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No institution can boast a more solid foundation than that on which Freemasonry rests - the practice of every moral and social virtue!
Address by the RWPGM - Saturday 11 October 2014
How quickly time passes – It certainly does not feel like twelve months since I was last standing here before you.
Thank you all for coming today, especially those brethren who arrived very early to set up the temporary Lodge here and will then stay until after the meeting has finished to pull it all down again. Also those who manage the sound and the visuals and those who willingly give their time to assist with the overall organisation of this annual event. Brethren the work that you do is greatly appreciated and I do thank you most sincerely.
The past 12 months have been difficult for me and also for my Deputy, however the year has been as busy as ever. There have been a total of 31 Lodge visits including 1 Centenary Meeting, 4 Banner Dedications and the presentation of 23 Long Service Certificates including one for 75 years and one for 70 years. I take this opportunity to thank the members of the 31 Lodges who have warmly welcomed me, my Deputy and Assistants together with those Provincial Officers who have accompanied us during the visits.
I must also thank the Provincial Grand Secretary and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Sally and Jacqui, together with the small army of volunteers without whom our Provincial administration system would not be function properly. The team on all occasions have been extremely helpful and faithful. A special thank you to all those Brethren who work up and down the Province raising money for our Festival and for both local and National Charities. Your work is much valued as is your incredible inventiveness in creating exciting ways of raising money. I must mention the Celtic Ride between Land’s End and John O’Groats completed by W.Bro. Guto Tomos W.M. of St Cyngar Lodge in Porthmadog, who cycled the epic 870 mile journey supported by his wife Llinos, who followed in the family motor home. To date Guto has raised £2,610 and you may still continue to contribute until the end of the current year.
I also thank the Lodge Treasurers, Secretaries, Almoners and Charity Stewards for the work they undertake and their willingness to adapt to the many changes that have taken place. Finally I must thank my Representatives for their work, the reports you submit provide me with a very useful insight into the welfare and long term viability of Lodges in the Province, and your efforts are greatly appreciated.
I congratulate the following Brethren on being appointed Officers of Grand Lodge: - W.Bro. John Charles Hoult, PAGReg and W.Bro. Stuart Cyril Waters PAGDC and also W.Bro. Brian William Goldsmith on being promoted to the rank of PJGD.
I also congratulate W.Bro. Richard Leonard Ellis, PJGD, PProv.G.Sec. on being awarded the Grand Masters Order of Service to Masonry.
Congratulations to all those Brethren who have been appointed or promoted today. I hope that you will enjoy your rank and will continue with the good work you have so far engaged in.
Probably the most singularly important issue occupying minds in all Provinces and in Grand Lodge is the continuing decline in Lodge memberships. Our own research has shown that over the past eleven years membership of Lodges in this Province has reduced by some 23%. Whilst there has been a positive reduction in the number of resignations during the past three years, the actual number of Initiates has been flat lining for the past eleven years. Freemasonry is not in isolation here, many other organisations are experiencing similar difficulties in attracting and retaining members.
Sadly, declining membership is seen by many Brethren as being someone else’s problem. In some cases there is a failure to acknowledge and accept the demands of modern society on its members, a situation which has only one result. We must change attitudes in order to accommodate the young busy family men, if we want them to become members. It is with this in mind that we will be working with Lodges in the coming months with a view to encouraging greater participation in initiatives that could aid with the recruitment and retention of members. The use of individual Lodge websites, Social media and recruitment initiatives such as white table events and most importantly the greater use of mentoring are all important tools that can assist Lodges maintain their memberships. I also believe that Lodges should draw attention to the social side of Freemasonry where a great deal of fun is to be found.
The use of the Provincial and Grand Lodge websites is proving very successful in attracting enquiries from potential new members, a total of 25 have been received this year. It is an easy way for the younger generation to find out more about Freemasonry and to be able to ask questions. However getting someone interested is not always the difficult challenge, it is their integration into a Lodge that can be the defining moment.
September saw the launch of our new web based e-Newsletter known as “OutReach” which has been sent to all members who are connected to the internet. We have also launched a Provincial Facebook page which we hope will be a useful tool in generating interest in this wonderful Fraternity of ours. I thank W.Bro Dave Fink for his continuing support with the design and development and ease of use of these initiatives.
Even though we have fewer Brethren we have still managed to generate some £1.9 million towards the 2017 Festival. This is a very remarkable achievement and I am hopeful that if you continue supporting the Festival over the next three years we will reach our target of £2.75 million and possibly even exceed it.
I must say that I have found an excellent friendly and welcoming atmosphere in all the Lodges I have visited around the Province, young Brethren are coming in and Lodge meetings and Festive boards are fun. When I visit Lodges there is laughter to be heard and the determination to succeed is quite obvious. I think that you are excellent Masons. Let us carry on enjoying Masonry and communicating that enjoyment to those outside our honourable Institution.
Finally Brethren I must thank all those Brethren and individual Lodges who sent me get well cards, I was really touched by the level of concern shown – Thank you very much.
There is one other matter that I wish to be made known. I understand that there is speculation concerning the changes that have taken place to-day. I think it right that you should understand the correct position.
The retirement of V.W. Bro Owen Wheldon Williams on health grounds was a severe blow to the structure of the future of this Province. I had very little doubt in my mind as to whom my successor would be. Let me add that I could not have been more certain, had I been right then we would have had a good period of time before the next appointment, now the next appointment has come about 10 years too soon.
To avoid further speculation I am not leaving. I have been appointed for a certain term which I hopefully will be allowed to see out. I may not want to do that. However that is a matter for me not you. Trust me to tell you soon enough. Brethren whilst it may be difficult for some, I urge you all not to speculate.