By Bro Alan B Bevins, Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden (Surrey) EC
Presented to United Masters Lodge No 167 NZ, at the meeting on 22 Apr 1999
This is the story of a year in the life of a typical English lodge secretary. It reflects the happenings of a typical English lodge, if there is such a thing, though its procedures are normal English practice. It reflects the work of a real lodge and the writer hopes that the members will recognise their part in the story and be comfortable with it. The writer is now removed geographically from the lodge, only attends annually, and misses the harmonious friendly and relaxed nature of the members and the meetings. The writer although involved in its formation and history and now removed many thousands of miles was at the time of writing in the office of Chaplain! After relinquishing the Secretary's chair and upon being appointed to that office he used to say that the Chaplain's job could be done from anywhere. He meant within the lodge room and not thousands of miles away, however, he did offer to do the prayers by fax.
This paper can be looked upon as a thank you for allowing him to play a major part in the lodge formation. As he said to the lodge in October 1997, now was the time for younger Past Masters to imprint their character on the lodge, as it must remain a dynamic evolving body to keep the membership strong.
The place was 30 miles or 40 km west of London in the Masonic Province of Surrey, as far north and west as was possible without crossing the boundary into the two Provinces of Berkshire or Hampshire & the Isle of Wight. It was partly rural and partly urban, within easy commuting distance of London and of coastal cities such as Southampton. A major motorway ran roughly east-west through the middle of the area. It was a cluster of towns around Aldershot, Camberley and Farnborough all of which arose through the development of the British Army over the last few centuries.
The name was St Crispin Lodge, which had been chosen by the founders because of the association with Agincourt Lodge the mother lodge of which several of them were members. The Battle of Agincourt had been fought by King Henry V on St Crispin's Day, the 25th October in 1415. The meeting dates of the lodge were the fourth Thursdays in the month so that the one in October would, from time to time, fall on St Crispin's Day. The lodge logo designed to be simple and less costly for jewels, seen on the banner, the Past Master's jewel, and the agendas, was a stretched animal skin, on which were a King Henry V crown with the square and compasses. St Crispin and St Crispinian were two brothers in medieval times, workers in leather, shoemakers, who did much for charity by making shoes for the needy. The motto shown on the lodge badge below the animal skin was 'Deo Gracias', said to have been spoken by Henry V upon receiving news he had won the battle.
It was a Surrey lodge, about 17 years old, had over 50 members, about the average size, and met in a Masonic Centre in Hampshire. It was formed from members of one of the lodges in Camberley and began its life in the town where at that time there were four lodges (one of which was a Hampshire lodge), two chapters (one of which was a Hampshire chapter), a Mark lodge (which later moved to meet in Hampshire) and a Knights Templar Preceptory. Some members also belonged to lodges in Hampshire, Berkshire and London. They came from all imaginable occupations and backgrounds. The jobs and professions included: engineer, electronics engineer, electrician, policeman, printer, cafe proprietor, builder, sports therapist, prison hospital warder (several of these), airline operations manager, airline pilot, airport building engineer, salesman, dry-cleaning shop owner, airline ground trainer, school master, building site supervisor, management consultant, newspaper shop licensee, pub licensee, bookshop owner, fireman, garage proprietor, banknote salesman, casino cashier and butcher.
Of the 18 founders, the four who started the process were members of the mother lodge, three of which were joiners of that lodge and had been initiated in lodges in London, Wales and the USA. The petition for the new lodge, when presented to the mother lodge by the Master designate who was one of those four, was 'authorised' by the other three of them who were the reigning Master and both Wardens. At the time of writing, there were nine founders still on the membership roll of which six were active members.
A year previously the lodge had moved from Camberley and crossed the County (and Province) boundary to meet in Hampshire at a Masonic Centre with better dining facilities and a good bar, as the then meeting place built around the late 1880s, and converted in 1925 for Masonic use, was unlikely to be developed into a proper centre as the members had hoped. Until that move, the members had to drive two miles after the lodge meeting to the rugby club pavilion where the meal was laid on, at a price of £9.00. The dining location had been changed several times mainly because successive restaurants had changed ownership and rebuilding or refurbishing took place when this happened. At one location, the room was L-shaped. The table was thus in the form of a square which was novel, but the two Wardens who sat at the end of each table run, as was the normal custom in English lodges, could not see each other, though they both could see the Master who sat at the apex. That led to many amusing incidents and much friendly banter between the extremities of the two table arms where the occupants knew by the voices who was where but could not see each other.
The lodge met seven times per year at monthly intervals at a regular time of 5.30 in the evening, followed by a full four course meal, which usually began about 8.30. Even though the meal was at restaurants, in a separate room, the room was always tyled and Masonic speeches and Masonic fire were used.
The Secretary was for two years before the lodge was formed, the organising or petitioning secretary, a role which encompassed most of the preparation work before the consecration. He was also the first Master, sometimes referred to as the 'Primus' Master. Immediately after that first year he took up the Secretary's pen. He was considered to be the 'keeper' of the founders' intentions and when any discussion arose about this he was the authority they turned to for his memory of earlier events and agreements, as well as the written word of meetings which had taken place earlier. He was in his sixties and had been in the Craft for some 30 years or so at the time of writing.
Summer in England
The scene is now set. It was the quiet season. The last meeting had been held at the end of May and the next was September. Installation of the new Master and officers was October. There would normally not be much work for the Secretary for some weeks, or so it may have seemed. The Secretary always used this time of the year to get much preparation done to save time later. At the beginning of June he set up a meeting with the Master and the Senior Warden, or whoever was likely to be the next Master. The purpose was to start the potential Master on the process of determining who his officers would be. As with other lodges in England, it was the Master's sole discretion to choose and appoint them apart from the Treasurer, and the Tyler when that officer was not a member of the lodge. The Treasurer and the Master were elected by the members in a secret ballot and the Tyler when not a member of the lodge was elected by a show of hands. The approach the potential Master would make was to say "if I am elected would you like to be...?" Some Secretaries were known to be 'kingmakers' in selecting the officers each year, but our Secretary always insisted the Master of his own free will and accord, did two major things, firstly to appoint the officers and secondly to determine the sequence of the degree work and his programme for the year, appointing those who would help him with the ceremonies. Members rarely volunteered to do the regular work in the lodge so the Master usually had to ask specific members for each part of the work.
The Secretary would not tell him who to appoint as officers, but would advise him the consequences, good and bad, of specific appointments so he (the new Master) could better assess what to do. The current Master would also inject into the discussion the import of the conversations he had a year earlier when he was asking members to take up office. The Secretary would also include the names of those who had earlier stepped aside and wished to return to the 'ladder' of offices. He would include comment on specific member's aspirations which had been communicated to him, but without breaking any confidences entrusted to him. He acted as a confidante to many members on lodge-related situations as well as being the fount of constitutional knowledge.
That annual discussion included consideration of Past Masters due for elevation to Provincial office, since each year Provincial Grand Secretary asked for nominations. Whereas this was from a limited number of Past Masters, and often was easy to determine the candidates, views were usually explored. This was later discussed more fully in a committee meeting. It was normal for each Past Master in turn to be promoted to Provincial office after a wait of several years. Some years there was no appointment.
That meeting was also to brief the new Master on what his role was and what scope of authority he had. It was a follow up to several meetings which the Secretary and Senior Warden had during the previous nine months or so. Another meeting was usually held about two months later to assess his progress on the officer list. This period could either be smooth or stormy dependent on the reaction by members as to the office they were asked to fill, or not fill as the case may be. There were always many phone calls between the potential Master and the Secretary for a few weeks. During this time, the Secretary himself approached members to fill the roles of the two auditors, the two Master Masons on the lodge committee, the representative for the Provincial Charity Committee, the three trustees for the lodge Benevolent Fund and three trustees for the lodge Charities Association. Some of those elections were in September and others in October. In some years a member had to be found to volunteer to be Treasurer.
The long quiet season was the best to do all this activity. As it was summer, there were also social events such as barbecues and pub skittles matches, which gave the Secretary a chance to speak to members face to face rather than over the phone. The skittles matches were with a Hampshire lodge, and the venue was the Masonic Centre bar, where a skittles run was assembled as needed. This was far from perfect and the joins between sections in the run required appropriate skill to get an accurate shot. The skittles too had seen better days and often failed to stay upright long enough to be knocked down. There was no restriction how many players took part. It didn't matter who was on which side as long as the two captains were not from the same lodge. Often the result was unimportant too, particularly when the scorer(s) lost count. A raffle was held which usually made a tidy sum for charity.
Other things were also necessary to be done during this time. The Master on leaving office was always presented with a Past Master's breast jewel, and this had to be ordered at least twelve weeks ahead. This was in addition to his proper light blue collar with the narrow silver stripe and jewel which all Past Masters had to wear to be recognised as such. There was also regalia to get, the Past Master's collar and collar jewel which the intended wearer paid for, and the new Master's apron which the lodge paid for. The meeting dates were re-confirmed with the Masonic Hall secretary. The dining arrangements for the Masonic year were agreed with the caterer. The Steward who was at the top of the list of Stewards each year was given the responsibility for arranging the dining table plan and for accepting apologies and guests attendance under delegation from the Secretary. A briefing meeting was arranged with him for this. In many English lodges, this role was done by the Assistant Secretary, usually a Past Master, but our lodge always felt that it was an excellent role for a younger member to be involved with lodge administration and to get to know all the members better.
The financial year ended on 30th June so the Treasurer usually needed help to do the books, and chase for late subscriptions. There were several Treasurers during the lodge's history and almost all of them left the accounting to the end of the year and then experienced difficulties in getting the books fully made up. This invariably meant that the accounts were rarely ready to put to the lodge meeting in September as required by the bylaws. The founders had determined June as the end of the financial year so that the Treasurer could use the quiet summer months to get the accounts ready in time. At the same time the annual return of membership was due to the Grand Secretary and the Provincial Grand Secretary.
A visit was made to the lodge room to check the equipment. Items frequently went missing as the room was used by other lodges. Those lodge members who put their own equipment away removed anything which was movable, and if the lodge did leave anything out it would be spirited away into another lodge's store. It was a time to check whether the candles needed replacing, the quantity and type of regalia, aprons etc books of constitutions and rituals needed for the year.
The Master-elect was reminded about the charity collection taken during each meeting. Unless he announced at each collection as it is about to be done where the money was to go, then it automatically went to the lodge Benevolent Fund. Our Secretary always insisted that members must be given the opportunity to choose whether to support the specific charity announced or not. The charity usually chosen was the one which the Provincial Grand Master had said he would support. Its worth digressing at this point to explain what the arrangement is in England and Wales for charity activities.
Under the charities legislation lodges themselves are not able to gain charitable status, but they may set up funds which can be registered as charities such as benevolent funds for distribution of money or charities associations for its collection. At Grand Lodge level, the charitable body is the Grand Charity set up in 1980 to replace the Board of Benevolence. Provincial and District Grand Lodges have a similar body. Grand Lodge collects in addition to the annual dues a donation of about £2.00 per member on behalf of the Grand Charity. Even though that donation is only taken only from members in England and Wales, Grand Charity do allocate funds overseas too. The fund is for deserving charities and for members and their dependents in distress. Lodge Treasurers include that donation into the costing of the annual subscriptions. At lodge level, it is a well-established routine for four methods of collection of money. Firstly, at each meeting an agenda item usually before the first rising, is entitled the 'charity column', the 'charity box', the 'broken column' or a similar name, where a box sometimes of ingenious design is passed round the lodge or taken around by the Deacons so that members and guests can deposit their donation. It is normally expected to be the highest coin (£1) or the lowest bank note (£5) or a few pieces of 'silver'. Secondly, at the dinner table there is a raffle. Thirdly, members are encouraged to donate an annual sum preferably by covenant with a tax advantage if the lodge charities association is registered as a charity. Fourthly, there are social events at which raffles are arranged. Legislation in 1992, put greater responsibilities upon lodge charity trustees so Grand Charity arranged for a system where lodges could have their funds managed by them under the title Relief Chest, also taking advantage of greater interest rates for the size of the money handled. Thus the collection of money for charity is an accepted routine activity therefore the role of a Charity Steward is that much easier and there is a constant inflow of funds, without the need to exhort members frequently.
As we know, in English Masonry, there are the two schools, the homes, and formerly the hospital now the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, charities for our own members and their dependents. The latter replaced the hospital west of London with the capability of medical support worldwide. These four charities are mainly financed from the Festivals. Each year, an English Province is nominated as the patron of one of those charities and hosts the festival on a planned date. For several years up to that, money is accumulated by the lodges in the Province for the fund and the total achieved is announced at the festival. Members who had donated above a fixed but quite small amount would be designated as Stewards and could with the addition of a nominal fee acquire a specially designed jewel to be worn for the year. The jewel carried the badge of the Province and/or the personal coat of arms of the Provincial Grand Master. London, which is not a Province, from time to time also hosted one of the festivals.
The Master-elect was also reminded about the routine items included in each of the three risings. In England, normally, all business administration was done in those risings. The First related to Grand Lodge, the second related to Provincial Grand Lodge and the third to lodge level and all other matters except those of a social and non-Masonic nature which were taken at the dining table. By September, the notification had usually been received from Provincial Grand Secretary as to who was the annual visitor on behalf of the Provincial Grand Master, and the meeting suggested as the nominated date. The Secretary also advised the Master Elect on the routine where as Master he would appoint the workers for each meeting in advance but that on the night the Director of Ceremonies found substitutes for absences, which allowed the Master to prepare himself for the meeting, and to greet guests.
The fourth Thursday in September was the first meeting. It was conducted by the Past Masters which gave the Master the period from May to October to get ready for installing his successor. The November and September meetings were always reserved for initiations so that the candidate had most of the year's meetings ahead of him to get to know the other members.
The agenda was typed and sent to the printer. The Secretary always sent the job to the printer at about five weeks before the meeting with a target date which then allowed time for putting in envelopes, and posting, so that the members got them at about ten days in advance of the meeting. That gave the printer about two weeks to do them. More than one printer had been used over the years and they all left the job until the last minute and seemed only to do them when chased. More recently, the agendas were done by a member who used his home computer which meant it was more timely and accurate.
On the agenda, the Secretary always put two names against a degree ceremony in case the first choice was unable to attend at the last minute. Comment was often made by members of English lodges that if a name or any other item was not on the agenda it could not be taken. A regular agenda item was 'any other business brought regularly before the lodge' which covered any such eventuality and silenced the critics. There was however, one occasion when a candidate did not turn up and the Secretary had only the one candidate at that level. In agreement with the Master and having consulted the Director of Ceremonies he asked another member who was due to progress to another degree if he was willing to take it. As he was willing, when opened, the lodge as a whole was asked to decide, which it did, in the positive.
On another occasion the Secretary was asked to point out politely to a Grand Officer guest to mind his own business when the candidate in a First degree had a ring on his finger, and that visitor stopped the ceremony to ask for it to be removed. The Secretary said that the presence of a ring which could not be removed, was not a bar to the ceremony taking place as normal. It was insensitive to stick overly strictly to the letter of the ritual and thus embarrass the candidate and that his intervention had done just what was intended to be avoided.
October was the installation meeting. All work was done by Past Masters who were members of the lodge except that the address to the Master was sometimes done by a relative or friend of his who was from another lodge, and the address to the brethren was always done by a Past Master from the mother lodge, as a continuing link with that lodge. Masters of the other lodges in the town were invited to the Installation and their dining fee was paid by the lodge. Normally two or three attended. The Secretary composed a one-page addition to the lodge history using the minute book as the source of information, which was sent out with the Installation agenda.
Each year, the lodge received a formal visit from Province. It was often to the Installation meeting. Where such visits took place, if the official visitor was other than the Provincial Grand Master his Deputy or one of the Assistants, he went into the lodge with all the members and guests before the Master, and left after the Master and Wardens when everyone else did. If it was one of those Executives, he was usually accompanied by a Director of Ceremonies and a formal escort was arranged. The lodge was opened normally and that Director of Ceremonies was admitted. He announced that the Provincial Grand Master or the Executive was 'without' and called for 8 members to form the escort. The use of the word 'without' always caused someone in the room to say 'without what'. The escort was formed down the centre of the room in pairs, comprising of the Director of Ceremonies, Assistant Director of Ceremonies, the two Deacons, the Secretary, the Treasurer, and two Past Masters, and then they left the room. Outside, they were greeted by the visitor and returned to form the same double line inside the room, down which the visitor went to the Master, and after being greeted sat to the Master's right. As a rule those chairs were empty as they were only used by Grand Officers, of which there were none in the lodge membership. Apart from this convention and for specific lodge officers, there were no special places where members and guests sat.
The escort could easily form down the middle of the room as the whole of the open area of the floor was the black and white carpet with nothing placed upon it. There was linoleum under the rows of chairs around the room. This carpet was of course well worn in two or three places. The holder of the Director of Ceremonies office required extra skills to stay upright when rising to his feet from his chair. There was also a worn area where the members entered the room and each new Inner Guard had to learn how to avoid the holes and the gradually separating edge when he made his usual reports. Those reports were simplified as a lodge variation from the published ritual book. All reports on the door were a single knock except where a candidate was to enter for the first time in the ceremony. This made it easier for the Junior Warden who's procedure required him to react differently by standing up in response to three knocks compared to all single knocks where he remained sitting. The only variation to the clear floor was in the First and Second degree ceremonies when the candidate was at the north east or south east respectively. His feet were placed against an ashlar. A frequent occurrence was for the second Deacon to fail to remove it in time for the candidate to move off and fall over it.
There was also a tendency common in a lot of lodges to panic when an official visitor was due. They felt it was necessary to examine the lodge differences alluded to earlier, and to revert to the printed ritual for that meeting. The Secretary had many strong discussions with members to prevent such changes from the lodge's accepted working. He often quoted the brief given to the founders when they met the Deputy Provincial Grand Master at the very start of the founding process, which was the line taken by the Grand Lodge. Every lodge had the right to choose its working, that neither Grand Lodge nor Provincial Grand Lodge would interfere as long as the lodge conformed to the basic Masonic principles, but that having chosen a working to let the founders personality and experiences be injected and stick to it. Naturally, among the founders, there was experience of several different workings, though all very similar.
As several members were used to the Emulation Working, it was that book of ritual which the lodge had adopted. The Secretary's view was that even though the founders had adopted, for this lodge, those variations their mother lodges did, if the Lodge Committee discussed any further change to those variations or to any part of the procedures of the ritual, and recommended this to the lodge which then voted upon it with a positive result, then that change would be adopted, but that no change would be adopted without that process taking place.
One such example was the suggestion that the Chaplain should have joined the outgoing procession at the end of a meeting. The procedure was for the Director of Ceremonies and Assistant Director of Ceremonies to set off round the lodge in the first verse of the closing ode. The Junior Deacon joined them as they passed him, then the Senior Deacon, and on the second round the Junior Warden and Senior Warden in turn also joined the procession. It stopped at the Master's chair with the two Deacons to the South of it and the two wardens to the North. The Master then joined, the Wardens closed up and Grand Officers, if any, plus Provincial and District Grand Officers and holders of London Grand Rank, sitting Masters of other lodges, but no other officers. In any case the Chaplain was usually a Provincial Grand Officer. The only variation to this was the inclusion of the Initiate or representative of the Provincial Grand Master who joined the procession alongside the Master, where that representative was not a Provincial Executive. As a new lodge, it did add to the interest of the occasion in the early years, for example, when a Master was doing Universal Working, a Deacon was doing Taylor Working and the rest were doing Emulation.
As mentioned earlier, November was the time for new members to be introduced and there was always a steady demand for entry to the lodge. Often this gave rise to discussions on whether to do double ceremonies or not. The compromise was to do double Seconds but the other two ceremonies were singles.
The lodge did not meet in December as the fourth Thursday would be Christmas from time to time. Likewise there was no meeting in March because of Easter. So January February, April and May were very much routine uneventful meetings except for the usual misinterpretations of ritual to be set right by the Secretary or the Director of Ceremonies which even after many years of experience still dogged some members.
After the two Initiations and the Installation, the rest of the year's programme was taken up with two Second degrees and two Third degrees. Each member was about 18 months to two years in getting from the initial entry to the Third degree. Immediately after each Third degree ceremony the Secretary sent a request form to Provincial Grand Secretary so that the Grand Lodge Certificate arrived before the next meeting, to be presented, usually by the Secretary. As a rule the number of candidates was such that some Second and Third degrees were passed out to other lodges in Berkshire and Hampshire who were short of work. A simple letter from our Secretary and the Master making the request met the constitutional rules.
One member had the ability to communicate with a departed lodge member. One evening before he joined the lodge, when in the home of his proposer whom he had known for many years, he described the movements of a ceremony without knowing what he was actually describing. The proposer contacted the Secretary and all three (or was it four) met in the lodge room one evening. This brother then with his eyes closed pointed out that he was being guided by someone who was sitting in the Senior Warden's chair, and from the front of that chair moved around the room taking measured steps. It took the Secretary some minutes to realise that if he had started from the door, he described almost perfectly the action of a Senior Deacon in the First degree ceremony. He described the person from whom he was taking instructions and the description fitted a member who had died of a heart attack when in the office of Senior Warden. Some months later when the brother was introduced into the lodge he said that the deceased Senior Warden was alongside him during his ceremony.
Another strange but down to earth occurrence was when a member of another lodge in the Province of Berkshire was proposed for joining. This itself was not unusual as members joined lodges across the County/Province boundaries to experience the wider comradeship and the different workings. This brother had thus far only reached the stage of being an Entered Apprentice. The Secretary of his Berkshire lodge refused to create the required clearance certificate confirming he had no money owing to the lodge. That Secretary rang our Secretary and in no uncertain terms told our Secretary that none of 'his members' under any circumstances was allowed to join another lodge until he had taken all three degrees, and in any case, the Secretary of the lodge which he was asking to join should write and ask for such a certificate. Our Secretary's response was to say that there was no regulation which supported that restriction and that members must be freely allowed to choose the lodges of which they wished to be members at any stage in their Masonic career. He said that our lodge accepted any man for membership providing the proper procedure was followed, that he was vouched for by a proposer and seconder, duly interviewed and accepted by the lodge committee, had the proper forms and was accepted by ballot in open lodge. He asked what would that Secretary do if one of the members moved to another part of the country, and said that provision of the certificate was a proper part of the application by the candidate and his proposer. A clearance certificate arrived a few days later. On the subject, of certificates for joiners, our Secretary took the view as many others did that it was the responsibility of the candidate and his proposer to obtain the proper certificates, from the lodges of which he was a member. In any case it would be expected that he was already in regular contact with that or those Secretaries, and a face to face request was the best method. It also put pressure on the proposer and candidate to get the certificate before the ballot.
Committee meetings were held four or five times a year at the home of the Master or the Secretary until the Lodge moved to Hampshire. The main hall below the Masonic Hall in the Surrey town was let to a company which held discos on several nights in the week. This did have some slight problem in that on lodge nights, if the meeting was late finishing, the members had to pick their way through the teenagers who had occupied the entrance and the staircase.
The dinner after each meeting, called the Festive Board reserved one dinner a year to entertain the ladies. This was apart from the more formal annual Ladies Night held at a local hall in October just before the Master completed his year. Many lodges held their annual Ladies Night in a hotel in the seaside town of Bournemouth with two nights accommodation and meals included.
There was a 'lodge of instruction' once per month and each lodge meeting was preceded by a rehearsal. Whereas the lodge of instruction had a reasonable attendance, of say ten to fifteen, the rehearsals were very poorly attended, usually only by the Master, the Director of Ceremonies perhaps the Assistant Director of Ceremonies, a Deacon or two and possibly a Warden. They retired to the local pub afterwards, and after the move to the Farnborough Masonic Centre, the in-house bar.
In each meeting except the Installation meeting, the Director of Ceremonies or the Secretary did a five minute lecture for the education of the members, and the lodge of instruction was also used to inform the members about the Craft and to explain why certain things were done and what the ceremonies meant. Often members sought preferment in office without realising that promotion was solely by merit and not of right. This applied to older members equally as well as the younger ones. The Secretary explained this by pointing out that the best way for promotion was to demonstrate their ability by taking part in ceremonies and other lodge affairs so that those in the 'ladder' ahead of them were aware, because it was those who when they became Master would be choosing their officers and their ceremony workers, and not the Secretary, Director of Ceremonies or any other senior member of the lodge.
The dinner after the meeting as mentioned earlier, was known as the Festive Board and included not only the formal toasts but 'take wines'. In most English lodges the Immediate Past Master or the Master or even the Director of Ceremonies (but always the Master in this lodge) used the gavel to gain attention, then the Immediate Past Master would stand and say 'The Worshipful Master would like to take wine with...' The Master and whoever was named stood and each raised their glass. In this lodge the Master himself at the gavel stood and said 'I would like to take wine with...' There were about seven or eight 'take wines' at pauses in between the courses. They were used to recognise exceptional work in the ceremonies, to say welcome back to a member who had been a long time absent, or had been in hospital, and to find out who had the gravy boat or mustard pot
The formal toasts were those used in all lodges - five in number, The Queen, the Grand Master, the Grand Officers, the Provincial Grand Master, the Provincial and District Grand Officers and holders of London Grand Rank, and finally the guests. The latter toast was followed with a reply or sometimes two. The Provincial Grand Master had his own toast albeit he like all Provincial and District Grand Masters was a present Grand Officer. Once a year a junior member proposed a toast to the founders. At the Installation meeting, the Immediate Past Master toasted the Master and the Master replied. Then the Master toasted the Immediate Past Master and he replied. The attendance was about two thirds of the membership, with a small number of guests, but at the Installation there tended to be a larger number of guests. Apart from a nominated few paid by the lodge, all guests paid for their meals as of course did the members.
With six out of seven meetings for degree ceremonies, the Master delegated most of the work, keeping the first part of a First, a Second and a Third to himself. The Charge after Initiation, Second Degree Tracing Board, and the Traditional History following the Third, were always done by Past Masters and the other three ceremonies were also done by Past Masters. Apart from the fact that only two or three could do the Second Degree Tracing Board and the Traditional History this gave the members a variety of people to listen to thus generating more interest. The working tools were always done by a junior member except at the Installation meeting.
The calendar was now showing May. The year had turned full circle. Many events had taken place during the year. Many things had happened in the same way they had in the previous year and others before that. Some new events had happened, and now the last meeting of the year had just taken place which has brought us to the point where this narrative began.
Alan Bevins, April 1999
by W. Bro Graham Shepherd-Jones, Master St Crispin Lodge 9046
Having read the "Year in the life of a secretary of an English Lodge" by Worshipful Brother Alan Bevins I am moved to add a somewhat disjointed update from the same Lodge. It just outlines the true Masonic friendship and support of that band of brethren who practice their masonry at St Crispin lodge 9046.
A new duly installed master took over the running of the Lodge for the year 2001 - 2002. His name Gerald Crease-Smith. Each and every member of St Crispin knew that "Gerry" has Dyslexia and hence found learning his ritual extremely difficult. It was therefore with some disbelief that we saw him rise through the minor offices and find himself eligible to be elected as Master. He was duly unanimously elected by the Brethren of St Crispin to be their Master for the year. Maybe, you might think that this was just a simple gesture to Gerry and that the lodge would somehow manage to struggle through the year with the minimum amount of pain.
What happened was one of the most encouraging sights in masonry I have yet to witness. It has instilled in me something that I shall remember for the rest of my life. It is not the correct presentation and faultless recital of ritual that has kept masonry together for so long, which even Gerald would agree, was never going to happen in his year. It was the true support and encouragement from each and every member of the Lodge. Even this would have made his year one to be remembered, but the true meaning of masonry, brotherhood and friendship emanated from Gerald. He showed so much Brotherly love as master of St Crispin to each and every brother who attended during his year, visitors included.
Gerald had without any question been a very active mason, visiting other lodges and enrolling in Chapter. His outgoing and friendly nature always rubbed off on everyone he met, and it was as no surprise that on the evening of his installation the Lodge was full to capacity. I believe this was as much an encouragement to the brethren of the lodge as it was to Gerry. At a time when Freemasonry has declined in numbers it is this kind of evening that will bring members back and entice new members to join.
I have no words to be able to describe the warmth and Brotherly love that emanated from the Lodge that evening and during the festive board that followed. You will have to take my word that it was one of the most pleasurable experiences I have encountered. I'm sure that each and everyone there felt it. This evening could have been the pinnacle of his mastership but Gerry continued to grow in warmth at every meeting.
What I have learned from his year is to encourage each and every brother, support them in any way possible. If you have the talent to produce ritual by the book then put whatever is needed to make it meaningful, not just recite it parrot fashion. But most of all be open and warm hearted to everyone who has supported you and be prepared to show them how you feel. Worshipful Brother Gerald's mastership has left the lodge a much friendlier place and a Joy to visit.
This year as the immediate past master he has offered his support to the reigning master and also without fail attends class of instruction just to pass on to his best abilities his experience.
I know without a shadow of doubt that everything he did or said during his year was from the Heart and should we ever be able to reproduce one tenth of the warmth he generated this world would be a far greater place and masonry will thrive because of it.
God bless you Brother Gerald, you are an inspiration to us all.
Graham Shepherd-Jones - June 2003