After a delay from the original date, the annual meetings of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Metropolitan Grand Chapter and the London Freemasons' Charity went ahead later in the year, with a determination to do what was possible and do it well, while keeping within the Covid-19 regulations in place at that time.
This meant that there were just 30 people present at each meeting.
Step 1: Metropolitan Grand Lodge and the London Freemasons' Charity
The Metropolitan Grand Lodge Annual Meeting took place in Temple 17 and, while the number of attendees was small, there was an electric feeling in the air as it was most of the Brethren's first meeting for 18 months. After opening the Metropolitan Grand Lodge in ample form at 2.28 pm, Right Worshipful Brother Sir Michael Snyder, Metropolitan Grand Master, welcomed all present and went on to say 'You do not need me to tell you what an extraordinary year we have had, but I am delighted that we are able to meet today and begin a gentle transition back to whatever the new normal looks like. Thank you for making an effort to attend today. It is very good to see you all here.' He went on to say he was happy to see RW Bro Chris Hayward, who had been quite unwell recently.
The usual business of the minutes of the previous meeting, the Treasurer's report and financial statements for the past year were then conducted at pace, swiftly followed by the re-appointment of the Metropolitan Grand Treasurer - W Bro Adrian Houstoun, the auditors - PKF Littlejohn LLP, and two Brethren to be the London members of the Masonic Charitable Foundation - W Bros Ethan Harris-Faulkner and Neil Leigh-Collyer. The Metropolitan Grand Master announced that it is not intended to increase dues this year saying the Bro Treasurer will need to find some other way to balance the books.
Reports from The Metropolitan Grand Secretary, The Metropolitan Grand Almoner, The Metropolitan Grand Charity Steward and The Metropolitan Communications Officer were all taken as read and will be available in the minutes.
The meeting was then called off to enable the annual meeting of the London Freemasons' Charity to take place. The Chairman of the LFC was, unfortunately, unable to attend, so RW Bro Quentin Humberstone officiated. He mentioned that it had been a 'quiet year’. The minutes of the previous meeting, the Executive Committee report and the audited financial statements for the previous year were all approved, and the auditors, PKF Littlejohn LLP, reappointed.
Members of the LFC Executive Committee were then elected and notice of the next Annual Meeting was given.
Finally, the MetGM drew attention to the fact that the current LFC chairman, W Bro Gus Ullstein, is stepping down this year and thanked him publicly for all that he has done during his time as chairman overseeing the fantastic work of the Charity, particularly the London Fire Brigade ladder appeal. He added that he was looking forward to working with the new Chairman, W Bro Stratton Richie.
Metropolitan Grand Lodge was then called back on. Next on the agenda was to recognise by name those Lodges that have attained the Metropolitan Grand Master's Award for Outstanding Achievement in supporting the LFB Appeal, which were, in 2021: St George's and Corner Stone No 5, Neptune No 22, Lodge of Friendship No 206, Lodge of Stability No 217, Montefiore No 1017, Corinthian No 1382, Clissold No 2551, St Catherine's No 3743: and in 2020: Paxton No 1686, Acacia No 3436, Lodge of Moral Precepts No 8360 and Per Caelum No 8602. Bro Michael requested that representatives of those Lodges be presented to him on a future occasion.
A total of 118 Brethren were being appointed to Senior London Grand Rank. Their promotions became effective as of 3 March, the original date for this meeting. Bro Michael congratulated them all, but their names were taken as read on this occasion.
Then followed the obligation and investiture of the Deputy and Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters. RW Bro Michael Ward, who was unfortunately not able to be present, is to continue as a Deputy. The Metropolitan Grand Master then placed on record his gratitude for the support of RW Bros Duckworth and Fenton, who had retired as Deputies. RW Bro Warren Duke and RW Bro Christopher Hayward were then called forward and were duely obligated as new Deputies. Unusually, and because of the Covid-19 regulations, they then invested themselves with their chains of office, as did all those subsequently invested under the Covid-19 regulations.
Next, it was announced that VW Bro Andrew Manasseh would continue as an Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master, while VW Bros Greenhill, Sabin, and Wellesley-Harding had retired. Sir Michael then placed on record his gratitude for the support they have given during their period of office. VW Bros Ian Clark, Robert Grant, Matthew Hampson, Jonathan Hillman and Simon White were then called forward and were duly Obligated as Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters.
It was not possible to invest the Metropolitan Grand Inspectors and other Officers on this occasion due to the limit of 30 being present in the Temple. They will be Invested on a future occasion.
Step 2: Metropolitan Grand Chapter
After a short interval, the Metropolitan Grand Chapter Annual Convocation was convened in Temple 8 at 3.34 pm by the Most Excellent Metropolitan Grand Superintendent Sir Michael Snyder, who thanked all those present for travelling under the unusual circumstances.
The usual business of the minutes of the previous meeting, the Treasurer's report and financial statements for the past year was conducted in a business-like manner. Then followed the re-appointment of the Metropolitan Grand Treasurer, E Comp Adrian Houstoun, and the auditors, PKF Littlejohn LLP.
Reports from the Metropolitan Grand Scribe Ezra, The Metropolitan Grand Almoner and the Metropolitan Grand Charity Steward were all taken as read in the interests of brevity.
The appointments of 69 Companions to Senior London Grand Chapter Rank, 96 Companions to London Grand Chapter Rank and 3 Companions to London Chapter Rank were then reported. These became effective as of 14 April, but those Companions were not able to be present on this occasion. Comp Michael added 'Companions, clearly these are very challenging times for us to manage. All these recipients have been contacted by either myself or their Metropolitan Grand Inspector to congratulate them on their achievement and ensure that they understand that their well-earned honours are not undervalued in any way.'
Then followed the obligation and investiture of Metropolitan Grand Officers. First E Comp Patrick Penny was reappointed as 2nd Metropolitan Grand Principal. Comp Michael then thanked his retiring 3rd Metropolitan Grand Principal, E Comp Simon White, for the work undertaken in the office and went on to appoint E Comp Christopher Head in his stead. Comp Michael went on to thank his retiring Deputy Metropolitan Grand Principal, E Comp Christopher Clark, saying he was delighted to see him on the road to recovering his health. He then appointed E Comp Rev Timothy L'Estrange as his new Deputy.
Next, it was announced that E Comp Andrew Manasseh will continue as Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendent, while E Comps Greenhill, Sabin, and Wellesley-Harding had retired. Comp Michael placed on record his gratitude for the support they have given during their period of office. E Comps Ian Clark, Robert Grant, Matthew Hampson, Jonathan Hillman and Simon White were then called forward and were duly obligated and invested as Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendents.
Comp Michael then announced that he would invest his Metropolitan Grand Inspectors at the forthcoming June meeting and confirmed that the other Metropolitan Grand Chapter Officers being appointed or reappointed, who were unable to be present, would be recorded in the paper of business.
As the meeting came to a close, the emotion of the occasion was amplified by thunder and lightning outside.
On 29 June, larger meetings to invest Metropolitan Grand Inspectors and Active Officers were planned, with lunch at Freemasons' Hall. Unfortunately, the extension of the Covid-19 regulations forced a scale back of proceedings to focus just on the investiture of the Metropolitan Grand Inspectors.
Step 3: Metropolitan Grand Lodge
We met back in Temple 17 with a renewed buzz of anticipation in the air as the incoming and retiring Rulers congregated. At 10.44, Bro Michael opened the meeting in a warm but business-like fashion, saying 'I am a little relieved that we are able to meet today, albeit in a more restricted format than was originally planned. Thank you for being here. It is very good to see you all. I trust you will still enjoy today's short meeting.'
He moved swiftly on to obligate and invest the new Metropolitan Grand Inspectors: W Bros Keith Alexander, Paul Anthony Brown, Sunil Devalia, Sanjiv Gohil, Timothy MacAndrews, Kieron Paul Mallon, Jonathan Andrew Randall, Ian Burgess, David Ellis OBE and Anthony Shepherd. Unfortunately, W Bro Scott Simpson had given his apologies due to being in Covid quarantine. Once they had invested themselves with their chains of office, the newly appointed Inspectors retired from the Lodge room so that their predecessors could be admitted.
Next, Bro Michael thanked the former Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters who had retired this year, namely: VW Bros Richard Greenhill, Ian Sabin, Ian Wellesley-Harding (who was absent) and Timothy L'Estrange saying 'London, by its sheer size, presents huge challenges that can only be met through a significant amount of time and effort from its Rulers, such as you. We are all very grateful that you took on this role and fulfilled it with such distinction.' He then presented them with collarets denoting their service to Metropolitan Grand Lodge.
Bro Michael went on to thank the former Metropolitan Grand Inspectors who had retired: W Bros: Pieter Cox, Vince Driver, Gus Machado, Mark Stollery, Clive Hawkins, Graham Dullop, Grahame Lovett and Stanley Haines, adding that the role of Inspector is 'Probably the busiest and most challenging of all London appointments.' He presented them with collarets before closing the meeting and retiring.
Step 4: Metropolitan Grand Chapter
Finally, the Most Excellent Metropolitan Grand Superintendent and his Principals processed to Temple 8 to open the Metropolitan Grand Chapter 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Comp Michael again commented that the meeting had been much reduced from that planned by E Comp David Swain, Metropolitan Grand Scribe Ezra.
He proceeded directly to the main business of the meeting, to invest the new Metropolitan Grand Inspectors: E Comps Keith Alexander, Paul Anthony Brown, Sunil Devalia, Sanjiv Gohil, Timothy MacAndrews, Kieron Paul Mallon, Jonathan Andrew Randall, Ian Burgess, David Ellis OBE and Anthony Shepherd, with Scott Simpson again absent due to being in Covid quarantine.
Once they had invested themselves with their chains of office, they retired from the Chapter room so that their predecessors could be admitted.
Comp Michael then requested that retiring Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent, E Comp Chris Clark, be presented to him so he could thank him personally for having done an outstanding job and lifted the reputation of London as a leader and innovator in the Royal Arch across the Constitution and present him with a collaret denoting his service to London.
There was then a pregnant pause before Comp Michael went on to say: 'Before you return to your seat, Chris, I am reliably informed that you were exalted into the Royal Arch in Aldwych Chapter on 22 January 1971. You were installed into the First Principal's chair in March 1979 and have been a First Principal on no less than 6 separate occasions in 3 different Chapters. You were appointed to London Grand Chapter Rank in 1994, promoted to Metropolitan Grand Inspector in 2009, Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendent in 2011 and, finally, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent in 2015. An exemplary record and one that you can be very proud of. I have very great pleasure in presenting you with your 50-year certificate marking this memorable milestone.' This surprise presentation was greeted with loud applause from all present.
Next, Comp Michael went on to thank the retiring Assistant Metropolitan Grand Superintendents: E Comps Richard Greenhill, Ian Sabin and Ian Wellesley-Harding (who was absent), saying 'I am especially grateful for the enormous efforts you have put in over many years in support of myself and all London Royal Arch Freemasons.' He then invested them with their collarets.
Finally, Comp Michael thanked the retiring Metropolitan Grand Inspectors: E Comps Pieter Cox, Vince Driver, Gus Machado, Mark Stollery, Clive Hawkins, Graham Dullop, Grahame Lovett and Stanley Haines for their service, saying 'The role is far from a sinecure and we are all very aware of the amount of time and effort needed to deliver the right amount of support to your Chapters, year in and year out.' He then invested them with their collarets.
And with that, Comp Michael closed the meeting at 11.45.
The morning was at an end, and the necessary work had been completed.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 45 July 2021 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 45.