Address to Provincial Grand Lodge Committee: May 2015
Brethren, it is good to see so many of you here this evening for our annual business meeting, during which we have the opportunity to discuss domestic South Wales issues. It is the one meeting every year when I can set out various issues, issue instructions regarding our Province and lodges and where you can have the opportunity of raising matters of interest and concern to be aired in a safe and friendly environment. I hope that, following a good start last year, once I have finished my address, you will feel moved to raise any issues you wish.
Let me start by saying how grateful the Executive members are for the very warm welcomes we have enjoyed during our visits to lodges this year. This is the inaugural year when Grand Officers have provided reports on their lodges and it has been extremely useful to use those as a basis for our assessments of lodges and to have excellent background information on how lodges are doing in advance of our visits. I am pleased to see that over 80% of Grand Officers believe their lodges are in good spirits, with high quality standards of ritual, proper attention to standards and a real enthusiasm to tackle the challenges set out in our 7 Point Plan. They will receive this year’s report form in July and I look forward to seeing even more progress in lodges right across the Province. The reports I receive from every installation meeting confirm that good performance and I am particularly pleased to hear that, in the main, masters are learning the ritual, not relying overly on notes and providing that wonderful experience for our candidates by looking them in the eye at all times.
Of course, there is always room to improve and to continue improving by making changes which benefit our members and prospective members. I have been disappointed with levels of attendance of younger brethren at installations I and my Executive – have attended. In many cases, I am told that early start times have been to blame for their absences or sometimes their ability only to arrive in time for the festive board. Brethren, please give serious consideration to starting meetings, including installations, later in the evening. I see no reason why any installation needs to start before 5.30 and if a Past Master is being installed, 6 o’clock.
Before I hear anyone ask how they are supposed to finish by 10 o’clock with such a late start, please consider this: good quality ritual reduces the time taken for any ceremony; there is no need for officers to be re-appointed to be presented individually to the Master – I would much prefer all such officers to be asked to stand collectively and to be re-appointed en bloc, much as we now do in Provincial Grand Lodge. And please consider limiting the gap between the end of the ceremony and starting the festive board to NO MORE THAN 10 MINUTES. That will take some preparation and discussion with caterers, but it is surely worth it brethren if we can allow a later start time to accommodate young brethren who have to arrive after a hard day’s work.
While mentioning installations, I still occasionally see the practice of lodge Stewards leaving the temple before the risings. I see no reason why that needs to happen. Please consider that we are depriving Stewards of seeing the pomp and ceremony of the departing Provincial procession and, crucially, hearing the risings, which they entitled as lodge members to experience. Yes, risings are often circulated electronically before each meeting, but the Executive attending may well have additional issues he wishes to bring up on the day, which all members should have the chance to hear.
This year, we have seen wonderful progress on a number of important initiatives, many of which I will set out at our annual meeting on 29 June in Barry. I have been particularly pleased to see the installation of Automatic Electronic Defibrillators in every Masonic centre across South Wales. My grateful thanks are particularly due to W Bros Bob Barron and David Davies for their enthusiasm, hard work and determination to ensure we can all feel safer and equipped to handle emergencies should they arise. And I must also thank the History book committee and the Y Dalaith team for their strong and financial support for this excellent initiative.
Our communications continue to go from strength to strength. As well as the best regular magazine in England and Wales, for which W Bro Don Jones and his team continue to deserve our admiration for their tireless efforts, we now have a website which gets better every day, together with Facebook and Twitter accounts which can keep anyone up to speed with developments in real time. I look forward to even greater things from our communications efforts, making life easier for lodge secretaries and members to do business electronically, which is easier, quicker and cheaper and saves time in our busy schedules. I must mention the yearbook: I am sure you will all join me in thanking W Bro Charles McBride who is stepping down as Chairman of the yearbook. The yearbook continues to be an indispensable source of information and I am most grateful to the editor, W Bro Allan Miles and his team for their continued efforts on our behalf.
Isn’t it wonderful to see so many brethren sporting our new Provincial ties at our meetings? Standards of dress are important at all times and I always think it a shame when I see brethren attend rehearsals, LOI meetings and committee meetings in such casual clothing these days. I have been concerned to hear of instances when new candidates have arrived for interview dressed as you would expect in a jacket and tie, only to find seated around the table lodge members who have not thought it worth dressing similarly. I wonder what sort of organisation such candidates think they are joining. I should be grateful if you would all discuss this issue in your lodge committees and come to decisions about how you think we should portray ourselves in these circumstances. Why not make it a lodge policy to wear the provincial tie, even when not in a formal lodge setting?
I have recently been approached by a brother who asked me whether his lodge could return to the practice of having the alms collection during the charity charge in the first degree. My answer was a resounding YES, brethren. I have always thought that the moment when a new brother is challenged to give to charity in his state of helpless indigence is far more impactful if it follows a general alms collection, giving him time to wonder how he is going to contribute. It is, in any case, quickly followed by a clear message that the trial was not made to sport with his feelings, so if your lodge wishes to return to that practice, you have my blessing to do so. If you want to continue your current practice, that is fine by me too.
I will say a great deal more about charity and our 2021 Festival here in this hall at our annual Provincial Grand Lodge meeting, but it would be remiss of me not to thank W Bro Sir Paul Williams and his excellent committee for the wonderful launch and early start we have seen to the Festival in aid of the RMBI. There is much work to do brethren, but we have a firm and exciting foundation on which to build and I know I can look to all lodges in the Province to step up to the mark and contribute considerably to such a wonderful cause.
We had a most agreeable few days in London at Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter last week. My congratulations to all brethren honoured, supported by 114 brethren at our Provincial luncheon on the Wednesday and 75 Provincial Grand Chapter members at the Grand Superintendent’s lunch on the Thursday. These are unprecedented numbers brethren showing the enthusiasm and commitment of our lodges, chapters and brethren way above and beyond anything experienced in other Provinces. Long may that practice continue. And there have been many more positive developments this year. The Colonnade Club has been launched; we have established a new Provincial team to follow up resignations with a view to retrieving brethren if at all possible; and of course we look forward to our annual church service next week; and – something this Province has not seen for 13 years – the consecration of a new lodge, The Albert Edward Court Lodge of Research Number 9908 on 25 July, together with the prospect of another new Music lodge next masonic year. The Province is truly in good heart brethren.
Finally brethren, as we look forward to 29 June and our annual meeting, it had not been my intention to make any changes to the Provincial Executive this year. They are a great team and I continue to be amazed and thankful for their unstinting support, and first rate leadership across South Wales. However, W Bro Paul Marshall has indicated that, as a result of his continuing poor health, he wishes to retire as Assistant Provincial Grand Master in June. Paul has been a wonderful servant of this Province including 11 years as Provincial Grand Treasurer, over 3 as Assistant Provincial Grand Master and many more besides in other roles and duties. We shall miss him as an Assistant PGM, but he assures me he is not going far and will continue to support the Province in any way he can. I am sure you will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery from his current ills and hope to see him back firing on all cylinders very soon.
As a result, I am delighted to inform you that at our Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in June I will appoint and invest a successor to W Bro Paul as an Assistant PGM. That successor will be W Bro Alan Gardener PAGSuptWks. Please join me in welcoming Alan to this very senior role, proper recognition of all that he has done over the years and all that he will do, bringing his vast experience and obvious leadership qualities to the executive for many years.
Brethren, I thank you once again for being here. As I said at the outset, I want this meeting to be your opportunity not just to hear from me and others, but to air any matters you wish to raise. So I will close now with an invitation for you to do just that. Brethren God bless you all.