by V.W.Bro. Lt.-Col. N.G. Thorne OBE TD DL PGSwdB
The origins of Freemasonry are to be found in biblical times, but it's modern revival came at the end of the medieval guild system.
Growth of the guilds in the middle ages for every conceivable trade brought with it three main benefits - the proper training of apprentices to learn the skill of the trade, a level of quality control for the customer and a brotherhood which provided a form of mutual help and support for the guild member and his family.
The decline of the guilds at the end of the 17th century left a void for the welfare of the craftsman, who could no longer look to his guild to provide the support previously available for him and his family. It was therefore only natural that the void should be filled and this was accomplished by Freemasonry which was in many respects the forerunner of the welfare state in that it provided a form of mutual help. It was therefore important to establish whether a candidate was in good health or sound in wind and limb. Clearly the admission of someone likely to make an immediate claim would not have been fair on the others. This has given the wrong impression to some of our critics that to this day we only admit the able-bodied.
In earlier times, Freemasons were less secretive about their membership of a Masonic lodge. The mason was in fact showing a high degree of responsibility towards his family and one that others were keen to emulate. The main purpose of the relationship was mutual support and social discourse and neither could give rise to criticism. Naturally those outside any system are inclined to jealousy on occasion, but accusations of favourable treatment as a consequence were rarer in an age when clubability was common at all levels of society. Moreover apart from the actual signs, tokens and words, the membership was very open and the non-mason could become aware of a lot more about what went on within the lodge.
Freemasons who were justly proud of their membership tended to wear their Masonic regalia on every possible occasion, and not only when there was a direct connection. For example one Lord Lieutenant of a County who was also the Provincial Grand Master proceeded to lay the foundation stone of a hospital in full regalia because his Province had made a contribution. As a result the motives and actions of those concerned became open to question and Freemasonry was subject to criticism to such an extent that it was decided that it should become a private matter and regalia would not be worn outside the temple, even at the festive board, except by special dispensation.
Moving out of the unwelcome limelight into the shadows lodges then gave grounds for criticism, with accusations of excessive secrecy and the ultimate claim that Freemasonry was a secret society which quite clearly it never has been. This accusation has not been any easier to dispel as a result of the injunctions some employers have placed upon their staff - sometimes politically motivated - not to become Freemasons. This has meant that lists of Freemasons are not easily obtained and members have been left to decide whether or not to disclose their membership of the craft.
It is faced with this background that we approach the last quarter of the tercentenary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge of England.
It is a pity that the high ideals and laudable motives of Freemasonry are through ignorance or malice so often misunderstood. The overriding duty of every Freemason is and always has been to God, to Queen and country and to family and connections before self or Freemasonry.
Tb put Freemasonry in its proper context, it is essential to examine the charge to the new initiate, which says, "As a citizen of the world, I am to enjoin you to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties, by never proposing or at all countenancing any act that may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society, by paying due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become the place of your residence or afford you its protection, and above all, by never losing sight of the allegiance due to the Sovereign of your native land, ever remembering that nature has implanted in your breast a sacred and indissoluble attachment towards that country whence you derived your birth and infant nurture."
This philosophy is again emphasised at the annual installation in the beautifully expressed Charge to all its members, "Brethren, such is the nature of our Constitution that as some must of necessity rule and teach, so others must of course learn, submit and obey. Humility in each is an essential qualification. The Brethren whom the Worshipful Master has selected to assist him in the ruling and governing of the Lodge are too well acquainted with the principles of Masonry, and the Laws of our Institution, to warrant any mistrust that they will be found wanting in the discharge of the duties of their respective offices, or that they will exceed the powers with which they are entrusted; and you, Brethren, I am sure, are of too generous a disposition to envy their preferment. I therefore trust that we shall have but one aim in view, to please each other and unite in the grand design of being happy and communicating happiness. And as this association has been formed and perfected with so much unanimity and concord, long may it continue. May brotherly love and affection ever distinguish us as men and as Masons. May the principals and tenets of our profession, which are founded on the basis of religious truth and virtue, teach us to measure our actions by the rule of rectitude, square our conduct by the principles of morality, and guide our inclinations, and even our thoughts, within the compass of propriety. Hence we learn to be meek, humble and resigned; to be faithful to our God, our Country, and our Laws; to drop a tear of sympathy over the failings of a Brother; and to pour the healing balm of consolation into the bosom of the afflicted. May these principles and tenets be transmitted, pure and unpolluted, through this Lodge from generation to generation."
It is undoubtedly true that in recent years the world media has become more powerful than ever before. The full horrors or ecstasy of tragedies or triumphs can be seen in the world's living rooms at the time they happen. No longer is it possible for military commanders to take advantage of the fog of war to the same extent as they have in the past. Everyone can see and pronounce judgement on the results of military action almost simultaneously as we saw in the Gulf conflict.
This is both good and bad. On the one hand everyone can make a judgement of events for themselves on the case presented, but on the other this creates an inevitable thirst for news which means that every nook and cranny of society is being explored and brought into the open for public debate. In these circumstances, the privacy so eagerly sought by Freemasonry in the last Fifty years is now difficult to sustain without accusations imputed to dark and sinister motives.
The privacy of our ceremonies is readily seized upon by the media and others to suggest impropriety. It is inevitable that bad apples are to be found in every organisation and Freemasonry cannot expect to be totally exempt. However, the view that Freemasons spend all their time helping and supporting one another through thick and thin to the exclusion an detriment of all others is totally wrong.
The vast majority of Freemasons have no idea whether their neighbours, the people they work with or meet in the course of their business fives, are also Freemasons. In fact it can be embarrassing to know and be put in the position of questioning ones own judgement in giving preference to one person rather than another. Those who prematurely attempt to draw attention to their membership of the craft are therefore often treated with suspicion in that they might be drawing attention to their concern that they might not be able to compete fairly purely on their own ability.
In recent years Grand Lodge has been punctilious in expelling those who have brought the craft into disrepute and rightly so, but many members have a heavy heart in doing so as they have undertaken to help a brother in need and there is no reason why they should not do so but this must not give any appearance of condoning wrong doing.
Even in our daily fives, if an actual or potential conflict of duties or interests is known to exist or is foreseen, a declaration to that effect should be made and it may on occasions be prudent to disclose membership to avoid what others mistakenly imagine to be a potential conflict or bias.
It almost seems too obvious to mention that a freemason must not use his membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests and a Freemason who transgresses this rule may quite properly expect to be suspended from Masonic activities or even expelled. Nor should Freemasonry be allowed to harm a man's family or other connections by taking too much of his time or his money or causing him to act in any other way against their interests.
A Freemasons duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonourably or unlawfully or to confer an unfair advantage on another Freemason is contrary to this prime duty.
To summarise it is important to remember that Freemasonry is not a secret society. However, like many other societies, it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members. Its aims and principles are not secret, and copies of the constitutions and rules can be obtained by interested members of the public. The only secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with its traditional modes of recognition and its ceremonies are private, but in ordinary conversation there is very little about Freemasonry which may not be discussed. Moreover on inquiry for acceptable reasons, Freemasons are free and will be proud to acknowledge their own membership as their predecessors have done now for 275 years.
The general interest of the public has grown, is growing and will not diminish in all facets of life and Freemasonry cannot expect to escape this scrutiny. However, providing we are able to show that we have joined for the right motives, namely for charitable and social purposes, there is no reason for us to be ashamed of our membership. In fact, quite the reverse. We have a long and proud history of service to society in general and to those in need in particular - whoever they may be.
TOPIC 1 (b) Should a Police Officer be a Freemason? By W Bro. R C Young, PGPurs
The question of whether a police officer can carry out his duties professionally and fairly and be a Freemason is a subject which causes considerable concern and anxiety to both police officers and the public alike.
It is widely believed that Freemasonry is strongly represented in the Police Service and as the Service occupies a special position in society, police officers must be seen to be above reproach if the Service is to enjoy a successful and essential partnership with the public. Membership of what is perceived as a secret society casts doubts, rightly or wrongly, on the Police Service and criminal justice system. It is also believed that the organisation is there to promote advantages to its members.
Freemasons maintain that Freemasonry is not a secret society but a society with secrets. This distinction generates much puzzlement amongst laymen but there is some difference. A truly secret society would be one where its very existence would be unknown to anyone other than its members. This is not the case with regard to Freemasonry as its existence is widely known, as are many of its members.
Also there is nothing about the organisation that is incapable of research. Many books are to be found in book shops and libraries, e.g. 'Inside the Brotherhood' by Martin Short, 'Darkness Visible and Christian by Degrees' by Walton Hannah and 'The Brotherhood' by Stephen Knight. Each of these sets out the aims, ceremonies, signs, symbols and passwords of the organisation. In addition, television and the tabloids have frequently carried out exposures.
Other organisations which have secrets, e.g. The Royal Andeluvian Order of Buffaloes, The Elks, The Moose and The Knights of Saint Columbia, do not attract media attention but little is known about their activities or membership, least of all how many police officers participate.
Recently Grand Lodge decided to change its policy, whereby Freemasonry became more open and accountable. A parallel situation has occurred in recent years within the Police Service, including the similarity of opening up Masonic centres and police buildings for public viewing and inspection.
Whilst this open policy is generally applauded by most Masons, police officers and the public alike, for some it may well have led to more problems than it has solved. For a policeman who is also a Mason the problem has magnified.
Some tabloids have identified police offers, mainly senior ones, as Freemasons and implied impropriety because of their membership. For them the media pressure has become intense and an intrusion on their private life, impacting on their careers, families, friends and work colleagues.
Freemasonry has this effect on the media. It is very easy to see conspiracy when dealing with a group whose membership is perceived to be secret. Critics of it are also not going to be too concerned about dealing fairly with an organisation they perceive to be set up for the unfair benefit of its members. The tragedy of this is that while the Police Service is seen as a stronghold of Freemasonry, any mud which is thrown at Masons in general sticks to the Service as a whole.
There are many, some of whom are police officers, e.g. Ex Chief Inspector Woolard of the Metropolitan Police, who has carried out an intense media campaign against Freemasonry, who feel they have been the victims of Masonic conspiracy. The media will always latch onto such people, whatever the merits of their case, and the whole round of smears and innuendo will surface again. Each time it does the public's image of the police will inevitably suffer. Each time the public will suspect, however groundlessly, that there is one law for the policeman who is a Freemason and one law for everyone else.
Some people would like to see Police Regulations ban officers from joining Freemasonry and a more liberal use made of Regulation 10 and Schedule 2.1 of the Police Regulations 1987, which deals with the restrictions on the private life of members. It states "A member shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression among members of the public that it may so interfere".
It is conceivable that this Regulation could be used in a disciplinary action if it could be proved that an officer's involvement with Freemasonry interfered with his duty. In 1985 the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Sir Kenneth Newman, published and served on every serving officer of that Force a manual entitled 'The Policing Principals of the Metropolitan Police'. It advised officers not to join Freemasonry as it was incompatible with police duties and suggested officers who were already Freemasons should ponder on whether they should remain. Whilst this could not be a direct order as it is not unlawful for anyone to belong to Freemasonry and it would be an unwarranted interference with private life, it was laid down as an edict and many acted upon it, fearing the possible consequences. This manual is given to every recruit who joined the Service and every effort is made to dissuade them from joining.
The Chief Constables of West Mercia, North Wales and Lincoinshire, to name but a few, repeated the advice and similarly discouraged their officers. Sir James Anderton, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, stated that he wanted stricter guidelines as he felt that membership of the society in general was incompatible with membership of the Police Service.
The Chief Constables of the West Midlands, Essex and West Yorkshire stated they would not be following the Metropolitan Police example, as did Mr John Duke, the Chief Constable of Hampshire, stating There are already enough restrictions on a police officer's private life. If Freemasonry was incompatible with being a police officer I am quite sure the law would prohibit it".
In 1988 Mr Dale Campbell-Savours, MP, tried unsuccessfully to introduce a bill in the House of Commons prohibiting police officers becoming Freemasons and called on all who were to resign.
This pressure has inevitably taken its toll on serving officers who are Freemasons. Many have resigned from their Lodges, gone on the country list or have been forced to keep a very low profile.
Similarly, officers have had to take the same course of action when they have found themselves in Lodges with brethren convicted of criminal offences. The Discipline code prohibits association with criminals and police officers have found themselves in an impossible position. Fortunately this has now been resolved since Grand Lodge has been expelling miscreants.
A great concern to many police officers, both Freemasons and otherwise, is the question of promotion. Those who are not Freemasons accuse its members of favouring the selection of other Masons but since some chief officers have announced Freemasonry to be incompatible with police duty, there is a great concern that Freemasons are deliberately not being selected. There is evidence in support of the latter, as some Freemasons have been informed that they will not be selected whilst they remain in the Craft, despite assurances that it will not happen.
Freemasons believe there should be no difficulty in a police officer being a Freemason as the attestation of a constable on appointment lies four square and bears more than a passing similarity to the Charge. The initiate is also told before he takes his obligation that "In those vows there is nothing incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties". This clearly shows that a policeman can be a sound and respected Freemason as well as a dedicated and honourable policeman.
To most, joining Freemasonry means joining a body of men who place integrity and duty to their fellow man above all else. These are exactly the qualities required in every police officer. In addition, in both police officers and Freemasons, there are many examples where personal dedication, probity and honour are second to none. The thoughts of others are reflected in charity giving and the wide remit in dispensing the monies raised to worthy causes beyond Freemasonry.
Freemasons believe that if every policeman, Freemason or otherwise, could uphold the edicts and principles of Freemasonry, then there would be a very fine Police Service indeed.
In his address to Grand Lodge on 12 September 1984, the MW Pro Grand Master Lord Cornwallis said 'There is nothing incompatible between Freemasonry and the Police Service. The principals of Freemasonry should indeed improve the quality of a Freemason's discharge of his public and private responsibilities, whatever they may by. Freemasons are forbidden to use their membership to promote their or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests and are subject to Masonic discipline if they transgress. Finally, their duties as citizens - even more if they are police officers - must prevail."
Some policemen are Masons and some Masons are policemen. Both have to be of strong moral fibre and be prepared to stand up and be counted. It seems the most successful of both invariably have very strong personalities. They have to be in the present situation.
Should a Christian be a Freemason?
by W Bro. The Rev. Norman Lea JP BA
The question which this paper seeks to address has, over recent years, assumed an importance and a relevance that older generations of Freemasons would not have thought possible. This has occurred because various Church governing bodies - The Methodist Conference, and the General Synod of the Church of England - have declared the two to be incompatible. It is the basic and overriding contention of this paper that there is no theological or doctrinal, moral or social reason why a Christian should not be a Freemason.
It is necessary, first of all, to attempt an outline of what the Christian faith teaches. It is necessary, because it is essential to know what is meant when a person calls himself a Christian.
The Christian is one who believes in a God who is the Creator God, Creator of 'all things in heaven and earth'. The 'crown' of Creation, according to the Bible, is Man, created 'a little lower than the angels', having within himself the means to respond to and acknowledge God. Indeed, the Bible stresses that Man is only truly Man to the extent in which he does, through worship and deed, respond and acknowledge God to the fullest possible extent. It is at this point that the picture becomes distorted. We do not, individually or collectively, respond to or acknowledge God. In fact, our human condition is such that with unrelenting application, we seem to go headlong in the opposite direction to that which providence and destiny point us. To the theologian this state of affairs is know as Sin, sin that seems part of our nature, and sin that we actively commission in our failure to be what God intends us to be.
God intended us to be not only creatures created out of love, but beings who could respond to that love. His eternal Love is such that he cannot and will not abandon us, His creatures, to our own fate. The Old Testament is really the beginning of this story of God's relationship with us His people. It is the bitter sweet account of this loving relationship, the constancy of God's love and the prodigality of that of His people. The Old Testament at its best looks forward to the time when God will 'bring His people home', when He will give us the means to come back to Him and to fulfil our true role in His scheme of Creation. The New Testament is the realisation of this vision. The Birth, Death and Resurrection of Jesus is the fulfilment of all that the prophets, and the aspirations to which the Old Testament had looked forward. Here, finally and irrevocably was the means to bridge the gap between humanity as a whole and God, its loving Creator and Sustainer. The Christian will not and cannot compromise on this basic truth.
But this truth of what God has done for us in the person of Jesus, is not a mere cerebral truth demanding only intellectual assent, it is a truth that demands various responses from those who would be part of it. By means of the Church, or the Sacraments, or the life of Prayer, or the inspiration of Holy Scripture, the Christian feeds off the Redeeming work of Christ as displayed on the Cross and the Empty Tomb. It is by these 'instruments' of Redemption that the Christian knows it is possible to begin a relationship of love with God, and by personal sacrifice and dedication, to allow that relationship to grow and mature. It is an all embracing relationship, open ended to see the whole world and everything in it as within the scope of Redemption. Once it becomes exclusive and introverted its power is negated and its saving strength diminished.
Freemasonry does not challenge or seek to challenge anything that has been said above. It does not set itself up as a rival or even a parallel religion, to do so would mean that it would be impossible for a Christian to acknowledge let along practice Freemasonry. Masonry does not offer a 'system' of Redemption, it does not seek to enhance or provide a means by which the Mason is expected or encouraged to see his Masonic activities as being acts of worship. A Masonic Lodge is not a church, but a group of men who seek to implement certain worthy, upright and highly desirable common basic ideals, which can but add to the richness and variety of life and living.
The Masonic world, is a world rich in symbolism and high ideals. Its principle symbol is that of the Temple, built by King Solomon in response to God's command. The story of its construction, quite naturally, receives a great deal of poetic license in Masonic ritual. Part of that poetry is the vision of giving life to the symbol by identifying the Mason with the process of construction. The Masonic ideal is to construct within the individual the virtues of brotherly love, relief for those less fortunate than oneself and the search for truth and personal integrity. The symbol of 'skilled craftsmen' chosen originally for their expertise and skill for the great work in hand, is Masonically the skill of shaping from the raw material of each member of a Lodge a deeper understanding of the concept of brotherhood and the sharing of common concerns. The Masonic Lodge is the 'workplace' for both the demonstration and the teaching of such skills.
Solomon called upon God for help in the great endeavour he had undertaken. So likewise, the Masonic Lodge calls on God for help in its endeavours. This is no empty, ritualistic gesture, but a 'corner-stone' that underpins all Masonic activity. It would seem quite natural, in this context, for the symbolic 'builder' - the Mason - to refer to God,in the symbol of the Architect, and to do so without in anyway diminishing the concept of God or indeed to create another deity which the Christian could not acknowledge or countenance.
The Craft is precisely what it says it is. A Craft for building a moral structure centred upon those who seek to participate in its activities. It seeks neither to challenge or rival the claims of faith made by the Christian. Masonry cannot and does not diminish the Lordship of Christ, or replace His Redeeming and Saving Power. This paper has tried, within its limits, to affirm wholeheartedly the Christian standpoint and to outline the Masonic view, and to see no challenge from the Craft to those who wish to practice and uphold the Christian life.
RELATIONS BETWEEN GRAND LODGES AND PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF FREEMASONRY
by R.W.Bro. J.M. Raylor Prov G.M. Yorkshire, North and East Ridings
1. Freemasons know about the basic principles for Grand Lodge recognition, which have governed relations between Grand Lodges for a very long time and were codified and adopted by the "Home" Grand Lodges in 1929. They are set out informally in Grand Lodge's leaflet "Freemasonry's External Relations", which also mentions irregular or unrecognised Grand Lodges.
"There are some self-styled Masonic bodies which do not meet these standards, e.g. which do not require a belief in a Supreme Being, or which allow or encourage their members to participate as such in political matters. These bodies are not recognised by the Grand Lodge of England as being Masonically regular, and Masonic contact with them is forbidden."
2. The non-Masonic world finds Freemasonry a difficult concept and would not be eager to add regularity for further understanding, but members of the Craft should know what is involved, so that in explaining Freemasonry as practised under regular Grand Lodges they can point out that Masonic bodies which do not comply with the basic principles are irregular, and cannot be recognised as Grand Lodges.
Freemasonry is many things to many people
To the church it is a religion.
To young Masons it is out of date and out of touch and not prepared to change anything, and it should.
To old Masons it is always changing things, and it should not.
Mr Average accuses it of helping its own and doing nothing for anyone else. It is secretive - it is even likened to the Mafia.
If a Policeman is also a Mason he is considered to be corrupt.
Those of us who are Masons and know what we are and what we do, find it difficult to understand how we can be thought of in this way. How did it come about?
We have been in existence far longer than most organisations of a similar nature and We have our traditions, many of which go back a long way.
We have given large sums of money to non Masonic charities for many years and we have not sought publicity as that was our way of giving. The public, therefore, knew nothing about that side of Freemasonry. We similarly wished to conduct our Masonic life with the same lack of publicity, but this caused concern and it was thought we had something to hide. Giving the appearance of secrecy has, understandably, created mistrust in all we do.
Let me tell you of a Mason in my Province who is an old boy of the school. When he was to go before Past Masters Committee before becoming a Mason he asked his Mother if his Father had ever told her anything about his own interview. She replied that he had not, and added that he never told her anything about Freemasonry and so she knew nothing. All she did know was that they kept themselves to themselves and no one outside Freemasonry knows who they are, so do not be surprised when you enter the room to find them wearing hoods or having their faces covered with masks.
That was 40 years ago when Freemasonry was still enjoying a post war boom. Membership was increasing sharply, new Lodges were being consecrated and Lodges had waiting lists. The media had not focused its unhelpful attention on us. If that was a widow's perception of Freemasonry then, just think what is in the minds of the general public today.
In the debate at the General Synod in July 1987, the Archbishop of York saw Freemasonry as "a fairly harmless eccentricity". The majority of the delegates saw us as much more sinister than that. We were blasphemers - though this was later withdrawn - we were a religion which did not acknowledge the Founder of the Christian faith, Paganism was involved in our "worship" and although many thinking members of the Church have had a change in mind, much remains to be done before the majority of the clergy and laity change their minds.
We were all surprised when the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police advised members of his Force not be Freemasons. The question of dual loyalties raised its head. The Press, without of course, any proof whatsoever, sowed the doubts about favouritism in promotion that somehow Freemasons got away with things which other people did not. If somebody like the head of a distinguished police force hinted at all not being well, then doubts would certainly be created in the public's mind.
Then a certain P2 Lodge - always referred to as a Masonic Lodge, of course - reared its ugly head. Corruption in high places - yes, those Freemasons are all for themselves, look after themselves, etc., etc. become Firmly implanted in the public's mind and the continuing saga of the member of P2 found murdered under a London bridge has not helped to remove the image of the former penalties.
We have to face the fact that we still have the image of being a secret society - despite the fact that our H.Q. is open to the public every day - we are still considered to be a prosperous select group who look after themselves and their own - despite our nonMasonic charitable work, of people who favour one another when it comes to promotions etc. These points need not be laboured, we know that they are brought about through ignorance. Yes, the general perception of Freemasonry is not a healthy one and in our hearts we know it. We do the cause of Freemasonry a disservice if we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that given time all will come good again.
EXAMINATION OF THE CAUSE
Why and how did we get ourselves into this position? If we look back to the last century or even a period of 60 years ago, Freemasonry was held in high regard by the public. Membership was something to be attained as an ambition.
In 1883 H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, was the Grand Master and he visited York to lay the foundation stone of the new Institute of Popular Science and Literature. York was fully decorated for the occasion. Provincial Grand Lodge was opened in the Assembly Rooms and Grand Lodge was opened in the Guildhall. Both at 10.00 a.m. In full regalia all these Masons processed through York for the Grand Master to lay the foundation stone. A banquet was held after the ceremony with a mixture of Loyal, Masonic and Civil Toasts. The whole event was recorded in the local press.
It is a great shame that Masonic exposure such as this no longer happens.
A glance through the editions of papers like the Daily Telegraph shows that in the 1930s Freemasonry received a "good" press. Pictures of the laying of the Foundation Stone of the R.M. Hospital show the then Prince of Wales, Duke of York and Duke of Kent all in full Masonic regalia.
For some unknown reason attitudes to public relations changed and we went in on ourselves. We were constantly told not to comment on Freemasonry or discuss the Craft outside of the Lodge or with non Masons. For a period of almost 50 years we acted as though we were a secret society. No wonder our detractors had a field day. They knew that they could write what they liked about us, produce so-called documentary films for television etc., safe in the knowledge that Freemasons would obey the "no comment" command.
We only have ourselves to blame for the position we now find ourselves in. We have paid a heavy price for failing to realise the importance of good P.R. work. We must learn from that era and never make those mistakes again.
HOW DO WE RECTIFY THE POSITION?
We have made a very good start. We now have the video "The Freemasons", and our publicity leaflets, our permanent exhibition and Grand Lodge being open to the public etc. We have only scratched the surface and Grand Lodge can only give a lead. It is up to every Freemason to be an ambassador for the Craft.
In my province we have given great emphasis to holding Open Days where non Masons can actually enter our buildings and ask about things that worry them. In Hull there is an annual Civic Weekend when buildings are open to the public. The oldest Masonic Hall has joined in and opened its doors for about 10 years. Each year 1000 - 1500 visitors are shown round.
We have found it a good idea to invite selected groups rather than just open the doors. This gives the opportunity to be well organised and prepared so that the visitors can leave better informed.
We had a visiting party at the meeting of the Synod in York in 1987. It made us realise that because of their fears, non Masons can actually be frightened about entering a Masonic building. It was some time before they relaxed enough to ask the questions they really wanted to put to us. Once they relaxed we had a very interesting and enjoyable discussion.
The attitude of one lady visibly changed as the meeting progressed, when she realised that all her fears were unfounded. As she left she said, "I wish we had in the Church the same enthusiasm as you obviously have in Freemasonry". At another Open Day the Archdeacon thanked us for the invitation and said that it is a pity we had not been so open in the past, for if we had, we would not have the problem we have today.
If people accept an invitation it means they are prepared to listen. Those who do not, accept are the worry, as they know they do not like it although they know nothing about it.
The points visitors raise are usually the same few. They worry that we are a religion, about secrecy and that we only look inwardly and never outwardly. A regular comment is that we are seen to be like the Mafia.
Provided that the guides are well prepared and that they give honest answers, Open Days can remove the misconceptions that abound. If the guide cannot answer a question, it is far better that he says so and finds out from someone else rather than appear evasive.
We must remember that we really have nothing to hide and much of which to be proud. A Freemason relies on a happy home life and there should not be secrets between husband and wife. It is wrong that wives should know nothing about what their husbands do in Freemasonry. I encourage my Lodges to involve families much more. Several now invite their ladies to join them for a meal after the Ceremony. This can be a sit down meal, but many prefer a buffet as it allows more people to meet.
To undo problems of the past, I am convinced that we all must be better informed about our aims, our objects and our achievements so that we can discuss Freemasonry with confidence with non Masons. We can overcome problems of misunderstanding if we all work at it together.
How open should a Freemason be?
by W Bro D.E.A. Jones, CBE, DL, LLB, PSGD
1 SECRECY AS A BASIS FOR CRITICISM
"The secrecy that surrounds Freemasonry has traditionally been its greatest strength. Today it has become its own worst enemy". These are the introductory sentences on the dust cover of Stephen Knight's book, "The Brotherhood". Few, if any, Freemasons would regard Knight's work as a fair and accurate portrayal of their organisation's nature and activities. Most would nonetheless agree that the allegation in the second sentence is worth of close scrutiny, especially in the light of comments by other non Masonic individuals and organisations in recent years. A spokesman for the United Reform Church, in a radio discussion following a relatively tolerant report on Freemasonry, stated:.......... and the only judgemental thing, I think, in the report is to say that there is really too much secrecy about Freemasonry for it to fit easily into the Church picture". Other reports, more deprecatory in tone, which were presented to the General Synod of the Church of England and to the Methodist Conference respectively contained censorious references to the existence and extent of secrecy in Masonic affairs.
Freemasonry's most hostile critics undoubtedly regard the 'secrecy' factor as the most potent weapon in their otherwise rather scanty armoury. Less antagonistic individuals have frequently voiced their distaste at what they deem to be an excessive emphasis on secrecy; some of them have rejected Masonic membership for that reason. Typical expressions are: "We had believed that the Masons were a secret organisation whose sole aim was for the betterment of its own members" and: "I concluded that you were a secret society and that is why I never joined".
Those who express their abhorrence of the 'secrecy' factor invariably use the expression 'secrecy' in a highly pejorative sense in so far as Freemasonry is concerned.
To them, its existence suggests that freemasons are engaged in unworthy activities or are committed firmly to principles which are in some way nefarious, and which they dare not confess. In other words, they see Freemasonry as conspiratorial in character, and it should therefore be impugned. They would view it as Shakespeare viewed those who conspired to murder Caesar:
"Oh Conspiracy! Shamist thou to show thy dangerous brow by night, when evils are most free? O then by day where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough to mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none, Conspiracy; hide it in smiles and affability."
2 THE ORIGINS OF MASONIC SECRECY
In considering the subject of secrecy in the Masonic tradition, it is pertinent to recall that secrecy has frequently been the sine quo non for the continued existence of numerous groups and organisations, Masonic and otherwise, the purposes and principles of which could in no sense be described as malevolent or contrary to the common good. This was the key to survival in societies where oppression and persecution prevailed. Papal bugs in the 18th Century, the threat of excommunication, and the interdiction of Masonic assemblies in many European Countries, on penalty of death in some instances, caused lodges to conceal their existence and masons their Masonic identity. In more recent times, it will be remembered that Freemasonry was reviled in Nazi Germany and Freemasons were persecuted. Small wonder, then, that in those circumstances the rules of secrecy were regarded as a practical necessity rather than as the product of an ancient tradition.
That tradition is, of course, a long-standing one. Robert Macoy, the 19th Century Compiler of a "Cyclopedia and Dictionary of Freemasonry" in America, implied that Freemasonry was a secret society, relating it to "all the great associations of antiquity the objects of which were to civilize and improve the condition of mankind". Macoy dismissed criticism of the "secrecy" element rather briefly and petulantly in the following words: "The objection often urged against the Order on account of this peculiar feature is too puerile to be considered". Other writers, of a more esoteric disposition, regarded secrecy or mystery as inherent to Masonry, e.g. the American writer Joseph Fort Newton who, in propounding the theory of the Secret Doctrine, referred to it as "a hidden teaching understood only by those fit to receive it". Yet, Newton concluded, there was no mystery in Masonry, save the mystery of all great and simple things. Most Freemasons would agree that the 'secret' or 'mystery' is in this sense not readily definable.
A less pedantic and probably more realistic explanation of the origins of Masonic secrecy lies in the fact that Freemasonry is an extension of the stonemason's Guilds in the Middle Ages. As these were closed societies of operative masons which jealously guarded their trade secrets they established set ceremonies for the admission of apprentices and a system of signs and passwords for the purpose of identifying as operative masons those travelling workmen who belonged to other lodges.
3 THE FORMAL REQUIREMENTS OF FREEMASONRY IN RELATION TO SECRECY
These are surprisingly few in number. They consist of.
i) The Antient Charges which, in relation to "Behaviour in the presence of Strangers not Masons" command caution in a mason's words and carriage, that the most penetrating stranger shall not be able to discuss or find out what is not proper to be intimated and, in relation to "Behaviour towards a Strange Brother," masons are told "to examine him........ that you may not be imposed upon by an ignorant, false, pretender whom you are to reject with contempt and derision and beware of giving him any hints of Knowledge."
Insofar as "Behaviour at home and in your neighbourhood" is concerned, Freemasons are enjoined "to act as becomes a moral and wise man; particularly not to let your family, friends and neighbours know the concerns of the lodge, etc., but wisely to consult your own honour, and that of your ancient brotherhood, for reasons not to be mentioned here".
ii) The Masonic Obligations. These, in the three Craft degrees refer to the "secrets or mysteries" which are never to be revealed. Our ritual comes closest to defining these in the Charge after Initiation, namely that secrecy consists in an inviolable adherence to the Obligation - never improperly to disclose any of the Masonic secrets entrusted to the Candidate. Those secrets are, by strong inference, the appropriate signs, steps, grips and words disclosed to the Candidate in the course of the ceremonies.
4 RECENT AFFIRMATIONS AND GUIDELINES
The United Grand Lodge has stated unequivocally that Freemasonry is not a secret society. It had been argued long ago that only in a very unimportant sense of the word could the Craft be called a secret society.
Anybody could belong to it, if he had the requisite qualities. There were checks on indiscriminate admission, but in that sense many London clubs could be called secret associations, since their doors were more jealously guarded than those of a Freemason's lodge!
Nevertheless, like countless other Societies it is entitled to regard itself as a private, as opposed to a secret, organisation. As such, it should not be expected to disclose all its affairs, its discussions, or its internal procedures to anyone who might demand them. Its constitution and rules are in any event available to members of the public, as are numerous explanatory pamphlets relating to its nature and principles.
Another guideline, perhaps more relevant to the subject of this paper, is the United Grand Lodge's declaration that on inquiry for acceptable reasons, Freemasons are free and will be proud to acknowledge their own membership.
5 SECRECY OR OPENNESS - ATTITUDES REVIEWED
Many Freemasons, despite the well-publicised policies of the United Grand Lodge relating to secrecy and privacy, remain doubtful as to the extent to which they, as individuals, should discuss Freemasonry with "outsiders". Some, nurtured for many years in a Masonic environment in which they regarded absolute secrecy as the norm, will be reluctant to utter a word about Freemasonry outside their immediate family circle. To them, the smallest breach in the dams of secrecy and privacy would seem regressive and unwarranted. Others, anxious to avoid being furtive, and aware that a deceitful attitude on the part of the individual Masons may contribute to public disdain of Freemasonry in general, might prefer a greater degree of frankness than the expressed policies of the United Grand Lodge appear to allow.
Clearly, those aspects of secrecy which are an integral part of Freemasonry must be preserved and protected. Nevertheless, an excessive aura of secrecy going beyond that which the Masonic charges and traditions require, and which may well brand Freemasons as evasive or shifty, especially in relation to their membership of the Craft, should be discouraged. Freemasonry does not - and need not - court popularity; at the same time it cannot afford to allow its public image to be tarnished by unnecessary impedimenta.
What guidelines would be appropriate in this respect? The following suggestions are put forward for discussion. They do not transgress the fundamental requirements of the Antient Charges and the Masonic Obligations, and whilst they go a little way beyond the avowed policies of the United Grand Lodge, they are not significantly inconsistent with them.
i) Freemasons, as a general rule, should be prepared to acknowledge, with pride, their membership of the Craft. The United Grand Lodge allows them to do so "on inquiry for acceptable (or respectable) reasons." This suggests that a Freemason may not, in ordinary conversation, volunteer to a friend that he is a mason. Might not this policy be described as "ultra-cautious"? That policy suggests further that if asked the simple question "Are you a mason?", a Freemason's retort should be "Why do you ask?", and before replying in the affirmative he should judge the adequacy of the reason for the enquiry. Should he regard the reason as inadequate or unacceptable, his choice is to say "no" (a lie) or to refrain from answering, which is tantamount to admitting (rather than claiming with pride!) membership of the Craft. Should not the United Grand Lodge review, or at least re-word, its policy in this respect? It is open to doubt whether the majority of freemasons, in divulging membership, have acted within the strict terms of that policy. Truth, after all is one of the Grand Principles on which the Order is founded!
ii) Freemasons should always disclose their membership of the Craft in circumstances where non-disclosure would be contrary to a legal requirement or to accepted standards of conduct in public bodies. e.g. a Councillor who is a Freemason should always declare his interest and refrain from discussion or voting on any issue involving a Masonic interest, such as a planning consent for the development of a Masonic building. He should do so whenever a Masonic interest is likely to benefit or be detrimentally affected. Police officers, too, should ask themselves if they should not disclose their Masonic membership whenever they are required to investigate matters involving fellow-masons.
iii) Freemasons should never divulge their Masonic membership - even to one who is believed to be a fellow-mason - for purposes of personal profit or personal advancement, or in the case of a criminal investigation, for the purpose of securing unwarranted assistance from an officer conducting the investigation.
iv) Freemasons may engage in discussions about the general nature of Freemasonry, its aims, and its principles. Indeed, a readiness to promote its aims and principles in serious conversation with responsible individuals should be commended. As the United Grand Lodge has put it, in ordinary conversation there is very little in Freemasonry which may not be discussed.
v) Clearly, those secrets which are covered in the Masonic Obligations must never be divulged or referred to. Non-masons who may be curious about certain other matters, such as the nature or content of the Masonic ceremonies should not have their curiosity satisfied. These, and indeed all proceedings within lodges, are matters to be shared and enjoyed by Freemasons alone: their revelation to nonmasons would undoubtedly detract from their value. They, together with the secrets covered by the Obligations, comprise much of "what is not proper to be intimated". (Antient Charges).
There are other actions and attitudes which Freemasons can take or adopt to render Freemasonry more open and therefore more natural and acceptable in the eyes of the public. Opening Masonic buildings to public view, the use of Masonic dining facilities by the public on a commercial basis, and the removal of some of the less desirable features of many Masonic buildings such as bricked-up windows, excessive anonymity in appearance, and general drabness are all matters which go hand in hand with Masonic openness: they are more appropriate, however, for discussion in another subsidiary paper.
How should Freemasons relate to the Public
by W Bro B Malkinson PAGDC
MY ANSWER: "By example and communication: by the public work they do and by the written and spoken word".
MY ARGUMENT: Freemasons should relate to those who are not Freemasons 'Today - Tomorrow - 2000" by a greater acknowledgement of the value of communication in its many forms. Our secrets and our privacy have long since gone: why labour under the misapprehension, as some still do, that they are still with us? Let us now speak out.
Masonic principles and teachings make us aware of a quality of life that would not be ours but for our membership of the Brotherhood and this is often used to advantage in the community work in which many Freemasons are involved. Both the work and those responsible for it should, where appropriate, be made more widely known by better communication and by an even greater commitment should circumstances fairly warrant. In this way we could also relate from where our inner or differing strengths are derived.
In a dignified way which reflects those things we hold dear Brethren should emulate the work already being done by Grand Lodge and those Provinces that have a Public Relations and Press Officer and seek wider recognition of what our organisation stands for and in individual members do for others.
The national press now acknowledges some of the major non-masonic work that is done. At local level items of genuine news value are printed with increasing frequency. This does not cheapen the image of Freemasonry: it enhances it and also lets those who do not already know that the charitable work of Freemasonry is not just for Freemasons.
In a changing world some aspects of Freemasonry have been changed in recent years. How we relate to the public must also change and that change must be by more individual communication and more community endeavour outside our Lodges.
Rather than be accused of a vested interest by those who know I once worked within the media I asked several friends, all Freemasons involved in public life, how they thought Freemasons should relate to the public. This is what they had to say:
W BRO P CROSHAW (Insurance Broker)
Some Freemasons have difficulty in relating to the public which questions its motives and ideals. Membership of Rotary, the Lions, Round Table and similar organisations is readily acceptable because their work within local communities is known and without mystery. This should be countered by making the public more aware of the extensive non-masonic charity work done by Freemasons with, perhaps, the recipients of the larger donations making suitable acknowledgement. We do receive regular information of what monies are distributed but there appears to be a reluctance and suitable opportunity to discuss them. This reluctance is because the adverse publicity in recent years has suggested Freemasons are elitist who collaborate with each other in business life to the exclusion of others. The support for each other is part of our teaching, it will exist but no more so than within any other organisation or indeed sports and social club.
Adverse publicity follows the secrecy inherent in the Craft. The work within our ceremonies should continue to be so. We are not a secret society but a Society with secrets and membership of it should not be confidential. Unless we are more open in this regard recruitment to our ranks will continue to be difficult.
W BRO J A DANIELL (Service Industries - Manufacturing)
Brethren should at all times appear to others to be just and upright ensuring that the image of Freemasonry is not reported as a secret Society which itself breeds fear of the unknown. It should, however, acknowledge that like many service organisations it is a society with things it wishes to remain private.
Those who are not Masons should be made aware where possible of the many charities, large and small, that are supported by Freemasonry and made aware, not by vast advertising campaigns but by word of mouth or in the news columns of local newspapers. It is important to stress that while we support our own charities a vast number of those in receipt of monies are often not masonically connected.
Freemasons should make sure that it is more widely known that Freemasonry is not regarded as a substitute to religion but that it is based on belief in a Supreme being, which in many faiths is interpreted as God.
W BRO G F HODSON (Chief Fire Officer)
The ideals of Freemasonry have ever been and will always continue to inculcate into its members the philosophy of a spiritual, moral and philanthropic way of life that will help to promote the highest possible standards of the manner in which they conduct themselves towards the world and their fellow creatures. It is not sufficient merely to proclaim to the general public and those who are not Freemasons that the principles and tenets of Freemasonry which we try to incorporate into our general way of life are necessary but we must show to the world not just by words but by our actions and the very way we live and conduct ourselves in our daily lives that by so doing we are endeavouring to try in some small measure to make ourselves better persons and the world a better place in which to live.
W BRO J M MOREHEN (Practical and Scholarly Musician)
In our public relations we should remember that we are often highly respected for our charitable work, which is usually imperfectly understood, yet highly suspected for our privacy, often misconstrued as 'secrecy' which, too, is often misunderstood. Like many minority groups we are rarely observed and perceived with total impartiality.
And so, when we meet a Mason or a non-Mason alike we should behave as though to a Brother for even if he is not, he may tomorrow experience the joys of our Masonic fellowship. Even if he never participates in our fraternity, this does not make him in anyway unworthy of our Order. Many of us sought Freemasonry because men we knew and respected we understood to be Masons. Can we claim that, by our comportment, we have induced others to seek the Craft?
We should always remember that through our words and deeds we speak and act for several million members of our Order.
W BRO E H M SEAWARD (Civil Servant)
Freemasonry is not a society apart, it is a part of society. It represents stability and integrity in a constantly changing world. Sadly this is not the impression held by a substantial number of the general public. For too long too many of our members have hidden behind a pseudo secrecy which has put a barrier between ourselves and the public. Only by adopting a positive approach can we avert suspicion. It is unlikely that a high profile publicity campaign would of itself arouse much public enthusiasm towards us. It would be better tenaciously to use all opportunities to show what Freemasonry is and does and to combat the mischievous attacks made on us.
We need to be seen publicly to be continuing and expanding our help to non-Masonic charitable organisations and to gain publicity from joint ventures with them. We must emphasise our insistence on high levels of integrity in our members and similarly our intentions to disbar those who deliberately flaunt our principles. Above all we must have the courage of our convictions and be willing to show the public how these convictions can effectively relate to life today.
What is the "Mature Age" for a Freemason?
By W Bro. J.M.Hamill, PJGD
Librarian and Curator of Grand Lodge
In the questions between the First and Second Degrees in the English Craft rituals the candidate is asked:
Who are fit and proper persons to be made Masons?
to which he responds:
Just, upright and free men, of mature age, sound judgement and strict morals.
In various other parts of the three Craft ceremonies there are references to "mature age" but nowhere is a definition of that phrase given, although the candidate signs a declaration stating that he is of "the full age of twenty-one years" and verbally confirms that fact in lodge. To my mind that is correct, and the phrase "mature age" forms what might be called a calculated ambiguity, something which occurs with great regularity in the Constitutions and other official documents in England. Why calculated ambiguity? I think because there has always been a recognition in English Freemasonry that whilst our basic principles and tenets - our essential nature - cannot be changed, there are many customs and practices which can be changed, and at times must be changed if Freemasonry is to remain a valid and contributing part of the society in which it exists. What often appear to be tablets of stone are usually man made rules susceptible to change as society changes. Ambiguity may be anathema to Masonic constitutionalists but often is the means of saving a great deal of Grand Lodge and Committee time in changing those tablets of stone into workable rules.
Mature age is a perfect example of changeable custom in Freemasonry, not an immutable landmark. From the evidence of surviving By Laws of English lodges in the 18th century it would appear that then mature age was 25 years. At some point in the 18th century the Constitutions and Minutes of both of the English Grand Lodges then existing are silent on when - the age for candidates' entry dropped to 21 years, and has remained at that point ever since, although the MW The Grand Master has always had authority to grant dispensations to initiates under 21 years of age in special circumstances.
In other Grand Lodges the age of entry for candidates has settled at 21 years, though in some with the change in the legal age of majority their Constitutions have been altered to allow entry, without dispensation, at 18 years, the new age of majority. This has often been done on the basis that as 18 year olds have the right to vote, are capable of being taxed, and may be called up into the armed services in time of war they should therefore be entitled as a right to petition for admission into Freemasonry at that age. Those are false analogies.
When Freemasonry was organising itself there was no universal suffrage; England was in the happy situation of being ignorant of income tax (a ruse by William Pitt the Younger to pay for the Napoleonic Wars); anyone could be conscripted into service in time of war, and with life expectancy being short it was not unusual for 14 and 15 year old boys to be pressed into service. Nor does seeking for analogies in our operative forebears work. Apprenticeship in any craft usually started at 14 years and lasted for a period of seven years, the apprentice being at 21 years well trained and mature enough to work as a craftsman himself.
Concepts of maturity, then, are subject to change according to society's views. How then would we define maturity in Masonic context? The Oxford English Dictionary defines mature as being "complete in natural development, ripe; with fully developed powers of body and mind, adult; (of thought, intentions, etc) duly careful and adequate".
What Freemasonry requires of candidates is that they not only be physically adult but should also have sufficient intellectual maturity to be able to comprehend:
a. the seriousness of the step that they are taking
b. the principles and tenets of the Craft.
c. moral standards
d. the relationship between their duty to Freemasonry and their duties to God, the law, and society in general.
Any specialist in human biology or sociology can demonstrate how the average age for physical maturity has been dropping in this century. The same cannot be said for intellectual or moral maturity. There are some who are physically mature who may never be mentally mature, others may be physically mature in their teens but not reach mental maturity until their mid or late twenties.
A base line obviously has to be established to act as bar to over eager fathers introducing their sons at too early an age. Twenty one years of age would seem to be the ideal average as that is the age at which most have completed their education and should therefore have the maturity of mind to make serious decisions. But the arbiters of "mature age" are surely the lodge committee who interview the candidate. By their questions they should be able to assess not only the candidates innate worth but also whether or not he is mature enough to comprehend what Freemasonry means and how he will be expected to act as a Freemason.
FREEMASONS AND CHARITY by R.W.Bro. Col. G.S.H. Dicker P.G.M. Norfolk (and member of the Bagnall Committee)
It is quite impossible in a short paper to cover this vast subject adequately. Traditionally, Freemasons and Charity have always been inextricably linked. Without Charity Freemasonry would be meaningless.
Prior to 1973 there were four principal Masonic charities, the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls (RMIG), founded in 1788, the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys (RMIB), founded in 1798, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI), founded in 1842, and the Royal Masonic Hospital (RMH), founded in 1920. There was also the Fund of Benevolence, administered by Grand Lodge, and many other smaller charities within Provinces, Districts and individual Lodges, and within other Masonic orders.
Then in 1971 the Grand Master appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of R W Bro the Hon. Mr Justice Bagnall to review the whole operation of charity within the context of Freemasonry. This Committee reported in December 1973.
Following the publication of the Bagnall Report a number of changes took place. The RMIG and RMIB combined into the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (MTGB). The Boys' School a Bushey was closed, and the Girls' School at Rickmansworth became financially independent, with entry no longer restricted to children of Freemasons. The MTGB took on the responsibility for those children of masons who needed help, paying not only school fees at Rickmansworth and other schools, but also maintenance costs where appropriate. This arrangement has been highly successful - the Rickmansworth Masonic School flourishes, with about 650 girls of whom 470 are boarders, and the MTGB looks after more than 1400 children.
As a direct consequence of the Bagnall Report, the Fund of Benevolence was succeeded by the Grand Charity, which differed from its predecessor in a number of ways. It is financed from two main sources. It holds an annual festival, and there is what seems like a compulsory levy, which is expressed as a contribution; this at present is not less than 3.00 pounds from each brother of a London Lodge, and 2.50 pounds from each brother in a Province. It is open to Lodges to make larger contributions if they so wish. No such contribution is payable by a brother in a Lodge overseas. The Grant Charity makes substantial payments to petitioners, as did the Fund of Benevolence, and to other Masonic charities, and it also distributes over 1 pounds million a year to non-Masonic charities.
A further major change following the Bagnall Report was the merger of the RMBI and the RMH into the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick. This was not so successful. After a few years there was a de-merger, so that the RMBI reverted to its original practice of looking after the elderly, in 15 Homes throughout the country, and by way of direct annuities to Freemasons and their families with limited resources. The RMBI currently cares cs for over 1900 people by way of financial assistance with everyday living expenses, and some 900 are looked after in the Homes.
The RMH has not had a happy history in recent years. Bagnall forecast problems, and in 1984 a further Committee under the chairmanship of R W Bro the Hon. Mr Justice Drake reported that the Hospital was no longer providing the best way for the Foundation to fulfil its role, nor was it financially viable, and recommended that it should be disposed of, the proceeds of sale, together with other easting assets, being used to provide a fund from which assistance would in future be made to eligible needy sick Freemasons and their families. Although an attractive offer was received, a proposal to sell the Hospital was rejected, and the Hospital has continued to function, although its operating losses have been heavy. In 1990 plans were announced to create a new structure. The Hospital was to be managed by a newly formed company, The Royal Masonic Hospital Limited, which would presumably lease the premises from the RMH. The company was to be self financing, with all fees being paid in full. At the same time the old Samaritan fund, which had formed part of the funds of the RMH but had run out of money, was replaced by a new RMH Samaritan Fund, which is quite separate from the Hospital. The intention was, and indeed stiff is, that the New Masonic Samaritan Fund (NMSF) should support sick and needy masons and their dependants wherever they may be. The objects of the new Fund are wider than those of the old, and the benefits are not limited to patients at the Royal Masonic Hospital. It is intended that, as money becomes available, the Fund will be able to extend its work to relief generally based on the interests and needs of its petitioners.
But there are problems. The NMSF has started from scratch, and needs to raise a substantial amount of long term capital by way of endowment, in addition to money to run its operations from the start. It remains to be seen how far the NMSF will be able to go. From time to time consideration has been given to the establishment of a "Masonic sick fund", but this has generally been thought not to be practicable as an open ended project. In 1989 the Committee chaired by R W Bro I R Bryce recommend that although a national fund was not a viable proposition, every attempt should be made to extend the scope of the (then) Samaritan Fund. This has been started with the formation of the NMSF. Both the Drake Report and the Bryce Report clearly had in mind that there would only be limited resources available for helping sick and needy Freemasons.
Indeed, it has to be accepted that there is, and always will be, a limit to the amount that can be raised within masonry for charitable purposes. Bagnall, in a supplementary report not generally published, made the following observations:
"We conclude by reiterating that the funds for the support of Masonic charity are and will be limited. In modern jargon there is one "cake" to be shared. It will be more and more difficult to increase the size of the cake: indeed we think that the size will certainly diminish in terms of purchasing power, and possibly in absolute terms. We think that it must be an obligation of all Freemasons, and particularly those who have a voice in the control and management of the present Charities, to do their utmost to ensure that Masonic charitable funds are devoted to giving relief where it is most needed and that the costs of providing that relief are reduced to a minimum".
As regards the size of the "cake" referred to by Bagnall, it is not possible to be precise, particularly because of the variations from year to year through the festival system. However it is worth recording that in 1972, immediately prior to Bagnall, the total annual donations from members of the Craft to the principal charities were estimated at 2.2 million pounds, and the average for the five years up to and including 1972 amounted to 1.8 million pounds. It is difficult to assess what they are today, but a rough estimate, based on the last available accounts, is 9 million pounds.
Even if this current estimate is not quite accurate it does bear out what Bagnall suggested, before the days of high inflation. In January 1972 the RPI stood at 21, and in January 1992 it was 1355, so that prices have increased by a factor of 6.4. Applying this factor to the 1972 total of, say, 2.0 million pounds gives an amount of over 12.8 million pounds, which is certainly well in excess of what is now being contributed by the Craft to its charities. Another way of looking at the problem is to say that if each of 8,000 Lodges were to raise 1,600 pounds a year the total would amount to 12.8 million pounds, and this is the sort of figure which might be expected based on 1972 levels.
The above estimated figures do not include amounts raised within Provinces and Districts, and within individual Lodges, for their own Charities. Other Masonic Orders, notably the Mark Benevolent Fund, also raise, and spend, money for charitable purposes. Most, if not all, of these make contributions to non Masonic charities.
Mention has been made of the Festival system. Traditionally the three Institutions (RMIG, RMIB and RMBI) held annual Festivals, but the RMH did not. Now there are annual Festivals in aid of the MTGB, RMBI and the Grand Charity, but not for the NMSF. There are suggestions that the NMSF should hold an annual Festival. Festivals are planned, after consultations between the three Charities concerned, some ten years ahead, so that although a period of 4 - 7 years may be officially stated as the gestation period for a Province to support a Festival, in practice at any one time there are up to 30 Provinces working towards Festivals. Of the remaining 17 several are too small to provide direct support for Festivals, and London only rarely does so as an area, although London Lodges, support for Provincial festivals is considerable.
It is mainly because of the variations in size of the Provinces that it is difficult to assess the total amount raised annually.
Have we got our priorities right? At present the Charities vie against each other for support, with varying degrees of success. Each Charity can do with more money, and there is no limit to the amount which would be welcomed by non-Masonic charities, both at home and by those dealing with relief for overseas emergencies. Perhaps it is time to consider again some of the Terms of Reference of the Bagnall Committee:
1. To consider in the light of present economic and other circumstances whether the Charities are serving the interests of the Craft and achieving their several charitable purposes in the best possible manner.
2. To consider the several methods at present adopted for raising funds for the purpose of each of the Charities and whether any additional or alternative method or methods could be adopted.
3. To consider whether competition between the Charities in seeking funds or otherwise is in the best interests of the Craft and the Charities.
Are Masonic charitable funds being raised in the best possible way, and are they devoted to giving relief where it is most needed? These are the questions which we should be asking ourselves in 1992.
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
i) Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
by Miss Jane Reynolds, Chief Executive Officer, RMBI
The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution has provided services for older Freemasons and their dependants since 1842, concentrating latterly on the provision of mainly registered Residential Care accommodation (with some registered Nursing accommodation) for about 900 people in 15 Homes in England and Wales, and Annuities to approximately 1,900 people on very low incomes. More peripherally, it operates two Funds - The Good Neighbour Fund, to pay for holidays, and the Victor Donaldson Fund, to assist financially with repairs to Annuitants' own properties.
The arrival of the new Chief Executive in November 1991 coincided with a period of substantial change for the Institution, to adapt to the changing needs of Residents to comply with ever-increasing legislation and to develop existing services to be responsive to expressed needs from, and on behalf of, those Freemasons and their dependants wishing to remain in their own homes for as long as possible and practicable.
The Chief Executive's first and immediate task was to get a firm grip on her management responsibilities.
Subsequently, a number of initiatives are being launched which will help shape our strategy for the medium to long-term by testing fresh approaches to care, and providing new information.
Most of the Homes are very large, with the scope and perhaps the need to be subdivided into smaller sub-units to be commensurate with current patters of care provision.
Not all the Homes have registered Nursing accommodation within them. A rolling programme has been set up to tackle this. There is a likelihood that more beds in the other Homes will need to be registered for Nursing Care as time goes by, and Residents become more frail, in order to meet the Institution's stated aim of providing care for Residents until the end of their lives. There are both significant capital and revenue consequences of this need: the staffing levels in the Homes are, by and large, barely adequate at the present time, even when a large percentage of Residents are still fairly capable.
There is concern about some low occupancy levels of some of the Homes. Procedures are now in place to accelerate the procedure from referral to the individual taking up a place. Other strategies may need to be devised to fill empty Beds, or, alternatively, consideration will need to be given to deciding upon a different use for the empty space in the Buildings in question.
The Institutions key objectives are:
- To strive vigorously to provide the highest possible standards of care.
- To ensure occupancy levels in the Homes exceed the current levels, accelerating the processing of referrals and utilising virtually all the beds, allowing only the minimum to be kept to ensure flexibility.
- To operate the Homes at levels that achieve an appropriate recovery of running costs from Residents' Fees. - To ensure that staffing levels are commensurate with Residents' needs.
- To use the Homes as bases for new services - supporting people in their own homes - that will provide added value.
- To ensure that the workforce is appropriately skilled to undertaken the work, and that the staff feel valued by the Organisation.
- To run the Institution as efficiently as possible.
- To be responsive to changing needs.
To achieve these objectives, there are a number of major programme themes:
- achieving a better balance between Sheltered Accommodation, Residential Beds and Nursing Beds.
- improving communication with the Provinces to identify unmet needs.
- establishing close cooperation with our Statutory colleagues in the District Health Authorities and Social Services Departments.
- demonstrating openness to other views and influences.
- expanding into outreach services to support people in their own homes.
- developing staff to meet changing needs.
A Business Plan is being prepared; delivering it will require the Institution to manage change, in many cases significant, over the full range of our responsibilities. During this period, good communications will be essential, to keep staff, Residents, Annuitants and the Provinces informed of what we are doing and why. With efficient and effective management, we are sure that the Institution can face the many challenges that lie ahead with confidence.
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
ii) The Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
by W Bro Col R K Hind PSGD, Secretary MTGB
The Trust exists for the relief of poverty and advancement of education of any child of the family of a Freemason considered to be in need. There are no upper or lower age limits for these children and it is a principle that each child shall be supported until preparation for a working life has been completed. This prime task having been financed then authority exists to assist the education of any child, whether or not the child of a Freemason. This latter task has been discharged by answering appeals from non-Masonic charities operating in the same field of relief, for children in distressed and handicapped circumstances, where it can be established that funds so disbursed are for direct application to a child.
The most recent example of this latter form of relief is the joint venture with the Grand Charity in providing funds for the M W the Grant Master's Anniversary project, the construction of a village for the mentally handicapped. The Trust is making its largest donation so far to non-Masonic charity, 1/2 million pounds to provide the educational and training facilities in this CARE village.
Throughout all the changes in policy, management, and scale of relief, that have taken place in the life time of the former separate Institutions for Girls and Boys and now the Trust, the aim has remained constant for over two hundred years, to prepare the child for a working life. It follows that the length of time under the protection of the Trust can be considerable and the average is now in excess of eleven years.
The most significant change which took place on 1 January 1986 when the former Institutions merged with the MTGB, which then became the one operative charity concerned with children, was the ability to apply relief to a wider Masonic family, to the child of the family of a Freemason, that is to say, any child supported by a Freemason as though that child were his own, and found to be in need.
On the day the Trust became operative, a total of 366 girls and 390 boys came under its protection from the former Institutions and the direct support costs of those children and young people in that first year totalled 2.3 million pounds. On 1 May 1992, there were 799 girls and 796 boys under its protection at a forecast cost in the year of 6.4 million pounds.
The growth in number of children under the Trust's protection, from 756 in 1986 to the current level of 1,595, is due to a continually increasing number of new petitions. In the first year of operation there were 168 new petitions, a very high figure in relation to the number of children already under care. In the succeeding years the level of new petitions has been increasing at a rate of nearly 10% per annum. These factors have resulted in the number of children under protection more than doubling in 6 1/2 years, an average growth in numbers of near 13% per annum compound.
Growth in numbers and costs can be attributed to the following factors:
- Increased awareness within the Craft of the relief available to children of the larger Masonic family.
- Increase in the level of distress following the death of Freemasons having children in education coupled with the greater educational opportunities evadable and needed to fit children for a working life in this increasing technological age.
- Increase in life expectancy of and facilities for children having learning difficulties through mental or physical handicap.
- Increase in refinance on charitable relief to supplement State support for those in distressed circumstances.
- Increase in the rate of desertion by fathers having children of school age. - Inflation which affects all support costs in the home; food, clothing, materials, equipment and travel.
- The equal opportunities to be offered both girls and boys resulting in a common level of support and education costs.
- The psychological benefits in maintaining children at the school which they attended before the death of the father.
During the period, from 1986 to the present time, the average cost of each child's support has increased by nearly 7% per annum compound. When coupled with the increased numbers, this has resulted in an annual cost increase to the Trust of nearly 20% per annum, as evidenced by the increase from 2.3 million pounds in 1986 to the forecast cost of 6.4 million pounds in 1992.
On the other side of the balance sheet without allowing for possible reductions in donations due to the economic situation the future Festivals for this Trust to the year 2000 will produce an anticipated level of income well below that experienced in the last decade due to the size of the Provinces concerned. To this must be added a reduced level of investment income due to usage of capital reserves. It is forecast that within two years capital reserves will have to be used to sustain the present level of expenditure and should the growth in petition cases continue the effect on resources will become serious.
It was to meet the expressed wish of the Craft that relief was extended to the wider Masonic family in 1986. Experience in the brief 6 1/2 year life of the Trust directly influences the "Way Ahead" in the next decade. The growth in numbers and costs and the anticipated reduction in income and their influence on the application of the principle - applied for over two centuries - to prepare the distressed children of Freemasons in need for a working life, are the factors dominating planning activity in the Trust.
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
iii) The Grand Charity
by R W Bro Cdr M B S Higham PJGW, Secretary Grand Charity
1 The Grand Charity came into being on 1 January 1981. It succeeded the Board of Benevolence, which had descended from various committees formed by Grand Lodge since 1727 for the relief of distressed Freemasons.
2 The Grand Charity was intended as a charity which could be outward-looking and flexible, which could respond to any charitable need (not just Masonic) and which could at the same time continue as a first priority to help needy Freemasons and their dependents.
Comment. The aims could hardly be wider in a Masonic charity.
3 The Grand Charity derives its income from four sources:
a) donations and legacies - unpredictable
b) covenants - more predictable, and steady
c) dividends and interest - varying with the state of the stock market, and deriving from a capital fund which is not large
d) Festivals - varying from year to year, roughly in proportion with the size of the Festival Province.
Comment: These sources are like those of other Masonic charities, and their characteristics will be familiar.
A fifth source is the Grand Charity's own -
e) contributions from Lodges, increased from 1 January 1992 to the rate of 3.00 pounds per annum for each member of a London Lodge. (2.50 pounds in Provincial Lodges). These replace contributions from Grand Lodge's Fund of General Purposes to its Fund of Benevolence, capitation fees which until 1981 were extracted painlessly and almost unnoticed from Lodges as part of their annual dues to Grand Lodge.
Comment: The basic contribution is not large, but the method of collection is sometimes misunderstood. The change in 1981 was to emphasise the Grand Charity's constitutional independence and it may matter less now if the method were to revert although there might be tax repercussions. Either method involves all Freemasons in the Craft's central charity.
4 Petitioners Expenditure on the relief of needy Freemasons and their dependants is the first call on the Grand Charity's funds. Comment: This will continue
5 Contributions from a central charity to other Masonic charities were part of the Bagnall Committee's plan, and the Grand Charity has provided funds to help the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick and the New Masonic Samaritan Fund start their administrations; grants to the Royal Masonic Hospital and Masonic Housing Association, and grants or loans to Provinces to start or otherwise help with retirement homes or sheltered housing.
Comment: This form of assistance will continue, but guidelines on housing may have to become more fierce.
6 NON-MASONIC CHARITY
Apart from providing, as did the old Board of Benevolence, relief for natural disasters at home and overseas, the Grand Charity has made major grants, often as a series over five years, to non-Masonic charities, and often (as in grants for combatting drug dependence for hospices and for helping mentally handicapped adults) in advance of support from the government or the general public.
Comment: This part of the rand Charity's activities shows that Freemasons care for other apart from their own people, and play a responsible part in identifying and meeting the needs of society at large.
7 RELIEF CHEST SCHEME
Since 1986 the Relief Chest Scheme has pooled charitable funds so that Lodges and Provinces achieve maximum return on investments while retaining control over expenditure. One in four London Lodges; one in 6 1/2 Provincial Lodges, one in 5 Provinces have chests.
Comment: Pooling resources without losing control is obviously sensible. Growth in numbers involved is steady, but should be encouraged.
8 GENERAL COMMENT
Expenditure should not outpace income, or the capital base becomes even smaller. The Grand Charity's spending on petitioners has for the last seven years exceeded contributions from Lodges, and in 1991's recession was nearly twice as much. Festivals are now an important source of funds for the Grand Charity (as well as providing valuable contacts with members) but income from them fluctuates. Without a large capital base, the Grand Charity relies heavily on contributions to balance its spending. One might hope that the general level of spending has the Craft's approval - might the Craft not also persuade itself that 5.75p a week per member of a London Lodge or 4.8p a week in a Provincial Lodge was a little low?
Masonic Charities - the way ahead?
iv) New Masonic Samaritan Fund by Bro. Lt Col S G Overton, Secretary NMSF
The main draft paper reviews the ethos and historical aspect of Masonic Charities, rehearses the "cake" theory and identifies the diminishing buying power trend of income generated within the Craft and Masonic Charities. It also touches on the potential for conflict between Provinces and Masonic Charities in fundraising activities. It neither seeks to present a radical review with options and proposals for change, and how to manage it or discuss the question of raising and allocating funds on a needs basis. It is however a most useful and constructive document to stimulate discussion. The 275th Anniversary Conference, therefore, needs to consider the present situation and its problems, the basis of raising and allocating funds and whether these require modification, re-structuring or radical revision.
The principle requirement for providing charitable relief is surely First to establish the need of the individual applicant within the parameters and framework of the objects and criteria of the particular Fund concerned. From this, the level of relief can be assessed and given. Similarly, at the level of the Masonic Charities themselves, due regard must surely be given to the comparative needs and requirements of each Fund/Charity and its ability to generate and allocate sufficient funds for relief. These need to take into account any special needs, eg. for capital reserves and resources, as well as annual income requirement. The Charities should also be regarded as a business in terms of efficiency and operational planning and run accordingly. Thus the need assessment should be incorporated into a short, mid and long term budget analyses taking into account the expected demand, the cost and frequency of benevolence to be given, the assets and resources already held, and the shortfall/requirement thereon. It represents forecasts, comparisons, budgets, business plans and maximising scarce resources. Thus the size of the "cake" and allocation thereof should not be based arbitrarily on independent fundraising effort, but a breakdown of the corporate Charities needs and equitable allocation and distribution of resources using immediate, mid and long term requirement forecasts. Moreover, if a quantitive assessment of demand is taken by viewing the quarter of a million Craft members and their 2-5 million dependants along with the four Charities on an age/life bar.
The New Masonic Samaritan Fund Charity can be identified as having a prime requirement.
PASt AND PRESENT
The Inception of the Fund arose from the financial difficulties experienced by the Royal Masonic Hospital (RMH) and Old Samaritan Fund (OSF). Dependence on both had declined within the Craft by 1990 due to the establishment of excellent National Health Service and Private Hospital facilities, with related after care services, throughout the domain, especially in the far flung Provinces, i.e. Cornwall, Devon and Durham.
The Fund was thus incorporated on 28 November 1990 as an independent Charity of equal status with her Sister Masonic Charities to provide support and relief for sick, infirm and needy Freemasons and their dependants suffering pain, hardship and distress. Relief is applied through a petitioners process utilising Lodge and Provincial Almoners (or Provincial equivalents). The criteria for relief is based on a medical need, financial hardship, lack of availability of timely treatment through the National Health Service and social/family need. Successful petitioners are funded at their most appropriate and normally cost effective hospital/establishment, including the RMH, acting as provider units on a countrywide basis. In the case of overseas Districts, treatment may be in the UK or eventually provided under local overseas arrangements where available. From 1 August 1991 to the 30 April 1992 the NMSF supported 350 successful petition applicants at 80 different hospitals from Provinces countrywide and Districts at a cost of 1.1 million pounds representing an average of 3,142 pounds per case. This does not include the interim arrangements funded by Grand Charity via NMSF for committed OSF patients at the RMH between March and July 1991. Treatments have been predominantly orthopaedic, eye cataracts, urology and heart by-pass, all of which suffer from overlong NHS waiting lists. Demand on the Fund, still in its infancy, can be expected to greatly increase in the future.
The Fund is currently endeavouring to enter into discussions with our sister Charities in respect of interface petition case situations.
Funding for our applicants has come from the 2.75 million pounds accruing from the Cornwallis Appeal (which had a target of 6 million pounds) and a 1 million pound start up grant from Grand Charity. Much of the latter was used up on the OSF interim arrangements. The Appeal preparation time and publicity was minimal before launch which has had the misfortune to run concurrently with a severe recession. Hence, on this basis, the result must be considered reasonably successful despite the fact that some funds have also undoubtedly been held back due to initial confusion and concern over the Fund's relationship with the RMH.
The critical problem facing the NMSF is identifying the source and expediting the generation of sufficient income to fund our immediate, mid and long term needs. The Fund considers it needs a minimum guaranteed annual income budget of 2.5 million pounds, including operating costs, to meet the level of applicants experienced so far. This incorporates paring organisation costs to the minimum and maximising the effective, efficient and economic use of assets and resources. The maximum amount of monies must be devoted to benevolence. We can also expect, as knowledge of the Fund increases (it is still very much in a start up phase), the number of applicants, particularly dependants to increase. At the same time, the cost of private treatment for medical, dental and health care will continue to escalate. It is also unlikely, even with any additional Government funding or management initiatives, NHS waiting lists will be eradicated. The income accruing from the OSF, the expenditure of which has been controlled by the NMSF since August 1991, has rapidly diminished as covenants have tailed off and have either not been renewed or have been re-allocated elsewhere. The Provinces and Charities vie for funds, with potential conflicts only averted by the disciplines imposed by the Festival system, from which the NMSF is omitted. The latter is a serious disadvantage to the NMSF in comparison with her Sister Charities. Thus, the NMSF has no dedicated source of funding. The NMSF must be considered in potential crisis!
The question is how do we identify and secure our slice of the cake? Will this be realised through an arbitrary allocation of resource based on individual Charity Appeals effort in a restricted market, or be based on an agreed slice of the "cake"?
Will income raised meet our immediate annual operational requirements as well as provide capital for investment to create reserves for future beneficiaries? It may not! Certainly, and unlike the OSF, we can only spend what we receive whereas pain, suffering and hardship, on the contrary, cannot be turned on and off.
The present fundraising position of NMSF is largely based on the status quo. Therefore, instead of assessing the overall requirements of NMSF including its initial non-requiring capital needs, and working out how best this can be raised, NMSF fundraising has been largely "grafted on" to the established fundraising arrangements of the existing Charities. As a result NMSF remains outside the capital and income raising benefits derived from being within the Festival system. The Cornwallis Appeal was therefore necessarily concentrated within London and on Provinces which had not already undertaken Festival requirements or which were not committed to local Provincial fundraising efforts. Now that the Appeal is over, there is therefore, no ongoing arrangements so that Provinces are being requested to consider short term one or two year appeals where they do not have Festival requirements. These are subject to Provincial conflicting demands and the stated proviso that the NMSF fundraising should not operate to the detriment of the established fundraising of more financially secure and income guaranteed sister Charities. We have no special rights in London. Many in the Craft, anyway, believe that a London Festival would not work, but that a direct Appeal may have some merit.
In the mid term, the short Festival approach may prove to be reasonably successful in creating sufficient turnover income but not a capital reserve. This could be a wildly over optimistic perception! Whatever, and in the short term, (remember Festivals are planned over ten years in advance) they will be difficult and costly to organise and manage relative to the return. Even coupled with some commitment from London Lodges, this will probably not, by itself, pragmatically meet the assessed need and financial requirements for the next few years.
Many of the Provinces have expressed concern over the present effectiveness of the Festival system. The time is seemingly ripe for a radical review of utilising vision, imagination and candour. Recommendations, when implemented, will take us into the next century and beyond. The 275th Anniversary Conference represents an ideal catalyst and opportunity to embark on this venture. In the meantime, many find it difficult to understand why the NMSF, being the newest Masonic Charity and most in need, should not be treated on an equal basis by being brought immediately into the Festival system as opposed to being left to fend for itself in isolation. They believe that vested interests should not rule, rather a comparison of needs dictate when cutting the cake. In the immediate future, if it is to survive, the Fund will need to be supported by three or four mini-festivals per year plus ad-hoc support from London.
What is the way ahead? What are the options? Is there any radical option for change which will assure the future of all Masonic charitable elements making up the "cake" including Provinces internal needs? How do we negate rivalry and conflict? How best to manage change and in what time frame?
The following ideas have been proposed for consideration:
1 That Festivals should be for a fixed period announced not more than 12 months before the commencement of the Festival.
2 That Festivals might be more frequent, eg. 4 year Festivals and spread over all 4 major Masonic Charities (ie. tax benefit based).
3 Specific fundraising efforts should be directed at London Lodges both generally and in groups.
4 That the Festival system might be more standardised with a percentage of the funds raised, say 20%, available within the Province or at the nomination the PGM and say, half to be a named Masonic Charity on a rotational basis with the balance into a general Masonic "Foundation" for allocation amongst the Masonic Charities or non-Masonic Charities based on bids for grants based on need.
5 NMSF to be brought into the Festival system instead of Grand Charity, but for a percentage of every Festival to go to Grand Charity with flexibility for Grand Charity to make grants to assist Masonic and non-Masonic Charities according to need.
Whilst many feel that the success of the Festival system can be attributed to the appeal of the particular Masonic Charity for whom the Festival is directed, others consider that it is the Provincial effort and the appeal by the PGM and the Provincial Officers which achieves success. Against this, some in the Province may wish to continue to support other Charities and are therefore faced with a conflict of interest. It is considered, therefore, that, if the Festival system includes some basis on which the funds raised can be made available as part of the "the cake", then the Festival fundraising can be seen, to that extent at least, to be capable of being allocated equitably and fairly etc.
The benefit to the Craft is that the "cake" is seen in the whole, as apportioned equitably and fairly on a needs basis, reserves, assets and resources are maximised throughout and further income is generated through centralised investment. Additionally, the Provinces, as the fundraisers and providers, are involved in its use and allocation. Conflict and competition is removed.
In conclusion, a four year "short" Festival on behalf of all Masonic Charities has great appeal to all. No one wins, no one loses, benevolence (relief is maximised, Masonic Charities become one large interrelated business plan, and Masonic harmony is maintained within the Craft. The virtues of wisdom, truth and brotherly love indeed!
The NMSF, in particular, was established by the Craft and is "in need". It behooves the Craft to ensure success in that the Fund has a reasonable and equitable means of fundraising to guarantee adequate income and reserves to resource relief and benevolence for those in real need. Radical change is appropriate. The time is right to implement it. The Conference is well placed to consider and commence the process of change. Celer et audax.
Masonic Charities - the way ahead? Should Lodges do more for local charities? by W Bro A C Gregory PJGD
Should Lodges do more for non-Masonic Charities? At first sight, one would imagine that such a straightforward question would elicit one of two simple answers, namely "yes" or "no", closer examination of the question however, casts doubt on whether it is straightforward, or if the answer is simple. An extremely interesting and lively debate could be initiated if the topic was put to some of our lodges, particularly in some of the provinces: and if put to the vote only a brave man would hedge his bets on the result.
This paper, therefore, is an attempt to present the argument for supporting non-Masonic charities, and thereby provide an answer to the question in the title which Freemasons in our Constitution will feel disposed to consider and act upon.
Charity is of course one of the principal corner stones on which our Order is built. When we "make" a Freemason it is stated in the North East Cornerstone "Charge" that the candidate has "no doubt felt and practised charity". In the same charge he is told that should he ever meet a brother in distressed circumstances who might solicit his assistance, he should "remember that peculiar moment when he was received into masonry" and cheerfully embrace the opportunity of practising that virtue which he has professed to admire.
Our candidate is left in no doubt as to where his charity should be directed, namely to his brother. But who is his "brother"? When the allegorical meaning of the working tools in the first degree are explained, he is then told that he should spend part of the day "serving a friend or brother in time of need". Who then, should be the recipient of his charity, his "friend" or his "brother" if a choice has to be made? Many brethren will (and do) quote their initiation ceremony when discussing the question of financial donations at Lodge Committee meetings, and the expression "Charity Begins at Home" means just that to many Freemasons who have, quite rightly embraced the North East Cornerstone Charge directive. More than one argument regarding the disposal of the Lodge Charity Account has developed from such reasoning and there are Freemasons who will say their donations to charity have been subjected to misappropriation if they are given to a cause other than a Masonic charity.
It is conceivable that we have ourselves created the situation that can cause a brother to vote against a donation to a non-Masonic charity. History tells us that Freemasonry originated as part of a self help movement amongst groups of local stonemasons: very likely the birth of trade groups and philanthropic societies. This, coupled with our teaching in the first degree, gives a powerful argument to the "Keep-it-in-the-family" faction.
However, the Masonic scholar can also present the supporters of non-Masonic charities with historical arguments. In the first degree ceremony the conspicuous Jacobs Ladder on the tracing board is referred by A F A Woodford as "pointing to the connexion between earth and heaven, man and god, and to represent faith in God, charity towards all men, and hope in immortality". Not necessarily a strong argument, but one which could be enlarged on by those experienced in debating circles.
It must be accepted that we live in a changing world, and changes there have been and will continue to be in all facets of society, not least Freemasonry. Chapter 9 in John Hamill's book "The Craft", presents an excellent portrayal of the changes in Masonic charity since the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. Even changes he describes now require amendment as the book was published in 1986, and there have been some sweeping developments since then. The last two years (1990/91) saw the birth of the New Samaritan Fund: and the references to the Royal Masonic Hospital in Bro Hamill's book now bear witness to the fact that even in 1970, warning signals were on the horizon as to the hospital's future. There is a salutary lessen to be learned from the RMH "experience" and one which can add weight to the argument for supporters of non-Masonic charities.
The findings of the Bagnall committee, and the much more recent Bryce Committee, have done (and are doing) much to update our charities and how we administer them. The problems of the RMH should surely illustrate that the monks we raise are better donated to those bodies which are "up and running" and established and experienced in their particular field of activity: and it is this argument which should do most to sway the vote in favour of those lodges and brethren who support non-Masonic charities and organisations.
In 1967 600,000 pounds was raised to form a trust fund for medical research as part of the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Grand Lodge. Now, twenty five years on, we are to donate 2,550,000 pounds to four charities active in the field of work for mentally handicapped adults, to celebrate the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge and the 25th anniversary of our Grand Master's installation. Surely this donation will do much to further the work of those who are experienced and established - especially in a time of economic difficulties when all charitable organisations are undergoing problems with regard to their income.
So to attempt our answer. We are all aware of the support which Grand Charity gives to National organisations, and these figures and details are circulated to every member of the Craft. Brethren are thus well aware of how their donations to Grand Charity are dispensed. However, the Provinces and Districts in their own way, help and support local organisations, in addition to answering the numerous "one off" cries for help. These can range from a hospital scanner unit appeal to help with a donation for a new roof on the local scout hut. To help with local "natural" disasters or some help with a Christmas party for senior citizens.
The author of this paper recently stood down as secretary to the second largest province in the English Constitution. The Province has a Masonic benevolent institution, a registered company which, in many ways, developed along similar lines to the Grand Charity. R W Bro LeGendre Nicholas Starkie was Provincial Grand Master from 1870/99 and his special interest lay in the development of the original society. He was affectionately known as it's "Father". The work of the institution is primarily for the relief of those members of the Order and their dependents within the Province, and it has it's own residential home for elderly masons and their wives, widows and other dependent relatives. The Committee of Benevolence is responsible for the relief of those in need, and the onward transmission of petitions to Grand Charity and the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys if additional assistance is necessary. Every year dependents are taken on holiday, and the young people's committee ensures the welfare of dependent children is not forgotten.
In recent years, however, the support of non-Masonic charities has become a growing feature of the Institution - and by no means to the detriment of the brethren and/or their dependents in the Province, who fall on hard times. A fair comparison with Bro Hamill's description of the development of Grand Charity in the last twenty years can be made at this particular provincial level. Because of this growth in support of non-Masonic charities at National and Provincial level, support within the lodges has automatically ensued. Many Masters decide on a charity "project" at the commencement of their year in office, rather like the local mayor: and a proportion of the monies raised are donated to a local cause or causes.
Present and future generations of Freemasons are living in a world which sees vast amounts of money donated through other National organisations, television appeals, and the like: and they see their lodge as a "vehicle" to exercise their own enthusiasm for fund raising in their own locality.
If we are to encourage our order to go forward into the next millennium with an enthusiasm for caring and "serving friend and brother in time of need", then surely there is a strong case for encouraging our Lodges to do more for non-Masonic charities.
The emphasis, however, must be on encouragement and not direction. The former will achieve both satisfaction and success. The latter approach will create resentment, and thereby provide further fuel for our critics.