Paul Sparks – author of A Guide for the Masonic Treasurer – gives us an insight into both his Masonic career and that of a chartered accountant; also his involvement in a specialist lodge for motor sport enthusiasts.
ED: Paul, can you tell us a bit about your Masonic career; where did it all start?
PS: My first Masonic experience was a few years before I was initiated.
A friend from school’s father had invited my wife and I to a ladies’ night. From there I was asked if I would like to join Masonry, and as my friend’s father was going to be Worshipful Master in that year, I said yes, and was initiated in November 2001.
I progressed through to the chair quickly and was installed as Worshipful Master in October 2006, a mere four years and 11 months after being initiated, which had seemed quite quick, but I thoroughly enjoyed my year in the chair.
As soon as I was out of the IPM’s chair I was appointed as the treasurer of the lodge. I have been the treasurer since then, with the exception of one year when I again went back into the chair in 2011.
I regularly do larger pieces of ritual for the lodge and I have enjoyed the new friends I have made and my experiences in both my own lodge and across the Province.
I have also stood in as the Provincial Treasurer for the Province for a year, when the current Provincial treasurer had to unexpectedly stand down.
At this point I wasn’t a Provincial Officer, so was all a bit overwhelming being in meetings with the Provincial Executive and Grand Lodge Officers.
As a result of undertaking this position I was asked to be part of a team planning the move from the old Provincial Head Quarters to a new building which has caused a few ripples in the Masonic fraternity because we moved from a traditional older building to a new building, which was purpose built and cheaper to run.
My experience as an accountant was utilised by finding various tax options which saved huge amounts of tax in Capital Gains Tax and VAT.
This has led to my appointment as the finance director for the Northampton Masonic Hall and being responsible for the day-to-day and long-term financial aspects of the building.
Overall, I have enjoyed everything I have done and experienced so far and look forward to what will come in the future.
I think more people should find out more about the fraternity and how it gives you a sense of belonging and welcome when visiting new lodges and centres.
ED: Your work as an accountant has obviously been of great use to you within Freemasonry and led you to write a definitive book to help aid lodge Treasurers – quite aptly entitled A Guide for the Masonic Treasurer.
Is the role of Treasurer underestimated by a lot of brethren – it does seem to be a role that not many wish to undertake? What made you decide to write the book?
PS: A friend of mine had seen the request from Lewis Masonic stating they were looking for an author to write a new book on being a Lodge Treasurer, and he thought that it was something I could consider.
I felt that I could set out the processes in a simple manner which could help people understand that being a Lodge Treasurer isn’t a daunting process. Most people have a fear of numbers and think that being a Lodge Treasurer is a difficult task, but it isn’t.
People will find there is someone to teach them about being a DC or secretary, and most Provinces will give guidance and training on them, but as a treasurer it is always just left to a willing victim, with the papers just being passed to the new treasurer.
I have provided training sessions for new treasurers in my Province and they have found the simplified processes a useful mechanism to build up an understanding of how accounts are put together from simple records.
Therefore, writing the book was a sensible way of offering a helping hand to a lot of Masons who may struggle in a role that sometimes no one wants to do.
ED: What would be your main ‘bullet-point’ advice for someone who might wish to take on the role of Treasurer?
PS: For people taking on the role of treasurer I would suggest the following key points: –
· Balance the books, by this I mean make sure that you have set the subscriptions at the correct level so that they cover the costs of a lodge.
· Keep an eye on spending at the festive board, people can be happy to spend other people’s money.
· Try and get all members to pay by standing order or direct debit, this saves having to continually chase the same late payers.
· Keep the records in a simple format so you have a record of who has paid and what has been received and the monies paid out.
· Make sure you understand the accounts and if you think they can be laid out in a better manner, don’t be afraid to change them; the accounts are your responsibility.
Paul with the banner of Silverstone Lodge No. 9877
IMAGE CREDIT: Silverstone Lodge No. 9877
ED: You are the founder member of a special interest lodge based around motor sport and the village of Silverstone in Northampton – Silverstone Lodge No. 9877. How did this evolve?
PS: Some of the members of the Towcester lodges had decided that they wanted to form a new motor sport related lodge in Silverstone Village.
The Provincial Secretary had circulated information to say this was happening and if anyone who was interested in being a founder member, they should contact the first Master Elect, which I did and became a founder member of the lodge.
When they were seeking the first officers of the lodge, I put myself forward as Treasurer, naturally, but they already had a volunteer, so I offered my services as the first Secretary and have been the Secretary ever since.
ED: I read that, in his oration at the consecrating of the lodge in 2013, the Provincial Grand Chaplain, W Bro Ray Hemingray, presented the lodge with a chequered flag which he compared with the chequered pavement of a Freemasons’ Lodge.
He suggested the flag might be placed under the Volume of the Sacred Law when Masons are raised.
An interesting bit of mixed symbolism – is the flag still used?
PS: During each raising ceremony the chequered flag is placed under the Volume of the Sacred Law, thus signifying the completion of the Master Mason’s journey, but as every motor sport enthusiast would know there is still more to learn, as one race doesn’t win a championship.
ED: How has the lodge grown over the past five years? Special interest lodges are quite unique; what kind of events do you hold and did you do anything exciting for last year’s Tercentenary celebrations?
PS: The lodge has seen a steady increase in members, and we have maintained a principle of having fish and chips on three of the four meetings a year, which gives a more relaxed approach to the festive board.
The meeting starts at 6.30pm to allow younger members to get there on time and still enables the lodge to finish by 10pm.
The lodge has also set up a connection with the Chequered Flag Lodge in Hampshire, this was consecrated after Silverstone Lodge and the principle officers attended the consecration meeting, and there have been various reciprocal visits since then.
ED: You have been through the Chair several times in Dr Field Lodge No.8158; how have you progressed since and how do you feel Freemasonry is faring as an organisation?
There is a lot of debate about almost every aspect of the Fraternity, especially since the recent media attention – what is your view on the future and crucially, the younger generation and their engagement?
PS: I think that the working environment and demands on time have had an impact on the younger generation, and therefore to adapt to this Dr Field have moved the start time back 15 minutes and at Silverstone we start at 6.30pm; this gives a little more time for younger brethren to get there after work.
The time can be made up so we are always finished by 10pm, or before if we keep the toasts short.
I think that adaption of start times and allowing the younger brethren to have flexibility with taking on offices, if they want to or not, this gives them the ability to enjoy the fraternity without the need to actually take an office.
However, in my experience they get the bug and want to do more and then progress steadily through the lodge.
I think we do also need to maintain the standards and traditions of our lodge, but with some flexible changes to adapt to the working environment and offer the camaraderie that the fraternity is renowned for.
Article by: Philippa Lee
Philippa Lee (writes as Philippa Faulks) is the author of eight books, an editor and researcher.
Her specialism is ancient Egypt, Freemasonry, comparative religions and social history. She has several books in progress on the subject of ancient and modern Egypt. Selection of Books Online at Amazon
A Guide for the Masonic Treasurer
Extract from A Guide for the Masonic Treasurer:
Being a Lodge Treasurer would have most Brethren running for the hills, thinking ‘this job’s not for me, I’m off to be the Tyler!’ However, with the majority of Lodge accounts being straightforward it should never be an office to run and hide from.
This book is aimed at those with little accountancy or bookkeeping experience who are looking to either take on, or have recently been appointed to, the office of Lodge Treasurer – a task that may appear daunting, especially to those who have never carried out the role before.
With worked examples demonstrated throughout the book and blank templates provided for reference, the role of Treasurer will never seem a challenge again.
Written by an experienced Lodge Treasurer and professional accountant, with over twenty years’ experience helping small and medium sized businesses with their accounting and tax issues.
The book is fully up-to-date and includes information regarding the recent changes to the Book of Constitutions Rule 153.
• Paperback: 96 pages
• Publisher: Lewis Masonic; First Edition (20 Feb. 2014)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0853184828
• ISBN-13: 978-0853184829