It is said that young men have no interest
in Freemasonry, that such formality is alien
to youth and that the minimum age for
initiation is ‘the full age of 21 years’. The
trouble with generalisations such as these
is that, generally, they are misleading.
We need to challenge the mantra; if
we don’t, we are ignoring our own history
and missing an important opportunity.
My hypothesis is that young men come
in all shapes and sizes and that, perhaps
surprisingly, large numbers are indeed
interested in Freemasonry.
Those Masons lucky enough to have
come across either Apollo University Lodge
or Isaac Newton University Lodge will
know very well that these two hugely
successful Lodges attract substantial numbers
of initiates every year from undergraduates at
their two great universities. Both Apollo at
Oxford and Isaac Newton at Cambridge
have, in their own very different ways,
proved to the Masonic world that young
men can and do make exceptional
Freemasons, producing many of the leaders
of the English Craft today. And there is
nothing hypothetical about that.
Likewise, age itself is not a barrier.
Provincial Grand Masters have the authority
to dispense with the traditional minimum
age for initiation, as they have been doing
for many years. This is no longer the rarity
that it once was, and may well one day beg
the question of the need for the continued
existence of the regulation.
That may make clear why the Assistant
Grand Master, David Williamson, has set
up the Universities Scheme. That, and the
fact that at present less than 800 of the many
thousands of English Masons are under 25.
We live in a time of an aging population,
but in the Craft our population is aging faster
While one might be tempted to suppose
that this arises because we Masons live life
to the full and survive well, in reality it has
rather more to do with our reluctance to
make Freemasonry properly accessible to
those who have not yet established their
professional careers. The Universities
Scheme is about to change all that.
In essence, the scheme is setting out
to enable specified Lodges to appeal to
undergraduates. More formally, the scheme’s
objective is “To establish and/or enhance
arrangements and opportunities for
undergraduates and other university
members to join and enjoy freemasonry.”
To this end, the AGM has established a
group of Masons, well below average age,
but with vast experience of university
Masonry, to promote the scheme. With the
enthusiastic support of the Provinces in
question, as well as the members of the
scheme group, he has visited Lodges in Bath,
Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham,
Exeter, Oxford and Sheffield to invite them
to participate in the scheme.
He also plans to visit Manchester in the
autumn. Each of these visits has resulted in
a Lodge devoted to becoming or firmly
remaining open to undergraduates from
that city’s university. In some cases that
is a commitment amounting to a very real
challenge for the Lodge in question.
It would, however, be a mistake to give
the impression that Apollo and Isaac Newton
are the only undergraduate Lodges in the
country. At Durham, the Universities Lodge
has been actively welcoming undergraduates
to its fold over recent years. Likewise,
St Vincent Lodge in Bristol and, to varying
degrees, in other universities too. On all
of this, the scheme intends to build.
Who can doubt that momentum is a
wonderful thing? Apollo has been fortunate
to have existed for nearly 200 years (indeed,
there existed, even in the 18th century, a
University Lodge in Oxford). Blessed with
critical mass, established undergraduate
Lodges just free-wheel, picking up initiates
effortlessly as they go. Or so it seems.
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