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 indefatigableFred 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.