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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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