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Pro Grand Master's address - Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge - December 2022


Pro Grand Master Jonathan Spence in Craft regalia

Brethren, as you will have gathered from the Presentation and Panel Discussion led by the Grand Secretary it has been something of a journey for the Strategy Working Group in formulating and designing the Strategy for Freemasonry, 2022 and beyond. Its purpose is clear: to ensure that Freemasonry under the United Grand Lodge of England continues to thrive and to strengthen it for the future. 

This journey has not been one undertaken by the Strategy Working Group in isolation. There have been presentations to all Metropolitan, District and Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents and we have benefitted from their advice and recommendations, many of which have been incorporated into the strategy being launched today.

The Grand Master has already expressed his thanks for the commitment and enthusiasm shown by Metropolitan, Provincial and District Rulers thus far to which I would like to add my own personal thanks. Without their support we would not have made as much progress as we have but this is only the start, there is a lot more progress still to come.

A strategy needs to articulate plainly the challenges an organisation is trying to address, it needs to set out clearly how it intends to address those challenges, and it also needs to demonstrate how it will know if it has been successful in doing so. I believe, Brethren, the Strategy for Freemasonry, 2022 and beyond does just this, clearly, succinctly, and unambiguously.

There are several matters I should like to emphasise today with respect to the strategy for the benefit of all our members, in addition to what has already been said.

The first is the integrated nature of the strategy. It covers both the Craft and the Royal Arch. It applies every bit as much to Royal Arch Chapters as it does to Craft Lodges. This is to ensure that all members of the United Grand Lodge of England understand the unique place of this Grand Lodge in the world. In particular, that pure Antient Freemasonry comprises three degrees and no more, viz those of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch. I will say no more now as I have already covered this in more detail in my recent address to Supreme Grand Chapter in November, but this is something on which we will build.

The enjoyment and engagement of all our members is a key feature of the strategy. This applies equally to those members of longer standing as it does to those who have recently been made Masons. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our Lodges and Chapter meetings are always occasions when everyone enjoys the whole evening with good ceremonies, the essential camaraderie on which we thrive, and we all leave looking forward to the next meeting.

It is also the responsibility of all members of a Lodge or Chapter, not just that of the Membership Officer, Mentor or Almoner, to support their members: it is a team effort, and we are all responsible (not least the Proposer and Seconder of the Brother- or Companion- concerned). When someone is not seen for a time, please contact them to ascertain they are not in difficulty and to understand why they have not been able to attend and what can be done to help keep them involved. This may be as simple as just offering them a lift to the next meeting. This support and just offering them the hand of friendship might just help to address the issue of resignations or, what is worse, Cessations and Exclusions where members just quietly drift away, often unnoticed. Attracting new members is important but as you heard earlier retaining the active engagement and enjoyment of our existing members will be just as much the key to our success.

Across the Constitution we must adopt a “yes if” attitude at all levels and be an organisation which learns lessons from trying alternative ways of doing things. For too long the standard answer in considering adapting things, without losing the essence of Freemasonry or being a freemason, has been “no because…”. The usual corollary to this is that inevitable phrase “we have always done it that way”. We all know this really means what can be remembered of the practice in any particular Lodge over the last twenty or thirty years. It is not just in freemasonry, Brethren, where this happens as it also happens in other member organisations, but it is a feature in too many Lodges and Chapters.

A “yes if” approach transforms the discussion into something positive. When something new is tried in a Lodge or Chapter be it a later start time, a double or a triple ceremony, a strict rule of the meeting lasting no more than ninety minutes, or the dinner ending by a set time, we need to consider has it achieved what was hoped. We need to reflect on what lessons can be learned to make it better and did the members enjoy it. We all know Brethren, if we go to a Lodge which has a buzz, we all enjoy it and feel more engaged with Freemasonry. It only takes two or three members in a Lodge to take the lead and encourage others to establish that essential atmosphere for a Lodge to thrive.

We will also be making certain there are only a few initiatives which we introduce at any one time from Grand Lodge. We will ensure they are done consistently well and are effective before moving on to further initiatives. A good example of this is the revised Members’ Pathway: this is essential for the delivery of the strategy and securing our future. It needs to be adopted and implemented consistently across the Metropolitan Area and all Provinces. The Rulers, both Craft and Royal Arch, will be working closely with Provincial Rulers on this.

For any strategy to be successful it requires all parts of an organisation to support it actively and implement it consistently and effectively. It also needs to be adapted to local needs and priorities. Provincial and District Rulers have been asked to confirm how they will adjust their Provincial and District strategies to align their local approach with the overarching Strategy for Freemasonry, 2022 and beyond. This is integral to being a coherent organisation. 

As with all strategies, the Strategy for Freemasonry 2022 and beyond will continue to evolve and improve as we engage with our membership and learn what has gone well and what needs to improve further. We will also check regularly how we are progressing.

Brethren, our challenge is clear. We cannot and must not assume we can just carry on as before. But there is no silver bullet….we will make progress through small, incremental changes in many areas. By being willing to innovate and try new approaches, to learn what works and to share this knowledge. We all have a part to play. It is a team game at all levels of Freemasonry under this Grand Lodge to ensure all our meetings are enjoyable and all members are engaged.

I know the Metropolitan, District and Provincial Rulers and their teams are ready to play their part fully in implementing the strategy. I know Brethren if we are all willing to adopt “yes, if” and are willing to innovate and learn, then I am confident with your support and full engagement we can and will succeed.

Thank you, Brethren.


Jonathan Spence

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