A review by John Acaster
The ‘Let’s Talk Masonry’ day just gets better and better.
On this 11th year, held once again at Salford Masonic Hall, being an event open to all Masons especially aimed at those on the way to real knowledge and self-improvement, we had no fewer than eight extraordinary presenters. Chris Powell and Tony Baker who provided the keynotes for the morning and afternoon sessions, have become firm favourites, not surprisingly since they are probably currently the leading speakers on Masonic topics in the whole of England. Both accordingly belong to Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the oldest and leading research lodge in the world.
Joe Glass led the day as principal organiser. The tone was set by Sir David Trippier, PGM for East Lancashire, in his characteristically charming and informative way. Chris Powell then delivered his thoughts on the subject of ‘Climbing the Ladder’. We ascended! The audience was spell-bound at his highly professional, thoughtful, manner of presentation, seemingly managed without the need for notes. It was erudite, but always clear, and led us upward by steps towards the summit of Masonry to be found within the Royal Arch. God is a verb.
A choice of three breakout sessions followed in different rooms. Allan Shields led a discussion on how to prepare for Mastership of a Lodge. Had I heard his remarks beforehand I’m sure I would have become a much abler Master way back in 1986.
Peter Smith, PM of the Installed Masters in Leeds, reflected on his experience in ‘What’s in it for me?’. John Acaster, in his half-hour session, asked the question ‘Are you a ‘bright Mason’? and received a variety of good answers as to what constituted ‘brightness’ in Masonic terms. He offered the example of John Yarker (1833-1913) of West Didsbury, a former member of MAMR, who now has worldwide fame on Wikipedia.
A second set of breakouts followed. Steven Reid, a former Deputy Grand Superintendent, told us of his approach to the Royal Arch, a mystical and colourful enigma. We were challenged to describe its qualities, strengths and difficulties. John Belton, a writer who belongs to both MAMR and Quatuor Coronati, provided the fruits of his research into ‘Building yourself an inexpensive Masonic library’. This can quietly avoid a lot of marital stress. Worth a guinea a box! Richard Johnson, of vast experience across four Provinces and the State of Utah, a superb ritualist, expanded upon the key importance of good practice, spiced with variety. Nothing creates greater impact and pleasure.
Lunchtime was spot on: a wonderful buffet, minimal queues, delightful service. The usual hubbub of friendships celebrated. Tony Baker, from Bristol, had the unenviable task of lecturing after ‘seconds’ and chocolate cake. His subject in the circumstances was highly appropriate: ‘The knowledge of yourself’. We settled down to contemplate our levels (which had recently become a bit more curved!): Material, Moral, and Mystical. How does Freemasonry address these? The progression, Tony strongly advises, leads towards the Royal Arch. “It is where you find it, symbolically, and what you do with it afterwards, that are important.”
I posed the question in one of my breakout sessions, how would you describe the nature of Freemasonry in only one word? Various lovely suggestions were offered. The best was ‘Good’. Yes, how true, GOOD. It says it all.
A huge array of Masonic books were available to buy via Tony Costello on behalf of MAMR, the Manchester Association for Masonic Research: www.mamr.co.uk What an uplifting day.