Wiltshire has always been recognised as a leader rather than a follower of fashion and I was delighted to be able to make this point when attending the launch of UGLE’s newest venture Solomon online. So just what is Solomon and how can it help Wiltshire Freemasons?
Solomon is an exciting new initiative which was introduced in December of last year. It provides a central and universally accessible repository of information designed to help point members along the path of masonic knowledge.
Three years ago, the Membership Focus Group was formed to consider what needed to be done to promote Freemasonry as a relevant, worthwhile and attractive organisation in the 21st century. It undertook a series of surveys that enabled members to express personal views, experience and expectations. Over 80,000 responses were received.
The majority of those responding stated that understanding our symbolism, moral and philosophical issues was essential or at least very important. Significantly, many expressed interest to learn more of our history and traditions. This interest and expectation to learn covered all age groups, particularly amongst newer and younger members.
Many reported that they had unmet learning expectations and needs, that too little time, guidance and support was offered to extend learning beyond performing the ritual and ceremonial well.
While the performance of ritual is a highly valued tradition of our constitution and social and charitable aspects are of key importance, we are failing many new and current members who seek to improve themselves through greater insight, knowledge and understanding of Freemasonry.
Ritual and ceremonies are core to Masonic life. Whilst many members enjoy learning and performing ritual, often key messages and nuances are missed. The opportunity to explore and understand is rarely provided at Lodge or Chapter meetings or is considered a poor alternative to a ceremony.
There is a genuine concern that a concentration on the performance of ritual, without appreciating what we are doing and why, overlooks the important messages that lie within and is one reason why some members choose to leave.
Many members are curious and have a sincere wish to improve their understanding. They have expectations when they join and these do evolve over time. We have a responsibility to ensure that our members have ready access to the intellectual and practical resources to enhance their Freemasonry, fulfill their interest and help them become more rounded and committed members.
Greater understandingof what happens in the Lodge Room and beyond will add to enjoyment and improve ceremonies. Being more knowledgeable will boost confidence to talk in a comfortable and open way about what Freemasonry means personally. When learning becomes a regular Lodge and Chapter activity, membership should be more fulfilling and meaningful. In turn, this should aid attendance, retention and engagement.
So why Solomon? Although a wide selection of books and online resources are available, it takes effort to identify appropriate pieces to use within the lodge environment. Solomon is a central library of informative material that will answer some of the questions and point members along the path of daily advancement in masonic knowledge.
Solomon is designed to be used by individual masons, lodges, chapters, Provinces and Districts and to fit comfortably with the needs of all levels of experience and interest. Solomon will be beneficial to everyone. It can be used on multiple platforms such as smartphones, tablets and computers and currently contains over 350 items. It will continue to grow and evolve.
To the question, does Solomon provide definitive answers? The answer is quite simply no it does not as on many matters there is no definitive UGLE view. Solomon is a collection of credible views and interpretations. So, you may find different explanations of a symbol or ceremony.
This variation in interpretation should stimulate discussion and debate. Such is the nature of Freemasonry and, as the Provincial Grand Master states - “Education is not the learning of facts, it’s rather the training of the mind to think”.