ISSUE 18, July 2006
Editorial
Archbishop Fisher: A Godly man and a Brother
Travel: The train takes the strain
Quarterly Communication: Annual Investiture speech by the Grand Master and Speech of the Pro Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech by the First Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes Grand Lodge of New York: Speech by the Pro Grand Master
   Specialist Lodges: Keeping their eyes on the ball
Education: Planning ahead for the Chair and Events and New premises for Masonic research
Royal Opera House: A right Royal occasion
Royal opening: Beamish Museum
Digital records: Saving our past for the future
Library & Museum: The hall in the garden
Queen's Birthday: Masons played a prominent part
International: A Mason and the Foreign Legion
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity and NMSF and RMBI and RMTGB
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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    Numbers in themselves are not that important. In many cases the only reason we need large memberships is to finance the large buildings we have inherited from our predecessors and to continue to fund the many charitable programmes they started.
    What surely matters is the quality of the men we bring into Freemasonry, the moral and spiritual lessons they learn from their Masonry and practice in their lives, and what they, in turn, put back into the Order.
    In England over the last 20 years we have suffered from a great deal of spiteful attacks on the Craft. This has had a considerable effect on men in certain professions from which we traditionally drew quality candidates and future leaders. It became clear that joining Freemasonry was not a smart career move.
    To counter these attacks we began a programme of much greater openness and persuaded our brethren that there was much in Freemasonry of which they could be justifiably proud and about which they should talk to their families and friends.
    In promoting openness we stressed our charitable work and the effect it has on our local communities. In this we have been almost too successful and Freemasonry has been perceived as simply another major charitable organisation, with even our members at times forgetting the other two Great Principles of Brotherly Love and Truth.
    Explaining Charity is easy, it has tangible results. Explaining philosophical concepts such as Brotherly Love and Truth is much more difficult because they can be understood on many different levels.
    We describe Freemasonry as a very personal journey of self-discovery leading to self-knowledge. It is a journey which aims to make the individual a better person, and thereby able to lead a more fulfilling life and be of more use to his fellow man.
    Freemasonry has many virtues, but one which I have encouraged our members to use to promote our Order is tolerance. There can be few other organisations in today’s world that practice the degree of tolerance we find in the Craft – accepting all men of good faith. We are not concerned with a candidate’s nationality, colour or social status, nor with his religious or political persuasion. We care only that he has a belief in a Supreme Being, has a general desire for knowledge and wants to be of service to others.
    We also require candidates to have what our Emulation ritual describes as ‘a perfect freedom of inclination’ – our forebears who wrote our rituals realised that to be openminded is a prerequisite for an Order which teaches us to be open-hearted.
    I am often asked in England whether Freemasonry is relevant to modern society. I firmly believe that it is more relevant today than at any time in the past. We live in an increasingly selfish and materialistic world in which basic moral values are regularly challenged or ignored. Freemasonry, with its insistence on high standards of conduct and its practice of tolerance, is a much needed counter-balance and provides a moral and spiritual anchor for men at a time of great uncertainty. It also teaches them leadership qualities which are so needed by society nowadays.
    Trust is another Masonic characteristic which we should be emphasising to potential candidates and others. It is linked to our first Grand Principle, Brotherly Love, is one of the lessons of our Third Degree story, and is the mortar with which the trowel binds us together. You do not have to be a Mason for very long before you learn first hand the importance of trusting and being trusted.
    Developing qualities of tolerance, trust and discrimination leads us eventually to wisdom and Truth. Truth, our third Grand Principle, is at once the lowest rung on the Masonic ladder when it is solely concerned with morality and the highest rung when it is considered as an aspect of Divinity.
    Truth depends on our sense of what is true for us personally and for that we must listen to our conscience, the voice of nature.
    The principles and virtues of Freemasonry, as taught in our rituals, have much to offer a society in need of tolerance and trust.
    If we are to attract younger men into Freemasonry we have to be clear about what Freemasonry is for and be willing to discuss with them the principles on which it is founded and their relevance to modern day life. Young men nowadays shy away from dogma and doctrine and are educated in a way that makes them question everything before they do it. Freemasonry has no dogma or doctrine: it is a system which teaches us the process by which we can become more enlightened.
    If we wish to encourage more men to join us we must be able to answer their questions in contemporary language and in a way that inspires them. And once they do join, we must put all our efforts into retaining them by helping them to bond with the other members of their lodge, and giving them something worthwhile to do as soon as possible after their initiation.
    We have been gradually putting these ideas into practice in England and in my travels at home over the last year I have sensed a new spirit of optimism. We are still losing members at an average of 1% a year, but the annual intake of new initiates appears to be stabilising at about 8,500.
    It is early days yet and we will continue to look at new ideas to strengthen our message and make the public more aware of our existence. We should not be afraid of change or of new ideas. For over 400 years Freemasonry has had the ability to adapt itself to a changing society without altering its Grand Principles or Landmarks.
    Provided we remain centred, manage change and allow ourselves to listen to the “voice of nature” I believe we can continue to provide what is undoubtedly the largest and best known male initiatory system in the world today.
    MW Grand Master, it has been four years since Pamela and I last visited your Grand Lodge and as always it has been a real pleasure to be with you again in New York.
    Thank you for your outstanding hospitality and the warmth of your welcome, and may the happy relationship between our two Grand Lodges and our two countries long continue.


The Citation presented to Lord Northampton



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