Welcome to the Almoners’ page, over time this page will develop with lots of useful information for Almoners, including details of initiatives, courses and resources, aimed at improving the support we give to those in distress as well as making the Almoner’s job a little easier.
What Does It Take To Be A Good Almoner?
The role of Almoner, is recognised and acknowledged by Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter to be of great importance. With people now living longer, and typically remaining in their own homes, the work of the Almoner is set to expand.
Bearing this in mind, it is worthwhile reminding ourselves of the role as defined by Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter in the Grand Lodge Almoner’s Guide.
The core role of the Almoner is to be the “eyes and ears” of the Lodge or Chapter, ensuring the welfare of its members and of their widows and dependants. Specific responsibilities include:
- Maintaining regular contact with sick or distressed members.
- Maintaining regular contact with widows.
- Making contact with families of recently deceased brethren.
- Being alert to the needs and problems of members and their dependants.
- Being aware of the aims and activities of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (Formerly the four main masonic charities: The Freemasons’ Grand Charity; the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution; the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys; and the Masonic Samaritan Fund) and how to access the support on offer.
- Having a basic knowledge of the range of support available from the state and from non-Masonic charities (e.g. armed services charities) and how potential applicants can obtain specific advice.
- Attending training and other events to keep up to date with developments affecting his responsibilities or the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
- Making new members welcome, in conjunction with their Proposer, Seconder and Mentor.
- Ensuring that members, partners and dependants are aware of what support may be available, particularly Masonic support.
- Conducting visits and discussions with members who may need support.
- Assisting the Provincial Grand Almoner when required, e.g. with a request for visiting a Brother, widow or dependant from another Province.
- Maintaining accurate records of all receipts and payments made.
- Maintaining records of all visits to brethren, widows or other dependants.
- Maintaining a record of the names and contact details of brethren, widows and dependants, including as far as possible the details of widows and dependants of resigned or excluded brethren.
- Reporting on the above to the members at each Lodge/Chapter meeting, while preserving due confidentiality.
In addition to the above, a good Almoner will make himself aware of happier events such as birthdays, births and special wedding anniversaries so that the Lodge or Chapter can send appropriate greetings.
To perform this role the Almoner will need to possess considerable tact, courtesy, discretion, patience and humour, together with a sympathetic disposition, a commitment to helping people, and time and energy to devote to the benefit of Lodge members and their dependants. Poverty is not an easy thing to admit to. Health worries are often kept hidden. It is often painful to admit to others what may seem to be a failure and an inability to cope. Confidentiality and a caring approach can be the key to relieving those worries.
The office is one that benefits from continuity and it is suggested that a term of five years is generally appropriate.
Clearly the role of Almoner is not an easy one, but it is one that when done properly benefits not only those in need, but the membership in general and the Almoners themselves. It is however, not a role to be taken on lightly and the individual selected should have the time and capacity to take it on as well as the capability.
With this in mind, an Almoner Appointment Guide has been produced to provide those making the appointment with an understanding of the role and guidance as to what to look for in in those being considered for the role.
As mentioned above, the role of Almoner if carried out properly is a complex, but rewarding one. To help Almoners new or old with the role, we are planning to hold our first Almoners’ workshop in mid-2016 (these will be held twice a year subject to demand), aimed particularly at new Almoners who have taken up post in the last two years or so, or who are about to take up post, however, all Chapter or Lodge Almoners are welcome to attend, indeed, because of the workshop format, it would be a benefit for all attending to have experienced Almoners there. Of course, all Freemasons are welcome, whether or not you are an Almoner, as the more who understand the role and can act as additional eyes and ears for their Almoner the better.
Collection of Widow’s Contact Information
We are in the process of collecting contact details for Chapter widows and dependants (where permission is given), this information will be given to Freemasonry Cares, enabling them to send information such as newsletters direct to the widow with the aim of improving information flows and getting help to those that need it most.
Most Chapters have an Alms or “Broken Column” collection, or have regular giving set up, often the money is deposited into a Relief Chest which is an excellent way of managing charitable moneys as the Masonic Charitable Foundation do all the administration. I have on several occasions been asked how to give money from the Relief Chest to a widow or member in distress, as the terms and conditions of a Relief Chest only allow the funds to be paid out to registered charities. In truth it is only in exceptional circumstances that money from a relief chest can be used in this way.
Chapter money that is to be used to give a grant to a member or widow/dependent cannot normally be taken from charity moneys. It is wise therefore to have what is in effect an Almoner’s account (what it is called is up to the Chapter, but the term Almoner’s Account makes its purpose clear) which enables an emergency payment to be made to members, widows or dependents for the immediate relief of distress, whilst further support is sought from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, but may of course also be used to buy flowers, cards etc. for members or their spouse etc. when they are ill.
Only monies destined to be given to Registered Charities should be paid into the Relief Chest, with the maximum use of Gift Aid being desirable, monies for other purposes should be held in a bank account. Individual Chapters will run their operations slightly differently to each other, but all should make it very clear what each collection or raffle is for.
What is happening to the four main Masonic Charities?
The four main Masonic Charities have worked hard for the benefit of Freemasons and their dependants when they are in distress for whatever reason. In recent years they have worked ever closer together, to the point where the next logical step is to amalgamate them to improve the level of support, while at the same time reducing overheads and other running costs.
The amalgamation is nearly complete and a Chief Executive will soon be appointed to the new Masonic Charitable Foundation. This is an exciting development and will greatly benefit those to whom it is providing support, as the new foundation will remove all the organisational boundaries that previously existed.
Would you like to be involved in Almoner’s work in the Province?
The role of Almoner is probably the most important role in Freemasonry, it inculcates all the Masonic values and as such deserves all the support we can give it.
We are working on ramping up the level of support we provide to Chapter Almoners and those they support, to achieve that, we are currently seeking three Royal Arch Masons to help with Almoner’s work at a Provincial level as Provincial Almoner’s Assistants, to help provide support and advice for Chapter Almoners, to take on “Case Almoner” duties for those cases specific to the Royal Arch Province, and to help with running the Almoners’ workshops. You may be an existing Almoner in your Lodge or Chapter, or have never been involved in Almoner’s work before, it doesn’t matter, because full training will be given.
E.Comp. John Burnapp
Provincial Grand Almoner