Members Survey Feedback From Our Deputy Provincial Grand Master

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Dear Brethren,

You will recall that in the 3rd Edition of “Second Rising” on 27th April, we asked for your feedback in a
Survey to gauge your feelings about returning to normal Lodge and Chapter work once the social
restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic are finally lifted by the government.


The Provincial Grand Master and his Executive are acutely aware that, after this unprecedented
year, there might still be reservations – particularly amongst those with health concerns – about
coming back to your Lodges. Foremost amongst the reasons for reservation might be the lingering
fear of contracting the infection, or reluctance to attend if “full” masonic activities such as
ceremonies or Festive Boards are not arranged. We sought the information in case foreseeable nonattendance might predict an adverse impact on Lodges and Chapters.

May I start by thanking all the Brethren who took the time to complete the survey. Especially helpful
were the very many “free comments” most of you offered. They gave a much more in-depth view of
your feelings and concerns for the future – and I can assure you that every comment was read and
noted!


The response to the survey was excellent, with nearly 700 individual responses, a return of 27% from
those it was circulated to. Whilst it might not sound a lot, would be regarded by commercial survey
companies as being a very good return indeed!

I am delighted to report that there was a very clear majority – nearly two thirds – who wanted to
resume Lodge attendance as soon as possible, even with more than 30 people in the room and even
if a Festive Board was not arranged.


This left about a third who expressed some concern about returning and for whom extra precautions
might be reassuring.

Only a tiny minority – 3% of the responses – said they were concerned enough that they probably
wouldn’t return (at least in the first few months after resuming meetings) even if added precautions
were offered. The overriding reason for this reluctance was an active health problem and an
individual’s fears that they might contract covid and be made ill or pass it on to vulnerable family
members.


I believe these results augur well for our future as we resume meetings of our Lodges and Chapters.
Our fear that units might be bereft of members, leading many to have to abandon meetings or even,
if chronically unsupported, consider closure, are unfounded. I think that it also speaks volumes
about the Brethren’s keenness for getting back to their Lodges and resuming their labours just as
soon as it is safe to do so.

For those Brethren who expressed some reservation and felt added precautions would be
reassuring, we asked a series of targeted questions. The overriding reassurance they sought was that
the masonic building should be, as far as possible, “covid-secure”. Nearly a third indicated this to be
an important factor in encouraging their return. Most, if not all, masonic halls in our Province are
themselves aware of the importance of covid security as we emerge from the pandemic and many
have already fulfilled those requirements as well as conducted full risk assessments, which should
further reassure the Brethren that they will be returning to a safe environment.


The option of limiting numbers at meetings was mentioned – perhaps by asking visitors not to
attend in the early months. At the same time, however, the difficulty of discouraging attendance at a
time when you want the Lodge or Chapter to get back to normal was recognised to be potentially
detrimental.

Roughly a hundred people wanted to see some continuation of face mask wearing and/or social
distancing whilst in the Lodge Room though, again, the practical difficulties of resuming normal
working, and especially ritual and ceremonies, were recognised and highlighted.


Province recognises that it cannot make hard and fast recommendations to Lodges and Chapters
regarding continuation of face mask use and social distancing, but we would urge all units to be
sensitive to the needs of individual members in these areas and accommodate them if reasonably
possible. Should a member feel more comfortable in the Lodge by wearing a face mask, or by sitting
a little apart from other members, his wishes should be respected and accommodated so as not to
cause disharmony.

About 170 people expressed a preference for all Brethren and Companions to be vaccinated against
coronavirus but, again, the vast majority were fully aware that this is not something that could be
policed or enforced, and it is not something that Province can mandate. Grand Lodge fully endorses
the benefits to health, for the individual and for society, that vaccination brings and it encourages all
Brethren and Companions to have the coronavirus vaccine if they are eligible. Province fully supports
that endorsement and we would urge all the Brethren in Northumberland to “get the jab” if called
upon to do so.


One sentiment that came through very clearly in the comments section was that you nearly all felt
that the single greatest precaution was to take things slowly; wait until September so we can see
what three months of relaxation of social restrictions looks like; be reassured that a rebound in
coronavirus doesn’t happen; and slowly resume full meetings, ceremonies and Festive Boards once
we can see it is fully safe to do so.

The response to our question about the importance of the Festive Board was also very reassuring.
We had been concerned that, at least in the early months of masonic meetings, if Festive Boards
were not organised it might prove a disincentive to Lodge attendance. It is heartening that about
85% of you want to attend Lodge even without a Festive Board afterwards and suggests that what
the majority of Brethren seek is that resumption of regular human contact – the fun, friendship and
camaraderie of actually meeting in the Lodge – and that whilst a Festive Board is, and will be again, a
most important part of the masonic experience, it is not a “deal breaker” in terms of you wanting to
meet up with your friends and Brethren.


The last couple of questions concerned your virtual online experience and keeping in touch with
your Brethren and with Provincial Grand Lodge during the pandemic. The results were, again, most
heartening. Almost two thirds of you had been involved in some form of virtual online meeting – be
it a Lodge or Chapter social occasion or an F&GP – and the experience was so positive that the same
number – two thirds – want to see these types of meeting continue into the future, even once full
“face to face” meeting resume.

Brethren, it is clear that online platforms such as “Zoom” are here to stay and have shown huge
benefit in helping Brethren keep in touch with each other. The Provincial Executive has conducted
regular, almost monthly, Zoom meetings throughout the pandemic and will continue to use the
technology for some of its meetings in the years to come. We would encourage Lodges and Chapters
to consider adopting similar means for some of its business, such as F&GPs, to make it easier for
Brethren to attend and be involved in the decision making process for their respective units.
Notwithstanding those for whom computer technology is an alien concept, the clear message is that,
in the 21st Century, this novel form of communication is something all Lodges and Chapters should
embrace fully.


In summary, the feedback you have given is greatly reassuring to the Provincial Executive. We are
optimistic that, from autumn this year (assuming the “road map” out of lockdown continues on
target) Lodges and Chapters will be able, slowly and with a degree of caution, to resume full
meetings and we will eventually return to the situation we were in at the end of 2019 before this
terrible social tragedy befell us.

I leave you with a couple of verbatim quotes of two Brethren (who, to spare their blushes, will
remain nameless!) noted in the “free comments”


“We’re ready to roll!”


“Let’s get cracking!”

I look forwards to seeing you all once again in your respective Lodges and Royal Arch Chapters in the
very near future!


With very best wishes

Kevin Stannard, Deputy PGM

Have you got a good news story or event to promote? Contact our Communications Team direct at news@northumberlandmasons.org, or on our social media pages, where a member of the team will get back to you. 

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