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.