Making Masonic centres the best they can be

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Making Masonic centres the best they can be

W Bro John Elliott, Lincolnshire's Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works

The belief that having great places for Freemasons to meet should be as important as membership and mentoring has led Grand Lodge to urge Provinces to create the post of Provincial Superintendent of Works.

In Lincolnshire, W Bro John Elliott has been entrusted with the role. His ambition is that by the end of next year visits will have been made to all of the Province’s 21 centres to learn about them, offer support and report back to Boards of Directors and Trustees.

John takes up the story: “So far myself and my assistant, Mike Gerry have visited 10 of our 21 centres, and we have established a Masonic Centre Support team to deliver support and coordinate information.

Those on the team are:

  • VWBro John Crutchley
  • WBro Mike Gerry
  • WBro Chris Wilson
  • WBro Steve Harrison
  • WBro Phil Spicksley
  • Bro Roly Freeman

At the beginning of May, John Crutchley, Mike Gerry, and I enjoyed the now-annual Masonic Halls conference at Great Queen Street.  There were two focuses for the day, and I’ve summarised them here:

Updates to ‘Masonic Halls – Centres of Excellence’
This is a superb resource which sets out useful information, standards and support, and can be found on line at https://b.ugle.org.uk/masonic-centres. It is very much a reference document and not bedtime reading.

Since launch at the beginning of last year, much has been added to the document on a range of topics including GDPR, CCTV, asbestos, defibrillators, project management, planned maintenance and insurance.  It is a living, growing online reference manual for those responsible for their centres. Topics coming soon are catering, fire safety, availability and access, ownerships structures and phones/data.

Grand Lodge is keen to encourage centres to follow best practice, to be great places for Freemasons to spend their time, and to be good, safe places to meet.  All centres are their own autonomous unit with directors or trustees responsible for achieving this through their own professional advice, and in the context of good practice as set out in the guidance.  The Provincial Supt of Works will endeavour to support centre management and coordinate that pool of knowledge so trustees and directors can fulfil their responsibilities to deliver viable and attractive meeting places for their members, their guests and non-masonic visitors and customers.

What if the worst happens?
Would know what to do if your centre was damaged or destroyed by fire, flood or act of aggression? Who would cook for your centre if the caterers pulled out or went bust? These are all things that have happened to masonic centres in England, and could happen to any one of our meeting places. The day’s second topic encouraged delegates to think about them, and what the right response should be.

For example, we are especially prone to flood damage in Lincolnshire, so it was a salutary tale to listen to a brother from Staines where less than 30 cm of water (that’s a foot in old money) had caused £380,000 of damage when the Thames overflowed.

Questions you might ask include: Do you know where your lodges could go on a temporary basis?  Do neighbouring centres have capacity on your meeting night?  How do you get a dispensation in an emergency?

The only things you need to conduct a meeting are your own warrant and the three great lights of Masonry (though these can be borrowed). If your warrant is lost or inaccessible, Grand Lodge can quickly issue a temporary document.

If the worst should happen, would you rebuild on the same site with the same accommodation, or would you take the chance to consider alternative locations and designs that would be more efficient and more adaptable for profitable non-masonic events?   Obviously, you would need to adapt any plan to the actual circumstances, but the best practice guidance urges you to have the basics lined up. These things might include:

  • who would be authorised to make decisions
  • who would appoint advisers
  • what to do about the press announcement
  • who’ll liaise with Province
  • who’ll deal with the insurance

Insurance
Masonic Mutual gave a presentation on their model of insurance set up only five years ago.  Essentially, it is a self-insurance pool for the first £50,000 of any claim, which saves insurance premium tax and has no profit to shareholders.  Insurance over that level is sourced from commercial insurers but with the buying power of a larger group. They say they will be cheaper than any other comparable insurer – I will leave you to find out if this is true when your policy is due for renewal!

I hope that you have found this update interesting.  If you would like to contact me about your Centre or to source guidance, by all means send an email to me at sofworks@pgllincs.org”

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