Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge 30 April 2003
Grand Master's speech
The Grand Master HRH the Duke of Kent renews his appeal for recruiting, retaining and retrieving Masons
The process of providing a new constitutional structure for London Masonry, which has been in progress for some years, culminated in an historic vote in Grand Lodge, following the most extensive consultation exercise ever undertaken in English Freemasonry.
I recognise the widely differing opinions held on this matter will have been impelled by the wholly Masonic spirit in which the debate was conducted.
I am certain that the increased opportunities offered to London Masons by the new structure will enable them to play a more active part in their Masonry in the future.
Freemasonry in the Community week showed clearly that Masons are part of their local community and that they work for it in many different ways. It also demonstrated that we are a society with principles which we are determined to put into action for the good of our fellow men, and especially the less Fortunate.
Charitable activity, which forms such a large part of Masonic life in the form of fundraising, has continucd unabated during the year, with the result that we gave approximately £17m to Masonic charities.
I am very pleased indeed that the work of the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys has been recognised by the award of Royal status, and will be known as the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
During the year, donations to non-Masonic charities totalling in excess of £4m have been made by Masons under our Constitution throughout the world.
One of the effects of Freemasonry in the Community week has been to encourage many men to make enquiries about possible membership. In mentioning this I return to a topic which I last raised five years ago, namely the three Rs - recruiting, retaining and retrieving.
Recruiting is both acceptable and desirable, so long as it does not put undue pressure on potential candidates. Having succeeded in recruiting new brethren, it is clearly important that we make every effort to retain them.
We all recognise the career and family pressures faced by younger men, so it is imperative that Lodges work to harness the enthusiasm of the new recruit and make him feel welcome.
Retrieving lapsed members is initially a task for the Lodge Almoner, especially where financial or health difficulties have caused a brother to resign.
But there is an increasing body of Masons who resigned from their Lodge because of business, career or family pressures, who may have found those circumstances have now eased or disappeared.
Here we can all make a difference by encouraging them to rejoin their Lodge, or another Lodge, and once again become active in their Masonry.
I am not suggesting that we should ever contemplate the kind of mass recruitment which has recently been a feature elsewhere in the world.
We are hardly going to strengthen our institution by relaxing the principles which we have established and maintained throughout our long history.
Rather, we should respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing society, and show that our values have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they have always been.
English Freemasonry recognises 156 Grand Lodges throughout the world, all of which adhere to the same landmarks as does this Grand Lodge. Maintaining good relations with them and responding to approaches from other Grand Lodges seeking recognition from us, is an important part of the work of the Grand Secretary and his staff. As a result of such efforts, we were able to resolve our difficulties with, and re-recognise, the Grand Lodge of India during the year.
I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard throughout the year to ensure that we enjoy our Masonry. I wish to mention in particular the Grand Director of Ceremonies (Peter Lowndes), who retires today after eight years.
He has been a tower of strength during that time, and has directed our ceremonies not only with efficiency, but also with good humour and a light touch.
I also wish to thank the Grand Secretary and all the staff of this building, especially the maintenance staff and porters, who look after this magnificent building so well.
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