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Pro Grand Master's address - Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge - December 2023

Brethren, it is very good to see so many of you here today. I hope that you are enjoying your visit to this meeting of Grand Lodge, whether it is your first or another one of many such visits. It is important we all remember that all our members, whether they be of longer standing and with great experience or are newer members of the Craft setting out on their journey in Freemasonry, are to be valued and treated with the respect we might reasonably hope to receive ourselves. I say this because we all have an active part to play in contributing to the future of UGLE and this begins with us all demonstrating the values instilled by the Craft in our everyday lives and behaviours. 

We heard this morning from Bro Grier about the soon to be released film giving guidance to Lodges on how to conduct ceremonies for a number of candidates at once, drawing on the valuable experience of Lodges that undertake such ceremonies as a matter of course. I will not repeat the many excellent points made by Bro. Grier in his address and I am sure you will all have paid close attention to what he said. There is one point, however, that does deserve to be emphasised. In much of what has been said we are rediscovering established ways of working from the past, not inventing new ones, and we should ensure that we re-establish them in as many Lodges and Chapters as we can and where there is an undoubted need we do so. I am sure, Brethren, I may rely on you all to take this forward! 

You have heard me remark before that it is important that Grand Lodge not only say clearly what needs to be done but is then seen itself to lead and to do what needs to be done. I suggest that the commissioning of this film is the latest tangible evidence of mine and my fellow Rulers’ determination that we shall pursue vigorous and tangible steps in support of our Strategy.

As we reach the close of 2023, we should reflect on some of the things that have occurred during the course of the year. In particular, the highly successful meeting of Grand Lodge in Wales and the celebrations of the Tercentenary of the publication of the 1723 Constitutions.

As many of you will know, the publication of this important, even seminal, document was celebrated not only here in England but also by the Grande Loge Nationale Française and the Grand Lodge of Washington DC in our three capital cities. Our own Prestonian Lecturer this year, MW Bro Akram Elias (himself a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Washington DC) delighted and entertained people around the world by tracing the influence on and importance of those Constitutions, written here in London, to the very Founding Documents of the United States itself.

You may wonder, Brethren, why a document of such relative antiquity should be worth celebrating. The answer is simple and straightforward: the 1723 Constitutions encapsulate the Enlightenment values on which Freemasonry, as practised by the Regular Grand Lodges represented in this room, is founded. These values are themselves centred on notions of human happiness, intellectual enquiry, self-improvement and the pursuit of knowledge for itself based on reason, and with ideals including liberty, religious tolerance, constitutional government, and a meritocratic society. These values are further underpinned in our Freemasonry by belief in God, according to our own Faith: they are surely as relevant today in 2023 as they were in 1723. 

Regrettably many of those values are under constant threat in today’s world. We must constantly strive to ensure that the beacon of enlightenment which Freemasonry represents and the values of the Enlightenment thinkers and philosophers is not buried by intolerance, superstition and violence.

Brethren, we all have a duty to be faithful to our obligations and to conduct ourselves in this life according to Masonic principles. We try to articulate a modern statement of how we should live our lives with four words, “Integrity, Friendship, Respect, Service”. This is deliberately laconic, or, if you prefer, brief and easy to remember, but it captures the essence of what it is to be a Freemason in the twenty-first century. It is important we remember this for all of us, whatever our rank or position is in Society or indeed within Freemasonry, need to act accordingly. 

As you saw last week, Brethren, in our First Rising, we also find ourselves having to state publicly again that Freemasonry, as practised by this Grand Lodge and the others represented here today, is secular, non-religious, and non-political.  It is neither a religion nor a substitute for religion. Our members must profess a belief in God, a faith that remains personal to them. Our proud history of religious tolerance has nothing to do with the “indifferentism” of which we are wrongly accused. As our members from every creed recognise, we are firm in supporting religious faith and the principles I have already stated, of Integrity, Friendship, Respect and Service, inspire our members to endeavour to be better people and better citizens proudly engaged in the communities in which we live. 

Lest anybody say that this is an innovation in Freemasonry, I will conclude by quoting two distinguished Freemasons from the 18th Century, the Century of the Age of Enlightenment. George Washington commented: ‘The grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race’. While King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia said that his support of the Craft came from its objectives being: “the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable”. 

I do not think that those views can be bettered. 

Brethren, Thank you.

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