The core role of the Almoner is to be the “eyes and ears” of the Lodge, ensuring the welfare of its members and of their widows and dependants. Specific responsibilities include:
- Role and Responsibilities
- Keeping in touch
- Maintaining regular contact with sick or distressed Lodge members.
- Maintaining regular contact with Lodge widows.
- Making contact with families of recently deceased Brethren.
- Being alert to the needs and problems of Lodge members and their dependants.
- Being aware of the aims and activities of the four Masonic Charities (The Freemasons’ Grand Charity; The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution; The Royal Masonic Trust for Boys and Girls; The Masonic Samaritan Fund) and how to access the support they 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 Charities.
- Making new members welcome, in conjunction with the Proposer, Seconder and Lodge 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 need support.
- Assisting the Provincial Grand Almoner when required, e.g. with a request for visiting a Brother, widow or dependant from another Province.
Record-keeping and reporting
- 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 meeting, while preserving due confidentially.
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 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. Confidentially and a caring approach can be the key to relieving those worries.
The office of Almoner is one that benefits from continuity and it is suggested that a term of five years is generally appropriate.
Identifying Cases of Need
The Almoner should be constantly looking out for cases of need or difficulty among Lodge members or their dependants. In many cases he may be approached directly by a member of the Lodge or Chapter; other cases may be brought to his notice by a Masonic friend of the brother or dependant concerned.
Absence from meetings may be another indication that a brother is in difficulties, for example as a result of physical disabilities, financial pressure or illness in the family. In such cases, the almoner may seek the help of someone who is in regular contact with the absentee or knows him best to investigate the reason for absence.
- The range of possible needs which an Almoner should look out for is wide, but most will fall within three main categories:
- Financial: This covers all sorts of money worries; inability to meet household expenses; emergency costs arising from illness, meeting costs with children’s’ education, dealing with debt and its associated problems.
- Health-related: Healthcare problems also involve costs which people may find hard to meet. Individuals may be suffering from all sorts of conditions which affect their well-being and quality of life.
- Family: Other needs may affect family and friends including the effects of bereavement.
Discussions with potential applicants
Once it has been established that a need exists, it will be necessary to arrange a discussion in a place where the person seeking help is most comfortable. This will usually be the home, but in some cases a different venue may be preferred. The initial approach obviously requires a good measure of sensitivity, combined with tact and diplomacy; all information obtained must be treated in the strictest confidence.
In some cases problems can be resolved easily and effectively just as a result of talking about them. In any event, any action should always be based on what person in need has decided to do, not on what the Almoner thinks may be best for them.
Before an approach is made to any of the Masonic Charities, it is important to be sure that all available state benefits are being received. If this does not appear to be the case, help may be needed to make an application to the DWP.
Provincial Grand Almoner