Provincial Grand Master’s address to Provincial Grand Lodge 10th September 2015

 

Brethren,

Firstly, I thank you all for attending today; it is very gratifying to see so many of you here.

Secondly, I have already introduced our guests to you individually and I now thank them once more for affording us the courtesy of attending today and allowing us to return, in some small measure, the hospitality that they show to us when visiting their Provincial meetings.

In my address this year I thought I would mainly confine myself to the main focuses during my tenure as PGM: the Mark Benevolent Fund Festival 2017, Recruitment and, I would like to add a third, Enjoyment.

The Festival:
As you know the 2017 Festival Dinner will be held at Trunkwell House, Beech Hill, Reading on Saturday 8th July 2017. It is now less than 2 years away and plans are being put together by the Festival Committee in organising the function itself and everything that surrounds it: the hotels, excursions, coaches, stewarding etc.
Donations, from individual members, and from Lodges continue at a steady rate and I am happy with where we are at this present time. However, as last year, I would urge you to support the functions that are being organised in aid of the Festival, they are all displayed on the website www.berksmark.org.uk and also circulated to you all. A lot of hard work goes into putting these functions together so it is only fair that we do our bit by supporting them.
During the year it has been my great pleasure to present to both Brethren and Lodges Mark Benevolent Fund collarettes and jewels, marking your individual and collective generosity in supporting this worthy cause. As you know, a large proportion of the money raised will be donated to the Hope for Tomorrow Charity, which donates mobile chemotherapy units to the NHS Trusts. Please continue to give generously - it is a most worthy cause as we all know.
The Lottery Bonus Ball Game continues to go from strength to strength. In three years we have launched 63 games, which have grossed in excess of £30,000 and generated over £15,000 to the funds - a magnificent achievement and I thank all who have taken part for their enthusiasm and generosity. Of course with the National Lottery increasing the numbers per game to 59, sometime in October, things will need to change, but don't worry, it will continue, with a larger payout of £30 per week. However we can't launch the next game until we know when it moves to 59 balls. However we will still be selling balls and will launch games as soon as the dates for the changes are known.
So in summary - a satisfactory position, but we mustn't lose focus when we only have just under two years to go.

Recruitment:
I'm pleased to report that our numbers, as at the end of August, are showing an increase year on year. I know a lot of hard work has gone into achieving this and I thank you all for your commitment in encouraging Masons to join the Mark degree.
As an executive we have presented to Craft Lodges "An Introduction to Mark Masonry" three times during the year; all have been very encouraging with over twenty potential future candidates.
On 29th June we trialled another initiative called "Dine a Master Mason" in which all Active Provincial and Grand Officers were asked to invite a Master Mason to an informal evening to listen to the presentation followed by Bangers & Mash. In excess of twenty-five Master Masons attended, four completed application forms on the night and a further ten have said they will join in the future. Because of this success, future "Dine a Master Mason Evenings" will be held and you will all be encouraged to bring somebody along.
We now ask for a feedback form to be completed and it is quite clear that many Craft Masons are relatively unaware of what the Mark Degree offers. We must all be vigilant in encouraging members of the Craft and Chapter to join - we must approach them.
Things have started well this year with 7 Advancements and 2 joining members taking place in the first five meetings in September alone.
But, as I've said before, I believe every Mason should be given the opportunity to join this wonderful degree, “The Degree with a Lightness of Touch”, “The Friendly Degree”. This degree contains many messages for the discerning man. It provides enrichment and clarity to the knowledge we have gained in the three degrees of Craft masonry. So please don’t keep our degree a secret, approach your Craft and Chapter members and see if they would like to join the Mark Degree because you know they will enjoy it. So I would ask you all actively to identify new members and bring them into our superb degree. I and my executive can only do so much, it is the responsibility of us all to encourage Craft and Chapter members to join.
Of course, Brethren, we must remember that the Craft is the source of our membership so please don’t take the focus off encouraging your friends and family to join our wonderful order.

Enjoyment:
It is my fervent belief that Masonry is to be enjoyed and in particular the Mark Degree. At festive boards the atmosphere has been one where everybody seems to be enjoying their Mark Masonry and long may this continue.
This year, an average of over 50% of the Active Officers have been present at the Installation meetings and Official Visits. It has been a truly brilliant year and I now publicly thank all my officers for their fantastic support; it truly means a lot and makes things very enjoyable and special for me and, I trust, for you also.
We have also been encouraging members to attend at Grand Lodge meetings: twenty attended in March, forty in June and, wherever possible, Active Provincial Officers have been attending other Provincial meetings.  My thanks here must go to W Bro's Mike Sanders and Alan Smee who co-ordinate these visits. Everybody who attends says how much they enjoy it and so there will be no change here either.

My congratulations also go to all those I have re-appointed, promoted or invested with first appointments today. These honours are awarded for your past services to your Lodges and the Province; they are not automatic and I expect you all to continue to support both your Lodges and the Province.
I am truly looking forward to working with you all and, as I said at the incoming dinner, please enjoy your year.
Many congratulations also go to those members of the Province who were honoured at Grand Lodge in June.
W Bro Steve Berkshire appointed to GStwd
W Bro John Nixon appointed to PAGDC.
W Bro Alan Spearman appointed to PAGSwdB
and of course my Deputy, Graham, promoted to PGJO which makes him a Very Worshipful Brother.

It has also been my pleasure to welcome to the Provincial meeting those Brethren who have been Advanced during the year. I have managed to be present at quite a lot of your Advancement Ceremonies and have been able to welcome you personally into the Province of Berkshire. The enamelled token I have given you today is something you can receive only if you attend the Provincial meeting following your Advancement so please look after it. It really is a pleasure to see you here and I trust this will not be your last visit to the Provincial meeting.

Brethren, these meetings don’t just happen; a lot of hard work goes into their organisation so I extend my personal thanks to the Provincial Secretary, Mike Sanders, for organising today, ably supported by his Deputy, Huw Hopkin. Also my thanks to our Director of Ceremonies, Steve Berkshire and his team and the two Lodges, Conrad Costin and Friendship & Care, under whose banners we have met today.

And finally, I thank you all for your enthusiastic support for both myself and VW Bro Graham; it has been a truly fantastic year. Let us all enjoy our Mark Masonry for, as we say, “Among Mark Master Masons you will ever find friends”.

Brethren, may the Great Overseer of the Universe bless and keep you well and I look forward to seeing you during the year.

 

 


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