FOREWORD E Comp Timothy L’Estrange Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent
In the 1980s, the days of my youth, there was a popular television series whose evocative theme song proclaimed in its chorus, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came!” The sentiment is attractive, and I think it appeals deeply to many of us. Don’t most of us sometimes feel that longing? To be fully known and fully valued, just because we’ve turned up!
Freemasonry is a very large organisation, with many thousands of members, which gives us a united ability to make a real difference for good within society; but at the same time, we operate in much smaller local lodges, where we can know and enjoy the intimacy of true friendship, binding us together. No wonder we find ourselves drawn to this great fraternity.
But I wonder, especially for those of us who have been Masons for many years, whether we can actually remember the feelings and emotions of our earliest moments in Freemasonry? When I concentrate on those far distant memories, I find I can actually remember a great deal. I remember that the desire for friendship and convivial company was part of what drew me to my mother Lodge, but I also recall that those desires were not satisfied straight away. On the night of my initiation, and for some time afterwards, I really only knew my proposer and seconder, though slowly, I began to get to know other members of the Lodge as well and started to build real friendships. The more those relationships deepened and developed, the more comfortable I felt; and the more comfortable I felt, the more strongly I was drawn back to future meetings; until in the end, I found myself longing for the next meeting, even before I’d climbed into bed after the previous one.
It is easy to become so comfortable with our immediate circle of friends that we forget how to open that circle to admit new members – new friends. We must not let that happen. The old and new must be united if the Lodge is truly to be a model of fraternity.
We all have a responsibility for making sure that every initiate has that same experience of growing day by day in commitment to his Lodge, precisely because he finds himself drawn more and more into the friendship and fellowship of the brethren. As quickly as possible, he needs to understand that his Lodge is indeed the place where “everybody knows his name, and they’re always glad he came”. A place built on relationships and thriving because of the strength of those friendships.
The recent launch of the “Welcome Project” (in both the Craft and the Royal Arch) will help London Freemasonry to focus afresh on these ideals. The Welcome Project will give each lodge initiate and each chapter exaltee the opportunity to see another initiation or exaltation, just a short while after his own, and to do so in the company of his peers – the recent initiates or exaltees of other lodges and chapters. The chance to view a ceremony so soon after experiencing it as the candidate will undoubtedly help to cement the important teachings of the ritual. But at the same time, the Welcome Project will build networks of recent candidates, allowing strangers to become friends over time and to engage in inter-visiting at each other’s lodges. By promoting the Welcome Project, we will each be living out our responsibilities as Mentors – a task that truly falls to every member of the Craft, not just those who wear a Mentor’s collar. And as we do so, our lodges and chapters will become stronger and better places of true welcome and fellowship.
It is easy to welcome a candidate on the night of his initiation; the harder job is to make that welcome tangible in the days, weeks, and months that follow, but when we do so, the benefits are felt by everyone and the whole lodge flourishes. The Welcome Project is one more tool to help us achieve that goal.
May all our lodges be places of true friendship, mutual commitment, and enduring warm welcome.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 47 January 2022 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 47 here.