March 2011 - Pro Grand Master's Address
9 March 2011
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
In February, accompanied by a Grand Lodge team, I consecrated the Grand Lodge of Monaco. It was an enormously successful occasion with representation from many Grand Lodges from around the world - all meeting in harmony.
The Lodges that make up the new Grand Lodge are from the English, French and German constitutions and we were delighted to be asked, as the mother Grand Lodge, to run the Consecration assisted by the Grand Master of Germany and a past Grand Master of France. On behalf of the Grand Master, I presented them with a fine sword. For the rest of the day we found ourselves on the receiving end of countless handshakes and heartfelt congratulations on the ceremony, which had been superbly organised by the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team.
I am delighted to tell you that Freemasonry Today, due in early April, will be the first of the newly designed issues to reflect the magazine as the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England. The editorial side will evolve to align the content more closely with our communications strategy, as the magazine is an ideal way for us to communicate our key messages to our members, their families and potential members.
To that end the Strategic Communications Committee, which I told you about in my September Quarterly Communication speech, has asked the Board of General Purposes to agree a clear policy on editorial content for the future. Our aim is that you enjoy the magazine, are proud to show it to your family and that it becomes an award winning journal.
It was very timely to have the head of Disaster Management at the British Red Cross talk to us today. Most particularly we are mindful of the plight of our Brethren in Christchurch, New Zealand. Although there has been terrible damage to many of their homes none of them are amongst those who have been killed. The District Grand Master’s home is in ruins but they are doing the best they can to maintain morale. It is suggested that at least one third of the buildings will have to be destroyed.
When I attended the one hundred and fiftieth celebration of their District in Christchurch at the end of 2009 we changed in the Cathedral before our street march to the civic centre where the celebrations were held. The following day The Dean invited us to attend their Holy Communion service in regalia and I read the lesson. It is particularly distressing to see on the news that the Cathedral spire has collapsed and I am informed that the civic centre, where we held the main celebration, has been completely destroyed. The Grand Charity immediately sent £30,000 via the Red Cross to Christchurch.
But Brethren, there have also been, for example, the floods in Brazil where another emergency grant of £20,000 has been made to the District Grand Lodge of South America, North Division, to assist with the devastation after the mudslides and flooding north of Rio de Janeiro. The key is that the Grand Charity sends the money through the Red Cross and we know that they will use the money properly at the beginning of these disasters.
On the subject of charity, many of you may be aware that the Attorney General has referred to the Court questions directed to clarify the law relating to some Charities for the relief of poverty among those who fall within a particular class or category and the public benefit requirement following the coming into effect of the Charities Act 2006.
The Reference has potential implications for Masonic Charities at various levels although it would seem that it will not affect our four main Masonic Charities.
I wish to assure you that both the Rulers and the Board of General Purposes are treating the Attorney General’s Reference seriously. A leading firm of solicitors specialising in Charity Law have been retained and we are in the process of instructing Leading Counsel to advise and represent us.
The initial advice that we have received is that any of our Lodge Benevolent Funds which have been established using the Objects Clauses in the Model Trust Deed we have been promulgating for over sixty years are unlikely to be affected.
We intend to apply to be joined as a party to the Reference Proceedings and hope that our vast experience of charitable activities for the public benefit will be of assistance to the Court, the Charity Commission and all who will be participating in the Reference.
To keep this in perspective, the Attorney General is looking at Charities in general, and although in the Schedule to the Reference they have named over one thousand of our Charities we do not believe this to be in any way discriminatory. On the contrary – and it is very good that there are so many Masonic Charities –we should look at this as a reflection of the extent of our Charitable activity. There are few organisations who can boast such a large number of Benevolent Funds.