Memoirs of the Banner Dedication
There are a few occasions in the life of any Lodge that can be said to be truly exceptional. The Consecration was definitely one as was the installation Of RW Bro Peter Wong PDGM (Hong Kong and the Far East), another. The Banner Dedication must now rank with those as it was an occasion that marked a milestone within our still very new and developing Lodge.
It had always been the intention of the founders of the Lodge that a Banner should be Dedicated when one of our first initiates was Installed as Master of the Lodge. This year, our tenth saw that happy occasion when W Bro Andrew Selby was placed in the Chair of King Solomon in June 2007.
Thursday 13th March 2008 saw our Banner, designed to reflect the Lodge Crest with the addition of two sprigs of Glastonbury Thorn which as the story goes started life as just a staff of deadwood that once, given the chance to root, drew life from the ground and has continued to grow strongly and flower since that time. Let us hope that our Lodge will grow as strongly and flower in the same way with happiness and dedication toward those Masonic principles we all have agreed to follow.
The Dedication was carried out by the Metropolitan Grand Inspector W Bro Stephen Fenton PSGD, ably assisted by our own W Bro Andrew Davey PDepGChap who gave a wonderful oration on the symbolism and meaning of banners, which follows, and the Acting MetDepGDC W Bro Andrew Manasseh SLGR, who ensured all the participants understood and carried out their roles to perfection. There must be a mention for the Banner Bearer, W Bro Henry Timms PPJGW who carried the banner into and around the Lodge with all solemnity and decorum in an exemplary way. And to cap it all the singing of the school song during the parading of the banner, sung with much gusto by all, made us feel proud to a part of this special day.
The festivities afterwards at the Kingsway Hall Hotel was enjoyed by all with a magnificent menu preceded by a surprise champagne reception was enhanced by the reply to the toast to Metropolitan Grand Lodge by W Bro Fenton who enthralled all with his remarks on the changes to Met, the future of the Craft in London and the importance of looking after new members. The raffle proved a great success and raised much needed funds for the RMBI.
For those who were there, thanks for making it special. For those who missed it, commiserations.
Oration given by W. Bro. the Revd. A. J. Davey, P. Dep. G. Chap., at the Banner Dedication Meeting of Millfield Lodge, No. 9669, on Thursday 13th March 2008.
My very first words must be to say how extremely pleased I am, as a Founding Member of this Lodge, to come to this Dedication Meeting this evening. It has always been in the backs of many members’ minds to have the Banner Dedicated during the year that our first Initiate made it to the Chair, and if we have achieved nothing else in the last ten years or so, we have managed that!
Of course, this is something of a milestone in the history of the Lodge, and it is one that those present shall not only celebrate this evening, but remember for some time. God willing, this beautiful Banner will be placed behind our Masters for many years - until time with us shall be no more, and the replacement has been made and brought to its Dedication.
Let us be realistic, Brethren - there is nothing new in banners. They have been in use for thousands of years, as witnessed by both the Old and New Testaments of the Volume of the Sacred Law that stands open on the Master’s pedestal, and without which the Lodge cannot be opened. Traditionally, they bore devices of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, representing fire, light, air, and of course man himself: these might be seen as man attempting to understand the qualities of the deity. Incidentally, they are also to be found within the Grand Pursuivant‘s jewel. His reply to the Grand Master on opening Grand Lodge? “To give a report on all approaching Brethren, and to see that they are properly clothed and ranged under their respective banners”. So, their form and design was for a purpose, and the content and artwork meaningful. Through the outward appearance, some inner truth must be revealed.
It rather strikes me that what I have just suggested could be said about Masonry, and the changes we have experienced in it especially in London over the past ten years or so since the Consecration of this Lodge. When I joined my Mother Lodge, everything was cloaked in secrecy: indeed I even met one Brother who used to make much of the fact that he had never divulged his membership to anyone outside the Craft! Then came the permissive variations, changed rituals, the loss of a few things held dear by some and rather less dear by others. Lodges were called off to allow non-Masons and even ladies to give us talks. Meals were taken with similar folk, and so on.
Rightly so, say many. We simply cannot continue living in bygone ages, and must move forward in our modern world whether we agree with the minutiae of it all or not. However, whatever changes within the Craft, we are reminded in our rituals of much to do with God, the Great Architect, the Most High, or whatever else we decide to call him, each in our own faith.
Each and every Mason should remember at all times that he can neither join nor remain a Member of our Order without a stated faith in God. He is the very crux, the centre, of our whole system - no wonder, then, that a copy of the VSL must lie open on the Master’s pedestal, as that Holy Book derived from God to man in general as our Order puts it, and upon which we must take our various obligations: the greatest of the three Great, though emblematical Lights in Freemasonry. Through God’s revealed will, He gives to man the principles by which we should live.
Masonry is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue. These Principles are eternal Principles, given by God Himself. As you practise these within our Fraternity, I enjoin you; keep your faith, and practice Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which together bring happiness, encouragement and strength. By all means cloak your Masonic secrets from the uninstructed and popular world, but take to that world the happiness, encouragement and strength so derived.
Obviously, this does not just happen, and we need to work at it. Brethren, necessary though it is, we need to work not just on - or should I say ‘in’? - the little blue books, the ritual, but on something vastly more important than working a good ceremony for the enjoyment of ourselves and guests. There is far, far more to Masonry than just that, for it teaches us to be good men and true, to be meek, humble, and resigned, to moderate our passions, to be faithful to our God, our country and our laws, and so on.
Light blue, the characteristic colour of our Order, expresses this so well, as we think of the word of which the colour is emblematical - Charity. Brethren, when we look at our beautiful new Banner, we see a background of blue. We are reminded that the background of our lives - signified perhaps by the hill we need always to climb, and the workings of the mill which renders particles of all types of grain to a similar size and consistency, and enclosed within the Square and Compasses regulating our actions and keeping us in due bounds with all mankind - the background of our lives should be Charity.
Each and every one of us has been given the Charge after Initiation, and have had our attention drawn to that distinguishing characteristic of our hearts. But Charity does not start and stop with money - in fact some would maintain that money should have little to do with it. Nor should it stop with Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. It is all to do with something that money very often does not mix well with: love. It is a state of mind, a state of living, a state of self giving recommended and taught us by the Great Architect. If we believe in Him, then we must believe in and act on His word. We can not - nor should not - avoid nor seek to avoid living the life of Charity.
No doubt some of you will be wondering about the other device on our Banner - the sprig, neither of acacia nor corn. That sprig is of the Glastonbury thorn, or the Holy Thorn, a variety of Crataegus mongyna biflora, and reminds us particularly of Wearyall Hill and of the Tor, both so well known to those who attended our School in Somerset. A sprig is always on the Queen’s Christmas table. Whether or not you believe in the tradition that Joseph of Arimathea stuck his staff into the ground and it took root and produced the Holy Thorn is up to you - but it is certainly true that it flowers twice a year instead of once - and is certainly, with the Tor, the emblem of that part of our country in which we were blessed to be schooled.
Dinner awaits, and I must not take up more of your time. Brethren, I implore you, look with pride on this beautiful Banner, and more importantly let it remind you of the duties taught at school and in the Lodge. There were no school rules when I was there, but you certainly knew when you had broken them! Boss taught us to think: to think always of what our actions did to others. That, Brethren, is Charity in life and actions; that also is Masonry.
One final thing. This Oration is in thirteen paragraphs and two pages. It is an acrostic, thirteen letters and two words, and spells our School motto - Molire Molendo. Which translates as? Nothing obvious, but some say: Grist to the mill. Be profitable. Waste nothing. Use everything. To me, that was Millfield, and that is Masonry.
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