The recent meeting of what is often described as the Premier Lodge in Warwickshire was held in Rugby – for some a pleasant change as it was in Warwickshire but also much more convenient for those living in the eastern part of the Province (normal service will be resumed for the June meeting!). It started in good form with the Worshipful Master, WBro Eric Rymer, offering the gavel to the Provincial Grand Master who initially accepted it and then in his typical humour gave it back to the Master on the premise that he wanted to see if he could remember how to open a Craft Lodge (probably in reference to the Master’s other main role in Freemasonry – the Provincial Grand Master for the Mark Degree in Worcestershire).
The meeting soon moved to the main item, which was a talk from VWBro James Newman OBE, the Deputy President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). VWBro Newman started by saying that the MCF will support Festivals as much as possible having developed a clear partnership with the Provinces. This has only become possible since the amalgamation of the four central Masonic charities and, with the MCF celebrating its second birthday on the 1st April, it has achieved much since its creation. Working on the basis of 'action, not words', a 5-year strategy was approved at the end of 2017 and will see an enhancement of support and services, forging stronger links with UGLE and the Provinces, and raising its profile.
Since its launch, the MCF has worked hard to bring together the four teams and has introduced a better IT system. Initially it was receiving around 400 enquiries per month; this is now around 1000! A central tenet is giving support 'from the cradle to the grave' and it is predicted that spending on masonic support will increase. The MCF is currently supporting 108 petitioners in Warwickshire but they would like to see this increase. As a single charity, it has single chain of command and is therefore more efficient.
One major change has seen non-masonic grants become 'charity grants' and the programme of giving has been reviewed to create a more focused strategy. Two main themes have been selected – the early years to give the best start for disadvantaged children and the later years to overcome isolation in later life. Support for UK hospices and air ambulances will also change with a move from giving money to every organisation in the country to working with national bodies, such as Hospice UK, to identify projects that will benefit from larger grants. Eight grants have been made in Warwickshire totaling some £100,000.
As part of the Tercentenary celebrations, the MCF gave out £3M to charities selected in a national vote that saw over 80% of participants being non-masons. Six Warwickshire charities receiving just under £60,000. The impact of any donation is important both in terms of our profile but also in making a real difference to those being supported.
One fundamental point is that the MCF only receives its funds from Freemasons and that only 9p in every £1 is used in running the charity. It is grateful for the support received from Festivals with regular giving making a huge difference. In closing, VWBro Newman assured that the MCF is still able to respond to major disasters around the world – it now works with Plan International to support specific projects or problems. The Provincial Grand Master responded by thanking VWBro Newman for his inspirational talk and exhorted the brethren to support the Festival.
In the absence of the usual Royal Arch representative, the Grand Superintendent, WBro Phil Hall, was pleased to report a rise in membership and that the success of the recent roadshows would be continued with two more scheduled in May – 22nd at Nuneaton and 24th at Knowle – assuring that this would not be a hard sell of the Royal Arch but rather encouraged Companions to bring along a brother who has yet to take that fourth step in Freemasonry.
The meeting then received a report on the 2023 Festival given, most appropriately by the Festival Chairman WBro David Greenwood. Since the launch back in January, around 400 Festival jewels have been sent out to qualifying brethren of whom three have already qualified for Grand Patron status and four lodges already have 50% signed up with regular giving. The aim is to have 700 brethren signed up by the meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge and WBro David closed saying that he couldn’t have asked for a better start. The Worshipful Master then congratulated WBro David on his forthcoming appointment as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master, which was received with acclaim by all present.
One of the very special things about Installed Masters is that it is often used as a platform by the Provincial Grand Master to make announcements or presentations. At the end of the Second Rising, the PGM took to the floor and asked his Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies to bring WBro Michael Irving to him. He extolled WBro Michael’s virtues in supporting all of his lodges as well as the Provincial choir, adding that he is a magnificent example to all present, before presenting WBro Michael with his Certificate of Merit. WBro Peter Clarke then delivered an excellent proclamation – not easy when you have at least two Past ProvGDCs in the room! WBro Michael responded by thanking the Provincial Grand Master for his kinds words and adding that family apart, charity and music are a very important part of his life and that he would ‘treasure this forever’. One final tribute, probably missed by most, was paid (or played!) by WBro Peter Summers for, as the column processed out of the temple, he played the hymn tune specially composed by WBro Michael for the Tercentenary aptly named Fortior after his Mother Lodge.
The surprises kept on coming with the Master presenting our guest speaker, VWBro Newman, with the traditional cut-glass tumbler as well as something to put in it. The tables were then turned on the Worshipful Master as WBro Andy Hale, an engineer and member of the Mike Hailwood Lodge, who presented him with three-foot tall Past Master’s jewel! Not wishing to leave him out, WBro Andy also presented the Provincial Grand Master with his own much smaller jewel complete with a ribbon in Sunderland colours!
The Worshipful Master was then pleased to announce that the alms for the MCF had amounted to £600 before wishing everyone a safe journey home.