Provincial Grand Master’s Address 2019

by Neill Rhodes


Brethen, I welcome all of our guests here today and thank them for taking time out to be with us and to give us an opportunity to repay the hospitality which has been extended to us over the last twelve months. Your friendship and support are very much appreciated. I would also particularly like to welcome Ruling Masters and Master Masons who may be attending for the first time.

To those receiving Honours, whether it be a first appointment or promotion, the Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge is the main occasion when I can recognise your contribution to the Province over so many years. This is your day of recognition and celebration. You should enjoy it wholeheartedly. It is a privilege to be able to invest you with your new ranks and to share your company.

I cannot believe that another year has flown by and I am grateful to you all for your individual and collective contributions to ensuring the success of the Province. We have had another positive year of which we can be justifiably proud.

During my programme of visits, I have been greatly impressed with the enthusiasm and dedication that I have witnessed. It is clear that the Province is in good heart, both in terms of its spirit and the standard of its ritual. I am also very pleased at the strength of our relationships with the Holy Royal Arch and the other Progressive Orders. We now meet together regularly and share experiences, hopes and aspirations. I firmly believe that by working together, in full partnership, we will enhance the quality of the masonic experience of all our brethren. As a Province, we continue to play our part and to contribute both regionally and nationally to strengthening Freemasonry as a whole.

Last year, we continued to make progress. Noteworthy in February was the consecration of the new Swallowfield Pitt Bridge Lodge and in May, the relaunch of our Library and Museum by Sir David Wootton, the Assistant Grand Master. I am particularly pleased that this project has enabled the provision of full disabled access at Sindlesham Court; something that was long overdue.

Under the chairmanship of W Bro Tim Lee, we have seen the positive development of the Berkshire Visiting Encouragement Team which has been set up to encourage and to maximise the enjoyment that inter-lodge visiting can bring. To assist with this programme, I am today launching the Berkshire Explorer as an accompaniment to record visits to both Craft Lodges and to Royal Arch Chapters. Copies will be available in the foyer after the meeting.

Externally, we continue to raise our profile in the community through charitable giving by the Berkshire Masonic Charity and by individual lodges as well as by supporting major events such as the annual pantomime and the Windsor and Reading half marathons. I thank all those involved with these endeavours.

As a new venture, this year also saw us joining in partnership with Buckinghamshire and the Masonic Charitable Foundation to make a substantial donation to the new Thames Hospice which so admirably services the needs of both provinces. With this in mind we are continually reviewing how our charitable giving can be used to maximum effect.

It would be remiss of me not to make particular comment about the generosity of our Berkshire brethren who have swung so firmly behind the Berkshire 2023 Festival. At the time of writing, we have received cash donations of over half a million pounds. I am grateful to every member, every lodge and to the other Orders within the Province for their wholehearted support. I am particularly grateful to VW Bro Peter Sands and his Festival Committee for the hard work and dedication that they are putting into making this Festival such a success. From what I hear, we have another exciting year of events ahead of us. Details can be found on the Provincial and Festival websites.

We continue to work hard to take full advantage of the guidance offered by the Members Pathway, the Care Team Manual, the Mentoring Programme and the Learning & Development resource Solomon. I am grateful to the Provincial Membership Officer W Bro Iain Marnock, the Provincial Mentor W Bro Ian Clark, the Provincial Orator W Bro Simon Oliver, the Provincial Communications Officer W Bro Tim Sherwood and their teams for all their hard work and outstanding performances during the year.

However, there is still much to be done to strengthen our lodges and to ensure that they thrive by making these golden threads ‘business as usual’. It is the duty of us all to play our part, but equally we need to know what is expected of us when we take on additional duties. For this reason, during the year, we have documented simple generic role description guides for Provincial and Lodge officers. I am grateful to VW Bro Robert Faulkner and his team for pulling this work together.

Success breeds success and we all want to be members of flourishing lodges. I remain convinced that brethren will enjoy their Freemasonry if they engage, play a full part in their lodges and are energised by what Freemasonry has to offer.

It remains vitally important that we continue to modernise Freemasonry and to make it more accessible to modern man without trivialising its true values. By which I mean Respect, Integrity, Friendship and Charity.

This Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge marks the start of the new masonic year and that inevitably brings change. In addition to welcoming all the incoming Acting Provincial Officers, I would like to thank all those who are standing down for the support and commitment that they have given during their term of office.

This year marks the retirement of W Bro Terry Speight after four years as Provincial Grand Orator and I congratulate him on his preferment to Grand Rank in recognition of the esteem in which he is held. The role of Provincial Grand Orator has now changed and I have taken the opportunity of reconfiguring the appointment to incorporate that of the former non-collared Provincial Preceptor. I welcome W Bro Simon Oliver to this appointment.

Perhaps most importantly, is the need to mark the retirement of W Bro David Keys as Provincial Grand Secretary after nine years of exemplary and unstinting service to the Province preceded by three years as Assistant Secretary. His dedication and service has been quite exceptional. His support and loyalty to me, to my predecessor, the Executive and to the Province has been something to behold. It was most befitting that his contribution was recognised last year by his promotion to Past Junior Grand Deacon. We wish him well in his retirement, but I am pleased to advise that he has agreed to remain in the Provincial Office to support our new Provincial Grand Secretary W Bro Laurence Fretwell whom I know will apply himself unstintingly to his new task.

In closing, I thank my Executive for their loyalty to me personally and for the enthusiasm, commitment and contribution that they continue to make to this Province on your behalf. Also, I thank W Bros David Keys, and Jim Sampins and their teams for ensuring the success of today’s Annual Meeting.

Brethren, I wish you all a most happy and successful year ahead and thank you for your unstinting support and for your attendance here today. Berkshire is a very special province with very special relationships. It is a privilege to be your Provincial Grand Master and to be able to continue to serve the Province.

You may also like

Leave a Comment