 1940 assuming Hitler would invade the UK, everything went underground and didn’t really come up again for 30 years.
What is Freemasonry’s biggest challenge?
It’s not a numbers game, but that’s always fairly high on the agenda. If we never lost anyone until they died, our numbers would be going up. The problem is losing them in the first five years of joining. If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be finding a way of keeping all the people we’re bringing in. We’re losing them for reasons we can control because they might join the wrong lodge – they get there and find there aren’t many kindred spirits. We now have exit interviews and are recovering members by putting them in a lodge that suits them better.
With both Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, it has certainly been a memorable summer.
Since the last issue we have successfully released a new core leaflet. The title, What's It All About?, was inspired by our most frequently asked - and probably hardest to answer - question from non-masons. This is another milestone in our strategy for making people understand the relevance of Freemasonry in modern society which, in turn, will help both recruitment and retention. Do please look at the leaflet on our website. I think it is important to note that the leaflet is written in plain English for both the potential candidate as well as for all our families and friends.
It is a great 'myth buster'; showing that our values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Additionally, it talks about friendship, openness, giving, our purpose and how we all grow by our membership. Very different to anything we have done before, the leaflet has some outstanding black and white photography. Indeed, the initial distribution to London, the Provinces and Districts has proved so popular that we have already had to order another print run.
We have another thought-provoking issue of Freemasonry Today for you all, including a fascinating interview with the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. He talks openly about what he has got out of Freemasonry as well as the responsibility of this key leadership role and his hopes for the Craft. Dr Roman Hovorka goes on the record to discuss the creation of an artificial pancreas - the result of medical research that has been funded by the Freemasons and which could transform the way children with Type 1 diabetes manage this chronic condition. We spend a day on the lake with the Masonic Fishing Charity in Northamptonshire to see how young people are finding new ways of interacting with the world. Finally, ex-soldiers and Freemasons Michael Allen and Sandy Sanders reveal the camaraderie they have found in becoming Chelsea Pensioners.
Letters to the editor - No. 20 Winter 2012
In reading the Grand Secretary’s column and hearing about the new Core Leaflet it occurred to me that Freemasonry is not just a charitable institution – a view held by the mundane world and many brethren alike. We all know that charity is the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart and most apply this virtue without vaunting it. It is natural that the Craft should defend itself against the many unfair accusations made against it, but in doing so in public our charitable virtues should not be overstated. The Craft is far more than a charity.
Letters to the editor - No. 21 Spring 2013
Keeping up standards
I read with great interest and agreement the correspondence from Herbert Ewings and Tom Carr in the winter 2012 edition and felt somehow that the two letters were intrinsically linked.