Looking back, looking forward

This week has seen England go back into lockdown. Effectively all Masonic meetings will be suspended, either by a Provincial Grand Master’s implied powers or (possibly) by an edict from the Grand Master.

I am seeing more of our brethren share the difficulties they have been experiencing with the current restrictions. At the same time I have experienced some quite uplifting moments over the last seven days, culminating in this morning’s online Service of Remembrance organised by Nottinghamshire Freemasons.

My week started on Monday with the inaugural delivery of my Mike Baker Memorial Lecture, “How to grow the membership of your Mark Lodge”, over Zoom. Organised by R.W.Bro. Archie Torrance, the Provincial Grand Master for the Mark Province of Kent, more than 140 attended, including the Deputy Grand Master, R.W.Bro. John Prizeman, the Assistant Grand Master, R.W.Bro. Steve Davison, the Grand Secretary, R.W.Bro. Ryan Williams, and eight Mark Provincial Grand Masters.

Freemasonry lost so much with the passing of my friend Mike Baker but, by creating a lectureship in his name, his Provincial Grand Master has ensured his legacy will live on and he will continue to inspire us to take positive steps in our Freemasonry.

One of Mike’s favourite quotes was, “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” We have more time now to address issues within our Lodges, and to lay the foundation for future growth, than we will ever have again. In memory of Mike, please take this time to fix the roof.

Tuesday was a talk for Vastern Lodge 8977 and the Province of Wiltshire. The Lodge has been running a series of online talks over the last few months and I was privileged to be the latest. I delivered my refreshed and revamped, “Seven habits of highly successful Lodges” to an audience of interested and engaged brethren. The talk has a very positive message outlining a framework of success against which we can all assess our Lodges. It is the basis for the new book I am writing on Lodge management.

On Wednesday I returned to the Mark Province of Devonshire to deliver the follow-up to my earlier talk on the historic links between the Craft, Mark and Royal Arch. This one concentrated on the narrative and symbolic links between what are clearly the core degrees in Freemasonry. What was so good about this event was the positive enthusiasm for a more constructive appreciation of these links, rather than the divisive wedge that has sometimes been driven between the Mark and Royal Arch.

Then on Thursday I was once again in Cheshire to deliver my talk, “The Royal Arch: what is it all about?” Every single member of the Craft and Royal Arch Executive, and representatives from all four areas in the Province, attended this talk – as did many from the target audience of those who have not yet become Royal Arch Masons and those who are recent Companions. Once again a hugely positive discussion followed from some excellent questions. With the clear leadership and combined approach to managing the Craft and Royal Arch in Cheshire, it is little wonder that the Royal Arch is thriving in the Province.

On Friday I joined a Zoom meeting in the Province of West Kent to discuss how we will approach an online programme for 2021, combining entertainment, general interest and Masonic education into an integrated and engaging approach. As the Head of Learning & Development in the Province you would expect me to say this but West Kent is showing the way forward for member engagement.

Yesterday was a day of reflection. It was the 11th anniversary of the consecration of The Scout Lodge M.M.M. No. 1907, the world’s first Scouting Mark Lodge, of which I was honoured to be founding Master. It was also the third anniversary of UGLE’s Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, and which I was honoured to be present. Two great, uplifting and memorable occasions when Freemasons came together for common purpose.

Earlier today I tuned in to the online Service of Remembrance organised by Worksop Masonic Club in the Province of Nottinghamshire. While paying tribute to those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice in armed conflicts, it also recognised the fortitude and example set by those of our predecessors who lived through past restrictions. Reflecting on their experience and example may perhaps inspire us to stand firm and get through this pandemic in as positive a manner as we can.

The common thread through all these talks and meetings has not been me. It has been the willingness of the brethren and companions to gather together, to engage in a collective Masonic experience, to continue to question, to learn and to contribute.

We will get through this difficult time. We can use the time constructively to learn and stretch ourselves. We can use the time to improve our Lodges and make them fit for the new future. So that when we can return we can seize new opportunities for growth an expansion, just as our predecessors did when Freemasonry emerged from earlier times of difficulty.

And to my brethren and companions who are experiencing difficulties, please be open, let others know, reach out to your Lodges, Provinces and Districts and accept the help and support that you will inevitably receive.

However isolated we may feel at present, none of us are an island. Together we are part of one of the world’s greatest forces for good. Together we will get through this.

Onwards and upwards.

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