ISSUE 14, July 2005

The King and the Craft
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Grand Master and Speech of the Pro Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech of the Pro First Grand Principle and Report of the Committee of General Purposes Grand Lodge dues: Message from the President of the Board of General Purposes
    Masonic Housing: Major changes Finance: Choosing an investment manager Travel: Tantalising Tunisia Goose and Gridiron: Historic Masonic unveiling Extravaganza: Hollywood comes to Grand Lodge Masonic Events: Day of Fun and Medical, University and Legal Lodges' Festival Education: Sheffield Masonic Library and Forthcoming events and The Entered Apprentice Specialist Lodges: Revving up to success and where eagles dare International: The horror of Phuket and Grand Charity team visit disaster area Library and Museum: Fraternal societies Masonic Charities: NMSF and RMBI and RMTGB and Grand Charity
Obituaries, Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Star Letter
Lodge numbers

I refer to the Star Letter (MQ, Issue No 13), from Cyril Zipson. At the West London Masonic Centre (WLMC) in Ealing, numbers attending Lodge and Chapter meetings have been declining for many years. This has been successfully offset by Lodges moving to the Centre from e.g., the Thistle Hotel at Lancaster Gate and the Duke of York’s Barracks.
    However, immediately following the formation of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, the decline has steepened, and since 2002 there has been a decline in excess of 15% in numbers attending meetings at WLMC.
    In 1994, of the Lodges meeting at WLMC, 64% had average attendances of over 30 per meeting, but this had reduced to 15% in 2004. In 1994, no Lodges meeting there had average attendances of less than 15 per meeting, but in 2004, some 27% had average attendances of less than 15 per meeting. It would seem that Brethren from the Provinces are increasingly reluctant to travel into London.
    It concerns us that the increase in Grand Lodge dues and Grand Charity contribution planned for introduction in 2006 may exacerbate this decline and accelerate the number of London Lodges and Chapters that choose to amalgamate or close, returning their Warrants, and be the catalyst for Brethren to reduce multiple Lodge memberships.
    This may prove a classic case of the “Law of Diminishing Returns”: i.e., increases in dues, but fewer Masons to pay them and reduced income. In the annual UGLE accounts, income from Lodges reduced by 5% from 2003 to 2004, but the number of Lodges in London and the Provinces were very little changed (–0.7%).
    Perhaps the Board of General Purposes should look at other ways of increasing income, or reducing expenditure, as we are doing at the WLMC.

Michael Casey, Director and Treasurer, West London Masonic Centre, Ealing

Costs for elderly members

I wholeheartedly support the star letter of Cyril Zipson (MQ, Issue No. 13), particularly for its penultimate paragraph, which accurately and very succinctly mirrors the circumstances in which many elderly brethren unfortunately find themselves.
    I have been a continuously subscribing member of my Mother Lodge since 20th June 1957. I am not carping, and what I have given in the past has been with a good heart, and it has been an honour and a pleasure to have so given when in receipt of a regular monthly pay cheque.
    However, having been retired for 18 years, the cost of my Masonic membership is not as easily borne as it once was, and this applies to many in the Craft.
    Perhaps the time has come for our great fraternity to show its elderly members a little of the charity and compassion for which it is rightly known and recognised throughout the world.
    Could not Grand Lodge set up a committee to produce some innovative proposals to deal with this problem? No elderly Brother would take lightly the decision to leave his Mother Lodge, but what is the alternative?
    Morris Walker, Lymington, Hampshire

Attendance problems

I refer to the letter by Cyril Zipson (MQ, Issue No. 12), and fully endorse his comments regarding the proposed increases in Grand Lodge and Grand Charity dues. As a Provincial Mason who has been involved in the management of my local Masonic Centre for several years, I have seen a steady decline in the numbers attending their Lodge.
    As the treasurer of the Centre, I have seen many increases in our outgoings which are passed on to Lodges. All these increases have been well ahead of inflation and, combined with poor attendances at Lodges, have caused problems for the Centre management.
    Part of our strategy was to review the overhead expenditure and to reduce it as far as possible. Surely Grand Lodge has some fat that can be trimmed?
    I know that a number of Brethren are considering reducing the number of Lodges to which they belong. This will have a negative effect on both Grand Lodge income and that of other Masonic Centres, where rents are based on Lodge Numbers.
    We could be on the verge of a vicious circle, with resignations and consolidation of Craft membership leading to further increases and further resignations.
    John H. Dilloway,

A secretary replies

I am sure that there was no intention of the Board of General Purposes in their missive (MQ, Issue No. 13) or of your cartoon in your editorial, of all Lodge secretaries being boring, in any of the many administrative duties they perform.
    Not the least of these is reading the minutes. I am, however, sure that some, including yours truly, were a little nonplussed and frustrated by your comment, “Reading out the minutes, often at length, to a bored meeting, anxious to get on with the real business of the Lodge”.
    What is the “Real business of the Lodge”? You are missing a fundamental aspect of any regular Masonic meeting – the record of what actually happened.
    This is important and should be accurately penned for future reference. Whilst a little judicious pruning will go a long way to ensuring that Bro. Secretary continues to capture the interest of the Brethren in his delivery, there are still many Brethren, including their visitors, who like to hear the minutes read.
    There is also the additional cost of postage to consider. Your cartoon, “Rabitting on and on....” did not show at least three out of the four esteemed Brethren wide awake and enthralled by what the secretary was saying (the other Brother listening with his eyes closed to aid concentration), as occurs in my Lodge.
    On saving time, what objections are there to holding one ballot to include candidates for Initiation, a Joining Member and an Honorary Member together? There is an absolute block on the practice, which would save about 20 minutes.
    Brian Dobson, Christchurch, Dorset  

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