Celebrating 300 years

Taking the right approach

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes emphasises the importance of making ritual enjoyable and marks the Royal Arch’s achievements

Grand Rank does come with responsibilities. For example, you have a duty to be mindful of both recruitment and retention in the Order. On recruitment, I would first ask who among you does in fact recruit and, to those of you who do recruit new members, are you sensitive to the right time to approach each potential exaltee? This sensitivity is also a challenge to Royal Arch representatives in Craft lodges and emphasises the reason why this is such an important appointment. 

Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge about a subject of which they are already partly aware and enjoy. It is not introducing them to something completely alien.

On retention, you can help by actively showing your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the Order. Also, by guiding the new Companion through the various stages of his progression, making sure that, wherever possible, the work is shared, so that the ritual is enjoyed by him and does not become a burden to him.

‘Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge…’

In October last year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch. The First Grand Principal announced then that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had exceeded £2 million and that the appeal would remain open until the end of 2013. Companions, as you have already heard from the President of the Committee of General Purposes, the figure is now £2.5 million. This is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to the Royal Arch. 

I turn now to the Grand Temple organ restoration project, which is a Royal Arch initiative using existing funds. Designed and built by Henry Willis and Sons, the organ has been in place since Freemasons’ Hall was opened in 1933. It is possibly the largest complete, unaltered Willis instrument in full working order after eighty years. It is, however, in need of substantial restoration. 

English Heritage and Camden Council have agreed to the restoration plans with full completion in early 2015 – in good time for the Craft’s Tercentenary in 2017. Not only will this fine organ be restored, the Royal College of Organists will also be approached to investigate the possibility of encouraging young organists to use the Grand Temple Organ, as well as conducting organ recitals that are open to the public.

Published in SGC
Thursday, 05 June 2014 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2014

 From the Grand Secretary

Many readers will know of the Royal Arch 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons

The final result has just been announced as £2.5 million. This is a fantastic sum and a great example of our philanthropy. As Secretary of the appeal, I know how much was done to achieve this impressive figure and that much of the praise is justly attributed to the Second Grand Principal as Chairman of the appeal.

You will all be receiving a DVD copy of our latest short film with this issue of Freemasonry Today. It has been greeted with great acclaim and we hope you will show it to your family. 

It is different and exciting, designed specifically for family members to show them about our friendships, the importance of family and the good we do in our communities. In other words, Freemasonry is a great organisation of which to be a member, and one of which we should all be proud. Indeed, as we move towards our Tercentenary we should show our pride in being a member and look for people of quality who can join us to share in that pride.

Interestingly, two of the Senior Insights in this issue of the magazine discuss recruitment and retention. HRH The Duke of Kent, our Grand Master, explains that these tasks are more important than ever and emphasises the role of the mentoring scheme in retaining members. The Pro Grand Master asks why so few members recruit and urges us to become more active in this area. We encourage you to read both of these excellent articles.

In this issue, we believe you will find a great deal to inspire you about Freemasonry. 

We profile Pete Bray, who, having survived two hurricanes and a sinking ship, is now embarking on a new journey as a Freemason. Paul Calderwood traces the Craft’s faltering relationship with the press throughout the twentieth century and provides some useful insight into how things have started to improve. Meanwhile, four members of a Salvation Army brass band explain why playing together is the perfect complement to being members of a lodge. 

For some, the community of Freemasons across England and Wales is a fantastic way of sharing a common interest or raising much-needed money for good causes. For others, it provides a unique opportunity to bring people together. We find out how fighter pilot Len Thorne saw one of his squadron shot down during World War II; and how forty-five years later, at a Masonic Widows Friendship Club, Len discovered his colleague was still alive and living just eight miles down the road. Len is a fantastic example of the breadth of people who make up the Craft. I hope you enjoy reading his story and the many others in this issue.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘In this issue of the magazine, we believe you will find a great deal to inspire you about Freemasonry.’

Published in UGLE

Annual Investiture 

1 May 2014 
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Companions, this is a very special day for those that I have had the pleasure in investing and I congratulate you all. 

Grand Rank does come with responsibilities. For example, you have a duty to be mindful of both recruitment and retention in the Order. On recruitment, I would first ask – who among you does in fact recruit and, to those of you who do recruit new members - are you sensitive to the right time to approach each potential exaltee? This sensitivity is also a challenge to Royal Arch representatives in Craft Lodges and emphasises the reason why this is such an important appointment. Those of you who do not recruit, why not? Recruiting to the Royal Arch is, after all, simply a matter of persuading someone to extend their knowledge about a subject of which they are already partly aware and enjoy, not introducing them to something completely alien.

On retention, you can help by actively showing your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the Order. Also, by guiding the new Companion through the various stages of his progression, making sure that, wherever possible, the work is shared, so that the ritual is enjoyed by him and does not become a burden to him.

As many of you will know, in October last year we celebrated the Bicentenary of the Holy Royal Arch. The First Grand Principal announced then that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons had exceeded £2m and that the Appeal would remain open until the end of 2013. Companions, as you have already heard from the President of the Committee of General Purposes, the figure is now £2.5m. This is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to the Royal Arch. Well done to those of you who have given so generously.

The First Grand Principal also took the opportunity to announce his intention to make additional appointments this year to past Grand Rank to Companions who have carried out significant work for the Appeal or had made a significant contribution in some other way to last year’s Bicentenary celebration. Grand Superintendents were responsible for making the recommendations based on this criteria and I again congratulate those of you who received these special appointments which celebrate the success of the Bicentenary.

I turn now to the Grand Temple organ restoration project, already briefly mentioned by the President, which is a Royal Arch initiative using existing funds. Designed and built by Henry Willis and Sons the Organ has been in place since this building was opened by the then Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught in 1933. It is possibly the largest complete unaltered Willis instrument in full working order after eighty years. It was, however, in need of substantial restoration. English Heritage and Camden Council have agreed to the restoration plans with full completion in early 2015 – in good time for the Craft’s tercentenary in 2017. Not only will this fine Organ be restored but the Royal College of Organists will be approached to investigate the possibility of encouraging young organists to use the Grand Temple Organ, as well as conducting organ recitals that are open to the public.

Finally Companions, great ceremonial events such as this take an enormous amount of planning for and direction on the day. I thank the Grand Scribe Ezra and his staff for all their planning and the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of this memorable event.

Published in Speeches

Out of the shadows

As the Royal Arch marks two hundred years of recognition, Second Grand Principal George Francis explains its evolution and sometimes complex relationship with the Craft

What is the Royal Arch?

It’s a difficult concept to explain, even to a mason. Part of the problem is that the Royal Arch developed in a way that has been forgotten. The main idea goes back to the sixteenth century, if not before. Around the Tudor period there was Freemasonry which had come from the stonemasons, and the Royal Arch was the first attempt to branch off and do something extra. We have to be careful not to call the Royal Arch the ‘Fourth Degree’; that’s just one way to explain it to an outsider, but it is a completion of the Three Degrees. It gives you new insights and is the culmination of the first lessons and meanings – it completes the journey.

The Royal Arch dates back to the 1700s. Why is the bicentenary in 2013?

The people who started Grand Lodge in 1717 decided they were not going to include the Royal Arch and were going to stick to the main idea, or trunk. That’s really the start of the story, before then it’s all speculative. By 1750, another group who were also part of the main trunk said this isn’t quite how Freemasonry ought to be, that the Royal Arch was absolutely essential, so they were going to split off and do things differently. Suddenly two Grand Lodges were operating side by side and they gave one another inappropriate nicknames. The newer Grand Lodge members called themselves ‘the Antients’ (as they felt they were the real keepers of the flame) and called the other Grand Lodge ‘the Moderns’ – even though the Moderns had actually been established earlier. So you had this slight friction between them and they trundled along rather uneasily side by side.

How did the happen?

Eventually both lodges decided the situation was counter-productive and that they should join up. The Duke of Sussex was the main mover in this, heading up the Moderns, and the leader of the Antients was his brother, the Duke of Kent, who insisted that the combined organisation must have the Royal Arch as part of the journey. It wasn’t until 1813 that the Royal Arch became a formal part of the structure.

What else did the Duke of Sussex do?

One point the Duke of Sussex stipulated at the was that we should all wear the same regalia, and also that we were to use the same rituals and words. The second part never quite happened, so there are still differences in the rituals and wording used by different lodges. However, we’re greatly indebted to the Duke of Sussex; he was an interesting person and very left wing for a royal prince – he was anti-slavery, pro-Catholic (although not one himself) and pro-Jewish. These things were rather unfashionable at the time. He was very much a figurehead for the Whigs and people who wanted change. The Duke of Sussex was the one who said we are not going to be just Christian in the Freemasons, we’ll allow everybody in as long as they believe in God.

What’s the difference between the Craft and the Royal Arch?

We call the three main degrees, which have adopted the colour blue, the ‘Craft’ and we call members ‘brothers’ and ‘brethren’. Even the female masons call one another brother. In the Royal Arch, you become ‘companions’. You’ve made that additional step, you’re taking it a bit more seriously, so there’s a different atmosphere – it’s more intimate, you’re more closely linked. We meet up in chapters and have adopted the colour red as well as blue. It’s very much an eighteenth-century idea of a harmonious society.

Is the Royal Arch more complicated?

I try to get people to realise that you don’t have to understand everything that’s going on, you just have to enjoy it. There are interesting ideas and stories – some of it’s quite deep – but you don’t have to comprehend every single part. It’s quite fun exploring and finding out these things slowly. You’ve got to enjoy time with people, enjoy doing a bit of acting, listening to stories and maybe understanding something you didn’t understand before. That’s what it’s about really, doing things together.

Are more Freemasons coming to the Royal Arch?

Around forty per cent of Craft masons are in the Royal Arch and it’s a shame that it isn’t more.

Clearly there are some who really don’t want to go into the deeper meanings, which is fine because Freemasonry should appeal on different levels. But what I’m trying to express to the Craft is that you should really complete the journey, it’s not that much more time or expense and you’ll really enjoy it.

It completes the circle of understanding and the basic journey. This way of thinking is having some effect and our proportion of Craft masons is gradually rising.

How can you improve recruitment?

The problem is that when you come to Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is not explained because it’s difficult to describe. It sometimes doesn’t get mentioned until quite late on – someone might have been in masonry a couple of years before they come across it. We’re trying to change the perception that it’s just an optional extra and make sure that it’s explained at the outset. We thought at one stage we might go back to a Fourth Degree idea so everyone would be involved. It would be free of charge and there wouldn’t be any reason for not doing it. But the Royal Arch is slightly different so it shouldn’t really be an automatic stage; people ought to think about it, and we’re hoping the bicentenary will help to explain that.

What are you trying to achieve with the bicentenary appeal?

The Bicentenary Appeal is about three things: formal recognition, an appeal and an excuse for a party.

We added the appeal idea so we would have a legacy of our celebration, one that adds to the Fund we created in 1967 for the benefit of the Royal College of Surgeons. We’ve ninety thousand members in England and Wales and ten thousand abroad, and it is important when you’ve got such a big organisation to continue to show members what can be done, to not just sit back and do more of the same.

What do you do as the Second Grand Principal?

My role was traditionally carried out by the Deputy Grand Master but for various reasons the roles got split a number of years ago. It means that I can concentrate on the Royal Arch. I try to visit all forty-six Provinces as well as the Metropolitan Area of London and explain what’s happening at the centre, what the challenges are for the future and encourage our members generally. It’s an opportunity to speak to the Provinces on a different level and not just go through the motions.

Is the Royal Arch changing?

We try to alter the ritual as little as possible because it’s something that people have to learn by heart – you can’t keep changing it all the time. But part of my job is to find the things that we can improve to make it more enjoyable and exciting. My job is to also get the message out there that this is for younger chaps, too, and that we can add a bit more colour and a little less formality.

Find out about the discovery of an old manuscript that could reveal crucial elements about Royal Arch ritual here.

Published in SGC
Thursday, 06 June 2013 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2013

 I am pleased to let you know that your magazine, as part of our wider communications campaign, has been shortlisted for another award – this time within the Best Corporate and Business Communications category at the ‘Oscars’ of the PR industry, the CIPR Excellence Awards 2013. This is encouraging and supports the excellent feedback we receive from members and their families.

This year is proving to be very interesting, especially with the bicentenary of the Royal Arch. It is particularly gratifying that, at the time of writing, the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons stands at more than £1 million. And from first-hand experience and the comments we have received, the presentations by Fellows of the College have been a great success.

Writing in the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England, I want to remind you that we value the opinions of our members. To that end, we spend a lot of effort surveying members’ views, as well as visiting and talking to members of all ages and all backgrounds throughout the English Constitution, at home and abroad. This gives us a good grasp of the issues for discussion.

Sometimes those holding minority views will be disappointed. A classic example is a tiny minority who think that by removing the need for a belief in a Supreme Being we would increase our potential for recruitment. This is an example where we think change would not be for the best. There are many other areas where we have been proactive and made changes to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation. A typical example being in the area of talking openly about Freemasonry and showing that the organisation is relevant today – and is one that members should be proud to belong to.

We all enjoy reading about masonic history, how our members have achieved great things and what they are doing to help those less fortunate in the community. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at an RMBI cookbook that has helped older citizens connect with the recipes from their past and the people in their present. A profile of the Rough Ashlar Club shows how the use of social media is bringing younger Freemasons together for a friendly pint. Meanwhile, we trace the origins of the Crimestoppers initiative back to a couple of masons in Great Yarmouth. I hope you find something that makes you proud to be a Freemason.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘We have been proactive to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation’

Published in UGLE

Realising your potential

First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent welcomes new investees and reminds them of their duties as he looks forward to celebrating the Royal Arch bicentenary in 2013

Companions, I congratulate all of you who were invested with Grand Rank on Thursday, 25 April 2013. This accolade is not awarded solely for what you have achieved in Royal Arch masonry, but it also looks ahead to the potential of your future contribution. That contribution should include helping to look after the smooth running of your chapters and the happiness of your fellow members.

Recruitment into the Order is a further important task for you. However, it takes sound judgement to know when a member of the Craft is ready to complete his pure ancient masonry. As you will appreciate, this judgement applies most particularly to the Royal Arch representative in Craft lodges.

Successful appeal

As we look forward to celebrating the bicentenary in October this year, I am pleased that the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons has already passed the £1.3 million mark. This is a commendable effort and I thank those who have contributed so generously to this worthwhile appeal. For members who are intending to donate, I am informed that the appeal will continue until the end of 2013.

‘it takes sound judgement to know when a member of the Craft is ready to complete his pure ancient masonry’

Published in SGC

Wiltshire Grand Superintendent David Blanchard has received strong backing for the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal in support of the Royal College of Surgeons, improved by a further £500 donated at the First Principals Chapter.

There were presentations by a number of college representatives, including head of research Martyn Coomer; Priyan Landham, who specialises in orthopaedic (trauma) surgery; and Nishith Patel, a heart surgeon who is researching kidney failure after cardiac surgery.

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