Provincial Grand Masters 2021 Easter Message

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RW.Bro. Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire

I hope that this Easter Message finds you well and in good heart. I can’t believe that three months has already passed by since I last communicated with you all. Despite not being able to physically meet, Freemasonry has not been idle and much activity has been taking place at all levels. I was pleased to see the level of engagement with the Member Pathway webinars and I am reassured by the increased activity taking place in lodges with planning processes well underway to ensure that we hit the ground running as restrictions are lifted.

At the Provincial level, we have been working hard to ensure that we are able to effectively care & provide support for members and lodges as they re-engage. Strategic and operational developments have also been taking place within UGLE and I am looking forward to imminent announcements which will enable all the various strands to pull together with a renewed strength.

As Spring continues to take a firm hold, the days are getting noticeably longer and warmer. New shoots are emerging everywhere giving a clear signal that we are leaving behind the cold dark days of winter. Following the rhythm of nature, assisted by the miracles of medical science, we are now ready to start to leave behind the darkest days of the pandemic and, in line with the Government Roadmap, to begin carefully and steadily to turn on the taps and to start meeting together again in our Lodge rooms all around the Province and to renew our friendships in person. I for one cannot wait to be in your company once again; I have missed you all hugely.

Although of course, there is no pressure to return to meetings until one feels personally comfortable, with the full delivery of an adult vaccination programme, I am anticipating that we will be able to do more and more over the summer months and as far as possible be back to our normal routines by September. Indeed, plans are already well advanced for a full meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge during which we will take a moment to reflect upon on the ongoing challenges, losses and moments of thanksgiving that we have experienced to a major or lesser degree since the pandemic struck. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that there will still be some members struggling through the consequences of the pandemic who continue to need our help and support and we need to keep an eye out for them.

During the crisis, our ability to initiate new members and to pass and raise existing ones has proved pretty much impossible and I am conscious that we need to deliver all the ceremonies meaningfully and without delay. As a member organisation, it is vital that we re-establish the progression of our own masonic journeys and address the developmental needs of individual members. This consideration must take precedence over the convenience of the normal Lodge meeting cycle.

We should not keep people waiting longer than necessary and with this in mind, under the guidance of the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, we will keep an eye on how re-engagement unfolds and be ready to provide practical support and guidance to Lodges as they normalise their routines.

From a Provincial perspective, there is a backlog of consecrations, centenary meetings and banner events. I anticipate being busy and I do not think that there will be any shortage of special opportunities with which to engage during the next 18 months.

Experience has taught us that when properly focused, Freemasonry is attractive and that there is a real appetite to join and make a positive difference to society. Through the promotional and charitable works of UGLE, Provinces, Lodges and individual members, Freemasonry is being progressively seen in a positive light; especially by younger men who are attracted by the social nature of our events and the opportunity to meet people, especially as a consequence of the forced social isolation we have had to endure, albeit that this effect will be of limited duration. We intend to reach out and develop expressions of interest from those eager to enrich their lives with us.

With this in mind, the newly approved collared Membership Officers have a significant role to play. Whilst additional offices, I do not see them as optional but rather as necessary active contributors who will assist their Lodges to thrive. Worshipful Masters will need to consider carefully whom they appoint as the future viability of their lodges may well be determined by how these officers embrace and deliver their role in line with the Member Pathway. To this end, a discussion webinar, during which support and guidance will be offered by the Provincial Membership Team, will take place over the summer to those nominated to this key role.

There is no doubt that, despite embracing the opportunity to have remote gatherings using modern technology, we have all greatly missed the social interaction which goes to the heart of our organisation. The Provincial website is to be modernised and refreshed. Under its new look, will be listed a calendar of events both Masonic and social to which we can all look forward.

We propose to embrace every opportunity and encourage family social interaction whenever we can. With this in mind, I am very much looking forward to taking part in the social events planned to support our Berkshire 2023 Festival and to put it back on track. Indeed, my delayed reception, now planned for July, will in effect be a festival relaunch.

My regalia bag is packed, my gloves white and my shoes black. I am eager and ready to hit the road again! I look forward to seeing you in person very soon but in the meantime, I wish you a very Happy Easter.

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