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Coronavirus Update

How Freemasonry is responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

In accordance with advice from H.M. Government, The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) have suspended all masonic activity throughout England and Wales for an initial period of 4 months.

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Having originally advised members over the age of 65 to refrain from attending meetings, the rapid pace of events and increasing need to prevent cross infection, has today led UGLE officially to close ALL Lodges and Chapters
throughout it’s jurisdiction.

The following statement was sent to all members today.

On 19/02/20 UGLE and the MCF issued this statement

An official communication from the
Pro Grand Master
Thursday 19 March 2020


Dear Brethren and Companions,

These are difficult and testing times for us all. First, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your patience and understanding during this challenging and worrying period.
Coronavirus is going to be with us for some considerable time, and I am certain you are as disappointed as I am that we have, reluctantly, suspended all Masonic activity. I trust that you will agree that it was the right course of action at the right time.

I appreciate the enormous disruption that this will cause all of us, and also the hole left in our lives by the withdrawal of something we hold enormously dear.

To those of you who have been Masons for but a few months, this may seem a little strange, but to those like me, who have been ‘bitten by the bug’, we cannot help but feel bewilderment and sadness at how quickly something so important has been taken away from us, albeit temporarily.

For the next few months we may not see as much of each other as we have recently; we may be spread throughout the country, or indeed the world and we may have things asked of us which sit outside the ordinary compass of our experience.

From a personal point of view, being over 70 and diabetic I am
taking the “lock down” seriously, as I am sure all brethren in the same situation will. There are, of course, a great many in this position and it is not easy with no, even vague, end date in sight.

My real sympathies are with those who live alone. I am lucky, I have a wife, as well as our children all of whom are most
supportive and our daughter is arranging our shopping needs, where they can’t be delivered. I do hope that many of our brethren are in the same boat and over and above that, we all have our large and active masonic community to rely on.
We are luckier than most.

My youngest son is adamant that the best way forward is to try to have some form of structure in our day, as that is what we have been used to most of our lives, albeit in a very different format. I suspect that, in the current times, the structure will take on a rather strange appearance.

We live in a reasonably isolated area and can walk for over an hour without seeing anyone, therefore I think the dog is going to get a great deal fitter (and could even become a better ritualist!); my office might become and stay tidy, and I can catch up with all those things I have been putting off for far too long.

This won’t take up 3 months or whatever time is required, but I am sure other activities will develop as time goes by. Anything to keep mind and body active. Of course, at some point in the future, life will return again to normal. I have already mentioned trying to keep a structure in our lives. Freemasonry is
a very well-structured institution. Currently that structure has been disturbed, but rest assured that, whilst The Book of Constitutions is pretty rigid on some subjects, ways will be found to ensure that we get Lodges and Chapters back onto the right format as quickly as possible after the resumption.

This difficult period will run its course, and move into history and our Lodges and Chapters will begin to meet again. Candidates will experience the wonder of the initiation ceremony, Bro Treasurers will again chase their profligate Brethren for dues, Grand Officers will, more’s the pity, sit ‘tutting’ on the back rows over some ceremonial sleight, imagined or actual, and the rhythm of our masonic
lives will once again return to normal.

Over the last few years we have been trying to stress that Freemasonry mustmremain relevant to society and I have never been in doubt that this has been the case in many ways. However, it has never been more relevant than it is right now. What we do in the next few months, will be written into our Lodge and
Chapter histories and will test us, as an organisation and as people perhaps more than anything in our lifetimes. I think it is fair to say that I cannot remember a more testing time for the organisation, for society and for the country. We need to step up and do our part, as we have in difficult times past, to help those, our less fortunate Brethren, their families and the communities
from which we are drawn.

That is why, we have, today, released a joint statement with the MCF, the Freemasons’ Charity, committing to help those in need. Up and down the country, in Provinces large and small, Freemasons are coming together to commit to help those who find themselves at life’s lowest ebb. I encourage those of you who feel able to safely commit both time and effort to think on how you might play a very small part in this worthy National effort.

There are many great ideas already out there, and we will be sharing these and how successful they are as things develop.
We will need your dedication, flexibility and patience over the coming weeks and months to help each other through these turbulent times. Freemasonry has weathered many storms in its centuries-long history. It will weather this one too, and we will emerge ready for the challenges of, I suspect, a very different
world.

Look after yourselves, brethren, and I trust we can get back to normality in the not too distant future. I wish you and your families good health and happiness, and more than your fair share of luck.


Peter Lowndes
Pro Grand Master

A message from the Grand Secretary Friday 20th March 2020

In these testing times, I have already been immensely impressed by the determination shown by a number of Freemasons to maintain their daily advancement in Masonic knowledge, and how receptive everyone has been to the challenges we face.

As the joint letter that I, and the CEO of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons’ Charity, has said, there is so much that we ought to do to demonstrate the value of who we are and what we do as Freemasons in the community. This also affords a great opportunity for every mason to expand his masonic horizons by taking advantage of the new Solomon website as well as honing and passing on their ritual skills.

While we will all be required to make adjustments during this period of suspension, I would also ask that members fully acquaint themselves with whether certain adjustments can co-exist with the Obligation that we all took when initiated. It is the opinion of the Grand Registrar that it is an “Antient Landmark of the Order” that Lodge meetings and the related ceremonies can only take place with all Brethren physically present in a properly tyled Lodge Room; however, it is acceptable for members to practise such ceremonies, most particularly those aspects which make up the spoken parts of the ritual, over the internet. The security implications and pitfalls (for example the ability to record on a number of software platforms) unfortunately do not square with our Obligation to assure privacy and confidentiality of proceedings – and we therefore ask members to refrain from any demonstrations of those elements of the ceremonies covered in the Obligation, or any attempt to reproduce the ‘choreography’ online. We have no doubt that our Directors of Ceremonies will have no difficulty in putting our Brethren right on such things when we are happily able to meet again. For these reasons please do not try to hold a genuine Lodge or Lodge of Instruction in a virtual form, but feel free to practise those elements outlined above.

We will, in the days and weeks to come, be providing LOIs with material from Solomon, and our extensive archives to enable learning, discussion and that ever important Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge.

As previously stated, I have no doubt that Brethren will continue to adapt to this challenging situation – but simply ask that thought is given to the implications that these have on our ancient Craft.

Dr David Staples FRCP
Grand Secretary

An update from John Pagella,
Grand Superintendent of Works
Friday 20th March 2020

The suspension of Masonic Activity will undoubtedly have an affect upon our Masonic Centres and will give rise to a number of concerns.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his recent budget announced a raft of measures designed to protect the national economy, and over recent days the Prime Minister has made a series of further announcements outlining aid and assistance available to qualifying businesses and those affected by the Coronavirus Emergency including the availability of reliefs and financial support across a whole range of scenarios.

The measures to support organisations and businesses through the Coronavirus pandemic are many and varied, and in the first instance Masonic Centres should approach their local authority to seek guidance on business rate relief measures and grants that may be available.

The gov.uk website has very helpful guidance on grants, loan guarantees, business interruption loan schemes, tax difficulties, business rate holidays and possible relief from utility bills to ease financial burdens.

Similarly, those Masonic Centres which employ staff can obtain useful guidance, from the same source, in regard to financial support and entitlement to Statutory Sick pay.

The current situation is extremely fluid, and close attention should be given to public announcements and updates on the Government and Local Authority information services.

In some cases Professional Advice may need to be sought to ensure the most appropriate assistance is received.

As GSuptWks I would welcome feedback where relief and assistance has been obtained or otherwise so this can be co-ordinated to assist others where appropriate.

John Pagella,
Grand Superintendent of Works

As this is a fast changing situation we will update this story as developments occur