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.
13 September 2017
A presentation by RW Bro Bro Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master
Pro Grand Master and brethren, we all have our own view of what we see in masonry. For me, it’s five things:
- We’re all volunteers: none of us have to be masons or do what we do. The magnificent total of £3,100,000 announced at the North Wales Festival on Saturday was all the result of volunteering: voluntary time, voluntary effort, voluntary money;
- What we now call “social inclusion”: bringing together people of different origins, backgrounds, occupations, interests, locations, opinions, faiths; people who would not otherwise meet; in a common activity in which all are fundamentally equal;
- Our purposefulness: when we meet, there’s a purpose, whether it’s a masonic meeting, ritual; or charity or a community project; the best recent example I saw, the Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure organised by Dorset, 200plus children in need from all over the country taken on a week’s healthy activities by the sea. Whatever it is, we want to do it well, and we do;
- The practice of every moral and social virtue: words cited by the Bishop of Worcester, not a mason, at the Provincial Tercentenary Service on Sunday in a sermon that would inspire every mason. Our, if you like, moral code, best illustrated in the Charge to the Initiate, is a huge asset which will play increasingly well with younger generations for whom such things are in short supply;
- The social side: we do do the best parties, don’t we, getting to know each other informally, in friendship, and it works because of the other factors I’ve mentioned.
We all sense a steady move to greater openness: the Sky TV programmes; publicity in the right way for our charity and community activities: the word Freemasons on the London's Air Ambulance; wearing regalia in public: all in the right direction.
Recognising masonry’s good things but sensing that the make-up and profile of our membership – age, number – were going in the wrong direction, the Board of General Purposes – BGP – set up the Membership Focus Group – MFG – under the inspired leadership of Ray Reed to find out what was happening to today’s membership, to assess the likely affect on tomorrow’s and, if we didn’t like that – which we didn’t – to decide what to do.
Deciding what to do is called STRATEGY – YES! The MFG produced, and everyone adopted, Strategy: The Future of Freemasonry 2015-2020, which I know we’ve all read and like.
Thoughts then turned to implementing the Strategy. Ooh, the MFG said, could be difficult – better get someone else to do it, and so was born the Improvement Delivery Group – IDG (I hope you’re keeping up with the jargon, brethren) to Deliver the Improvements which should flow from the work of the MFG.
I was out of the room at the time, so they made me Chairman. Also out of the room was Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones, so we made him Deputy Chairman.
Strategy is no good unless it is accepted, understood and embraced by the membership – remember we’re all volunteers. The IDG had to show it was including Craft and Royal Arch, and all areas of the country, and Head Office. So, in addition to Gareth and me:
- Michael Ward, London
- Jeff Gillyon, Yorkshire North and East Ridings
- Stephen Blank, Cheshire
- Peter Taylor, Shropshire
- Tim Henderson-Ross, Gloucestershire
- Charles Cunnington, Derbyshire
- Ian Yeldham, Suffolk
- Mark Estaugh, West Kent
- Stuart Hadler, Somerset
- Gordon Robertson, Buckinghamshire, who leaves us on retiring as PGM and is replaced by James Hilditch, Oxfordshire
- Ray Reed
...and from Head Office:
- Grand Secretary Willie
- Assistant Grand Secretary Shawn
- ..and now Chief Executive David
Brethren, in light of all they do, I would like all those I’ve named to stand and be recognised. Thank you.
To pick up the work of the MFG we formed Working Groups matching the elements of the Strategy. The Strategy talks about effective governance at all levels; a leadership development programme; the attraction and retention of members; and the sustainability of masonic halls. Thus…
Gareth Jones is leading our Governance Group looking at who and what does what, the roles and responsibilities of each office and body, what they and what they’re not, and how we ensure that people understand what their roles and responsibilities are and aren’t, and what is expected of them. From the esteemed Adelphi2 we have lots of lovely statistics which will help show how Provinces and Districts are doing in terms of membership and help them to direct their efforts where they are needed.
Leadership – Michael Ward – aims to equip office-holders for their roles. Workshop sessions for PGMs and Grand Superintendents; workshops for Deputy PGMs and Grand Superintendents; next week the first training session for secretaries. We now have a UGLE training officer, Andrew Kincaid, to devise and roll-out training roles for all different roles. This not about imposing uniformity – you will do it this way – but helping people to see what’s involved and how to do the job well.
Jeff Gillyon’s Masonic Halls Group have published the Masonic Halls Centres of Excellence Guide, now available, best electronically, and those responsible for the management of masonic halls are strongly encouraged to use it: you will find it very useful. It is now in the charge of John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works, who has formed a Steering Group to manage the Guidance Manual and keep it up to date. There will be an annual meeting for all Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works.
The five Provinces in Regional Communications Group 1 – North of England – on the initiative of Gordon Brewis, Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works for Durham, have recognised the need for professionally qualified Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works and arranged for them to meet so that the adoption of best practice can be recommended uniformly across them all.
The Guidance Manual is not a book to be read from cover to cover: it is a reference tool, to be consulted as circumstances lead. It is guidance, support and advice: a guide to best practice. It can’t give definitive advice on, for example, legal issues, because so much depends on individual circumstances.
We want our halls and centres to be at the centre of the local community. Maybe we should refer to them as Masonic Community Centres.
Our Membership Group, headed by Peter Taylor, has circulated for comment the Membership Pathway, the product of several years of devoted effort, and parts well piloted in ten Provinces and 110 lodges Its purpose is to help lodges attract and retain the right members in the right place: to show what we need to do to attract the members we want to join us, stay and enjoy the full masonic journey.
Again, it is not a book, you do not read it cover to cover, you look at the parts you want as and when you need to.
The Pathway will be launched at the Provincial and District Rulers’ Forum – PDRF – on 18 October and then rolled out. So no-one should worry that they will be presented with it and then left on their own. Roll-out will be organised for you: to Regions and Provinces from January to March next year, and then to lodges….and there will be a folding leaflet on the front of Freemasonry Today in December.
There is much demand from masons to know more about masonry, its origin, history and meaning. Stuart Hadler’s Education Group is creating an online store of masonic learning materials, readily accessible in a Virtual Learning Environment. It will be tested later this year, introduced to a number of pilot Provinces in the new year, and full roll-out will be in later in 2018. What the group want is more materials to include, so contributions welcome, please.
In parallel to all this continues the excellent progress of the Universities Scheme, of which I am honoured to be the President. Existing and new lodges, and chapters, here and in Districts, recruit among students at universities and equivalent across the country and outside the UK, and do so very successfully. There are still a number of universities in this country not represented in the scheme, and we are addressing that.
I would like to thank all who are involved in the scheme, all volunteers, for all they do, and in particular the Chairmen: the founding Chairman, Oliver Lodge, now moonlighting as the Grand Director of Ceremonies; Edward Lord, current Chairman who retires after eight distinguished years at the Scheme conference in this building on 4th November; and Chairman-Designate Mark Greenburgh, who takes over on that date, and I would ask them to stand and be recognised too.
Many Provinces and Districts have New and Young Masons’ Clubs, with a wide variety of imaginative names, and those that don’t will. These clubs are an excellent way of those newer to masonry getting to know more other newbies, and building essential camaraderie. The clubs are holding their conference on 14 October in Birmingham under Gareth Jones’ leadership.
All this, IDG and others, is about creating our future, which is in our hands and which we are doing. The figures already show that it is working: in many areas there is a discernible shift in the trend of the numbers, and there will be more.
I have illustrated this talk with scenes from the everyday life of an Assistant Grand Master. Here’s the last one. In his sermon at the Durham Tercentenary Service last Thursday – I’m into clergy this morning, brethren – the Dean of Durham, also not a mason, said he saw masonry as a confident, open and engaged fraternity with strong foundational values.
We can do this, brethren, we can do this.
VW Bro Roger Pemberton, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Shropshire, writes of an initiative just launched by Shropshire’s Freemasons at the Poppy Lounge, Sheldon Ward, ROBERT JONES AND AGNES HUNT HOSPITAL, Oswestry
The Sheldon Ward at the Oswestry Orthopaedic Hospital looks after elderly patients who have recently undergone surgical procedures and who need a little time in rehabilitation before they are ready to return to their homes. Occasionally patients are admitted who are suffering from vascular and other forms of dementia which severely impair their cognitive faculties.
Sister Jackie Barry and her team were anxious to make a corner of Sheldon Ward more amenable and less clinical in order to assist elderly patients with severe memory loss by providing a comfortable, homely atmosphere with a real fireplace, pictures on the wall and a ‘memory trunk’ filled with memory aids to help them join past and present.
Sister Barry knew that patients with dementia were less likely to be confused and disoriented in an environment that reminded them of home, thus speeding the rehabilitation process. The problem was that she didn’t have the money to accomplish her dream.
A telephone call to the Shropshire Masonic Charitable Association brought immediate results. A grant of £3,000 was quickly delivered and work began on changing a plain and poky area of the ward into a warm and friendly relaxation lounge. Sister Barry chose the name The Poppy Lounge because she says, 'Poppies are all about remembrance and that is what we want to restore to our patients, a link with their own past.'
On 19th December 2014, the President of the Shropshire Masonic Charitable Association, W Bro John Williamson cut the ribbon at the official opening. Present on the occasion were Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Peter Taylor and Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Roger Pemberton as well many representatives of the staff and patient support groups of the hospital.
The Poppy Lounge, decorated with pictures of poppies and butterflies, will undoubtedly hasten recovery for many patients. Sister Jackie Barry gave a short speech at the opening saying, 'We are so grateful to the Masons for helping us to achieve our Poppy Lounge. With their help and with the help of others we are able to benefit our patients’ recovery and get them back home where they want to be, so much more quickly.'
A photo gallery of Freemasons up and down the country paying their respects on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day 2014
As the Grand Lodge of England approaches its tercentenary in 2017, the Membership Focus Group has been established to consider how best to attract, recruit and retain good men. In July, five members of the group met to discuss why the strategy for the future of Freemasonry in the Craft must be a collaborative exercise involving all its members
Why was the Membership Focus Group (MFG) formed?
Ray Reed: The objectives of the MFG are to advise the Rulers and the Board of General Purposes of how best Freemasonry can focus members, lodges, Provinces and staff to work in a collaborative manner to create and implement a strategy that will assure the long-term successful future of both the Craft and the Royal Arch.
We want to look at the whole organisation as well as its ceremonial structure to identify what’s really worked for the past three hundred years, what’s good to keep and what we need to modify. We especially need to consider how to attract and retain the ‘modern man’ and future leaders in this fast-changing world.
Peter Taylor: When we looked at the numbers from the ADelphi database, which contains the masonic life histories of our members going back to 1984, there were some very telling statistics. In many areas around the country we’re attracting new members in good numbers, yet total membership is still going down. The group wants to discover why and find solutions to reverse this trend.
Malcolm Aish: We found that for every age group, the length of time before members resigned was the same. The more we looked at the statistics, the more we felt that it wasn’t just an issue of how to make Freemasonry more attractive to young people as they make up a relatively small proportion of our membership. They are still very important to us, as they could be joining for forty to fifty years, but the big recruitment age is around forty, so we need to discover why fortysomethings are just as likely to resign as twentysomethings.
Ray Reed: Our biggest strength and greatest opportunity is that we’re getting lots of people wanting to join. That number is on the increase at the moment, so we’ve got to make sure that when new people join, their expectations match with what we have to offer.
What sort of questions is the MFG asking?
Shawn Christie: The United Grand Lodge of England is a very special organisation. We can rightfully be proud of our past and our present, but it’s important to look ahead and plan for the future.
This is the reason why we’re asking about the kinds of things we can do better. We’ve analysed membership statistics, identified key focus areas and established working groups to develop those areas further. For example, I’m chairing a working group looking at recruitment, and there are other groups focusing on areas such as governance and the image of Freemasonry. Moving on from our initial analysis, we’ll soon start surveying the membership to make sure that we have an accurate understanding of their feelings.
Stuart Hadler: I’m concerned that we provide very little formal leadership development in Freemasonry, whether that’s progressing to become Master of a lodge or a senior Provincial officer. I think that Freemasonry is poorer for not having the opportunity to develop those skills – we could actively promote it as one of the opportunities offered by our society when attracting new members.
Malcolm Aish: My interest in the Royal Arch means I’m very happy to be involved in the MFG, because success in the Craft will lead to greater success in the Royal Arch. We’ve found out from the statistics that when masons go on to join another lodge or the Royal Arch – the ‘multiple members’ as we call them – then their membership longevity extends significantly. That’s something that we need to analyse. We could find out if people who join their second lodge are more selective about the kind of members they team up with.
If that’s the case, then we might be able to improve overall retention.
Stuart Hadler: Another point we’ve identified is that there’s no clear external perception of what Freemasonry is and why people join. We haven’t prepared members in how to communicate clearly and consistently. If we’re going to attract people in the right numbers and keep them, then we have to find good examples in simple, modern language about what Freemasonry offers.
Malcolm Aish: We don’t want to be seen to be intrusive; it’s quite difficult for someone outside the Province to ask quite personal questions, but we have to be able to find out the real reasons why someone has left a lodge. Was it because they didn’t feel welcome or had an argument? The whole process we’re undertaking aims to open everyone’s minds to consider doing things differently.
‘In many areas around the country we’re attracting new members in good numbers, yet total membership is still going down. One of the aims of the MFG is to discover why and reverse the trend.’ Peter Taylor
Is Freemasonry set for big changes under the MFG?
Stuart Hadler: We have many cherished traditions, but we should be prepared to question their continuing importance to our principles and image. In recent years, for example, there have been more cases of Freemasons parading in public, which is great – it’s a return to where we left off in the 1930s. But are gentlemen of a certain age walking through the streets, parading their regalia, the only images we want to portray? We need to think about the kind of image we’re trying to put across, and the MFG can be about offering a range of choices, perhaps saying that it’s fine if a lodge decides to wear jackets and ties rather than dress in full regalia.
Malcolm Aish: The fundamentals of Freemasonry are not going to change. Why would we want to modify the core ceremonial and ritual traditions of a highly successful organisation? But how we communicate among ourselves – how we formulate the ideas and direction that we are going to take, as well as organise ourselves – is an opportunity for members to make a major contribution.
Peter Taylor: I hope that the membership will be pleased to see that the MFG comprises members from around the country. We’re looking at the wider aspects of Freemasonry from an inclusive standpoint, and will be surveying views taken from a wide range of geographic areas that have different socio-economic challenges.
Ray Reed: We’re a bottom-up, not top-down member organisation. If you want to have your views on the future of the Craft reflected, then you must get involved with the surveys. This is all about meeting the needs of both existing and future members in today’s society in order to ensure the future of Freemasonry.
‘We’re listening to all our members, we want feedback, and before we come to any conclusions, we want to understand what the membership has to offer and what it can improve on.’ Malcolm Aish
How will the MFG communicate its findings?
Shawn Christie: The MFG will use various channels to keep the membership informed, including Freemasonry Today and communication through Provincial and District Grand Lodges. Whatever the findings, we hope to identify and share successful practices and approaches throughout our society. We want to work with Provinces, Districts, lodges and members rather than simply communicating in only one direction.
Ray Reed: Communication is going to be continuous. The strategy document might prove to be substantial, but we’ll need to summarise it and allow everyone at every level to understand. We’ll always take our conclusions to the Board, Rulers and PGMs first because we want them to be the first ones to know – we can’t let magazines like Freemasonry Today know something before the PGMs do. The information route will be focus groups first; then surveys; followed by findings and talks with the Board, Rulers and PGMs. Finally, there’s communication with all our members.
Malcolm Aish: Having this round-table article is a great starting point in reaching a wide proportion of our membership, but we’ll have to feed back what we’re doing in order to be as effective as possible. We don’t know what the outcomes are going to be yet, but we’re listening to all of our members, we want their feedback, and before we come to any conclusions, we want to understand what the membership has to offer and what it can improve on.
Have your say
During the next six months, the Membership Focus Group will be seeking the assistance of members by way of several short surveys. Many of the subjects on which we shall be seeking views are mentioned in this article.
If you wish to have your say and are willing to help, then please email your details as indicated below.
UGLE members can only register at: www.ugle.org.uk/mfg
Your registration will be confirmed by us asking for your name, lodge number, masonic rank and years of membership
Other members of the MFG
Sandy Stewart, Provincial Grand Master for Staffordshire, Michael Ward, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master, Paul Gower, Provincial Grand Master for Hertfordshire, Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, Marc Nowell, Representative from the Universities Scheme, Jeffrey Gillyon, Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, North and East Ridings, Robin Wilson, Provincial Grand Master for Nottinghamshire
The traditionally peaceful masonic month of August has been enlivened by the announcement that the Most Worshipful Grand Master has agreed to the Petition for a new lodge for Shropshire, to be called the Iron Bridge Lodge No. 9897
This lodge, named after Shropshire's iconic Iron Bridge near to Telford, will be the 34th on Shropshire's list, and the first to be consecrated since the West Mercia Lodge No. 9719 in 2000.
The Petition includes the names of 42 aspiring Founder members, including the Worshipful Master Designate, W Bro Andy Delamere. It was presented in open lodge at the regular meeting of Forester Lodge No. 7211 in April, in the presence of RW Provincial Grand Master, Peter Allan Taylor, and signed by Forester Lodge's Worshipful Master Jim Brown and his Wardens, Peter Smith and Andrew Gordon.
The Petition now having been sanctioned by Grand Lodge, Shropshire hopes to see the Consecration late in 2014 or early in 2015. It is also hoped that the new lodge will be accredited under the Universities' Scheme, so that it may become the first – or one of the first – to be founded as a member of that scheme. Members of other university lodges are to be invited to the Consecration.
The Provincial Grand Master congratulated the Founding Committee, including W Bro Delamere and the Secretary W Bro Ray Dickson, for the huge amount of energy and time they had devoted to the project. The Worshipful Master of the intended Mother Lodge, Forester 7211, presented the Founding Committee with a set of silver square and compasses to mark the event.
Following the ceremony and in open lodge, Shropshire’s newest mason witnessed a rare event, as the Worshipful Master, Wardens and brethren of Forester Lodge agreed to become the Mother Lodge of a new lodge for Shropshire, hopefully to be called the Iron Bridge Lodge. The vote was taken in the presence of a number of distinguished visitors, including the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, Peter Allan Taylor.
The Iron Bridge Lodge Founding Committee Secretary, W Bro Ray Dickson, then presented the Petition to the Worshipful Master, W Bro Jim Brown, which was then signed by him and by his Wardens, Bros Peter Smith and Andrew Gordon.
The Worshipful Master then presented a very fine gift of a silver square and compasses to the founders of the Iron Bridge Lodge, which was most gratefully received.
Following the ceremony the Provincial Grand Master stated in open Lodge that he was satisfied that the Petition had been properly signed. He congratulated the Worshipful Master and brethren of Forester Lodge on their achievement, and acclaimed it as a truly historic event in the Province of Shropshire. The founding brethren of the prospective Iron Bridge Lodge who were present gave thanks to the brethren of Forester Lodge for their support and trust.
The Iron Bridge Lodge is moving towards Consecration, the Petition now having been signed by the Provincial Grand Master. It is now under consideration by Grand Lodge, and it is hoped that the new Lodge may be consecrated early in 2015.
At a special meeting of Salopian Chapter No. 262 in November, the oldest chapter in the Province of Shropshire, the Provincial Grand Chapter celebrated its centenary in the presence of ME Comp George Francis, Second Grand Principal
This was no sinecure for the Provincial Officers, however: at the invitation of the Principals of 262 Chapter, the Provincial team took the various Offices and conducted a ceremony of Double Exaltation. Grand Superintendent Peter Taylor acted as Z, Roger Brentnall Pemberton acted as H and Roger Wedlake as J. The work of the Principal Sojourner was shared between two Officers, and the Mystical Lecture was given in its full catechetical form by John Williamson, with the assistance of the companions of 262 Chapter.
Indeed, the only member of the Provincial team who could rightly be said to have put his feet up was David Kettle, who had recently suffered an injury which necessitated him appearing on crutches. He was still involved in the Mystical Lecture, however!
The Second Grand Principal was received warmly by the companions of Shropshire, and was generous in his comments about the evening. He received a significant donation towards the Supreme Grand Chapter's Appeal, and himself conducted the companions at the festive board as they sang happy birthday to John Holyoake on the eve of his 90th birthday.
Peter Taylor received his Grand Superintendent's cufflinks from Comp Francis, who in his turn received a large cheese as his memento of a pleasant sojourn in Shropshire.
All concerned wished the Province good luck for its next 100 years, and the two exaltees, Comp Simon Parker and Comp Jim Banks, certainly went home with memories to last for a long time to come.
Southport Masonic Hall was the venue for a centenary celebration for Southport Emulation Lodge No. 3675, and on this occasion the lodge was honoured by presence of the Provincial Grand Master, Peter Hosker
Peter was accompanied by his Provincial team at this marvellous celebration. The team included the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Howard Jones, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning, Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor, Deputy Provincial Grand Chaplain Godfrey Hurst and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Keith Kemp as well as many acting Provincial grand officers.
After accepting the gavel from the Worshipful Master, Neil Pacey, the Provincial Grand Master conducted a centenary ceremony.
The centenary warrant was read by Peter Taylor and then it was presented to the Worshipful Master by Peter Hosker, along with a centenary jewel.
The Rev Canon Godfrey Hurst then gave a splendid oration and re-dedication of the lodge which combined the lodge’s history with that of local history.
Neil Pacey then presented several cheques amounting to £10,100 to charities, which were accepted by Peter Hosker on behalf of the lodge. Peter thanked the lodge members and congratulated them on their charitable giving and of raising such a large sum of money.
After the ceremony, a centenary banquet was held. The dining room was full to capacity and a lovely seven course meal was enjoyed by all.
Several speeches of congratulations were given by Peter Hosker, Howard Jones and Philip Gunning, after which Neil thanked everybody for attending the celebration and he said he was looking forward to the lodge’s bicentenary!
Shropshire’s Freemasons gave over £40,000 to 49 local and regional charities at a special presentation on Monday, 10th June
Awards included £5,000 to the Midlands Air Ambulance, £1,000 each to Shrewsbury MENCAP, SSAFA Forces Help (Shropshire Branch), Macmillan Cancer Support and the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries. Hope House Children’s Hospice received £1,500 and Combat Stress £1,000. The Severn Hospice at Shrewsbury and Telford, which both received major grants last year, were each given £1,500.
Many smaller grants were also made to local charities which struggle to match the profile of larger national organisations. The Shrewsbury Ark, which cares for homeless people, Shropshire MIND, local Scouts and Guides and the Movement Centre each received £500. Donations were also made to Shrewsbury Street Pastors, the Friends of Whitchurch Community Hospital and the Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest. In most cases the cheques were received by representatives of the charities, who spoke – occasionally very movingly – of the difference these grants would make to their work.
Provincial Grand Master Peter Taylor explained the importance of these grants to Freemasons.
'All of the money distributed today has been raised from within our own membership – the majority by the 1,300 Freemasons in Shropshire. Over the years we have developed strong links with many of charities – both great and small – which benefit our community. Some of our members have very compelling personal reasons to support these good causes, and we believe that these donations show Freemasonry to be a real power for good both in Shropshire and in the wider world.'
The continuing work of Shropshire’s Freemasons can be seen on twitter by following @ShropshireMason