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PROVINCIAL GRAND MASTER’S ADDRESS AT THE JULY PROVINCIAL MEETING
Extracts from the PGM’s address at the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in the Guildhall, Southampton
Anniversaries
All provinces will be making
preparations for the June 2017
Tercentenary Celebration of the
formation of the United Grand
Lodge of England and plans are in
hand for us to work together with
our neighbouring provinces in at
least one project which should
capture the imagination and provide
the necessary publicity for this
great occasion. In this province we
have other important anniversaries
which the brethren would wish to celebrate in style: in February 2017, we have the 250th anniversary of the formation of the Province of Hampshire; June 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the amalgamation of the Province of Hampshire and the Province of Isle of Wight. There is much for us to celebrate in the coming years and our intention is to provide an opportunity for every lodge and all members to participate, whilst taking the opportunity to enhance the reputation of freemasonry in our community.
Provincial Matters
It is 4 years since I was privileged to be installed as your Provincial Grand Master. Following my appointment, we decided to focus on the decline in our membership which was mirrored across the craft. We established policies relating to recruitment, retention, and retrieval, and APGMs were assigned to each of these important areas. We began to enjoy a measure of success but had to acknowledge that there was no quick fix. Over the past 12 months, an increasing amount of information has been available to the province from Grand Lodge and it was apparent from this information that the smaller provinces were markedly more successful than the larger provinces in retaining members; and indeed in recruitment. The reasons for this are a matter for speculation but to some extent the reasons are irrelevant. The facts are clear.
We are the third largest province in terms of number of members. We therefore decided to reorganise the province into 6 distinct areas, each under the direct jurisdiction of an APGM. I have appointed 6 Area Chairmen to assist the APGMs, and 29 Area Vice Chairmen on the recommendation of the Area APGMs. Each APGM has in turn appointed area officers, and committees, in accordance with provincial guidelines. The objective is to emulate the smaller provinces across the country. There are associated benefits; it gives an increasing number of brethren the opportunity to serve the area, and therefore the province; it increases the pool of brethren with experience to serve the province at the highest level.
This process of re-organising and re-structuring the province has required great commitment from those involved, whom I thank for their work and dedication over the past months. I am particularly grateful to the APGMs,
members of the Provincial Cabinet and our new Deputy Provincial Grand Secretary, who have been at the forefront of the changes which they have embraced with enthusiasm. The increased opportunities for all brethren at all levels within the craft are available in all areas of the province and this itself has generated excitement amongst brethren who might otherwise have had to wait for their time to come. We are utilising the skills and experience of our brethren for the benefit of the province and are no longer hidebound by unnecessary traditions, treated as rules, which
prevent progress until a period of time served. There is clearly a heavy responsibility on the Area APGMs and their teams, who will be keen to ensure that they meet the benchmarks which we are able to establish for the areas.
Visiting Officers and Lodges
During the year we have increased the profile of our Visiting Officers who are key to the future of the province. We have established a Visiting Officers Mess and our VOs have their own tie so that they are recognised across the province and not just within the lodge to which
they are appointed. We are moving towards a situation where each VO will have just one lodge to support.
A lodge is a collection of individuals presided over by a Master, who may obtain assistance in performing his duties by referring matters to a committee to advise, which is the extent of that committee’s remit. On their advice the Master then makes the decision if it is within his authority, or if not he refers it to the brethren to decide in lodge. Decisions are not made by the Lodge Committee by whatever name it has. I have made this point on previous occasions, but it is worth repeating. The future of the lodge, any lodge, is in the hands of its Master (for the year) and the brethren (for all time). Those lodges which understand and follow this process will flourish in the present environment with the world moving at an ever increasing pace. It is a matter of great regret that some lodges do not have the opportunity to follow the process. How can that be? The rules are very clear and they are based on all that freemasonry stands for: care, support and respect.
Regrettably, some lodges are ruled by a small clique of senior brethren who impose their will on the majority in a variety of ways. Unquestionably these brethren are passionate about their freemasonry and are highly respected by the brethren. They have worked steadfastly for the craft over the years and earned all that they have achieved, but are unable to move on and accept that the world is changing at an alarming rate and freemasonry must move with it. In consequence, often with the very best of intentions, they are stifling the development of their lodges. All brethren are entitled to their view, and to express their view, but none have the right to impose that view on a lodge.
I expect my VOs to identify and deal with these issues in a sensitive and diplomatic way. The key is to ensure that all the brethren within the lodge, and particularly the Master, understand and apply the process.
All of our lodges are being encouraged to prepare a 5 year rolling plan for the future of the lodge. I will happily debate the merits of this with anyone because it is such a basic concept. The only contrary argument is that lodges have never had plans in the past. Brethren, that is not a contrary argument but it is indicative of an attitude of mind which has no place in the modern world.
And over the past 20 years, during which lodges did not have plans, has our membership been increasing or decreasing? Lodge 5 year plans should focus on: succession, thus ensuring that brethren’s individual needs and aspirations are catered for; retention, which may involve direct enquiry of the brethren to ensure that the lodge adapts to the needs and requirements of its members; and recruitment, what action does the lodge propose to attract new members?
Continued on Page 4
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