Presented at Provincial Grand Lodge on 30th June 2014
Brethren, what a wonderful day we have enjoyed.
I must repeat my grateful thanks to our distinguished visitors whose advice and support I very much appreciate and for their helping to make today so special for the most important of you here, the brethren I have had the great pleasure of appointing and promoting in Provincial Grand Lodge. It goes without saying that we all congratulate you on your preferment; and I remind you that with these new ranks come new responsibilities. You will all know of the importance I attach to leadership – it is one of the key themes of our 7 point plan – and in your new roles I know I can look to you to provide that leadership in your lodges, driving forward the crucial changes we need to embrace if we are to be successful in our goal of making our Craft and the Province of South Wales even more of a force for good in our society and our communities. It will be particularly important for you to lead and encourage your Worshipful Masters to make progress on establishing arrangements to improve recruitment, retention and retrieval in every lodge throughout the Province.
It is now just nearly 10 months since I was installed as your Provincial Grand Master. In that time my Executive team and I have been overwhelmed by the warmth of your welcome at lodges we have visited. It has always been a pleasure to join your celebrations and may that long continue. I have been pleased with the standard of ritual in most lodges I have visited. Like me, I’m sure that many of you were delighted to hear the MW Pro Grand Master say in his recent address how important it is to make the experience for the candidate so much more meaningful by learning and reciting the ritual rather than reading it, when it is impossible to look the brother concerned in the eye. That is one of the key aspects of the theme of Standards set out in our plan.
At the outset I said I wanted to make some early changes to various themes, now set out in 7 themes of our single 7 point plan. Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say, but I felt it was important to secure some quick wins and we have made a great start.
Communications is one of the cornerstones of any good organisation. We are all indebted to W Bro Don Jones and his team for their continuing production of Y Dalaith; our yearbook editorial team provides a valuable source of information for all brethren; and the Provincial diary – and associated app – goes from strength to strength.
Our exciting new website and associated social media accounts are now up and running and looking modern and fresh. For those of you who are twitter users, you will know that I have my own account and that I regularly tweet messages about the Province and the things I am doing in masonry more generally. Today’s proceedings – and I guess my address right now – is being tweeted live so that any of our followers can see what is going on in real time. I urge you all – and your lodges – to come with us on this journey. It is how young men who may be interested in us will find out what we do; and it is how our younger members expect to be able to communicate. Quite a few lodge websites are starting to spring up, but my vision of every lodge having a website is some way off. I can announce today that Province will shortly be inviting Worshipful Masters and those responsible for communications to a workshop on establishing websites. We will offer real help; and substantial discounts should be available if enough lodges want to join in and set up websites as part of a single commercial deal.
And we have had other successes too:
The annual church service was attended by 400 brethren and their families and we enjoyed an inspiring sermon from the Most Reverend Archbishop of Wales, a first for this Province and – I suggest – almost unique across the constitution.
Our Gala dinner was a sell-out and, as well as first rate entertainment, I can now tell you that we raised a total of £19,000 for SSAFA, most of which is being distributed to local branches on top of the sum we contributed to the Military Wives Choir SSAFA Foundation. All of our thanks go to W Bro Jeff Coles and his excellent organising committee for that wonderful effort.
And what a spectacular success we had only a month ago when I had the pleasure of visiting the RMBI home in Porthcawl to witness Kenfig Lodge undertaking a full 2nd degree ceremony. 16 residents who are not able to get out to visit their lodges were able to attend in their own comfort and I assure you brethren it was a moving and emotional experience for the 100 brethren who attended.
I said that I wanted us to get back to basics with more visiting being the norm so that our ceremonies are enriched with large numbers attending. I am delighted that W Bro Rev Alistair Swinford has now developed a ‘travelling gavel’ initiative right across the Province. A letter explaining the scheme will be sent to all Worshipful Masters in the next few weeks and the initiative will start in earnest in September. This time next year, I expect to be able to present the Provincial gavel to the Worshipful Master of the lodge which has visited most during the year.
So it has been a good start, but what of the future brethren? Well the year ahead looks exciting and positive. In January next year we will launch our 2021 Festival in favour of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. This is a charity close to our hearts and I know that the Festival Committee under the chairmanship of W Bro Sir Paul Williams, which has already met for the first time, is preparing the ground for an exciting launch and a Festival which will give us ample opportunity to have fun while we secure a significant sum for that wonderful charity.
Brethren, we talk a lot about falling numbers and lodges struggling to stay afloat. We have a crucial responsibility to address the 3Rs so that our Craft endures for another 300 years and more. While I accept that we have to face reality that some lodges will not survive, our key task is to ensure that that results in fewer but stronger lodges, capable of attracting members and providing a positive experience for its members and guests on all occasions. And I want to encourage the establishment of new, special interest lodges too. It is some 12 years since we last consecrated a lodge in this Province and that can’t be good for sustainability and refreshing brethren’s interest. That is why I am so pleased to be able to tell you that a great deal of work and discussion is currently going on about the prospect of a new lodge which it is hoped will meet regularly at the Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court RMBI home. It will be a lodge of research with guest speakers from all over the country giving lectures on masonic history, different rituals and other interesting subjects, but it will also seek to initiate new members too. I look forward to seeing that work come to fruition and hope to have more news for you before long about when we might consecrate it within the next 12 months. What a fitting occasion that will be in the year we launch our Festival for the RMBI. And a fitting testament to the outstanding work done by W Bro Alan Gardener and his committee of Friends.
It will not have escaped your notice that we now have a pretty new team at the top of the Province. I have been delighted to appoint W Bro Roger Richmond to our team today, together with W Bro Gerald Rowbottom who is taking on the reins of our administration. I am confident that this new team will take the province from strength to strength, implementing our 7 point plan – and much more – for the benefit of all lodges and brethren in South Wales.
Today we have said goodbye to a number of Provincial Officers who have contributed enormously over the years and who now deserve a well-earned rest from their arduous tasks. I am of course enormously grateful to my Provincial team of the last year for their friendship and support; they really have been a joy to be with and I know that their association will endure for many years to come. But a much more long-standing contribution has come to an end today. W Bro Jim Bevan has been Secretary of this Province for a quarter of a century and I was pleased on Friday of last week to present to Jim on your behalf a cheque for £3000. I know you will join with me in wishing him a long and happy retirement.
At the same time we bid welcome to new Provincial officers who are the future of our Province. It has been a long-held view in South Wales that it takes brethren 5 or 6 years to demonstrate their worth for Provincial appointment. And that has stood us in good stead for many years, but by adhering to that policy too strongly we may fail to use young talent at an early stage and it results in an aging population of Provincial – and eventually – Grand officers. So, from next year I will be asking my Executive team and Grand Officers to identify young talent with potential for high office in future years. You can expect to see a new category of provincial appointments, normally to the rank of acting Steward; brethren who are perhaps only a year or two out of the chair. Depending on how they perform in that role, I would expect it to lead to further appointment and promotion in short order.
This does not in any way diminish the worth or potential of brethren who have served their time, as all of us sitting on the stage here have done. But we have never appointed anything like the number of Provincial Stewards to which we are entitled. I want to use those available ranks to bring on young brethren with potential for greater things.
And now brethren it is time for me to close. In doing so, I wish Services Lodge and their supporters God speed on their walk around Wales in aid of the NoahsArkAppeal which comes to an end on 26 July. I thank the Provincial Grand Secretary and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and their teams for the first rate arrangements we have enjoyed. And I thank you all for your attendance here today. Let us all keep enjoying our Craft while we do what we do best, that is to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Brethren, I wish every one of you a safe journey home, until we meet again – God bless you all.