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Extracts from the PGM’s address at the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in the Southampton Guildhall.
Opening Remarks
I start by thanking you all for attending our Provincial meeting in such numbers. It is very gratifying for those who have been appointed or promoted this afternoon to be so well supported by the brethren of the Province, and of course by so many of our friends from other Provinces.
It has always been said that honours are for what you are going to do rather than what you have done. This continues to apply at least in part. Some senior promotions at this meeting were undoubtedly for past service, in many cases to recognise a lifetime’s commitment to the Craft. These brethren are entitled to ease off and take it easy but I know they won’t because it is not in their nature to do so. They will continue to make their contribution and continue to inspire others. As for the rest of the brethren honoured, yes, the appointments are most definitely for what you are going to do and I congratulate you all in the knowledge that you will continue to support the Province, and provide leadership and inspiration for the more junior brethren.
I never fail to be impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of the active Provincial officers who accompany me on official visits, and I am keen that we should harness these qualities for the continued benefit of the Province. Accordingly, the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters will ensure that there are procedures in place to provide continuing opportunities for such brethren to contribute after their active year.
Masonic Duty of Care
It is important that we recognise and capitalise on commitment and enthusiasm, and this is so apparent in the vast majority of our Lodges which are now attracting quality candidates through various initiatives. In previous addresses I have commented on the need for brethren holding administrative offices to recognise that they are providing a service for the Lodge, and that moving on continues that service by making space for others to follow. I am pleased that many of our Lodges have accepted that this is important for the health of the Lodge in retaining the interest and involvement of brethren through the chair. When a brother assumes the chair he is the most senior member of the Lodge and is directly and personally responsible for the Lodge. He will hold that particular high office within the Lodge for just one year but he will have spent years preparing for it as he progresses through the different offices. Those years should be used wisely; brethren approaching the chair should consider the health of the Lodge and its needs, and choose their officers with care and with the best interests of the Lodge in mind.
Masonry is all about understanding and support. Brethren should not be excluded from taking office simply because their business professional or other demands prevent them from committing to attend every meeting of the Lodge. Such brethren should be supported on those occasions when they cannot attend. Likewise, brethren who have difficulty learning the ritual should be supported; ritual sharing is basic and straightforward.
Mentoring continues to be a primary duty and the appointment of mentors as a Lodge office re-enforces the importance of this responsibility. The Lodge Mentor should ensure that all needs for mentoring within a Lodge are adequately covered and understand that his task is to oversee mentoring – he will appoint personal mentors and I would ask all mentors to have regard for the age of the brother being mentored and his personal mentor. There is no reason why a young man, enthusiastic and committed to the Craft, should not be appointed a personal mentor to someone of a similar age, even though there may be brethren within the Lodge of greater experience. The relationship between the personal mentor and the brother being mentored is fundamental in this important area.
Freemasonry in the Community
Freemasonry in the Community continues to be a main area of our masonic work. Many Groups, Lodges and Centres have embraced the facilities made available through the FMITC initiative; not only the involvement of the exhibition trailer and light unit, but also open days and social activities outside the masonic environment. Our FMITC team works tirelessly on our behalf and I thank them all for their commitment. The training of their volunteers led us to the Ambassador Scheme which has been rolled out across the Province and the vast majority of our Lodges have now received a presentation. I am very grateful to our orators and mentors for their contribution. The objective is to equip our brethren to speak openly and freely, and indeed authoritatively about their membership of the organisation, and about the organisation itself, something which does not come easily to some of our members whose approach to this subject will have been influenced by the public perception of the Craft. We are trying to change that view which was largely of our own making.
Why Freemasonry has been seen as a Secret Society?
Let us start with the myth that we are a secret society. Many members of the public still believe that such is the case; and some of our members prefer it that way, resisting change as contrary to our traditionalist view. Let me make it abundantly clear to our members and to the outside world. The Craft has never been a secret society. In the early days of the organisation, and for over 200 years, men were proud to join an organisation which was private and which stood for all that is good in the world. In the 1930s, freemasons (and others) were being persecuted across Europe and the prospects of a successful invasion of the UK was an ever present possibility, in which event our brethren would have been subject to the same persecution as those across Europe. It is a great credit to the organisation that men did not leave it in their droves but instead became secretive about their membership. They changed radically from brethren who were proud and open about their membership to brethren who feared the consequences of being open about their membership. The ideology did not change. The organisation did not change. But for very good reason, men were secretive about their membership. When the threat of persecution was lifted, our brethren carried on as before. Indeed, many will have been initiated into an environment where one talked of membership at one’s peril. Understandably, the public became concerned about what they regarded as a secret society in their midst. If men are secretive about their membership, they must have something to hide. It must be sinister. This bizarre situation was recognised by our Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent and under his guidance we have been endeavouring to restore the status quo, to re-educate the public.
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Insight • Issue 6
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