Moving the yardstick
A city farm in one of the UK’s most disadvantaged areas is giving young people new confidence. Matt Timms looks at how masonic funding is supporting its vision to transform lives
St Werburghs in Bristol was almost totally overrun with crime in the 1980s after floods forced residents to vacate their homes. Locals recall how the fields became a dumping ground and once-prize allotments grew wild and untamed. Determined to regain some semblance of togetherness, they put a request in to the council for the land. But it wasn’t until sheep were introduced that the community started to properly re-energise.
St Werburghs City Farm has now been improving prospects for people living in the area for 30 years. The two-acre smallholding, one-acre community garden, two-and-a-half-acre conservation site and 13 acres of allotments have become the beating heart of the community. A place that once looked beyond help is thriving and a £38,125 grant awarded by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will allow the surrounding communities to grow still further.
Situated in the Bristol ward of Ashley, alongside four others that are among the 10 per cent most disadvantaged in the UK, St Werburghs City Farm provides practical, outdoor and therapeutic opportunities for permanently excluded and disengaged young people.
‘Each year, we support hundreds of causes, including those that provide employment opportunities for young people who are not in education, employment or training,’ says Katrina Baker, Head of Charity Grants at the MCF. ‘We decided to support St Werburghs City Farm because it engages, equips and empowers young people with the confidence and capacity to transform their lives.’
According to Alex, a 17-year-old participant in the farm’s Work2Learn placement scheme, ‘If anyone is in Bristol and they’re having a tough time, they should come to St Werburghs.’ Alex is just one of an estimated 704 people aged 14-19 – most of whom are struggling in mainstream education – who will benefit from the support the farm provides over the next three years thanks to the MCF grant. ‘The people here are my second family,’ he says. ‘We feel equal.’
Now into his third year on the farm, Alex had considered becoming a chef, a train driver and even joining the army, but a love of the outdoors, together with his experiences at St Werburghs, opened his eyes to the joys of farming. ‘Sometimes you just get the feeling you’ll be good at a job,’ he says. His time at St Werburghs has not only given him vital experience, it’s also boosted his confidence.
The farm’s youth development manager, Anna Morrow, has seen Alex and countless others change for the better as a result of the youth programme. ‘When things fall apart, that one day out a week can make all the difference – enough for them to be able to cope,’ she says.
‘St Werburghs City Farm engages, equips and empowers young people with the confidence and capacity to transform their lives’ Katrina Baker
Max, also 17, believes his time at St Werburghs has helped him in life: ‘Being here has shown me about teamwork. There will be some people you get on with, some you don’t, but that’s life and you have to accept that.’ For Max, interacting with people on the farm has exposed him to a world outside mainstream education and given him opportunities he otherwise might not have had. His mother has noticed a marked improvement in Max’s moods, and firmly believes he has benefited socially from having other adults to talk to.
Morrow recalls a 14-year-old young carer who used his placement to overcome problems at school, mostly to do with aggression. ‘He was doing everything at home: cooking, cleaning, taking the parent role,’ she says. ‘All that was taking its toll.’ Starting at just one morning a week, his experience at St Werburghs made such a difference that he ended up helping out three days a week and eventually went on to gain an apprenticeship in farming.
For young people living on the perimeters of society, schools are limited in how they can address complex personal issues, so having a place like the city farm can be a lifeline. ‘It’s all about relationships,’ says Beth Silvey, a youth worker at the farm. ‘Participants get to do things they’d never get to do anywhere else. And I think that builds trust. It’s a nurturing environment and they are very much part of the team. It’s a group activity that isn’t intense, so they talk to us. It’s like a family here.’
Growing a community
Personal development, self-esteem and support networks aside, an equally important aspect of the farm’s work is improved community cohesion, particularly in an area where so many young people live below the poverty line. More than half of children are living in income-deprived households in three areas within walking distance of the farm.
The thinking behind the project is clear: if you catch anxieties at an early stage then you’re able to address issues before they balloon out of control. ‘It’s really important,’ says Silvey, ‘it can tip the balance at a crucial time. And we wouldn’t be able to do that without the money from the Masonic Charitable Foundation.’
Thanks to the MCF grant and a new building, the farm has been able to extend all its work placements and start a new enterprise project. With the continued support of the MCF and the proud members of the community, St Werburghs City Farm has become an invaluable asset in bettering the situation facing young people in the area.
‘People come here because they’re accepted,’ says Max, who has himself been witness to some extraordinary stories. ‘The people are just nice; no one is bothered by difference.’ And in an area that continues to suffer from poverty, having a place that is very much loved and embraced by the community is crucial.
Seven marathons in seven days
Bristol Freemason Bill Doody ran seven marathons in seven days in support of the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) and the NSPCC. Fundraising on behalf of the Province of Bristol’s 2019 Festival Appeal for the MSF, he covered more than 183 miles in one week. Bill began his incredible challenge by running from Bristol to London, finishing off with the London Marathon on 13 April.
He visited several lodges and attended meetings at Wiltshire, Berkshire, West Kent and Freemasons’ Hall in London.
Go to www.justgiving.com/samaritan for more information
The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham held a special convocation on Friday 18th November at the Masonic Hall, Alexandra Road, Gateshead. For this meeting 12 companions from The Provincial Grand Chapter of Bristol including their Grand Superintendent EComp Alan Vaughan travelled to Durham where they were accommodated overnight at a local hotel.
Having set off at 6.30am they arrived in Gateshead at 1pm where they immediately proceeded to 'ransack' the Chapter Room which had been carefully set up in the Durham format, before practicing their ceremonial making a few adjustments to fit into the Gateshead building. All Lodges and Chapters in the Province of Bristol meet in one city centre Masonic Hall.
It was only earlier this year when Supreme Grand Chapter authorised the demonstration of the unique Bristol ceremony and this was the first time in over 200 years it was performed outside of the Province of Bristol. Much of the equipment including a series of coloured "veils" had been specially constructed by the Bristol Companions for the occasion. Durham's Past Deputy GSupt Derek Warneford was the lead Durham organiser of the occasion and he evidenced skills akin to ‘Blue Peter’ in constructing a pair of white pillars made from MDF, carpet inner rolls, 2 footballs and copious amounts of mastic and emulsion paint!
By 6pm when the Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham Officers of the year and Officers of Supreme Grand Chapter had processed to their places the main Lodge room at Gateshead was full for this ‘sell out’ occasion. After a short historic introduction by their Grand Superintendent the Bristol Demonstration Team entered and gave an excellent demonstration of ‘The Passing of the Veils and a Bristol Exaltation Ceremony’ with a Chapter of Industry No. 48 Companion, Ian Knighting acting as the candidate. This was a challenging role as the exaltee had questions to answer on the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees as he passed through a series of veils towards the Chapter room and exaltation ceremony. It was a further challenge as Knighting is clearly an uncommon name in the South West and Ian answered questions without hesitation no matter what name he was given!
The 120+ Durham Companions present were then entertained by an extremely well delivered exaltation ceremony. They noticed significant differences between the Durham and Bristol ceremonies, perhaps the most significant was the absence of any lectures. In Bristol most of the information in our lectures is delivered within the main body of their exaltation ceremonial.
The Provincial Convocation was followed by a 4 course meal and in fitting with the convivial nature of the evening the toasts were announced by EComp Stephen White, ProvGDC of Bristol leaving our own ProvGDC EComp John Watts only to introduce the Grand Superintendent of Bristol when he responded to the visitors toast. During his response EComp Vaughan presented a set of Bristol Cufflinks to the Grand Superintendent, Provincial Principals, Director of Ceremonies and the representative candidate EComp Ian Knighting for their assistance in making the evening such a success.
In the heart of Bristol, Freemasons' Hall library and museum houses a treasure trove of artefacts that point to the city's unique masonic history, as Yasha Beresiner discovers
Bristol holds a unique status in English Freemasonry. In 1373, Edward III granted the citizens of Bristol a charter whereby the town was constituted a county free of the rules and regulations of adjoining counties. In 1542, Henry VIII established a bishopric and Bristol became a city. In 1786, against this historic background, the celebrated Thomas Dunckerley (the alleged illegitimate son of George II) suggested Bristol should be made a masonic Province – duly approved by Grand Lodge in London – making it the only city to have a Provincial Grand Lodge in its own right.
With the exception of Jersey in the Channel Islands, Bristol is the only Province where all masonic meetings are held under one roof – Freemasons’ Hall, 31 Park Street. Prior to 1871, this elegant building was the home of Bristol’s Philosophical Society.
A UNIQUE PROPOSITION
Bristol differs in several other ways. It claims to continue the ritual as it was before the Union of 1813. The semi-apocryphal story is that the representative of the Lodge of Reconciliation visited to instruct the Province on the new standardised ritual, was effectively hijacked, wined and dined by the brethren and sent back to London, task unfulfilled. Thus, Bristol’s Craft and Royal Arch rituals differ from elsewhere in England.
Bristol’s uniqueness is evident in the contents of its library and museum – a vast collection of books and artefacts under the charge of archivist Philip Bolwell. Bristol does not use printed rituals, with candidates keeping handwritten versions. The archives include the first-recorded minutes of an English Royal Arch meeting of lodge No. 220 held at the Crown Tavern, Bristol, on 13 August 1758, when brother William Gordon was ‘raised to the degree of a Royal Arch and accepted’.
Probably the oldest competitor in this years’ Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday, 11th Septebmer will be Wilf Cooper, taking part for the 12th time at 90!
He says it will be his last “or maybe, it will, because I’m slowing down a bit”.
But life for Wilf of Lockleaze, Bristol is far from the slow lane. A very active freemason, he is the organist at 14 meetings a month at their headquarters in Park Street, meaning he is there for three or four nights a week. His seven daughters take it in turn to sit with their mother, Sylvia, while he is out.
A contingent of local masons always take part in the marathon, raising money for local charities through sponsorship by their members. Last year, Wilf raised £1,612 and this hear his target is for at least £2,000 for St Peter’s Hospice.
If you would like to sponsor Wilf Cooper, or request further details, his contact details are 15 Bonnington Walk, Lockleaze BS7 9XF. Tel: (0117) 949 5454
Matthew Scanlan reports on a pilot scheme
The comedian Bob Hope once quipped, ‘If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.’ And as every Freemason knows, Freemasonry places great emphasis on a generous heart and charitable giving, even though not every member is aware of the charitable help that is available to both himself and his loved ones. Therefore, in the wake of a recent pilot scheme which was specifically launched to help raise awareness of the work of the masonic charities, Freemasonry Today decided to speak with those involved to see how the initiative went.
In September 2009 the four main masonic charities – the Freemasons’ Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund – launched a joint pilot scheme called Freemasonry Cares to try and better inform members about their work.
For seven months the provinces of Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Durham and Yorkshire West Riding piloted the scheme, which focused on informing members and their dependents, as well as lapsed members (those who may have fallen on hard times or who have become too infirm to attend meetings), about the wide range of charitable help and support that they are eligible to apply for in times of need. And in all instances the message was simple: if you have a masonic connection and you are experiencing financial or healthcare problems, contact Freemasonry Cares.
In the words of Eric Heaviside, the Provincial Grand Master of Durham, ‘One of the most surprising things we discovered with Freemasonry Cares was just how many brethren and their families were totally unaware of the potential guidance and assistance available to them. Many simply go to their lodge and afterwards put away their regalia, and that’s it. And many in the province didn’t realise what they were entitled to; for some it never occurs to them to even seek advice in this regard.’
To tackle this shortfall in knowledge, a specially produced booklet was distributed throughout the four pilot provinces to members and widows of deceased masons. The booklets addressed commonly posed questions relating to both eligibility and the type of help available; help that typically ranges from purely financial related issues such as funeral costs or education support, to healthcare and family support, including hospital treatment, respite care and child maintenance. And in every province the booklets seem to have proved an unqualified success.
A key initiative of the scheme, information about which was also featured in the booklets, was the setting up of a confidential helpline number and this also appears to have won universal approval. For as Eric Heaviside once again explained, ‘One of the problems we frequently encounter is that a lot of our people are very proud people and they don’t want to call on charities. But we have tried to explain that it’s Anyone who wishes to contact Freemasonry Cares should ring the confidential helpline number: 0800 035 6090 more of an entitlement and not charity as such, and that appears to have helped somewhat’.
John Clayton, the Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire West Riding, also noted that because calls made to the helpline number are dealt with in strict confidence, a greater number of masons have been encouraged to come forward and enquire about possible help, far more than was the case in the past.
He also pointed out that in the case of Yorkshire West Riding where there were already wellestablished charities such as Provincial Grand Master’s Fund, which in 2009-10 donated £425,662 principally to non-masonic charities, they have noticed an upturn in charitable applications by as much as sixty percent since the launch of the Freemasonry Cares scheme in the autumn of 2009. Therefore it was generally agreed that even in provinces such as this, the new initiative can not only better inform masons and their dependents about the good work of the charities, but it can also provide a boon for public relations.
The conclusion of the Provincial Grand Master of Cambridgeshire, Rodney Wolverson: ‘the initiative was very good, well presented and well thought out, and overall it was received very well, but most importantly, it also shows that Freemasonry really does care’.
This optimism is also borne out by the facts. For during the pilot year the number of grants awarded in the four test-case provinces saw an increase of thirty-six percent on the previous year, compared to a thirteen percent average increase across the rest of the country. Consequently, the initiative is now being rolled out nationally and over the next eighteen months provinces across England and Wales will be invited to introduce Freemasonry Cares in the hope that the pilot success can be repeated across rest of the country.
Brethren, We have the privilege this morning to participate in the consecration of a new lodge, The Matthew Lodge No 9688. Consecration of a new lodge within the illustrious Province of Bristol is an occasion for the Founders to rejoice and reflect. Rejoice in your success in bringing together a body of like-minded brethren desirous of exchanging masonic fellowship at a common venue. Secondly, rejoice in your collective conviction that there are in your community at large men receptive to the ideals of Freemasonry. Thirdly, rejoice in your successful petition to the Most Worshipful Grand Master for the Warrant of Constitution which authorises the consecration ceremony being enacted this morning. And we rejoice with you.
At the same time brethren, it is pertinent that we reflect upon the responsibilities you have undertaken. We are not recognising a formal venue such as a club intended only for social intercourse. What is being enacted is an institution in which you will exchange fellowship founded upon noble and time-honoured masonic principles which underpin our Order as a Society of Brethren.
That you have these objectives in mind is clear from the consideration you have given to the choice of name for your lodge : The Matthew Lodge. As I understand it, you were inspired by this name because the Bristol-built caravel The Matthew of 1497 occupies a place of great honour as the first British ship to sail across the mighty Atlantic in the name of King Henry VII five centuries ago and return, having found a new continent, since called America. You have also paid tribute to Bristol’s contribution to the development of national and international maritime enterprises. As a ship of discovery, The Matthew symbolises to you life’s journey of discovery, successfully sailing over its peaks and troughs with the aid of the stabilising influence of the three masonic masts of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. These are weighty exhortations to inspire a prospective candidate for our Order. May I, with humility, share with you a few more points as they occur to me in reference to The Matthew to illustrate the nature and exemplify the principles of our Order?
Matthew means more than just the name of a three-masted caravel. The name Matthew is derived from the Hebrew Mattija, the name given by Jesus to the customs officer who, as you know, was appointed as one of His Apostles (Mtt IX.9). It means ‘gift of God’, as indeed this 70-foot ship could have appeared to John Cabot. For, at a time when raising funds for his expedition was far from plain sailing, the most accessible collection of oak trees suitable for the construction of a ship was on the Welsh side of the Severn on the estate of Cabot’s most prominent financial sponsor, Richard Amerike. To a person with some religious sensibility faced with a desperate struggle to obtain a ship for a voyage which was to be the culmination of years of research and campaigns to canvas support, this combination of events could have appeared as an intervention by St. Matthew, the patron saint of customs officers, to which fraternity Amerike belonged. Indeed, Cabot might have found comfort in his choice of ‘Matthew’ as the name of the ship.
The Matthew was an extraordinary ship and John Cabot was her skilful, talented and dedicated Master Elect. It is a documented historic achievement that she was capable of the voyage for which she was built. She was not only a first-class ship of her kind in her day. She was also a one-class ship. Everyone wishing to sail with her was expected to offer freely and voluntarily, the highest deposit possible, namely his life and pure heart. Only such commitment could show that the constant care of everyone on board was to ensure the safety and success of the ship and her sponsors. The volunteers included a wide range of professionals : expert mariners, a sea pilot, successful merchants, a priest, a barber-surgeon, and seamen : 19 men including Cabot himself. Qualities such as courage, humility, integrity, honesty, generosity, respect for the Deity and gratitude for the blessings of Providence could be expected to prevail. Reinforced by care and concern from the commander, these qualities promote collective good order through co-operation between those who can work best and best agree. Thus is established that benchmark for the ultimate in personnel management, namely, the whole hearted and informed support for the chain of command.
Within eleven weeks of sailing, on 20 May 1497, The Matthew returned to Bristol from her transatlantic voyage of nearly 4000 miles across uncharted northern waters with her crew still in full heart and harmony. This is eloquent testimony that her Master and crew had vindicated themselves, not so much for what they had done, although that was admirable enough, but for what they were - each a man among men. These 19 men and The Matthew have together demonstrated that the development of modern technological assistance undreamed of in her days, have not diminished in the slightest degree the importance of the human factor for such corporate success as that of The Matthew in 1497 or of the Apollo missions and the modern replica Matthew five centuries later. Our Order has much to contribute to develop the human factor and render ourselves more useful to our fellow creatures.
Brethren, in the diligent pursuit of knowledge there is none greater than the knowledge of self and its control. Matthew’s Gospel (Mtt. XV.11) tells us that it is “not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” Nearly two millennia later, the 48th Imam of the Ismailis also wrote in The Memoirs of Aga Khan (Cassell, 1954) , “In our ordinary affections one for another, in our daily work with hand or brain, we most of us discover soon enough that any lasting satisfaction, any contentment that we can achieve, is the result of forgetting self, of merging subject with object in a harmony that is of body, mind and spirit.” Opportunity to understand and control self is offered at each advancing step of Masonry; being constantly reinforced at every meeting when a Brother, whatever his status may be outside the lodge, may wait upon another and look after him with fraternal care and concern.
May the Great Architect of the Universe bless and guide you, the Founders and The Matthew Lodge No 9688, that your endeavours demonstrate the moral of an ancient parable. A tree planted to bear fruit for all the dwellers upon earth will yield its produce even to those who throw stones at it. Sustained by your spirit and spirituality may you proceed with fidelity and firmness coupled with humility. And, ignoring the stone throwers around us, sail forth as surely and steadily as your great namesake, to become a jewel in the masonic crown of the Province of Bristol.