Just click play to listen to an audio version.
Brethren, the clocks have moved forward, the Spring garden is in full flower and Freemasonry is meeting once again with renewed confidence. In the coming months, we are facing exciting times and new challenges and I will be looking to you to assist me in addressing them.
Over the next few months, we will be actively preparing ourselves for the June implementation of the new Hermes administrative system. This software is designed to assist in making the lives of Lodge Secretaries much easier but it will throw up several challenges in the short-term. I am conscious that this is the first time that a UGLE project will impact significantly at Lodge level and I am using the opportunity to map out and to rationalise all of our processes, to cut out unnecessary duplication and to bring our provincial administration into the 21st Century. I ask for your support to manage these changes positively within your Lodges.
Some of you may have been at the last Quarterly Communication and others may well have read the address delivered by the Pro Grand Master. I have asked for it to be read out in the First Rising of every Lodge because he covers succinctly two key issues which continue to exercise the minds of the Executive. Neither will be a surprise to you as they are issues on which we have focused within the Province for several years.
He makes mention of how important it is to look after and engage with our newest Members. With the recent post-pandemic influx of Initiates, it is even more important than ever that we have these in the forefront of our minds. I do accept that this is a two-way street and that we also look for active engagement from them. There is no doubt that the more one puts into Freemasonry, the more one gets out of it. It is an ongoing journey of personal development for us all. The end of the journey is as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
Our priority must be to satisfy the needs of our Members and so the structure of Lodges and the Province must be based on a bottom-up Member-centric approach. This requires visible and consistent leadership at Lodge level. Fundamental work still needs to be done to reinforce, internalise and put into effect The Members’ Pathway. We need to adapt to thrive. Simply doing more of the same, but working harder, will not get us to where we need to be. It is vital that we work smartly, putting maximum effort into where we believe that we will get the best return from our efforts.
I cannot stress enough the importance of the delivery of Masonic Ritual. It is at the very heart of what we do as Freemasons. It contains all the messages, guidance and explanations for those who take the time and trouble to read and digest it. For the enjoyment and understanding of our Candidates, every Ceremony should be delivered to the highest standard that each of us can achieve. It must always be delivered as meaningfully as possible. As all of us know that for some it is easier than for others, but everybody will know that it requires effort and commitment to achieve reliable results.
Simply to read the ritual misses the point for both the Candidate and the deliverer. Frankly, it is a poor experience for everybody within a Lodge. With learning the ritual comes understanding and personal growth. To quote the Pro Grand Master “looking the Candidate in the eye when delivering the ritual has a so much greater effect on him than never looking at him at all while reading from the book or stumbling around looking for your place in some hastily written notes.” I look for your assistance in helping those within your Lodges who are having difficulty and by setting a good example to ensure that such unfortunate practices do not and never become commonplace within this Province.
Berkshire is a special Province. Freemasonry is one organisation but one that embraces local traditions and variations. We seek to make room for everyone and to ensure that they feel comfortable as they migrate along their own Masonic journeys.
Without fraternity, we are nothing and it is that common understanding of integrity, respect, friendship and belonging that binds us together. This cannot be imposed, but should be nurtured and developed by our behaviour, tolerance and understanding. As the Address to the Wardens reminds us: ‘It is only by paying due obedience to the laws in our own conduct that we can reasonably expect compliance with them from others.’
Finally, I would like to make mention of The Festival 2023 for the Masonic Charitable Foundation. We have just over 12 months to go to reach our target and, owing to our inability to meet during the pandemic, we still have a hill to climb to reach our target; but it is still achievable. The MCF is ‘The Freemasons Charity’ and supports Masonic and non-Masonic needs within the Province. Over the 11 year Festival cycle, the Province will receive £2.5m. Over the last 5 years, we have received £1.5m.
Everyone will know a Brother Mason who is being helped by the MCF but won’t know who they are because that must be confidential. Furthermore, well over half the spend by the MCF within Berkshire is on non-Masonic grants. Most national charities are supported by the MCF from London. These figures do not include our charitable response to Covid-19, or to humanitarian crises wherever they may occur in the world. As I write this text, our response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine already exceeds half a million pounds. To be effective, the MCF is dependent on Festival contributions and I remain confident that Berkshire Members and Lodges will continue to put their shoulders behind the wheel to ensure that our contribution to the national effort is not found wanting.
I remain excited for the future and I am really pleased that once again I am able to meet and mingle with you all in your Lodges. I am particularly pleased when opportunities arise to meet with your partners as well.
In concluding, I wish you, your partners and your families a Happy Eastertide. Relax, enjoy yourselves and return fit and eager to embrace and rise to the Masonic challenges which lie ahead whatever they may be.