W Bro Rod Glyn-Thomas LGR reports
“The river has great wisdom and whispers its secrets to the hearts of men.” -Bro Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain, initiated Polar Star Lodge No 79 St Louis, Missouri 18th February 1861.
On Wednesday 1st September I visited both Thames River Lodge No 5764 and the South East London Masonic Centre for the first time. Having seen a Facebook advert and realising I was free, and living in SE19 and having no reason not to, I made contact and signed up to attend this special event. It was in essence a complete masonic punt! And I’m so glad I attended.
Firstly, the South East London Masonic Centre in Penge should actually be nicknamed ‘the Tardis’ because it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks on arrival. There is a spacious busy bar when you enter, a large dining hall which can seat 100 to dinner, and a temple which can hold just as many with space to spare.
On arrival and expecting to know not a soul I figured I’d have to do a lot of self-introductions, so I didn’t refuse the barman’s suggestion of a pre-meeting drink. As I did this several Thames River brethren introduced themselves and welcomed me to what was their first regular meeting in a long time. Everything was going swimmingly and before I’d had an opportunity to raise my glass, in strolls W Bro Robert Lakic PJGD MetGInsp whom I know well as we both hold office in another lodge. So, I felt a lot more at home.
The meeting opened in the spacious temple and with the minutes promptly dealt with, the first significant agenda item was reached. This was the reception of Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master VW Bro Jonathan Hillman PGSwdB accompanied by Metropolitan Grand Inspector W Bro David Bailey PSGD, who were welcomed and saluted. Both thanked the brethren for their warm welcome and mentioned their great satisfaction at being out at a meeting after the long break and looking forward to the evening ahead.
We then moved onto the initiation of Joseph Ramadan McGrory, who had patiently waited two years from putting in his papers through to attending his first meeting. The ceremony was delivered by a team of Past Masters of the Lodge, starting with W Bro Joe Choudhury MBE SLGR. Bro Joe delivered the ceremony to a truly excellent standard and did so with clear feeling and warmth. We then had the charge delivered by W Bro Bob King SLGR and then a ceremony I’ve never seen in over twenty years in the Craft: the presentation of the Gloves. This was a beautiful piece delivered with meaning by W Bro Daren Horan LGR of Avenue Hall Lodge. This left our new Brother Joseph visibly impressed.
We then moved from this end of the scale to the other, from the first day of a new mason’s journey to a 60th Certificate presentation to W Bro Laurie Vinton SLGR, a leading Light of the Lodge, by Bro Jonathan on behalf of RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder Metropolitan Grand Master. From memory Bro Jonathan walked Bro Laurie through a discussion about his life and masonic career and the extraordinary moments in history that he remembered first-hand. Bro Laurie described remembering listening live to Neville Chamberlain announcing the commencement of World War Two as well as two close encounters with both V1 and V2 bombs. He continued with his recollections through to the present day.
Bro Laurie mentioned that his father had been a founder of the Lodge and he had in his possession documentation from the consecration and afterwards. Bro Laurie had also had the honour of being present at the Installation of MW Bro The Grand Master The Duke of Kent at the Royal Albert Hall. Bro Laurie was clearly moved by the obvious affection and esteem that all present showed for him in this presentation.
Then, on behalf of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, Bro David presented a Grand Lodge Certificate to Bro Richards Williams. Bro David immediately put Bro Richard at ease with his relaxed, informative, and heartfelt discussion of the contents of the certificate and the meanings therein. With the certificate signed, we moved through the rest of the agenda and then, in love and harmony, closed the Lodge.
The brethren then repaired to the bar for an enjoyable pre festive board drink to ‘whet the whistle’ after what had been a mammoth agenda! There was a wonderful buzz in the bar with various guests knowing other guests as well as their hosts. We were soon called to the festive board and dinner was served. The servings were plentiful, and the food was excellent (particularly considering the very reasonable dining fee).
The toasts were taken, and Bro Jonathan then spoke about the history of the Lodge and how enjoyable the meeting had been. He particularly pointed to the juxtaposition of Bro Joseph and Bro Laurie being brethren but over sixty years apart in their respective masonic journey’s. Bro Jonathan also talked about this being one of the early regular meetings in the new season and the importance of enjoying our Craft and ensuring the enthusiasm we have is spread to those who’ve not attended for a while and indeed to prospective initiates. As Bro Jonathan noted, we should be so proud of what Freemasonry has achieved for charities, communities, and society at large whilst we've been unable to meet. We can all be Leading Lights, as Bro Jonathan put it.
We then had a heartfelt Tyler’s toast, and many brethren continued to chat and laugh late into the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Thames River. As the Proverb goes ‘Time and Tide wait for no man’ and whilst we are custodians of our wonderful Craft we should always remember to pass on what we learn from our Masonry to those newer to it. The last thing I saw before I left was Bro Joseph and Bro Laurie, chatting and laughing together. And whilst we look after our future and traditions as I saw on this evening, the future of Thames River, South East London Masonic Centre and the Craft as a whole will be ever brighter.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 46 October 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 46.