The reason for his unannounced arrival was to congratulate our long serving Secretary WBro. Frank Handscombe BEM, PAGDC on 60years of continuous service to Freemasonry.
Expressing his regret at not being able to attend in person, RW Bro Ian offered the warm congratulations of the whole Provincial Executive; the members of which had been sworn to secrecy to ensure a complete surprise.
It is not certain whether Frank had remembered the significance of the date, but his faithful Assistant Secretary, Bro Eric Stanley had; and together with Provincial Grand Secretary WBro Richard Ebrey, ensured that a certificate was safely delivered to Frank’s home later that evening.
In presenting the certificate, the Provincial Grand Master said…
“I would like to thank Frank for his many years of Service to not only the Lodge but also to the Province of Devonshire which he has served as Secretary of the Benevolent Fund for many years. He is someone who can always be relied on to complete any task which is asked of him. His contribution to the Craft over the last 60 years has been outstanding.”
RW Bro. Ian Kingsbury JP
Once he had regained his usual equilibrium, Bro. Frank thanked everyone for their good wishes and paid tribute to the support he had received from the Loyal Lodge of Industry’s members over so many years.
“ I couldn’t do what I do without the wholehearted and enthusiastic support of our wonderful members” said Frank. “It makes me proud to be part of such a caring and committed Lodge.”
Frank Handscombe BEM
Before he left the meeting, RWBro. Kingsbury promised to attend the Lodge at the earliest opportunity to present the certificate in person.
Our Lodge meetings may be temporarily suspended, but our Charitable work goes on regardless.
Just this week we received a lovely letter of thanks from the Calvert Trust, based in nearby Exmoor.
Calvert Trust Exmoor is a five-star accredited activity centre, located in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the edge of Exmoor National Park. Their award-winning centre enables people with physical, learning, behavioural and sensory disabilities to experience exciting, challenging and enjoyable outdoor activities, together with their friends and families. They welcome guests of all ages and levels of ability.
Their letter detailed some of the pressing problems they have encountered as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic
“… we are extremely grateful for your support now more than ever to help us through this incredibly challenging period”.
“Calvert Trust Exmoor… now faces the greatest challenge to its existence through the impact of Coronavirus”.
However the Team are working hard to ensure that as soon as the current restrictions are lifted they can return to their vital and essential work
“…the Trustees and key members of our staff team are working hard to ensure the continued viability of Calvert Trust Exmoor.“
“We are enormously proud of… the incredibly positive impact Calvert Trust Exmoor has had on the lives of so many. It is with the help of people like you that we are determined that come what may, Calvert Trust Exmoor will continue to enrich people’s lives long into the future.“
Peter Kyle, our Charity Steward said…
“We are delighted to support the wonderful work of the Calvert Trust and hope that our donation will go some way to ensuring a swift resumption of their day to day activities which have a positive impact on so many lives”.
We are now over thirty days into lockdown and complying with the sensible guidance from Government and United Grand Lodge of England. We know this will save lives and together we can defeat this terrible virus.
My Executive and I want you to know we are so proud of you and your families for your compliance and patience in following these new and temporary rules.
But I want to go further, and praise you all for the ways I learn you have been helping others in the community. I have had so many examples of the good works that are currently being undertaken by our members.
Above all to those of you who are in the front line, risking your lives to care for others, we salute you and thank you for making us all proud to have you as Brothers. We thank you and your families for quietly putting into action the principles by which we live and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
At the beginning of the confinement to our homes, I suggested that lodges ensure every member has the contact list of other Brethren and that in conjunction with the Almoners – all members are contacted personally. This identifies those who need help and also encourages us to chat and keep in touch. I hear this has been much appreciated and I hope it becomes a regular activity as the lockdown weeks go by and before we can meet again.
I know many of you are communicating electronically and I too have been holding meetings on Zoom, which does enable me to see which of my Executive are getting tea in bed!
As your Provincial Grand Master I love to hear of the many acts of kindness which are constantly being undertaken. Here are just two examples:
Over the Easter weekend Benevolent Lodge 303, Teignmouth, allowed a non-Mason and his son to cook Sunday roast dinners in their kitchen at for nearly 150 people and which were delivered free into the community. Well done Benevolent.
WBro. Mark Bowes-Cavanagh of Courtland Lodge 6706, donated 7000 hand sanitizers from his company to NHS care homes, schools and surgeries. Thank you Mark.
It does not go unnoticed that many more of you are working so hard to serve your community and I know it will continue – thankyou.
The UGLE Covid19 Response Group shares all our initiatives via our PGM’s Regional groups and in conjunction with the MCF, it is fully supportive of all we are doing. Meetings are held on a frequent basis via WhatsApp and they are keen to share ideas to enable best practice throughout our order.
The support and advice and sensible guidance we have received from UGLE since the beginning of this situation cannot be praised enough, we must all be grateful.
I expect most of you are aware of the Covid 19 Relief Chest that has been opened, by the MCF, and is ready to receive donations. I want to make it clear that if you choose to donate to this fund your contribution will be counted towards the total of the 2023 Devonshire Festival. Your contributions to this Covid19 relief chest will also count towards a Steward’s Festival Jewel.
I know we are all sorely disappointed that we were not able to hold our annual Provincial Grand Lodge Meeting at Torquay. Those newly appointed and promoted officers will be entitled to wear the collar for that office from the 20 April 2020. It upsets me, as much as you, at not being able to make that presentation on the stage. I am truly sorry Brethren and I congratulate all those promoted for what you have done so far in Masonry to deserve this recognition. Well done!
Let’s just hope that after we get through this dreadful situation we may be able to enjoy the rest of this year together.
I would also take this opportunity to thank my two Provincial Wardens: WBro. Rob Summers and WBro. Antony Eldred for their dedication and support. This of course came with heading up another year of dedicated active Provincial Officers.
I thank them for the incredible amount of £2,202 raised for our MCF Festival.
Those of you that are alone in your homes be reassured that you are part of a very caring organization that will help you through these difficult times. VWBro. Simon Rowe, WBro. Peter Balsom and I are united in our endeavours to help you if we can.
Indeed we appeal to you all to join with us and the other leaders of the Provinces of Cornwall and Somerset for the 9 o’clock toast each day.
This dreaded virus has brought normal life to a standstill but given us a period of time to spend in quiet reflection on life. All the material things that we may crave for pale into insignificance and makes you realise it is the love and care we show for each other that is the most important.
You are all very precious and special people please keep safe and well.
RWBro Ian Kingsbury JP Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire
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.
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