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Blueprint for Success


Freemasons across the UK share the positive outcomes of implementing key elements of UGLE’s Strategy to reinforce and revitalise the membership.

Essex Chapters champion Archway

Essex Royal Arch Freemasons in regalia


It is early days yet, but there are clear signs, supported by positive feedback, that Archway will indeed have a strong impact on the growth and development of Chapters across the Province of Essex. Following the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting in November 2023, the new Archway initiative was launched in Essex with each Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals (APGP) writing to their Chapters to introduce the new user-friendly tool.

With infectious enthusiasm, the longest-serving APGP in Essex, John Crudgington, who has 30 Chapters, said:

‘I am so excited about this new initiative and want all the Companions to be as well. Archway is not a Members’ Pathway equivalent, but is a resource all members can access. It will help with ideas from attraction to enhancing the enjoyment of meetings, and so much more.’ 

The APGP’s enthusiasm has every right to be infectious.

At a time when some Chapters are struggling with membership and need a plan, the simplicity of Archway will formulate a structure for the way forward. It really is as easy as that, a simple tool with four stones to click on – Shape, Grow, Involve and Enjoy – each of which contains valuable advice and guidance. Archway is being well received by Chapters in Essex.

The Scribe E of Blackwater Chapter, No. 1977, Barry Woodrow, said: 

‘With only three ceremonies a year, one of which is the Installation, Blackwater has had a good run of new candidates but is on the lookout to do something else. Archway has a mechanism behind it to support you. This is much better than referring to old guides and pamphlets that were designed to be helpful, but some are now over 25 years old.’ Barry said, ‘Archway is the ideal toolbox to help do this and the younger members can easily and quickly follow, which is important, especially as we are finding time is at a premium for them. We have plans to set up an informal group to look at the toolbox and find things the Chapter may use more than others. It is giving us a chance to draw breath. With Archway, support is more easily available which was often a difficulty in the past.’

Barry also pointed out that most Scribes E may find some Companions want to seek and find, while others want to be guided and may then read a little more. A big plus point for Archway is that everything is at each user’s fingertips, so Barry awards top marks for the idea and concept. ‘Archway gives us what we need for support now, but it needs to be kept up to date and current,’ he said.

The Scribe E of Abbeygate Chapter, No. 4219, Arthur Cooke, forwarded the email he received from his APGP about Archway, with its open-access link and an attached introductory booklet, to all his members, encouraging them to explore it with the message ‘Hot off the press’. Although Arthur feels pleased that Archway emphasises much of what Abbeygate Chapter is already doing to make it successful, he also said, ‘Archway should not be a problem to any Scribe E and I know a number that are already using it.’

In February 2024, when most Chapters had met at least once since the launch of Archway, the Provincial Executive held a Royal Arch engagement call via Zoom for all Companions of the 120 Chapters in Essex that meet at 26 centres, inviting them to share what they love about the Royal Arch and what the winning formula is for their Chapter. The aim of the meeting was to help solve challenges that will make Chapters thrive. With Archway now at everybody’s fingertips, the outcome should be both meaningful and productive, especially as one member of the Royal Arch Membership and Communications Working Party (MCWP) who has had a large input, Elliott Chevin, is the Deputy Grand Superintendent of Essex.

The Province of Somerset leads from the front

Ray Guthrie, Head of Somerset Freemasons, delivering a presentation


Since the Pro Grand Master announced the Membership Challenge at the end of 2022, it has been actively promoted across the Province of Somerset by the Provincial Grand Master (ProvGM) and his officers. Many Lodges were quick to rise to the Challenge by making themselves even more visible to their local communities, with some very encouraging results. The Fidelity and Sincerity Lodge at Wellington secured four candidates through their involvement with the local 2023 summer fair. The Lodge of Agriculture at Yatton enjoyed similar success through its involvement with the local rugby club. The Lodge of Prudence and Industry at Chard now has 14 candidates as a result of monthly informal coffee mornings where members are encouraged to bring a friend. And there has been quite an amazing turnaround for these and other Lodges.

Somerset swiftly adopted a proactive implementation of the Members’ Pathway through numerous presentations to the membership throughout 2023. The message continues to be upheld in Somerset Lodges through active support from the Membership and Mentoring Officers appointed to each of the five areas within the county. The successes of UGLE’s National Digital Marketing Campaigns (NDMC) via Facebook were also recognized. Somerset funded two of their own and were responsible for nearly 70 applicants.

This year will see yet more Provincial activity, promoting the Challenge in Somerset with the introduction of Membership Challenge Visits (MCVs), where each of the 84 Lodges will be visited during the year by the ProvGM, his Deputy or one of the Assistant ProvGMs, together with a supporting team of Provincial Officers. The purpose of the visits is to explain the exact nature of the Challenge for Somerset in general and for their own Lodges, and why it is vitally important that every Brother should be involved in its implementation.

The ProvGM has requested that Lodges allow the attendant Provincial Ruler a half-hour slot at the beginning of the Lodge meeting to make the presentation. This will include: a) An overview of the decline in individual membership numbers across the Province during the past 15 years, down from 4,000 to 3,000, and the possible reasons for it. b) How the Lodge receiving the presentation has performed during that same period. c) How the Lodge can increase its membership, particularly through active consideration of the four core areas of the Members’ Pathway – to Plan, Attract, Engage and Retrieve.

MCVs have also been introduced to Royal Arch Chapters that have seen a decline in membership numbers during the same period. The issues faced by Somerset’s 29 Chapters are, of course, somewhat different to those faced by Lodges, but are known to be inextricably linked. Encouragingly, Somerset’s Chapters have already demonstrated a positive response to the Membership Challenge, with the number of Companions in the Province actually rising by 1 per cent during 2023; the first time there has been an increase for many years.

The first Craft MCV presentation was made by the ProvGM Ray Guthrie to St Alphege Lodge, No. 4095, in Bath back in January. The evening also included the Lodge performing an excellent double Second Degree ceremony for Brothers Tin Ho Clarence Ng and Amit Paul Jathoul. The first of the Chapter MCV presentations was made a few days later, on Tuesday 9 January, again delivered by Ray, to Connaught Chapter, No. 3573, at Midsomer Norton, with a similar reception and response. That evening also included the Exaltation of Companion Richard Gilson into the Chapter.

The Province of Somerset looks forward to reporting sustainable future growth, through the dedication of those already involved in planning the delivery of the Strategy, supported by the wholehearted and pragmatic participation of all its members. Above: Provincial Grand Master of Somerset Ray Guthrie at the Membership Challenge Visit.

The Cambridgeshire circuit

Cambridge Freemasons in a Lodge room


In 1628, Cambridge graduate Dr William Harvey proposed a new theory about the way in which blood circulates around the body. Some 400 years later, while he would have been appalled at the way in which his theories are illustrated in school textbooks, his intellectual curiosity would undoubtedly have been stimulated by the Claret and Blue network that exists throughout Cambridgeshire Freemasonry.

One of the smallest Provinces in the UK, Cambridgeshire has 33 Lodges and 14 Chapters distributed among seven Masonic centres. Long before the advent of Light Blues, the Cambridgeshire ‘circuit’ was born. Together with the Provincial Executive, the Worshipful Master of every Lodge is invited to every Craft Installation meeting. Likewise, a Principal from each Chapter is welcomed to every other Royal Arch Installation. It is customary to see a crowd of visiting Masters/Principals arrayed in the North East, watching the proceedings with interest and preparing to welcome the latest addition to their ranks, while simultaneously bidding a metaphorical farewell to the ‘former companion of their toils’.

David Moat of St Etheldreda Lodge and St Etheldreda Chapter tells of his Freemasonry journey in the Province: 

‘I was installed as Worshipful Master of St Etheldreda Lodge for the second time in February 2023, having been originally installed in 2019. The Cambridgeshire circuit has now taken me throughout the whole Province, introduced me to variations in working practices, differing perspectives and has enabled me to make many new friends. I look forward to experiencing the same opportunities as a Principal of my Chapter. I have even been part of the Provincial pantomime cast, which has further expanded my Masonic horizons beyond my Mother Lodge and Chapter in Newmarket.’

Over the past 10 years, the Cambridgeshire Light Blues have contributed to the circuit, and the Clarets, unique to Cambridgeshire, are rapidly gaining strength as the Royal Arch equivalent. The Light Blues Buddies Scheme regularly coordinates visits by groups of recently Initiated, Passed or Raised Brethren to watch another, often subtly different iteration of the ceremony to reinforce its messages, develop friendships and build an awareness of the variety to be found Province-wide.

With the Province’s Past Deputy Grand Superintendent closely involved with the development of the Archway scheme, it’s not surprising that the Cambridgeshire Clarets were launched to great acclaim in 2023. Their core values of Companionship, Comprehension and Compassion have been crafted to address attraction, retention and retrieval. Meetings under the Clarets banner have included an explanation of the design of the Royal Arch jewel and presentations about the banners of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, shared by Companions from every Cambridgeshire Chapter.

Mark Shields, Deputy Grand Superintendent, said:

‘We’re very excited by the way in which the concept of the Clarets has been received throughout the Province. The first events generated a lot of interest, a great deal of discussion and plenty of suggestions for the future. Companions from all our Chapters are keen to get involved, with new partnerships, themed meetings and ideas for our Chapter of Instruction already identified as priorities for our Clarets Committee. The future is bright – the future is Claret!’

Cambridgeshire regularly punches above its weight, as the £1.2 million raised for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF, the Freemasons’ charity) during its 2023 Festival demonstrated. The Masonic culture and working practices that have been augmented by the Cambridgeshire circuit have attracted interest beyond our borders. A team from Warwickshire visited the Chapter of Pythagoras in Cambridge to watch one of the 14 different Royal Arch rituals worked throughout the Province. More recently, a keen group of the Norfolk Blues visited Caldwell Lodge in the lovely Fenland town of March to meet a corresponding group of their Cambridgeshire counterparts.

Had William Harvey been a Freemason in the 21st century he would have been delighted to see how the Claret and Blue circuit is the life-blood of Cambridgeshire – ‘communicating light and imparting knowledge’ throughout the Province, widening participation, creating collaborations and building enduring friendships between Lodges, Chapters, Brethren and Companions.

West Lancashire Freemasons take strategic steps forward

West Lancashire Freemasons


The change in leadership in West Lancashire coincided with a major focus on the future and direction of Freemasonry under the UGLE banner and associated messaging around the Strategy and Archway project. West Lancashire Freemasons were keen to align with the Strategy and one of the most significant actions taken was to follow the ‘One Organisation’ principle by creating closer links between the Craft and Royal Arch.

Provincial Grand Master (ProvGM) Mark Matthews said: 

‘If we are to truly embrace the principle of Craft and Royal Arch united as one organisation, then the structures within the Province need to fully reflect that principle.’ 

Prior to 2022, Craft and Royal Arch Freemasonry had separate Cabinets, with decision-making and organisation taking place independently of each other, but 2022 saw the introduction of one Cabinet for both, with rigorous governance consistent across the entire organisation.

This change enables more consistent written, verbal and online messaging and creates a greater understanding among senior officers – each member of the Cabinet providing concise and in-depth reports on their particular portfolio and activities. For senior officers, engaging with the membership is of paramount importance to ensure effective communications and messaging and to foster an inclusive and friendly environment.

The Provincial Strategy requires that senior officers increase their visibility at regular meetings – especially Initiations and Exaltations and degree ceremonies, plus social events – and not restrict their activity to formal Installations, centenaries and celebrations. In a Province with so many Lodges and Chapters, many senior officers, not members of the Cabinet, are called on to represent the ProvGM/Most Excellent Grand Superintendent (GSupt). Consistent messages regarding the Strategy from all senior officers representing the ProvGM/GSupt is achieved by written directions communicated to them along with the formal instructions for the event. This way, important messages are reinforced to the membership and delivered in a consistent and meaningful way.

The Membership Challenge has been addressed in the same manner, concentrating on new members for the Craft and the percentage of Craft Freemasons who are members of the Royal Arch. Increasing Royal Arch membership is a work in progress, with the Province looking to be far more proactive. Each Craft Lodge has a Royal Arch contact, whose role is to identify and assist Master Masons ready to take the next step. Talks in Craft Lodges are taking place that explain the Royal Arch and encourage membership. Following the success of Special Interest Lodges in the Craft, similar Chapter initiatives have proved successful. For example, the Bikers’ Chapter has shown substantial growth and has just held an emergency meeting to Exalt five candidates into the Royal Arch. Yielding further positive results is an initiative where the GSupt personally wrote to members who have never joined the Royal Arch or are unattached, inviting them to join or consider rejoining. More than 3,000 members received such letters.

In terms of Craft membership and attraction, a number of initiatives are taking place. Central to this is the strong support given to Membership Officers. A robust structure is in place from Provincial to group and individual Lodge level, whose success is supported by a sturdy administrative process for new membership. Retention in both Royal Arch and Craft should run alongside the recruitment process. Much emphasis is placed on what they consider ‘the new Mason experience’ where through the Mentor system, extra support is given in Lodge and Group. As a fledgling activity, it has already led to a significant reduction in the number of new members leaving within the first one or two years. The Province is also keen to promote activities and events for Light Blues, both Province-wide with meetings, seminars and special events, and at Group level with participation in Light Blue clubs and events.

A final word from ProvGM/GSupt Mark Matthews: 

‘The overall focus of the Province is achieving the delivery of the Strategy whilst maintaining the fun, enjoyment and friendship elements of Freemasonry. As a Province, we are working hard to achieve the best possible outcomes. We are up for it, and we are doing it, relying on the commitment, engagement and application of our Craft and Royal Arch members.’

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