My first conscious contact with
Freemasonry was in 1991 while at
Wellington College. The Old
Wellingtonian Lodge No. 3404, for old
boys of the school, was hosting the annual
Public Schools Lodges’ Council festival.
There was a buzz around College that
day as the Duke of Kent, President of
Wellington College, was visiting. The
blinds were drawn where they were
meeting and hundreds of men in dark
suits with oversized briefcases had arrived.
All very mysterious in a 15-year-old
schoolboy’s eyes, but that was that.
I continued on my way to the geography
lesson and thought no more of it. A little
over ten years later I was initiated into
that very same Lodge, aged 27. I was now
a Freemason and a young one at that.
So now what happens?
Freemasonry really came to life for
me when I started visiting other Lodges.
Suddenly, I had an appreciation of the
common bond between brethren. Each
Lodge seems to have a unique aspect, be
it their presentation of ritual or some small
nuance at the festive board. Some are more
liberal jovial places; others are serious dens
of ritualistic perfection. None is better
than the other – one man’s meat etc.
From my experience, I feel that Lodges
should encourage both new and younger
members to visit other Lodges as part of
There have been efforts to establish
groups specifically for younger Freemasons
to meet each other socially. However, sadly
the few of these I have seen in my short time
in Freemasonry have gone very quiet after
just one meeting, although the Universities
Scheme seems to be one notable success.
It does take work to build the
momentum for such initiatives and we can’t
expect the other person to be putting in all
the hours of organisation. These sorts of
ideas are something younger members
should organise and support.
Freemasonry has felt the change of times
with the development of the internet.
Communication by email and web forums
is now commonplace. It has seen the UGLE
move with the times and embrace this
medium, albeit cautiously. This will only
help with the aim of increased openness.
If Lodges are trying to be more open and
appealing to younger candidates, a simple
Lodge website could be useful. It doesn’t
require a great expense and there are Grand
Lodge guidelines for this to ensure clarity
of communication. This is one project
I undertook for my mother Lodge
(www.owl3404.org). The website itself
has been a source of providing the initial
enquiries for many of our newer candidates.
In recent Grand Lodge correspondence,
we have heard how the attraction and
retention of “quality young men” needs
renewed effort, something the Pro Grand
Master, Lord Northampton, has expressed
in recent Quarterly Communications.
I mention “attracting” members. This
for me is the way forward. Personally, I do
not agree with the term “recruitment” of
members, which is sometimes used. One of
the founding tenets of Freemasonry is that
the individual himself must knock on the
door of the Lodge for admission. Our efforts
should be on presenting Freemasonry in
an open manner, so as to attract new and
possibly younger members.
As younger freemasons, we should be
open and proud about what we do, be that
through Lodge websites, online forums, or
informal events. Young Freemasons should
be confident to chat to their non-Masonic
friends on the topic, if it arises. Sometimes
I wonder if it is our shy silence which adds
fuel to the unfounded negative rumours.
There are times when discussions are
heard about our rituals and whether they
should be updated to reflect modern life.
But, it is the traditions and feeling of history
within Freemasonry which needs to be
carefully preserved. Yes, it requires
discipline and explanation, but isn’t that part
of the journey provided by Freemasonry?
It is from these facets we are learning to
better ourselves. Any short-cuts should be
strictly avoided, otherwise we risk diluting
what we are becoming.
Furthermore, there is a feeling of awe
and the mystical in the words of the ritual,
in the knowledge that generations before us
have communicated the same. It contains
the discipline of learning to regulate your
actions, extending courtesies and respect,
which is sadly so lacking in society today.
There are many younger people in society
searching for just such a traditional ethos.
I was one of them.
It is true how like attracts like. Many of
my closest friends are Freemasons. At my
30th birthday celebrations last year, a third
of my guests were brothers in the Craft.
Not by design, but through genuine
fraternal friendship. I have no doubt that
all being well, they will be there in 2053
sharing in my celebrations of 50 fulfilling
years in Freemasonry.
Henry R. Hopking was initiated into Old
Wellingtonian Lodge No. 3404 in London in 2003.
He is also a member of Laconic Lodge No. 9771
(Suffolk) and of Grand Master’s Chapter No.1.
Web site created by Mark Griffin