Brethren of the Mark Province of London, here we are, nearly at the end of another year. And what a year this has been! You don’t need me to remind you of the challenges which this pandemic has thrown up and how 2020 has been the most extraordinary year of all our lives. The disruption caused to our familiar activities and routines has been incalculable. There are now so many extra words and phrases in our vocabularies – such as self-isolation, shielding, social distancing, the R Rate – and we have become so familiar with that technological lifesaver, Zoom – thank goodness for Zoom, the new Patron Saint of Freemasonry; that Ark which has kept many lodges afloat, as we navigate our precarious way through the turbulent waters of this current crisis!
If, like me, you are members of other Orders in Freemasonry then your e-mail inboxes will have been overflowing these past few months with messages from various Provincial/District Heads and Grand Lodges. These messages will all be expressions of concern for yours and everyone’s welfare; notes of gratitude for the way we have responded to claims on our charity and for all the other acts of kindness that so many Brethren have carried out – be it helping to distribute food and essentials to vulnerable individuals shielding and isolating; or something as simple and easy as picking up the phone to check on a Brother or a friend; or where circumstances have permitted, visiting.
Such acts of kindness are all the more poignant at this special time of year – so for those of you who carry them out for members within our Province of London, well done and thank you.
We are all living through difficult times. For our members with family commitments and mortgages to pay, the uncertainty of the jobs market is a worrying period; and for those on pensions or fixed incomes there is the continuing concern over what the financial future holds for them. The finances of our Masonic Centres are also precarious. Whilst I am sure that the Centres where we meet (not just Mark Masons’ Hall) have taken advantage of the various Government financial packages, their normal sources of income (hall rents, bar takings, dining charges, etc) have dried up whilst running costs have still to be met. Hence, most Centres have been seeking to off-set their outgoings by asking Lodges to pay rent, or part-rent, for missed meetings. The Grand Lodges of our various Orders have also had to keep the show on the road – so salaries and office expenses have continued to be a drain on any reserves which they held.
This is where we, as members, have a supporting part to play. When your Lodge Treasurer asks for your subs please bear in mind that he still has to account for Grand and Provincial fees. Once we get through this terrible period we will need premises in which to meet, Tylers/Warders etc to look after us and a thriving Grand and Provincial function to carry out the necessary elements of support. Prompt payment of subs therefore assumes an even greater importance and, wherever possible, you should respond positively to the Treasurer’s request.
In genuine cases of hardship, however, it should not be forgotten that Masonry has a benevolent function. Any Brother who is in financial difficulty should not hesitate to contact his Lodge Almoner, who will deal promptly with applications for help. The Craft and the Mark have substantial funds at their disposal and their respective Petitions Committees meet regularly to review applications for assistance.
On the charity donating front I can only say that your generosity has remained staggeringly complimentary! £7,000 was collected at our Provincial Virtual Meeting; £2,200 50-50 proceeds were paid to the Agoonoree Scouts; £7,200 worth of 2021 lapel badges was bought by you; £2,750 was collected via our Remembrance Day commemoration; £3,000 donated to Attilio for his Movember moustache shaving initiative and £400 raised on the Quiz Night (which was doubled by the PGM’s Discretionary Fund to £800) for the UN Refugees’ Fund. That’s nearly £23,000 contributed this year by London Brethren for our MBF plus a whole variety of good causes. Brethren, I again salute you and thank you for this.
Indeed there is even more generosity to report on, as I now have a drawer full of new MBF collarettes ready to present to individuals and Lodges in respect of private donations which continue to pour in to the MBF. What a joyful series of meetings we are going to have, once we get back to real face-to-face Mark Masonry!!
Inevitably there has been a down-side to the Covid situation. During this year we have lost a few of our number to the disease and some well known characters have passed away from other causes. We grieve for these losses and at this particularly poignant time of year, I extend heartfelt good wishes of the Province to those who are spending their first Christmas without a much loved partner and friend. We have been obliged to cancel our highly popular Mess Meetings, the January Burns Event in Bournemouth and one of the most significant casualties has been our planned celebrations for the 30th Anniversary of the Province. This is postponed until 8th November. Please put that date in your new 2021 diaries.
Your London Mallet magazine this month once again teems with interesting articles and I hope that over the festive period you will take time to read it. Communication has been at the forefront of the Executive’s activities this year and alongside these regular publications you will recollect T@3, Nine O’clock Toasts, Facebook reports and pictures of Lodge Zoom Meetings. Earlier this week I led a highly successful virtual awareness presentation for prospective Candidates and those Master Masons who have already signed up to be Advanced in various Lodges. The next presentation is being planned – watch out for details and begin thinking now of the names of those Craft/Chapter colleagues you would like to invite to that Zoom session.
Our Facebook group now has 1,225 members (up 55% since the start of this year), the website subscribers are up 26% and The London Mallet is sent to 2,597 email addresses. These amazing statistics would not have been achieved without the efforts of W. Bro. Chris James and his team – in particular Bro. Richard Criddle who manages Facebook and the website. Another particular success has been the publication of the 2020/21 Yearbook, which has been produced in hard copy (these are in your Lodge lockers) and also as a PDF file – shortly to be emailed to all Secretaries and Scribes. To Chris and the team, please accept my thanks for your significant contributions to this aspect of Provincial activity.
My grateful thanks are also due to your Executive Committee, who have continued to serve the Province well over these past nine difficult months. The Secretariat in particular – W. Bro. Robert Anderson and his team – have been extremely busy issuing Dispensations for Virtual Business Meetings, and providing all the extra advice, support and answering the multitude of queries which Grand Lodge Suspension arrangements have generated. Thank you, Robert and team.
Lastly, Brethren of London, a huge thank you once again to you. Firstly for reading to the end of this lengthy communication(!), but also for your support – in so many different ways – of your Lodges and your Province. Sadly, new Tier 4 restrictions have disrupted so many of our plans for the coming week and, as grandparents ourselves, it looks as if Eunice and I will be watching our family opening Santa’s presents on Zoom. Be of good cheer, Brethren. This difficult period will pass and next year’s celebrations will be all the more special! I remain conscious that London Mark is made up of Brethren of many different faiths so, however you celebrate at this Christmas time, I wish you all the compliments of the Season and extend to you and your families my very best wishes for a happy and successful 2021, when “we shall meet again!”
Stay Safe and Mark Well Brethren.