Metropolitan Grand Lodge SLGR investiture and Annual Meeting
W Bro Trevor Koschalka PAGDC reports, photography: Sam Bassan and Raj Patel
The Grand Temple was a sea of light and dark blue regalia and the Metropolitan Stewards were resplendent in their crimson collars and aprons. Up in the gallery, friends and families were waiting to see their friends and loved ones invested by the Metropolitan Grand Master; Sir Michael Snyder.
There was an air of anticipation as the time drew closer to 11 am, and the Deputy Metropolitan Grand Director of Ceremonies called the brethren to order. The officers of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge entered the temple in procession, lining the route before the Metropolitan Grand Master entered to rousing applause and the accompaniment of the grand organ.
Having taken his place, Sir Michael welcomed all those who were being invested with Senior London Grand Rank. It was a particular delight for him to welcome both Masonic and non-Masonic guests. He welcomed the non-masons present – wives, partners, relatives and friends – with these kind words: “please consider yourself very much part of our London Masonic family. Your involvement in what we do is so important to us, and we thank you for attending our meeting this morning.”
After investing those honoured with Senior London Grand Rank, the MetGM spoke of his thorough enjoyment in investing the brethren this morning, noting they should be proud of the part that they had played in reinvigorating our Lodges after the upheaval of the last two and a half years. He said that appointment to Senior London Grand Rank was an important milestone in a Freemasons’ journey and is certainly not a promotion “that comes up with the rations some years after receiving London Grand Rank” and offered them all his personal congratulations.
He continued by mentioning the initiatives spearheaded by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge that have long prepared the ground for the Grand Master’s new strategy, which relies on the core principles of integrity, friendship, respect and charity – the modern way of saying brotherly love, relief and truth. Many of those present and honoured on the day had already taken an active role in implementing work such as the Members Pathway, the Welcome Project and the new training package developed for visiting officers under Robert Grant and his team.
Sir Michael then spoke about the next part of the strategy – community involvement – and outlined the many achievements that we can be proud of, from past large-scale appeals: the cyberknife, our support for the London Fire Brigade, the London Air Ambulance, the London Ambulance Service and most recently a grant of £250,000 to supply two specialist control vehicles to London Search and Rescue.
Since the end of the pandemic, collections sent to both Lodge and Chapter chests have increased; and at the end of January 2023, they totalled £1 million, while donations from individual Lodge and Relief Chests totalled £1.4 million going directly to individual charities. This does not include grants made by London Freemasons’ Charity (LFC) and the MCF.
The MetGM continued by noting that LFC has agreed to fund the cost of prostate cancer screening for London Masons. 43 of the 836 men already screened have returned a positive result and were therefore able to take prompt and potentially life-saving action. In addition, LFC had agreed to make a donation of £125,000 to St. Guys and St. Thomas’s Hospital for the purchase of a pro-focal laser delivery system to kickstart a new project for the radical treatment of prostate cancer. Once again, the generosity of London Freemasons intervenes where the NHS lacks resources.
Before closing the meeting for lunch, Sir Michael reminded everyone that this year marks twenty years since Metropolitan Grand Lodge was formed. Celebrations will peak with a gala dinner at the City’s Guildhall on 4th October – bookings for which will open very soon.
In the afternoon, the Annual Meeting of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge took place. The MetGM welcomed all those present and, in particular, the honoured guests from the surrounding provinces and further afield. Sir Michael took great pleasure in re-appointing his three deputies and five of the Assistant Metropolitan Grand Masters. It was also time to thank those retiring for their many years of service. Chief among them was VW Bro Andrew Manasseh, who has been a leading light driving the Universities Scheme and the London Masonic response to the pandemic, which did so much to raise the profile of Freemasonry and helped so many people.
To the Metropolitan Inspectors retiring, David Bailey, Lewis Bloch, John Parry, John Peters and Jonty Powis, Sir Michael offered his personal gratitude for their years of arduous but hopefully rewarding service. David Bailey will be assisting with organising centenary celebrations, and John Parry is taking on a new uncollared role as Director of Metropolitan Events. The MetGM acknowledged John’s formidable organisational skills and contacts, as demonstrated by his many years of organising various splendid events. In addition, John will continue to serve London members by focusing his strategic skills to strengthen the special interest Lodges and help address the ‘membership challenge.’
The Metropolitan Grand Master then announced that David Swain, who recently retired after ten years as the Metropolitan Grand Secretary, has accepted an invitation to be Metropolitan Senior Warden.
The meeting returned to the topic of charitable donations, the true demonstration of London Freemasons’ generosity. Sir Michael invited all Lodges and Chapters to urgently look at their chests and consider using available funds for charities of their choice. “Why do I say urgent? Because I am both excited and delighted this afternoon to announce that Metropolitan Grand Lodge is going to launch a major new appeal.”
London Air Ambulance had just opened an appeal to replace two helicopters that are due to reach their end of service. They are seeking to raise £15 million to get the new helicopters flying by October 2024.
The London Air Ambulance is funded entirely by donations, and their efforts to save lives are dependent on specialist medical care being delivered on-site before patients are transferred to hospital. The new helicopters will deliver emergency consultants anywhere in London within 11 minutes, enabling them to give lifesaving treatment at the scene, often making the difference between life and death.
London Freemasons have the opportunity once again to be the cornerstone of funding for these lifesaving helicopters. “I have pledged that we will raise £3 million for this appeal. What better gift can London Freemasons give to helping keep the people of London safe” declared Sir Michael, adding that we have supported London Air Ambulance over many years and today would give them a £100,000 pledge and raise the remainder in the coming months.
Metropolitan Grand Lodge was then called off, and representatives of London Air Ambulance led by their Chief Executive Officer entered the temple to a rapturous standing ovation. The CEO, Jonathan Jenkins, addressed the brethren by saying how he was honoured to be able to speak to the gathering. Over many years, London Freemasons have been the biggest single voluntary organisation donor, starting in 2016 with the help needed to purchase a second helicopter and the entire fleet of rapid response cars when the helicopters are not able to be used. He then introduced a short film featuring the work of the Air Ambulance and a commentary from HRH The Prince of Wales, himself a former air ambulance pilot. At the end of the film, Mr Jenkins read a letter of thanks from the Prince of Wales. He went on to say that he was delighted that London Freemasons would once again be a ‘Cornerstone’ supporter of the project. The support already given had meant that the charity could be there for 11,000 Londoners and, with these continuing fundraising efforts, would be there for thousands more in the future.
Metropolitan Grand Lodge was called on, and the Metropolitan officers were appointed and installed. After the closing of the Lodge and the singing of the National Anthem, the Metropolitan Grand Master retired in procession at the end of what had been a long but inspiring day.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 51 April 2023 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 51 here.