ISSUE 15, October 2005
Historic: Nelson and Freemasonry
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's Speech
Grand Lodge: Quarterly Communication
Hurricane Katrina: Grand Charity Relief Chest
Royal Arch: John Knight
Masonic Embroidery: A stitch in time...
Travel: Walzing along the Danube
Specialist Lodges: Martial arts
Library & Museum: The two Freemasons' Halls
    Anniversary: Jersey's Liberation
Anniversary: Dorset's 225 years
Obituaries: Lord Swansea OSM
Pro Grand Master: Whither directing our course?
Charmian Hussey: A Mason's wife on Masonry
International: The Grand Lodge of Israel
Education: Sheffield's big plans
Education: Forthcoming events
Education: The Second Degree
Masonic Charities
Letters, Book Reviews, Gardening

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Whither directing our course

Every Mason should carefully read and digest the speech to the Cornerstone Society of the Pro Grand Master, the Marquess of Northampton, reproduced on pages 41-45 of this issue.
     It is a wake-up call to the Craft, and sets out what needs to be done to make Freemasonry relevant in the 21st century – indeed, to survive. In essence, every Mason has a duty to promote the tenets of the Craft to non-Masons. Its future lies in our hands. Lord Northampton underlines the absolute essential of educating not only Masons but the wider general public into the meaning and substance of Freemasonry.
     He writes: “If we all make the effort to explain Masonry to laymen in suitable terms we could really make a difference to the way we are perceived. Above all, we must stress how enjoyable it is. The brotherhood will surely come to an end if it ceases to be fun.”
     One problem is that too many Masons are still reluctant to talk about the Craft – even if they think they are competent enough to do so. As Lord Northampton explains: “The time has come to talk openly and freely about our rituals with anyone who is interested, as long as we take care not to dilute the effect the ceremonies will have on future candidates.”
     Crucially, he points out that Masons need to spend more time on why Freemasonry was formed than on when. This is where, first, the education of Masons themselves comes in, and the proposal for Lodges to appoint Orators to provide well-written papers takes on added significance.
     After all, if Masons cannot explain to themselves the raison d’être of Masonry, how can they tell the uninitiated wider world? As Lord Northampton rightly puts it, doing nothing is not an option.
     This call to action from the Pro Grand Master is in the light of some stark statistics which he reveals in his article. English Freemasonry has lost at least 40% of its membership in 30 years, although that decline has slowed in the past two years.
     However, in the same period the number of Lodges has increased, but far too many have too few members. Candidates are raced through the three Degrees without properly understanding them, and into the various offices right up to the Chair with barely a pause for breath.
     Meanwhile, the number of initiates has fallen 30% in the past ten years, and in the next 25 years English Freemasonry could have shrunk by half – one Lodge in every two will have disappeared.
     So, while it is essential to bring more men into Masonry, it is also essential to put more Masonry into men. Every Lodge should now discuss how it intends to improve that education, every Province needs to have a programme of education in hand – and many are already hard at work in this area.
     That “daily advancement in Masonic knowledge” to which all Masons have signed up now takes on added meaning – and urgency.

Media warning

Notice should be taken of the strong advice from the Board of General Purposes (see p12) about approaches to and from the broadcast media about Freemasonry.
     Basically, while it is not intended to prevent Masons voicing their views, it is best to contact either the Communications Department at Freemasons’ Hall or the Provincial Information Officer first.
     In particular, brethren are asked not to voluntarily approach the media to solicit coverage. It is important that Masons who do go on such programmes are experienced and properly briefed beforehand.
     This applies whether the programmes are going out nationally or locally. It is important that anyone taking part in such programmes has received the due authorisation to do so.
     There has been a renewed interest in Freemasonry by the broadcast media, so never forget that, as Masons, we have all been taught to be cautious.

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