Good evening brethren and welcome to our annual PGL Committee meeting. I must start by thanking you and your brethren for the warmth of the welcome and hospitality shown to my executive team and me during our visits this year. And in turn by thanking my Executive, present and past, for their wonderful support to this great Province of ours. We have made significant changes to the administration of the Province this year, not least in the appointment of W Bro Ben Gait as Provincial Grand Secretary and Scribe E. He has made great strides already and I would remind you all brethren that he is always on the lookout for volunteers to help with in the Provincial Office. So if you have the necessary time and skills – or you know of anyone interested – please do contact Ben and contribute to this busy and interesting work.
Today is our opportunity to discuss matters of administration, process, protocol and ceremonial – all of which would be difficult to do justice to at our annual PGL meeting in Barry in June. As I have said in previous years, and reiterate now, I want this meeting to be informative and interesting, a source of information to take back to your lodges, and a chance to give you a forum in which you can ask questions, make comments and air your views. I want all lodges to have the opportunity to engage properly in the way this Province is run.
I want to begin by referring to our visits to lodge installations, where, as I say, we have been warmly welcomed as your guests. You may know that I receive fulsome reports on all installations and there are 2 matters that I should like to bring to your attention.
Firstly, the unfortunate practice of reading ritual, sometimes rather badly, has become more and more prevalent in some areas of the Province. This is simply not acceptable brethren. I have said on many occasions that the most important person in our temple on all occasions is the candidate. His ceremony – whether it be a 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree or an installation as Worshipful Master – will have a lasting impression on him and one that he should be able to cherish throughout his Masonic journey. All the more important then that those undertaking the ceremony should be able to make constant eye contact with him; and deliver ritual which is learned, understood and meaningful. If officers find it impossible to give priority to learning their ritual, I encourage all lodges to share it amongst those who can give it the commitment it deserves.
My second point is about the appointment – or re-appointment – of Royal Arch representatives at installation ceremonies. This important appointment should be done after the appointment of officers, but I have noticed that few lodges do so without being prompted. And then sometimes after of flurry of discussion about who the representative is. I have therefore decided that all lodges should, from September onwards, have a specific item on the agenda which states: “To appoint Bro AB as the lodge’s Royal Arch representative”. I shall be asking the Provincial Office to check that this agenda item is present – with the correct named individual – and send back to lodges any summonses which fail to include it.
Brethren, I cannot stress too strongly how important I believe it is that our brethren are introduced to the Holy Royal Arch at as early a stage as possible; and that they should take that final step in pure and ancient masonry. I can do no better than to quote the Most Excellent First Grand Principal at the recent convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter when he said: “No Mason should be joining other orders without first completing their journey in Pure Ancient Masonry by becoming a member of the Holy Royal Arch”. Let us do all we can to make that objective a reality.
Our Masonic halls are jewels in our Masonic crown right across the Province. I encourage all lodges to support them and consider them as something to be treasured and looked after. We all have a responsibility to contribute positively to our Masonic homes, in good times and challenging times. It is no secret that some of our centres are finding it difficult to meet their financial responsibilities. Let us help those who have been good enough to volunteer to run them brethren. Membership of a lodge is not like a gas bill or car insurance where we can switch our custom when things get a bit more expensive. I exhort all lodges to consider their responsibilities to the Province and their Masonic centres. To be crystal clear brethren, I do not want lodges to move from one centre to another unless they have particular reasons which are more than about the cost of existing premises. Rule 141 of the Book of Constitutions offers excellent guidance on this very issue.
While I am talking about Masonic halls, I want to reiterate a point I made some years ago. It is not acceptable for brethren to attend our meeting places dressed as if they are on their way to the beach or just out of a day’s working in the garden. This is particularly important if brethren are there to interview a candidate. I’m afraid I have seen examples of a candidate arriving for his interview, nervous, but well dressed in a jacket and tie, only to be met by an interview panel in worse than casual clothes. I wonder what sort of impression this gives to the poor candidate who has no doubt been told to dress smartly for this important meeting.
Turning to Charity, at a Provincial level I have been delighted with the excellent work that we have all done again this year to help those in need. Our excellent Charity Steward, W Bro Rob Payne, Almoner, W Bro Phil Bevan, the Friends of the Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court and trustees of the Masonic Benevolent Fund under the Chairmanship of V W Bro Andrew Gretton all deserve special mention. And of course, the work has continued apace towards our ambitious target of £5 million towards the 2021 Festival in aid of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. I want to place on record my thanks to V W Bro Sir Paul Williams, his committee and all lodge Charity Stewards for the sterling work they continue to do to help us meet that target. Just one note of caution brethren; I still occasionally hear that a small number of lodges are holding on to significant sums of money in their own relief chests. I simply cannot understand that thinking brethren. You all have separate charity accounts from which you can dispense to local charities or causes. Your relief chest is for strategic giving only; what better way to use that money than to transfer it to the Festival, earn considerably more interest than you currently do, and – crucially – provide much needed funds for our RMBI homes which do so much for aged masons and their dependents.
Communications are such an important part of our everyday lives; and masonry is no different in that regard. W Bro Paul Haley has been a first class Provincial Communications Officer for some years now and he has asked me if I would agree that the time is right for him now to stand down. I’m sure I speak for you all when I say how grateful we are to W Bro Paul for all his efforts in this challenging and fast moving environment. I am delighted to announce today that W Bro Gavin Davies has agreed to assume the role of Provincial Communications Officer, together with a new appointment of W Bro Karl Frowen who will take on special responsibility for social media. We wish them both well in this challenging environment.
With more and more lodges developing their own websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of and regulate content. Can I please therefore entreat you all to take especial care of things that are said in the name of your lodges. I abhor the use of bad language in messaging; and – possibly worse still – political comment from an obviously Masonic source. These sorts of things will not be tolerated brethren and could lead to Masonic disciplinary action if serious enough to warrant it.
Next Saturday, 11 May is our annual church service at St Martin’s Church in Caerphilly. As I write this address (yesterday brethren), of our 160 lodges, only 27 had responded to the letter sent to all lodge secretaries to indicate attendance or apologies. I do hope we will have a good attendance at this once-a-year event and that responses are late rather than absent altogether brethren. I have asked all Worshipful Masters to attend or to indicate who might come from their lodge. We welcome wives, partners, friends and families and I hope to see you all in Caerphilly on this special day.
Finally, a real milestone for Wales and this Province. 37 years ago, Cyfrinfa Dewi Sant was consecrated with the express intention of being allowed to work ceremonies in Welsh. Since then, the lodge has had what we might call an interesting history, but it has never given up hope. I am delighted to say that last month I received confirmation that the Board of General Purposes and the Rulers had agreed that each Province in Wales would be able to authorise one lodge to work exclusively in the Welsh language. In South Wales, that will of course be Cyfrinfa Dewi Sant; and I hope that as many brethren as possible will visit in October to see and hear the very first rendition of a Welsh language first degree performed by the Dewi Sant brethren. We all owe a debt of gratitude to W Bro Elfan Jones and the Dewi Sant brethren.
Brethren, I thank you for your attention and attendance this evening. I look forward to seeing you all soon, especially at our church service on 11 May, Provincial Grand Chapter and Provincial Grand Lodge meetings in June and on many occasions across the Province. After that, enjoy the summer break and return refreshed for another exciting Masonic year ahead. I am off to learn the address to the Master in Welsh ready for Dewi Sant’s Installation next year! God bless you all.