Chris Cluff – A man of mystery explains his role!
I have been invited to pen a short item for the Somerset Newsletter explaining my role in the Province of Somerset and my wider office as Assistant Superintendent of Works at Grand Lodge.
A few years ago Grand Lodge were encouraging the Provinces to appoint suitably qualified brethren to assist the numerous masonic halls in property matters. I am fortunate that I have enjoyed a career as a Chartered Surveyor, and was deemed to be suitable candidate for the office of Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works, and which I had the honour of accepting in 2017.
Since then we have held several ‘Hall Managers Meetings’ in Somerset with the objective of getting to know the brethren who are running our centres, and to enable them to discuss and share many of the common issues facing them. Although we have been unable to hold these during the past 2 years, it is my intention to revise these, and hold one in the autumn.
My job is to keep in contact with the Hall managers and assist them with any issues which occur. These are very wide ranging, from repairs and alterations, ownership, and management arrangements, planning and listed building matters.
The increasing responsibility of halls is for compliance with the various statutory requirements for electrical and gas safety certificates, and having a fire risk assessment and the whatever fire alarm systems may be recommended.
I think the biggest challenge to overcome initially was the question of “we own our building – what has that got to do with Province? They can’t tell us what to do!”
To some extent this is true, but my role is more one of help and guidance, and I have been pleased with the number of centres who now phone or e-mail me asking for advice, and I try to provide guidance, or at least point them towards someone who can help if I can’t.
You may think that the past two years during the Pandemic would have been quiet ones for me, but far from it! Of course, all meetings were cancelled during the lockdown, but it was necessary to try to keep up with the changing rules from the Government on re-opening, coupled with the guidance from Grand Lodge. Trying to unravel the implications of the Rule of Six, ventilation and mask wearing has been challenging to say the least, and of course many Centres and Lodges had differing interpretations of the guidance or recommendations!
Several Masonic Halls took the opportunity to carry our refurbishment works or essential repairs during the period of closure, and I was able to assist with advice in a few of these cases.
Added to this, I had the privilege of being appointed to the Grand Lodge Masonic Halls Guidance Group as Assistant Grand Superintendent of Works in April 2020. The lockdown meant that we could only meet on Zoom for the first year, but since July 2021 I have attended all the Quarterly Communications which gave me a chance to meet face to face with the team of 4 other Superintendents, and others in the Group. Taking part in these ceremonies has been an experience that I will never forget.
Our duties include maintaining and managing Freemason’s hall, and many of the other properties in Great Queen Street which we also own.
One particular project is to revise the Masonic Halls Guide which is included in the B.Ugle website. This useful document contains a huge volume of helpful information, but had become rather unwieldy, and we are in the process of making it more user-friendly and up to date. If you wish to view the current halls guide you can find it at b.ugle.org.uk.
It has been a particular pleasure since September last year to resume visiting whenever possible with the Provincial Team. To meet with so many brethren once again after such a long enforced closure made me and many others realise how much we value our masonry, and the company of our friends within our unique fraternity.
Of course, the challenges of the past 2 years have placed new demands on our membership, and on our many and varied meeting places. With many new members seeking to join Freemasonry it has become more important than ever to look closely at our Masonic Halls and ensure that they are inviting and safe places to meet, and above all a credit to our Ancient Institution, both today, and into the future.
Chris Cluff BSc(Hons) MRICS