Bedfordshire Universities’ Scheme

W. Bro. Bill Henderson heads up the University Scheme in the Province of Bedfordshire and has been instrumental in its success over the past two years.

Cumberland Lodge 3858 joined the scheme in 2018 and attended their first Freshers Fair at the Luton Campus of the University of Bedfordshire in September of that year.  Bill attended Freshers with a member of the Lodge who had recently graduated from Liverpool University.  The Fair created a tremendous amount of interest.  Some three weeks later students were invited to  a social meeting which took place on a Sunday afternoon at the Luton Masonic Centre.  Students were provided with a buffet lunch and a tour of the Masonic facilities.   There was extremely good interaction between members of Cumberland Lodge and the students.  Bill very carefully chose members of the Lodge to attend the event.  Firstly chosen were young, keen, outgoing members to interact with the students and then there were also more mature members with knowledge of the Craft and, most importantly, with skills to interact with the younger generation.  The afternoon was a resounding success and Cumberland Lodge signed up its first two students from the University.   Both were Initiated in early 2019.  Cumberland attended Freshers again in 2019 and the Re-Freshers in February 2020.  The same concept followed and has resulted in two more members being signed up.

Cumberland Lodge were well represented at the 2019 University Scheme Conference in Chester.  Bill took a party of six to the Conference which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.   The Conference was very enlightening and entertaining, showcasing the University Scheme to our students and younger members and illustrating the strength and popularity of our organisation.  The group spent the night in Chester and, although very cold, a good night of fun and fellowship was had by all, arriving back to our hotel in the early hours.

It was suggested by our Student members earlier this year that Cumberland Lodge should claim the University Scheme Loving Cup.  The cup was in Canterbury, a little far we thought, then it travelled to Bristol, and then on to Apollo Lodge in Oxford.   Bill took six members from Cumberland to the Apollo Meeting in February where the Cup was claimed by Cumberland Lodge. The Apollo Meeting was an enjoyable experience, some lasting friendships were kindled resulting in invitations to both Bristol and Cambridge.

Since joining the University Scheme Cumberland Lodge’s membership has increasedtremendously from 30 to 47.  Young people attract young people, they are extremely passionate about the traditions and history of our organisation and, almost without exception, are avid followers of Solomon.  Another important aspect of a successful Lodge is mentoring.   Bill is Mentor for Cumberland Lodge and is very proud to say that he hasn’t lost one new member since taking on the challenge when mentoring was introduced to the Craft some years ago.  Each member of the Lodge below the Chair is allocated a carefully-chosen, personal mentor to nurture, encourage and above all to become a friend and confidant.  This has all added to the success of the Lodge, Cumberland Lodge have a great deal of fun and enjoy their Freemasonry.

To be successful, a Lodge must listen to the views of younger members, after all they are the future of our Lodges and of our Fraternity as a whole.  Cumberland has a very active social committee which Bill chairs, over the past year there have been curry nights, a summer garden party, a visit to the Museum at Great Queen Street followed by a Lodge meeting, a very successful Caribbean Night, trips to Chester and Oxford, there is also a trips planned to Mallorca in July and to Barbados in November, travel restriction-dependent, of course.

Looking to the future, the PGM of Bedfordshire has asked Bill to form a new University Lodge in the North of the Province to serve the Bedford Campus of the University of Bedfordshire.  This is in its very early stages.  An ideal Lodge has been identified and Bill is now working with them with a view to submitting an application to the University Scheme later this year.

Efriam At Apollo claiming the loving cup

Efraim Le was the first student to join Cumberland Lodge in 2019, here are his comments:

It has been pure joy since I joined Freemasonry and Cumberland Lodge in particular.  I came through the University Scheme and I became a Mason in my final year at uni.  I found a diverse organisation where I met people from all backgrounds. There is a lot to learn but without pressure. The effort I put in is what I get back and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do some ritual and floor work.  It is definitely an organisation that  I recommend and I’m looking forward to progressing onto the floor of the Lodge.

James at Apollo with the loving cup Cup

James Campbell joined Cumberland in 2019, here are his comments:

I have accomplished good work so far in the time I have been an Entered Apprentice.  I have had the chance to represent my Lodge and, with the help of my Mentor,  to introduce Freemasonry to my University.  Proudly, I participated towards claiming the University Scheme Cup, where I met like-minded Brethren from another Lodge. Overall I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people that I would have otherwise likely never met.  Learning about the rich history and practices of Freemasonry has fostered my curiosity.  I look forward to continuing my journey.