Annual General Meeting of Surrey, Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street.
Once again welcome to you all to this annual meeting. It is good to see so many here when we take into account we had an extraordinary meeting here only one month ago. For me it seems a lifetime ago. As you would expect, I have been extremely busy getting around the Province and visiting other Provinces. The good news is, it has been tremendous fun. I have had the pleasure of visiting several Provinces, attending a Lodges 75th anniversary, installing W. Bro David Ford into the Chair of the Stewards Lodge and conducting a second degree in my own Lodge, where I also took the opportunity of investing W Bro Nick Parsons as a reappointed AProvGM. Brethren I am looking forward to my tenure, if it carries on as it has started I will not want to give up the job!
Brethren you heard me say last month that I was not going to give a state of the nation address and indeed today I will not delay you with the whole nine yards, however I am going to give you a little more detail of the priorities for the next few years.
First and foremost Membership is the top priority. By membership I mean Recruitment and Retention, which of course go hand in glove. But let me be clear at this early stage. This is not purely a numbers game. Of course we would like to see our numbers increase but not at the cost of quality. Our fraternity is founded on strong principals that encourage integrity, kindness, honesty, fairness, tolerance and respect. We will not do anything, which could undermine our ability to prove to the world the happy and beneficial effects of our institution.
My aspirations for our Province are that we build on the excellent work that has been put in place to build strong links with our community. Over time I hope that Freemasonry in Surrey will become part of the fabric of society, that people understand more about us and our presence can be felt in a wide range of community projects. I am not naive enough to think that this is an easy task. It will require a sustained program of work for us all, particularly in our communications to the public at large.
If the trend of diminishing membership can be attributed to a change in culture or perhaps the pressures of modern life, this is something we must accept. But do we know that is the primary reason for our decline in membership? I for one am unsure. Until we have properly evaluated what the challenges are it is difficult to plan for the long term. So we will look in detail at what is known about attracting members and why they choose to join or not as the case may be. As you are aware UGLE has already done a great deal of work that we can use in this area. What I cannot accept is for us to stand by and do nothing to understand why our membership has fallen and what, if anything, we can do about it. We already know from the success of many Lodges around this Province and elsewhere, that openness, strong social activity and modern forms of communication are some of the ingredients that can lead to a more dynamic membership. We will look at how this work can be supported.
Grand Lodge has not been idle in this respect. They have produced an excellent strategy for 2015-2020. This is entitled Our Future, how can we help? There are copies here today at the signing in desks. If you do not already have one please collect one on the way out.
The Strategy provides guidance on how we can all be active in membership development. There are roles for Members, Lodges and Masters, Provincial and Grand Lodge Officers, The Province and Masonic Halls.
I would like to highlight a couple of these for you to think about.
For us all, talk to your friends and acquaintances about Freemasonry – to do that you must first think about what you are going to say especially if asked. There is guidance on the UGLE website, but in short be mindful that a quick Google search will uncover precise details of what we do, so please be very open minded.
Take on the challenge of introducing one new member into your Lodge every 5 years. That may be through the traditional route of your friends etc but also through the contribution you have made to running a website, a stand at a fete or organizing a social event.
Appoint a Membership Officer and a Lodge Mentor, making sure every initiate has a personal mentor. Be professional about this, the challenge is to impress your new member and demonstrate the virtues I alluded to earlier.
As a member, a Lodge and the Province to increase the use of social media. Specifically the promotion of websites, twitter and Facebook and the numerous other social media channels. I know that not every member will use twitter or Facebook but I suspect at least one member in every Lodge does, so encourage them to talk about their Freemasonry via these channels, open a Lodge site or account and tell the world what you are doing. You will see over the coming months that the Province will spread its wings in this regard. By the way, I am on twitter and Facebook if you want to follow me! I apologise in advance for all of the posts about food, beer, fishing and my allotment!
Please take the strategy document away and give some thought to what you are going to do. As they say it only takes one man to change the world, we have over six thousand members; I think you get my point!
As you have heard from Bro Nick, we are progressing well with our Festival Appeal. Thank you to everyone who has contributed in terms of both donations and your time and effort. I must also pay tribute to the Festival Committee. They are a fantastic team who are 100% committed to supporting the RMBI.
You have heard I am to take part in the Parachute jump next month. There is no pretense on my part that I am looking forward to it, I am not. In fact I predict that I will scream from top to bottom! Having said that the cause we are raising money for is too important not to make a small sacrifice in taking part. Lets hope it’s not the ultimate sacrifice!! Brethren I and all those taking part would greatly appreciate your support.
The third of my Priorities is recruitment into the Royal Arch. I am strongly of the opinion that the next regular step for a MM is into the Holy Royal Arch. It is a shame that in 1813, at the union of the two Grand Lodges that the Royal Arch was separated into a Chapter under the authority of the Supreme Grand Chapter and not continued to be worked in a Lodge as they had under the Ancients Grand Lodge. I say that because it has always been accepted that the Royal Arch is the climax of pure ancient freemasonry.
In the closing in the third degree we are all challenged to discover what is lost. The RA is the place you may find that. As I heard it explained by the ProGM the other day, why would you go to a four-act play and leave after the third act? If you are not a member please give it your serious consideration, do some research, talk to your RA Representative and most importantly find a chapter, which will suit you.
In just two days time we will enter our tercentenary year. This is something we should all be very proud of. Being part of an organization that has stood the test of time, having remained unchanged in its core aims for three hundred years is an achievement we should tell the world about. You will have seen from your copy of Freemasonry Today that there are plans numerous celebratory events run by UGLE and Provinces across the Country.
Here in Surrey we will be celebrating in various ways. You have heard about our participation in the Canterbury Cathedral Appeal. On the 18th February next year we will take our place at a service to mark the Tercentenary at Canterbury Cathedral. From June 2017 until the end of the year, we will have a display at museums and other public buildings across the whole of Surrey. The schedule will be published and I hope you will be able to visit these with your families.
We will also be running a fun day in a Surrey Park. We are still waiting for final confirmation of the booking however this will aimed at the public at large as well as members to bring along friends and family. There is really only one object and that is to have fun!
In addition I have challenged the planning team, led by W Bro Jim Hagarty, to arrange a public procession. This is not something we have done a great deal of in Surrey, but if we don’t do it I for our Tercentenary when will we?
Please give some thought to how your Lodge is going to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry, which if you were wondering is on the 24th June 2017.
I mentioned the Stewards Lodge (Richard, Earl of Shannon Lodge), I am fortunate to be a member and as such I am acutely aware of the hard work its members put in every year, at our Annual Meeting, Cathedral Service, escorting duties and attendance at numerous Provincial events. They are a credit to the Province and a shining example to us all, my sincere thanks for what you do.
My thanks to the Provincial Grand Director of ceremonies and his team of deputies and assistants have again performed splendidly today, but that is also just the tip of the iceberg as they have duties across the whole year, in particular escorting the executive to numerous meetings. The ProvGDC has now discovered that with me he has got his hands full as I have a tendency to wander!
The Provincial Secretariat or as we all refer to them ‘The Office’ have had a very challenging end to their year. As you know they had a sprint to the finish line in preparing for the extra ordinary meeting last month and the Royal Arch Convocation. Of course while this was happening the business of the Province has had to be dealt with as normal. This together with adjusting to the new Adelphi2 system has all added to the work Load. ProvGSec please take back my sincere thanks to your team of staff and helpers.
Congratulations to all of those who I have appointed or promoted today. As a Provincial Grand Officer you have various responsibilities, which you have now found out include a specific mention in the membership strategy. Every single appointment or promotion is scrutinized in great detail and are given solely upon merit and ability. Enjoy your preferment you have earned it.
Once again thank you to our visitors for your support today and to you all Brethren for your support at our annual meeting.
God bless you and your families and I look forward to seeing you around the province.
Ian Chandler – Provincial Grand Master of Surrey.