High time rescue – Saving a Lodge by going international

A tale of bonding, brotherhood and saving a Lodge narrated by its worshipful master ,W Bro Andrea Gabrielli.

Back in January 2022, when I first called W Bro Keith Gregory Parry PAGDC and SVO for the Bee Hive Lodge No 2809 to introduce myself, he sounded somehow shocked as, in his genuine belief, the Bee Hive Lodge should have already surrendered its warrant.

Let’s rewind and explain.

On Tuesday, the 14th of June 1900, the Capital and Counties Lodge No 2809 was Consecrated at Five o’clock by VW Bro Edward Letchworth at the Hotel Cecil in London. As minuted by the Secretary, “the Lodge has been formed with the view of drawing closer in the bonds of fraternal union the Freemasons upon the directorate and staff of the Capital and Counties Bank and with the intention that membership of the Lodge is restricted to members of the Directorate and Staff of the Bank.”

After several changes, including the name itself to Bee Hive, as we currently know the “2809”, and after losing the bond with the bank business, the Lodge arrived in the modern era and, just like many other units, struggled to meet the quorum to run a meeting: a problem well known to me as part of the Metropolitan Mentoring Team. 

Running alongside this timeline during which the Bee Hive Lodge was looking to surrender its warrant, I was having conversations with some very distinguished members of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, including the Grand Master himself. During the past two years, we chatted about “doing some Masonic things” together, discussing forming a brand new unit, maybe a themed Lodge, but we had never actually done anything until I received a message that turned the light on. 

As Mentoring Liaison Officer, working to support Lodges and Chapters in the Metropolitan area, I had to face the truth of what was, in some cases, a dramatic drop in terms of Membership which brought some units to the brink of surrendering their warrant. Without the opportunity of bringing new blood into the Fraternity during the pandemic, the usual drop resulting from resignations, retirement in the courtside and deaths was not compensated and resulted in many meeting cancellations.  

In the case of the Bee Hive, the turning point was a message I received in August 2021: an invite. A fellow MLO and good friend asked me to attend a meeting of a 121 years old Lodge. In the agenda: notice of motion from the worshipful master that at the next regular meeting in December 2021, there would be the vote on the proposal to wind up the Lodge in accordance with Rule 190 of the Book of Constitutions, with that meeting also being the final meeting of the Bee Hive Lodge No 2809.
I was shocked. Simple as that! At that point, W Bro Marco Badiali (the Italian AGM, a London Mason since 1998, and PM of 2 London Lodges), W Bro Natale Inturri (the italian Grand Chancellor), and I decided to “pack our stuff and take off”.

How can such an old unit give up? Above all: what could we do to avoid this epilogue? 

We then suddenly realised that rather than forming a new Lodge, it would have been better to dedicate ourselves to rescuing this one. We made some calls, and in a couple of days, the team was formed and the plan drafted.

Ok, it might sound a bit ambitious and somehow odd that a “light blue” would have called a Grand Master and one of his Assistant Grand Masters asking for support, but that is what actually happened. I cannot deny that, without the unconditional help of the entire Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, standing foursquare around this project, and the support of the Most Worshipful Fabio Venzi, we wouldn’t be here now. 

We all agreed that we would not let the heritage of an old Lodge vanish by handing back the charter. We accepted the challenge and started to work hard.

Focusing on some simple points, we had started the rescue. Masonically speaking, I believe that there is nothing more important than helping others. Still, one of the unwritten landmarks of our institution is the historical value and the traditions we aim to perpetuate and continue, and, in that sense, the rescue was the only option on the table.

Needless to say that we had to fight against several issues, including time. We had a deadline (December 2021) and a mission: preventing the Lodge from facing the same situation in the near future.

The line between completing a proper rescue and lengthening the agony of the moribund patient is extremely thin, and, in that sense, the “old guard” were absolutely clear. We had to come up with a tangible, real and realistic plan to provide the Lodge with a bright future in the mid-to-long term and not just find a meagre bunch of joiners to run the unit for 2 or 3 years.

On the 14th of June 1900, the Lodge was formed. On the same day in 2022, the Lodge celebrated its rebirth.

With a view to forming an international and very high-profile Lodge, the Bee Hive had its installation meeting in a nearly packed grand temple at Mark Masons’ Hall in front of a never seen before, at least in recent years, number of attendees that included several grand officers of foreign grand lodges and, above all, our Metropolitan Grand Inspector W Bro Kieron Mallon PJGD and our SVO Bro Gregory-Parry, whose priceless, effortless, and unparalleled support made the impossible possible. I admit that without them, all this wouldn’t be possible.

The new Worshipful Master, W Bro Andrea Gabrielli (aka myself), was installed in supreme fashion by W Bro Keith Masters SLGR, assisted by very distinguished members and other preceptors of the mighty Emulation Lodge of Improvement in a temple packed with a perfect mixture of grand officers and junior members.

The takeover was completed, the first part of the mission was accomplished, the new chapter of the Bee Hive had just started, and heritage and traditions were preserved. The history continues, and we couldn’t be prouder of being part of it. 

We now have the responsibility to keep the standard to the highest level and maintain it for the years to come. 

The common point we started from is the Emulation Ritual. We aim to keep it and perform it to the highest standard. The Bee Hive Lodge also has an officially recognised LOI. 
We have already started to plan our 125th Anniversary (in 2025), keeping the focus on elevating the standards and performing the ritual in the highest fashion.

I cannot be more proud of being supported by this bunch of Brethren, and if I look at the pipeline, I can see that the future is bright if we continue to work with this contagious enthusiasm.

Ad maiora* Brethren, the future is now if we won’t stop believing in the inestimable values of our institution and in the power we have to make our dreams come true.

Last but not least, my most sincere thanks to the old guard. To those who have decided to stay and support the new members. To those who have helped in managing the transition and to those who have resigned. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.
The evening continued in perfect harmony and joy at the festive board and afterwards, for those who survived, until the break of dawn.

May the Bee Hive continue to flourish and prosper until time shall be no more.

W Bro Andrea Gabrielli WM

* Ad maiora: towards greater things

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 50 December 2022 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 50 here.