The Provincial Annual General Meeting held last week was very well attended and a very enjoyable day. For those who could not attend, here is a lightly edited version of the Provincial Grand Master’s address;
I am delighted to see so many of you here today, showing your commitment to Freemasonry by your attendance at our Annual Provincial meeting, and I unashamedly take this opportunity to welcome all of our Distinguished guests, friends and visitors, for their support, without which this meeting would lack lustre and vibrancy!
I personally must thank you all for giving your time to me and my executive team, and for the generous hospitality and welcome you extend to us when we visit your meetings.
I said last year that we have endured many difficulties and lost many loved and respected brethren and unfortunately, once again, the last 12 months have seen us confronted by negative and worrying world events, by challenging economic crises, and by the very sad passing of our beloved Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I cannot help but wonder what is next for us to face up to and deal with. But here we are and I stand before you all with continued inspiration and optimism which I hope you share.
Although we are an organisation with its roots deeply seated in the past, we stand on the threshold of a new era in masonry, and Masonic History should remind us all that we have prevailed and ultimately prospered despite many previous challenges in our 300-plus year history.
Brethren, this annual meeting is an important event in our Bedfordshire masonic calendar, a meeting which enables us to conduct and continue the general business of the province and to comply with the duties we owe to Grand Lodge and to the Rulers of our Order.
But it is also an opportunity for me to recognise and acknowledge the tremendous hard work and commitment of many of the brethren of Bedfordshire during the past year. I sincerely congratulate all who are receiving a preferment today. This is your day, brethren, and all I ask is that you wear the badge & jewel of your new rank with pride.
The honours you have received today are well deserved and a visible recognition of the contribution, commitment and dedication that you have made to your lodges and to this Province. But it does NOT mean that you can now sit back, relax, and perhaps fade comfortably into the background in your lodges. More is required of you Brethren; now is the time to step up a gear.
To all of the outgoing Provincial Officers, I extend my grateful thanks for your commitment and your support, especially the escorting team who have given outstanding service to the Provincial Executive on all of our visits. But even for you, this is not being put out to grass; new horizons await you in the future.
There is much that I want to say today.
Firstly, I acknowledge my Provincial Executive for their support, encouragement, and steadfast friendship in the face of many and varied challenges.
Secondly, we must all acknowledge the commitment and hard work of those brethren who have assisted in the organisation of this annual Provincial meeting. My grateful thanks go to –
our new Provincial Grand Secretary W/Bro Tony Green,
our Assistant Provincial Grand Secretary W/Bro Ian Church, W/Bro Roger Wortley, our past Provincial Grand Secretary W/Bro Clive Walsh, and our office administrator Jacqui Smith;
to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, W/Bro Andy Routledge, his team of DC’s and Deacons,
to the members of the Bedfordshire Lodge of Provincial Grand Stewards,
and to the Biggleswade Masonic centre for the use of their furniture.
Thirdly, many amongst us have demonstrated great commitment, dedication and unstinting service. Although I cannot name and honour them all, amongst them are –
our outgoing Provincial Grand Almoner, W/Bro Tony Green and his team of Almoners and visiting volunteers for giving their time so freely and contributing to the welfare and wellbeing of brethren, their families and loved ones in our province;
our outgoing Provincial Grand Registrar W/Bro Andrew Smith for his dedication and sound advice during many challenges;
our outgoing Provincial Grand Mentor, W/Bro Bill Appleton, for all he has done during his successful term of office, especially in delivering and broadcasting the Members Pathway to all of our lodges;
our outgoing Deputy Provincial Grand Master Nick Edwards – thank you for being my Deputy, your contribution has been immeasurable.
our incoming Deputy Provincial Grand Master Clive Walsh – thank you for all you have done as Provincial Secretary, and I look forward to working with you and continuing our strong relationship which I know will benefit and strengthen our province.
last but never, ever, least, the unsung and the most unrecognised and unappreciated heroes amongst us – those brethren who are involved in the management of our 6 Masonic centres. These brethren ensure that our
centres maintain the standards we expect and provide the facilities we require.
These are OUR centres and as individuals, we often forget that we should be assisting and supporting the brethren who run them on our behalf.
2022 has been a full and busy year. I am delighted to report that in May, we officially opened the ‘Lodge of Friendship’, and that was followed by the Fun Day in August which allowed all of you to view this magnificent facility – a great legacy to Freemasonry – which we have given to our community.
2022 saw the consecration of the Britalia Garibaldi Lodge – the first new Lodge in our Province for many years – which was a tremendously enjoyable and memorable occasion, held here in June.
2022 has seen the introduction of ‘Hermes’, intended as a progressive step in our history. From the frequent reports I receive from our Provincial Hermes Champion, APGM W/Bro Hugh Love, I am well aware that this sea change in how we administer our Lodges and Chapters has not been without its difficulties.
Our 2026 festival is making strong and steady progress and I am gratified to see so many of you wearing your festival jewel today. I ask you to encourage all brethren to participate in our festival fundraising as the success of our festival relies on everyone’s support.
Because of the recent challenges we have faced, our membership numbers are close to the lowest we have ever recorded. I am, however, extremely encouraged by the number of candidates being initiated and in the pipeline for initiation, since we returned to regular activity.
I want to reflect for a moment on an initiative that I have given my personal support – BUILDING A BETTER (MASONIC) FUTURE.
Brethren, we have to ensure that all of our lodges are active, healthy, and supported. I was very encouraged by the enthusiasm of those who attended the recent workshop to promote and implement the Member’s Pathway, which was held in the Luton Masonic Centre. The Member’s Pathway is the result of a great deal of work by UGLE in looking at those elements which successful lodges throughout the country have in common.
However, I am disappointed that not all Lodges in the Province have familiarised themselves with the Member’s Pathway, and although I understand that some of the reasons behind this may be down to real or perceived Lodge Traditions, I must be blunt and make it clear that this is simply not acceptable.
The “No, because………” approach that I hear about all too often, has to stop, and it has to stop now.
Traditions and History are of course not to be ignored or swept aside, but Traditions and History can be safeguarded and honoured by the adoption of the “Yes, if………” approach.
I give notice, Brethren, that when I and my Executive visit Lodges across the Province in the forthcoming year, we will be taking note of how many times when, in answer to our inquiries about how well Lodges are implementing local, Provincial and National initiatives, we hear “No, because………..” and how many times we hear “Yes, if ……….” !
The success and the survival of each lodge is in the control of its brethren. Each Lodge member must ask himself if his Lodge is well placed to prosper and survive. Brethren, my challenge to each of you is that you should ask yourself that question, and to consider if your answer starts with “No because……” or with “Yes, if….”
Brethren – cast aside the comfortable straight jacket of these excuses, which we have all heard: –
“No because………… a multiple ceremony is a less special experience for the candidates’;
“No because ………….‘I had to do this, and I was not given any help’;
“No because ………..a junior brother has ‘not been a mason long enough to be capable of taking office’.
Let our younger and junior Masons get involved at the earliest opportunity and gain the experience all of you here today already have. Will they become good Lodge Officers, better Provincial Officers and better Grand Officers?
“Yes, if ………… you don’t make them sit on the side-lines for years.
It is not a lowering of Masonic standards, and it is not abandoning the traditions of the founders of our Lodges if we encourage participation and advancement, and if we split up and share a ceremony so that every brother can contribute something. We must seek out, initiate and retain like-minded individuals and we must bring on our junior and light blue brethren or we risk losing much of our wonderful fraternity and the continuity of our identity.
Within the Provincial Executive we have been asking ourselves some “Yes if” questions, and one of those has resulted in the creation of a ‘Provincial Development Fund’ to support new initiatives, and to promote Freemasonry in Bedfordshire.
Some of you are aware of the National Marketing Digital initiative which last year resulted in a number of new members for the province. A second, differently targeted campaign has recently begun, and since September, we have received some 37 viable enquiries.
I said in my address last year that we have travelled though dangers and difficulties and will face more unpredictable and unknown challenges. That journey is not over so let us remain united in forming a column of mutual strength and support to meet these challenges and work together to rebuild, regenerate and renew.
Brethren, at the beginning of this meeting we stood in silence and respect to the memory of our late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, the only monarch that most of us have ever known and someone who gave a life of selfless service, and inspiration to this country, and to the world.
She once quoted an old aboriginal proverb in a speech to her commonwealth…………….
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love……and then we return home.”
We have now begun a new chapter in Freemasonry with three new rulers in Grand Lodge marking the dawn of a new age. Let us all be optimistic about our future. For myself, I promise that I will “go that extra mile” to support you all and perform the duties of my Office to the best of my ability.
Be open & PROUD about your membership and remember to enjoy your masonry.
May the GAOTU bless you all.