Michael Cole, the WM of City of Lancaster Lodge No 281, led a delegation of brethren from the lodge to the bi-annual Universities Scheme conference held at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London.
The delegation also included our Group Universities Scheme Coordinator John Stanley, who was officially deputising for Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger, who was unfortunately unable to make the journey due to being indisposed.
Held under the auspices of Scheme President, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Hugh Wootton, the Lancaster party were impressed by what transpired to be a very well-attended and highly organised meeting.
The conference saw a key change in the office of Scheme President, with Edward Lord handing over to Mark Greenburgh and various workshops were held, addressing such issues as working with your local university, maintaining a healthy lodge, the Universities’ Scheme and the Royal Arch – and perhaps most significant of all, the question of recruitment and retention.
Sir David commented on the challenges all lodges faced in the future, producing data highlighting that there were more Masons over 80 than under 40. It was also noted that just like other lodges, the Scheme Lodges run out of steam if they don’t retain talent. He added that university lodges really need strong, local, New Young Masons’ Clubs to share success and help develop more communication.
Considerable interest was raised, as were a number of highly pertinent and enquiring questions, when Sir David began to discuss the overall operations of the scheme. He said that universities offered a captive market of talented and capable men who would later bring personal, financial and intellectual contributions to the Craft, as well as being potentially good ambassadors.
However, he suggested that we were only scratching the surface with respect to communicating with suitable such people in that we were probably missing bright apprentices who were going into specific trades and organisations. They were, he said, of real calibre and perhaps graduates in all but name but were possibly being missed because they don’t ‘go to university’ in a conventional sense. Sir David also emphasised the need to keep on top of social media developments, also that of working with women Freemasons.
As the day drew to a close, the members of City of Lancaster Lodge – as the current holders of the Universities’ Scheme Travelling Loving Cup, the DKW Cup – were delighted to meet the Scheme Founding President, David Kenneth Williamson and be photographed for a formal presentation, having taken the cup with them to London.
The Universities’ Scheme Conference re-convenes in two years’ time, before which no doubt, City of Lancaster will have recruited more able and willing undergraduates into our greatly valued Order, while it is to be hoped that the scheme itself will have gone from strength to strength.