UGLE Annual Report 2020

The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has launched its first annual report, in its 300 year history, marking another major step forward in its commitment to modernisation, transparency and normalization.

To view the full report click here

The annual report includes the new mission statement, which sits alongside the UGLE’s four key values of integrity, respect, friendship and charity. In addition, a recent study found that 75% of Freemasons take part in civic or charitable activities, compared to only 31% of non-Freemasons, in a matched geodemographic profile.

“Our first-ever annual report is a major step ahead for the organisation in terms of the transparency and normalisation of Freemasonry, we want to tell the public who we are and what we do. This year, we have raised more than £42m for charity and given more than 18.5 million hours of our time in unpaid social and civic volunteering. I am enormously proud to serve an organisation with such a story to tell.”
Dr David Staples, Chief Executive, United Grand Lodge of England

To view the full report click here

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Masons provide new TVs for Clacton Hospital following Facebook appeal

It started with a Facebook appeal from Clacton District Hospital then went viral - and it worked after the message reached local Freemasons - members of Clactonian Lodge, who responded to the urgent request to help patients isolated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The person behind the appeal, Emma Blowers, Paediatric Services Lead and the rest of her team were called in to help when the virus began to change lives, but for the patients, many of whom had been transferred from nearby Colchester Hospital to recover from non-covid related conditions, it meant lockdown and isolation.

Access to TV and other communal rooms stopped overnight leaving “patients to look at four walls” and that was when Emma acted and asked the question – is there anyone out there who can supply us with old TVs or radios?”

Steve Peperrell, who saw Emma’s appeal on Facebook, responded immediately with members of Clactonian Lodge agreeing to donate £500, a sum match funded by the Essex Freemasons Community Fund – a total of £1,000 and enough to buy three new TVs and stands for patients at Clacton Hospital.

“The members agreed to help immediately,” said Steve, “Clacton is our local hospital and we as Freemasons are very much involved with the local community, so we were pleased to help and hope it has made a real difference to patients who had to put up with their own particular kind of lockdown.”

Brenda Heywood and Diane Davies, currently recovering at Clacton Hospital, were in full agreement – the new TVs have made a difference. They are seen pictured with Emma Blowers, together with members of the nursing team and Clactonian Lodge and Assistant provincial Grand Master Graham Dickerson and Colin Felton, Provincial Grand Charity Steward at a special presentation ceremony.

“We are very grateful to Clactonian Lodge,” said Emma Blowers. “The TV’s have given some normality to patients who had to be kept in isolation in groups of six to protect them from the pandemic. It was especially good because they had a connection with the outside world. The biggest thing was that it enabled them to watch historic events such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, which they would have missed.”

Essex Freemasons donate more than £1 million each year to help local charities. In the last 12 months an additional £100,000 has been used for Covid related support and helping local Lodges such as Clactonian support dozens of different causes across the county.

Picture caption: Members of nursing staff: Chris Land, Pegga Fuller, Susie Deans, Kristi Andrews, Marcela Nasalean. Patients Brenda Heywood and Diane Davies. Essex Freemasons: Graham Dickerson, Assistant Provincial Grand Master; Colin Felton, Provincial Grand Charity Steward and Steve Pepperrel, Adrian Nunn and Stephen Pope from Clactonian Lodge.

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Home from Home

You all know the story of Rip Van Winkle who woke up to find he was 20 years older and the world had changed. He returned home to find his wife had died, his daughter was married and the portrait of King George III, the father of four Freemasons, had been replaced by Bro George Washington – you get the picture. 

In January 1999, I was a privileged to be invited to the opening ceremony of Prince Edward Duke of Kent Court (PEDOKC) by the Grand Master but it was not until 20 years later in 2019 when I joined the Lodge of Daily Advancement that I learned just how far the RMBI care home at Stisted had progressed since then and how well all the residents are being cared for. For this, I thank one of the Trustees of the Association of Friends of PEDOKC, Graham Larke, who has kept me posted with developments and sends me the PEDOKC Newsletters produced by David Badger, a Trustee and Secretary.

Edited by Aggie McDonald, the Home Manager and Jade Gibson, Business Relationship Manager, the latest production of the PEDOKC Newsletter PedokNews.Mar21.pdf (mcusercontent.com) is impressive with over 110 pictures, which is equivalent to an additional 110,000 words! The ‘Birthday Celebrations’ page for both Residents and staff is a nice touch and ‘Scouting in Stisted Hall’ is a superb initiative and most appropriate for a ‘Masonic Home’. Based on my own experiences as a Senior Scout and as a Leader, I see many benefits for residents who become ‘invested’ and join in the activities of the Stisted ‘Senior Scouts’.

At the Essex Almoners Conference on 6th May 2021, Jade gave a detailed explanation of individual residential costs, local government and RMBI support. Regardless of an individual’s subsequent financial circumstances, all Residents should feel secure knowing they will be cared for, for the rest of their lives. Both Aggie and Jade gave a fine presentation about life at Stisted including:

  • How everyone works hard to make it a ‘Home from Home’
  • The Safari Shuttle for exploring and picnics in the 50-acre grounds with 10 life-size fibreglass animals
  • Activities such as the cookery club, bingo or enjoying a drink in the new bar.

If you get the chance to view the new accompanying video and/or the Conference presentation by Aggie and Jade please do so.  Paul Reeves, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master in-Charge, described to the 180 online delegates how impressed he is with the quality of care and facilities at PEDOKC. Paul also encouraged all Essex Freemasons to support one of the upcoming open Coffee-Mornings at Stisted to see for themselves.

Graham Larke is pleased that the excellent work for the Residents in these difficult times by Aggie and all her Staff is being highlighted. Graham said “The Association of Friends is proud to support their efforts to maintain the high quality of the Home for the Residents”.  Visit Friends of Stisted (friendsofpedokc.org.uk) to find out more and discover how you can help others make it a ‘Home from Home’.

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The Next Item on the Agenda is the Almoner’s Report

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has replaced what was once considered a difficult process for assistance into a smooth one for individuals and their families. Throughout England and Wales, it now takes four to 10 weeks for routine grant applications. Visiting Brothers have been replaced by Visiting Volunteers who are more qualified and work on a UK-wide basis.  Most applications to the MCF are received direct but a number still go through Lodge Almoners, especially those from older Brethren.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) prevents Lodge Almoners from reporting about a Brother’s circumstances without explicit permission.  The Almoner’s role is now defined as ‘Pastoral Care’ which Ray Heathfield, the Deputy Provincial Grand Almoner of the Essex Freemasons, described to the 180 online participants at the Essex Provincial Almoner’s Conference on 6th May 2021, means “making contact and listening”.

“To support Lodge Almoners”, Ray continued, “the Province is divided into six areas, each with an Almoner Liaison Officer (ALO). There is an additional ALO for Prince Edward, Duke of Kent Court care home and Hamilton Court.”  The Provincial ‘Adopt a Widow Scheme’ was presented by Paul Cash, who explained that one year ago, 123 widows were on the list. So far 99 have been adopted, leaving 24 unattached of which six have said ‘Thank-you we are fine’ and four are in care homes.

The new Provincial Grand Almoner, Gary Hostler, explained that Essex has nine Almoner Grants Officers (AGOs) and emphasised how important the Essex Provincial Almoners Fund (EPAF) is in providing immediate relief, in cases such as loss of income, before long term financial, medical or family support can be provided by the MCF. Gary also outlined how:

  • Being lonely can lead to an early death as it is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Gary said “There are 200,000 older people who have not had a conversation for over a month.”
  • Many more Lodges are recognising the importance of appointing a Deputy Almoner to assist in the wellbeing of Brethren and this should be encouraged
  • A list of speakers from medical charities is being compiled who will happily present to Lodges and Chapters about their work in return for a donation.

Deputy Provincial Grand Master in-Charge, Paul Reeves, informed the Conference that £72,000 had been given from the EPAF to help those unable to earn an income since the beginning of lockdown.  Paul, an Almoner in two Lodges since becoming DPGM, also added he “never realised how busy the role is”.  He is 100% right and an excellent role-model. Almoners need to reach out to all members and give courage to those affected to seek help, regardless of whether they are in troubled circumstances or just want to take a back seat for a bit and rest assured their Lodge cares for its members when they hear the Worshipful Master say “The next item on the Agenda is the Almoner’s Report.”

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Joshua Nunn Helps Support People Over 60 who are Isolated

The Halstead Day Centre has thanked Joshua Nunn Lodge, and Freemasons in general, for their continued support and generosity over the past few challenging months as it continues to drive on with its effort to provide independent living for people over 60 who are isolated. 

Joshua Nunn Lodge 2154 has donated £1500 to The Halstead Day Centre so far this year, including a £500 match funding from the Province of Essex. W.Bro Braham Djidjelli (Worshipful Master) and W.Bro Jim Gage (Charity Steward) made the most recent donation on behalf of the members on 28th April, which was gratefully received by Veronica Harman (Centre Manager). 

Many of the beneficiaries who receive assistance from the centre are completely unaware of what is happening in the outside world and are therefore finding it a very confusing and lonely time. 

The centre offers a friendly environment for people to socialise and be included in a range of low intensity services that reduce isolation and encourage activities that promote physical, mental and emotional well-being while maintaining a degree of independence in their own home for longer. Their services include transport, daily movement to music classes, shopping, bathing, board & card games, debates, speakers, bingo, craft and a two course lunch and beverages during the day.

During her thanks to Joshua Nunn, Veronica said “This is really, really kind of the Freemasons. The centre has not received any special financial support from the government during the pandemic and is working with a skeleton staff due to restrictions. Of our team of 8 staff and 30 volunteers, only 4 are allowed on site at any one time. This really helps and reminds us there are good local people out there.”

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The Other Side of the Good Samaritan

The perception of Freemasonry is rapidly moving towards a greater awareness of charitable giving and community service. Nowhere more so than in Essex where the 9,000 or so Freemasons of its 300 Lodges have built up a track-record in being kind and helping others. This is all well and good, but there are two sides to the parable of the Good Samaritan and it’s only when we ourselves get beaten up by life and others pass us by that we realise we need a helping hand.   

Not a Freemason himself, life for Howard Bradley has been damaged beyond all recognition. In 1832 his great, great grandfather founded the world’s longest-serving textile-care family business which served The Royal Household from King George III to the cleaning and restoring of wedding dresses in the Royal collection. Customers included Bro Sir Winston and Lady Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Howard has cared for clothing for Princess Anne, Prince Charles, George Michael, Lewis Hamilton, Rubens Barichello, Jackie Stewart, Ian Poulter and many others. He feels privileged to have painstakingly restored the clothing of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

Inspired by his father Eric, a wartime RAF pilot in North Africa and Italy, and grandfather Bernard, born 1881, a Freemason who took part in an initiative by the Lodge of Tranquillity, over a century ago, to help a number of Metropolitan Police Officers improve their reading and writing skills, Howard became a Special Constable and a motorcycle instructor.  In 1988, aged 27, through no fault of his own, a tragic road traffic accident left him in ICU for a month and hospitalised for over two months more before he returned to the family business on crutches, eventually taking over when his father passed away in 2004.

Howard lost everything in 2018 when, becoming a victim of sharp commercial practice, the business was sold by Administrators and he received nothing. Over the last four years his mental and physical health deteriorated and he now suffers from sarcoidosis lung disease, congestive heart failure, severe osteoarthritis, DVT, broken knee cartilages and shortage of breath, making it excruciatingly painful to walk with sticks. This has not stopped Howard from applying for over 400 jobs, but without any success.

Too embarrassed to ask for help, having always given and not taken, Howard felt confined in a bleak situation, until a passing good Samaritan gave a helping hand to set up a GoFundMe page to raise £3,600 for a mobility scooter, as Howard does not have any money to buy one. Being a Freemason, this good Samaritan donated, as did his Lodge, and so far, £1,100 has been raised.  Never thinking he would ever be in this situation; a very grateful Howard Bradley has written a thank-you to all Essex Freemasons, the Brethren of Earlham Lodge and Russell Seagal for their kind donations and for understanding what it is like being ‘the Other Side of the Good Samaritan’.

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‘Getting Ready to Get Ready’

Among the 9,000 or so Essex Freemasons there are over 4,200 who also enjoy being Royal Arch (RA) Masons. They are called Companions and are members of 120 Chapters in the Province which, without being informal, hold meetings called Convocations in a relaxed atmosphere at 25 centres. For many Companions the further easing of restrictions on 17th May 2021 will seem like an opportunity to return from exile, meet up again and discover once more that which was lost before Masonic meetings were suspended.

How successful this impending return from exile will be is in the hands of the Scribe E, the RA term for secretary, of each Chapter who will play a pivotal role.  Although meetings of up to six Companions will be permitted the Scribe E will be checking to see how many people their centre’s risk assessment approval is for, up to the maximum of 30.   

Whilst many Companions cannot wait to get back to meetings, others including some who have had their second jab, may still be wary of attending. Each Scribe E will be crucial in reassuring those Companions that there is no coercion to attend and, for those who do, ensuring the first Convocation is taken gently to let the members simply get used to being with each other again and making sure all statutory precautions are in place such as wearing masks and social-distancing.

Another essential role for a Scribe E is to ensure their Chapter members will both encourage and welcome Companions of other Chapters who may not wish to travel long distances in future to Convocations the other side of Essex, or to London, or neighbouring Provinces, so that they can continue to enjoy RA Masonry more locally to where they live and are not lost to the Order.

To get the Chapter Officers in place for the return, each Scribe E may have to resolve one or two conundrums as some Officers may have ‘marked-time’ for two years, others may have been appointed but not yet invested or had the opportunity to carry-out their roles. Royal Arch Regulations are there to help with matters beyond each Chapter’s by-laws explaining for example how Principals can be elected and installed at the first meeting after the suspension is over.

Life will soon become much easier for every Scribe E as the new online administration system called HERMES goes live later this year but their own input is key in making the roll-out successful by assimilating Provincial communications and attending workshops.  Also, in September 2021, a new Most Excellent Grand Superintendent for Essex, Paul Tarrant, and a new Deputy Grand Superintendent, Elliott Chevin will be appointed. So that RA Companions in the Province can safely return from exile and enjoy the new exiting era ahead, every Essex Chapter Scribe E is ‘Getting Ready to Get Ready’.

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Essex Freemasons raise funds for charities Prince Philip dedicated his life to

To honour HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Essex has joined the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) campaign and is inviting its 200,000 members to raise funds for charities the Prince dedicated his life to.

Prince Philip had been married for 73 years and was a Freemason, having been introduced to Freemasonry in 1952 at the age of 31 by his father-in-law King George VI.

Throughout his 99 years, he was associated with 992 charities, either as president, patron or as an honorary member.

The Prince supported charitable organisations in the fields of scientific and technological research and development, the encouragement of sport, the welfare of young people, conservation and the environment.

Paul Reeves, the deputy provincial grand master in-charge of Essex Freemasons, said: "Although HRH Prince Philip retired officially from royal duties in May 2020, after 22,219 solo engagements, his lifetime of duty and service is an inspiration to everyone who is a Freemason.

"He has been an example to us all for over 70 years, during which time many people of all ages throughout Essex have benefitted either directly or indirectly from The Duke of Edinburgh’s initiatives and charitable patronage."

Dr David Staples, chief executive of UGLE, said: "Prince Philip was well known for his charity work, having been involved with numerous organisations. He was devoted to philanthropy and therefore the best way to celebrate his life is by supporting the charities that the Prince himself supported.

"For us, this was an easy decision as Freemasonry’s core values are charity, integrity, respect and friendship. The Freemasons have been quietly getting on with making society and the lives of those less fortunate better for more than three centuries."

Freemasons worked 18.5 million hours this year as volunteers in a range of different areas, including driving vulnerable people to hospital, preparing meals, taking care of people at risk, organising care packages, and producing scrubs, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser.

They also donated more than £1m last year to the Covid-19 effort, with the funds being used to help communities in various critical areas, including foodbanks, support for unpaid carers, PPE, supplies for hospitals and hospices, support for women’s refuges, and funds for NHS workers, ambulances and equipment.

As a Freemason, the Duke of Edinburgh was initiated into Navy Lodge, No 2612, on December 5, 1952. On March 6, 1953, HRH Prince Philip progressed to the Second Degree of Freemasonry, before advancing to the Third Degree on May 4, 1953. The UGLE issued his Grand Lodge Certificate on May 7 that same year and he remained a member up until his death.

Freemasons can also count other members of the Royal Family among their number, including HRH Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who is the longest-serving Grand Master of the UGLE.

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Freemasons make no secret of need for younger members

Set in their ways for 300 years, the Freemasons are opening a lodge aimed at young people to combat a slump in membership.

Having once boasted as many as half a million brothers in the years after the war — including Sir Winston Churchill and the Duke of Edinburgh — membership has fallen to 192,818.

The lodge, which will open this year, will be run entirely by young members with the three leading positions — secretary, treasurer and director of the ceremony — to be men under 35.

Its activities will have an emphasis on environmental and mental health initiatives. It will also hold more social events than other traditional lodges.

Although about 65 per cent of Freemasons are between the ages of 50 and 80, its recent polling suggests that people under 34 are the most positive towards the organisation.


Known for its arcane rituals and handshakes, the body is undertaking a campaign aimed at casting off its shadowy image in the hope that greater transparency will entice more to join. A university scheme with 3,500 members is already under way but the new lodge, which was announced in the fraternity’s first annual report, due to be published next week, will specifically look to draw young professionals.

The audited accounts, seen by The Times, show the Freemasons hold more than £75 million in fixed assets, including a London property portfolio worth £58 million. Among its real estate holdings are a West End nightclub and several shops and restaurants.

The accounts also shed light on the organisation’s founding principle of mutual aid and charitable giving. Last year it raised more than £42 million for charity, with 10 per cent dispensed to members who had fallen on hard times and the rest to non-masonic charities.

This summer Freemasons’ Hall, the London headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England, will open its bar and café to the public for the first time.

The organisation has spent £150,000 refurbishing the art deco interior. David Staples, 46, the grand secretary who is the driving force behind the Freemasons’ new ethos of transparency, said he hoped that people would come and “have a drink with a Freemason”. He added that bringing passing footfall into the building would give people “something they actually want but at the same time allows them to see Freemasons being Freemasons”.

Amandeep Bansel is among those to be initiated as part of the drive for younger members. Bansel, 21, joined in 2018 through the universities scheme in his first year at Royal Holloway, London.

He said that he was drawn to the history of the organisation, adding that it filled an “existential gap” that he felt as a student. “At uni, you go drinking, you do all of these rites of passage, but then after a while you find there are very few avenues to give back,” said Bansel, from Hornchurch in east London. “Society can feel very withdrawn and I think the Freemasons’ idea of fraternity is very appealing to some young people.”

Band of brothers
Though Freemasons emphasise the inclusivity of the fraternity, certain stipulations are demanded of prospective brothers.

Applicants are expected to have a religious belief, though it does not matter which one. They must be of good character, aged 18 or over and be proposed by two members. They must be male, although there are two separate female-only Grand Lodges.

Applicants can apply on the United Grand Lodge of England website and will then be called to their local lodge for interview. Members form an investigative committee to conduct background checks on applicants.

If they are found to be of good character, they will proceed through three symbolic degrees, each of which involves a different initiation ceremony.

These take place at the lodge and require initiates to perform in an allegorical play based on the biblical story of Solomon’s Temple.

The unorthodox handshakes, which many associate with the group, form part of the ceremony. Freemasons are required to take an oath not to reveal the handshake to the public.

The third degree is the final stage before becoming a full member. The ceremony involves close questioning, which is where the expression “giving someone the third degree” originates.

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Freemasons’ inaugural annual report showcases commitment to modernisation

The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has launched its first annual report, in its 300 year history, marking another major step forward in its commitment to modernisation, transparency and normalization.

The annual report includes the new mission statement, which sits alongside the UGLE’s four key values of integrity, respect, friendship and charity. In addition, a recent study found that 75% of Freemasons take part in civic or charitable activities, compared to only 31% of non-Freemasons, in a matched geodemographic profile.

Dr David Staples, chief executive of the UGLE, said: “Our first ever annual report is a major step ahead for the organisation in terms of the transparency and normalisation of Freemasonry, we want to tell the public who we are and what we do. This year, we have raised more than £42m for charity and given more than 18.5 million hours of our time in unpaid social and civic volunteering. I am enormously proud to serve an organisation with such a story to tell.”

The vast majority of the beneficiaries of charitable grants from Masonic charities are not themselves Freemasons. In fact, 90% of the donations are given to thousands of projects and people across the country to provide relief from suffering, misfortune and poverty. Only 10% of the total money disbursed goes to UGLE members and families, on a means-tested basis.

During the pandemic, it was gratifying to discover that fewer than 2% of the UGLE membership were actively considering leaving Freemasonry. The UGLE had planned for a significantly higher drop in membership, comprising those leaving because of financial hardship and those sadly passing away. Instead, the vast majority are greatly looking forward to things returning to normal and to resuming their Masonic lives.

Elsewhere, many members responded magnificently to the crisis, raising £3m for those in need across the UK, via the Covid Community Fund. In the early days of the pandemic, the group prioritised the need for personal protective equipment, food-based projects and the supply of tablets to hospitals and nursing homes to enable Covid-19 sufferers to contact family members. Now, the project is focusing on helping homeless people, young carers and mental health projects.

The essence of Freemasonry is the practise of charity. It is so inextricably linked that every Lodge meeting includes a charity collection and every Lodge and Province has a charity steward, who is responsible for coordinating the financial commitments and voluntary actions of the members. Many of the charitable efforts of the UGLE and its members are channelled through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons’ primary charitable grant-giving body.

Among other charities that the UGLE is actively supporting is the Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research (FFSR), which supports the Research Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) with grants each year to pursue cutting-edge research work, which might otherwise not have been funded. For more than 50 years, the FFSR has supported much groundbreaking research and many of the Fellows have gone on to distinguished careers.

In addition to the RCS, the Freemasons also support Lifelites, which gives life-limited and disabled children in hospices the chance to play and be creative, through the power of assistive technology.

Since taking over as CEO of the 200,000-member UGLE, Dr Staples has targeted many improvements within the organisation. “The challenges I have set myself are to improve the public perception and understanding of Freemasonry, and to improve the administration of the organisation, modernising our systems and processes within this context,” he explained.

In the last few years therefore, Freemasons have been busy modernising and launching campaigns inviting the public to experience the world of Freemasonry. As a result, since 2018 the public’s perception of Freemasonry has improved significantly, according to external opinion surveys.

“All the effort and transparency has brought surprising results. Recent research showed that one in four people would consider joining Freemasonry today. The change is significant, because in 2018, the result of the same survey was one in ten,” explained Dr Staples.

The same research showed that those aged 18-34 are the most favourable towards the organisation, suggesting a real opportunity exists to engage and attract a newer, younger membership. Looking to these segments of the public, the UGLE has done much in recent years to encourage younger men, such as establishing the Universities Scheme and the New and Young Masons Clubs. Currently, the Universities Scheme has approximately 3,500 subscribing members.

Furthermore, a new cafe is opening next year within Freemasons Hall, with the objective of allowing the general public to experience the historic building, alongside new digital tours and a brand new visitors’ shop.

Improvements are also being made in communications. For the first time, the UGLE is able to talk directly and regularly with its membership, and a planned member survey will ensure that Freemasons will have be able to provide feedback directly to the organisation.

Further modernisation is underway with Project Hermes, a modern and simple web-based system to be used by Lodge and Chapter secretaries, which will transform the way in which the organisation is administered and mark an end to lengthy, manual form-filling processes. One of the major design principles of Hermes is that it must be intuitive and easy to operate, similar to using an online banking system.

Looking further ahead, an important milestone to be celebrated is the consecration of Lodge number 10,000, which will be duly heralded next year. That and other upcoming events will offer the UGLE the chance to match its Tercentary celebration in 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall. These occasions demonstrate the richness and importance of the Freemasons’ history and heritage, as well as the essential benevolence of the organisation’s core values and teachings – all while showcasing the fun side of Freemasonry.

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C.H.E.S.S and The Wheel of Fellowship Lodge 9016

W.Bro Mark Jones and Bro.Graham Cornell made a delivery of bottled water, snacks, soft drinks, treats, toiletries and items of clothing to the C.H.E.S.S centre in Chelmsford. These items where donated by the brethren of The Wheel of Fellowship Lodge 9016 in Maldon, Essex. 

Barbara Buxton the manageress of the C.H.E.S.S centre in Chelmsford was waiting outside to greet W.Bro Mark Jones and  Bro. Graham  Cornell who presented Barbara with the donations She thanked the Brethren and explained that the outreach service covers Brentwood  Chelmsford, Braintree Maldon and Rochford. The donated gifts are distributed by volunteers and are much appreciated by the homeless people.

CHESS has several facets, but the overall goal is to help people move on in a positive way with their life. CHESS is about change, about supporting someone to identity and resolve issues that have caused homelessness. Usually this involves not only the immediate issue that led to homelessness but factors prior that have caused issues for the person.  They therefore take a holistic approach when working with someone and look at all areas of like not just housing. 

They will go and see someone who has been referred through Streetlink to see what help and support they need.  It might be initially practical issues like food / water / sleeping bag / tent / local services that are available but also identifying what support is needed.  This maybe accessing emergency accommodation, helping access longer term accommodation and support services. The accommodation is initially for 3 nights to get the person off the street and then renewed for up to a month whilst seeking more suitable accommodation whilst they work with people intensively. This may be within the CHESS shelter or outside us if appropriate.  They have a 9-bedroom initial property and a 3 bed for those entering CHESS through the Outreach team both of which have been opened during the pandemic.  

They have a shelter (the original one opened in 1996) which was only at night but since we reopened in November 2020 (they were shut down at the end of March as a result of the pandemic) they have opened on a 24/7 basis with staff on site providing help and support to residents plus acting as an on-call facility to their move on houses. The shelter provides an initial stay of 28 days whilst they get to know someone and identify the issues that need to be addressed. They did have 9 residents but as a result of the pandemic they have had to reduce this to 4 as they were only allowed to reopen with a bathroom per person and we only have 4. We are currently looking at ways to get the numbers back up.  They have however got 7 other move on houses accomodating up to 34 people where residents move onto from the Shelter / Outreach whilst they are addressing their issues and pending more permanent accomodation. Two of the 7 houses (8 additional beds) have been added since the pandemic started to help offset the reduction in beds at the shelter and expand capacity.  We usually have volunteers helping at the shelter but this has been suspended in the current circumstances. 

This is a local charity that does so much good work in the local community that the members of the lodge wanted to do something in support of all their hard work.

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15,914 Items for the Homeless in Essex

To raise money for charity and keep their spirits up in lockdown, St Katharine’s Lodge No 5376 held ‘Virtual Tastings’ online for gin, whisky and beer. An Assistant Provincial Grand Master (APGM) of Essex, Lee Taylor, joined the beer tasting event which raised £250, and talked about the Essex 500 Challenges explaining how the Essex Freemasons Community Fund (EFCF) gives a ‘prize’ of £500 to a registered charity or local good cause chosen by the Lodge of the winning team, or individual, for each Challenge.

Listening to the APGM was Neil Beckwith, a Freemason of only five years, who had stood down from progress towards becoming Worshipful Master to spend more time with his father following the sad loss of his mother. Wanting to stay in touch with everyone in the Lodge, Neil volunteered to be the Charity Steward when the position became vacant last November and the talk inspired him to propose the Essex 500 Shoebox Challenge which was launched, with EFCF backing, to collect items for the Homeless.

Ten Lodges took up the Challenge for local charities helping the Homeless and three Order of Women Freemasons Lodges supported third-placed Chafford Lodge, see Brotherly Love (essexfreemasons.org.uk).  Neil is appreciative, saying “I am very grateful and pleased the Lodges were spread across the Province.”  There were a number of initiatives which included Brethren donating money to buy items and involvement by family and friends.  Gill Beckwith, Neil’s wife, contacted Primark asking for donations, her request reached the CEO in Dublin and unexpectedly one morning a delivery of 22 boxes arrived from Primark.  A total of 15,914 suitable items were collected by all the Lodges for:

  • HARP, Southend’s Homeless Charity, with 11,662 items from St Katharine’s, Thorpe Bay, Southend on Sea, Universal Friendship and Castle Point Lodges.
  • Hope4Havering with 3,162 items from Chafford, Haven, Orsett and Earlham Lodges, and
  • [email protected] of Clacton and Sanctus in Chelmsford with 1,090 items from Martello Lodge.

St Katharine’s Lodge technically won the Essex 500 Shoebox Challenge with 6,267 items but decided the prize of £500 from the EFCF would be presented on behalf of all the Lodges to the nominated charity, the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI), where Brother Bill Blissett is a volunteer watchkeeper. St Katharine’s match-funded the EFCF prize to give £1,000 towards fitting out the NCI premises relocating on Canvey Island. 

The Worshipful Master of runners-up Thorpe Bay Lodge, Paul Bates, summarised saying “It was an absolutely wonderful challenge which required a lot of co-ordination and pulled the Brethren together again”. Neil also won the Southend Masonic Golf Society Captain’s Cup last June at the Rochford Hundred Golf Club.  Playing golf with fellow Freemasons, raising funds to assist the NCI protect and preserve life along the Essex coastline and organising an Essex 500 Shoebox Challenge are all par for the course to the new Charity Steward with a creditable score by everyone involved of 15,914 items for the Homeless in Essex.

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