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PROVINCIAL OFFICERS’ MESS SEPTEMBER 2018

Address by Most Excellent Grand Superintendent

Brethren, my grateful thanks go to you for your attendance in such great numbers and, as always, for your support throughout the last Masonic season and in advance of the forthcoming season which promises to be even more exciting and rewarding than before.

I have long recognised that the Provincial Officers should be one of the key driving forces that supports our Provincial initiatives – you, its members, are my Trusted Advisors – and I look forward to sharing with you our activities and direction for the ensuing year.

I simply must express my gratitude to a number of our membership. Firstly, to Brian Saunders, our Deputy Grand Superintendent, for his kind words and, indeed, his wholehearted support. He has worked tirelessly with the rest of the RA Executive and it has been a privilege and a pleasure to have him by my side at so many of our meetings since we were appointed in October 2015. I wholeheartedly support his comments regarding the forthcoming PGC and it is essential that we have the Temple full to the 500 capacity, given this is our first open PGC meeting – please do ensure that people book in asap.

Firstly, I am delighted to welcome, for the very first time, two tables of members from our Light Blues Club – the talent pool which represents our future – being hosted by the President and Vice President of the Club, and I hope that they have enjoyed the proceedings. We have witnessed the inclusion of Master Masons at Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge, and this is the first step to ensuring that we modernise and evolve the POM in its current format and make it more effective, an issue I will be giving a great deal of time to over the coming weeks.

I’d also like to welcome W.Bro Alan Daly from Crayford Lodge – I had the great pleasure of appointing him to Provincial Grand Rank in the field some time ago, and at the tender age of 77, is attending his first POM and I hope Alan that you will join us for many meetings to come.

Brethren, September marks the beginning of a new Masonic season, where we come back fit and recuperated from our summer break, after the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in May. However, for some of us, there has been no break and our achievements during this fallow period have been noteworthy.

The implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, has affected us all, and we have responded to this regulatory change by completely revamping our Provincial Data storage system, with records now being maintained centrally on Basecamp, a secure electronic storage area which can be accessed seamlessly by those who have a right to access specific information – this has taken months of planning and huge amounts of work, but we have got there.

During the summer, our Deputy Provincial Grand Master has revolutionised our Lodge Reporting System and our assessment for Provincial Honours, of which more later, and we will now have a much clearer picture of the health and status of our Lodges and Chapters. We will also gain a much better understanding of our membership, which will enable us to be so much more effective when allocating Provincial Honours, a system which now rewards the individual as a whole, including his support for Provincial activities and his wider involvement in his Community, rather than the subset which is his activity in Lodge.

We also took the opportunity to review the membership lists of every Lodge in the Province and, in doing so, ensured that we reviewed the profile of every member who we believe may have been overlooked for Provincial preferment, in liaison with the Lodge Secretaries. This was a huge body of work by our Assistant Provincial Grand Masters but we now believe that we are much better connected with our membership and have a much better understanding of our members’ contribution to their Lodges, Province and their Community. As such, many more members who had previously been overlooked will receive preferment at the next, and subsequent, Provincial Grand Lodge meetings, which I trust will be well received by all concerned.

At our last meeting, I announced that, from 1 September 2018, we would be allocating Long Service Citations to those who had reached 30 and 40 year anniversaries – now it seemed to me a great idea to validate the service of those members who may have joined later in life and would be unlikely to achieve a 50 year Citation – however, this year alone, some 280 recipients were identified and I now realise the huge resource impact this has placed on the Provincial Office and its staff, yet they still managed to achieve our deadlines, for which I am truly most grateful.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mark Eyles-Thomas, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, our Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and, in particular, to Paul Christopher, Provincial Grand Secretary and his team for what has been achieved in such a short space of time, which is truly spectacular, and am delighted and humbled to be supported by such an outstanding Executive team.

2018 strategy

In 2015, we launched our Provincial Strategy, namely the development of our Membership, our Communications and our Masonic Premises. We have succeeded with the latter, and huge improvements have been seen at Welling, Wrotham, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells Centres, which we will all benefit from this season.

Our Centre Open days continue to be a resounding success and, at the recent event at Dartford Masonic Centre, a large number of guests were in attendance. Over 50 potential external applicants engaged in conversation, took away literature and our brochures and left their contact details, and we will be following up with each of them in due course.

Our Communications Team continues to do excellent work in raising our profile – internally and in the wider community – and, this year, the team will expand even further to increase its effectiveness. Our Social Media footprint continues to grow and we now have an active new external Facebook page, with a new closed Facebook page to be launched shortly.

I would however like to ensure that the number of members on both sites continues to grow so that the number of members on our External site matches that on our internal site, given that UGLE measures the membership figures of the external site in its assessment. Please – ensure your members subscribe to this very important communications tool.

At the last meeting, I spoke of my desire to communicate more directly with our communities and the public and a wish to establish a more structured approach that maximises the opportunities to speak “face-to-face” with those who have an interest, curiosity or wish to know more about Freemasonry. As I promised then, we undertook a feasibility study on the acquisition of a mobile display vehicle to promote Freemasonry across the Province to a wide variety of venues, but this proved too steep a financial investment for us at this stage.

However, we have set up an External Events team, and appointed W.Bro James McNulty to head this team – he has extensive experience in this area and our appeal for volunteers to join the team has been met with a sizeable enthusiastic response. The team will scour the Province for suitable events, either regular or ad-hoc, for us to be represented at, and our new Provincial Gazebo, exhibition stands, display materials and marketing collaterals will enable them to raise the profile of the Province to as wide an audience as possible – I wish them well in their endeavours.

As with every evolving organisation, our strategy for 2018 has evolved. Whilst the 5 R’s are still relevant and remain in force, the new strategic direction is:-
• More Members
• More Money
• More Community Profile
This year, our main focus will be on achieving results, and I know that we have the right team at Executive level in both Orders to achieve that aim – each of my Exec team are in no doubt that they are accountable for the performance of their respective functions and I am looking to have that same level of accountability and performance at every level of the Province, especially in our Lodges and Chapters.

Membership

Membership remains our principal and over-riding objective and put simply, we are still not doing nearly enough about membership. The rate of membership decline remains to me unacceptably high. In particular, those that I consider as “controllable losses” namely – resignations, exclusions and cessations. The position we currently face is that, nationally, we have more members over 80 than we do under 40 and 36% of our Provincial membership is over 70 years old.

UGLE is alive to this issue and, shortly, we will see the formal launch of the Members’ Pathway – setting out 11 simple steps – from “Lodge Planning” to “Retrieving Members” – and clearly defining the roles in this pathway which the Lodge Membership Officer, Lodge Mentor and Lodge Almoner will need to play. Each Lodge will receive all the necessary information to implement the Pathway and our new Membership team will provide any help and assistance you may require to succeed.

Brethren, I urge you to encourage every Lodge to appoint a “Lodge Membership Officer” to drive this forward – and ensure that “Membership” is added as a standing item at Lodge Committee Meetings. I would also like to see routine, well embedded, action in every Lodge regarding non-attendance. The Lodge Almoner might want to consider the use of a register, rather than a signing in book – with any emerging absences being viewed as the “resignation waiting room” and take action before it is too late.

I place such importance on Membership and the implementation of the Members Pathway that I take the view that it is a quite unreasonable burden on one single Provincial Appointment. I have therefore split the responsibility for Membership into three key areas, and three individuals: –
• Responsibility for the Recruitment will rest with our Provincial Membership Officer,
• Responsibility for Retention and stemming the decline in existing membership will fall to the Provincial Mentor, and
• Work on the retrieval of lapsed members will fall to our Provincial Almoner
Overall responsibility for Membership in all its forms will now lie with the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, who has keenly accepted this challenge. I trust that the Lodge Membership Officer, Mentor and Almoner from each of our Lodges will be present at the launch events at our Centres later on this year.

Our membership now stands at some 4,444 members and this is still way below the 5,000 objective I have set you all – all the events on earth we could host, all the marketing collateral we could ever produce, will never come close to replicating the success we could achieve by simply ensuring that existing members invite their contacts to become part of our very special organisation – remember, we must be proactive and ask, as there’s nothing to lose if they say no, but everything to gain by them accepting our invitation.

Whilst on membership, I cannot stress the importance I place on the development of our younger members and their forthcoming prosperity. I place great emphasis on the Light Blues Club and have already personally written to every Light Blue in the Province to encourage them to participate in this body, which will provide our newer and younger members with contacts at a peer group level.

It has been good to see them at some of our external events and a new brochure to raise the profile of the Light Blues Club has been produced. It will be attached in pdf form to regular emails I will send to each member in the future, and copies of the brochure will shortly be available at each of our Masonic Centres in display. I do not want Lodges to view the Light Blues Club as a competitor but rather as a wonderful retention tool to cementing one’s enthusiasm for the Craft through new friendships and social engagement. I am passionate about ensuring the success of our LBC, and they have been set an objective of achieving 500 members in the foreseeable future, and I wish them every success with their endeavours.

CALM Appeal

We have recently met the new intake of Mayors from each of the Boroughs with which we overlap and such was the success of the CALM appeal last year, that we were able to make a modest donation on your behalf to each of them, to launch their fundraising efforts. This has not gone unnoticed by the key stakeholders and the Press in our community.
It was always our intention to widen our engagement with local communities and also to help move our organisation back into the mainstream of civic life – just as it once was in the past, and we will continue to do so even more actively this year.

Charity

You have all heard that we will be launching the 2026 Festival on 1 January 2020. Despite the huge success of earlier festivals in 2003 and, particularly 2015, I do not want to us all to go through the same last minute push for funds to meet our objectives as we have had to do previously,

It is therefore essential to ensure that we use the remaining 15 months before the Festival formally launches as astutely and effectively as possible. To that end, I want to reinforce my earlier request that all Lodges and Chapters use this period to achieve two objectives:-
• Firstly, to replenish your Relief chests with the proceeds of your raffles, other events and donations so that each Lodge and Chapter has the resources to make a meaningful donation to the Festival at launch, which will set us on our way with a purpose.
• Secondly, it is essential that every member of the Province makes a regular modest contribution by gift aid to the 2026 Festival which is in accordance with their financial means – if each of us were to do so, we will achieve our aim with ease and without the need for more last minute pushes which we have had to face in the past.

Brethren, I am appealing to you all to ensure that we work smart rather than hard in this regard and am looking forward to amply rewarding the first Lodge or Chapter that can confirm that every subscribing member has taken out a Gift Aid contribution, as well as the member whose design is selected for the new Provincial Tie, submissions for which close at the end of September.

UGLE

You will of course be aware of the work being undertaken at UGLE on several initiatives arising from the Improvement Delivery Group. We have seen the successful Guide to the Development of Masonic Premises, which is being overseen by our Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works, the Members Pathway which I am passionate about, launch events for which will take place later this year.

I am pleased to announce a new initiative for Education and Learning, which was announced at Quarterly Communications last week and which will formally launch later this year. Through a portal called Solomon, to which every member will have access, a wealth of educational material will become available online to all of our members, whether new or seasoned, and I am greatly looking forward to roiling this initiative out in this Province, so that Education and Learning, together with Member Development and Training, are available to all members as required.

UGLE is also working on other initiatives such as Member Safeguarding, a critically important initiative, which I referred to at our last Provincial Officers Mess and of which I am also a passionate supporter, and each member will shortly be receiving further correspondence from me on the subject of Gender Reassignment, a topic which we must treat, as members whose hearts are expanded by benevolence, with the greatest sensitivity.

Change

Brethren, I find it’s one thing to talk about change – that’s easy – it is quite another to enact change – that’s more difficult. It is difficult because it will require, by definition, the services of people who will take the Province forward in the coming years, and these have been carefully identified as part of our succession planning strategy. The purpose of these changes is to put in place the building blocks from the new generation of talented members with the appropriate skills, to take forward our aims, ambitions and strategic objectives into the next decade.

Therefore, as my Trusted Advisors, and in advance of a Newsflash which will be issued to all tomorrow, I am sharing with you tonight the forthcoming changes to our Provincial Executive and the wider team, some of whom apply with immediate effect and others which will be appointed at our next PGL meeting in May:-

Membership

In order to move forward with this critical initiative at pace, I have appointed Martin White-Peart as Provincial Membership Officer – he takes over the baton from Jason Pearson and he and his team is tasked with delivering to our objectives for membership attraction.

Supporting this initiative, I have invite David Stock to become Provincial Mentor – he is a seasoned member of our mentoring team and will ensure that we continue to manage down controllable membership losses – I am most grateful to John Perkins for what he has done as Provincial Mentor and historically as part of the Mentoring team.

Education and Learning

This important new initiative will be key to ensure that our members’ Masonic education and development flourishes and encourages member retention. I have invited W.Bro Tony Harvey, a former Prestonian Lecturer and accomplished expert in this field, who has been part of the UGLE team developing this initiative, to take the helm in this important area. He is tasked with developing a team to ensure that each Lodge, Chapter and member has all the resources he requires at his disposal to maintain his enthusiasm and commitment.

Communications

Our Communications team, led by Jim O’Donnell, will be enhanced with new members and changes to roles and responsibilities for the existing team. Fred Halligan will become Head of News and focus on our relationships with the Press and Media. Bob Armitage-Walker will now head Social Media and administer each of our channels, and as a consequence, take the role of our Brand Guardian to ensure that anything that is published internally or externally is fit for purpose and meets our agreed standards. And, as I have already mentioned, James McNulty will head the new External Events team, to promote the Craft at shows, displays and public events in the wider community.

Charity

Given our 2018 strategy of increasing our community presence and external perception, I am keen to ensure that all that we do in the field of Benevolence and Charity is completely aligned to achieving this aim, rather than undertaken as piecemeal activity without purpose.

The greatest asset this Province has in this area is Philip Jeffrey May, who has a proven track record as a past Provincial Charity Steward, during our hugely successful 2015 Festival, and remains engaged with Charitable matters in the Lodge of Charity, Provincial Benevolent Fund, Special Events Team, Masonic Charitable Foundation affairs and the oversight of the highly successful PSA initiative, and others of a similar nature which are to follow.

Phil has been pleased to accept this challenge and, in May, I will be appointing him to the new role of Chairman of the Provincial Charity and Pastoral Care Committee. He will also provide a supporting role to Roland Stokes who, as our highly successful Provincial Grand Charity Steward and Fundraising Expert extraordinaire, will now focus all his and his team’s energy and enthusiasm to the delivery of a successful 2026 Festival.

Phil’s change in role in May 2018 will create a vacancy as Assistant Provincial Grand Master and I am pleased to confirm that W.Bro Colin Holland has accepted my invitation to assume that responsibility. Colin is 58, recently retired, and is well known to many of you as a Provincial Grand Steward, Past Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Craft and Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Royal Arch. Succeeding Phil May means that Colin will have big shoes to fill – pardon the pun – but I look forward to working with the new incumbents during the coming year – and indeed with you all – to achieve our aims and objectives – and achieve our ever growing ambitions for this wonderful Province.

Before I close, I have a number of important reminders and dates for your diary. We have received positive response for bookings for the Provincial Grand Chapter meeting in November, which this year will be open to our families and prospective members alike. However, I’m aware that a number of Chapters, and indeed recipients of appointments or promotions this year, have yet to submit their bookings.

A further date for your diary is the next PSA testing session to take place on 17 November at Wrotham Masonic Hall, and I look forward to another well supported session for members and friends alike.

Brethren, thank you for your quiet attention and may I take this opportunity to wish you and your Lodge members a happy healthy and successful Masonic season for 2018-19.

May God bless you all…

Address by Deputy Provincial Grand Superintendent

Companions and Brethren,
We have now held two very successful open Provincial Grand Lodger meetings and now our Provincial Grand Chapter convocation on November 9th will also be open to Master Masons, friends and family. Incidentally this is later than normal as we had feedback from our last Convocation that, because our meeting has been in half term week, this prevented some Companions from attending and I hope that the date change will help.

The profile of the Holy Royal Atch has been considerably increased in recent years with the Rulers now emphasising that, as it is the completion of the Masonic knowledge journey, it should be brought to the attention of new Initiates as early as possible and Master Masons should be encouraged to join as soon as they feel able. To ensure this higher profile of the Order is successful there has been a continuing review of the ritual, the ceremonies and the resources available to our Chapters both from SGC and within our Province. All these changes are intended to make the ritual more manageable, the ceremonies more informative and the experience more enjoyable and, from the feedback we are getting, we are making real progress. The HRA is a Degree which provides one of the most memorable experiences in Freemasonry and we want to make this year’s Convocation a real celebration of the Order.

I would like to ask you all, whether you are a Companion or not, to seriously consider coming along to witness the splendour that is the HRA in the magnificent setting of the Grand Temple. There will be a short business meeting in the morning, open to Companions only, which will be followed by lunch in the main banqueting hall at the Grand Connaught Rooms to which all are invited. This will be confined to the main banqueting hall with the adjoining Balmoral room being used for the pre-lunch reception. All will then transfer to the Grand Temple where the Honours Convocation will take place with processions in and out. All diners will have reserved seats in the Grand Temple balcony. If everyone who is attending Provincial Officers’ Mess attends the lunch with one guest the banqueting hall will be full so please send your booking as soon as possible.

I would particularly encourage Master Masons to book in and I am delighted to see Members of our Light Blues Club here this evening and would encourage them to spread the word among their members to attend the lunch and Honours meeting and have a taste of our splendid Order.

Companions, this is our chance to display a little of what makes Chapter so special, so please bring along your family and friends and support your fellow Companions receiving Honours. Encourage Master Masons in your Lodges to attend and to witness the colour and ceremony of Chapter in the magnificent setting of the Grand Temple. We are all proud to be West Kent Masons and in the HRA we are especially proud of the wonderful Order to which we belong, so let us all support our President and make the 9th of November, as I said earlier, a real celebration.

Brian Saunders

WEST KENT PROVINCIAL GRAND LODGE – 1 MAY 2018 – PGM’s ADDRESS – AM

Brethren, it is an incredible sight to see so many of you here today at our Annual Festival. I cannot begin to tell you how privileged I am to lead such an outstanding Province and I offer my gratitude to each and every one of you for joining us in such overwhelming numbers. I hope that it will prove a memorable experience, not only during our Business meeting this morning, but at the Luncheon and Investiture ceremony this afternoon, where we will be joined by our younger ranks, our families, friends, non-Masonic guests and Community leaders.

Today, a number of our Executive members have stood down. Chris Roberts as my Deputy, Keith Fairweather as my Assistant, and James Marsh as Provincial Grand Secretary – their service has been exemplar over many years, and I want to place on record my gratitude to each of them for all they have done for the Province. I congratulate their successors, Mark Eyles-Thomas, James Marsh, Andrew Waddington and Paul Christopher, each of whom will add great value to a highly effective Provincial Executive team, with an air of can-do and confidence, and a wish to lead rather than preside.

I’d like to make a particular mention of the work undertaken by James Marsh as Provincial Grand Secretary over the last year – since his appointment last May, we have worked very closely together and he has been very effective in that role. In Paul Christopher, we have a sound pair of hands at the Administrative helm, and I congratulate Martin Davies, who has assumed Paul’s responsibilities as Assistant Scribe E and Ian Fraser, for his work as Assistant Secretary.

Such a lot has happened over the past year. Looking back, the Tercentenary was truly a “once in a life-time” event and the series of celebrations that took place during the year will last long in our memories. However, the Province has also had some remarkable moments and has broken new ground in a wide variety of areas. The CALM Appeal has been an enormously successful and extremely popular initiative within the Province, and externally with our stakeholders and communities, and the number of individual lodges who have supported this appeal can feel justifiably proud of being associated with such a tremendous effort. I will be announcing the final figures raised this afternoon and sharing with you our forthcoming Charitable plans until 1 January 2020, and having learnt of the final figures only this morning, I should prepare you in advance to be astounded.

During our Tercentenary Year, it was our avowed intention to increase the profile of the Province of West Kent with a wide range of different communities and charities, and with the local media. We have developed and strengthened our links with our local Boroughs, and the Press, and we joined in a wide number of Civic Events during the year. Again I will be referring to this in more detail this afternoon.

In October 2015, we clearly set out our Provincial Strategy and specific objectives and, this year, we will be focussing on achieving results.

It would seem appropriate, as we celebrate with those who will be receiving Provincial First Appointments or Promotions this afternoon, that I use this afternoon to say a little more about the changes we are proposing to the Provincial Honours system – the recognition of the Freemason and his behaviours – qualitative information, rather than just his activity in Lodge, the quantitative facts – and how I see it developing in the future. We will be holding a “Demystifying the Honours System” seminar in the coming weeks, where I will be able to explain to you the fine detail of how the system will work in practice and I encourage each Lodge to be represented at that time.

By the same token, I would like to share some thoughts with you about the concept of member safeguarding, a topic being actively discussed at present. You are well aware that there is a high level of attrition within the first three years of membership. We also lose members for a wide variety of reasons, but sadly, in some cases, members have left, or have considered doing so, because of the overbearing attitude of another Lodge member or a display of what I would consider un-Masonic behaviour. Brethren, let me be clear here, I have zero tolerance for such behaviour. There are no exceptions to this rule – from the newest and most junior member, to the most senior and highly respected. Any such incidents which are brought to the Executive’s attention will be investigated, and we will act accordingly, without fear or favour

As many of you will know, membership continues to be our over-riding priority and focus. The new UGLE “Members’ Pathway” has been formally launched, with a leaflet listing the 11 Steps included on the cover of the Winter Edition of “Freemasonry Today”. Our Provincial Membership Officer, Mentor and Almoner attended the recent Pathway launch event in London – and you will have seen our own Provincial Pathway events launched this month.

Membership has historically been in decline, although our membership figures have shown a pleasing improvement. However – I tell you this – if we continue to do what we have always done in the way we have always done it, we will always end up with the same result.  Our number of initiates continues to increase and we are successfully reducing the number of resignations – what I refer to as “controllable losses” – and we should continue to focus on this as an absolute priority. Our focus this year is to increase attraction by 25%, whilst reducing the number of resignations by 25%, and to actively engage with those members who have left the Craft during the last five years.

We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the formation of our Province in 2023 – wouldn’t it be a wonderful aspiration, for our Province to aspire to 5,000 subscribing members by that key milestone?

The development of our newer and younger members continues to be a focus and Light Blues Club membership continues to rise. I have asked Mark Eyles-Thomas, our new DPGM, to become wholly responsible for membership matters and he will succeed me as President of the Club, with Paul Holmes as Vice President, who has a proven track record with our younger members in our Universities Scheme Lodge.

“Themed Freemasonry” has a major part to play in the future of West Kent as it combines classical masonry with other social pastimes. The Motorcycling Lodge is flourishing, as is our “Streamline” lodge, which has now achieved UGLE Universities Scheme status. 2017 also saw the formation of the Shooting Lodge, and we are shortly to have a Fishing Lodge, a Music Lodge and a Marine Lodge. The Ordnance Cycling Club is now fully established and registered with British Cycling, and sponsored by Ordnance Lodge.

Our active liaison with our Centre Chairmen continues, and Ian McNelly, our ProvGSuptWks, who is qualified in this regard, we ensure that each of the Centres continues to develop.

Our Provincial website will continue to carry my video messages to you all and, following the success with the video montage of last year’s PGL meeting, you will notice that we are filming PGL again this year in a much more comprehensive manner, and DVDs of today’s celebration will be available for you to purchase as a memento of the occasion.

One aspect of my role which gives me the greatest pleasure is the presentation of Long Service Citations and I have always marvelled at the reaction of a recipient, who has given loyal service to the Craft over 50 years and beyond. However, I am acutely aware that many of our members join the Craft later in life, so I am pleased to announce that, this year, we will be introducing LSCs after 30 and 40 years’ service.

Brethren, the iconic events of our Tercentenary year are testament to the way in which Freemasonry has embraced change, and a new direction. The next generation of our prospective members have their own aspirations and we must capture their imagination. They will not accept the “we have always done it this way” paradigm, and we should adapt and evolve so that we can continue to meet the expectations of the coming generations.

Before I close, I have a number of important reminders and dates for your diary.

  • Firstly, I am humbled at the huge support for the Masonic Charitable Foundation Ball on Saturday 23 June, at which Laura and I are presiding, and I am enormously grateful to Roland Stokes, for promoting the event and to you all, for your exceptional support.
  • The West Kent Provincial Grand Stewards’ Ball will be held on Saturday 30 June at Oakley House. I look forward to joining many of you for what I am sure will be another highly enjoyable event.
  • Our fifth PSA testing session will be held on Saturday 5 May at Dartford. Do please make the effort to attend – as many have found out to date, it could very well save your life.
  • The “SPRING FAIR” at PGDKC will be held on 12 May and I hope you will be able to go along and support them, and
  • The Provincial Church Service at Rochester Cathedral on Sunday 13 May which I wish to see as replete as last year, and perhaps I may enjoy your company at the Lunch beforehand.

Brethren, I remain enormously conscious of my responsibility to lead a Province in a modern and engaging way, which will make our cherished Order ever attractive in an ever-changing world, and provide our members with pride in their membership and a fulfilling experience for themselves and their families.

You can, as always, count on my support to help you to achieve, evolve, succeed and deliver to our strategy. May you have a happy and relaxing summer break, and I look forward to your ongoing support and commitment in the coming season. God Bless you all.

WEST KENT PROVINCIAL GRAND LODGE – 1 MAY 2018 – PGM’s ADDRESS – Lunch

Mark – many thanks you for your kind words. I can honestly say that – of all the introductions I’ve received over the past two and a half years – that was, by far, the most recent …

I am delighted to see so many of our family and friends with us this afternoon, along with key members of our community – our six Mayors, Matthew Rushton, Cannon Precentor of Rochester Cathedral, and the rest of our honoured guests. I very much hope you all enjoy your time with us today – at lunch – and at this afternoon’s investiture ceremony.

This is indeed another impressively attended luncheon in the Grand Connaught Rooms – and in no way do I underestimate the huge logistical task this was to organise. My heartfelt thanks go to James Marsh, Chris Clark and their teams for all their hard work and planning. It does, however, amaze me that so many people have been able to attend an event like this – and the Bookings team at the Provincial Office tells me you have all ordered the same meal – Remarkable!!

I would like to begin by saying a few words about the CALM Appeal – and how delighted I am to be presenting cheques to our six Mayors, and other worthy causes, this afternoon. I cannot stress enough that the CALM Appeal has been a landmark success in so very many ways. It has given us the opportunity to support a wide variety of good causes across the length and breadth of out Province and we can be assured that a diverse range of charities, throughout our local communities, will benefit from this Appeal. Equally, it has allowed us to forge much closer links with the local Boroughs and Councils in our Province – and subsequently given us a better understanding of some of the local issues on our doorstep – and where we might be able to assist. By the same token, it has given our local communities and stakeholders a much better understanding of our principles as Freemasons.

This is real progress – and I think that the Province of West Kent has followed the mantra of the great Walt Disney, who said:

“The way to get started is… to stop talking and start doing.”

The essence of all positive change in this world is an appreciation of each other – as human beings – and what we respectively stand for, and believe in.

All around the world, we continue to see seismic change, which we never thought possible in our lifetime. As a Province – and as Freemasons – we need not only to appreciate that change is happening – but also understand why it is so necessary, and so vital to our survival as an organisation.

There are some simple facts that stare us in the face. Our membership has sadly been in progressive decline – and in terms of demographics, the larger percentage of our membership is not in its twenties to forties. Balance and equilibrium is the key to the future.

There are many wise words that our older members can impart to our younger Brethren: for example

“I have been your age – but you have never been mine … the experience I possess may be valuable to you.”

Equally, to attract younger members, the next generation must be able to see and clearly understand the relevance of what we do and the principles we stand for. They will also, without doubt, want to do things their way – just as we all did – when we were their age. This is not ageism – it’s a fact of life. We need to work together – across generations – to achieve the best results for all.

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin that said:

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Our new Executive wants to empower – and derive the benefits from – voices from all quarters of the Province – from the Entered Apprentice to the Grand Officer – and ensure – robustly, if necessary – that no view is ever stifled… so, as Mark so very eloquently stated – “that we may all explore, dream and discover together”.

So…. in conclusion, who could possibly fail to see the “Relevance” of all that we have achieved this year?

We have brought Freemasonry back into the fabric of local civic life – and have reached out to new audiences and communities – with our message of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. To my mind, there can be no simpler – or indisputable sentiments than those.

My sincere thanks to you all for attending today – I hope you have enjoyed your lunch – and hope that you all have a truly memorable afternoon with us all.

WEST KENT PROVINCIAL GRAND LODGE – 1 MAY 2018 – PGM’s ADDRESS – PM

Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, it is, as last year, an incredible sight to see so many of you here today to support the Province at the Annual Investiture this afternoon – and it is a real joy to welcome you here in such numbers. To many of us present today, Freemasonry has proved to be one of our enduring passions – to those of you visiting this magnificent building for the first time, I extend you a hearty welcome and trust that you will have enjoyed the spectacle that is our Investiture ceremony.
I would now like to acknowledge our honoured guests – the Mayors of our Boroughs and Districts that fall within West Kent –
• Bexley: The Mayor, Councillor Peter Reader
• Bromley: The Mayor, Councillor Kathy Bance MBE
• Sevenoaks: The Mayor, Councillor Maxine Chakowa
• Dartford: The Mayor, Councillor Rosanna Currans
• Tonbridge & Malling: The Mayor, Councillor Roger Dalton
• Tunbridge Wells: The Mayor, Councillor Julie Soyke
I must state how indebted we all are to James Marsh, Provincial Grand Secretary and his administrative team, for all their hard work to enable us welcome our members, their relatives and friends today. Together with Chris Clark, our PGDC, and his ceremonial team, they have worked tirelessly to ensure today’s arrangements have progressed so smoothly.
The CALM Appeal or (Community Appeal for Local Mayors) has been an enormously successful and extremely popular initiative, internally within the Province, and externally with our stakeholders and communities. Its aim was to raise £60,000 to support the charitable activities of each of the six Mayors in the Province of West Kent with a £10,000 donation towards the local charities of their choice, during their year in office. The major attraction of this Appeal was that the money would reach a whole range of worthy causes, right across the entire geographical spread of our Province, and strengthen our links with local communities.

It has proved to be a landmark success, and all our Lodges who have supported this appeal over the past year can feel justifiably proud of being associated with such a tremendous effort. You can imagine my sense of pride at your wonderful efforts achieving the magnificent total of £143,506, but perhaps it was me that was wrong in underestimating your approach to beneficence and your charitable generosity.

I can now tell you that our Province will be in Festival again in 2026, and we will be launching our Festival appeal on 1 January 2020 – now that the CALM appeal is over, the singular focus for each Lodge will be to replenish their Relief Chests so that we can all make a meaningful and sizeable contribution to the Festival on day one, rather than wait till the Festival is in full swing. The most effective way to ensure our success is for each Lodge member to make full use of the Gift Aid scheme, and commit to regular modest giving. I fully understand the every member’s circumstances will vary, but can assure you that a modest donation of £2 per week via Gift Aid, will ensure that we achieve our 2026 target, once it is set, and I encourage EVERY Charity Steward to start planning straight away by ensuring that each of your members has completed a gift aid form.

During our Tercentenary Year, it was our intention to increase the profile of the Province with a range of different communities and charities and, importantly, with the local media. We have developed and strengthened our links with individual local authorities and we subsequently joined in an extensive number of Civic Events during the year. It has also provided us with some invaluable opportunities to work most closely with a range of charitable groups right across the Province – and raise public awareness, and our visibility, in a number of new areas. This has meant that the Province could move toward taking a more active role in the mainstream of civic life, as Freemasonry had done historically.

In June, as Provincial Grand Master, I was proud to participate – along with fellow West Kent members of all ranks – in the Mayor of Bexley’s Annual Civic Parade, marching in full regalia in public. This was something we had not done as local Freemasons for very many years and the kind of civic participation we will seek again – when suitable opportunities arise, and I look forward to more of our members joining me when we do. In November, the Province of West Kent was represented at Civic Remembrance Day Parades and Memorial Services in every one of the six local authorities in our area – once again increasing our visibility, and the public’s awareness – and gaining excellent front page press coverage.

Given last year’s success, and the centenary anniversary of the end of the Great War this year, we plan to do the same again, but in a much more engaged way. Mark Eyles-Thomas and his team will be coordinating our Provincial representation at each of the major Remembrance Sunday memorials, right across our Province. We will even have one of our Provincial Poppy Wreaths laid at the event being held in Ypres – a fitting tribute, on this very poignant occasion, to those worthy West Kent Freemasons who made the Supreme sacrifice, so that all of us may be able to live in peace a century later.

There have also been some truly remarkable and selfless endeavours which have taken place within West Kent over the past year and far too many to share with you in the time I have today.

Old favourites such as the “Teddies for Loving Care” appeal – which provides a Teddy bear for each child who is admitted to one of the hospitals throughout the Province, and established ventures like the “Masonic Trout & Salmon Fishing Charity”, which allows children with special needs to enjoy a day’s coarse and fly fishing with our specialists, continue to prosper, and many other of our initiatives perform their usual outstanding work for the community. The Widows’ Sons Christmas Toy Run for underprivileged children was once again a tremendous success, and there have been some humbling individual efforts by West Kent members that have made us all proud, and will hopefully inspire others to similar heights in the future.

In terms of West Kent’s welfare, the PSA testing programme in the Province has continued to support and promote the health of our members, their friends and family – with over 1,200 people tested – and which has proved to have been life-saving in a number of cases.

We have also done much in the field of internal and external communications and I am most grateful to the Communications team for the wonderful glossy brochure they have prepared, which highlights some of the key events we have enjoyed together during the last 12 months. They have launched our Twitter feed, are working on the next release of our Provincial website, and today, I am announcing the launch of our external facing Facebook page, to which the entire public will have access, and which will showcase our activities and events to the community and public at large. Please – do search for it and add yourselves when you get a moment. Shortly thereafter, we will also be launching the next version of our members’ Facebook page, so that they can continue to share their activities and events with each other.

Today, we have come together to celebrate and rejoice with those who have contributed so very much to the success of our Lodges in West Kent and the development of the Province and, as a result, are rewarded with an appointment to Provincial Grand Rank or a promotion – all of whom are worthy recipients and their preferment is as much for the services they have given to date, as that which will be anticipated from them in the coming years. I would also like to congratulate and publicly acknowledge those members who, in this very room during the last few weeks, were appointed to Grand Rank by the Most Worshipful the Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent. Perhaps they might stand as their names are read, so that, once all nine have stood, you can join me in congratulating them with applause:

  •  Eric Hampson, APGM, to the rank of Past Senior Grand Deacon
  •  Peter Sawyer, Provincial Grand Treasurer, to the rank of Past Junior Grand Deacon
  •  Christopher John Clark, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies
  •  Roland Trevor Stokes, Provincial Grand Charity Steward, to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies
  •  Paul Christopher, Provincial Grand Secretary, to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies
  •  John Perkins, our Provincial Grand Mentor, to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies
  •  Alan Cope, to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies
  •  Perri Ahmet, to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Standard Bearer and, finally,
  •  Daniel Spencer, to the rank of Past Assistant Grand Standard Bearer

It also gives me great pleasure to congratulate the recipients of the Invicta Award, but in particular, to the indefatigable Fred Halligan. He has been a loyal and dedicated servant to Freemasonry in West Kent over very many years and, due to all his efforts, most recently in his tireless work for the Communications Team, has received the highest recognition that I can bestow on him in my capacity as Provincial Grand Master. I would also like to congratulate the recipient of the Jonathan Stewart Winpenny Award – Stewart Markworth – who, in comparison to Fred, is a very new Freemason, but displays the same boundless enthusiasm and energy for all the technical and professional tasks he performs for the Province on multi-media delivery.

Today, I would also like to share with you details of the review and development of our Provincial Honours System. It has bothered me for some time that as a Province, we could benefit from further detailed information on our members to ensure a proper decision is made on their Provincial Appointment or Promotion. My concern is that we have, historically, only seen one aspect of our members – their Lodge activity – rather than the whole person. This has, to a large degree, been because we have been asking for Quantitative Information (i.e. attendance, offices held, ritual performed, etc.) without Qualitative Information – and, by that, I mean a member’s wider contribution to the Province’s stated aims and objectives, as well as his other activities that promote Freemasonry in our community. For future appointments and promotions, in addition to the established routine information we have sought, I will be asking for evidence of how the individual is contributing to the three Provincial Objectives of: Membership; Communication; and Masonic Premises – and the five Provincial Priorities: Recruitment; Retention; Relief; Reform; and Responsibility, as well as evidence of the member’s wider “Behaviours” and “Citizenship”. New recommendation forms are being prepared and the information which Secretaries will provide on a prospective recipient, will add to the bigger picture of the man – and how he seeks to bring Masonic ideals to life for the benefit of the Province and his Community.

I think we are all aware of the recent Press and Media comments about Freemasonry – and UGLE’s “Enough is Enough” statement. Whilst we appreciate that we will always have our detractors – and that we are morally and ethically obliged to respond to absolute untruths when they appear – we can all make our individual contribution by maintaining the highest personal standards, and doing what we can for our community and our fellow citizens.

If we are to generate interest in like-minded people about Freemasonry and, hopefully, applications for membership or, at the very least, promote a degree of reasoned understanding amongst the general public – the concept itself must be attractive. Together, we must focus on “developing a new relevance” – of what we do and what we stand for, at grassroots level, and how that relevance relates to everyday life, which will thereafter enable us to attract the next generation of potential members. Put simply – we need to get across where – in practical terms – Freemasonry positively contributes to the betterment of our Communities, and your support here is vital. The results will then speak for themselves.

In terms of practical actions, our Masonic Centres will be holding a further round of Open Days in 2018, which will include Q&A Sessions, where members of the public will be able to raise any matters they wish to about Freemasonry, and discuss them with our members. More specifically, to enhance our communication with the public, I have long wished to establish a more structured Stakeholder Engagement approach to maximise the opportunities to speak “face-to-face” with those who have an interest, curiosity or wish to know more about Freemasonry.

To that end, we have undertaken a feasibility study on the purchase of a display vehicle that will enable us to carry our message right across the Province at a wide variety of venues. I know this has worked successfully in other Provinces, and I will keep you up to date with developments.

Brethren, West Kent currently enjoys huge success. However, the world will keep changing – and present new challenges – and we need to be prepared to meet them. We must continue to be in step with modern society and what it expects from us. We must be relevant and be open to new ideas and to continue to listen and learn. Whilst, in a Heritage and Values Based organization, we will always expect the highest standards from our members, each new generation of membership will have different expectations of us, and we must not disappoint them. Our members have entrusted us with their commitment, and we must live up to that trust – we will only prosper if we evolve together.
Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, thank you for your attendance today. I trust that you have had an enjoyable afternoon, and may God bless you all.

 

WEST KENT PROVINCIAL GRAND LODGE – 2 MAY 2017 – PGM’s ADDRESS – AMPGM

Brethren, it is an incredible sight to see so many of you here today to support this very special Annual Festival.

I cannot begin to tell how privileged I continue to feel to lead such an outstanding Province and I offer my gratitude to each and every one of you for joining us in such overwhelming

numbers. I hope that it will prove to be a memorable experience, not only during our Business meeting this morning, but at the Luncheon and Investiture ceremony this afternoon, where we will be joined by our younger ranks, our families, friends, non-Masonic guests and Community leaders.

Today, a number of our Executive members have stood down – Paul Flowerday as APGM, Ted Smith as our Provincial Secretary, and Mark Eyles-Thomas as our Provincial Membership Officer – their service has been exemplary over many years, and I want to place on record my gratitude for all they have done. Of course, I congratulate their successors, Eric Hampson, James Marsh and Jason Pearson respectively.

I’d like to make a particular mention of our retiring Secretary, who has been enormously helpful in assisting me with a wide variety of issues – Ted, thank you so much for all that you have done for us as a Province and for me, as an individual.

So much has been achieved in the last 12 months and many of you are to be congratulated on the way you have embraced our Provincial Strategy. Now that you have become familiar with it over the past 12 months, our focus for the coming year will be on delivery to our strategic objectives and achievement of its goals – with reform and responsibility as a priority.

Our Membership initiative, under M E-T, and the series of training sessions for Lodge Membership Officers, have borne fruit and those Lodges that have appointed a Membership officer have seen the benefit in ample streams. We have witnessed a marked increase in new recruits and some Lodges have enjoyed a rich seam of new members and a healthy waiting list of recruits. In addition, the work being undertaken by John Perkins and his Mentoring team is assisting with the reduction of resignations, through enriching our members’ experience. Our medium term objective is to flat-line our membership attrition and then onward to membership growth, through the proactive measures you are all taking.

We usually receive some 150 new members per annum into the Province. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in this, our Tercentenary year, supported by the increased visibility through Press and Televisual exposure, we were to redouble our efforts to be open, engage more actively with like minded friends and acquaintances, and see that ingress reach 300 new members – I lay down that challenge to you, and hope that you will rise to it over the next 12 months.

Following the inauguration of our Light Blues Club last year, it has recently held its first AGM and elected its new committee – I wish Darren Enright, its Chairman, and his team every success in the future, and I have already arranged meetings with him to underscore our support to them and help develop their membership still further.

Our new Streamline Lodge has prospered enormously, with a surge in initiates and new membership applications. I am delighted to announce that, earlier this year, it received accreditation from the Universities Scheme, with links now established with the University of Greenwich, from which two of its new members have come – and we will be active during its Freshers’ Week, to showcase how membership of the Craft might add value to its current and prospective students. The Lodge is shortly to sponsor a new Chapter and I wish it well in its development.

Following the resounding success of our Motorcycling Lodge, it will be joined by other themed Lodges in 2017, in the field of Shooting, Cycling and also a Marine Lodge, and I am also pleased to have welcomed two new Lodges into our family – Tottenham Secundus and Desaguliers.

Since my appointment, I have been greatly assisted in formulating and articulating our Provincial Vision and Internal & External Communications Strategy by Jim O’Donnell, our Head of Communications. I must also record my thanks to Fred Halligan for his contribution to the Communications Team – within the Province and in the Community – and the tireless work he has undertaken to develop our communications channels. Our Press Coverage more than doubled in 2016 and we are on target to double that 2016 figure in the first six months of this year! Our Facebook membership now exceeds more than 1,000 members and that channel has provided me with the opportunity to share with you, in real time, my activities as PGM and the large number of community events which I have supported and attended, to help raise the profile of Freemasonry in West Kent.

Our Provincial Website now carries my video messages – which I intend to record regularly. You will also notice we are filming PGL today – and hope to be able to make DVD copies available to members. We also recognise that we need to be more proactive in engaging with our local Communities – and I will return to that theme this afternoon.

Our Centres continue to flourish and I want to place on record my appreciation for Chris Roberts, our DPGM, and his team, who have set the Welling Masonic Centre on its new path. The new dining facilities at Wrotham are delightful and I know that it has further development plans. Our active liaison with our Centre Chairmen continues and, at our recent Centre Chairman’s dinner, many topics of interest were discussed, and best practice shared to their mutual benefit.

Your support to my calls for action and your magnificent generosity during the last 12-18 months has known no bounds. Bob King and his Tercentenary team, supported by Roland Stokes, our tireless Charity Steward, have encouraged you to raise incredible sums – of which more this afternoon. Your support to the Canterbury Cathedral appeal, and your superb attendance at its Service of Thanksgiving, not least the Provincial Tercentenary Ball, at which over 320 of you supported Laura and I, were a testament to their efforts. Now that their team’s objectives have been achieved, I congratulate Bob King and his team for exceeding their fundraising objectives and thank them today – at the conclusion of their task – for a job well done. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Today, I am launching our new fundraising initiative to run for the next 12 months – the CALM appeal or Community Appeal for Local Mayors and my thanks go to Roland Stokes and Fred Halligan for the preparatory work they have undertaken to date. Through this initiative, we will seek to make a meaningful difference to our local Mayors’ fundraising efforts, which will hugely benefit the work of those local charities that are so reliant on local financial support – of which more this afternoon.

Brethren, the history books record a myriad of changes and evolution over the last 300 years, and we’ve certainly witnessed an acceleration of that change in recent times. All around the world things we took for granted are evolving and we must seek to capitalise on this zeitgeist for change.

The “Y” Generation, the next generation of our members, has its own aspirations, with views around loyalty, authority, intellect, speed and adaptability to change. And we must capture their imagination. They will not accept, nor understand, the “we have always done it this way” paradigm.

Of course we need to be efficient and provide VFM for our members. Naturally, we need to meet our Membership’s expectations and provide them with a fraternity, which does just that. To achieve this we need to constantly improve and refine our activities and our approach – and this is what next year will be all about. I will also be supported by a different kind of Provincial Office at Bromley, with a clearer structure, and focussed primarily on servicing the needs of the Executive and our membership, and immediacy of delivery in its outlook.

I am conscious of my responsibility to lead and develop our Province in a modern and engaging way, to make the Order attractive in a World that is entering uncharted waters. And that is where Freemasonry can offer most – to provide the principles, support, skills and reassurance that every man needs to be happy and fulfilled, irrespective of secular uncertainties, and prevailing circumstances.

We have been here, for our members and our communities, for 300 years and seen seismic change in that time. Evolution shouldn’t faze us – it will bring out the best in us – and I am proud to stand alongside you as we once again seek to evolve, succeed, and deliver.

You can, as always, continue to count on my commitment to achieve those aims. Above all, Brethren, continue to enjoy your Freemasonry and may God bless you all.

WEST KENT PROVINCIAL GRAND LODGE – 2 May 2017 – PGM’s ADDRESS – PM

Brethren, it is an incredible sight to see so many of you here today to support the Province in a new chapter in its history and am overwhelmed at your attendance today in such numbers.

To many of us present today, Freemasonry has proved to be one of our enduring passions which we are pleased to share with you today – to those of you visiting this magnificent building for the first time, I extend you hearty welcome and trust that you will enjoy the spectacle that is our Investiture ceremony.

I must start by stating how indebted we all are to Ted Smith, Provincial Grand Secretary and his administrative team, for implementing a complete change to our arrangements which have functioned for 44 years, and which have enabled us to open our doors to more of our members and so many of our loved ones. Together with Chris Clark and his ceremonial team, they have worked tirelessly and effectively to ensure today’s arrangements have progressed so smoothly.

Today, we celebrate and rejoice with those who have contributed so much to the success of our Lodges in West Kent and the development of the Province who, as a result, are rewarded with a first appointment to Provincial Grand Rank or a promotion thereafter.

I would like to congratulate Colin Wright and Ted Smith, the recipients of our Invicta Award today, who have been loyal and dedicated servants to Freemasonry in West Kent over very many years and, due to their efforts, have received the highest recognition that can be bestowed on them in my capacity as Provincial Grand Master.

I would also like to congratulate and publicly acknowledge those four members who, in this very room last week, were appointed to Grand Rank by the Most Worshipful the Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent. Perhaps, they would stand as their names are read, so that you can join me in congratulating them with applause once they have all stood – Ian Gallehawk, Hari Williams, Robert Order and Paul Holmes.

Brethren, West Kent currently enjoys huge success. However, the world will keep changing – and present new challenges – and we need to be prepared to meet them. Whilst we will always expect the highest standards from our members, each new generation of membership will have different expectations of us, and we must not disappoint them. We can only prosper if we evolve together.

Your fundraising efforts for those needy recipients over the last 12 months have been nothing short of sensational. During that time, our records show that our Lodges and Chapters have made donations of £141,954 to worthy causes and local charities, our Provincial Charity Committee has donated another £20,750, the Tercentenary Appeal raised £115,000, our three calls to action for TLC, MSTFC and Assoc of Friends at PGDKC raised a further £65,000, resulting in a magnificent total of £342,704 raised by the most wonderfully generous and supportive members I could have ever hoped to have been blessed by – when we add to that the additional £58k grant received from MCF, the total sum distributed to our local charities increases to over £400,000.

I would now like to welcome our Honoured guests – the Mayors of our Boroughs and Districts that fall within West Kent – in advance of the launch of our next fundraising initiative. From:-
• Bexley: The Mayor Cllr Eileen Pallen & Mr Mark Pallen
• Bromley: The Mayor Cllr Ian Payne & Deputy Mayor Cllr Hannah Grey (Mayor for 2017-18)
• Sevenoaks: The Mayor Elect Cllr Maxine Chakowa & Mr Bryan Chakowa
• Dartford: The Mayor Elect Cllr Rosanna Currans & Escort Corinna Bailey
• Tonbridge & Malling: The Mayor Elect Cllr Roger Dalton & Escort
• Tunbridge Wells: The Mayor Cllr David Neve & Cllr Julia Soyke (Mayor for 2017-18)

Our support for local charities in our Province will continue, and today, I am launching our initiative for the next 12 months, called the “West Kent CALM Appeal” – which stands for Community Appeal for Local Mayors. Each year, our Mayors undertake fundraising activities on behalf of local charities in each of their areas and the CALM Appeal will allow us to support their fundraising efforts. We plan to support each of the six Mayors across our Province with a donation of £10k, to be presented no later than our next Annual Festival in May 2018. A modest contribution of £15 per capita from each Lodge and Chapter will enable us to raise the required £60,000, with any surplus funds being ring-fenced to enable us to match-fund any donations, which Lodges or Chapters may wish to undertake. Further details will be circulated to you all tomorrow morning by Roland Stokes, our Provincial Charity Steward. Once this appeal is successfully concluded, it will be time to continue to replenish our Relief Chests to enable us to support our next Provincial Festival, which is to be launched in 2020 and is expected to be concluded in 2026.

I’m also delighted to welcome one of my personal guests, the Very Rev Dr Philip Hesketh, Dean of Rochester, who has once again generously agreed to allow us to hold our Annual Choral Evensong service this coming Sunday, which I am sure you will attend in good numbers, and who we in West Kent have been delighted to have supported today with a contribution to its Community Choir.

Whilst our membership does so much for others, it was heart-warming to see the support which you all gave to the PSA testing initiative which Colin Wright encouraged me to promote – over 800 members and their friends took part in the three testing sessions at Bromley, Tunbridge Wells and Dartford, which have proved life saving in some 80 cases where the tests have proved positive.

Going forward, it will be a pre-requisite to be more inclusive with our Membership:

• of those with differing talents,
• of those with time constraints – both business and family responsibilities
• of all ages… from our Under-Graduates in the Universities Scheme to the longest serving members in the Province, and
• at all levels of seniority – from the most junior to the most senior

And that means being inclusive with our Members’ families. We will do this by:

• an appreciation of the pressures of modern day life
• an understanding of the Communities we live in – and their needs
• our support for unforeseen circumstances and times of difficulty
• a desire to engage with you through appealing, modern, social events that cater for a new generation of members
• and finally, and most importantly – our open and public recognition that our work commitments and members’ families take precedence over everything – and always will have first call on our Members’ time and resources.

You are all part of the next chapter of history – and we are blessed with being able to craft it together – right now. The future success, impact, and popularity of Freemasonry are what we hope will be our legacy – and what future generations will be able to enjoy.

It is a big responsibility for everyone in the room – but a hugely exciting and challenging one that I am convinced is within our capacity and talents. This has been a very special day for West Kent – and I thank you all for coming along to Provincial Grand Lodge to celebrate with us.

God bless you all…

 

3 May 2016 – PGM’s ADDRESS TO THE BRETHREN

Brethren, it is an incredible sight to see so many of you here today. I cannot begin to tell you how privileged I feel to lead such an outstanding Province and I’m grateful to you all for joining us in such overwhelming numbers.

An important part of the day will be to honour and celebrate with a host of distinguished Brethren. Those that have given decades of unstinting service to the Province – and we recognise and respect their outstanding contribution. Others, we will be recognising in anticipation of the contribution made to the Province in coming years – and how they will shape and influence our success in the future.

All have a role to play in the Province, in differing capacities, and I congratulate each and every one of them.

It is also a day tinged with sadness, in that we acknowledge those who are standing down today after exemplary service – Ian Walker as APGM, Graham Higgs as Orator and Eric Hampson as GDC.

I would like to make a special mention of our departing GDC, who has been enormously helpful in assisting me with the number of official visits and events we have undertaken together and easing the “new boy” into the role in such an efficient and understanding manner. His coordination with Ted Smith, PGSec and their respective teams, has been exemplary and they should be congratulated for delivering this wonderful event.

Brethren, in October, we defined our three key Provincial initiatives: –
Membership, Communication and the development of our Masonic Premises
We also identified our five Provincial priorities – the “5Rs” that guide our future activities, namely:-
Retention, Recruitment, Relief, Reform, Responsibility

And we have made major progress in each of these areas in such a short time.

1) Membership

We have seen a marked improvement in the number of new recruits joining our Lodges, which bodes extremely well for the future.

Mark Eyles-Thomas, as Provincial Membership Officer, and his new team of keen, enthusiastic Membership coordinators are already doing great work with our Lodges, conveying the benefits of the UGLE sponsored “Membership pathway”, to aid recruitment and retention.

There has also been enormous interest in the new “Light Blues Club”, for those below Provincial Rank, and we look forward to the inaugural meeting this Saturday, which has attracted an attendance in triple figures.

2) Communications

Since last October, we have developed and strengthened our communications mechanisms and processes.

Over the past few months, we have: –

Appointed an experienced Provincial Head of Communications
Established an ever-evolving Communications Team
Actively sought your views at the POM and made greater use of the feedback
Created a Provincial Facebook page, which now has 829 members
Revisited our “E-Flash” system, which advises members of events in real time
Appointed Centre Information Officers and the Prov Twitter feed

3) Masonic premises

We have already held a Centre Chairman’s’ Dinner and, such was its success, that we are promoting it as a more frequent event in our calendar. We have also held meetings with several Masonic Centres to help develop their future.

Charity:

I turn now to the issue of Charity – in these austere times, the importance of our charitable giving is greater than ever. In October, I challenged you to support two short-term initiatives and a medium term one for 2017, namely: –

£2-50 per member for the TLC and MSTFC, to raise £10k for each, and during 2017, £15 per member to raise our £50k contribution for the Tercentenary appeal at Canterbury Cathedral, with any surplus funds supporting local charities.

Brethren, you went way beyond my expectations … I can now advise you that, so far, the astonishing sums you raised were: –

TLC – £21,255
MSTFC – £20,040 – which will allow an incredible 50% increase in the number of events it is now able to run, and
2017 – £52,365 in just 4 months

My grateful thanks go to Roland Stokes and his team for their wonderful achievement for the former two, and to Bob King and his team, for their work on the Tercentenary appeal – and look forward to the support from the remaining Lodges in due course.

But what of the future?

We want a strong organisation in order to achieve more than we have ever done before; and I would like to share with you today our objectives for the future, so we are all aligned with our chosen direction of travel.

Membership:

The close working relationship of the “Holy Trinity” – Secretary, Almoner and Mentor – is essential for the success of our Lodges and, now that it will be supplemented by the work of the Membership Team, will reap enormous benefits in maximising the retention of our members, and redress membership attrition.

I promised to “listen” to our membership and deliver to our members’ and prospects’ expectations – and the more engaged nature of our POM, together with an active Light Blues Club, will ensure that we exchange ideas to achieve that aim.

The luxury of time is a great one – and sadly, one not possessed by all. I am therefore keen that we do our utmost to offer a Masonic involvement to as many sectors of our society as possible. My greatest concern is for the working man – with a pressured day job – that struggles to make our meetings if they continue to start midway through the afternoon on a working day.

To that end, I am delighted to announce that one of our lodges, with a 138 year history – Hervey and Kentish Companions – is to continue its evolutionary nature, by becoming our first “Streamline Lodge” – with meeting times, agendas, practices, and festive boards designed to fit in with the needs of the busy man. I wish them well – and expect them to pioneer this new style with creativity and aplomb. It also wishes to become our Universities Scheme Receptor Lodge, and I see this a real lodge of innovation.

Equally, I believe that that “Themed Freemasonry” also has a major part to play in the future, which combines our classical masonry with other social pastimes. We already have “Motorcycling Lodge”, and am delighted that Danson Park Lodge is shortly to embrace the many who expressed an interest in developing the “Cycling” theme.

Our ambition is to be successful and diverse – and I would strongly encourage your expressions of interest for other “Themed” proposals – that will prove attractive to our current membership – and enticing to those who may wish to join the Craft as a consequence.

Communications:

Implementing a Provincial Skills Audit, to assist establishing our depth of expertise
Commissioning a new website
Producing new explanatory brochures and material to support the Craft and Royal Arch
Introducing “TeamApp” – a real time source of information for smartphone users, for prospective & existing memberUGLEs
Provided the membership a dedicated PGM e-mail address, to contact me directly
Re-worked a new e-Version of “West Kent News” – which is to be rolled out imminently.

Premises:

Masonic Centres will need to establish the challenges that face them and evolve creatively – if they are to compete in the years to come with the myriad of alternatives available, and engage with an ever-changing and diverse membership with eclectic tastes. Brethren this is not new – change has been with us throughout our history – after all, we no longer meet in Coffee Houses – and we must adapt accordingly.

Charity:

I would like today to announce another call to action – a £2.50 donation per member during 2017 – this time to support the incredible work of the Association of Friends at PGDKC. These volunteers work tirelessly at the Home to provide residents with recreational amenities and activities, those extra facilities that the residents would not otherwise receive and, most importantly, to bring the outside world in to those who are not able to leave the home. The launch announcement will be circulated tomorrow – and am sure that Roland Stokes, and his team, can count on your support for this important aim.

Behaviours:

Today, I am proud to be honouring Masons with profoundly more experience than I. Likewise, there are Brethren here today that are attending PGL for the first time. We should consider the journey between these two Masonic milestones. In my view, we need to “de-mystify” how an eager, keen young Mason, can develop his journey and have his expectations met and, in turn, inspire new candidates to join the Craft and embark on theirs.

I would contest that we have three essential key areas to address.

Faithfulness to your Lodge – its activities and offices
Faithfulness to your Province – its stated aims, objectives and ambitions, and
Faithfulness to your Brethren – by exhibiting collegiate “Behaviours” that are a credit to you, your Lodge and your organisation.

If you are faithful to these key areas – they will always remain faithful to you.

These are the three key qualities that we will be looking to identify and develop in our membership in the future – and recognise with preferment accordingly.

Brethren, I am blessed by an incredible group of members whose service I value, and my commitment to each and every one of them, for as long as I am in post – is assured.

I am enormously optimistic of our future – let’s continue to “make a difference” in everything we do, but above all, have fun and enjoy our Masonry.

May God bless you all

20 October 2015

Brethren, it is an incredible sight to see so many of you here today to support the Province in a new chapter in its history and I am overwhelmed at your attendance today in such numbers. Together with my wife, children and grandchildren, Freemasonry has proved to be one of my key passions and it is wonderful to see so many of you here to mark what can only be described as one of the most memorable moments of my Masonic journey to date.
Firstly, MWPGM, we are delighted to have you with us today, especially given your busy schedule here tomorrow, and we are all most grateful for presiding over our Investiture today and for the excellent work undertaken by you and the other installing officers this morning.
My gratitude is also extended to W.Bro Giles Shilson, GDC and his team of Deputies, for the ceremonial arrangements and the members of the Grand Secretariat, for all that they have done behind the scenes to ensure that this morning’s proceedings have run so smoothly.
West Kent is familiar with this magnificent building as it is the venue for our Craft and Royal Arch Annual Festivals, and we are again most grateful to have been granted permission to hold our Investiture here today.
I am also personally indebted to Ted Smith, Provincial Grand Secretary and his administrative team, W.Bro Eric Hampson and his entourage of DCs, Chris Roberts and Bob King, Deputies in Charge, who have all worked so tirelessly and effectively to ensure today’s arrangements have progressed without a hitch.
Brethren, it goes without saying that I am honoured to have been asked to become the next Provincial Grand Master for West Kent. It will be a privilege to lead such a strong, successful, and well managed Province and we have my predecessor, Jonathan Winpenny and his Provincial Executive, to thank for their exemplary stewardship. Theirs is a legacy I am keen to preserve and develop, and in no way do I underestimate the scale of that responsibility.
Today marks a new page in the history of the Province and we welcome W.Bro Philip May as an APGM to the Executive team – his efforts in ensuring such an outstanding success with our fundraising efforts towards the 2015 Festival was a model of effective management. Since his appointment was announced, he has already proved invaluable to me with assistance on other initiatives and I entertain no doubt that he will be an enormous asset to the Executive.
We must also acknowledge the untiring work of W.Bro Doug Hughes, who has overseen many of our initiatives in his time on the Executive, and with whom I have had such great pleasure working closely over many years. Doug, you have been a great personal friend and will be much missed on the Executive.
Brethren, West Kent currently enjoys huge success. However, the world will keep changing – and present new challenges – and we need to be prepared to meet them. Whilst we will always expect the highest standards from our members, each new generation of membership will have different expectations of us, and we must not disappoint them. We can only prosper if we evolve together. It’s not evolution for my sake or because it is fashionable, it is unavoidable as the world keeps changing and we must adapt. If we don’t evolve, we will wither and decay; therefore, the status quo is simply not an option.
Not one of our members should be in any doubt as to what we stand for and our purpose so that this can be accurately conveyed to those who are not members – in my humble opinion, non-members are missing out on something quite wonderful in their lives from Masonic fulfilment
Brethren, we will do much to share the Provincial Strategy which we have been working on for some time and there will shortly be opportunities to share this with you in much greater depth. The forthcoming Provincial Officer’s Mess and Scriveners’ Conference are two such opportunities and I would welcome your support at both.
In simple terms, our strategy will revolve around a trident of three key initiatives – Membership, Communication, and our Premises.
Many of you will be familiar with the concept of the three “Rs” – Reading Writing & Arithmetic. To ensure that we are all engaged with our strategy, I’d like you to consider the five Provincial “Rs”, namely:-
 Retention – every successful team builds from the back and retention of our existing membership must be paramount
 Recruitment – a essential initiative which nobody should be ambivalent to
 Relief – our place in assisting the dependents in our community must not be underestimated, especially in these austere and uncertain times
 Reform – we must adapt accordingly to the obvious changes in our society
 Responsibility – we must all take pride in our activities and perform our duties effectively and to the best of our ability.
President Bill Clinton once said – “Being President is like running a Cemetery, you’ve got lots of people under you and nobody is listening”. A new approach to our Communications activities is now underway, which will be headed by a member who is an accomplished specialist in this field, and which will ensure that the message is heard loud and clear, internally and externally, and our calls to action are understood.
I’ve been a member of the Craft for some 30 years and have witnessed enormous changes yet it would be trite to say that I, or our Executive, have all the answers. However, successful organisations listen to their stakeholders and I am keen to hear from you about the future and what “good” looks like to you. I encourage you to share with the Executive and I your thoughts and ideas, as “listening” will be a key component to our Communications strategy.
As a consequence, our APGMs will take a more involved approach with our Lodges and in a new development, our DPGM will also assume oversight for our G0 Lodges, including Past Masters and other specialist Lodges. The Lodges deemed most successful appear to have a successful “Holy Trinity” – a close and successful relationship between Secretary, Almoner and Mentor and with this in place, I am confident that each of our Lodges will be able to flourish
Over many years, I’ve never ceased to be amazed at the ability for West Kent members to rally to a charitable call, as evidenced by our success in 2015, but it is imperative that we maintain our momentum. It is time therefore to continue our work to replenish our Relief Chests to enable us to rally when called upon to support our charitable appeals. Today, we are launching a short term initiative for 2015 for you to support before the year end and a Call to Action for our 2017 Tercentenary initiative in conjunction with our fellow brethren in East Kent, Surrey and Sussex – but much more of that this afternoon at the Provincial Grand Chapter meeting.
Many years ago, when taking advice on possible career options from my father, his advice was that, irrespective of my choice of profession, I should always aspire to “make a difference” in everything I did. This advice has proved sage-like and I would enjoin you all that, in everything we do, from the quality of our ritual and ceremonial, to our duties in our Lodges and Centres, our interaction with each other as members and with the community at large – I enjoin you to “Make a difference”
Brethren, you can be assured of my total commitment to your happiness and welfare – let’s be proud of our membership, strive for excellence in all we do and, above all else, enjoy our Masonry – I certainly intend to – and may God bless you all.

 

 

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