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March 2024 Quarterly Communication - Presiding Officer’s Remarks

Jonathan Spence, Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, wearing his Masonic Regalia


Brethren, it is very good to see so many of you here this morning and I do hope you will enjoy your visit to the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge whether it is your first or the latest in many such visits. It is important for the future of Freemasonry under this Grand Lodge that all our members feel able to engage with Grand Lodge when they have an opportunity to do so.

It is fifteen months since we launched the Strategy for Freemasonry, 2022 and Beyond and I thought it would be helpful to give an update on our progress to date. It is worth remembering that this is a strategy for the next seven years and so is more akin to a longer distance race than a sprint. We must expect it to take time before the full effects of the Strategy’s implementation are seen and indeed felt across the organisation as a whole.

I am pleased to say it is encouraging to see an increasing number of Provinces where there is a growth in number of members and there are many more where good progress is being made in addressing their Membership Challenge. We should remember that the Membership Challenge cannot be addressed successfully if we concentrate solely on bringing in new members while failing to look after properly those we already have. So far, those Provinces which pay close attention to both aspects are seeing the strongest improvement in their memberships. This is but the first year and, for the Strategy to be successful, we must not just see improvements in one year but in a succession of years.  In other words, we are seeking sustainable progress to secure the future of Freemasonry under this Grand Lodge.

To make this relevant to our members in their individual Lodges and Chapters a number of Provincial Rulers have asked that individual Lodges and Chapters in the Province have a larger number of members at the end of the year than at the beginning. This is usually expressed in terms of one or two more members, and we should all understand that this will come from a combination of reduced resignations as well as more initiations. The key is increased engagement with all of our members which will ultimately come from the enjoyment we derive from our Lodge meetings, the quality of our ceremonies, and differences we make in our communities. I hope all of you here today will take this message back to your own Lodges and Chapters. 

Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter too are playing their part in moving the Strategy forward. As you well know, Brethren, I have emphasised that Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter must not only say what they will do but clearly be seen to do it, and do it well. 

Today marks the first Quarterly Communication where Master Masons are both encouraged to attend the meeting and may also  attend the lunch afterwards in their own right, without the need to find a host amongst Grand Officers. We have as a result a record number lunching in the Grand Connaught Rooms after this meeting. I intend that this will be the approach for the March Quarterly Communication in the coming years. I am pleased that you, the members, have responded so positively to this development. 

This initiative builds on the success of holding a Quarterly Communication away from London in September 2023. We will be holding further Communications away from London in future years. Regrettably it is not something which is feasible to do every year, but we will do it again, Brethren, of that you can be sure. 

In my travels around the country I am often asked when will we give greater practical effect to the idea of the Royal Arch and Craft working seamlessly together under the description of “One Journey, One Organisation”. Many of our members have asked me, “When will we get on with it?” and even more tellingly, “Where is the urgency?”. Not unreasonable questions, I am sure you will all agree. 

The answers commence today. We are proposing to move forward now and take some tangible steps to making “One Journey, One Organisation”, a clear reality for all our members. The Notices of Motion from both The President of the Board of General Purposes for a future meeting of Grand Lodge, and the President of the Committee of General Purposes for the meeting of Grand Chapter in April, on a single fee for becoming a member of this Grand Lodge demonstrate this unambiguously. This is but the start of the steps needed to harmonise effectively the workings of Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter. There is more work being undertaken behind the scenes by the respective Boards, Presidents, the Grand Secretary, and others, to deliver this promptly over the coming two years, thereby strengthening English Freemasonry.

Finally, Brethren, I am pleased to confirm that the promised film on handling multiple-candidate ceremonies was released yesterday. I encourage you all to view it. More importantly I hope many of you will realise it is something which your own Lodges could use easily, without any adverse impact on the experience of the candidates or the existing members.

Brethren, if you had not already realised, I am greatly encouraged by your response so far to the Strategy for Freemasonry, 2022 and Beyond. With your continued enthusiasm and engagement, Brethren, I am enthusiastic about our future and I have no doubt you will ensure we will succeed and remain a thriving organisation.

Thank you Brethren.

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