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  • Writer's picturePaul W Skinner

Masonry in a Time Of Coronavirus

It rolls around like clockwork each year, and it is also when you are likely to receive an invitation from friends to visit their lodges. They will have practiced hard to ensure that the Installation of the Master is memorable for him and also demonstrate that their Lodge can hold it’s head up high when it comes to performing the ritual of the highest calibre.

I am sure that this is even truer if you have been an acting officer. In the year when I was out across the province, I witnessed sixty or so installations. In truth they do blur together in the end, but some remain memorable either because they have ritual which is different from the usual (the opening at Leamington Spa Lodge No 9633) or the extend inner workings (at Howe Lodge No 587 ) or meeting a couple of visiting Brethren from Sweden who came to Lister Lodge No 3599 on a rainy Thursday Night in September 2019.

My last visit out before we entered lockdown was to Fire Service Lodge No. 8401 in the second week in March. I particularly remember the excellent Festive Board on the night and all the talk about COVID 19 and what might happen in the months ahead.

Well, we all know what happened, and personally, the curtailment of activity was a huge blow. I had hoped, that the autumn would see us back meeting together again in fellowship – even if it meant social distancing, face masks, and no festive board. It would just have been nice to see so many friends again in my own Lodges and to take the opportunity to visit others across the Province.

W Bro Richard Kennedy, Lodge of Hope & St Alphege

Like many of you, I had expected the current circumstances would simply mean that everything would remain unaltered in terms of our lodges for the foreseeable future, with our current master simply being proclaimed for the next year and his officers continuing with their existing roles.

Unfortunately, our current Master felt that due to family circumstances he could not continue for the ensuing year and I was asked to step into the breach. It has been an honour to act as Patrick’s DC these last twelve months. He has thrown himself into all our ceremonies and social events with the enthusiasm of a man half his age and his ritual from the chair has been second to none. I am fully conscious that this is going to be a hard act to follow. I look forward to having the opportunity to present him with his Masters Jewel.

Well Brethren, I can tell you that my Installation last night was something that I will never forget. At some time in the future – perhaps when we celebrate our 150th Anniversary - the brethren will look to update our Lodge history and will wonder what all the fuss was about in 2020.

There were only six of us present on the night (as per guidelines) and the Lodge room felt very large, empty, cold, and unwelcoming. It is amazing how a face mask hides so many smiles and dampens the bonds of fellowship.

As you know at the present time no Presiding Officers are coming out from Province with their DC’s, but W Bro David Greenwood did Skype us before the meeting to wish us all well, and to keep our spirits up. I was personally very touched by this and we hope that we will see him in 2022 for our Centenary Celebrations.

The Installation as you can imagine had to be safe for all Brethren and so much of what makes the Installation of a new master special has had to be changed to fit in with the “new normal”.

I think in the future I will be one of the few masons who can say that they put their own Collar on, placed themselves in the Chair, and only had the VSL on the Pedestal (no Column or Square and Compass ). To not have the opportunity to invest my officers, to shake them by the hand, and thank them personally for their work in the year ahead. Not to have the pleasure of watching the Presiding Officer and his DC ensure a word perfect Address to the Master or a brother who is starting on his career deliver the Working Tools.

The Brethren below the Chair, who had come along, did not even have the opportunity of getting a drink in the bar, while the Inner Workings took place. They had to go and stand under the canopy outside at Knowle in the rain. At least it was only for five minutes – which must be a record in itself.

There was a discussion of how Masonry operated at the time of the “Spanish Flu” epidemic in 1919/20. Did Lodges simply not meet as the brethren self-isolated – a Masonic Paper waiting to be written I think? It also brought to mind an excellent lecture that I heard a few years ago about how our Brethren in Japanese Prisoner of War Camps still managed to meet in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances, against which our current problems appear as nothing.

So Brethren I would like to thank W Bro Malcolm Cornish and W Bro Geoff Walker very much for Installing me in such a magnificent way. They ensured that the fine Traditions of the Lodge were kept up as best as they could be. My thanks also to W. Bro Richard Taylor and Bro Mervyn Murray for being the Wardens on the night. Mervyn must also be one of the few Brethren who has Opened in all Three Degrees on the night of an Installation as Junior Warden (when normally a past master would have taken the post after the opening). Finally to Bro Ludlow Barrington Stuart for being with us so we were a Quorum and being Junior Deacon.

Brethren 2022 is the centenary of The Lodge of Hope, and if we can survive COVID 19 in 2020, we are certainly strong enough to ensure that we pass this milestone and the Lodge of Hope & St. Alphege will prosper as strongly in its second century as it did in its first.

I am also conscious that we are in Festival for 2023 and that on a night such as this we would have had a bumper charity appeal. If you can find £5 extra this month to go towards the Festival, I would be very grateful.

With your support, I will endeavour to be a Master of whom the Brethren can be proud of in these difficult times.

Finally Brethren I would like to thank you all, for the best wishes which I have received in the last few days. I look forward to seeing you all back in the Lodge as soon as circumstances will permit.

W Bro Richard Kennedy WM, Lodge of Hope & St Alphege

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