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The first annual Service of Thanksgiving took place in Winchester Cathedral and of the order of 600 masons, their families and friends came together with a large number of other guests and members of the public from Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and surrounding areas. Among the invited dignitaries was the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Dame Mary Fagan.
Shortly before the service, the Provincial Grand Master, Michael Wilks, accompanied by his wife Kay and senior members of the Province and their partners welcomed the Lord Lieutenant, the Dean of Winchester and other VIPs, including the Deputy Lord Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight; the Lord Mayor of Winchester; and the Mayors of Alton, Eastleigh, Gosport, Havant, Rushmoor and Southampton, amongst others.
Extract from the Provincial Grand Master’s (PGM) Address at the pre-service reception
“....Freemasonry in this country has been largely misunderstood since events leading up to and through the Second World War when freemasons across Europe were persecuted. It is estimated that 80,000 were put to death in concentration camps. It is a great credit to the organisation that its members did not leave in droves; but decided then to become secretive about their membership.
After the war, when the threat was
no more, members continued to be
secretive about their membership and
the organisation became regarded as
a secret society. Inevitably, the general
public became suspicious – if you are
secret, you must have something to
hide. Our Grand Master, HRH The Duke
of Kent decided that we should be open
about what we do and why and most
importantly, that we should be open
about our membership. Addressing the
misunderstandings and dispelling the
myths which have developed has been
a difficult and in some respects a long
road. In this Province, which comprises
10,000 freemasons and 250 masonic
lodges, we are taking freemasonry out
into the community so that there is a
clear understanding of our organisation.
Our members are encouraged to speak
openly about their membership; and
about the Craft. We have a presence
through our exhibition unit at a number
of county shows and in town centres. We
have had open days across the Province,
welcoming members of the public into
our buildings and linking with local
heritage days, and we are supporting and working with the Prince’s Trust, SkillForce, the Jubilee Sailing Trust and other organisations in their very worthwhile activities for the benefit of young members of the community. Also, we will be consecrating a new scouting lodge in the Province, another link in the community.”
The Service was led by the Dean of Winchester, The Very Reverend James Atwell who was assisted by the Precentor, The Reverend Canon Michael St John-Channell and the Provincial Chaplain, The Reverend William Whitfield. The organist was Jonathan Hope and the Provincial Choir made their first appearance in many years under the direction of the Provincial Orator, John Stringer.
The service commenced with the hymn “All people that on earth do dwell” and the Provincial Grand Master and Mrs Wilks led the Dean and Clergy in procession. During the Service, there were readings by the Deputy PGM, Graham Williams, Claire Wilks, daughter of the PGM, and John King. The Provincial Choir sang an anthem based upon Psalm 133, the music for which was
composed by centenarian Henry Gray, then the eldest active and one of the most distinguished freemasons in the Province. The address was given by the Provincial Chaplain, part of the text of which has been reproduced below:
Extract from the Provincial Chaplain’s Address
“.... So it is important that we cherish those institutions that remain faithful to the moral precepts taught in Holy Scripture. One such institution that both teaches and practices moral virtue is freemasonry, the world’s oldest fraternal organisation. Not all freemasons are Christians but all are spiritual men and believe in a divine creator. He takes his obligation upon the Bible or a volume which is held by his particular creed to impart sanctity to an oath or promise taken upon it. None of which are incompatible with his faith or to the law. I stress that freemasonry is not a religion; it has no doctrine and has no plan of salvation; the three great expressions of its precepts are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Hampshire became a province of English freemasonry in 1767. There have been many changes in our country since then, some for the better and some for the worse. During its 335 year history this province has raised considerable money for both masonic and non-masonic charities to help the poor and needy, the aged and infirmed. Yet none should be expected to give either in money or in time to the detriment of himself
or his family. So how can an organisation based upon kindness, caring and charity be other than a force for good? Freemasons can be rightly proud of what they have done, what they are doing and what they will do in the future.
It is less fashionable to belong to any voluntary organisation today. In this hectic world, with instant communication throughout the globe, the demand that it makes often seems to exceed its advantages. There is less time for friendship and little time for reflection. In a country where the commercial pressures for material acquisitions are remorseless, where morality and religion are denigrated, and the church is mocked and marginalised, there is a paradox in the heart of our society. People still crave hope and direction, wearied by the constant cycle of shopping and entertainment; where people feel betrayed by a relativistic world that often appears to be cynical and spiritually dead. We have a need for freedom and happiness; we need to be reconciled with one another, with God and to be at peace. We need a church that is counter cultural.
A Freemason’s lodge can be a haven of peace in this restless age, a place where there is time for quiet reflection on the important things in life; where the time old ritual is familiar and teaches in each degree a great moral truth. Freemasonry is not a literal celebration of a Bible story (the building of King Solomon’s Temple). It is more akin to a medieval mystery play, with symbolic reflection of meanings inherent within the story. It is a place where morality is extolled and honoured; a place where men of all faiths and every walk of life, from a pauper to a prince, may meet in comfort and enjoy each other’s company; a place where good men are made better. How can this be wrong? Indeed, if these moral precepts were followed more widely in our society, we would all live in a better country than we do today....”
The service concluded with an organ interlude, prayers and the final hymn “Guide us O thou great Redeemer” after which the Dean gave the Blessing and the National Anthem was sung.
Ken Day
Insight • Issue 5 4

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