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I hope that this Christmas Festival message finds you and your loved ones safe and well. What a difference a year makes! Whilst 2020 has defied many of our plans to continue to move the Province forward, nevertheless you have all responded magnificently to the circumstances in which we have found ourselves.
As we shift into Tier 3 across the Province for the foreseeable future, I do not think that any of us truly anticipated how disrupted our personal lives would be this year as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Certainly, from a Masonic perspective, our activities have been significantly interrupted with two meeting suspensions and severe restrictions interspersed. Nevertheless, we have done the right thing and the consequences have been less severe than I had anticipated at the outset. The health and well-being of all Berkshire Freemasons and their families must always be the most important consideration and this has been uppermost in our minds.
The vaccine is now starting to be rolled out and there is a strong light at the end of the tunnel. However, that is not to say that we should not still be cautious as we make our plans in the coming months to return in 2021 to something that we recognise as masonic normality. We will not be opening the floodgates, but rather turning on the tap and steadily increasing the flow as the year progresses.
Between now and April, the Province will be working hard to prepare for the resumption of masonic activity and taking every appropriate opportunity which may present itself to re-engage. I do hope that both as individuals and lodges you will work with me to ensure that we relaunch with a flourish.
The activities that we had planned for 2020 have not been cancelled but simply put in abeyance. So, I have an eager anticipation for 2021. There will be no shortage of masonic and charitable events or occasions to meet with each other once again and to take pleasure in the opportunity of being together in person. I anticipate that lodges will wish to take advantage of holding emergency meetings in the coming months to celebrate and to ensure that the wheels of Freemasonry start to turn again as part of the well-oiled machine which we love and recognise.
I am conscious that there is a significant amount of ceremonial work which has stacked up over the last year particularly in respect of Initiations, Passings and Raisings. We will need to be creative in how these needs are accommodated. My Executive and I strongly encourage the use of emergency meetings and the delivery of multiple candidate ceremonies to help reduce this backlog as quickly as possible. Guidance is available on the Provincial website or via the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies or the Provincial Office if help in needed.
During the spring and early summer, we will be reaching out to the non-masonic community to attract new members. As we all know, when embraced, Freemasonry is a relevant and a positive influence on individuals, their families and society.
Whilst the 2023 Festival got off to a flying start, we have effectively lost a year of our programme. Despite the regular contributions for which I am most grateful, I am mindful that we will need to make up some lost ground. I am sure that you will take every opportunity to support the Festival Committee as it develops its plans to help us refocus.
I wish you all a very Joyful & Peaceful Christmas. Please do your utmost to keep yourselves and your families safe. With the winning post in sight, this is not the time to stumble. Whilst I have missed being with you in person during the year, I am very much looking forward to reversing that position in 2021.