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…