22 June 2023
Regular communication with all members of Freemasons Victoria is one of the pledges that I made to you when I became Grand Master. This letter is another such instalment during my term to inform you of our fraternity's latest developments.
At last night’s Quarterly Communication, the successful candidates for election to the Masonic Council, and the Commercial Council were announced. All members across Victoria had the opportunity to vote electronically or by phone.
The five members elected to the Masonic Council are: RWBro. John Rodrigo, WBro. Peter Grounds, WBro. Robert Woolley, WBro. Eric Williams, WBro. Domenic Donato.
The three members elected to the Commercial Council are: VWBro. Felix Pintado, RWBro. Trevor Somerville, VWBro. Chris Dzanovski.
The three external members of the Commercial Council will be: David Mandel, Ian Sanders and Elaine Ko.
I wish to thank all who served as members of the Councils during their interim status throughout 2022 and this year. The new Councils come into being on 1 July 2023, and at that time the Councils will come out of caretaker mode. This has been a democratic and consultative process developed over some 3 years, and I thank each and every Brother across the State for their participation in that process. I particularly wish to thank those who were nominated for positions but were not elected on this occasion. There will be other opportunities, of course, to serve our Craft in the future.
Many of us have served a variety of institutions, including our Brotherhood. In Freemasonry, that service may be at Lodge level as an officer or volunteer, at a District level, or perhaps with Grand Lodge in a ceremonial role, or sharing expertise, talent and time. You have known what it is to be part of an honoured institution.
The Rev. Canon John Sanderson, an Anglican cleric in Melbourne, reminds us that:
- You do not work in an institution, you serve it.
- You never own an institution, you never tell it what to do.
- You never seek to impose your will upon it, for it does not belong to you, you belong to it.
The traditions associated with institutions like Freemasonry are sometimes not so popular in our time. They can be mocked. But Freemasonry is not in the world of popularity. Freemasons are in a world of values and beliefs. We belong to an institution that seeks to shape and form people – young and old – to be better men. To be leaders in this world. To shape this world for the good. Every Freemason has the opportunity to be a leader. As I have said before, leadership is not a position, it is an action. As leaders, there is a time and a place to be firm, for discipline, for service, for sacrifice. These values were bequeathed to our Brotherhood by every Mason who has gone before us.
These values are embraced in our Antient Charges and Regulations, printed at the front of our Book of Constitutions.
- These values are timeless.
- These values can stand any test of time.
- These values can weather any storm.
- These values enable people to shine and flourish.
One of Freemasonry's core values is loyalty. When we swear our original and subsequent obligations, we commit that no new Lodge can be formed without the permission of the Grand Master or his Deputy, and that no countenance ought to be given to any irregular Lodge, or to any person initiated therein.
The Amnesty: How It Works
Last night, I announced an Amnesty for Freemasons who have lost their way, to find their way back to the United Grand Lodge of Victoria.
This rapprochement, or act of harmony, is the right way in extending an olive branch to our Brothers who have stumbled. It is exactly in line with the commitment that we Freemasons make at the opening of every Lodge meeting.
Over the past few years, a handful of Brethren have found themselves involved in clandestine Lodges, which claim to belong to irregular Grand Lodges.
Some Brethren say their involvement was made unwittingly. Some say they were misled.
Some say that they deeply regret their involvement in those lodges, which are deemed to be in darkness.
The good news – for those who are not suspended or excluded from Freemasons Victoria, and for those without outstanding disciplinary matters – is that this Amnesty can provide an honourable way back.
Over the next six weeks, until 31 July 2023, the Grand Secretary will receive written applications from any Brother who wishes to recant from their involvement in a clandestine Lodge and/or irregular Grand Lodge. All it takes is a simple email to the Grand Secretary, who may invite those involved to come in for a comfortable interview to confirm the fidelity of their future Masonic intentions.
Similarly, over those next six weeks, the Grand Secretary will also receive information on a strictly confidential basis, about Brethren, who it is believed to have had irregular associations, and who might benefit from an olive branch being extended to them.
Of course, there is another side of the coin. Those who do not apply during this amnesty risk being permanently expelled from Freemasons Victoria. They will be named, and there will be a vote on the floor of Grand Lodge at some future Quarterly Communication for that purpose.
The United Grand Lodge of Victoria stands in amity with all other regular Grand Lodges in Australasia, as well as overseas Grand Lodges including England, Scotland Ireland and many others and will continue to abide by usages and protocols in relation to sovereign Grand Lodges.
The Number of Lodges
This might sound like a peculiar thing for a Grand Master to say, but we have too many Lodges in Victoria.
We have approximately 7000 members in Victoria. We have approximately 230 Lodges. That is an average of 30 members per Lodge. At best, monthly Lodge attendances are at 50 per cent, which means about 15 active members per Lodge.
Our Country Lodges operate in their own way and their history and circumstances are generally unique. But some metropolitan Lodges need to examine if their average attendance of 15 or less is sustainable. Is a Lodge Room of 15 or less what we want candidates to see when they open their eyes in Freemasonry?
Are there better answers? Would a Lodge be a better place if it considered twinning or pairing with a nearby Lodge? It might keep its own identity, or unite with another Lodge, so that there are sufficient numbers for excellent ritual work, healthier attendances in the South, and more members involved in community projects.
For some Lodges, we must realise that they might be at the end of their cycle. Other possibilities include staying open as a Fellowship Lodge, adjusting meeting schedules to every second month, or pooling resources with other nearby Lodges. Let us not be afraid of taking bold and courageous steps to ensure that the Lodge experience across Victoria is a robust one.
I am pleased to announce that the newly re-formed team will hold its first exemplification on Saturday 24 June 2023 at East Melbourne, 1:30pm – 3:30pm.
As I’ve said many times, ritual and ceremonial is what sets us apart from most other organisations. This will be the first of a number of district exemplifications and bookings will remain open until 12 noon Fri 23 June.
MWBro. Anthony Bucca