After such a long time apart, on Friday the 17th of September 2021, Brethren from the Burnley and Pendle District gathered at Burnley Masonic Hall to attend a meeting hosted by Pendleside Lodge of Installed Masters No. 9111. Some 30 members were in attendance, including WBro Alan Kirwilliam, APGM for the Northern Area of the Province of East Lancashire and E Comp Aubrey Oldham, the Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals for the Northern Area.

Prior to opening the Lodge the Worshipful Master, WBro Graeme Wilkinson, said it was a pleasure to be back in these rooms and back in Freemasonry, he then opened the Lodge in due form.

The floor was then given to the District Chairman, WBro Bob Allan, who asked the District Secretary to read the names of the Brethren in the District that we had lost during the pandemic. The Brethren stood to order in respect to departed merit.

WBro Allan  said Even though we have not been meeting as we would normally but that is not to say that we have been idle within Masonry. We have however had the opportunity to practice those morals and principals we so often moralise on at our meetings. This evening I would like to reflect on what has been accomplished during this period within the Burnley and Pendle District.

It has been 544 days since the announcement of the first lockdown and we wondered what were we to do? Our first priorities were safety & communications. We had to ensure that we had contact with all our Brethren and Companions, their families and Widows. The Lodge and Chapter Almoners were quick to respond giving us a very good picture of how everybody was coping with the situation we found ourselves in, not only health wise but in relation to any practical problems they may have, and just as importantly their mental wellbeing. Where necessary, if we were unable to deal with things locally, we had the ability to refer issues confidentially to the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and seek the assistance of the Provincial Welfare Officers.

We were very fortunate that WBro Jeff Ward accepted my invitation to liaise with the Almoners and coordinate this very important activity on behalf of the District Chairman. Jeff has done a fantastic job all through the Pandemic supporting us all and I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

Throughout this period the District Team have literally been working overtime reacting to a very uncertain and continually changing landscape for the benefit of Brethren and the Burnley and Pendle community as a whole. .

The Burnley and Pendle District Lodge Charity Stewards structure was perfect to make decisions quickly and this has been put to the test during this period enabling a fast response to any new appeals that were received

Funding for this comes from appeals to the Lodges and Chapters, the District Community Fund, along with fund raising events. Applications can also be made for grants from the Provincial Covid fund, ELMC & MCF. 

So, What did we do?

Supported the Burnley Together Hub  with a total donation of £4,800 to help over 3,000 people via Burnley Together.

We helped to move £5,000 worth of food Burnley Together had bought from Aldi, from the supermarket to their community hub for distribution. 

We supported the Church on the Street Ministry and St Matthews Church with donations from Lodges and the District fund coupled with another grant from the Covid fund and donated £4,600.

The Burnley and Pendle District Team were instrumental in securing one of the largest grants nationwide of £38,000, to allow Emmaus to provide two full time staff to go out on night visits to reach out to the homeless and help them.

We made donations of £800, in order for meals to be made at Nelson House and delivered to the homeless companions that Emmaus support

Burnley and Pendle Freemasons donated £1000 to the Local Samaritans branch at Nelson. of which £500 came from the Burnley and District Community Fund and £500 from ELMC.

 The District Charity Stewards were made aware that the Samaritans were in desperate need of the money in order to complete a vital refurbishment of their offices. 

Due to the lockdown, our usual charity collection for the British Legion Poppy appeal throughout the Lodges and Masonic Halls was not possible. At the suggestion of our District Secretary, Colin Barton, we appealed directly to the Brethren and Lodges who then responded with total donations of £460.

The Burnley and Pendle Freemasons recognised the excellent work carried out by the Kettledrum and the local residents, and in response the District fund provided £150 and the Covid fund donated the further £600.

April 2020 we donated £1,200 to Pendleside Hospice, with Abbey lodge and Thursby Lodge sending £200 & £500 respectively and a further £500 from the District fund. On top of the £1,200, we have donated £2,000 towards the Pendleside Car raffle, which raised over £42,600 in total for Pendleside Hospice.

TLC bears.This last year we have been successful with three grant applications from the ELMC raising a total of £660,  

We have donated £450 from our District fund to the Masjid foodbank in Nelson and St Catherine’s church food bank in Burnley. The Salvation Army citadels in Burnley and Nelson were supported to the tune of £850.

The tents for the Homeless imitative from East Ribble District not only affected the homeless in Blackburn but also in Burnley. Burnley and Pendle District were more than willing to donate £150 to their excellent work.

Six years ago. Bro Hacker of Abbey Lodge, saved up £100 and bought four families a Christmas dinner each. Incredibly, this past year the numbers have rocketed and due to the superb, charitable donations and help given, Paul has been able to provide food parcels for 220 families.

So! over £17,000 donated to local causes. £55,000 if you include the Emmaus donation. In addition to this Brethren volunteering their valuable time to assist. We have kept raising funds for the District Community Fund by bringing together the Brethren and their families with a Bingo and quiz nights, which have raised £605. 

We have held  regular and very well attended, zoom meetings, open to all the District Lodges, Brethren, and invited guest speakers from the causes we have supported.

I think I can safely say that we have all demonstrated true Masonic values. I will now hand over to WBro Colin Whittaker for a look at what the future holds.

WBro Whittaker first explained how he had come to be delivering this, his thoughts on what the future of the District held. It turned out it was because a smooth-talking District Chairman caught him at an unguarded moment, but he didn’t need persuading.

Although he was not part of the District team he was well aware of their work We had just heard the Chairman outline their achievements before and during the lock down. This is magnificent work and it helps dispel the myths surrounding Masonry. The District team deserve our support and by this I don’t mean just cash, but sometimes your time, so volunteer when you can.

Another group that deserve our thanks are the Masonic Hall teams, they have done an enormous amount of work getting the Masonic Halls ready for our safe return.

This is my first meeting for 18 months, it’s good to be back, but we must recognise but this is not for all. It’s going to be a while before we fully get back to normal. There may be many members who are not ready yet to return to meetings, some may have got out of the habit, some may not yet feel it’s safe for them to return.

When we do meet, it’s going to be different, initially, do we have masks or not? Do we have handshakes or not? Do we socially distance or not? It is essential that we respect everybody’s view, we need to help and encouraged people to return in their own time. There must never be any pressure put on a member to return to meetings if he is in anyway concerned.

Another achievement worthy of note is the revamping of the Members Pathway initiative. Led by Allan Kirwilliam and the District Mentor, WBro Mark Barlow, Lodges in the District put together Lodge plans. I know they will have looked at recruitment and retention. The last 18 months have been a “double whammy”. From March 2022 August 2021 we lost 300 members due to resignations and deaths, some 19 of the deaths directly related to Covid 19.

Of course in that period there were no Initiations, but there were 100 or so waiting to join. So recruitment is even more important, but it is down to us. Province can help, District can help, but only when we know if you need help.

We have had inquiries come through via the Internet, the District Chairman guides inquirers to an appropriate Lodge. We have to embrace these new technologies and fully support the Province and our District in trying to grow our membership.

Retention, again, probably covered by Lodge plans. For me it’s keeping the ceremony serious and dignified, outside the ceremony and especially in the social board, enjoyment and fun.

We are back, maybe in a somewhat reduced form but there is a lot going on.

Coincidentally, we have the launch of the 2026 festival This should be the first call on our charity the Provincial Grand Master has set a target of £2.4 million. In 2020 the Masonic charitable foundation spent £385,000 supporting east Lancashire Masons and their dependants and £3.2 million nationally on Covid related charities. Brethren, you all know that we can’t give it out if it don’t get it in.

Brethren, let’s hope for a better winter than last year, hopefully no return to lockdowns, manageable restrictions and be able to go back to enjoying our Freemasonry. Thank you.

The business of the evening having been completed; the Lodge was closed in due form.

John Wilkinson