Companions, another 12 months has passed us by and I am delighted to have this opportunity to address you today, albeit on this platform, rather than in person. For those viewing my presentation on screen, I hope that you will forgive my COVID hairstyle (through the current restriction on having a haircut)…
COVID 19 has resulted in a suspension of Masonic activity, which all of us look forward to being lifted; when safe to do so. We have found industrious and innovative ways of keeping in touch and supporting eachother. We have supported our communities and we can take great pride in the manner that our NHS and RMBI Care Homes have kept our residents safe and well. However, sadly as in every year, we have lost through natural causes 41 Companions of which 3 were Officers of Supreme Grand Chapter, namely Michael J. Hoare, PGSwdB (our Senior Past Deputy GSupt), Alun R. Jehu, PGStB and Alan F. Thomas, PAGDC. We miss them all and all the names of departed Companions will be printed in the On-line Provincial Year Book.
Our Fraternity has been unable to meet “face to face,” since early March and it was a great disappointment not to be able to represent you all in London in April to congratulate in person, the following Promotion and Appointments: Re-appointed to ME3GP ME Comp. Gareth Jones, OBE. Promoted to PAGSoj, EComp. Gwilym H. Jones, Past Second Provincial Grand Principal and Appointed to the rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer; E.Comp’s Jeffrey T. Coles, Christopher W. Eveleigh and Martyn P. Wake, ProvDGSE, which I heartedly do so today, on this platform.
On the date we would have been attending the Annual Investiture of Supreme Grand Chapter, I announced that we look ahead to an especial meeting of Provincial Grand Chapter, to be held under the auspices of Hendre Chapter No.3250, at Cardiff Masonic Hall, on Monday 24th August 2020; this event of course being subject to a relaxation in the current lock-down measures.
I very much hope that this Convocation goes ahead, in order that I can suitably thank and congratulate E.Comp. Phillip Aubrey and E.Comp. Lance McPhail for their tremendous contribution to our Province. That date will also be when, in succession, I will have the pleasure of Installing E.Comp. Peter Jones as Second Provincial Grand Principal and E.Comp. Michael Coombes as Third Provincial Grand Principal.
E.Comp’s Kevin Hearne and Lyndon Howells will serve as Assistants to the Provincial Grand Principals, with effect of today’s date.
All Companions on the Executive and Acting Provincial Officers are most grateful for the courtesy extended to us all, during our visits around the Province and indeed when visiting our Kindred Provinces. Our Annual Convocation this year was to be a joint celebration with the Craft, in Barry. The plans we had made on your behalf will come to fruition in 2021.
Companions, we have an Executive Team who are all dedicated to make our Province productive, content and responsive. The Joint Executive Team has increased our understanding of Provincial systems and I am very proud of them all for their invaluable advice and unstinting loyalty, to both myself and the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master. I publicly thank the DGSupt for his counsel to me, support and always valued sage advice.
I thank the ProvGSE, ProvDGSE together with the hard working team of Provincial Officers and helpers, for all of their incredible sense of duty, particularly during this ongoing period of “lock down”. The investment that Province had made in office resources, over the past few years and the training these Companions have undertaken, ensured no loss of service – which is quite remarkable. I pay tribute to them all and thank them openly.
We have continued with advancing the following strategic areas: Charity, Communication, Reporting SGC Officers, Royal Arch Representatives and Membership.
Companions, your continued generosity as the members of the Royal Arch is both uplifting and humbling. As well as so generously donating to the 2021 RMBI Festival individually (through your membership of the Craft), all our 69 Chapters have also donated to the Festival and continue to do so. To which end, I am delighted to advise that earlier this month, the Provincial Grand Treasurer transferred further funds from Provincial Grand Chapter to the 2021 RMBI Festival, bringing our total Royal Arch contribution to date in excess of £80,000; a figure which all of you Companions ought to be justly proud and I take this opportunity today, to thank you. Let us all use the year ahead to ensure that South Wales is truly proud of our investment and charitable giving to such a worthy cause. I am pleased to note that we continue to see increased donations to charity via use of Gift Aid and once again urge you to please go back to your Chapters and use Gift Aid envelopes at all of your Convocations.
We have continued to improve the breadth of communication platforms available to the membership and potential membership. After 2 highly successful years, I thank E.Comp. John Purchase for all of his enthusiasm in this role and wish him well as he hands over the communications brief to E.Comp. Karl Frowen, who brings with him a wide variety of technical skills and boundless enthusiasm.
In the year ahead, I will visit (together with Members of the Executive) the Officers of Supreme Grand Chapter, in all 4 Quarters of the Provincial estate. I am more convinced than ever (even before the full effects of our closure due to COVID 19 are known) that we must work harder together with those who manage our meeting places to ensure that we enjoy a viable and productive future. The quality and cost-effectiveness of our Masonic Centres will no doubt provide a stimulating topic of conversation for us all to engage with.
I wish to openly thank all the 161 Lodges for embracing the role of the Lodge Royal Arch Representative and I pay tribute to our RA Membership Officer, EComp Simon Daniel, for his hard work. Later this year, I will meet all of the Exaltees in a convivial setting to gauge how they are settling in. Please remember Companions, we should be looking at what is the right Chapter for them, which may not necessarily be the closest Chapter aligned with their individual Mother Lodge. I cannot overstate that it is imperative that the Craft Royal Arch Representatives have an opportunity to speak at our Lodge meetings, and I am grateful to the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master for his full support and leadership in this aim.
You will have noted in the Provincial Grand Registrar’s presentation, that (prior to the suspension of Masonic activity) we have continued to enjoy increased growth in both Members and Memberships. Well done to all of you for encouraging our friends to join our ranks and indeed, rejoin. Fully embracing the membership Pathway and by the Royal Arch Provincial Membership Officer, working ever closer with the Craft Provincial Membership Officer, we have been able to focus strongly on increasing the conversion rate of Craft Masons becoming members of the Royal Arch, to over 40%. No doubt, we all know a Companion whose membership has lapsed, whom we can invite to visit our Chapters again once, with a view to encourage re-engagement.
Involving the Craft Membership, as well as Royal Arch Companions, in my “Conversation with the membership” has produced fruit and is helping to provide evidence-based data in support of which decisions to take in our planning and management of the work. I can today advise you that each of our 69 Scribes E. will receive a hard copy of the 2020 – 2021 Provincial Year Book, as well as all our membership having direct access via the Website. I know this is something that you feel strongly about.
During this difficult year, I am also delighted to announce that Province will show consistency with the Craft and we will suspend Provincial charges for Exaltees and any Dispensations required. The ProvGSE is there to guide you all, as we move towards a resumption of full Masonic activity.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my term of office as First Principal of Hendre Chapter and Lord Swansea Chapter and again unashamedly recommend to all of you Installed First Principals to consider joining Hendre and Lord Swansea Chapters, where you will receive the warmest of welcomes. At the Election Convocations, we were able to revisit our close affinity and support of the progressive Orders and Degrees; remembering our membership of other Orders and Degrees is to be celebrated and supported.
As we look back over the last year, with great pride in our Active Provincial Officers we now look forward to those whom will from today, deliver and maintain the highest standards delivered by our predecessors and expected by our generation.
I am so sorry that I am unable to personally invest you today. However, please wear your new rank with great pride and know that on behalf of the Province we offer our personal congratulations to you together with huge gratitude to all those who have made today’s appointments and promotions such a success and in particular, the Provincial Grand Scribe E, Provincial Deputy Grand Scribe E, the Office Team Volunteers. The ProvGDC looks forward to seeing all you Active officers, shortly, for training and support to ensure you feel comfortable and confident in your new roles.
One change for Active officers to note is that when attending Installations (or in an official capacity) the Provincial Officers on duty will no longer wear white gloves, other than the Provincial Grand Sword Bearers. Of course individual Chapters will no doubt continue with their particular custom and practice, as will Provincial Officers when attending privately.
Companions, your spirit & enthusiasm is infectious and I pray you all keep safe and well and I look forward to your company, hopefully not too long away!