1. Now that the suspension has come to an end, the Secretary of any Lodge that was due to meet during the period of the suspension, but was prevented from doing so, must enter into the Lodge Minute Book a statement substantially in the following form: “As a result of the suspension, owing to the Coronavirus pandemic, by the MW The Grand Master of all meetings from 17 March to 17 July 2020 the Lodge was unable to meet during that period.”
2. If the Lodge’s Installation meeting was due to be held during that period, the outgoing Master continues in office until the next Installation meeting by virtue of Rule 108. At the first meeting held after the resumption of meetings the continuing Master must invest Officers in accordance with Rule 108(b), and an Installation Return must then be submitted to the Grand Secretary in accordance with Rule 151. If necessary, a Treasurer and a Tyler (subject to Rule 113) must be elected and invested with the other Officers (Rule 121).
3. Rule 137, Book of Constitutions provides that there is no power to cancel a regular meeting of a Lodge. Now that the suspension has come to an end, a summons must therefore be issued in accordance with the Lodge’s by-laws for every meeting that falls to be held after that date (for more information, see below). The penalty for a breach of the Rule is potentially admonition or suspension (Rule 179), at the discretion of the Provincial Grand Master. NOTE: If, when the summons has been be issued, it becomes clear to the Secretary that the number of apologies is such that a quorum (see A6 below) will be unattainable, there will be no point in Brethren making an unnecessary journey. He should therefore tell the members so, and then at the moment when the Lodge is due to be opened (but not earlier) he may presume a lack of a quorum and treat the meeting as abandoned. However, the Secretary must not merely assume that the members of the Lodge do not wish to meet.
Q1. What does a Lodge do if the current Master, following the operation of Rule 108, does not want to remain in the Chair for another year?
A1. The Master Elect in his obligation undertakes to fulfil his duties as Master “until the next regular period of election within this Lodge AND until a successor shall have been duly elected and installed in my stead”. The only way that a Master can therefore vacate the chair before his Mastership runs out is by resigning from the Lodge. In the present circumstances it is highly undesirable that he should take such a drastic step (particularly when the duties are less likely to be onerous in the short term), and it is to be hoped that the Past Masters will take most of the burden of Mastership off his shoulders. The Master may invite any duly qualified Brother to occupy the Chair and carry out the work of the Lodge (and if he fails to do so, Rule 119 lays down who is to preside in the Lodge).
Q2. What does a Lodge do if the current Master, is adamant and does resign from the Lodge?
A2. The Lodge cannot elect another Brother as Master and Rule 119 applies. The Lodge will be summoned by the authority of the Senior Warden until the next Installation of Master. (It is a common misconception that if the Master dies etc. the IPM resumes the Chair as Master. He does not.) Once again, Rule 119 lays down who is to preside in the Lodge.
Q3. The current Master is completing his second consecutive year in the chair, does the Lodge require a dispensation for him to serve for a third year?
A3. Yes, unless if it proves to be impossible to hold the meeting to install his successor (when the opening words of Rule 115 “Except when required to by Rule 107 or Rule 108” make it plain that events over which the Lodge has no control do away with the need for a dispensation).
Q4. The Lodge wishes to re-elect the current Master, but he is currently also the Master of another Lodge; is a dispensation required to enable him to serve for a second year?
A4. A dispensation from the Grand Master is required in order to install a Brother to serve simultaneously as Master of a second Lodge. Such a dispensation will have been granted previously, and no further dispensation will be required.
Q5. It has not been possible to elect the Lodge’s next Master in accordance with the Lodge’s by-laws, but the Installation has still to take place; what procedure must be followed?
A5. Now that the suspension has ended, Rule 106 allows a Master to be elected either (a) on the regular date of Installation, in which case the Master then elected must be installed at a further meeting held within five weeks of that date, or (b) at an emergency meeting held not less than three weeks before the date for the Installation. However, in the event that the Lodge decides to re-elect its outgoing Master, no installation is required or permissible (he is already in the Chair), so he can immediately be proclaimed and proceed to invest his Officers. To put it a different way: if the Lodge intends to re-elect the current Master, there will be no need to hold an emergency meeting.
Q6. What is the quorum for a valid Lodge meeting?
A6. Five (excluding the Tyler and any candidate), of whom one must be an Installed Master, and two must be members of the Lodge concerned; it is not a requirement that the Installed Master be a member of the Lodge. If on the day of the meeting a quorum cannot be achieved, the meeting must be abandoned, and a note entered in the Minute Book. “The regular meeting of the Lodge on [day] [date] [month], 2020 was duly called in accordance with the attached summons. Owing to the continued effect of the Coronavirus pandemic the required number of Brethren to open the Lodge
could not be assembled and the meeting was abandoned” is the wording suggested.
Q7. What is the quorum required to constitute a Board of Installed Masters?
A7. Three Installed Masters (of whom the Tyler may be one – but if so, a Master Mason must act temporarily as Tyler).
Q8. What if a Lodge wishes to meet but the Masonic Hall named in its by-laws cannot provide Covid-secure accommodation?
A8. The Lodge should make all reasonable efforts to find an alternative Masonic Hall (which is Covid-secure) for its meeting. If it proves impracticable, the meeting will have to be abandoned because it will obviously be impossible to achieve a quorum. A summons should, however, be issued – for a meeting at the regular Hall – against the possibility that it may be operational by the time of the meeting. If, once that has been done, it becomes clear to the Secretary that the number of apologies is such that a quorum will be unattainable, see the Note to paragraph 3 above.
Q9. What happens if a Lodge’s Warrant is inaccessible because its regular place of meeting is closed?
A9. A temporary Warrant of Confirmation, in the form of a letter of authority, should immediately be sought from the Grand Secretary, via the Provincial Grand Secretary. (And see also Rules 101 and 103.)
Q10. What happens if a Hall could not reopen immediately and so meetings that should have been held had to be abandoned; is there a duty to hold the meeting that could not proceed at some other time?
A10. An abandoned meeting cannot (by definition) be rescheduled, but necessary business can be transacted at an emergency meeting (provided it is not business that may only be done at a regular meeting) or at the next regular meeting. If it was an Installation meeting that had to be abandoned, and the Master could not be installed within five weeks, the outgoing Master will continue in office as above.
Q11. A candidate for initiation was proposed and seconded at the last regular meeting before the suspension of meetings took effect; does the Lodge need to start the process all over again when meetings are resumed?
A11. No. Rule 159 requires a candidate to be balloted for at the next regular meeting. The natural meaning of “next regular meeting” is the next regular meeting to be held, not the next regular meeting due to be summoned.
Q12. The Lodge reaches its Centenary in three months’ time, but many of the members are showing a reluctance to attend in the present circumstances; can the celebration be postponed?
A12. There is no rule that requires a Centenary to be celebrated on or near to the anniversary itself, and therefore the celebration can be postponed until the situation improves.
Q13. If the Lodge is unable to meet for a significant period, how will that affect its entitlement to celebrate its Centenary in due course?
A13. The suspension between 17 March and 17 July will be automatically be discounted, as constituting force majeure. From that point onwards, a Lodge is only liable to lose its entitlement to a Centenary Warrant if it fails to meet for a whole year (and therefore becomes liable to be erased under Rule 189). Provided that the Lodge has made all reasonable efforts to hold meetings, a longer period than a year may be disregarded by the Grand Master.
Q14. How should ballots be held?
A14. No doubt Lodges will find their own solutions. One way would be to have the balls in a small dish of diluted washing up liquid, so that they are submerged. That will stop any cross contamination. Great care will need to be exercised in the handling of the ballot box.
Q15. How should a Lodge be closed in full in the third degree if the Lodge wants to close in full?
A15. A full closing should be avoided for the time being.
Q16. If a Lodge considers that the proposed alterations to the ritual for a First Degree detract from the whole Masonic experience of an Initiation may it make its own amendments?
A16. Any alteration to the usual procedure is bound to detract from the ceremony. What has been circulated has been approved by the Pro Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Grand Secretary.
Q17. Can individual Lodge members be prevented from dining together after a meeting?
A17. It would be an individual choice, and there is no Rule by which they can be prevented from doing so, provided that there is no breach of government guidance. NOTE: Lodges in England must not organise a meal for their members because that would breach the government guidance on visiting restaurants in groups of more than two households (or six people if outside). Welsh government guidance currently prevents Lodge meetings in Wales, but does not prevent meals, organised by Lodges, of up to 30 people in safe socially distanced outdoor eating areas of restaurants.
Q18. During the lockdown, many Lodges held social gatherings and committee meetings using remote conferencing facilities; can committee meetings still be held in this way?
A18. There is no Rule that requires committee meetings to be held face to face, which was why it was permissible during the lockdown to hold such meetings by electronic means. The practice may certainly continue if it is the wish of the Lodge.
Q19. Is it necessary to hold a Provincial Meeting, especially if it is intended merely to re-appoint most of the officers (there may be a few who do not want to serve another year)?
A19. It is a requirement of Rule 78 (and of a Provincial Grand Master’s patent of appointment) that an annual meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge be held. There will be more business – essential administration (e.g. approval of accounts) – to transact than merely the appointment or the confirmation of the appointment of the Provincial Grand Officers and past ranks.
Q20. If a Provincial Meeting is to be held, what steps should be taken to keep numbers to a legal size?
A20. It is suggested that the summons for the meeting contain some wording such as “Owing to the Government’s restriction on numbers imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brethren, other than those whose attendance is essential, are requested not to seek to attend Provincial Grand Lodge. Admission will be by ticket only.”
Q21. What is the quorum for a meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge.
A21. No number is anywhere formally prescribed. It is suggested that the quorum should be the same as for a Private Lodge.
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