Guy Roberts of the MCF reports
It is no surprise that the arrival of Covid-19 has caused as much disruption to Freemasonry as it has to every other aspect of British society.
Halls are closed and meetings are suspended, while Brethren are communicating with each other online, with varying degrees of expertise.
But just as doctors and nurses and other key workers have risen to the challenge, Freemasons across England and Wales have shown how we can make a real difference to people in need. One important point to make is that thanks to modern technology, the MCF has been working as normal, or at least close to it, since the lock-down began, whether this means helping Freemasons and their families, or working with those outside charities who have received grants. But the coronavirus that has forced us all to work from home has also created new difficulties that Freemasons were, and are, keen to address. To begin with, the MCF has increased support to the masonic community, as many people face redundancy or reduced income. Help is being offered to families with children who are home educating during the lock-down and is available for those who have lost a loved one. The MCF-funded Counselling Careline is continuing to support over the telephone, Freemasons and family members who are struggling with poor mental health.
Support for the wider community remains at the heart of what the MCF has been working towards. One of the first actions was to allocate a total of £1 million for Provinces and Metropolitan Grand Lodge to use in support of local projects responding to Covid-19. So far more than 50 projects have been identified, including grants to food banks and the provision of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff in hospitals and care homes. Meanwhile, hundreds of tablets and smartphones have also been given to more than 50 hospitals, care homes and hospices, to help patients stay in touch with their families while normal visiting is suspended. The money has been essential, of course, but Freemasons are also well-known for donating their time as well. Thousands of hours of help has been given by Freemasons to their local communities. This might involve delivering groceries or prescriptions to vulnerable people or helping with the Square Meals initiatives, where local Masonic Halls have used their catering facilities to prepare hot meals for vulnerable older people. These projects have the added benefit of providing employment to catering staff who might otherwise be furloughed.
A number of the schemes to provide PPE have seen Freemasons working with companies and schools to use laser cutters to manufacture face visors, which have then been delivered to the medical staff who so desperately needed it. The MCF has also made special grants of £250,000 each to Age UK, to support lonely and isolated older people; Mind, to support local mental health services; and Buttle UK which supports disadvantaged children facing a crisis.
In all, the MCF has allocated over £3 million to support the response to the virus so far, a figure that is certain to grow over the months ahead. While there are no Lodge or Chapter meetings where Freemasons can make their usual charitable donations, the MCF and UGLE have established the Freemasons’ Covid-19 Community Fund that has been a huge success. So far well over £650,000 has been given by members across the country, with a pledge from the MCF to double the first £1 million raised.
These have been unprecedented times for the whole country, but Freemasons can be proud that their efforts are continuing to make a huge contribution to helping vulnerable people right across London and throughout England and Wales.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 41 July 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 41.