After a year which seems to have flown past with incredible speed, Christmas is upon us again and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a happy and peaceful Christmas. May it be as joyous for you and your families as I trust it will be for the many sick and disadvantaged children who will receive Christmas presents as a result of your incredible response to our appeal on their behalf. Due to the overwhelming generosity of Berkshire Freemasons, you raised the staggering total of over £8,000 to provide the gifts for Reading Family Aid and the Lion, Dolphin and Kempton children’s wards of the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Mark Heppelthwaite and Roy Stone, who took on the challenge of procuring the hundreds of gifts involved, have been extraordinarily busy – collecting a parking ticket in the process for over-staying their time in the Toys R Us car park! Fortunately the ticket was cancelled when their mission was explained to the car park attendant.
Your generosity added to what had already been an exceptionally good year for Berkshire Freemasonry. I am pleased to say that the momentum of the progress our Province is making has continued since I reviewed our achievements at Provincial Grand Lodge in September when I reported that we had attracted the highest number of new members and had experienced the lowest number of resignations for at least 20 years in each case. This resulted in initiations exceeding resignation for the first time in decades. Such a result could not have been achieved without your commitment, enthusiasm and creativity. You have my heartfelt thanks for your magnificent contributions to grow our Province. I am sure you will be pleased to learn that the current year has started equally well, so another successful year lies in prospect.
The year ahead will also be a very special year for the Province of Berkshire in other ways, not least because we will be celebrating the 300th Anniversary of the founding of the first Grand Lodge in the world. In the course of the next year Freemasonry will be brought to the public’s attention in a way that has not happened for a very long time. There will be an extensive programme of events which will involve the public, as well as a five-part documentary on television entitled “Inside The Freemasons”. In addition we will be implementing our 300 Hours project which was launched at Provincial Grand Lodge to deliver at least 300 hours of community service from every lodge in Berkshire. Undoubtedly 2017 will be an opportunity for the Community we serve to understand better our organisation’s contribution to society. This should not only strengthen our belief in the role Freemasonry plays in the world today but should also result in a greater number of people being attracted to our organisation.
So a memorable year lies ahead for the Province of Berkshire and I would like to end by expressing my wish that it will be an even more memorable year for you and your families. Thank you again for your magnificent support.
Provincial Grand Master