When we issued a Suspension Notice of all masonic activity on 17th March like many people we thought it would only be for a few months and then it became obvious from the severity of the situation that we were going to be without meetings for many months.
We asked everyone to set up WhatsApp groups, to e-mail and phone Lodge members. I’m sure that none of us ever envisaged having to master Zoom meetings! We now have progressed so far in online meetings as to hold virtual Lodges of Instruction and pan-Fraternity Zoom calls and socials.
I knew that our members who were not shielding would rise to the occasion and help their communities and many of them did just that. Some who had retired from the NHS returned to work. Many helped by joining their local COVID-19 Action Groups and delivered food parcels and collected shopping and prescriptions. One brother who is a highly qualified driving instructor offered to be a volunteer ambulance driver but ended up collecting prescriptions and shopping. On informing the organisers of her many driving qualifications she was eventually assigned the role of assessing the volunteer ambulance drivers, which in the event was never put to the test which proved happily that the NHS was not overwhelmed. Others provided home cooked treats, all lovingly labelled to go in the bags of goodies delivered to local hubs for distribution. Others gave thought to the NHS staff working on the front line and provided kit bags for their uniforms and bags of toiletries and essentials for patients taken into hospital as emergency admissions.
Our Lodge in India gave financial support to the Prime Minister’s Care Fund and together with the local men’s Lodge funded daily meals and grants to migrant workers who were of course trapped in Delhi unable to get home. They distributed face masks to the needy in Gurugram, Haryana.
One of our most entertaining stories of volunteering must surely be ‘The Made With Love Chicken Soup Run’. What started out as a friendly neighbourhood gesture, making Chicken Soup for six neighbours living alone quickly became a mini cottage industry when one of our Assistant Grand Directors of Ceremonies, W Bro Lesley Adams, was asked by her daughter-in-law’s mother Yochy to help her expand this project still further. So, each bag now contains two days of Soup, Matzah Balls, a bag of croutons, a Challah bread, Potato Latkas, Fruit Salad and a home -made cake. Each bag is labelled with the recipient’s name and includes a personalised message. Volunteer drivers were recruited to deliver the ‘Made With Love’ bags. Local suppliers rose to the occasion and donated chickens, bread and vegetables. The local community provided fresh fruit. Lesley says that she has made lots of friends amongst those in her Loughton community who needed assistance. At the last count they were delivering upwards of 90 parcels in Essex and now have a hub in NW London too. The bags have been delivered to people of all faiths. This is a prime example of what happens when communities pull together.
As a Fraternity we have made donations to local charities supporting NHS frontline staff and the homeless and vulnerable. Our caterer at HQ funded by us made hundreds of meals for NHS staff. We are at present asking our brethren during lockdown to continue to contribute individually to our Grand Charity assisted by Lodges and Chapters making lump sum donations. We are researching an NHS Charity which is specifically concerned with staff welfare.
We are subscribed to the Robert Lomas Podcast Initiative and to date have recorded four podcasts for this project with more in the pipeline and we have instituted a weekly newsletter which is sent to all our members to keep them in touch, entertained and informed of all the latest developments.
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.