Brethren, I welcome you all to this Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge, particularly our visitors who have travelled great distances to be with us today and offer us their support. I congratulate those of you I have had the pleasure of investing with their various ranks. Provincial Grand Rank has been awarded for your contribution to Warwickshire Freemasonry, and I take this opportunity to remind you that further great things are expected of you and you will be required to shoulder greater responsibilities, particularly with helping to implement initiatives for improving our freemasonry within this Province.
I thank the retiring team of Acting Officers for all of their support at Lodge meetings and Provincial events throughout the year. You have set a high standard for this year’s team to emulate and I hope that you have enjoyed your year.
I must particularly thank W Bro David Holloway, our retiring Provincial Grand Registrar who has updated and overhauled the whole of our registration system and passes on a much better system to his successor. W Bro David is now going to undertake a root and branch review of our First Appointments and Promotions system, at my request. Whilst this will be time consuming and onerous, he has the skills to do this job and thus to ensure that we are certain that our system is appropriate for our future and that of our membership numbers. To W Bro Derek Sara the retiring Provincial Grand Treasurer who has spent many hours in the Provincial Office ensuring that our Finances are sound and I personally thank him.
Congratulations to all within our Province who were appointed to or promoted within Grand Lodge last month. W Bro Keith Reynolds was promoted to Past Junior Grand Deacon. There were first appointments for W Bro Peter Sorrill our Provincial Grand Mentor; and W.Bro. Steven Towsend our Provincial Orator, who both became Past Assistant Grand Directors of Ceremonies, a just reward for all that they do for us within the Province. Congratulations, once more, to you all and please ensure that you use your Grand Rank status to assist Warwickshire Freemasonry whenever you can.
In February of this year I was afforded the great privilege of being President of the LOI Festival in London, a singular honour for me and for this marvellous Province of ours. Thank you to all the Warwickshire brethren who made their way down to London to offer their support, some 130 of you. This ensured that we all had a very happy evening.
Last September we launched the many Attraction and Retention seminars throughout the Province. As a result I am very pleased that over a third of our Lodges have submitted three year plans and have received certificates via their Visiting Officers as a result. The many comments received from these plans echo just how important the process is, and indeed how helpful it has been to the Lodges concerned. Remember brethren these plans will need re-visiting and refreshing this coming year. Those Lodges who have not yet taken up the challenge will receive another opportunity this coming autumn when we shall invite you to seminars around the Province to consider, again, being involved in the initiative.
Today I can announce a similar initiative headed by W Bro John Emms P Prov Asst PGM whereby we shall be engaging with all of our Masonic Centres to see how together, and with the aid of the Heritage Fund, we can bring our Centres into the 21st Century, for the benefit of us all. These seminars will also be convened early in September.
During a meeting of the Education and Development Committee last year, discussions were held around the creation of a new and young freemasons club for Warwickshire. Two members of the committee W Bro Phil Hall and W Bro Dan Thomas, attended the first ever new and young mason’s clubs conference at Freemasons Hall, London. They came back with a wealth of information and with my full approval the wheels were set in motion. Between them they sourced a small group of keen and dedicated brethren who now form the initial committee of the club, who (under the chairmanship of W Bro Dan Thomas) have created “The Five of Nine Club”, Warwickshire’s very own New and Young Freemasons Club.
The club has been created to give new and young freemasons in Warwickshire something fresh and dynamic that will host exciting events and activities to enhance your Masonic experience and give a voice to the future of Freemasonry in our province. I am delighted to officially launch the club today and tell you all its open for business! I urge you all to go back to your Lodges and spread the word, I believe that this club will assist in the retention of Freemasons across the province and having seen the events they have planned for the next year and half there is certainly something for everyone!
The committee is present here today; you cannot miss them as they are all wearing the clubs very own tie, as indeed am I, for I am proud to be their Patron. (However I will be properly dressed as an Acting Provincial Officer at luncheon!) and I know that they are in possession of membership forms so don’t delay, sign up and join the Five of Nine Club.
Next year in 2017, Grand Lodge celebrates its Tercentenary. This momentous celebration of 300 years of Freemasonry will culminate in a major event, on 31st October 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall. Whilst many of you could not get to London to take part, nor wish to pay the large costs to do so, we are going to hold banquets for yourselves and your ladies in six Masonic Centres within the Province to enable you to celebrate over the following weekend.
You are already aware that the Provinces of Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and ourselves have planned a major joint event, called MFest, on 24th & 25th June 2017 at Weston Park this has now been launched and I urge you all to book tickets for yourselves, your families and friends and help us show our local communities just how vibrant Freemasonry can be. Fliers are on your seats today.
Today I can also announce another exciting opportunity that as been afforded to our Province to help celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry.
As you are aware there have been recent celebrations for the death 400 years ago of William Shakespeare. A celebratory garden is being created at New Place in Stratford where he died. Warwickshire is to sponsor a bronze chair and desk that will be at the centre of these gardens. We have secured major financial support from UGLE, who totally support this project and an appropriate plaque will testify to all future visitors the donation from Warwickshire Freemasons and UGLE, which made it possible.
Finally for our 2017 celebrations I can confirm that next year’s annual meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge will be held at Great Queen Street the headquarters of UGLE. Not only that but we will hold the whole event with our Ladies present. This will be a unique occasion for the members of Warwickshire, and their Ladies to celebrate 2017 in style. Make a note of 20th May 2017 now so that you can attend. You may wish to travel down for the day for the meeting only; or for the meeting and the meal. Some of you may wish to stay for a little longer. Either way make sure that you do come along and celebrate with us all.
The Famous Five Charities initiative continues to be very well supported by you all. Do choose a different Charity for your next and final year and in this way we can ensure they will benefit.
The newly established relief chest is working very well and ensuring that we maximise our charitable giving. Here I wish to pay tribute to, and say a great personal thank you to W Bro Bill Clark Prov G Alm and W Bro John Hayward Prov G Ch Stwd for all of their hard work in the Charity Office. Thanks too to W Bro John Williams for all the work he undertook to establish our systems and train Dale up to become an asset within the Office.
This year our Provincial Grand Lodge Collection is going to the WMBF so please use the relief chest envelopes that are on your seats. Do give as generously as you can brethren.
Finally I always thank those that have taken so much time and effort to organise today for us especially for the extra work involved in coming back to this venue.
Thank you to the Provincial Grand Secretary for the enthusiastic way in which he faced all problems and solved them with ease. Thank you to his team in the office, including Wendy Eades who is so helpful and reliable. Thank you to the furniture removal team and the Stewards and members of the Rokeby Lodge and Federation Lodge for all that they have done to ensure today was such a success.
Thank you to the Provincial DC, and his team for ensuring that our ceremonial went so well today.
Most of all brethren I thank you all, once more for coming to support us. I wish you all well in the coming Masonic year and do hope that you all continue to enjoy your Freemasonry.
Provincial Grand Master