27 Jun Provincial Grand Master’s Annual Address 2019
Once again, welcome to you all, to our annual meeting.
Thank you for attending in such good numbers. I am acutely aware that it is difficult for many to get up to London for our annual meeting, but I hope you agree it is worth it. To have the opportunity to attend a meeting in the Grand Temple at Freemasons Hall is a privilege and today is no exception.
This building is the jewel in the crown of English Freemasonry, and I believe creates a unique atmosphere for occasions such as this. Many of you will have read of the plans our Grand Secretary has for improving the facilities here at Freemasons Masonic Halls. I know Surrey Brethren will be delighted to hear that a bar and snack restaurant are to be added.
Together with Vicki, the director of the Museum, he is also improving the tour experience in order that we can attract more members of the public into the hall and provide high quality information about Freemasonry. This is just one example of the great work David has done in presenting and promoting Freemasonry in a positive light.
I know you would wish me to pass on your thanks to David for what he is doing to normalize Freemasonry in the consciousness of the public.
My congratulations to all of those who I have appointed or promoted today. Today is your day, please enjoy your preferment you richly deserve it. As a Provincial Grand Officer you are expected to support your province and your Lodge in delivering its priorities. As you will hear in a moment we are doing well and the future is bright but I need you to continue the hard work of promoting Freemasonry.
For the next five years our priorities are Membership – Recruitment and Retention, Community Engagement and Membership of The Royal Arch, all underpinned by high quality internal and external communication.
I was very pleased with the success of the formal launch of Pathway. Robbie and his team did a fantastic job presenting the scheme in a way which energized members to go away and get stuck in. Many are experiencing the benefits of having a good plan and following it through.
There are many Lodges who have not completed their Lodge profile. This is an important part of the planning process and will help you identify the unique elements of your Lodge and perhaps remind you of some of the gaps that can be worked on. We all know that a Lodge with a thriving social life embedded in the local community is an attractive proposition for new members.
Brethren this is not complicated, please grasp the nettle and do something. Doing nothing can only lead to the demise of your Lodge so what have you got to lose!
Although recruitment has been good we can still do more. Compared to other Provinces the ratio of new to existing members is below average, so recruitment is vital. What has improved significantly is our retention of newer members where we are one of the better performing Provinces. That is a recognition the importance of mentoring and most importantly listening to new members feedback.
I am most grateful to our Provincial Grand Mentor Worshipful Brother Kevin Todd who has produced new Mentoring Guidance.
This is an excellent document that is of great assistance to the mentors and senior members of all Lodges. You will all receive a copy, please take the time to read it and use it in your Lodge. He has also produced ‘A guide to progressive offices of a craft lodge leading to the Worshipful Master’s chair and beyond’.
I think you will agree it’s a snappy title! This answers all the questions a young in-service brother has as he passes through the progressive offices all the way to Immediate Past Master. It is has not been produced to replace the work of the mentor or indeed Lodge Of Instruction but is always on hand when a brother has a question or wishes to learn more.
Robbie and his team are working on a revised new members presentation which will be rolled out in September. This covers the basics and is an opportunity for the proposer and mentor to accompany a new brother to his first interaction with the Province.
To that end we are again inviting Master Masons to join the Grand Officers Mess following the quarterly communication of Grand Lodge on the 11th September. We will be dining at the Union Jack club in Waterloo and lunch will be around £43 including wine. This was very popular when we did it before so please book in via Bruce Perry or the Provincial Office.
In the autumn we will be launching the Provincial Grand Officers Mess. At the moment you have little opportunity to meet as Provincial Grand Officers and I think this is something that will provide an opportunity to share ideas and experiences and is a platform to pass on information first hand. I hope that over time this will give you more of a purpose and identity to your rank.
The second of our priorities is community engagement and today I am delighted to announce our new strategy for community engagement. Let me first describe what I mean by community engagement. This is about how we as Freemasons engage with the community in which we meet and live.
How we embed Freemasonry into the social and charitable aspects of a community. So that when a member of the public hears about or see’s something to do with Freemasonry it brings to mind a positive image and not a negative press cutting or a repeated prejudice.
To achieve this, we must put down strong roots in our communities. Members, Lodges, Chapters and Centres all have a roll to play in this. This can be through the social activities of your Lodge, perhaps sporting events or ladies’ nights.
But the obvious way in which we can engage is through the careful selection of charities that deserve our support. It is too easy to write out a cheque and send it off to a deserving charity and feel good about it. Your members have given up their hard-earned cash and will give it freely. It is only right that they know how the money was spent and the impact it has made.
At dinner you will find a trifold leaflet outlining our new Provincial Community Engagement Strategy. This sets out a three-tier approach to our charitable giving. Let me first say that this does not remove the choice of charity from your Lodge or Chapter, this provides different options, which will have a greater impact on the charity and the community at large.
The first tier are county based projects that work across Surrey. These will be in line with the strategy of the Province and will be something the whole Province can get behind. An example is the work of the High Sheriff in support of youth projects in Surrey.
We have recently funded the transport for a group of school children to visit the countryside and experience farming. They learnt about rural life and how farming operates and where many food resources come from. Many of the attendees had never seen a farm or indeed a cow in a field!
Another example is the RA initiative to provide a Pegasus bed for the Children’s’ Trust at Tadworth.
We met a young child and her mother who demonstrated the bed to us. This allowed this young girl to go home for Christmas for the first time since her life changing injury. This is the power we hold in our grasp, the ability to change people’s lives!
Tier two relates to group and area initiatives. An example would be a charity located in the area of one of our meeting places which is deserving of our support. The charity will be visited and assessed. A clear understanding of the objectives of the charity will be obtained and what the particular appeal will achieve.
This will be promoted to the Lodges and Chapters at your center who have the option of supporting it. The charity will be expected to acknowledge the support of Freemasons in a visible way and you will be encouraged to visit and witness first-hand the impact of your support.
The third tier relates to getting involved. Encouraging members to support the charities visits program for grants made through this scheme or via the MCF. This part of the strategy takes us away from just financial support to actually engaging with the charity and most importantly reporting back to your members on what happened with their money, and don’t forget this is the opportunity to get your families and friends involved.
Brethren, I am very excited about this scheme. By taking a more coordinated approach we have a real opportunity to change people’s lives and make a lasting impact upon our communities.
By not just sending off a cheque for a few hundred pounds we could support a local program that provides thousands of pounds of support which is a complete game changer. Also not only to provide financial support, but to become part of the scheme providing hands on support, leadership and expertise.
One of the great charities which deserves our support is Teddies for Loving Care. Now that we are out of Festival please put TLC back on the list for an annual donation from your Lodge. This is after all a great tier 1 charity.
This is a strategy for communities, for families and for all. Brethren please get on board.
You have heard me talk about the Provincial BBQ on the 14th July. Brethren this has received very low support and I have therefore decided to cancel it. Those who have already paid will receive a refund. I have asked for a survey of members to be conducted on the types of events, if any, that you would like us to run. This will appear on Surrey risings, please let me have your thoughts.
The last of our priorities is membership of the Royal Arch. You have all heard me talk before about my enthusiasm for the Royal Arch. For any Master Masons the Royal Arch is the next step on the journey of becoming a fully-fledged Freemason.
Without giving anything away, please listen to the closing in the third degree and take up the challenge posed by the Master when ends by saying ‘until time or circumstances may restore the genuine’. Brethren I charge you to go in search of that which is still to be found. If you don’t know what I am talking about ask a Royal Arch member of your Lodge.
For the last time I am going to talk about the 2019 Festival in support of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. First I must thank each and every one of you for your support in achieving the magnificent total of £3.3M. During the appeal we joined together in completing a number of challenges which were all great fun and made a big difference to the final total.
We also highlighted the great work of the RMBI which in fact really sold itself. I hope you agree with me that although we did actively promote our appeal, we did not overdo it making it a burden upon you. My congratulations to the recipients of Presidents and gold awards.
They are all thoroughly deserved and mark the significant contribution your Lodges and individuals have made. Lastly the gala dinner was a triumph. I have had nothing but positive feedback about the event which fittingly ended with a bang at the the fireworks display on the lawn. My thanks to the Dinner Committee led by Nick Burger for putting on such a great show.
I now turn to the Festival Committee. They have done a superb job over the last 7 years. They have been totally committed to caring for the RMBI and have given us an innovative, highly enjoyable and importantly successful Festival – Thank you all.
Each year we wish a senior member well in retirement and this year is no exception. Today we bid farewell to Mark Winchester who has been our Provincial Grand Secretary and ProvGSN for five years. In that time mark has completely changed they way our Provincial office works. We now have a fully integrated Craft and RA administration. The office runs very efficiently supported by numerous volunteers who have been superbly led by Mark. He is held in the highest regard by the members of this Province and those around us. Mark thank you so much for your exemplary service, I wish you well for the future and look forward to working with you again.
To the Deputy Provincial Grand Secretary and all of the team thank you for again making all of the arrangements for today. This is just like painting the Forth Bridge, you can now relax until it all starts again – on Monday!
To our new Provincial Grand Secretary – Good luck!
My sincere thanks to the Provincial Grand Stewards who are on duty today and give so much support across the year. I can tell you that the Deputy Grand Master told me at the gala dinner, that Surrey has the best Stewards! But lets keep that our secret and don’t tell any of the other Provinces!
Once again the Provincial Grand Director of ceremonies and his team of deputies and assistants have done a great job in guiding us through this annual meeting. This is just one of the events which he and his team deal with across the year. Thank you for your hard work and commitment.
Once again thank you to our honored guests and visitors for your support today and to you all Brethren for your support at our annual meeting.
God bless you and your families and I look forward to enjoying the ensuing year with you.