We are now some 11 weeks into lockdown and the suspension of our Masonic activities. The beautiful sunny weather also seems to be suspended, so I have taken the opportunity to stay indoors and write up another report on what has been happening across our Province since my previous letter in April.
The most appropriate topic to begin with must surely be charity. We Freemasons pride ourselves on our willingness to help others – both within our own Lodges and in the world generally. The current crisis has palpably demonstrated that aspect of our activities, and as articles and photographs elsewhere in the London Mallet amply demonstrate, Brethren of the Mark Province of London are contributing to the relief efforts of the Craft and other Orders, which are helping to lighten the many problems and challenges thrown up by the effects of lockdown and coronavirus. We have received grateful acknowledgements from City Harvest and The Drop-in Bereavement Centre, who are recipients of our donations of £10,000 and £5,000 respectively. Captain Tom’s walk benefited (via our donation to Bedfordshire Mark) to the tune of £1,000 and I am pleased to report to you that the West London Masonic Centre at Ealing has been given £5,000 of your money to top up the very generous donation of £25,000 from Metropolitan Craft. Look out for the photographs here of some well known faces packaging meals and loading up their cars for distribution in the Ealing area.
I am sure you will also be pleased to know that your contributions to our 50-50 Club have resulted in a much-appreciated donation of £2,200 to the Agoonoree Trust Fund, which supports Scouting activities for disabled and disadvantaged Scouts (please see here). The other 50% of your donations has gone in prize money to 12 Brethren, who have been advised individually and I would take this opportunity to thank you all again for your generous contributions. The draw took place on 29th May at the Executive Zoom Meeting.
Collecting funds for next year’s 50-50 Draw needs to start as soon as possible Brethren, so stand by for a further message to your Lodge Charity Stewards from Marios!
I am sure that many of our Lodges are already contemplating how their charity collections can continue during this period when there are no physical meetings taking place. Perhaps you could take a lead from the Stewards’ Lodge, where W. Bro. Peter Mearns has already circulated members with a link to the LMPGSL’s Just Giving page and an earnest appeal that during this period of lockdown, where for many of us our ‘pocket money’ is going a lot further than normal, we can take the opportunity of donating to the Lodge’s Relief Chest on-line. If any Lodge would like to set up its own Just Giving page then click here. Peter Mearns, the LMPGSL Charity Steward, says that if even he can navigate through this – then anyone can do it. The advantages of receiving Gift Aid Tax on top of member donations are immense, so I would urge each Lodge Treasurer and Charity Steward to give this serious consideration.
As I have reported previously, Brethren, Masonic Suspension may be preventing the actual convening of meetings but there is a myriad of activity around for me to report to you:-
Year Book for 2020 – this is likely to be produced in electronic format for this year and Chris James is busy updating Lodge information as much as the present situation will permit. If you are one of the Lodge Secretaries still to submit information to Chris, please do this as soon as possible.
I continue to meet fortnightly with other PGMs to exchange ideas and to receive updates from Grand Secretary. You will have seen the recently published “Provisional Blue Print for an Exit Strategy” and as I type this letter, into my in-box has dropped Grand Lodge’s directive on the holding of virtual business meetings by Lodges. Once the Executive has had the opportunity to digest these fully there will be a separate bulletin issued.
London Mark, like other Masonic bodies, has decided to appoint a Membership Retention Officer with a team of experienced volunteers who will endeavour to support Brethren who might be considering resignation. In these difficult times, when many individuals are facing unprecedented challenges – financial or otherwise – I am anxious to help the members of this Province as much as possible. W. Bro. Cliff Sturt, APGM, has kindly agreed to accept this new role and he is presently assembling his support team and devising the process which will come in to play – virtually with immediate effect. Lodge Secretaries and Almoners will receive a detailed brief describing the assistance which will be available.
I mentioned in my last letter that I had sent birthday greetings to the Queen as her birthday had fallen on the occasion of our Mess Dinner (cancelled due to current restrictions). I have received a very gracious reply from Windsor Castle and it is on our website here for you all to read.
In far off Monmouthshire, that Province has, like our own, been obliged to cancel its Annual Meeting – which is a great pity as they were due to appoint and invest a new Deputy PGM. The recipient of that great honour is none other than our own VW Bro. Ben Dykes of Irenic Lodge No 899. I have written separately to Ben to tender the congratulations of this Province and we look forward to seeing him, resplendent in his Chain, as soon as circumstances permit. London’s Annual Meeting due on 9th July has been cancelled, as previously advised. I have not given up on the notion of replacing it with some kind of ‘virtual’ gathering but must wait for Grand Lodge guidelines before revealing anything further. So watch this space Brethren and keep 9th July at 6pm free in your diaries!!
Initiatives such as the London Mallet, individual Lodge ‘Zoom’ social gatherings, Freemasons Without Borders (the brainchild of W. Bro. Mahir Killic and managed so well by him and Bro. Ameet Watts), T@3 (thank you to those on the Executive who allow us into their homes and gardens on a daily basis to share a cuppa and an anecdote), MMH Newsletters and the competitions in the London Mallet (although there would appear to be few photographers and even fewer crossword addicts amongst you!) are all keeping us involved and interested in London Mark, so don’t forget to check for updates on our website. The Facebook Group page is also the place to look for our T@3 daily posts and other items placed there by members. I am confident that when we eventually get back to ‘business as usual’ it will seem like we have never really been apart in the true sense of the word – having been keeping in touch through all these varied, social media facilities. Until that happy day when we can again exchange those fraternal handshakes and brotherly embraces, stay safe Brethren and look out for one another.