Reboot 2020

“Reboot 2020”, does this impact what is core to Freemasonry and our ability to provide Charity?

Some may say that 2020 has been a massive year for change or even a period of “reboot”.  Some more esoteric freemasons may feel that 2020 has been a spiritual as well as physical reboot in the way that we need to develop our response to charity.  Just because change occurs may not mean that chaos resides.  Change can bring renewal as well as development.  Is this a time to reconsider what we once saw was normal may now seem strange in this new world?  Freemasonry is having to respond to these changes.  As with any organisation it needs to respond to its changing environment, particularly the needs of its members and those for whom it provides support, irrespective of the changes instigated by COVID 19.  

Changes are progressing with the Senior Team of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hertfordshire.  One of those had been the Provincial Grand Charity Steward.  W. Bro Martin Francis has been appointed to this role. The first thing that Martin wanted to say, for the record, was that W. Bro Chris Noble had done an outstanding job during his tenure and had big shoes to fill.  Something else that Martin wanted to raise, “We may not be meeting, but we are still supporting those less fortunate, our brethren, families & our wider community.”

When you see Martin’s credentials, it may be an easier job to fill those shoes of Chris Noble than any would think.  However, some of us may wonder at his sporting choices, particularly the teams he supports; but we know the Provincial Executive can’t be perfect.  That is only reserved for the PGM elect.

It was interesting to see the commitment that Martin has made to Freemasonry over the years, this beginning with the lodges and side orders he actively participates in.  It all began when he was initiated into the New Elizabethan lodge 7419 in May 1992, aged 27.  He was Raised in May 1994. He was Installed as W.M., New Elizabethan lodge, in November 1998 and served for 2 years.  He reprised his role in 2010. He was Director of Ceremonies for their 50th anniversary meeting in 2005, a role he enjoyed in the Lodge, which he thinks is the best, closely followed by that of the Charity Steward of course! He is also a member of Salisbury Union, our University Scheme Lodge, and 4090. He joined the Mark degree in Feb 1995 and the Royal Arch in April 1995, the Scottish influence in my own lodge encouraging me to join the Mark first! He is a Past First Principal of Theobalds Chapter, and served as W.M. in the Mark and Worshipful Commander in the Royal Ark Mariner degree. He is currently waiting to receive the 30th Degree in the Ancient and Accepted Rite, or Rose Croix as it’s otherwise known, which is his favourite order in Freemasonry, after the Craft.

On a personal note he is married to Julie and they celebrated their 25th anniversary back in September. They have a daughter and son, and two Border Terriers. Apart from his cycling, he’s more of a spectator than a participator of sports these days. He is a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur, someone has to be I suppose, and of course we won’t hold this against him.  He also attends matches at Saracens and Hertford RFC, if Spurs are paying away. He is also a spectator of other sporting events, in terms of golf, Tennis and Cricket; many of which he was able to enjoy because of his career and the client engagements that he was associated with.  He is a member of Bishopsgate Ward Club in the city, and the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers Livery Company. Most of his career has been with various city Stockbrokers and Investment Banks as a Stockjobber/Trader and then as a Sales Trader in the Equity markets.  Again, he recalls how lucky he was to do something that he really enjoyed. He is now retired, well that’s what he thinks.  This can be seen from the number of duties he now has to pick up in his new Provincial role.

As Provincial Grand Charity Steward. he needs to support the PGM and his Executive team in charity matters, such as preparing applications to the MCF for grants to the charities the PGM and his team wish to support. He is also there to assist each lodge’s Charity Steward in the various aspects of their role, specifically fund raising, advice on the administration and use of their Relief Chest, and the distribution of those monies. He is an elected member of the MCF alongside W. Bro. Jay Patel, representing Hertfordshire. In this role he hopes raise the profile of Hertfordshire Freemasonry within our communities, and work to support some of the many charities doing fantastic work in the Province, and beyond, which includes raising awareness of these charities amongst our members. He is passionate not just about the mechanics of what we do for raising and donating funds, but how we can better communicate what we do.  There has been a long list of charities that we have supported as either the Province or through individual lodges during this difficult year.  This has either been done via the MCF Grants team, the Provincial Benevolent Fund or you as lodge members supporting deserving causes directly. He explained that the Province have just submitted an application to support a homeless charity within the MCF/Covid-19 Community Fund that many of our lodges supported at the start of the crisis. He will also be assisting the “Petitions Committee” in considering which small local charities the PBF will support. The MCF Core Hospice Grant Awards have recently been announced and Martin will be letting us know soon. So, he sees that even at a time when we are not meeting and raising as much, there are many things, he feels, that we can still be rightly proud of in terms of charity! On the 22nd and 23rd of November he will be helping Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice with an exciting fund-raising event.  Each Lodge Charity Steward would have received details of this. Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice will be one of the many excellent causes that we are hoping to support in the next year.

In developing his plan, he is mindful that every single person in the U.K. have been and will continue to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  As such, he is very conscious of the physical and mental health pressures, as well as the financial pressures so very many people are under right now.  His message. 

“So whilst I rattle the charity box and send round emails, conscious that Charity is the distinguishing characteristic of our hearts, please remember the words “without detriment to ourselves or connections”. In the difficult weeks ahead “time” may be your most generous donation to someone in need in our communities.”

We started this by considering how do we respond to a reboot?  For Martin, Charity has always been a key driving force of Freemasonry.  Its apparent that he brings a viewpoint that sees Charity as being more than just the alms collected in a meeting or a donations made for a raffle at a festive board.  To him charity is about revisiting the concept of volunteering and that time, as well as other resources, are just as important commodities as cold hard cash.  To him, in these strange times, the gift of charity is whatever can be given to change and improve the lives of those we support.  As an ex-stockbroker and financier, he understands that the meaning of value can’t always be measured in pounds (schillings) and pence.  In his new role, he has a lot to consider but strongly feels that we need to be smarter and more focused in what we do, but still have an empathy to understand the needs of others.  He needs some time to develop his plan, but it will be one that still sees delivery of charity as being key to our Province.