Provincial Grand Lodge of Hampshire and Isle of Wight
Annual General Meeting – July 2015
Provincial Grand Master’s Address
- Brethren, it is a delight to see this Guildhall filled to capacity and I thank you all for your support of the Province on this special day in our Provincial Calendar when we honour brethren from throughout the Province and welcome guests from our neighbouring Provinces across the south of England.
- I do hope that our guests will have enjoyed their visit to our Province and that their enjoyment will continue as we adjourn to the Novotel later for our Festive Board at which time my wife will be hosting a dinner for the partners of our Cabinet members and the partners of those of our guests who are staying overnight and risked bringing their ladies to Southampton – the shopping Metropolis of the South! I thank our Provincial Grand Stewards for looking after our guests and ensuring that their visit is pleasurable.
- It is a great privilege to be responsible for the appointment and promotion of so many brethren. In every case, the honour is recognition of the contribution which the brother has made for the benefit of the Province. It should be an encouragement to continue that contribution ongoing. In some cases, it is also an acknowledgement of what the brother is able to contribute in the coming years – such brethren will know what is expected of them, and I have no doubt will rise to the challenges which lie ahead.
- One brother who has been appointed to active rank was accompanied by his Guide Dog, interestingly called Dot, who was wearing a dog tag on her collar acknowledging her service to this brother, and therefore to the Craft, over the years. I was pleased to present this token to Dot on an unannounced visit to her Master’s Lodge earlier in the year such that the dog was honoured before her Master who received his honours this afternoon. These unannounced visits have proved very popular – albeit in retrospect. I have yet to meet a Master who relishes the thought of the PGM arriving unannounced and unexpected – but all seem to enjoy the experience after the initial shock.
- This Meeting marks the end of a Masonic Year and inevitably the start of a fresh one. The last Masonic Year commenced with the formation of the new Masonic Structure within the Province – divided into six Areas each with an Area APGM responsible for the Lodges, and the brethren, within his Area. This was driven by the size of the Province, and my desire to ensure that all brethren had an equal opportunity for recognition of what they had done, but more appropriately what they were capable of doing, in support of and for the benefit of the Province.
- Each Area has a full Masonic Structure which has created opportunities for brethren to contribute; the primary objective being to enhance the Masonic experience of brethren within their Area. This work is ongoing. We have Area Committees covering all aspects of our work – and each Lodge has a dedicated Visiting Officer to support and ensure that Lodges and brethren understand what is happening in their Area and are able to take advantage and benefit.
- Each Area is effectively working as a mini-Province and I thank my Area APGMs for their dedication and commitment to the task – they have been working tirelessly to ensure the success of their Area and our Cabinet now meets on a monthly basis to decide on Strategy and share experiences with a view to establishing best practice across the Province.
- As a direct result, our exposure in the Community has increased significantly – we have been welcomed warmly at many Community Events across the Province which range from our joining a parade through Bournemouth in full regalia, to our brethren from the Solent Area marshalling the “Walk the Wight” charitable Event. Our Winchester Cathedral Service has been mentioned by some Civic Leaders as the highlight of their Civic Year – and likewise our Area Charitable Presentations are well supported by the civic leaders. These Presentations, once the sole preserve of the Bournemouth Group (!) have now been replicated in all Areas throughout the Province, and give charities receiving donations the opportunity to attend and explain the nature of their work. Great occasions for all concerned and we have received very positive publicity as a result. I have given a number of Press interviews including one on Internet Radio which have received widespread exposure and been very successful.
- With a view to developing this still further, and building on the success of our Freemasonry in the Community initiative, I have appointed a new Provincial Grand Orator whose primary brief is to promote and manage our delivering Speeches or Addresses to non-Masonic organisations so that they have a better understanding of Freemasonry. Authorised Orations will still be available for delivery in Lodge in the usual way – but I want to reach out to non-Masonic organisations and arranging “after dinner style speeches” by authorised Orators will assist this. We have already addressed one branch of the University of the Third Age and I am keen that we should progress this with other branches of the U3A, service clubs, the Women’s Institute and similar. This is the next stage of our “Openness Agenda.” This will be supported by our Provincial and Area Communication Teams who have been working hard to promote public awareness of Freemasonry and which have been strengthened by the appointment of an experienced Press Office who takes up his duties today.
- All these external facing activities have built on the highly successful Freemasonry in the Community initiative which will continue as the driving force, and I thank all those brethren who have been involved in this activity over the years and who have encouraged the active support of their families to demonstrate the inclusivity of the Craft.
- Masonic Centres are central to our future and it seems to me a basic concept that those involved in managing our Centres should have a mechanism to establish and share best practice. I have therefore appointed a new Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works which is a five year appointment subject to annual review. The brother appointed will arrange a review of all our Masonic Centres and will chair a Committee comprising the Area Superintendents of Works. The objective is to ensure that all our Masonic Centres are well run and well managed for the benefit of the brethren and Lodges which they serve.
- We have established a Provincial Membership Committee in respect of which I made an Announcement just over a month ago. This Committee will be running a number of Workshops in the coming months with a view to ensuring that all our Lodges benefit from the Membership initiatives introduced into each Area. These encompass not only Recruitment but more particularly Retention, Re-engagement, and Retrieval. Key to these last 3 Rs is the Masonic experience created within our individual Lodges – Freemasonry is to be enjoyed and all brethren should work to ensure that those joining our organisation are welcomed, and valued, and enjoy the experience on a continuing basis. I hope that this is part of the 5 Year Plan which all our Lodges are encouraged to establish.
- Working closely with this Committee will be our newly appointed Provincial Grand Mentor who will himself ensure training of our Lodge Mentors by organising appropriate Workshops through his team in each Area. At the very heart of this are our Visiting Officers who have been appointed solely to support the Lodges which they serve. There is no room in the modern world, or in Freemasonry, for a “them and us approach.” All of us, each and every one of us, constitutes “the Province” – working together for the benefit of our organisation. Don’t allow any member of the organisation to gainsay what is an incontrovertible fact.
- Each Visiting Officer has been carefully selected and within the Lodge to which he is appointed he is my representative. Training Workshops are being held to ensure that all understand their primary responsibility of support; and how best to discharge this responsibility. Inevitably some will not rise to the challenge and will be replaced until we are satisfied that all of our Lodges have the necessary support to move forward in the present environment.
- I have mentioned three new Provincial appointments whose brief is relevant to all our Lodges embracing the 4Rs, working in an environment which fully satisfies their needs as consumers within Masonic Centres, and continuing to educate the public and dispel some of the myths which still surround us. Each of these appointments, Provincial Grand Mentor, Superintendent of Works, and Orator are key to continuing the progress which we have been making, and accordingly each was appointed to Grand Rank by our Grand Master at the Annual Investiture last April. Each brother is aware of the Province’s requirements and I have no doubt they will rise to the challenges which lie ahead and that the Province and our brethren will reap the benefits.
- You will all be aware of the Membership Focus Group and the various Committees under its auspices established by Grand Lodge. Many of you will be contributing to its success by taking part in the regular surveys. One of the Committees has drafted a Strategy for Freemasonry which will entail a number of changes to the Book of Constitutions – but which is intended to take the Craft forward positively in an ever changing world. Much of this Strategy has already been introduced in this Province – and I am delighted to say has been embraced by many of our Lodges who recognise the value of what we are doing. Changes to the Regulations will ensure that other Lodges fall into line and benefit. I do hope that those Lodges will follow the lead of the more successful Lodges and not wait for a change in the Regulations.
- Since our last Annual Meeting I have been pleased to Consecrate two new Lodges – Rugby Bastion which is taking us into the Rugby fraternity; and Lodge of Brevity which will demonstrate that our Lodges can adapt to the needs of the modern man without losing anything in the process. Later this year I will Consecrate a new Motorsports Lodge and early next year I will Consecrate a new Bikers Lodge and probably a Football Lodge – Association that is! Special interest Lodges provide an environment in which brethren with common interests can meet to share those interests whilst promoting Freemasonry to those outside the Craft with a similar special interest.
- Those who question the wisdom of creating new Lodges when some Lodges are in difficulty need to look at the reason for the difficulty – in the present environment and with the Area support available, no Lodge should be in difficulty unless for whatever reason it is failing to embrace the support which is available. No one can seriously suggest that this is a reason for not creating new Lodges.
- Social Media continues to play an important role in the progress which we are making and I thank all those involved in its development and management at Provincial, Area, and Lodge level. Very often, involvement in Social Media gives a new brother an early opportunity to shine and show his value and I am delighted that senior brethren on the whole are happy to allow this to happen. I am sure that the growth of our Light Blues Clubs across the Areas have encouraged this and I thank all those brethren some very junior, who are providing a lead in this important growth area.
- Over the next year you will hear much about the Grand Lodge Tercentenary in 2017. This anniversary which is remarkable in the life of any organisation is a great opportunity for us to reach out into the Community and the team which I have appointed will be working hard over the next year to ensure that we do so successfully and capitalise on our history whilst embracing the future. We also have our Provincial celebrations – 250th anniversary of the Province of Hampshire, and the 150th anniversary of the combined Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight. Great milestones which we will celebrate in appropriate fashion whilst registering our commitment to the future.
- In my Address I have mentioned several new key Provincial appointments and in each case a brother has stood down and I wish to thank those brethren for the contribution which they have made over the years; and for establishing the base on which the new appointees will build.
- The success of much of what we are doing depends upon the commitment of our leaders and those whom we have entrusted with responsibility for getting the job done. We have made substantial progress in the past year and this will now accelerate as brethren become accustomed to the changes and see the benefits. This could not have been achieved without the support of my Deputy who has done everything asked of him, and more, the APGMs who have driven the changes within their Areas, and the Chairmen, Vice Chairmen, and Committees – I thank them all for their dedication and their commitment.
- Finally I thank all those who have worked to make today a great success – the Provincial Grand Secretary and his team at the Provincial Office, the Provincial GDC and his team of Deputies, and the members of the Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge.
- It is a great privilege to lead this Province and a heavy responsibility. Over the past five years all our efforts have been directed to taking the Province forward for the benefit of all our brethren and the community which we serve and this will continue in the coming years. I wish you all every joy and happiness in your Freemasonry in the ensuing year; and all the years beyond.
R.W.Bro. Michael J. Wilks, Provincial Grand Master
1st July 2015