Plenty of Support for Ceremonies with Multiple Candidates

Plenty of Support for Ceremonies with Multiple Candidates


As the Metropolitan Grand Master states in his Foreword to this issue of Arena, we see ceremonies with multiple candidates – where the candidates proceed through the ceremony together – as a key initiative going forward.


VW Bro. Julian R Soper PGSwdB, AMetGM


They allow a Lodge to admit more candidates and progress them faster without the need for an extraordinary meeting or overly long meetings where candidates do their ceremonies sequentially. I am very aware that this can be seen as controversial, and so I take this opportunity to discuss the matter in some detail. I have plenty of experience of such ceremonies as I am responsible for the Universities Scheme within Metropolitan Grand Lodge; and multiple candidates have been a feature of the Scheme since inception, and of University Lodges for over 200 years.

I myself was initiated as one of six. I, personally found that being a candidate alongside others made the experience less intimidating. I was better able to take in what was happening, and even enjoy it! The positive effect of this on candidates should not be underestimated.

In embracing ceremonies with multiple candidates, MetGL is following the lead of UGLE, and in particular, the Pro Grand Master. At Quarterly Communications in September, the ProGM spoke at length about multiple candidates and set out why they are so important:

“I am aware that there are many Lodges throughout England and Wales where there is a waiting list for candidates to join, yet the Lodge customarily only works ceremonies for individual candidates. If a Lodge only meets four or five times a year then it will be only possible to bring one or, at best, two candidates into the Lodge in any one year. There may even be a consequent, possibly inordinate, delay in the candidate becoming a Master Mason and being able to participate fully in the Lodge. Needless to say, if the number of resignations, cessations, or deaths amongst the existing members exceeds the number of new initiates the Lodge will not thrive, even with a waiting list.”

He also addressed head on the reluctance for some Lodges to do such ceremonies:

“There are many myths, misconceptions, and errors surrounding doing ceremonies for more than one candidate at a time. One such myth, which I think is profoundly misguided, is that being part of a multiple ceremony detracts from the experience. Some Lodges have done multiple ceremonies for many years. Those who have gone through Initiation, Passing and Raising as a group of two or more have a natural bond and friendship through this common experience that they would not trade, nor has it detracted from that experience.”

Pre-First World War, Freemasonry under the English constitution was very different to today, with fewer but larger lodges, more frequent meetings even in London, and bustling pipelines of candidates to manage. Multiple-candidate ceremonies were common, and anyone with access to minute books from the 19th and early 20th Century will find myriad examples. For example, on 19th January 1912, Avon Lodge No 3569 was Consecrated at the Music Hall in Pershore, Worcestershire. At the Lodge’s first ordinary meeting held on 12th February 1912, three joining members were admitted, 14 candidates for Initiation were balloted and elected, and five of those candidates were Initiated.

Even those “grander” Lodges have documentary evidence of regularly performing multiple candidate ceremonies: for example British Lodge No viii, one of the oldest “red apron” Lodges, has minutes documenting several such ceremonies in the 1800s, including, at its meeting in January 1828, a single Raising, the Passing of four Brethren, and the Installation of the Master.

Arguments against multiple-candidate ceremonies often centre around the personal nature of our ceremonies and events, and a fear that having more than one candidate at a time will detract from the experience for each. Unfortunately, any such argument is necessarily difficult as no candidate experiences a ceremony twice and therefore cannot provide a comparative report.Of course, the candidates must all be treated equally, and each should be accompanied by one of the two Deacons or another member acting as a Deacon; who will give the Signs, Tokens and Words at the pedestals etc. Similarly, each should have the secrets communicated to him by a Past Master, such that they do not feel like a mere spectator in someone else’s ceremony.

The argument about a lack of the personal touch extends beyond the ceremony, too. Members are often concerned that the Initiate (singular) should be sat to the Master’s right at dinner, and to have anyone not in this position of honour might be a slight or detract from the enjoyment of the event. This is a fair argument from established members who have experience and know the significance of being seated to the Master’s right, but would, I contest, be unlikely to be at the forefront of any candidate’s mind on their initiation night – indeed they might even find it nice not to have the pressure of being stuck on the top table after the preceding events; and in many cases would have greater enjoyment sat with their proposer, seconder, friends, or fellow candidates.

What does create a negative experience of the Initiation ceremony is poor ritual delivery. It is important that any ceremony is conducted well, and there are some additional challenges for a Lodge conducting a ceremony with multiple candidates. In order to help Lodges address these challenges, various types of support have been put in place:

1) UGLE Film with guidance for multiple candidates

Again, in the words of the ProGM: “In order to assist Lodges wishing to undertake multiple ceremonies, a film has now been produced involving the Rulers, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and members of his team, and volunteers from a number of Lodges where it is the custom to perform such ceremonies. This film will show how best to manage such ceremonies, particularly in the work of the Deacons, Wardens, and Master. This is so that a Lodge can do the ceremony well for both the benefit of the candidates as well as its members.” A link to it is available on Rosetta under the “Director of Ceremonies” tab.

2) MetGL step-by-step PowerPoint presentation

MetGL is putting together a step-by-step PowerPoint guide to the floorwork for a ceremony with multiple candidates; designed to build on the UGLE film. This is one of the greatest challenges, as having Deacons guide multiple candidates and position them correctly without getting in each other’s way needs some preparation and practice.

3) Lodge of Instruction specialising in multiple candidates

David Kenneth Williamson Lodge No 9938, is a Past Masters’ Lodge for the Universities Scheme, based in London. It has sponsored a Lodge of Instruction that meets monthly and specialises in rehearsing conducting multiple candidates.

4) Ritual Support Team

The MetGL Ritual Support Team can also support you.

Details of all four of these will be put on Rosetta as soon as they are ready.

Finally, I should address the issue of the requirement for a dispensation in order to conduct a ceremony for more than 2 candidates. This is set out in Rule 168 of the Book of Constitutions. A motion to delete the rule will have been voted on at the March meeting of Quarterly Communications, as this edition of Arena goes to press. I have little doubt that it will be passed as it has the explicit support of the Pro Grand Master and the other Rulers.

A clip from the UGLE film was shown during Quarterly Communications in December as part of a presentation given by Paul Grier, a Deputy GDC (I have drawn on his speech for the historical examples I gave above). I hope the fact that participants in the film include the Rulers and the GDC underlines the importance placed on such ceremonies being more widely adopted, and shows that they see no disadvantage in such ceremonies, but rather many advantages in continuing what is, in fact, a rich tradition.



Fancy Footwork: how Ubique Lodge managed an eightfold Raising


Founded in 1879, Ubique Lodge No 1789 is the Lodge of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, and one of the three founding Lodges of the Circuit of Services Lodges (; an association now of over 50 Lodges that have a military origin, membership and ethos. Military Masonry is experiencing something of a renaissance in recent years and the Circuit’s aim is to promote and sustain this.

With 20 Brethren new to the Lodge in the past five years, Ubique has been conducting multiple ceremonies for some time. Around eight years ago, the Lodge was in something of a decline as many Lodges sometimes find themselves; and being a military Lodge did an outreach campaign to Officers’ Messes and NCO Messes around the country. The response was spectacular, and the Lodge soon found itself with the opposite problem: a fine pipeline of candidates and too much work – to the point that without a solution, the Lodge would lose members stuck at the various levels of Freemasonry and unable to progress. The answer was multiple ceremonies; and in the years since, Ubique has become something of an expert pioneer in that regard.

Thus it is that on Friday 12th January 2023, the Lodge found itself conducting an eightfold Raising. We spoke to Martin Smith SLGR, MetGInsp, and most importantly for this discussion, Director of Ceremonies for Ubique, to find out how it was achieved.

As mentioned, Ubique is a military Lodge (meaning “Everywhere”, Ubique is a motto of the Royal Regiment of Artillery) and key to the success of a Raising with eight candidates is a lot of preparation and military precision. Says Martin, “One convenient thing about being a military Lodge is that people are used to obeying drill instructions and practising! While we’re a London Lodge, our members are dispersed around the country and sometimes overseas on operations or exercise. So practising is hard. I write very detailed instructions, well in advance. We’ll have a zoom call with the officers to go through it and then rehearse for an hour before the meeting.”

You will need a generic plan for the way you work with your key team – the Deacons and Wardens – which can then be customised for the ceremony at hand. “The way that I do floorwork is well known to my Deacons and Wardens”, says Bro Martin. “Because we do parts of the ceremony in twos and threes, I do have an additional competent Master Mason as an extra Deacon. With this team in place, we’re ready for most aspects of the Ritual for any one ceremony.”

The Raising has some aspects that add additional complexity for a multiple ceremony. “Use what limited time you have on the day to rehearse those difficult aspects”, he advises. The Raising is, of course, a particularly emotional and evocative piece of ceremony. Each candidate deserves to receive a personal experience. “Sometimes you’ll see Brothers acting as extra Wardens to serve the candidates simultaneously. We chose to do each in turn. Similarly at the appropriate point the Master came out and raised each candidate personally before handing them to a Past Master as the ceremony progresses”. This has meant a new and welcome role for Martin’s several experienced ritualist Past Masters. Signs and Tokens and Points are communicated by Past Masters too.

What about the candidates? They got to share the workload on the Pavement, but still had to put in the requisite effort. For the questions leading from the Second to the Third degree, all the eight candidates had to learn all the answers, but lined up in the West, they ultimately only answered one or two each, for a fulfillingly impressive showpiece in Temple.

There are, of course, those who do not approve of multiple ceremonies, mainly for two reasons. The first is individuality. “I’ve never actually experienced any pushback on doing multiple ceremonies”, says Martin. “For starters, it’s the only way we’d get through the work. And I don’t accept the argument that it’s so intensely personal that it would ruin it to have a ceremony with someone else. On the contrary, three of our Raisees wanted to be together because they’d been Initiated and Passed together. There’s also something to be said for the atmosphere it creates – for this ceremony we were in Temple 3, probably one of the widest of the Temples after the Grand Temple. Eight candidates plus the Deacons filled the entire width of the Temple – and that’s quite impressive to witness.”

The second challenge sometimes offered is: given that some Lodges are short of work and Members, isn’t it a little selfish to forge ahead at what might be their expense? “As a military Lodge, our men are scattered around the country”, he says. “We have had some success with local Lodges, but then you’re breaking the core link of our Lodge, which is our military heritage. I am a fan of farming out work – indeed my Second was sent out many years ago. The Metropolitan Grand Inspectors are looking at compiling a list of Lodges with more work than they can handle and a list of Lodges who have demonstrated that they can do the work but don’t have any. We can then marry them up. So it is a work in progress.”

Of the eight, two were subsequently Exalted into Ubique 1789 Chapter on Friday 23rd February, and two more hope to be Exalted at the June meeting.

Martin’s advice for other Lodges considering a multiple ceremony is clear: “See someone who has a reputation for doing it competently, so you can get some ideas about what goes on and how to execute it. UGLE have produced some videos which will be available shortly, too. And if it’s the first time you’ve done it, then allocate plenty of time to try it out with Deacons on the floor of your LOI, until it all feels right. For the first few times: practise, practise, practise! And feel free to tweak things in places – especially if it seems more sensible to mould particular pieces of floorwork in slightly different ways.”.


A freshly minted foursome for Royal Leopold


By W Bro Rod Glyn-Thomas LGR, Royal Leopold Lodge Secretary

On 22nd February 2024, Royal Leopold, the Metropolitan Communications Lodge, initiated four candidates simultaneously. This wasn’t the result of a finely tuned long term plan but rather due to the confluence of a number of factors; including new by-laws, the availability of candidates with busy schedules and a desire to get our candidates initiated without them waiting for an inordinately long time.


With a significant amount of planning, two LOIs for Lodge officers, some last minute orders on Amazon and the very welcome assistance of other Lodges meeting at Mark Masons’ Hall, we were ready to perform!

Assistance is everything. We had a number of Deacons acting and the requisite number of ‘Past Wardens’ supporting the ceremony. Plus, our Director of Ceremonies, W Bro Trevor Koschalka PAGDC, directed all movement around the Lodge. With their combined help, we managed to put on an organised and meaningful ceremony for our candidates in front of our guest of honour, W Bro Michael Todd PSGD AMetGM.

One of our new Brethren, Bro Daniel Brady, remarked “Witnessing the established fellowship at Royal Leopold was truly inspiring. I feel privileged to embark on my Freemasonry journey alongside these gentlemen, aiming to carry forth the spirit they’ve so diligently cultivated. Being initiated as one of four was special. I believe that I’ve made some friends for life”.