The Almoners Newsletter featuring CHAPS and the Almoners Lodge

A raft of information and insights into important messages and updates from across the province

We are now coming to the end of summer in some style with record breaking temperatures this month. Many lodges have met for the first time after this break and no doubt there has been lots of catching up with your brothers again.

Please do feel free to circulate this to your members electronically as there is a lot of information that is relevant to them.

Congratulations to all Companions who will be receiving their 1st appointments and promotions on Thursday 21st September at the Provincial Chapter meeting. I will be there myself and do come and say hello to me if you can.

The PGA team now has 2 vacancies on the team. There are a number of roles, but the two roles where I need volunteers are Almoner Liaison Officers (ALO’s). ALO’s are those you should contact for assistance as they are the link for information on how to help a brother or dependant in need of support. They are the brother who send you this newsletter from and all other communications from our team. This a most rewarding role and each ALO has dedicated Masonic centre(s) they are responsible for and to guide you. You can still always contact myself or my Deputy Ray Heathfield, if you prefer.

One role is for the many of the North Essex centres, and the other is  Upminster.   

Both roles require you to be active and mobile, pc literate, able to attend PGA team meetings ( 2 or 3 each year, both online and face to face, support PGA events and other Provincial Team events, support our initiatives such as CHAPS events and any ‘Pathway’ events.

You do not have to be an active or past Almoner, but it will help if you have been a mason for a few years and have an understanding of the way Essex works. This is an excellent opportunity for an outgoing Master/PM who wants to give something back to Essex masonry joining the PGA team - it can prove to be a most rewarding experience especially as you will have the opportunities to make a difference by helping out those less fortunate.

Those interested should call me on 07799 803052 for more details on the roles and responsibilities.

John Hardisty, our RMBI Care Co and Hamilton Court Officer from the PGA team attends Stisted every month and hosts his ‘Ask the Almoner’ session where those residents with a masonic link do meet with John in one of the rooms and he answers their questions as they enjoy masonic company over a cup of tea and cake. If you are an Almoner who has a member or widow as a resident there, why not go to the meeting and introduce yourself to John.

As this is our Province’s RMBI home it is important that we help promote this to our members particularly if they might have the need for long term or respite care, the location of our home, and the excellence of the care and support on offer might help it be the best move you can make for yourself or a member of your family.

As with all our RMBI homes, they all have a team of volunteers working with the home to improve the services of the residents by hosting social events and other areas of support . If you, or any member of your Lodge or Chapter would like to give up some time to the home on a voluntary basis, they are looking for volunteer drivers who are happy to give 3-4 hours one day to help ferry the residents into town. They have a small van, a ‘Caddy’ that designated staff can drive. Residents ask for transport to go into Braintree town, Braintree shopping centre, and recently garden centres etc.

Interested? Please call Michelle Sims, Home Manager on 01376 345534, and she will be very happy to discuss this with you.

There are opportunities every month to join the residents and the ‘Friends of Stisted’ at their coffee mornings which are usually on the second Sunday every month. My Deputy Ray and I were both there with other Almoners on Sunday 10th September and the residents were entertained with live music and tea and coffee. you would like to visit with your  partner or alone, again please contact Michelle. It was announced that there is no coffee morning in October, and the November event will be on Sunday 5thNovember – this is normal to avoid clashing with Remembrance Sunday.

A date for your diary for next year is Sunday 21st July 2024 when the Summer Fete is planned to return that day as one of the highlights of our Province’s social calendar

If any of your members or widows contact you to express an interest in moving into Stisted on a long term basis, or need short term respite, please tell them to contact is Sarah Tyldesley, their Business Manager on 01376 345534. I am sure that Sarah would be able to explain everything in depth, particularly the costs involved and what support they might be entitled to from the RMBI to help with the costs of being there.

It is pleasing to report that the number of Masons in Essex continues to increases month on month, and that is due in part to the work you are doing within your Lodge in following up those brethren who miss a meeting or two to make sure everything is alright, and if not raising this with the Secretary or another brother so that someone can be appointed to engage with that brother and try to resolve the issue and hopefully retain his membership to Essex Freemasonry even if that includes finding him another lodge that better suits his personal needs – I or any one of the PGA team can help you in these situations.

With regard to the resignations from Freemasonry this year we have had 205 resignations as at end August, an average of 27 per month, and sadly 33 in August, but some of these may be because their lodges financial year starts 1st September.

My team are still calling all those resignations and we are not really getting many back, although there are a small number who have moved or have caring commitments and are planning to return after a sabbatical period, but just don’t have the time to attend their meetings.

Please continue to make sure that you are made aware that a brother tenders his resignation that you work with the Secretary, Mentor and Membership Officer ( if you have these officers ) and agree who is the best lodge member to engage with that member to explore all opportunities to keep him an Essex mason, or in another province if a work/personal change means they leave the Province and the travel to their lodge is no longer practical to them.

Just a nice story on membership I would like to share with you – at my Chapter meeting last week, we had John Hubbard present a 50 year certificate to our most senior member. 50 years in the Royal Arch is an achievement these days, but this award is more remarkable as the Companion himself is 100 years old! But wait, his Lodge is celebrating its centenary this year and that same 100 year old was installed as the Lodge’s 100th Master in February and will oversee their special Centenary meeting at Chingford next month. I hope you all agree that’s a really lovely story and illustrates that man’s passion for masonry.  

Thank you to those Almoners who are now preparing and distributing their reports to all members and honorary members prior to their meetings – this means all the members are aware of the welfare of the members and your widows, and are including the details and links for important events such as the CHAPS Prostate testing dates.


Please feel free to speak with your Almoner Liaison Officer or myself if you have any questions on this approach – and please remember that it’s your Lodge or Chapter’s choice whether or not to follow this request.

Thank you to those who attended our lodge meeting on Saturday 15th September where we were honoured by the presence of our APGM Clive Rees and also Martin Howse who is responsible for myself and my team and hope you all enjoyed the day which included a warm, friendly, and emotional festive board for many reasons. We are already planning the next meeting which will be on Saturday 16th March 2024 at St. Giles Colchester starting at 11:30am. By tradition, this meeting will be a ‘white table’ allowing our ladies and other non-masonic guests to join to received a presentation from Mark Smith APGM on Valour and the Victoria Cross. As there is a garrison in Colchester we invite those each year, and this presentation might see more past and present soldiers in attendance. Given this is expected to be a very special meeting, we are already taking reservations – if you don’t want to miss out, please email our secretary Ray Heathfield at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to book your places and treat your partner to a great day out.

All masons are welcome to join our lodge, but as an Almoner or Deputy Almoner ( past or present ) you are encouraged to become a member, where you can ask to take an office again without having to go through the ‘progressive offices’ as we do not hold degree ceremonies so that our meeting are more relaxed.

To remind you, we meet 3 times a year on 3rd Saturday in September(Installation) at Harlow, 3rd Saturday in March at St.Giles, Colchester and 2nd Saturday in June at Saxon Hall, Southend-on-Sea.

If you do want to consider joining the lodge or just coming along to any of our meetings, please contact the Secretary Ray Heathfield as above or on 01206 511995 for further details.

Our next event is at Upminster on Wednesday 11th October from 11am to 3pm, and our last event this year will be at Colchester on  Tuesday 14th November from 11am to 3pm.

There is also another event being held at the Kingswood Centre, Basildon SS16 5JP on Thursday 19th October from 11am to 7pm – this event is being fully funded by the CHAPS South Essex Committee

( George Young and myself are part of that committee ) and will need to be booked on the same website and is free to both masons and non-masons.

Here is the link to the website where your members / family / friends need to book their appointment

CHAPS - Events

When you open the website, there are two booking areas for both the Upminster and Colchester events and the private event codes (passwords) are upminster and colchester respectively if you are an Essex Freemasons. The public event is open to non-masons and they will have to pay £30.00 at time of booking – do not share the password with non-Essex masons at each event.

When you book as test, you must have your NHS number and if this is the first time you book a Psa test, you will need to register for an account with CHAPS ( your email address and a password of your choice ) to be able to book a test.

Currently there are still places to book at all 3 events as follows;

Upminster – 73 free appointments for Essex Masons, 35 appointments (£30.00 fee) for non-masons

Basildon – 179 free appointments for all men

Colchester – 81 free appointments for Essex Masons, 17 appointments (£30.00 fee) for non-masons

If you book the private event in error and pay the £30.00 charge we are unable to refund this to you, so please book the correct event.

Please do make sure all your members and honorary members are aware of these upcoming events - don’t stay silent about these events that will help us all fight this silent killer

Thank you to those who have supported the EPAF account by purchasing the ‘triple function’ pens with a light (ideal for ceremonies) and a stylus (ideal for phones/iPads etc) engraved Essex Provincial Almoners Fund that the PGA team members are offering at meetings they are attending. They are £5.00 per pen and are available in blue or red – all proceeds are pain into the EPAF to help replenish this vital fund which is used to assist those brethren and widows in real need of urgent short term funding. 



For many years there has been a ‘widows club’ hosted at Saxon Hall, run by the widows themselves but overseen by The Southend and Essex Masonic Welfare Trust.

Since Covid their numbers have declined and we are trying to promote this club to increase the numbers again.

This club meets on the 2nd Tuesday every month at Saxon Hall for a heavily subsidised 2 course lunch  (£6.00), followed by some entertainment – always something that appeals to our ladies such as a free game of bingo, with cash prizes for the winners.

The requirement is that the widow lives near to Southend and is able to get themselves to Saxon Hall and back each time. Usually that means their husbands lodges meet at Saxon Hall, but there may be many Rochford widows who live nearby and would like to attend. In all cases, Almoners can act as chauffer’s and join their widows at the lunch. They are usually 12:30 meet for a 1pm lunch and carriages at 3pm.

If you have any widows that are eligible, please can contact Graham Halsey at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 07778803495 for more details ’;

Please do contact your ALO if you have any questions on the items in this newsletter, or any other almoner related queries,

as he will be only too happy to assist and guide you

Gary Hostler,

Provincial Grand Almoner