On 28 April, masonic leaders celebrated the achievements of the past year, revealing an organisation that is embracing transparency and taking positive steps to ensure its long-term future
Held in the Gallery Suite at Freemasons’ Hall, the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting brought together Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents to hear about the state of Freemasonry and why its future is in their hands.
With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes welcoming attendees to the meeting, the President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP), Anthony Wilson, ran through the accounts for 2014, showing United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) finances to be healthy. He also highlighted the increasing importance of hiring out Freemasons’ Hall to third parties as a source of income.
Second Grand Principal George Francis and President of the Committee of General Purposes Malcolm Aish explained how the Royal Arch was faring. ‘The good news is that we had some magnificent figures on exaltations for 2014,’ said George, congratulating attendees for the results that return the Royal Arch to the level it was at six to eight years ago. ‘We’re now hitting the 50 per cent mark of initiations so the prospects for the Royal Arch really do look rather good. I think there’s still more to be done.’
Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire David Macey looked at the progress being made with the membership database, ADelphi 2, which goes live at the end of July this year. Offering improved reporting capability and ease of use, ADelphi 2 will give Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents all the membership information they need, at their fingertips. David also stressed that a structured training plan is in place to offer support to everyone using the new system.
Taking virtual steps
With the Papers of Business for Quarterly Communications circulated electronically for the first time in 2014, James Long from the Electronic Systems Committee explained why it was felt necessary to make this change. ‘We were prompted to some degree by looking to save money and make efficiency enhancements,’ said James, ‘but there was something else that actuated our motive here: we thought it entirely appropriate for a modern membership organisation. We must be responsive and reactive to what our members want.’
Looking at the need to improve communication within UGLE, James congratulated the attendees for embracing new technology. ‘There are many Provinces and Districts that have well-constructed, thought-through and properly controlled communication strategies on social media. What we have to do is learn from all of those,’ he said. ‘We’re going to continue to ensure that UGLE is making the best use of all electronic media for communication, both internal and external.’
Next on the agenda was the 2017 Tercentenary, which starts with events around the country in January 2017 and culminates with a celebration at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 October 2017. Anthony Wilson said that Grand Lodge expects to offer seats at the Royal Albert Hall to each Province and District on the basis of one place for every 80-90 members. Grand Lodge wants to widen the participation and is looking at ways to screen the event live in all the Districts and Provinces.
Staying on the subject of the Tercentenary, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset Stuart Hadler announced the design of a new branding for UGLE, which will make its appearance in the run up to 2017. While the coat of arms has for generations been a mark of status and standing in society, Stuart said: ‘Society has changed over the past 50 years and a coat of arms no longer communicates the image and messages that a modern membership organisation needs to convey. One might also observe that we are seeking no longer to be silent.’
Stuart went on to discuss how the Membership Focus Group (MFG), the BGP and the Rulers believe that a positive and attractive image is vital. ‘To preserve the integrity of the brand and achieve a corporate image, there is to be a strict protocol for us all to follow that will dictate how the symbol is to be used,’ he said, adding that Provinces and Districts will need to review and revise their existing paperwork by 24 June 2016.
Freemasonry’s image is just one of the areas being explored by the MFG. Tasked with assuring the long-term success of both the Craft and the Royal Arch, the MFG has been talking to Provinces about their experiences of recruitment and retention. Assistant Grand Secretary and MFG member Shawn Christie highlighted that many growing lodges hold vibrant meetings and regular social events that are open to non-masons. These provide an opportunity for prospective candidates to ask questions in an informal environment, learn more about Freemasonry and possibly, in time, join if both sides feel the fit is right.
Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire Robin Wilson explained that the road to retention starts with proper preparation. ‘For that to happen, the prospective members must be made aware of the essence of Freemasonry, what it involves and how it involves them,’ he said. For this to succeed, expectations must be managed: ‘Otherwise they could feel ambushed or disappointed by what they find on joining.’ (See here for more details about the MFG’s conclusions on membership retention.)
Next on the podium, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Ward discussed how MFG research into leadership and education showed that many people, if not most, are motivated to join Freemasonry with an expectation of self-development. ‘The opportunity for specific leadership and management development tends to emerge as our brethren get into more senior roles,’ said Michael, adding that while there is a wealth of information available in all the Provinces, there has been limited sharing of best practices. ‘Provinces are consequently reinventing and duplicating.’
Michael believes that there is a window of opportunity to develop and deliver high-quality training material using some of the best practices from around the Provinces. ‘This creates a huge potential for us to enrich members’ experiences and demonstrate that we have listened to and understood their needs. It also shows that we are committed to modernising while maintaining our traditions,’ he said. ‘The alternative is to ignore reality and ignore the needs of our members. Our future depends on inspiring and re-energising our membership. This can only be achieved with the full and active support of the Provincial Grand Masters and the Grand Superintendents.’
Malcolm Aish echoed Michael’s sentiments when he outlined the MFG’s proposed strategy for Freemasonry going forward, which had been circulated to the attendees prior to the meeting. ‘The MFG feels a coordinated approach will achieve greater success but it is each Province that should consider its participation and support – for it is you that will implement a large part of the agreed strategy.’
Chairman of the MFG and Deputy President of the BGP, Ray Reed discussed the results from the annual survey for Provincial Grand Masters. He noted that 54 per cent of Provinces are providing training for new masters and 34 per cent for communications officers. ‘These must be two of the most important areas because they can make such a massive difference in our Provinces,’ said Ray. ‘It’s essential that we encourage those who don’t have training for lodge masters to contemplate giving it.’
In a 30-minute address, Ray touched on the need to innovate and speed up communication, adding that there is broad agreement on what the key areas for development are. ‘We’re talking about training and educating people, about effective mentoring and about best practice in recruitment, retention and retrieval,’ he said. ‘The MFG has sought to better understand the problems we face in Freemasonry and we are now ready to move from analysis to implementation.’
Ray ended on a strong message, saying ‘a successful future for Freemasonry will only come through quality leadership, consultation and collaboration’.
The presentations at the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting finished with a fitting quote from Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.’
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.
As the Grand Lodge of England approaches its tercentenary in 2017, the Membership Focus Group has been established to consider how best to attract, recruit and retain good men. In July, five members of the group met to discuss why the strategy for the future of Freemasonry in the Craft must be a collaborative exercise involving all its members
Why was the Membership Focus Group (MFG) formed?
Ray Reed: The objectives of the MFG are to advise the Rulers and the Board of General Purposes of how best Freemasonry can focus members, lodges, Provinces and staff to work in a collaborative manner to create and implement a strategy that will assure the long-term successful future of both the Craft and the Royal Arch.
We want to look at the whole organisation as well as its ceremonial structure to identify what’s really worked for the past three hundred years, what’s good to keep and what we need to modify. We especially need to consider how to attract and retain the ‘modern man’ and future leaders in this fast-changing world.
Peter Taylor: When we looked at the numbers from the ADelphi database, which contains the masonic life histories of our members going back to 1984, there were some very telling statistics. In many areas around the country we’re attracting new members in good numbers, yet total membership is still going down. The group wants to discover why and find solutions to reverse this trend.
Malcolm Aish: We found that for every age group, the length of time before members resigned was the same. The more we looked at the statistics, the more we felt that it wasn’t just an issue of how to make Freemasonry more attractive to young people as they make up a relatively small proportion of our membership. They are still very important to us, as they could be joining for forty to fifty years, but the big recruitment age is around forty, so we need to discover why fortysomethings are just as likely to resign as twentysomethings.
Ray Reed: Our biggest strength and greatest opportunity is that we’re getting lots of people wanting to join. That number is on the increase at the moment, so we’ve got to make sure that when new people join, their expectations match with what we have to offer.
What sort of questions is the MFG asking?
Shawn Christie: The United Grand Lodge of England is a very special organisation. We can rightfully be proud of our past and our present, but it’s important to look ahead and plan for the future.
This is the reason why we’re asking about the kinds of things we can do better. We’ve analysed membership statistics, identified key focus areas and established working groups to develop those areas further. For example, I’m chairing a working group looking at recruitment, and there are other groups focusing on areas such as governance and the image of Freemasonry. Moving on from our initial analysis, we’ll soon start surveying the membership to make sure that we have an accurate understanding of their feelings.
Stuart Hadler: I’m concerned that we provide very little formal leadership development in Freemasonry, whether that’s progressing to become Master of a lodge or a senior Provincial officer. I think that Freemasonry is poorer for not having the opportunity to develop those skills – we could actively promote it as one of the opportunities offered by our society when attracting new members.
Malcolm Aish: My interest in the Royal Arch means I’m very happy to be involved in the MFG, because success in the Craft will lead to greater success in the Royal Arch. We’ve found out from the statistics that when masons go on to join another lodge or the Royal Arch – the ‘multiple members’ as we call them – then their membership longevity extends significantly. That’s something that we need to analyse. We could find out if people who join their second lodge are more selective about the kind of members they team up with.
If that’s the case, then we might be able to improve overall retention.
Stuart Hadler: Another point we’ve identified is that there’s no clear external perception of what Freemasonry is and why people join. We haven’t prepared members in how to communicate clearly and consistently. If we’re going to attract people in the right numbers and keep them, then we have to find good examples in simple, modern language about what Freemasonry offers.
Malcolm Aish: We don’t want to be seen to be intrusive; it’s quite difficult for someone outside the Province to ask quite personal questions, but we have to be able to find out the real reasons why someone has left a lodge. Was it because they didn’t feel welcome or had an argument? The whole process we’re undertaking aims to open everyone’s minds to consider doing things differently.
‘In many areas around the country we’re attracting new members in good numbers, yet total membership is still going down. One of the aims of the MFG is to discover why and reverse the trend.’ Peter Taylor
Is Freemasonry set for big changes under the MFG?
Stuart Hadler: We have many cherished traditions, but we should be prepared to question their continuing importance to our principles and image. In recent years, for example, there have been more cases of Freemasons parading in public, which is great – it’s a return to where we left off in the 1930s. But are gentlemen of a certain age walking through the streets, parading their regalia, the only images we want to portray? We need to think about the kind of image we’re trying to put across, and the MFG can be about offering a range of choices, perhaps saying that it’s fine if a lodge decides to wear jackets and ties rather than dress in full regalia.
Malcolm Aish: The fundamentals of Freemasonry are not going to change. Why would we want to modify the core ceremonial and ritual traditions of a highly successful organisation? But how we communicate among ourselves – how we formulate the ideas and direction that we are going to take, as well as organise ourselves – is an opportunity for members to make a major contribution.
Peter Taylor: I hope that the membership will be pleased to see that the MFG comprises members from around the country. We’re looking at the wider aspects of Freemasonry from an inclusive standpoint, and will be surveying views taken from a wide range of geographic areas that have different socio-economic challenges.
Ray Reed: We’re a bottom-up, not top-down member organisation. If you want to have your views on the future of the Craft reflected, then you must get involved with the surveys. This is all about meeting the needs of both existing and future members in today’s society in order to ensure the future of Freemasonry.
‘We’re listening to all our members, we want feedback, and before we come to any conclusions, we want to understand what the membership has to offer and what it can improve on.’ Malcolm Aish
How will the MFG communicate its findings?
Shawn Christie: The MFG will use various channels to keep the membership informed, including Freemasonry Today and communication through Provincial and District Grand Lodges. Whatever the findings, we hope to identify and share successful practices and approaches throughout our society. We want to work with Provinces, Districts, lodges and members rather than simply communicating in only one direction.
Ray Reed: Communication is going to be continuous. The strategy document might prove to be substantial, but we’ll need to summarise it and allow everyone at every level to understand. We’ll always take our conclusions to the Board, Rulers and PGMs first because we want them to be the first ones to know – we can’t let magazines like Freemasonry Today know something before the PGMs do. The information route will be focus groups first; then surveys; followed by findings and talks with the Board, Rulers and PGMs. Finally, there’s communication with all our members.
Malcolm Aish: Having this round-table article is a great starting point in reaching a wide proportion of our membership, but we’ll have to feed back what we’re doing in order to be as effective as possible. We don’t know what the outcomes are going to be yet, but we’re listening to all of our members, we want their feedback, and before we come to any conclusions, we want to understand what the membership has to offer and what it can improve on.
Have your say
During the next six months, the Membership Focus Group will be seeking the assistance of members by way of several short surveys. Many of the subjects on which we shall be seeking views are mentioned in this article.
If you wish to have your say and are willing to help, then please email your details as indicated below.
UGLE members can only register at: www.ugle.org.uk/mfg
Your registration will be confirmed by us asking for your name, lodge number, masonic rank and years of membership
Other members of the MFG
Sandy Stewart, Provincial Grand Master for Staffordshire, Michael Ward, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master, Paul Gower, Provincial Grand Master for Hertfordshire, Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, Marc Nowell, Representative from the Universities Scheme, Jeffrey Gillyon, Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, Robin Wilson, Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire
The brass band proms
More than 400 visitors attended the second event held by The Freemasons of Bassetlaw Committee, which links all 12 Craft lodges meeting in Retford and Worksop, at which the Thoresby Colliery Band provided entertainment. Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire Robin Wilson, along with the heads of other Orders, was among the distinguished guests at the Great Hall, Worksop College. A raffle raised £1,488, bringing the total profit of the committee to £4,521 when combined with the inaugural swimathon previously held at the college. Within a year the committee has raised more than £10,000 for local charities.
Aiding youth potential in Nottingham
The RMTGB is helping young people achieve qualifications by supporting SkillForce
The RMTGB has awarded a grant of £30,000 to SkillForce, a national charity that provides an activity-based alternative curriculum to help hard-to-reach young people achieve their potential.
The grant is being used to support SkillForce’s partnership with schools in Nottinghamshire that aims to motivate young people and maintain their involvement in challenging educational activities. Through these partnerships, SkillForce is often able to double the number of qualifications achieved by young people.
The Province of Nottinghamshire is currently supporting the RMTGB through the 2018 Festival and a delegation from the Province visited a local SkillForce group. The visit allowed the Province to witness first-hand how the charity uses donations to help young people, regardless of whether or not they have a masonic connection.
The students are currently working towards a Sports Leader Award, and Robin Wilson, Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire, presented a cheque – in the form of a cricket bat – to the group.
Nottinghamshire Freemasons have celebrated raising £1m for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) in only 8 months. The donations from members of the Province and their families will support the 2018 Festival, launched by Provincial Grand Master Robin Wilson in April 2012. The funds will enable the RMTGB to continue providing financial and welfare support to children and grandchildren of Freemasons who have experienced a distress that has led to financial hardship for their family.
On the 28th May 2012, W Bro Terence Osborne Haunch celebrated 70 years of being a mason
The occasion was marked by a lunch at the Longmynd Hotel, Church Stretton where Terry was presented with not one but two 70 year Certificates. The forty guests, including five present and past Provincial Grand Masters, heard of a remarkable man and a Masonic journey which led him to a career at Grand Lodge.
RW Bro Robin Wilson, Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire, into whose Province WBro Terry was initiated in 1942, presented their certificate first. RW Bro Peter Taylor, Provincial Grand Master of Shropshire then presented a certificate on behalf of the Province to which Terry moved in 1996. He then detailed Terry’s extensive Masonic career including the many Orders of which he is a member, and remembered his time as a Prestonian Lecturer.
Terry was initiated into Vernon Lodge No.1802 together with his brother Douglas in the midst of the Second World War. He soon found himself on a troop-ship ending up in Khartoum. It was there three years later that Major TO Haunch, following a conversation with a brother officer and Mason, took his 2nd and 3rd degrees. Terry recalled trying to give proofs that he had been initiated and luckily still had the receipt of his dues to Vernon Lodge which his father sensibly suggested he take with him just in case!
After the war Terry qualified as an Architect and worked in local government. A big change beckoned and in 1966 his place of employment became Great Queen Street. After 6 years as Assistant Librarian Terry was appointed Grand Lodge Librarian and Curator of the Museum where he distinguished himself for ten years until his retirement in 1983.
W Bro Terry moved to Church Stretton in 1996 to be near his family. His brother lived next door to W Bro Frank Stewart, a member of Caer Caradoc Lodge and Chapter No 6346, and not long afterwards Terry found himself a joining member of both. He is also a member of the Shropshire Installed Masters Lodge No.6262. Terry’s academic background did not go unnoticed and he soon became a mainstay “lecturer” around the Province and beyond, especially in demand to give talks when a Lodge or Chapter did not have a Candidate. What a privilege it was to hear those talks because the range and depth of Terry’s Masonic knowledge is profound. Visitors to his house were also aware that Terry keeps his own not inconsiderable Masonic library there, and he has been a constant source of information, encouragement and advice to Shropshire’s Masons ever since his arrival there.
Now 94 years of age, Terry has understandably had to curtail his Masonic activities somewhat but he remains in reasonable health and we hope for many more years of his fellowship and perhaps another certificate!
Thanks to the generosity of Freemasons in the Nottingham area, more than 200 children with disabilities were able to enjoy all the fun of the fair.
Members came from three lodges – Edwalton Lodge, No. 8214, and St Giles Lodge, No. 4316, both from Nottingham, and the Showman’s Lodge, No. 9826, from Loughborough. They worked with The Showmen’s Guild to make this fun day a reality.
Gordon Cowieson of Edwalton Lodge said, ‘The Showmen’s Guild has been really generous once again in opening up the fairground at Bramcote Hills Park a day early in support of children with special needs. In addition to experiencing the rides, the children also get to enjoy the usual hot dogs, beefburgers, candyfloss and ice cream.’
Peter Barratt, also of Edwalton Lodge, added, ‘The lodges involved raise funds throughout the year to cover the cost of running the event and then give generously of their time on the day to make sure it is a safe and enjoyable occasion for all.’
A key supporter of the event was the Nottingham masonic charity Teddies for Loving Care (TLC), which gave a donation towards running costs. TLC also had a stall at the fairground and ensured that every child who attended left with their own teddy bear. Also enjoying the day were the Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire, Robin Wilson, and his wife Margaret, plus the Mayor of Broxtowe.
In the presence of the Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire, Robin Wilson, and the Grand Master of Oklahoma, the ritual was a portrayal of the US ceremony based on the Scottish Rites. Conducted in two parts, the first in working dress, and the second in Native American dress, prayers were offered in the form of a chant in Choctaw, a language common to the tribes of Oklahoma.