by Darwin H. Templeton, CBE
The Most Wor. Past Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of Ireland
This document, formerly issued in 1994 as a discussion paper on the way forward for Irish Freemasonry into the next century, was approved, following Notice of Motion to that effect, by Grand Lodge, on December 5th 1996, as representing Grand Lodge policy, in principle.
It has been said that, over the last number of decades, the Masonic Order has become more secretive and inward looking. While I do not believe there is anything wrong with our Order, I think, if we examine some aspects of our activities, we may feel that some changes are desirable. In this white paper, I have set out some of my thoughts on those I believe to be necessary. The Deputy Grand Master, the Assistant Grand Master and the Grand Master’s Council have considered a number of these possible improvements to our Order and have recommended them to Grand Lodge. I now hope the brethren will express their views on my Programme for Change.
These proposals are mainly designed to create a change in attitude, not only in members of the Order, but also in those who have undertaken abnormally critical studies of Freemasonry. This, we hope, will be accomplished by encouraging the Brethren to be more open about their membership of the Order and to become sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to discuss the Order with those interested in Freemasonry. Those who wish to undertake a detailed study of Freemasonry will, we hope, base their conclusions on Masonic fact, obtained from Freemasons and not on myth, obtained from those with an irrational desire to destroy Freemasonry.
The main aims of the PROGRAMME FOR CHANGE are, firstly, to promote interest in and support for the Order by participation, openly and actively, in the life of the community and secondly, to practice public charity and philanthropy, in addition to mutual support for our brethren and their families.
The Progamme for Change, if acceptable, may take five years or more to implement fully. The Programme will be outlined under the following headings.
1. Masonic Image
5. Administrative Development
Darwin H. Templeton, CBE
1. Masonic Image
Over fifty years ago, it was commonplace for reports on Masonic meetings to appear in the local press. The events of the local Lodge installation meeting and celebratory dinner were reported in great detail, listing the names and rank of the Brethren attending. The normal activity of reporting local events tended to reassure the public and make the Order appear less secretive. Brethren were confident in their Freemasonry and felt, generally, no embarrassment in their membership. Certainly in Belfast, and possibly elsewhere, the annual Charity Concert was one of the highlights of the social calendar, Local civic and church leaders, both masons and non masons, together with their ladies, were pleased to attend such events. The Masonic Order was a confident and well accepted party of society.
Since that period the Order has become a more introverted organisation and appears to be moving apart from society. This introversion has been a very slow process and, because of this attitude, the Order has, over the years, been more and more perceived by the world at large as being very secretive, or a secret society and, in some cases, even sinister.
It is now time to change this attitude and to become more open about Freemasonry. Grand Lodge, Provincial Grand Lodges, Subordinate Lodges and, most importantly, individual brethren should take every opportunity to talk about Freemasonry. There is so much good to tell about the Order and the joy of our Brotherhood and Fellowship.
I wish to see a change in our attitude to our membership of the Order. I want Irish Freemasons to take every opportunity to explain the aims of the Order to their families and friends, also to their workmates and business colleagues; it is from these associations that new members may be found.
But it is, I believe, also in our churches that we must dispel the myths about Freemasonry. Together with our fellow Churchmen, who are members of the Order, we must take every opportunity to declare our membership and, I believe that non-members will judge the Order on the character and lifestyle of those whom they know to be Freemasons. The recently appointed Churches Committee will be of tremendous assistance in the future. The book, “The Christian and the Craft” written by the Rev Worshipful Brother Warren Porter DD and edited by this committee has been acclaimed by Masons world wide.
The Order is perceived by the general public as secretive, protestant, middle/upper class, looking after our own and, that we carry out charitable works. No matter how often Grand Lodge repudiates this, the Public’s perception seems not to change. I believe that a change in the public’s view of Freemasonry will only take place when the Order is seen to be a part of society and not apart from society. Therefore I hope that every Brother, when he is involved in the social and public life of his community, will take every opportunity to talk about Freemasonry and his membership of the Order.
Pride in our membership and confidence in the principles of Freemasonry will be the main driving force, in changing both the public and the Churches’ view of Irish Freemasonry.
As the Grand Master of Alberta in Canada said in a speech recently, “I do not want to hear any negatives about Masonry, because there are so many positives. Let us find them, talk about them, and then take action to emulate them. Remember, you and I are someone else’s impression of Freemasonry.” I believe we, who are Irish Freemasons, should do exactly that.
So Brethren, be proud of your membership of our Order and, by your action, help change the image of the Order.
It is a widely held belief that a Freemason may NOT invite someone to join the Order. THIS IS WRONG!! A member may invite someone whom he considers would be a good Freemason to join his Lodge. He should not, however, apply undue pressure on anyone to join. New members must join of their own freewill and not by the improper solicitation of Brethren.
Many join the Order because their Father or Brother or other relative is a member. They know nothing of the ideals of Freemasonry and what will be expected of them once they join. In some cases, after a short while, they become disenchanted with the Order and either leave, or simply do not attend their Lodge meetings. I urge all brethren, who know someone whom they think would make a good member, to invite him to consider joining the Order and, most importantly, to explain to him what will be expected of him. There are a number of publications available from your Lodge Secretary explaining Freemasonry. Make sure a potential candidate reads these leaflets and be ready to answer openly and honestly any questions he might ask.
To assist with potential members obtaining a better understanding of Freemasonry before they jouin, I propose to encourage all Lodges to hold open nights at least once a year. The idea is that Brethren may invite to the Festive Board following the Lodge Meeting, anyone they think might like to join the Order. They obviously, could not attend the Lodge meetiong but, while the Brethren are at labour, one senior member of the Lodge might give the visitors a short talk on Freemasonry. Following the Lodge meeting, brethren and their visitors would join together in the Festive Board. By virtue of this practice, potential new members would get some insight as to the fun and fellowship that we enjoy in our Lodges and hopefully, decide for the right reasons, to join the Order.
Our Ladies should not be neglected but rather, should be encouraged to become involved with our Order by invitation to Ladies Nights, Dinners and other Lodge Functions.
Knowledge of the Order is, therefore, very important, to enable all members to explain to potential candidates the principles and history of Freemasonry. I therefore, believe that education in Freemasonry is necessary, not only for new members, but for all members. I will outline my thoughts on educational training later in this paper.
While I would encourage all Brethren to seek out new members, it is of paramount importance that we maintain the very highest quality in our membership. Those who propose a candidate for membership must be certain that he, not only understands his commitment to the Order, but also that he is of sufficient character to honour that commitment, by regular attendance at the Lodge and a continued interest in all aspects of the Order. It is very disappointing to see a man receive his first, second and third degrees and then, rarely attend his Lodge or support either the Master or the Charities. I would suggest that in future, the proposer and seconder of a candidate should be responsible for that member for a period of, say, five years after his initiation. This will mean that they will be required to encourage that brother to attend regularly, to take a pride in both the Lodge and the Order and to see that he advances in knowledge and Masonic skill. If he fails the Lodge then the Lodge will look to the proposer and seconder to try and rectify the situation. Getting involved in the Lodge’s activities is the surest way to enjoy Freemasonry.
Finally, Lodge meetings, both at local and Provincial level, should try as far as possible, not to clash with other activities which may interest Brethren. Provincial Grand Lodge Meetings held on a Saturday afternoon, when many brethren may wish to be with their families or taking part in sporting events, may cause resentment among families or frustration among the brethren at being deprived of sporting interaction.
It is in the area of our Masonic Charities that I find Brethren have a very wide range of differing opinions. But it is clear that, only those Brethren closely involved in our various Masonic Charities have any real knowledge of what is happening within the Charities. Almost without exception, all our Brethren agree that we need more money in our Charities to increase our help to realistic levels.
The method of organizing and managing our various Masonic Charities varies considerably from committee to committee. I believe it is fair to say that, with one or two exceptions, each charity knows very little of the plans and activities of the other charities. There is very little coordination of effort between the various charities.
I have, as you may know, invited the Assistant Grand Master to meet the various charities to discuss their future plans and to present to Grand Lodge, proposals for the better coordination of all our charitable efforts. I have also asked for proposals to increase our contributions to Masonic Charities by at least 100% over the next two years.
The Assistant Grand Master’s report and proposals will. I hope, be available for discussion shortly.
I believe that it is important for the Order to take a more open approach to its’ activities and to take every opportunity to explain, openly and honestly, its’ principles and ideals. It is also important, that every member of the Order feels that he can influence the policy and direction of our Order as we head towards the next century. It is not the Grand Master who should dictate policy in isolation, but rather in consultation with the Brethren.
The Landmarks of the Craft cannot be changed, nor should the policy of Grand Lodge be altered to suit current fads or fashion. But new ideas, regarding how we carry on our activities will always be considered carefully by Grand Lodge and, if thought appropriate, adopted by our Order. I wish to know your views on the Order and to have your ideas for improving Freemasonry.
To ensure that there is a proper forum to consider these various ideas, etc., I have set up, and Grand Lodge has approved, a Grand Master’s Council. This is made up of Provincial Grand Masters and their Deputies, together with the Chairman and another Senior Brother from the Metropolitan Board of General Purposes. This Council, under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master has already met and discussed some new ideas for the Order and, indeed, has proposed changes through the Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes and, has advised on amendments to our Laws and Constitutions. This Council is representative of all parts of Ireland and, as such, can bring to Grand Lodge, the ideas of the Brethren in all areas and also, take back to the Brethren in their respective areas, the items under consideration, for their opinion. Therefore, every Brother, through his Provincial Grand Lodge or Metropolitan Board has an opportunity to influence the policy of Grand Lodge.
As part of Grand Lodge Policy, I would like to see a more pro-active attitude to promoting the Order. For too long we have only reacted to criticism of our Order and of our membership of Freemasonry. We must endeavour to reduce the secret image of the Order and to make more open and frank responses to inquiries about Freemasonry.
5. Administrative Development
I believe it is important that those Brethren elected to Office should discharge their duties to the best of their ability. To do this, it may be necessary to train these Brethren in what is expected of them and, to teach them the right way to do things; we do, after all, have many classes of instruction to teach Brethren our Ritual, therefore, why do we not have some training for Lodge, Provincial Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge Officers?
The Grand Secretary has already held a meeting with the Provincial Grand Secretaries to discuss how the training of Lodge Secretaries may be carried out. It would be my wish that Grand Lodge would prepare a programme of training for Provincial Grand Lodge Officers. Primarily, the training would be for Secretaries, Treasurers, Almoners, Stewards of Charities and Worshipful Masters. In turn, I will encourage Provincial Grand Lodges to commence training in the Lodges within their jurisdiction. I am sure that Brethren who have had the benefit of some training will enjoy their offices much more, apart from the fact that they will do a better job.
I still find that many Brethren have an erroneous understanding of what can be done and what cannot be done by Freemasons. I believe a better understanding of the Laws and Constitutions of Grand Lodge, may help Brethren be aware of the principles and ideals of Irish Freemasonry. I have, therefore, decided to invite a number of Senior Brethren to examine the Laws and Constitutions, with a view to making them more easily understood. I would hope they would incorporate the Decisions of Grand Lodge, taken over many years, in the Laws. It can be confusing to read a Law and then have to read a number of decisions which may effect and change the interpretation of the original Law. I hope this examination of our Laws and Constitutions can be completed next year.
There are few subjects that bring forth more suggestions from the Brethren than the question of communication within the Order. Many reports are written and many accounts published, almost all of which are sent to the Lodges in the Irish Constitution. Few, if any, are ever read in any detail by the Brethren. How often have we heard the Lodge Secretary say, “ If anyone wants to read this report, he should see me afterwards and I will lend him a copy”. Most Secretaries will tell you that very few Brethren ever ask for a copy. The information is available but, communication is breaking down at Lodge level’ This is not a criticism of Lodge Secretaries but rather of how we try to pass on information to our members.
I am sure that Brethren do want to know what is happening in the Order. However, very few take the trouble to read any of the information available. I believe therefore, that they must be told what is happening, at least, if they listen to what is reported, they may remember what was said, in part, and thus become better informed.
The reading of information in Lodge cannot be left in the hands of the Secretary alone. He already has more than enough to do. I am sure that when it comes to matters relating to our Charities, this task, of informing the brethren, should be the responsibility of both the Steward of Charities and the Almoner. To give them a formal place in Lodge meetings, in order to report on their various spheres of activity, Grand Lodge has approved an addendum to the Closing of the Lodge. This addendum will give the Steward of Charities and the Almoner an opportunity to report on their activities and to the Lodge. To assist them in preparing their reports, I hope the various Masonic Charities will provide brief reports to these Brethren which can be read in open Lodge. These might include a brief synopsis of the financial accounts, or a note of the numbers being assisted by a Charity on behalf of the Lodge. I know that some Lodges do not know the names of widows or distressed Brethren belonging to the Lodge who are receiving assistance, and have therefore, no idea how important the assistance can be to these people. Maybe, with the benefit of this knowledge, Brethren may be more prepared to give readily to our charitable collections by knowing exactly who is receiving help. The financial strength, or otherwise, of the Charities is largely unknown. Much comment, by certain Brethren, is based on hearsay and myth, but the information is available in the Charity accounts to let us all know the strength of the individual Charities. Again, I hope that a plain, easily understood report, read in Lodge by the Steward of Charities will help us all to understand more fully the finances of our Charities.
I think it is now essential that the non-rotational Officers of the Lodge – i.e:- The Secretary, Treasurer, Steward of Charities, Almoner and Director of Ceremonies should receive some training, to ensure they understand their position and to ensure they carry out their duties correctly. For too long, these good Brethren have been left largely to their own devices, with little support. I intend to request that the Provincial Grand Lodges run regular training evenings to assist these brethren. I know that there are classes of instruction to assist the Directors of Ceremonies but, these are often seen as only applicable to Brethren coming into Office. Is it not time for classes of instruction to hold one night per year to help active Directors of Ceremonies – I think it is.
Communication is not just someone else’s responsibility. It is the responsibility of all Brethren to be as well informed about the Masonic Order as they can be because, if we are to be more open about Freemasonry, then we must have the knowledge to enable us to answer questions put to us, openly and accurately.
Grand Lodge must start training Provincial Grand Lodges, Provincial Grand Lodges must train Craft Lodges and Lodges must encourage their Brethren to accept this training. However Brethren, communication is a two way street. I hope that you Brethren will not hesitate to put forward your ideas on Freemasonry, in all its’ various facets, and that your Lodge Officer, be it Worshipful Master, Secretary or whomsoever, will forward those ideas to your Provincial Grand Lodge and that your Provincial Grand Lodge will pass on appropriate suggestions to Grand Lodge. Not all suggestions may be accepted by Grand Lodge but, every Brother has the right to seek to influence Grand Lodge policy and thinking.
In this paper, I have set out some of my thoughts and those of the Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters. They are by no means exhaustive, but I believe they point the way forward for Irish Freemasonry to the next Century. I invite all Brethren to comment and to submit their constructive ideas and thoughts on Freemasonry, to enable us all to support and maintain the Order that gives us so much pleasure.