The Scrip Purse from the Metropolitan Grand Almoner
By W Bro Darrel Palmer PAGSwdB, MetGAlm
For this edition of the Scrip Purse, we focus on a brand new project called “Wellman Connected”.
The Wellman Connected project seeks to offer a wide range of support, care and services to London Freemasons through clearer signposting to find the resources Almoners and Brethren may need. My team has consistently shown ingenuity in identifying support for members, as we will illustrate here; but resources can often be confusing to find.
One Lodge Almoner from the Metropolitan Grand Almoner’s team can be credited with bringing a Brother from one of his Lodges back from the very brink of crisis. But not all Almoners are clear exactly what options are available to them if they are in such a situation. That is why the Wellman Connected project seeks to support Almoners to feel that they can be as successful in their role, at the most urgent of times as, the Almoner included in our story.
A certain Brother, who will for obvious reasons remain anonymous, when first interested in Freemasonry, was introduced to the Almoner and Secretary of the Lodge into which he would eventually be initiated. From this first meeting, the prospective Candidate formed a very strong bond with these two Brothers.
In time, the Candidate became a Brother, and was enjoying his Freemasonry. However, over a short period of time he suffered personal tragedies in both his family and professional lives, and before long was mentally trapped in a downward spiral. The Lodge Almoner could sense that things were wrong and was in regular contact with the Brother. However, it all got too much for him, and the Brother emailed the Almoner thanking for him for all his sincere concern, but that he felt he had no options available to him.
The Almoner, being a member of my team, reached out to me, and we immediately put a plan into action. Thankfully I had recently been at the Masonic Charitable Foundation’s conference in Bristol, where they announced a new partnership with an organisation made up of medical staff who were empowered to assist, diagnose and treat those in mental crisis. We got in touch with this new team, and they were able to immediately mobilise and provide the support that the Brother so desperately needed.
Through this support, and immediate assistance, the Brother was brought back from that dark place; and over time has rediscovered, in his own words, the “light Masonry provides for us”, crediting Freemasonry with aiding his recovery. The Brother is now in a much happier place, and is again a thriving member of his Lodge.
We feel grateful that we were able to help this Brother in his time of need, but we’re aware that not every Almoner would know what to do in this situation – and, more importantly, even if they knew what to do, they may not always be aware of how to get that help, or what support and services Freemasonry can offer to help them with their duty.
We feel it is important that every Almoner is aware of the resources and support available to them. We want to make it clearer to Almoners how they can access these resources, and, in due course, to make the resources available directly to the membership.
The Wellman Connected project will initially focus on a set of concerns, each supported by a named, experienced member of the Metropolitan Grand Almoner’s Team. These include Mental Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, Caring and Financial Hardship, Support from the Chaplains, Bereavement Counselling, Developing the Zoom Tea Room as a Community Hub, and General Help.
Almoners will see these services develop in the coming months.
The Metropolitan Grand Almoner’s team is not alone in committing to the mental wellbeing of Freemasons and their families. There is also much good work being done by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF, the Freemasons’ Charity).
For the last 10 years, the MCF has offered access to mental health support for adults, helping hundreds of Freemasons and their family members through difficult times. In the 2022/23 financial year, the MCF helped 424 Freemasons and family members access an independent team of professional counsellors and therapists, 39 of whom were members of the London Masonic community.
According to the Health Foundation, mental health illnesses have not only become more common in adults, but also among 6-to-16-year-olds, especially after the pandemic. Since 2017, the number of children and young people experiencing mental health problems has increased by an alarming 60 per cent. Recognising the urgency of this issue, the MCF has been closely monitoring this situation and looking into ways in which they can help. As a result, it was decided that the mental health support service would be expanded at the start of 2023 to include young individuals, as well as maintaining their existing service for adults.
Gareth Everett, Head of Masonic Support at the MCF, says, “Mental health support for adults is a valuable service provided through the MCF. Now, as we see an increasing need for mental health support for people of all ages, we are delighted to extend our service to include the children and grandchildren of Freemasons from the age of five upwards. The service is delivered through an experienced and independent provider and gives access to fully trained and qualified mental health practitioners.”
In the first five months of 2023, the MCF has been able to help 23 young people aged 5-16 through one-to-one support sessions. Zoe (her name has been changed for print), is the daughter of a Freemason, and one of the 23 children who has benefited from this mental health support service so far.
Her father, Michael (name also changed), was dealing with difficult circumstances at home, including a divorce and a serious health issue, as well as the sudden need to take full custody of his three children. His middle child, 11-year-old Zoe, has autism and was being home-schooled as she was not coping well with going to school. This was a lot for her father to handle, and his mental health began to suffer. Due to his health complications, he was unable to work, and the bills started to mount up. His Almoner and friends from his Lodge recognised his struggles and encouraged him to seek medical attention and contact the MCF for assistance.
He duly received support, but the situation was also affecting Zoe’s mental health: she was feeling anxious, depressed and struggling to engage with her family and the world around her. After trying to seek support from his GP and discovering a three-year waiting list for a children’s therapist, Michael reached out to the MCF again for help. With the MCF’s support, Zoe was able to attend counselling sessions which helped her to deal with her depression and anxiety; and even gave her the confidence to go back to school.
“The counselling had a monumental impact on my family. I have no words to describe how important the help from the MCF was for us”, says Michael. “Without it, we would be having a very different conversation right now. Zoe is now back at school and she is the sarcastic teen she is supposed to be. My daughter was able to go back to the world and be herself.”
The MCF is proud to support adults experiencing mental health issues; and now children and young people like Zoe from Masonic communities across England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man too. The Masonic Support team continues to closely monitor areas of need to work out how they, together with the generosity of the membership, can support individuals and families who need the most help.
To learn more about the MCF’s mental health support, visit https://mcf.org.uk/Arena_52
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 52 August 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 52 here.