With over 300 people in attendance, the banners of the Province were paraded into the Abbey and the brethren were invited to wear full regalia for the service. The event was held in the presence of Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Peter Taylor, his Deputy Roger Pemberton and many distinguished guests.
A procession of banners from the province lodges began proceedings with a pageant of colour and ceremony, with the Provincial Sword, Banner and Standard holding pride of place before the High Altar.
The sermon was preached by the Grand Chaplain Revd Canon Michael Wilson, and the service conducted by the Provincial Grand Chaplain Revd Phil Niblock.
The Abbey's great organ was also played by W Bro Jeremy Lund and as proceedings ended, it was agreed by all those in attendance that the Evensong was a memorable way to mark 300 years of Freemasonry.
Brethren who settle down for a little early evening TV before dressing up and setting off to lodge should not snooze off over the coming weeks or months, or they may miss a television special
Shropshire's W Bros Allan Caswell and Colin Bolton form the Red Team in an unmissable episode of Bargain Hunt. The pair are members of Caer Caradoc Lodge 6346 in Church Stretton.
Filmed recently at Oswestry Showground, Allan and Colin were (possibly unwisely) given £300 and let loose on the best buys to be had, all under the watchful eye of expert John Cameron. In October they will see how their three purchases do at auction in Whitchurch. We are delighted to hear that if they make a profit, it will be donated to Shropshire's 2019 Grand Charity Festival. Slightly worryingly, however, no one seems very clear about whether the 2019 Festival is expected to pick up the tab if they make a loss!
Shropshire goes walk about
A band of walkers completed a 45-mile hike from the masonic hall at Constitution Hill, Wellington, to the masonic hall at Brand Lane, Ludlow, in Shropshire, in two 10-hour journeys.
Deputy Provincial Grand Master Roger Pemberton, who had been on the walk, later travelled back to Ludlow for a meeting of the Lodge of the Marches, No. 611, where he received a cheque for £5,000 for the 2019 Festival Appeal in aid of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, now part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
TalentAid, a new charitable venture funded by Freemasons, has come to the assistance of football-crazy youngster Daniel Stuart from Shropshire
A substantial grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will help fund costs such as kit and travel this season. Nine-year-old Dan, who is a pupil at Whitchurch Church of England Junior School, has played soccer since he was just four years old. While a member of Prees under VIIs he was spotted by talent scouts from Stoke, Manchester United and Aston Villa and had trials with these clubs, but opted to go on the books of Shrewsbury Town last year as a more practical choice.
Dan’s talent as a central midfielder has been appreciated by his coaches as he trains each week at the Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology and the Sundorne Sports Village. So too has his temperament, which is pleasant and generous – he is often called on to assist younger players in their training.
Mother Mandy and grandfather Ron Ingall have been only too aware of the strain on the family that travelling to away games and training sessions have caused, and for a time it seemed as though Dan might have to set aside his dream of training to become a senior footballer. Fortunately, the newly formed MCF – the result of four national masonic charities combining into one – judged that Daniel’s case was worthy of their support, and approved the grant.
Jeremy Lund, spokesman for Shropshire’s Freemasons, was delighted with the news: 'Masonic charities support the young, the old, national and local causes, medical research, emergency services and much more. This is special, however, as Dan is one of the first young people in Shropshire to benefit from a TalentAid grant. We wish this talented and pleasant lad a bright future.'
The success of Light Blue Clubs around the country is soon to be repeated in Shropshire, with the launch of a club for new and particularly junior masons
An informal meeting for interested parties is scheduled for Thursday, 22nd September in a wine bar in Shrewsbury, with the promise 'Two bars, one speech and no raffle'! Those who choose to make an evening of it are invited to repair to the Indian restaurant next door after the meeting for an informal curry with the three senior masons who have been designated as the 'Three Wise Men' – not running the Club, but offering support and encouragement from the Province should this be required at any stage.
The interesting aspect of forming the new club has been the variety of different approaches that have been tried around the Provinces – who can be a member? Some have age limits, others specify below Provincial rank, others a period of time in masonry. In the case of Shropshire, it looks as though the club will be for masons below the Chair who have less than fifteen years experience in the Craft. However, the Club may also invite Associate Members to events (but not to vote or hold office) and these may include more senior masons as well as partners and in some cases friends who are interested in masonry.
Watch this space for more news – and we hope for the launch of a Twitter feed, Facebook page and even a website in the near future.
The Provincial Perambulator
Clive Jones, a Past Master from Shropshire, has walked 11 miles in aid of a masonic charity. The former Welsh Guardsman lost his sight in an off-duty assault, and heard that brethren from his lodge, St Mary’s, No. 8373, were walking from Whitchurch to Market Drayton as part of a series of walks connecting all the lodges of Shropshire.
Dubbed the ‘Provincial Perambulations’, the walks are designed to raise funds for Shropshire’s Grand Charity Festival over the next few years, and will culminate in a final ‘grand walk’ from Shrewsbury to Great Queen Street, London in 2019.
Bridging the gap
The Iron Bridge Lodge in Shropshire is attracting younger members with a blend of social media, streamlined ceremonies and core masonic values, as Peter Watts discovers
On 1 February 2016, something happened in Shropshire for the first time in more then a century. At a meeting room in Telford town centre, three new members were initiated into Freemasonry at one lodge on the same day. This was so exceptional it required a change in the rules. ‘The laws say you can only initiate two at once,’ says Andy Delamere of the meeting at The Iron Bridge Lodge. ‘We had to seek special dispensation from the Provincial Grand Master.’
What makes it more extraordinary is that one of those new masons was only 20 years old.
Could the future of Freemasonry be blossoming in this corner of England?
It has been an impressive first 12 months for The Iron Bridge Lodge, No. 9897, which is named after a local landmark and created specifically to cater to the preferences of younger masons. In January 2015, The Iron Bridge Lodge became the 34th lodge to be consecrated in Shropshire and the first new lodge anywhere to join the Universities Scheme.
Launched in 2005, the scheme was created to attract students into Freemasonry, an idea inspired by the existing lodges at Oxford and Cambridge. While The Iron Bridge Lodge is not affiliated with any university, it welcomes all students to join its meetings.
One of The Iron Bridge Lodge’s new masons is student Tom Perring, 28, who says he has been ‘interested in Freemasonry for as long as I can remember’ – an interest nurtured by reading copies of Freemasonry Today donated to him by an elderly mason. Tom explored various options until he heard about The Iron Bridge Lodge being set up.
‘I followed them on Twitter and they followed me back, saying thanks for the follow and if I was interested in Freemasonry I should ask,’ recalls Tom. ‘I told them I was, and it went from there.’
Finding new channels
Embracing social media is just one way that The Iron Bridge Lodge is trying to appeal to a younger generation. When Shropshire’s Deputy Provincial Grand Master Roger Pemberton found that 27 per cent of new masons in his Province resigned within five years, he knew that making changes to recruit and retain young masons was key, but wanted to do so without diminishing the gravitas of the ceremony.
Roger was among those trying to find a way to marry the procedures of Freemasonry with the responsibilities of contemporary life. ‘We want to make Freemasonry attractive to young men and students in Shropshire, and one way to do that is to make it possible for them to be there,’ he explains.
‘Society is very fast and unstable; Freemasonry offers a strong, decent core that can help people.’ Tom Perring
Lodges traditionally meet at 5pm, when many people are still at work or looking after children. ‘We therefore start at 7pm and finish by 9.45pm so people can get home at a reasonable hour. We’ve also made it a more attractive, simpler ceremony,’ says Roger.
Proceedings have been streamlined by circulating reports and minutes by email before the meeting, rather than reading them out. A buffet-style Festive Board has also replaced formal meals. This is more relaxed and provides an opportunity for masons to socialise.
Roger was convinced that these measures would bear fruit. ‘If you have a market stall and you put it where people can’t see it then nobody will buy anything,’ he explains. ‘But if you have something attractive that’s easy to see, then people will be interested. It’s about presentation – making sure people feel welcome when they join and that this welcome is maintained. None of it affects the central tenets of Freemasonry, which are brotherly love, relief and a personal journey to truth.’
Ray Dickson, The Iron Bridge Lodge Secretary and a member of the founding committee, explains the journey that Shropshire Freemasons have been on. ‘We could see younger people live in a very busy environment where everything is needed yesterday, so finding time simply to attend meetings is difficult. We looked at how we could a provide a meeting place that accommodates modern life.’
As well as identifying ways to simplify the ceremony, the lodge founders contacted the Universities Scheme. ‘It sat with our ideals – bringing in young people, embracing and encouraging them,’ says Ray. ‘It seemed to be a good match with the principles we had started to build at The Iron Bridge Lodge and how we were organising and structuring things.’
The founders visited three Universities Scheme lodges in Leicester, Oxford and Nottingham to see how they operated, and contacted others via Twitter and Facebook. The results have been impressive. The Iron Bridge Lodge had 70-odd attendees at each meeting in 2015 and initiated seven new masons, some attracted by social media.
The Iron Bridge Lodge was the first Shropshire lodge on Twitter, with its young members eagerly sharing information with their friends. ‘It puts it out there, the good we do, and that sparks an interest and shows this is a vibrant lodge,’ says Andy.
The younger masons have also brought ideas of their own and new members into the fold.
‘Young people bring other young people. They bring enthusiasm and they also bring innovation,’ says Ray. ‘We don’t have a physical banner or tracing boards, we use projections – little things like that come from having younger people around. They are very enthusiastic with social media. That’s good for the lodge, Shropshire and Freemasonry in general.’
Tom is a fine arts student with an interest in film, so he’s made reels for the lodge and plans to make another for the Universities Scheme. He feels Freemasonry has much to offer men of his generation: ‘Society is very fast and unstable; Freemasonry offers a strong, decent core that can help people,’ he says.
For Tom, Freemasonry provides young men with the opportunity to give something back. ‘We’re learning confidence and manners, becoming better people and meeting people we’d never otherwise rub shoulders with. It makes you want to return the favour, using whatever talents you’ve learnt at work and university.’
Tom is just one of the new recruits who will take Freemasonry forward. Harvey Greatrex is a 21-year-old student who discovered The Iron Bridge Lodge via the website. He is looking forward to finding out more about the Craft and its values. ‘Some of the older masons tell us that we are still going to be in Freemasonry in 20 years,’ he says.
Harvey’s journey in The Iron Bridge Lodge is something that Roger hopes will be emulated elsewhere in Freemasonry. ‘A lodge needs experienced people to start it off and run the main office until you get a cohort of masons who understand what it is about. We are two or three years away from that, but in about five years, this lodge will be entirely run by new young men.’
‘Young people bring other young people. They bring enthusiasm and they also bring innovation.’ Ray Dickson
The number three is by tradition important in Freemasonry, and so it proved recently when The Iron Bridge Lodge No.9897 went one better than last year's Double ceremony - and began 2016 in style by conducting a Triple Initiation at their Telford Meeting Point House base. A packed house witnessed this rare event - for which a Dispensation had to be sought - and with the help of both Deacons and an Assistant the ceremony was carried out to a high standard.
The Iron Bridge Lodge is scarcely a year old, but as a Universities Scheme lodge is committed to promoting Freemasonry among young men and in a modern way.
Brother Josh Greenroyd studied Law at the University of Kent, and was called to the Bar in 2011. He works for Shropshire Council and hopes to continue his education with an MBA at the new Shrewsbury University. Josh found that Freemasonry was 'just a Google away' and joined Freemasonry in the hope of meeting kindred spirits of a similar age.
Brother Ryan Preece is a Dorset lad - now working as an Account Manager at Schneider. His grandfather W Bro Reg Bugler is a member of Dorset Masters Lodge 3366, and was present at Ryan's Initiation - a proud moment indeed!
Brother J Watt, from the Wirral, shared a flat with another recent 9897 Initiate and has two student friends who have become Masons through the Universities Scheme in Liverpool. "I was interested in joining because it allows you to widen your friendship group whilst providing the opportunity to do something good for those in need [and] get to know new people if I moved to a new area of the U.K."
The Iron Bridge Lodge 9897 has certainly been in the news since its Consecration in January last year - but don't expect it to stop there! A recent photo shoot ensured that this attractive corner of Shropshire will soon be seen by a wider audience - the readers of the "Freemasonry Today" magazine!
A Past Master from Shropshire has walked a mammoth 11 miles in aid of Masonic charity this autumn – a praiseworthy but not especially remarkable achievement, perhaps, until you realise that the brother concerned, Clive Jones, is completely blind.
Clive, a former Welsh Guardsman and keen Mason, heard that Brethren from his lodge, St Mary’s Lodge No. 8373 were walking from Whitchurch to Market Drayton as part of a series of walks connecting all the lodges of Shropshire. These “Provincial Perambulations” are designed to celebrate and raise funds for Shropshire’s Grand Charity Festival over the next few years, and will culminate in a final grand walk from Shrewsbury to Great Queen Street in 2019.
Clive immediately insisted on being part of the Whitchurch event – indeed, with characteristic good humour he appointed himself official map-reader. Five Brethren set off from the North Shropshire Masonic Rooms on the morning of Sunday, 25th October, and after a brief unplanned diversion soon left the town behind them. After completing the 11.2 mile walk, they rested weary limbs before visiting St Mary’s lodge the following evening. Congratulations went to all of the Brethren who had taken part, but Clive in particular deserves special praise for completing the course in fine style and thereby raising sponsorship for this excellent cause.
Golfers everywhere invited to take part in Festival Family Fun Day organised by the Province of Shropshire
The event, on Saturday 1st October 2016, is to be held at Cleobury Mortimer Golf Club in the far south of one of the most beautiful parts of England. It is open to masons, their friends, and families (including juniors), and starts at 10am. The organisers are looking for teams of four, and the cost will be £45 per head, including refreshments at the end of the day.
The golf day is the brainchild of Mike Charles, Shropshire's Masonic Golf Club Secretary. All money raised during the day will go to the The Freemasons' Grand Charity.
Mike also hopes that as many people as possible from outside the borders of Shropshire may want to take part. Please would all golfers, PGMs, Communications Officers, Facebook users, Charity Stewards and lovers of beautiful countryside pass the word. You can also keep up with news by following @shropshiremason on Twitter.
Come and enjoy a great day out, or even make a weekend of it. Climb Clee Hill and view Cleobury's crooked church spire, clearly designed by the same architect who built Chesterfield Cathedral. Or you can simply enjoy the golf in a glorious setting.