ADDRESS TO PROVINCIAL GRAND LODGE 2020
Brethren, under normal circumstances, I would be welcoming all of our guests, as well as Ruling Masters and Master Masons, attending for the first time. Unfortunately, this year, it cannot be the case, so my address must be delivered by video, but is no less sincere for that.
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. This is your day of recognition and celebration. I am sorry that I cannot invest you personally with your new ranks and share your company, but I will look for opportunities to celebrate your preferment at lodge level as soon as I can.
This last year will go down in the annals of Freemasonry as one of significant disruption, but there have been positive aspects, such as the huge up-take of remote gatherings throughout the Province, which have overcome the normal geographical restrictions.
Another year has flown by and I am grateful to you all for your individual and collective contributions, particularly for your support and commitment during our time of suspension. The unique spirit of this special Province has once again shone through.
The strength of our relationship with the Holy Royal Arch and the other Progressive Orders focused exclusively on Berkshire has been significantly enhanced by the use of video conferencing. We now meet together every couple of weeks and share experiences as well as future direction. I firmly believe that, by working together, in full partnership, we enhance the quality of the Masonic experience for all.
Last year, prior to lockdown, we continued to make good progress and even today, we have some 59 applicants awaiting initiation. Noteworthy was the meeting of the Kindred Lodges Association hosted by Be Prepared Lodge in October, the Festival 2023 Beatles night held in November, the annual pantomime for disadvantaged children held at The Theatre Royal Windsor and the very special joint memorial celebration held to mark the significant contribution that WBro. Roy Stone made to Freemasonry in Berkshire right across the Masonic spectrum.
Last year, we had intended to consecrate two new Craft Lodges and to support a new Royal Arch Chapter. Unfortunately, circumstances have required that these be postponed, but they are still events to which we can look forward.
Externally, we continue to raise our profile in the community through charitable giving. Whilst the last six months have seen additional funds being donated as a consequence of our Covid related funding arrangements, the normal work of the Berkshire Masonic Charity and contributions made by individual Lodges has continued unabated. I thank all those involved with our charitable work.
Because of your generosity and support, we remain on track for the Berkshire 2023 Festival and the cash donated so far is somewhere in the region of £850k. However, it would be wrong not to recognise that the meeting suspension has had an adverse effect and frustrated opportunity. I am disappointed that many of the planned activities have had to be postponed, but they are not abandoned, and so I am confident that, as we steadily resume our Masonic activity, we will recover the lost ground.
I remain grateful to VWBro. Peter Sands and his Festival Committee for the hard work and dedication that they are putting into making this Festival such a success and I welcome WBro. Gerry Preston in his new role as Provincial Grand Charity Steward and Festival Secretary, functions he has been performing outstandingly in an acting capacity since January.
Last year, we continued 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. This year, under the stewardship of the two Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, we will go even further in ensuring that Lodges recognise the importance and adoption of these guides. I remain grateful to the Provincial Membership Officer, WBro. Iain Marnock, the outgoing Provincial Grand Mentor, WBro. Ian Clark, the Provincial Grand Orator, WBro. Simon Oliver, the outgoing Provincial Communications Officer, WBro. Tim Sherwood and their teams, for all their hard work and outstanding performances during the year.
As I have said before, there is still much to be done to strengthen our Lodges and to ensure that they thrive by adopting these practices as ‘business as usual’. It is the duty of us all to play our part and this year, I have seen even stronger engagement across the Board. Success breeds success, and we all want to be Members of flourishing Lodges. It is evident that Brethren enjoy their Freemasonry and are energised when they play a full part in Lodge life. This aspect has been one of the unintended benefits brought about by our remote gatherings and I do hope that they will continue to play a part in the life of the Province which will continue to provide support, counsel and advice as appropriate.
The Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge marks the start of the new Masonic year and that inevitably brings change. In addition to welcoming my new Wardens, WBros. Paul Wilding and Les Matthews and 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. It is unfortunate that some of our planned joint activities had to be abandoned, but that should not be allowed to detract from the contributions that each of you has made. This year will be equally challenging and we will need to be flexible as we steadily re-engage and return to Masonic normality. I will be looking for all your support to help rebuild confidence and to seize opportunities where we can to ensure that the year is a positive one for Berkshire.
Today, marks the retirement of WBro. Julian Pacey, after four years as Assistant Provincial Grand Master, preceded by three years as Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and five years before then as Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies. The Province is indebted to him for his outstanding and continuous commitment over some twelve years in acting Provincial Office. I have enjoyed working with WBro. Julian during my time on the Executive and I have appreciated his openness, wisdom and positive approach throughout. I look forward to working with him in his new capacity as a Director of Sindlesham Court Ltd.
I welcome to the Executive team my new Assistant Provincial Grand Master WBro. Matthew Walker. To ensure a seamless transition, he has been shadowing the role for some six months and he has already brought to the table some new, innovative and thought-provoking ideas. I am confident that he will serve me and the Province well, and I very much look forward to working with him over the coming years.
I also need to mark the retirement of WBro. David Jarvis as Provincial Grand Almoner and WBro. Ian Clark as Provincial Grand Mentor. Once again, both of these Brethren have made a huge difference to the success of the Province and have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for the benefit of us all. You will be pleased to note that they are not disappearing off the scene and I congratulate WBro. David upon his appointment as Inspector General for the Ancient and Accepted Rite, Rose Croix. Equally, WBro. Ian has agreed to continue working with the Province, assisting us by taking the lead in our analysis and forecasting. In their stead, I welcome WBro. Sean Kulan as Provincial Grand Almoner and WBro. Clive Hitchen as Provincial Grand Mentor.
Of the non-collared officers, WBro. Tim Sherwood is retiring as Provincial Communications Officer after three years in office and I thank him for all the work he has done in setting up the new structures necessary to take us forward. In his footsteps, I welcome WBro. Pat Whelan and I thank him for taking on this important and ever evolving role. I also welcome WBro. Stephen Snaith to the newly created post of Provincial Marketing Officer. He brings extensive experience to the role and has already reshaped much of our thinking with a new Member proposition.
In closing, I do believe that we have a very strong and skilled Executive Team which is committed to ensuring that Berkshire continues to thrive. I thank them personally for their continued loyalty and support to me as Provincial Grand Master, and for the enthusiasm, commitment and contribution that they continue to make to this Province on your behalf. Also, I thank WBros. Laurence Fretwell, Jim Sampins and their teams, for ensuring the success of today’s Annual Meeting, which has had to be completely reconfigured to ensure Covid compliance.
Brethren, my crystal ball is no clearer than yours but, despite the challenges we will face, I know that I can rely on your total support and commitment to ensure that the Province of Berkshire emerges strongly. Every day reminds me what a privilege it is to be the Provincial Grand Master of such a very special Province.
May the Great Architect of the Universe be with you and your families now and always, and for our part, may brotherly love and affection ever distinguish us as men and as Masons.
Stay Safe Brethren!
RW. Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE
Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire