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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:-
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.
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.
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 Lodge 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.