Surrey Mark Background
Mark Master Masons of Surrey Mark Master Masons of Surrey
Business as usual during lockdown – or nearly

The last time we had a Suspension of all Masonic Activity was on the 4th September 1939, the day after the Second World War was declared. A letter was issued by the Grand Secretary at Freemasons’ Hall to all Lodges and Chapters as follows:

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Having regard to the emergency orders of His Majesty’s Government, I am to inform you that until further notice all Masonic meetings are to be suspended. It is hoped that this may only be a temporary measure. Further instructions will be issued at an early date
Unlike today, that order was lifted a month later on the 2nd of October and, in addition, Grand Lodge empowered lodges to meet as early in the day as possible, if necessary to cancel any regular meetings, to alter dates up to seven days before or after the regular date without needing to obtain a dispensation, and instructed that after-proceedings should be kept as brief as possible.

At that time, and during the six long years that followed, there existed among the brethren an almost perverse obsession that meetings should be held at all costs. This was not a matter of blind adherence to practice or a cussedness born of pique. Its significance lay in the fact that Freemasonry itself was threatened, both as a way of life and as a set of values proved and rooted in the past. Today we are waging a different war, but the determination to hold meetings and get through this together is still there.

On the 17th March 2020 a letter was issued by Grand Secretary of the Orders administered from Mark Masons’ Hall to all Masonic Units as follows:

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The Grand Masters of the Orders administered from Mark Masons’ Hall have jointly agreed an immediate General Suspension of all Masonic Activity for a period of four months. This means that no Masonic meetings or related social activities should take place until further notice
A similar Notice of a General Suspension was issued by the United Grand Lodge of England, the Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Rite and the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

This suspension was lifted on the 17th July and the first meeting of any Order in Surrey was the installation meeting of the Fratres Calami Aerariique Lodge on the 20th July, 3 days after suspension was lifted. To ensure compliance with government guidelines, and instructions from Mark Masons Hall, the meeting was held in the Wheeler Temple at Croydon which is large enough to ensure that social distancing rules could be observed.

Since then a number of meetings were held under the Rule of Six with Brethren wearing face coverings; until a new lockdown was imposed across England and all face to face meetings were suspended from Thursday 5th November 2020 until further notice. Units due to hold meetings during the lockdown were encouraged to make use of the Virtual Business Meeting Scheme instead.

This scheme has been taken up by many Mark and Royal Ark Mariner Lodges in Surrey. This not only enables Lodge administrative business to be conducted but, importantly, gives an opportunity for Lodge members to get together on their regular meeting date.

On the 21st January Welcome RAM and Mark Lodges held their second Virtual Business Meeting (VBM). The Presiding Officers were W.Bro. Stephen Hall, R.A.M.G.R., in the Royal Ark Mariner and W.Bro. Max Woodward in the Mark. W.Bro Simon McCarthy was declared as Worshipful Commander and W.Bro. Richard Knox, P.G.S.D., as Treasurer. W.Bro. Richard Knox, our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, advised the Brethren that a donation is being made towards the 2022 MBF Festival which will qualify the Royal Ark Mariner Lodge as a Patron of the MBF. A great effort from a small Lodge.

Welcome RAM and Mark Lodges
On the 26th there was a meeting of Pleydell Bouverie RAM and Mark Lodges. The Presiding Officer in both the Royal Ark Mariner and the Mark meetings was W.Bro. Andy Lynch. In the Royal Ark Mariner meeting a ballot was taken for a candidate for elevation. This proved in his favour and the ceremony will be conducted as soon as we can all meet again. In the Mark meeting Bro. Robin Illott was declared Master Elect for the ensuing year. There was also a successful ballot for a joining member, the same Brother who will be elevated into the Royal Ark Mariner degree.

Pleydell Bouverie RAM and Mark Lodges
I then virtually went all the way to Farnham on the 28th to visit St Andrew’s Mark Lodge. The Presiding Officer, W.Bro. David Warren, P.Prov.A.G.St.B. declared the meeting open and the Secretary, W.Bro. Michael Fenech, Prov.G.S.D., read the Letter of Permission and the Dispensation. Present at the meeting was our Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W.Bro. John French, P.G.J.D., and the Lodge’s Official Visitor, W.Bro. Ray Seeley, P.G.S.D., Provincial Grand Treasurer.

St Andrew’s Mark Lodge
The next day was rather busy as there was the Collingwood RAM and Mark Lodge meetings followed by my own Lodge meetings, Richmond RAM and Mark.

The Presiding Officers in Collingwood Lodge were W.Bro. Roger Willingale, Prov.R.A.M.G.R, in the Royal Ark Mariner and W.Bro. Adrian Kidney, P.G.J.D., in the Mark. The Secretary, W.Bro. Steve Guzy, Prov.A.G.Char.Stwd., read the Letters of Permission and the Dispensations. In the Royal Ark Mariner the Worshipful Commander, W.Bro. Brett Willingale, and the Treasurer, W.Bro. Gary Raggett, Prov.R.A.M.G.R., were elected to remain in office for a further year.

Congratulations to the Scribe/Secretary, W.Bro. Steve Guzy, who will receive Provincial Royal Ark Mariner Grand Rank on the 20th March. In the Mark the members voted to donate £200 to the Pond Meadow School and £500 to the 2022 MBF Festival in the name of the Royal Ark Mariner Lodge. In closing everyone said how successful the meeting had been; and the Secretary said how much being together again helped to build up their spirits and give everyone the energy to move forward.

Collingwood RAM and Mark Lodge
In Richmond Lodge the Presiding Officer for both meetings was W.Bro. Garth Blanchard, Prov.G.Stwd. Attending the meeting was the Lodge’s Official Visitor, W.Bro. Ray Seeley, P.G.S.D., Provincial Grand Treasurer. The Lodge was also honoured by the presence of our Provincial Grand Master, RW.Bro. Ian Clark; Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Bill Barr, P.G.J.D.; and our Provincial Grand Charity Steward, W.Bro. Steve Jones, P.G.Stwd.

In the Royal Ark Mariner Bro. Wayne Lucas was declared Worshipful Commander, and W.Bro. Tim Ford, R.A.M.G.R., was declared Treasurer. In the Mark W.Bro. Steve Jones gave one of his entertaining charity updates. We had 13 members and 4 guests, which made for a most convivial and enjoyable meeting.

Richmond RAM and Mark
On the 4th February Table Fellowship Mark Lodge held their Virtual Business Meetings. The Presiding Officers were W.Bro. Adrian Kidney, R.A.M.G.R. in the Royal Ark Mariner and W.Bro. Ralph Nabarro in the Mark. The Scribe/Secretary, Naresh Bhatt, read the Letters of Permission and the Dispensations. The Lodges were honoured by the presence of our Provincial Grand Master, RW.Bro. Ian Clark, and W.Bro. John French, Deputy Provincial Grand Master. The Provincial Grand Master said how pleased he was to be with everyone and to see so many present.

Table Fellowship Mark Lodge
And finally, on the 5th February Weyside Mark and RAM Lodges held their Virtual Business Meetings. The Presiding Officers were W.Bro. Mark Winchester in the Mark and W.Bro. Keith McLean (Mac) in the Royal Ark Mariner. The Scribe/Secretary, Richard Collinson, Prov.G.S.O., read the Letters of Permission and the Dispensations. In the Mark the members agreed to a £100 donation to the 2022 Festival in recognition of Simon McCarthy’s 2022 mile bike ride.

Weyside Mark and RAM Lodges
It is hoped that as many Lodges as possible will take advantage of the opportunity to hold Virtual Business Meetings. It’s easy to do, just request a Letter of Permission and a Dispensation from our Provincial Grand Secretary on: provgsec@markmastermasons.org.uk who will be happy to provide you with any guidance or assistance you may require.

Please remember that the dress code for a Virtual Business Meeting is collar and tie.

Article and picture by Chris Eley