Good evening brethren and welcome to this 2021 Provincial Committee meeting. This is the second year running when we have been forced to hold the meeting virtually, but it does seem to work very well. The pandemic has taught us many things; one of which has been the better use of technology which I am sure will stand us in good stead for future years. I do wonder whether we should be making a virtue out of this particular necessity and plan to hold all future annual Provincial Committee meetings via this medium. It certainly makes for more efficient use of our time, reduces costs and ensures a healthy turnout of members. I shall listen carefully to your views over the next 12 months and make a final decision early in 2022.
We have had a truly dreadful year brethren. I shall not dwell on the tragedy that has befallen many, or the awful effects on lives and livelihoods experienced by large numbers in our society. I shall simply say a huge ‘thank you’ to countless of our members who have stepped up to help those in need in our communities and to all those lodges which have worked tirelessly to keep in constant touch with their members; and with prospective members over the last twelve months. It has been truly heartwarming to see how Freemasons in South Wales have continued to adhere to the values and principles of the Craft, even in such trying and difficult times.
I also want to thank my Executive and principal officers for all their hard work, some of which you have heard about today, in keeping the show on the road, despite our inability to meet as would all have wished. An especial thanks must go to the Provincial Grand Secretary and his team of excellent volunteers for their constant and consistent administration, helping lodges through unprecedented times with sound advice and guidance at all times.
Let us now look forward brethren, as we return to our meetings with renewed enthusiasm and not a little relief. Meetings of up to 30 will restart on Monday. I hope that all lodges will take advantage of this easing of restrictions, while I know and respect those who don’t yet feel quite ready to take that step personally. I see no reason why lodges should continue to feel the need to self suspend, though that option continues to be available until the end of this year. For those lodges who are planning meetings imminently – and there are a lot of them brethren – please remember that there are still restrictions on which ceremonies can proceed, limits on numbers who can attend, alterations to certain parts of our ceremonial and, sadly, we are not yet able to hold festive boards. As soon as any or all of these restrictions change, the Provincial office will make immediate announcements. In the meantime, the office stands ready to provide advice and guidance when needed on any of these matters. For imminent Installations, we will ensure the attendance of a Provincial representative if requested to do so. I do not want Province to take up any of the limited space required by lodge members, but equally, we are very happy to attend if the lodge feels they would like someone there to represent me for their annual celebration.
Depending on further announcements regarding lifting of restrictions, the Grand Superintendent and I expect to be able to hold our annual meetings on Saturday, 26th June. The format and content will look a little different and be slightly curtailed compared with normal, but let us all hope these meetings can go ahead so that our business can be completed and new Provincial officers can be properly appointed in person once again. I shall in particular wish to appoint and invest my 2 new Assistant PGMs so that they are fully chained and ready to go as lodges start to meet again. Numbers will almost certainly be limited but invitations and summonses will be issued soon, so please respond promptly brethren so that the Provincial Grand Secretary can manage the process effectively and we can give opportunities to as many brethren as possible to attend. Remember brethren, if in the event the meeting can not go ahead on 26th June, we have a fallback contingency day booked for Saturday, 2nd October.
Looking further ahead, we have a lot of catching up to do brethren. We know of well over 250 candidates waiting for their initiations, together with all the 2nd and 3rd degrees we have missed over the last 12 months. Installations of Masters will continue at a slightly higher rate as lodges who wish to replace their leaders who should have handed over the reins during the suspension. And we have the consecration of a new lodge in prospect as well as 3 potential new banners to dedicate, no less than 7 lodge centenaries to celebrate, several 60th and countless 50th certificates to present to worthy brethren, as well as our normal business which usually fills up our calendars. And that’s not all brethren. A new digital marketing campaign is due to launch across England and Wales in September this year. Interest in joining our organization is higher now than it has been for many years, partly because of all the excellent work done by Freemasons during the pandemic. We expect that this new initiative will generate a significant amount of interest in prospective new members, so we need to be ready brethren. You will hear more about all of this over the coming couple of months as W Bros Stephen Harries, Neil Evans and Gavin Davies go about readying South Wales and our lodges for what we hope and expect will be a further influx of interest and, ultimately, members.
A word about the Festival brethren. We have lost 14 months of meetings at the crucial countdown to the end of the Festival. The Committee under the Chairmanship of R W Bro Sir Paul Williams has continued to work hard on our behalf and we now need an extra and concerted effort to ensure that all our efforts over the last 6 years can be celebrated in style on 13 November. Thank you to the Charity Stewards and to all those who have renewed their RPPs recently. As well as ensuring that all new members are given the opportunity to contribute and become Stewards of the Festival, lodges can go the extra mile by taking part in the Big Week starting over the August bank holiday. Anything you and your members can do to have fun and add a little more to our total will be gratefully received. All donations, relief chest transfers and new or renewed RPPs must be completed by 30th September to ensure they contribute to what I am sure will be a wonderful Festival on behalf of the RMBI. Look out also for further information regarding the 13th November final event. It promises to be a fitting end to many years of tremendous effort by the brethren of South Wales.
Brethren, I started this address by looking back. Let us all now look forward; rekindle our enthusiasm, dig out those ritual books, start rehearsals, plan ceremonies and social events, get back to everything that is dear to our hearts and we have missed so much. A cautious return to something approaching the old normal will not do brethren. If our wonderful Craft is to recover and thrive, we need to redouble all our efforts and go the extra mile so that the legacy of this dreadful pandemic can eventually be a positive one for Freemasonry in South Wales and beyond.
I look forward to seeing you all very soon. God bless you all.