Brethren,

Once again, welcome to you all, to our Annual Meeting.

I am delighted to see so many here today; it does make for a fantastic atmosphere for those being appointed and promoted. A renewed warm welcome to our honored guests and thank you for the hospitality you have extended to us during our visits to your Annual Meetings.

Today is a celebration of the achievements of the last 12 months and together we look forward to another successful year.

My congratulations to all of those who I have appointed or promoted today; in particular our newly invested Assistant PGM’s.  Enjoy your preferment – you have earned it – however this is not a sinecure.

As a Provincial Grand Officer I expect you to support your Province and your Lodge in delivering its priorities.  If you have some spare time we still need more volunteers in a myriad of roles.

If you have skills and experience, which you think could be put to good use in the Province, and have time to give please contact the Provincial office.

This year I know the Comms team are looking for support in the areas of social media, web design and support, photography and in particular copy writing and reporting.

Of course, our priorities remain as: Membership (Recruitment and Retention), our Festival Appeal and membership of The Royal Arch.

We have published our five-year Strategy, which remains valid.  Over the summer I will be conducting a review of our progress and updating it where necessary.

In the autumn we will be launching the UGLE Pathway program.  This is very much in tune with our existing strategy; however it does bring the Pathway together in a simple step-by-step guide which is easy to understand and follow.

Please make every effort to attend one of the sessions around the Province later in the year.

As a result of all the hard work put in by so many people, our membership numbers are starting to move in the right direction.  During the last 12 months we had an overall loss of just 70 members.

Still too many – however every month this year we have been in positive numbers.  In 2018 membership has grown by 0.62%.  This is the first occasion in a very long time we have seen numbers like this.

How are we doing this?

Well, we have recruited a reasonable number of members via websites, the Provincial Stands and the like and we will continue to strive to increase those numbers.

The majority have been recruited by you – especially Lodges who have a plan to recruit, hold social events to attract interest and most importantly follow it through.

Brethren, there is no magic ingredient. It just takes one or two Brethren in each Lodge to get off their backsides and do something!!!  Are you prepared to stand up and be counted?

Last year I talked about the importance of retention, and this remains unchanged.

Our most important assets are our newest members. You will have invested a lot time and hard work into recruiting them, and rehearsing their ceremonies, but that work must be continued to ensure they feel a part of your Lodge and enjoy their membership.

This time last year I asked the Deputy Provincial Grand Master to conduct a review of the Official Visitor scheme and today I am pleased to announce the implementation of a complete overhaul of the scheme.

Until now, an OV has had around seven Lodges across the Province to visit each year.

The main focus has been to pass on my messages around our priorities and to report back on those eligible for appointment and promotion in Provincial Grand Rank. This in my view is not fit for purpose in delivering against our priorities, especially recruitment and retention.

From September, each OV will have no more than 3 Lodges which for the most part will be in the same centre.

Their prime responsibility will be to work with each Lodge to assist with recruitment and retention.  They will have the opportunity to visit you more than once a year and become a friend of the Lodge.

If needed, they will help with recruitment initiatives and help your Mentor in his duties – but only if needed. I hope Lodges will see their OV in a different light, not only as my representative but as someone who will roll up their sleeves and muck in.

But I reiterate, only if needed. As food for thought you could invite your OV to attend the odd committee meeting? Talk to him about your social activities, using his connections at the Centre to buddy up with another Lodge or Lodges. Food for thought!

The management structure is also changing, with the introduction of Senior Visiting Officers, who will also have one Lodge to visit, and overseeing seeing each Group is a Group Co-ordinator who reports direct to the Group AProvGM.

You may think that the boss is just rearranging the deck chairs. Such is not the case! This is a significant change to the way Province interacts with Lodges and is specifically aimed at small to medium-sized Lodges who have struggled to attract new members and have little social activity.

I hope that this is a catalyst, which will bring new energy to many Lodges and hopefully improve their chances of recruiting and retaining new members.

You will have seen a fairly dramatic change in Comms Policy here at Grand Lodge. We are now quite rightly not allowing the Press to print whatever they like about Freemasonry and expect it to go unchallenged.

You will have seen the brilliant work put in by our Chief Executive, Dr David Staples Grand Secretary.  Enough is enough

The ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign not only gave us great positive publicity but also has set the standard for all Provinces to follow, and we are!

Brethren, you have heard an update from W. Bro Paul on the progress of our Festival Appeal. We are doing very well but now is the time to push on to the finish line, which is now within view.

We still have a large sum to raise so please work out how much you and your Lodge will be able to give before the end, in particular please strive to achieve a Festival award.

I am looking forward to making the Provincial Grand Master Chef draw later; thank you for your support. You can still get a ticket into the draw at the tables outside the dining room.

I am also looking forward to the zip wire challenge. No less than 60 are taking part, which is fantastic. 60 people can watch me go first!

My congratulations to the first two recipients of the President’s Award.  As you have heard, these are both very worthy recipients recognising individual effort as well as that of a Lodge.

This highlights that the award is open to all and I am sure more will follow!!

Well done to the Lodges to whom I have presented Gold Achievement Awards. Thank you for your support. You really have gone the extra mile and committed yourselves to caring.

The third of my priorities is recruitment into the Royal Arch. This year we have supplied guidance and a lapel pin to RA Representatives.  Please make sure that you wear your pin so that you are easily identifiable.

Your role is to talk positively about the Royal Arch and highlight how this degree completes the Masonic journey. Thank you to all RA Reps for taking on this role.

Brethren, Grand Lodge is now 301 years old. To mark our association with the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge there is a Master’s collar jewel available.

I have seen very few around the Province, which is a shame as not only is it a fantastic jewel but it identifies your Lodge’s connection with this landmark. Please talk to your Lodge committee about obtaining one.

On Saturday we held our race day at Lingfield Park Race course. We had a brilliant evening. The company was excellent, the entertainment first class and the racing was great fun, although with only one odds-on favourite winner I didn’t have much to show for it!

We will be putting on another summer event next year. At the moment I am leaning towards a summer BBQ with kids and adult entertainment. If you can think of a venue please let me know.

My sincere thanks to the Provincial Grand Stewards who are on duty today, supporting numerous events and escorting me on Lodge visits throughout the year; you are a credit to the Stewards’ Lodge and this Province.

We must not forget that back in October you took centre stage at the Tercentenary Celebration at the Royal Albert Hall. You will soon receive your own DVD of the event, so look out for all of the Surrey faces!

My thanks to the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team of deputies and assistants who have yet again guided us through this Annual Meeting in an exemplary manner.

The ProvGDC has once again made all the arrangements for the numerous executive visits around the Province and, more importantly, kept me out of trouble!

Thank you to the ProvGSec and your deputy as well as the team of volunteers who staff the office. It has again been a remarkably busy year but as ever you have come up with the goods. You can now relax – well, until Monday when it all starts again!

I know you will also join me in extending our best wishes to a number of Brethren who retire today.

Bro Trevor Rains retires after seven years as an AProvGM. He has been in almost continuous active Office for the last 18 years.

As an AProvGM he spent the first five years with the welfare portfolio. In that time, he professionalised just about everything we did and put Welfare firmly on the agenda of Lodges.

This legacy has not only improved what we do in Province but has also – and more importantly – made a huge difference to the quality of the work of Lodge Almoners.

Although he handed this over two years ago, it is fair to say his legacy lives on today; something he should be very proud of. In the last two years I gave Trevor the challenge of taking on membership.

He has completely changed the way we now approach recruitment and retention. When he started out he had team of one! He finishes with a team of… well, let me just say the team sheet will not print out on A4 paper!

He has given this every ounce of his considerable energy and drive. As you have heard, his hard work is starting pay off!

Bro. Nick Parsons, who has been an AProvGM for six years, also retires today. Nick has also been active in the Province since as long ago as 1995, when he was made a Provincial Grand Steward and we look forward to him becoming a member of the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge very soon!

As an AProvGM he was given the Charity portfolio, which proved to be a real challenge – mostly because he had to manage Paul Crockett and me! Of course, he has had this portfolio during a remarkably busy period, being in Festival to the RMBI.

His management of all the aspects of the Charity portfolio has been exemplary.

Much of what this committee does is eagerly copied around the country by many other Provinces. He also leaves a legacy to be very proud of. I will miss his sage and wise council, although he will never make a detective!

One other person who retires today after …. years as Provincial Grand Tyler W. Bro Chris Casselden. Chris, thank you for everything you have done in that role.

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.

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