Festival Jewels; what I think is right and wrong about them.

At our last Lodge meeting, we had one of the Deputy (or Assistant – I’m never sure of the difference) Provincial Grand Masters attend, and present a number of our members with festival jewels (worn like medals). This, being my first time awarded with such a thing, initially pleased me, being recognised for contributing. However I must say that something troubles me about this award.

For those not in the know, I’d better explain what our festivals are, and where the jewels come in.

In the UK, there are 47 provinces, 44 of which regularly host festivals. Every 11 years, each province was asked to raise money for one of the four charities, which they would do over a period of 5 years as a ‘festival’, and over a 44 year cycle, monies were evenly collected and distributed between the charities. The four charities were:

  • The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institute
  • The Royal Masonic Trust for Boys and Girls
  • The Masonic Samaritan Fund
  • The Grand Charity

I used the word ‘were’ because these four charities have been amalgamated into a single charity, The Masonic Chritable Foundation, which reduces the amount of administration required, and therefore administrative costs, allowing more of the donated money to go to where it is needed.

Festival Jewels are awarded to people who have contributed to a festival, either individually, or within a Lodge that has donated to the festival; over the 5 year period, anyone who has donated more than £500 is eligible. Many who have been Masons for a long time will have several such jewels, as they have participated in several festivals.

Firstly, let me say that I do not donate to charities for the hope of a reward; when someone is initiated into Freemasonry, they are told that Charity is a highly regarded virtue within our Institution. But it is always gratifying to be appreciated for your efforts.

My issue is not with receiving a jewel as a token of appreciation, but with the bar that the jewel has across it, that either says ‘Grand Patron’, ‘Patron’ or ‘Vice Patron’. At first, I wasn’t sure why some of my brothers received different titles. So I asked.

These titles give an indication of just how much an individual has contributed. I remember being hugely impressed when a brother enthusiastically told me that he was a Grand Patron of a particular festival; but now that I know he just gave some money, I am less impressed.

To me, such a distinction is unnecessary; a brother has either contributed, or he hasn’t. We have poorer brethren who contribute, as well as better off brethren. It calls to mind the parable of the Widow’s Mite.

I am not yet sure whether I’ll be wearing my jewel at future meetings. Doubtless, I have earned it; but as the value is somewhat tarnished to me, I would be prouder wearing my past master’s jewel when I receive it, than this that creates such a distinction between brothers according to fiscal means.

These are, I emphasise, my personal views, and I encourage others to add their comments, both for and against.






A duty neglected

I may have been somewhat lacking in my duty, with regard to maintaining this blog. Like so many things, it began with the best of intentions. I documented some of what was happening on the run up to my mastership, and then a few thoughts after installation. After that, nothing.

As I prepare to install my successor, and my year as Worshipful Master comes to an end, I think of the things that I would have liked to have done during my year in the chair, but due to circumstance, or other reasons, didn’t.

The year seems to have passed all too quickly, and if I were to offer advice to anyone about to take up the mantle of Master, it would be to be prepared. Indeed, start preparing as soon as you can.


This one is the one that your preceptors will drill into you. If you have worked up through the progressive offices, there is a big jump from being Senior Warden to being Master. Know how to open and close in each of the degrees, signing the minutes (if you go by ‘the book’, or at least work out some wording you’re comfortable with), and the Risings.

Have a good overview of what happens during each of the degrees, then when you come to learn the words, they will make sense.

Go through the words until you are comfortable with them, so you can deliver them sincerely; the intention is to make a lasting impression on the candidate.

If you struggle, get help. There are usually past masters and other members who are willing to deliver portions of the ritual on your behalf, be they working tools, charges, or anything else that can be easily delegated.

In my LOI there was a mantra repeated by one of the preceptors: Do a little each day. If you cannot find a few minutes to look at the book and learn a sentence, or portion of a sentence, then I would question your commitment to be Master. It literally is reading it, and then repeating it to yourself during the course of the day, perhaps as you’re on your commute to work, or walking between meetings, or even sat on the loo – it all adds up without taking anything else away from your day.


If you would like some social events during your year over and above the regular meetings, early planning is essential. Appoint a ‘social secretary’ who can organise your Ladies’ Festival, or Sunday Dinner, or even a visit to Grand Lodge, as they will organise special tours on Saturdays for Masons and their family and friends (Grand Lodge also run regular tours during weekdays which anyone can join, lasting around an hour). Many Provincial Lodges also have tours of their facilities, which may be a consideration for those far from the Capital.


If you would like to visit another lodge as Master, it would be best to lay the groundwork as soon as possible – find someone whose lodge you would like to visit, find out when they meet, and let them know which meeting you can attend.

As Master, you are invited to attend the Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge. That may also be something you’d be interested in, but again would require some planning; you may need to arrange travel, or time off work etc., so it’s good to get the dates in.

Toasts and responses

As Master, you are expected to propose some toasts, or arrange for someone to propose toasts (e.g. toast to the visitors), and respond to the toast to yourself. Rather than leave it to the last minute to scribble some notes down on the menu during dinner, make a few short notes when thoughts occur to you. If something strikes you during a particular ceremony, you may wish to share that at some point when you’ve run that ceremony; it could be something from your own lodge, or something you’ve seen in another lodge.

As I’m coming to the end of my year, I am now thinking about what I can say about my successor, because come the night of his installation, my mind will be awash with ritual that I need to recite, and I don’t want to leave such an important toast to a last minute scribbling.



In closing, I would like to apologise for not being as regular a blogger I had envisioned. I hope that anyone interesed in Freemasonry may be encouraged but what’s been written here – we are not a new world order (we’re not even new; as for order, you should attend one of our committee meetings), we’re not a secret society (most people know we exist), and we don’t control governments (perhaps if governments were run according to Masonic line and rule, the world would be a better place for everybody). We just are a group of men who regularly meet, try and make ourselves better individuals, and try to make a positive difference to the world, by our own actions and charitable contributions.


Things I’ve learned being a Freemason

So here I am, Master of a Lodge. It was good to have so many people whom I respected within the lodge actively participate in the ceremony.

And having people address me as Worshipful Master takes some getting used to; at what point will I stop thinking “Oh! That’s me!”

However, although I’d put some preparation into my response at the festive board, it went by the wayside – having a room full of men singing at you is moving (and not just up oto the chair) to say the least: Nothing could prepare me for that!

Now I’m here, I’m already preparing for my first ceremony; an initiation. A wonderful way to begin my Mastership; helping a new member to begin their journey. Consequently, I do find myself thinking about the things I’ve learned during my time so far as a Freemason. Aside from the ‘secrets’, which aren’t that secret anymore, I have:

  • improved my confidence in public speaking
  • learned that even people with different viewpoints can come together and accomplish something positive
  • also learned that people have more in common than differences.

The ceremonies we go through tell us we should improve ourselves as men. I find it’s not just the ritual I’m learning from, but my brothers, both within and without my Lodge.


The Duties of the Master Elect

So here I was, expecting that all I would have to do was learn some words for my installation, and then Brother Secretary hands me a few notes he’s written about what is expected of me before I become Master.

Appoint your Officers

Up until this point, I thought that some lodge officers were appointed by committee (or rather, for a voluntary organisation, who steps forward and meets no resistance), whilst others were on a rota. I was correct, except the Master is still expected to appoint all officers, except two. Read more

Becoming Master Elect

I feel perhaps I should first give some idea about the journey of a Freemason in the lodge. All Freemasons have begun their journey at their initiation, where they were made an “Entered Apprentice.” Following this they will be made a “Fellow Craft Freemason”, before becoming a “Master Mason”, mirroring the path that stonemasons traditionally took, where first an apprentice is taught their trade over a period of years. Then they become accepted as a qualified stonemason, before further experience should lead to them being regarded as Master Masons. Read more