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The Great light – A Christmas Message from the Provincial Chaplains | Durham Freemasons

At the beginning of St. John’s gospel in verse 5, we read “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it”. In the book of Genesis light is the first thing that God creates. At Christmastime, Christians proclaim the light that is coming into our world, and other faiths also have festivals of light at this time – Hannukah and Diwali.

Light is also one of the great symbols of freemasonry – we have three great lights which we teach, and our ceremonies talk of moving from darkness into light. The greatest of our three great lights is the Bible itself – it is considered that it pours forth light from the east across the lodge. In freemasonry masonically speaking light means knowledge. A new member is asked what is the wish of his heart, and his answer is “light.”

We seek light because we seek knowledge, but we also seek light because we seek God, the Great Architect. By following light we follow the guidance laid out as the will of God in the volume of the sacred law and prove ourselves fit to walk in the way of light with him who is the light of the world.

Above the tomb of St Bede in Durham cathedral is the Latin phrase “Christus est stella matutina” – “Christ is the morning star” – and we are told to lift our eyes to that bright morning star whose rising brings peace and salvation to the faithful and obedient of the human race.

In our world today light often seems so distant – our world seems cold and hopeless

as COVID recedes in this country, we are overcome by fears of energy prices, food shortages, war in Ukraine, and people struggling to make ends meet. This indeed is darkness for them. We as Freemasons and as followers of God are called to bring light into the dark corners of the world, to bring hope to those places where there is little hope, to bring love and joy to those people who fear for the future.

So, as we stand together at the end of another year let us remember that God is light, and the mission of Freemasonry is to bring light into the darkness of this world, to let the dim spark within us meet and blend with the light of God, the Alpha and Omega the first and the last, in whom there is no darkness. This indeed is the light that lights everyman that comes into the world.

King George VI in his 1939 Christmas broadcast that first December of the Second World War quoted these lines by Minnie Louise Haskins: I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So, in these strange times and at the season of light, as we wait for the Light of the World, our message to you this Christmas is this –

May God bless you for all the wonderful work you do in your communities. Go and be a light to those around you, shine with love hope and charity on those you meet. Be the light to those who have none this Christmas, and you will find that light burns brighter because of your contribution. So be a light in the darkness this Christmas as our neighbours worry about heat and food, as we pray about war and refugees, be a light to those around you and you will find that hope.

You will find that love, but most of all, you will find the Light of the World, God with us, Emmanuel.

May we wish you all every blessing and happiness to you and those you love this Christmas time

Julian Ward

Provincial Grand Chaplain

Rev Jon Whalley

Assistant Provincial Grand Chaplain

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 “Feed Bellies Not Bins “ | Durham Freemasons

Shildon Alive is a St John’s Church Community Project run by the community, for the community. As well as being home to an advocacy service, the hub is used as a social area, open to the whole community. Activities include a Foodbank and Food for all Programme, Credit Union, Advocacy Support, Job Search, Youth Group, Community Gardens, Intergenerational Learning, and a Dementia Café.

Manager Paula Nelson applied to the Freemasons of Durham for a Community Support Grant to provide financial support for general purposes.

Paula was invited to attend the meeting of the Durham Freemasons Benevolent Committee at Shildon Masonic Hall, on Saturday 10th December 2022 where she gave a detailed insight into the inspirational work and activities carried out by Shildon Alive.

‘Shildon Alive fights food insecurity.’

In the Northeast alone 800,000 tonnes of food waste are generated every year, that’s over one-third of food produced for us to eat. At Shildon Alive their shop and takeaway are open to the whole community. The shelves are stocked with surplus food donated by local supermarkets; food originally destined for landfill. The shop operates on a ‘Take what you need, Donate what you can,’ policy meaning members of the community can come in, fill their basket with a wide range of products, and donate whatever they are able in return.

This enables the community to affordably add healthy food to their diets whilst simultaneously funding the work the charity carries out to benefit of residents of Shildon and the surrounding area. In 2022 they have so far helped 958 people.

During the meeting, local Freemason Stan Hunter had the pleasurable task of presenting Paula with a certificate to go along with the £1,000 Grant Shildon Alive had been awarded by the Freemasons of Durham.

Paula was thanked by chairman John D Watts for a most enlightening talk about the workings of Shildon Alive and all in attendance showed their appreciation.

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A Busy Night at St Mary’s Lodge | Durham Freemasons

The first Friday in December is the last Regular Meeting of St Mary’s Lodge in their Masonic year. They always invite an individual to present their Annual Lecture/Talk and this year were delighted to have Adam Lamb, the Provincial Archivist, accompanied by Tom Coulson. Adam presented a Talk on the Provincial Grand Masters of Durham.

The Talk was superbly delivered by Adam; it had wonderful content and was received very well by the 45+ brethren in attendance. All retired in plenty of time to enjoy the Christmas festive board with 45 dining, where a wonderful Christmas meal was provided by the caterer and served by the waitresses in attendance.

The night also included the Annual fraternal visit from the Lodge of Industry, their Mother Lodge, where nine of their brethren supported Dr. Tony Richardson, the Master. Tony replied to the visiting brethren’s toast later in the evening.

Joseph Kendall was elected as Master for the ensuing year with his Installation to take place on Friday the 3rd of February 2023 at 5.30pm. The next two months will see Joseph making his preparations for that special evening when he will also appoint his son, Michael Kendall, as Senior Warden and his good friend, Steven Connor, as Junior Warden. Anyone wishing to attend the Installation is most welcome and should contact the Lodge Secretary for more details about reserving a dining place; all are welcome.

Wonderful harmony was also enjoyed, performed by Richard Straughan. In his own very individual style Richard gave some reflections on life with reminiscences of times past and with memories of his father, the late Dick Straughan, a member of Ravensworth Lodge and a Music Hall Legend who provided many hours of harmony for Lodges in the 1980-90s. All agreed it was wonderful to have such good harmony once again.

The Annual Christmas Raffle where all the ‘bottles’ were donated by Lodge Members, raised £400 profit and this will be donated to Charity and presented to the Provincial Representative in February.

So a good night was had by all . . . but that was not the end of it.

Towards the end of the evening, Stephen Willis, accompanied by Alan Jenkins, who are members of the organising committee, presented the Lord Ravensworth Golf Trophy to the Winners of the 2022 event held at Chester-Le-Street Golf Club in July. Bill Baty, a Past Master, and Bryan Scott the visiting support Officer were successful in this and came in with an extremely high score of 49 Stableford points. Stephen relayed the events of the day to the brethren and asked Adam Lamb to make the presentation. As the Provincial Archivist and lead in the Provincial Museum at Provincial Grand Lodge in Sunderland, Adam Lamb had brought the original Ravensworth Trophy (a very valuable item) along and duly presented it to Bill and Bryan. It turned out to be a good day in July with St Mary’s Lodge winning the trophy and £1,000 raised from the event presented to the Masonic Fishing Charity.

St Mary’s Lodge in Gateshead have worked hard in recent years to maintain their membership and have introduced many new members over the past few years, and with membership around the 50 mark they are able to move forward positively using the guidance of the Members’ Pathway for their future development.

The photos show Bill Baty, Bryan Scott and Adam Lamb with the original Ravensworth Trophy and the more recent crystal bowl kept by the Lodge for a year.

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The “Auckland Project” | Durham Freemasons

The Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Andrew Moule visited the Auckland Youth and Community Centre (AYCC) as a follow up after an MCF grant was awarded to them in September of this year.  The award of £10,000.00 was to cover a period of 2 years for the general day to day operational running costs of the charity. Andrew was met by Bill Niblo, the Chairperson on the Board of Trustees, and was given a full tour of the building showing the facilities offered to the children to enable them to participate in many activities.

Auckland Youth and Community Centre (AYCC) is a much-loved community hub in one of England’s most disadvantaged housing estates. The charity supports local children widening their horizons and improving their mental and physical health.  AYCC run several youth provisions and sitting in the top 0.5% most socio-economically deprived in England, the charity go above and beyond to tackle the complex local challenges of generational poverty and disadvantage.

They run after school clubs, a disability group, detached outreach and a Holiday Hunger scheme which provides packed lunches during school holidays. They also work closely with the local schools to support and supplement the young people’s education. Some of the volunteers and qualified youth workers used to attend the clubs and with the help of AYCC they have gained qualifications and work experience they never would have had the opportunity to access otherwise.

Each year the charity supports 428 young people. Case studies from parents are very positive – “AYCC has given her the tools to cope with many of the difficult situations she has had to face”. This is just one of the many testaments recorded by parents.

The children started to arrive after school, and it was obvious from the happy faces that this facility was a joy to them all. Hot dogs with ketchup were to follow their play time a sure-fire children’s favorite.

Well done to all the amazing staff for your dedication and challenging work.

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Dunelm & CHUF | Durham Freemasons

John Williams, the master of Dunelm Lodge who meet in Darlington, selected the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) as his charity to support during his term in office when he was installed in 2019. With the impact of Covid 19 on many organisations as well as Freemasonry it meant join would remain at the helm of Dunelm lodge for 3 years.

The charity is close to John’s heart as his grandson spent the majority of the first year of his life in the Freeman hospital, where the support from the charity to his parents was exceptional and helped them through what was a very tough period in their lives. His grandson is now a healthy 8-year-old.

The members of the lodge took it upon themselves to raise as much as they could over the course of John’s mastership and achieved a magnificent total of £3,320. This was beyond any expectations and thanks applies to each and every member who donated towards the total. Dunelm lodge then applied to Durham Benevolence for additional funding to increase the amount.  Durham Benevolence also gave generously and added a further £1,680 to take the total donation to £5,000.

On the 8 th of November John and lodge Charity Steward, Mick Redpath, went along to the CHUF offices in Gateshead to find out more about the great work they do and to present Alicia Clovis-Mothalib (CHUF fundraising manager) with a certificate confirming the donation of £5,000. The donation will be used in part for the purchase of Christmas teddy bears and selection boxes for the 300 child patients treated this year who will attend the CHUF Christmas party and also towards the charity’s emergency nurse’s fund.  The emergency nurse’s fund is to support parents on their initial, sometimes traumatised, arrival with sick children from locations far from home with practical measures associated with accommodation, cost of travel and parking. CHUF were extremely grateful for the support that was given by Dunelm Lodge, and the freemasons of the Province of Durham.

Photo 1 (L-R): John Williams, Alicia Clovis-Mothalib & Mick Redpath.

Photo 2 (L-R): John Williams & Mick Redpath.

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Gateshead Fell Celebrate | Durham Freemasons

On Tuesday 15th November the members of Gateshead Fell Lodge gathered at the Masonic Centre, Alexandra Rd, Gateshead to celebrate their 100th Anniversary. An event of such importance was recognized with a full Provincial Team visit led by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Michael Graham. Over 70 brethren were in attendance.

Neil Walker delivered a concise history of the lodge, explaining how the years immediately after the First World War saw enormous social change in the United Kingdom as communities in towns such as Gateshead on Tyne tried to recover from the upheaval and loss caused by 4 years of war and destruction.

Freemasonry experienced a surge of interest in the post-war years as men looked to re-create that sense of camaraderie and brotherhood they had found in the armed forces. In the years 1919 to 1921 18 new lodges were consecrated in the Province of Durham. By 1st January 1922 4 more Lodges had been granted Warrants awaiting their consecration. One of the 4 was Gateshead Fell Lodge No.4349, whose Warrant was granted on 7th September 1921. Gateshead Fell was one of six Lodges whose Warrants were granted on the same day, whose numbers were 4345 to 4360 inclusive and all in the Province of Durham.

The Lodge was consecrated on Saturday, 3rd June 1922 at 2:00pm at the Industry Masonic Hall, Jackson Street, by the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master the Right Hon., The Lord Ravensworth. There was twenty founder members of the Lodge, 8 from Shipcote Lodge, 6 from Saltwell Lodge, 3 from Borough Lodge and 3 from St. Peter’s Lodge in the Province of Northumberland. The first Master of the Lodge was James Scott a Past Master of Shipcote Lodge. The initial fees were a Founders’ Fee of 2 guineas (£350) and an Annual Subscription of 3 guineas (£525). In 1922 a decent weekly wage was around 40 shillings (£2) per week, so founding a new Lodge was not an inexpensive undertaking.

Throughout its 100 years the lodge had the pleasure of admitting an average of just over 3 new members every year, many of them progressed and honoured in various capacities and offices including 2 current members having received Grand Rank and 5 brethren with Acting Provincial Ranks. A further 2 brethren received certificates in recognition of 50 years of continuous membership.

At its peak in the 1950’s Gateshead Fell Lodge had 100 members. Today the membership is a strong 36, under the supervision of the current and most experienced Past Master Trevor Forster Baker. Trevor first took the chair of Gateshead Fell in 1974 serving further terms in ’85, ’99, 09. Trevor was Junior Warden for the 50th and 75th celebrations and had the distinction of being Worshipful Master in the Centenary year, achievements few other brethren can emulate.

To read full history click here:

Lodge proceedings were brought to a close, before which, Mike Davis the Provincial Deputy Secretary read out the Centenary Warrant, which was then presented to the lodge by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, who also presented the brethren of the lodge with their Centenary jewels.

The evenings celebrations concluded at the Festive Board, where the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Michael Graham responding to his toast, expressed his gratitude to the lodge for their planning of this momentous occasion in the lodge’s history. He went on to thank the brethren for the generous donations given in the lodge room earlier of £1,500 to the Freemasons Grand Charity.

The Master Trevor Baker, in the reply to the lodge toast went on to thank the members of Gateshead Fell Lodge for their unequivocal support and the privilege of electing him to serve the lodge as their Master on this, their Centenary celebration year.

The response to the provincial toast was given by Jamie Matthew Rielly, the Provincial Junior Warden who proposed a toast to Gateshead Fell Lodge in recognition of the Lodges achievement, thanking the members for the warmth of the welcome shown to the team.

The raffle with 20 fabulous prizes raised over £500 and the first number drawn out by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master was claimed by his father, Michael Graham Senior who was part of the Provincial Team in the capacity of Comms Officer. Lighthearted whispers of “it’s a fiddle” echoed around the room.

More photos on Flickr here

A most enjoyable and memorable evening was had by all.

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More than Grandparents | Durham Freemasons

In July of this year the MCF awarded “More than Grandparents”, a charity based in Sunderland City Centre, a grant of £13,500.00 spread over 3 years to assist them in their day-to-day operational costs required to provide vital services.

The charity supports kinship children and kinship carers (most often the children’s grandparents) to access specialist support to help reduce the number of referrals of children into adoption services.

Assistant Provincial Grand Master Clinton Leeks accompanied by Robin Middleton, a member of the Durham Benevolence Committee visited the charity to see first-hand the difference this donation is making and to meet some of the carers involved.

“It was a privilege for me and Robin Middleton on behalf of Durham Benevolence to meet CEO Mel Nichols and some of the carers at “More Than Grandparents” a very friendly and welcoming centre in Sunderland. The stories we heard of decent people striving to cope to keep kinship children out of care with little if any statutory help were inspiring and showed yet again what an MCF grant can do to help to change and improve lives.”

Quote by “Clinton Leeks, Assistant Provincial Grand Master ”

We are so grateful to be supported by the MCF. The funding means we can continue to support vulnerable kinship families who don’t get the support they need and deserve from statutory services. Too often families are left struggling financially having stepped in to care for a child–managing their child’s trauma or challenging behaviour and extremely difficult relations with birth parents and supervising contact, often alongside other caring roles or their own health conditions. MCF funding means we can support kinship families, reducing isolation, ensuring they understand their rights and entitlements, accessing other support and above all creating a sense of belonging.”

Quote by “Melonie Nichols, CEO, More than Grandparents”

Check out the fantastic work done by visiting their website.      click here

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‘Veterans at Ease’ | Durham Freemasons

Veterans at Ease is a leading Military Mental Health Charity, committed to helping Veterans, Reservists, Serving Military Personnel and families deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and related issues. The charity was founded in 2007 by former soldier Garreth Murrell who suffered from the devastating effects of PTSD 14 years after he returned from Military Operations in Bosnia. Having been suicidal whilst trying to deal with it himself, he discovered NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and in time found that it resolved the psychological effects of his experiences. His passion for life increased and he realized he could help other veterans who are struggling with life after the military and trained as an NLP psychotherapist. Garreth’s treatment was very expensive, so one of the reasons for forming the charity was to provide the same NLP therapy totally free and offer support by trained therapists.

An application was made to the Benevolent Committee of the Freemasons of Durham for a grant to help with the funding of this life saving therapy.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham being one of over 7,000 organizations that have signed the Armed Forces Covenant , making a public pledge to demonstrate support for the Armed Forces community were only too happy to support this worthy cause.

Martin Rankin representing the Freemasons of Durham visited the charity’s Gateshead shop and was delighted to meet with Chief Executive Officer and Lead Psychotherapist, Garreth and present a certificate to go along with the £5,000 grant awarded to the charity. Garreth and staff were overwhelmed with the generosity of such a large and much needed donation and were proud to display the certificate in the main window for all to view.

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Butterfield’s 60 years (and 2 days) | Durham Freemasons

During the full Provincial Team visit, the Provincial Grand Master had the pleasure of presenting two 60 Year certificates at Tow Law Masonic Hall on Wednesday 19 th October 2022. The certificates were presented in a packed lodge room to cousins Harry and Billy Butterfield as acknowledgement of their long-standing services in their lodge, to the province and to freemasonry in general.

Harrold has fond memories of the joint initiation ceremony, 60 years and 2 days ago on 17 th October 1962 when 148 masons were packed into the lodge room with ‘knees being bumped’ as there was little room left for the perambulations on the carpet. Many members of the Butterfield family have been members of the lodge since its consecration in 1909. Harrold recalls many happy times in the lodge and afterwards, at the festive board, where at least 3-4 masons often performed harmony.

Vintage motorcycling has been one of Harold’s other hobbies with long distance riding. One such achievement was the ride between John O’Groats and Land’s End. Over the years he has increased his collection of motorbikes with the oldest bike manufactured back in 1910. During the bike’s lifetime it was sold and exchanged hands for the grand sum of half a ton of potatoes.

Unfortunately, the other recipient of the certificate cousin Billy Butterfield was recovering from a recent operation and was unable to attend on the evening. His certificate was presented to the Worshipful Master by the PGM for delivery to Billy along with his best wishes.

28 lodges were represented on the evening which was viewed as a testament to the respect the Butterfield cousins have achieved during their masonic carriers to date. The PGM said he looks forward to the next 10 years and the presentation of their 70-year certificate.

The raffle at the festive board raised £1,000 for charity where the members, guests and the Provincial deputation dined on 5 courses of food which included the famous hearty course of Tow Law Broth.

A tremendous masonic celebratory evening was enjoyed by all present.

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Lifelites Magic | Durham Freemasons

Each year the “Lifelites” charity raises funds to provide cutting-edge technology for children using hospice services right across the British Isles. The freemasons are huge supporters of this charity and the Province of Durham more than plays its part.

The bespoke packages of technology depend on a tailored assessment of the needs of each hospice.  Each package is worth around £46,000.00 and has a lifespan of 4 years. Lifelites returns to each hospice every 4 years with a brand new package of the latest technology.

A representation of Durham freemasons were invited to Butterwick House Hospice in Stockton to view first hand the joy that Lifelites donated technology brings to the children and also where a new package of technology was due.

John Watts the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, who was accompanied by Andrew Thompson and Duncan Maw, arrived at the Hospice, where they were warmly welcomed by Sam and Jo, who conducted them around the hi tech Childrens facilities and introduced them to the amazing staff who look after the children.

A heart warming experience by all present.

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