[Square & Compasses]

Address to UGLE Grand Charity by Lord Northampton

At a General Meeting and the 25th Anniversary of the Grand Charity of the United Grand Lodge of England, at Freemasons Hall in London on 21 June 2006, Lord Northampton addressed those present as follows:

Ladies, Gentlemen and brethren,

That concludes the formal part of our meeting and I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the work of the Grand Charity over the past twenty five years. You have also heard a little about some of the other major masonic charities that freemasons support in England and Wales. I should perhaps point out that masons support many causes in their local communities which we never get to hear about at the centre, and I am talking about many millions of pounds each year.

I think by now you will have heard enough about charity so I will wind up this meeting by saying something about freemasonry itself. So much misinformation is written in the press about the organisation and every story has an unpleasant twist -- in fact several editors have told me, over lunch in this building, that an article about masonry is not newsworthy unless it has a sting in the tail.

Be that as it may, freemasonry today is very different to what it was even twenty five years ago. We now practise a policy of openness about what we do and why we do it and a lot of effort goes into trying to get our members to talk about their masonry with anyone who is genuinely interested. We are the oldest fraternity in existence having been formalised in 1717 when the first Grand Lodge in the world was created by four lodges meeting at the Goose and Gridiron Public House at St Paul's Churchyard. Three of them still continue to meet regularly to this day. If you ask a non mason what they know about masonry they will probably mention the word charity and you have heard the reason for that today.

What is less known about freemasonry is its quality of tolerance. We accept all men regardless of their age, colour, status, nationality, or religious or political persuasion. In any one of our lodges you will find men of many different faiths and with varied backgrounds and lifestyles. All we care about is that our members believe in God, want to better themselves and be of more service to their fellow beings. Harmony prevails in our lodges probably helped by the fact that all discussions of a religious and political nature are banned. It is often said that Freemasonry breaks down the barriers which keep men apart, and as someone who travels extensively visiting brethren in lodges all over the world, I can certainly vouch for that statement.

Freemasonry is a system of morality in which every object has a deeper symbolic meaning. It has no dogma or doctrine and encourages its members to follow whatever religion they belong to. We hope that by helping the individual to become a better wiser person it will inevitably help society as a whole. Although we only allow men into our form of masonry there are about fifty thousand lady masons in England and Wales in a parallel Order who practise their masonry in exactly the same way as we do.

There are only three ceremonies as well as the installation of a new Master each year. These are much the same wherever you find freemasonry around the world. The first deals with morality and the need to have good ethical standards of behaviour. It also emphasises the need to be in control of ones emotions. The second explains the importance of educating ones intellect so as to become a more useful member of society. The third deals with trust and integrity. As you have heard earlier the three main principles on which the Order was founded are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which in layman's language could be described as long lasting friendships, compassion and integrity.

Freemasons throughout the ages have been persecuted and many have lost their lives because of their membership. The effect of Hitler's determination to exterminate Jews and Freemasons during the Second World War drove us underground and we became obsessively secret about ourselves. That has now changed and with our new ethos of openness we hope to be able to change any misguided perceptions, and show those who are not masons the good things that Freemasonry stands for. I hope this brief explanation will help correct any misunderstandings you may have had and encourage some of you to want to know more about us and the work we do.

Ladies, Gentlemen, and Brethren I thank you all for attending today and there being no further business I declare this meeting closed.


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