Help for St Michael’s
In a visit to St Michael’s Hospice Hereford, the Rev David Bowen, Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire, met patient and Past Master of Delphis Lodge, No. 7769, Colin Tudor and his wife Gill.
Colin had for some time been a fundraiser for the Macmillan Renton Unit and St Michael’s Hospice. Following a period of chemotherapy treatment, Colin walked across mid-Wales for these charitable concerns.
While he was there, David Bowen, accompanied by Mike Roff, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire, presented the hospice with a £3,343 donation from the Grand Charity.
Over the years, the Province of Herefordshire has presented some £70,000 to the hospice, helping towards the current £3.2 million refurbishment.
The Craft and beyond
As the Tercentenary and new masonic charity launch approach, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on the work required to reach these milestones
The past year has been a busy one. The emphasis was on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long-term future.
Fundamental to ensuring that future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group – supported by 18,000 responses to recent surveys – has shaped this plan, which has, in turn, been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. It concentrates on our vision and values but can only be achieved with the support of the majority of members.
Concurrently, the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress while liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of their main events – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces.
I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm that is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration.
I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master, with most able help from the charity Presidents, Chief Executives and boards of trustees. We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.
‘I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm that is being shown.’
Preparations for the launch in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI will be the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB will be the Chief Operating Officer.
They both have a wealth of experience and knowledge and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities. In advance of the launch, publicity about the Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond.
I am also delighted to announce that the Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016.
The contribution made by David Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal has been colossal, as his contribution has been throughout masonry.
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.
‘What a joy to be a member of such an illustrious organisation that has adapted to the many social changes over 300 years.’
Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation David Innes explains how he intends to use the leadership and operational expertise he gained in the military to take the new charity forward
What did you do before entering the charity sector?
I joined the army after finishing my A levels in 1971, which was the start of a 34-year career that saw me rise through the ranks and end up a Brigadier and Engineer-in-Chief. During that time my career had two main elements – the first was regimental duty, using leadership, man management and operational planning skills. The other half was in office jobs ranging from strategy, intelligence and budgets through to training, human resources and change management jobs. Consequently, I ended up with a broad spectrum of abilities in a number of areas.
What drew you to the charity sector?
Growing up, I’d been in the Cubs, the Scouts and the Pony Club, so I was aware of charitable activities from an early age, but had little chance to volunteer myself. I left the army in 2005 when I was 51, but didn’t feel it was time to retire and wanted to have a second career. The military sector is all about people and the motto from Sandhurst is ‘Serve to Lead’. You are under intense pressure to deliver on the tasks you’re given but you need to look after the people, otherwise you can’t deliver those outputs.
I thought it was a chance for me to use the experience I’d gained and put that back into the charity world.
What was your first charity position?
I headed up the fundraising at Canterbury Cathedral, which was very interesting. It’s been around for many hundreds of years but has only occasionally had to fundraise. We set up a new campaign, which required working with the Charity Commission and charity lawyers. It was a great start for me in the charity world but it wasn’t utilising all my leadership skills. I was approached to put my hat in the ring for Chief Executive at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) and was successful.
How did the RMBI compare with Canterbury Cathedral?
I started with the RMBI in 2008 and it was very different from Canterbury. It was about delivering an operational output and I realised there were huge parallels between delivering military operations and care operations.
We look after 1,100 people in our care homes and we need to make sure each one of them is given the best possible care. There are 1,500 people employed in the RMBI, which is the size of a very large regiment in the military, so it’s about harnessing those skills, getting the right people in the right place at the right time with the right equipment, training and motivation, and operating as a team.
How has the RMBI changed over the past eight years?
The RMBI has had to adapt to social and economic pressures. When I arrived, the vast majority of our residents were active and mobile, and many had been with us for five, 10 or even 20 years. Today, the residential sector has shifted to high-dependency and end-of-life dementia care. Residents stay for a much shorter time and their requirements are more demanding. Therefore, the number of staff we need is higher and the unit cost of care has gone up, but local authority or NHS funding has not matched it, so the economic challenges have been very significant. We’ve had to find a lot of efficiencies, which has proved intellectually stimulating as well as rewarding.
Is the Masonic Charitable Foundation going to operate differently?
In the RMBI, I insist that everyone speaks about the residents first, the staff second, the relatives third and everyone else fourth. That way the primary focus is on the residents. Similarly, with the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) I will encourage people to talk about our beneficiaries first because looking after them is the single most important thing we will do.
By bringing the four charities together we are improving the service by providing a single point of contact and a single process. Whether it’s advice or financial grants, we’re trying to make support easier to access. We are also providing increasing support to the masonic community – to Provincial Grand Almoners and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards. I’d like to see that strengthened as a result of being a single organisation.
Will the MCF have more of a voice?
When we bring all the charities together, we will be a sizeable organisation in the UK charity sector and, as such, we should be recognised. We should be a voice contributing to the third sector in giving our point of view. The masonic community has not been well represented because it has comprised many small elements. One of the things that I hope the MCF will do is bring them together and be a strong voice in an important sector.
‘We have more than 400 years of history and that will be the foundation for the MCF.’
What challenges do you face as a charity with a membership organisation behind it?
There are very few charities that operate across quite such a broad spectrum. Many tend to focus on one area, whereas we provide whole-life support to the masonic community, at whatever age the help is needed. That’s one of our strengths, but we also have to be mindful that, as our funds come from the masonic community, we spend those funds on causes that the community supports.
How is the MCF affected by the need to recruit and retain more masons?
By the end of this decade, 50 per cent of Freemasons will be over 70. Clearly those masons will be relying on their pensions and savings, so we need to be mindful that income to the charities may well go down. We must look for efficiencies wherever we can, to get as much as we can out of every penny.
I do believe, however, that by working with UGLE in supporting its future strategy for Freemasonry, we will be able to stem the decline in membership.
What is planned for the MCF?
Between the four charities, we have more than 400 years of history and that will be the foundation for the MCF. There is a lot of work to do and the integration will have an impact on staff. That will take a bit of time so I’ve allocated 2016 to getting us fully operational in our new organisation.
As 2017 is the Tercentenary year, our focus will be on supporting a huge number of exciting initiatives. In 2018-19 I’m looking to start growing the MCF, to provide services where we currently don’t and to reach out to more beneficiaries. We need to build our brand, and our single name will make it easier to get that out into the community. The MCF has an exciting future and I feel hugely privileged to have been selected to lead it during these early years.
Countdown to the main event
The Coordinator of Planning for the 300th anniversary celebrations at UGLE, Keith Gilbert, explains how preparations are progressing in the run-up to October 2017
When did the planning start?
The Board of General Purposes established a committee of the President, Deputy President, Grand Secretary, Grand Treasurer and two Provincial Grand Masters in October 2013. This committee prepared the ground and gave the general direction. A broad outline for the Tercentenary celebrations was designed, projects agreed upon and venues booked. Soon after, Provinces and Districts were invited to consider their responses and to outline their plans for local celebrations.
What activities have been planned so far?
Every Province and District is planning one or more events and the range is extensive. They include services of thanksgiving at the cathedrals in Canterbury, York, Bristol, Chester, Durham, Exeter, Liverpool, Llandaff, Peterborough, St Albans, Truro, Wells and Winchester, as well as family fun days, balls and banquets, choir and music concerts, and celebrations in song and dance in East Africa, the Caribbean, India and Bermuda. The range and quantity show how our Provinces and Districts have embraced this important milestone in our history. Where is the MAJOR UGLE event being held?
The celebration of 300 years will be held in the Royal Albert Hall on the afternoon of 31 October 2017, followed by a dinner at Battersea Evolution. Invitations to the Grand Masters of all Grand Lodges recognised by UGLE have been sent, together with invitations for representatives of each Province and District. The latter invitations are based on the membership of the Province and District. Provincial and District Grand Masters have been informed that these invitations are likely to be on a ratio of 1/70.
Why is the event not being held on the anniversary of the first Grand Lodge, 24 June 1717?
It was decided to hold the major international gathering on 31 October 2017 to give a window of 16 months (from the start of our 300th year) for UGLE, Provinces and Districts to host events.
What will be the format?
It will be a special meeting of Grand Lodge, while ‘called off’. Apart from some traditional elements, such as addresses and processions, there will be a theatrical extravaganza, which is being coordinated by Gerry Hann, a Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire. Preparations and the booking of professional musicians and performers have already taken place. There will be opportunities to dine and take refreshments in the Royal Albert Hall. Some 2,000 guests will then go on to dine at Battersea Evolution, where a banquet is being organised by Mark Scholfield, a Past Grand Steward. This will include a reception, wine with dinner, and drinks afterwards.
How can all UGLE Freemasons witness the celebration?
Whichever venue had been chosen it would have been impossible to facilitate all those who wanted to attend. For that reason the event at the Royal Albert Hall will be streamed live around the world. It will be for Provinces and Districts to decide if they wish to make use of this facility. The plan is for a rough-cut one-hour video to be available that evening and then a professionally edited version will be provided by the weekend. Brochures containing articles about the Tercentenary and a broad outline of the event will be available several weeks beforehand, with a downloadable update of proceedings produced a few days before. In this way, meetings and dinners can be held within Provinces and Districts, with the opportunity for local celebrations enabling a feeling of involvement with the central event.
Why do you think you were asked to participate?
It was after a conversation I had at the Annual Investiture Dinner in April with a member of the committee. I finished my year as Secretary of the 2014-15 Board of Grand Stewards and had been liaising with several of the officers of Grand Lodge. Previously I had been Provincial Secretary and then Assistant Provincial Grand Master in Hertfordshire and we hold our annual Provincial Meeting at Freemasons’ Hall, so I had some experience of working with those who are based in the building.
‘The range and quantity of celebrations show how our Provinces and Districts have embraced this important milestone in our history.’
Marking three centuries
• The concert in the Grand Temple on 30 September 2015 started the celebrations and also marked the refurbishment of the organ by Supreme Grand Chapter.
• Paving stones naming the Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross will be laid on the steps of Freemasons’ Hall in London.
• The existing Freemasons’ Memorial Garden is being refurbished at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, which will publicly show Freemasons’ involvement in national projects.
• To celebrate the TLC Appeal presenting more than a million teddies to children in hospitals nationwide, a series of teddy bears’ picnics will be held across the country.
• The Library and Museum at Freemasons’ Hall is being extended to include a new room and exhibition about 300 years of Freemasonry.
• A car rally will be held across Provinces, calling at well-known motoring centres en route.
Place in the community
Director of Special Projects John Hamill recognises Freemasonry’s tentative steps back into the spotlight after decades of non-participation in public events
Pageantry is something for which the English are internationally recognised as being the masters. Be it a major state occasion such as the opening of Parliament, the Lord Mayor’s Show in London or a country town’s summer festival, we have a great sense of tradition, colour, precision and style.
Up until World War II, Freemasonry had a major part to play in that. Dr John Wade, in his 2009 Prestonian Lecture, gives a fascinating account of Freemasons ‘clothed in the badges of the Order’ taking part in public processions, either for masonic reasons or as part of national or local celebrations, throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
The earliest recorded masonic processions were in London in the 1720s and 1730s, when the installation of the Grand Master would take place at one of the City livery halls. They would be preceded by a procession from the Grand Master’s residence through the City, with the noblemen in their carriages and the brethren in regalia following on behind. The events were reported in the press of the day but became subject to attention from a group calling themselves ‘The Scald Miserable Masons’ who began to run a mock procession a few days beforehand. The Grand Lodge ceased holding the procession and issued a rule that in future brethren could only appear in public in regalia by dispensation of the Grand Master or his deputy.
‘Sadly, events in the late 1930s in Europe, the horrors of World War II and post-war austerity, as well as the resulting social changes, had their effects and Freemasonry became more inward-looking.’
Laying the foundations
Getting a dispensation was not a problem, as the many processions that took place demonstrated.
On occasion, the procession was part of a ceremony, where brethren would be invited to lay the foundation stone of a public building, church, docks or bridge.
A procession of local civic and religious dignitaries, the militia, the town band and representatives of the Province and the local lodges, all in their civic, religious, military or masonic regalia, would precede the ceremony, which was open to the public and would usually be concluded by a return procession and some form of refreshment.
Sadly, events in the late 1930s in Europe, the horrors of World War II and post-war austerity, as well as the resulting social changes, had their effects and Freemasonry became more inward-looking. In the 1960s and 1970s public processions tended to be protest marches rather than celebrations, with the exception of the annual Armistice Day observances and local civic ceremonies.
In recent years, however, there have been moves towards more public displays. During Freemasonry in the Community Week in 2002 the then Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, said his most abiding memory was processing in full regalia with the brethren of Warwickshire from the masonic hall in Warwick to the collegiate church for a service of commemoration and rededication.
As its millennium project the Province of Durham helped to finance the rebuilding of a former Victorian masonic hall, previously in Sunderland, at the open-air Beamish Museum. The Provincial Grand Master was invited to lay the foundation stone and more than 500 brethren from Durham and neighbouring Provinces processed to the proposed site. The local media carried the event as a major news item.
When the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended to open the hall, again there was a huge procession to accompany the Grand Master and the Lord-Lieutenant in an open carriage to the site. A photograph of the procession appeared on the centre pages of the next day’s Guardian.
London brethren – particularly the City lodges – have provided a float for the past decade for the Lord Mayor’s procession each November, showing how much a part of the City community they are. Similar events have taken place in other parts of the country. While we are far from the halcyon pre-war days, these are small ways in which we can demonstrate Freemasonry’s place in our communities.
On medical grounds
Freemasonry is helping to fund pioneering work into lung cancer and leukaemia treatments. Aileen Scoular found out more at the UCL Cancer Institute Research Trust
When 18-year-old Gareth King was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in November 2013, time was of the essence. ALL’s rate of progression can be so swift that any delay could be fatal. And so Gareth found himself in the local hospital on the same evening as his diagnosis, being given an urgent blood transfusion. As soon as he was stable, Gareth was transferred to The Christie, a specialist NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, and a frightening two years for the King family began.
Like thousands of cancer patients diagnosed every year, for Gareth and his mother Sandra the biggest fear was that of the unknown. Cancer attacks with stealth and, despite some pioneering treatments, some types of cancer simply refuse to respond.
Leukaemia is one of them and ALL is the single most common form of childhood cancer. Each year in the UK, 400 adults and 300 children are diagnosed with ALL and of these, 100 adults and 30 children will have an aggressive sub-type called T-cell ALL. Its sufferers are at particular risk of chemo-resistance and relapse.
Lung cancer is another disease that continues to confound cancer experts. It is now the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, and the most common cause of cancer death. Often diagnosed at a very late stage, more than 42,000 cases of lung cancer are confirmed every year and some 35,000 lives are claimed because of its ability to develop rapid resistance to treatment.
Research is desperately needed into treatment for both diseases, which is why two recent donations from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) have been welcomed with open arms by the UCL Cancer Institute Research Trust (CIRT).
UCL CIRT is a small charity whose role is to source seed funding for research projects that have the potential to become self-sustainable.
UCL is currently one of the UK’s leading research universities and, together with the University of Manchester, it formed Cancer Research UK’s first Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence in 2014.
The UCL Cancer Institute’s ambitious intentions are well matched by the masonic charities’ commitment to cancer-related medical research.
As a result, in November last year the Grand Charity donated £60,000 to help fund pioneering research into immunotherapy as a potential treatment for lung cancer, while a sum of £100,000 from the MSF will enable a research team to explore new treatments for ALL and, in particular, T-cell ALL.
Research into the use of immunotherapy in treating lung cancer struck a particular chord with Dr Richard Dunstan, Chairman of the Non-Masonic Grants Committee, and his committee colleague, retired surgeon Charles Akle.
‘We chose this research project for several reasons,’ explains Richard. ‘Lung cancer is still extremely common but the outlook is dreadful – it really hasn’t improved despite all the new treatments. We probably won’t see the full impact of social changes in smoking for at least another 20 years, and younger people are still not listening. Surgery isn’t always logical because the lung has a very rich blood supply, so any tumours will spread like wildfire, and radiotherapy and chemotherapy can cause many unpleasant side effects. As a GP, I witnessed those side effects in my patients.’
Richard and Charles describe immunotherapy as ‘extraordinarily exciting’ because it involves arming the body’s own defence mechanisms against the cancerous cells. This, in turn, creates the potential for personalised immunotherapy treatments.
In this project, tumour and blood samples from 10 patients with operable grade 1-3 lung cancer will be studied in micro-detail to understand how, and why, the lung cancer cells are not being detected and destroyed by each patient’s own immune system. The same patients will be enrolled in a parallel clinical trial called TRACERx, so that cell analysis can be compared with clinical outcomes.
The project will involve a team of researchers, including Professor Charles Swanton, chair in personalised medicine at the UCL Cancer Institute and co-director of the UCL/Manchester Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, and Dr Sergio Quezada, who is the TRACERx immunological lead.
‘I visited UCL and we assessed the application carefully,’ adds Richard. ‘It’s potentially very exciting for lung cancer, and it has a huge application for other cancers, too. Immunotherapy could be the breakthrough we need in cancer treatment, and we’re proud to make such a significant contribution to its development.’
Investigating gene editing
Elsewhere in the Institute, haematologist Dr Marc Mansour is working on another research project related to targeted cancer therapies. His team’s study was nominated by Metropolitan Grand Lodge for a Silver Jubilee Research Fund grant.
‘We are always keen to support medical conditions that affect people of all ages,’ says John McCrohan, Grants Director and Deputy Chief Executive of the MSF. ‘Family lies at the heart of Freemasonry. To know that the donations the masonic community entrust us with can potentially help young people with illnesses such as leukaemia will reassure our donors that we are fulfilling their wishes.’
Mansour and his team have discovered that T-cell ALL patients who develop chemotherapy resistance are often missing a gene called EZH2 in their leukaemia cells. The loss of this gene could be the key to identifying safer, more effective treatments and, by targeting specific genes with pre-tested drugs, the leukaemia cells could be destroyed without harming the rest of the body.
Thanks to the MSF’s donation, Mansour’s team will be able to create genetically identical leukaemia cells, with and without the EZH2 gene, using pioneering genome engineering techniques. They can then test how and why some genes in T-cell ALL prevent the chemotherapy agents from working. Simultaneously, a library of up to 2,000 FDA-approved drugs will be tested to see which ones successfully destroy the EZH2-deficient precursor cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.
‘ALL is a “blameless” cancer,’ observes Mansour. ‘Most of the time, it’s a genetic abnormality. We know that a lot of children are born with abnormal cells in their blood – sometimes they develop into leukaemia, and sometimes they simply burn out.’
Mansour hopes that his findings in T-cell ALL will also be relevant to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a condition common in the over-65s that has similarly poor survival rates. ‘It’s very satisfying to know that our findings could have wider benefits.’
Thanks to the support of the Freemasons, both projects have the potential to save lives. ‘We’re very glad to be able to support them,’ says Richard. ‘Every year, Freemasons donate money towards research into cancer but it is our great hope that the day will come when our help in this area is no longer needed.’
Find out more at www.ucl.ac.uk/cancertrust
Coping with the diagnosis
Gareth King was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in November 2013, aged 18, and received a bone marrow transplant in June 2014. His mother Sandra, whose late partner was a Freemason, recalls the experience and the support she received from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB)
‘Gareth’s diagnosis was completely unexpected and made more challenging because he has Asperger syndrome. His treatment took place at The Christie in Manchester, a specialist NHS cancer hospital, about two hours from our home. This was difficult because I have two younger sons, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
‘Gareth’s diagnosis came after a few weeks of symptoms, including tiredness, a very sore throat and unexplained bruising, and was followed by a blood transfusion and intensive chemotherapy. It was a very frightening time. I was trying to keep my younger sons in school, but I also needed to be with Gareth in hospital. Without help, I simply couldn’t have coped.
‘The RMTGB offered support and helped fund my travel and childcare costs. They’ve been an important part of our lives, and the local almoner keeps in touch regularly.
‘Gareth’s second round of chemotherapy worked and he had a bone marrow transplant in June 2014. He’s now back at college studying for a BTEC in Sport, and although the treatment saved his life, there are permanent side effects: his spleen stopped working, he tires easily, and it has affected his IQ and ability to concentrate.’
‘It was a very frightening time. Without help I simply couldn’t have coped.’ Sandra King
Society of choice
In 2016 the Membership Focus Group will build on its strategy to ensure that members have a rewarding experience, with expectations met by reality in our lodges
Over the past two years the Membership Focus Group (MFG) has reviewed aspects of Freemasonry that come under the remit of the United Grand Lodge of England, seeking the views of members through surveys, consultation meetings and interviews. The group has considered how Freemasonry is perceived, what its image should be and what Freemasonry has to offer in the 21st century.
The MFG surveys canvassed the opinions of present members and it is clear that while many lodges offer what good men seek, there is often a gap between expectation and reality. We need to communicate clearly and confidently what Freemasonry is and try harder to ensure that we select the right men, as well as offering a rewarding and enjoyable experience to the new member and his family.
The MFG has identified five areas where we must ensure the quality of what we do, and work is in progress to take these forward.
Image: As an initial step, we have a new logo and want to use 2017 as an opportunity to communicate more clearly the benefits of membership and demonstrate that, through practising our values, Freemasons contribute to the well-being of others.
A concerted effort is achieving many more positive articles and reports in the media. Our plans include an expansion of our use of social media to extend our reach and profile. Filming is under way to produce a television documentary to be shown later this year.
Members have identified their concern regarding the quality of many masonic centres and the value of their offering. These should offer a positive impression, value for money and be an asset rather than a financial millstone to members. A project team is considering how to develop advice and support for those with property concerns.
Attracting and selecting: Provinces are appointing Provincial Membership Officers as a prelude to improving the way in which we identify and select those who would add value to a lodge and appreciate our approach to life. This year we will be piloting a selection process in lodges in 10 Provinces to ascertain how best to assist them in this task.
Improving retention: We lose too many members, some through poor selection, others because we have not met their needs and expectations. This is very much to do with lodge culture and balancing the needs of the lodge with those of its members.
Many survey respondents made suggestions about the need to get back to the core of why we are masons. The sentiment was that Freemasonry was beginning to feel more like a charitable organisation than one that promotes the idea of learning and personal moral development, which in turn leads us to be charitable.
‘Of those surveyed, 75 per cent said the aspects of Freemasonry that give the greatest value are: to feel part of a movement with history and traditional values; to make friends in other social circles; to be part of something that supports those in need; and to achieve a sense of personal progress.’
Of the members surveyed, 75 per cent indicated that the aspects of Freemasonry that give the greatest help or value are: to feel part of a movement with history and traditional values; to make friends outside their normal social circle; to be part of something that supports those in need; and to achieve a sense of personal progress.
Understanding and knowledge: The MFG sought views on the importance of masonic knowledge, with 67 per cent citing it as very important to understand the symbolism and moral/philosophical issues underpinning Freemasonry. More than 50 per cent reported only average or poor understanding. This is a core issue. In consultation with Provincial Grand Masters, a project has been established to consider how we might help, encourage and promote the development of educational activity and provide resources to underpin the three degrees of the Craft and the Royal Arch.
Supporting those that lead at all levels: The future of Freemasonry depends on identifying those with the potential to lead at lodge, Provincial and Grand Lodge levels. It is also recognised that opportunities for development and the degree of support could be far better. We intend to consider how better to prepare and support those that volunteer for lead roles within our lodges so that they receive the assistance they require.
There are no quick fixes. The process of change and development will take 10 or more years to bring Freemasonry up to date and reverse the membership trends of the past 30 years. The priority for UGLE is quality, not quantity. If the experience is one of quality and genuine care and concern for one another, then the prospects for retention and growth are good. Equally, the traditional ceremonies and standards are of great importance and need to be retained rather than diluted.
UGLE recognises that one size does not fit all. Lodges vary in their style, approach and interests. We encourage them to be open to the guidance that is offered but to also adapt it in a way that best suits their requirements. By doing this, we can create a successful future together that embraces Freemasonry’s rich values and variety.
Just like moving home?
Can personal experience of selling a house equip people to deal with what selling a masonic centre involves? Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella notes the similarities and differences
Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful experiences in life. From the large sums of money involved through to unfamiliar legal issues, the process can be highly traumatic. The same could be said of the challenges that masonic halls and centres face should an existing building no longer serve the needs of Freemasonry today.
Successfully relocating is a subject all of its own, but the starting point is realising the full value of the existing building. Masonic halls and centres are commercial buildings and their use is regulated by planning laws. You might think the laws and regulations are no different from those affecting residential property, but while the underlying principles are the same this is not the case once you look at the detail.
In relation to commercial buildings, planning use rights frequently embrace a range of business types within the same planning use category – planning is not directed towards preserving individual businesses or protecting their value.
A shop can fail in the hands of one business, but succeed in the hands of another with a different business model. As a result, the market value of a commercial building can be quite different from its value to the owner or occupier. Understanding this is particularly important where a business has run into financial difficulty, and managing a masonic centre is running a business. It therefore may not always be the building that explains the problem.
The next consideration is whether the building or its site has a higher value to a purchaser contemplating a change of use with or without refurbishment, adaptation or redevelopment.
Spotting this takes both knowledge and experience, and missing it can lead to underselling. The numbers can be substantial.
‘You might think the laws and regulations are no different from those affecting residential property, but this is not the case once you look at the detail.’
Recognising that a building or site has development potential is of fundamental importance. However, it is only the first step in a complex process that can all too easily lead to frustration and regret if experienced developers and their advisers are allowed to dictate the agenda. Is an option sensible, or should a conditional contract be considered? If a conditional contract is the right approach, should the vendor have an element of control over the timescale and planning agenda? If the answer to that question is yes, how can this be best achieved?
Proceed with caution
In some cases the answer could be for the vendor to explore the planning potential and obtain an outline or detailed permission before selling. Obvious though that might seem, it may not always be appropriate if, for example, there are a number of development options. I pose questions rather than offer answers for the reason that each case will be different, and what works for one may be quite wrong for another.
As to the question of whether experience of house sales can equip someone to manage commercial property transactions, I would suggest that proceeding without any guidance would be most unwise. Informed, experienced and independent advice from qualified advisers is essential. It will cost money, but provided you have the right adviser it will be money well spent.
Peter’s long march
It was a solo march for Cheshire mason Peter Lindsay as he walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats, covering a distance of more than 1,000 miles in 80 days. This tremendous feat by Peter, 57, was in memory of his late wife Anita and in aid of Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention.
Peter, of Cheadle Hulme Lodge, No. 4697, and Lord Stanley Chapter, No. 2891, raised almost £12,000, having covered the distance entirely on foot in 64 days, with 16 rest days.
His children Richard and Jenny surprised him by meeting him at the finish point.