Tony Hales

New exhibition opens at Braintree Museum “Engaging with the Community”

Braintree Museum is excited to be working with Essex Freemasons to present a new exhibition named “Engaging with the Community” to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Lodge of Saint Mary which meets at Howard Hall in Bocking. This is one of the first exhibitions of its kind in England and will be open for three weeks starting on Saturday 11th September to Saturday 2nd October 2021.

The Freemasons have also given £1,000 to pay for a one-year family membership for Braintree masons. This will include free access to the galleries charting the history of the town from the prehistoric era up to the 21st century, the Crittall Windows display, exhibits showing the importance of both the Cortauld and Warner textile firms and the work of John Ray, acknowledged as the father of natural history.

The “Engaging with the Community” exhibition will reveal how the members of the oldest local Masonic lodge have contributed to the community of Braintree and its surrounding areas over the last 150 years, including the Museum’s founder Alfred Hills and well-known members of the Crittall, Lake and Elliot families.  On display for the first time to the public will be many items and documents associated with the Freemasons.

John Adlam is the Immediate Past Master and long-serving Almoner of the 40 plus strong Lodge, founded in 1870. Both Sandra, his wife, and John are stalwarts of the Museum’s volunteer team which supports the Museum shop, assists with events, helps with the maintenance and upkeep of the former Manor Street School Victorian building and does some collection work.  John said “The Lodge has played an enormous role in the local community for the last 150 years and during that period we have collated records and images of our history and also that of Braintree. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our 150th anniversary and support the Braintree Museum at the same time”.

The exhibition, which had to be deferred for one year due to Covid restrictions, will give “A glimpse of what Freemasons do and how they contribute to the local community” said Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Lee Taylor. The Chairperson of Braintree District Museum Trust, Sheila Charrington, added “We are extremely pleased to be sharing the story of the Lodge of Saint Mary. Their members have played a huge part in the history of our town and this exhibition is an opportunity to highlight their contributions”

As well as members of the public and their families, the new exhibition is open to all Freemasons, especially those meeting in the Masonic centres in the surrounding areas to Braintree, including Halstead, Kelvedon, Witham as well as Chelmsford and Colchester. Everyone is welcome.

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Keen to Be Getting Back to Business

157 Brethren were up early on Saturday 14th August 2021 and made the journey to Saxon Hall in Southend and a further 112 attended by Zoom.  They were all greeted by Colin Felton, the Provincial Grand Charity Steward who hosted the Essex Provincial Charity Stewards Conference. The guest speaker was Suhail Alam, the Chief Digital and Technology Officer for the Relief Chest Scheme of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the Freemasons’ charity which is committed to giving £7 million pounds to help charities and good causes in Essex. 

Chris Hicks, the Deputy Provincial Grand Charity Steward, not only worked hard behind the scenes to organise the successful conference but also gave everyone a situation report on the Essex 2022 Festival.  Chris explained “With £4.3 million banked already, £3.9m from lodges and £400k from chapters, there are still opportunities to set landmarks. If each Lodge raised just £800 per meeting in the remaining seven months, then £5 million is well within our sights”. Chris pointed out this can be done by dinners, sponsored walks, white tables, magic nights, Essex 500 Challenges, individual challenges, quiz nights, race nights and raffles etc..

This is very much in line with the incoming new Provincial Grand Master for Essex, Paul Tarrant, who is a great believer that every Lodge should have a focus with a mission to help charity and contribute to society.

In an interesting and informative presentation, Suhail Alam explained to delegates how the MCF had made major advances using technology to help make donating to charity even more straightforward for members and the administration by Charity Stewards much easier. This includes greater awareness and use of:

  • QR collection codes, a type of matrix barcode, which Lodges can print on their summonses and other documentation to enable donors to give digitally using their smartphones – but not, of course, during an open lodge meeting
  • Green Vouchers for easy transfers to the Essex 2022 Festival
  • Transfer Allocation Forms for Lodges and Chapters which wish to credit payments to the MCF to individual members, and
  • The E-voucher platform

Colin Felton, talked about regular giving and tax relief. In the last Festival £800,000 was collected from gift aid but so far in this Festival the figure is £400,000. Colin announced an innovative new initiative allowing more members to qualify for the Essex 2022 Festival Stewards’ medal. Colin said “If a Brother arranges a standing order or gives a regular giving pledge to donate £500, plus gift aid, within a new extended period of 18 months to December 2023, let me know and I will personally send the medal to him”.

Colin described being a Charity Steward: “It’s hard work” he said “We are in the firing line and we are all about changing lives” The feedback from delegates of this highly successful conference is most praiseworthy. As Lodges are now meeting again, with Brethren who have not been together for some time, it is clear from the 269 who were up early on Saturday 14th August 2021 that our Charity Stewards are keen to be getting back to business.

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The Finishing Line is in Sight! But will it be for £5 or 6 Million?

With just over three weeks before his Installation as the new Provincial Grand Master for Essex, at Freemasons’ Hall in London on 9th September 2021, Paul Tarrant, gave the closing address to charity representatives of the 300 plus lodges in Essex at the Provincial Charity Stewards Conference held at the Southend Masonic Centre and online on Saturday 14th August 2021 

Masonic provinces in England and Wales raise vital funding for one of the UK’s largest charities, the Masonic Charitable Foundation, through appeals called ‘Festivals which normally last for five years.  The Essex 2022 Festival ends in seven months’ time. The initial target was £5 million but, after receiving a large legacy, was increased to £6 million before covid 19 struck and decimated the fundraising of the 9,000 Freemasons in the County, “We can all see it has been a rough year,” said Paul Tarrant.

The conference was informed that the total raised so far in Essex is £4.3 million.  With the lifting of restrictions Lodges are meeting again so £5 million appears feasible. Delegates heard how the MCF has been coping over the past year and how each individual Lodge Relief Chest scheme is embracing technology as well as the changes and innovations in methods of donating with a big move to online giving.

The MCF has committed over £7 million to the work of national charities based in Essex as well as local charities and good causes with 95% of the favourable press coverage about Essex Masons being charity based.  After Paul Tarrant had thanked the conference organisers and presenters, he said “We get more from the MCF than we give,” and emphasised to all the delegates the need “to support the MCF as much as possible”.

There is no doubt that as the Freemasons in Essex resume meeting in their lodges once again, there will be a considerable amount of fundraising activity among their members, particularly over the next seven months. On closing the conference, Paul Tarrant said “The finishing line is in sight”. Charities, good causes and readers throughout Essex will all be watching carefully and wishing them every success whilst asking the question “but will it be for £5 or 6 million?”

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