Once again, welcome to you all, to our annual meeting. It is good to see so many of you’re here, especially our honored guests and thank you for the hospitality you have extended to us at your annual meetings.
I hope you feel like I do, that this meeting is a celebration of the achievements of the last 12 months, while we look forward to another successful year together.
Brethren, You will recall last year I set out my priorities for the Province as Membership – Recruitment and Retention, Our Festival Appeal and Membership of The Royal Arch. These remain unchanged.
All of these priorities are underpinned by professional and proactive communications.
We have published our Strategy for the next five years. This is a guiding document to the areas of activity we will be focusing on. To ensure we now deliver against this strategy I have set up a Strategy Delivery Group.
Such is the importance of this work I have decided that I will initially chair this group.
My focus is creating and maintaining momentum while ensuring the appropriate human and financial resources are in place.
In terms of membership we have made significant progress in promoting ourselves.
This has been supported through the activities of Grand Lodge with the Sky 1 documentary and other events such as the unveiling of the VC Stones.
We have also capitalized on the opportunities presented to us by increasing our profile in the Surrey written press, magazines, social media, an improved website, public parades, our travelling exhibition, a new provincial stand (Outside the temple) and local radio.
You will be pleased to hear this has increased the number of enquires we are receiving, but don’t forget Brethren the challenge for each of us remains, to play an active part in the recruitment of one member every five years.
The whole ethos of our new marketing materials is that we are a force for good in our communities.
Please talk about the real secret of freemasonry, the encouragement of our members to be the best person they can be through the practice of kindness, honesty, fairness, tolerance and above all integrity.
The new marketing materials are available to any brother to use so please have a look at wanttoknowmore.org.uk Please participate however you can.
If recruitment is important, then retention is vital. We are not retaining young and longer in service members. It is very disappointing to see a brother loose touch with his Lodge leading to a resignation.
I urge you to practice the virtues I have just described and pick up the phone and talk to your members, especially the junior members. Please positively encourage and support them and most importantly listen to them.
They are the most important members of any Lodge, they are the future.
Brethren you have heard an update from W. Bro Nick parsons on the progress of our Festival Appeal.
We are doing very well and I am pleased with our current total. I am even more pleased to see many members picking up the gauntlet and arranging a wide range of social and sponsored events supporting our appeal.
I am amazed by the enthusiasm of members to take part in a number of exciting and exhilarating events, which is only matched by their enthusiasm to see me take part!!
Now is the time to forge ahead towards the finish line for complacency is our enemy. Together let us strive to deliver a total we can be proud of and which the RMBI so deserves.
I must pay tribute to W. Bro Terry Owens who is with us today.
Over this and the previous Festival, Terry has arranged walks, climbs, skydives, abseils and now, as you have heard from Nick, he has convinced me and a large provincial contingent to fly down a zip wire.
It is the longest zip line in Europe and reaches a speed well in excess of 100 mph. Terry, I think I mean it when I say, thank you!
You have heard me talk in part about communications. We have made great progress in this area but there is more to be done. Over time it is my ambition for every Lodge to have some sort of communications platform.
Many are actively using social media, websites and are making contacts with the local press. Whatever you wish to do the Communications team is on hand to help and guide you.
A new initiative is the appointment of area Comms Officers who are there to help. Some Lodges may have the luxury of appointing their own Comms Officer.
Whatever communications you are considering it is to be encouraged. Remember we have so much to celebrate so why not tell your local community all about what you are doing.
As you know the past year has been a time of great change within the four central Masonic charities with them consolidating into the newly formed Masonic Charitable Foundation.
One of the major changes is the introduction of Voluntary Volunteers (Brethren) within each province.
These will be individuals who will be trained by the Masonic Charitable Foundation to carry out essential visits to potential beneficiaries with a view to assisting them in applying for support.
The intention is to take away much of the pressure from Lodge and Chapter Almoners in having to visit a potential beneficiary, obtain the necessary information and back it up with the supporting documentation required to process the application, which often takes a lot of time and a great deal of effort.
Within the province we have a very efficient system of Voluntary Brethren (VBs) which I am pleased to report will be to integrated into the new system when we introduce it into the province.
This will not by-pass Lodge or Chapter Almoners of prevent them from carrying out their duties but allow them more time and opportunity to provide local parochial support to their members and their widows.
It has become apparent over the past couple of years that it can be difficult to reallocate the widows of closing Lodges and although the Friend’s Lodge does a marvelous job in looking after a great proportion of such widows the time has arrived when they have reached saturation point.
So as to alleviate this problem we have been asking Lodges to become a ‘Host Lodge’ and volunteer to adopt and accept widows from the Lodges that are about to close.
It is early days as the scheme has only just been launched but the early indication is that the initiative will be a great success with Lodges coming on line on a weekly basis.
My thanks are extended to Lodges who have already kindly agreed to become a Host Lodge and provide support to out widows in the true spirit of Masonic fraternity.
The third of my Priorities is recruitment into the Royal Arch.
I am of the opinion that the next regular step for a MM is into the Holy Royal Arch. It is difficult to put into words my enthusiasm for this degree. Even today I still jump at the chance of assisting in the ceremony of exaltation.
Not only is it a meaningful and thought provoking ceremony, it is also an interesting story which brings into context the three degrees of craft masonry. Please play your part in promoting the order and encouraging MM’s to take their next regular step.
On Saturday we celebrated the milestone of 300 years of Grand Lodge. Our first celebratory event was in Feb at the Canterbury Cathedral when we joined with East Kent, West Kent and Sussex for a lovely service of celebration attended by the GM.
My ProvGM colleagues and I were delighted to see the Cathedral so full. My renewed thanks to RW Bro Geoffrey Dearing and his team for making this event the success it was.
Here in Surrey we will be celebrating in various ways.
We recently paraded in full regalia into Warlingham Fair and held a Teddies Bears Picnic. Last Saturday we launched the Tercentenary Travelling Exhibition which is visiting twelve locations around the County finishing at the Surbiton Parade at the end of September.
There are numerous other events which are highlighted on our website however I would like to highlight the Summer Extravaganza at Bromley Masonic Centre on Saturday 15th July when we will be entertained by the three provincial choirs from East and West Kent and Surrey.
Tickets are only £5 and include a buffet, lets please invade West Kent with a strong contingent.!
I hope you have purchased your tercentenary jewel, which you can not only wear in your Lodge but also in your RA Chapter. They are very reasonable and are on sale here today.
Many of you will have on your Lodges Master’s collar a 250th or 275th jewel. A tercentenary collar jewel is now available and is a lovely design and of high quality. I would encourage you to go back to your Lodge committee and discuss buying one to adorn your master’s collar.
My sincere thanks to the Provincial Grand Stewards who are on duty today, support numerous events and escort me on Lodge visits throughout the year.
The members of the Stewards Lodge really are a credit to this Province.
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 also managed to get through a whole year of escorting me around the Province and keeping me in check – no mean feat!
Thank you to the ProvGSec and your deputy as well as the team of volunteers who staff the office. With our tercentenary celebrations this has probably been the busiest year in living memory, but as ever the administration of Provincial matters and the arrangements of this meeting have been first class.
Congratulations to all of those who I have appointed or promoted today, in particular our newly invested Deputy and Assistant PGM’s. Enjoy your preferment you have earned it, however there is no such thing as a free promotion.
As a Provincial Grand Officer you are expected to support your province in particular its priorities. If you have some spare time we still need more volunteers in a miriade 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.
I know you will also join me in extending our best wishes to a number of Brethren who retire today. The retiring DepPGM VW Bro Derek Barr who has been in continuous active office for 19 years.
This is a remarkable contribution to the success and development of this Province. He has led on a number of significant projects: just some of them are the last Festival Appeal, the setting up of TLC and the S4S fund.
Also W. Bro Chris Magee and Jim Hagarty retire as APGM’s they have both had very busy portfolios and have earned a rest!
W. Bro Bob Jenkinson stands down from the ProvAlmoner role which he has significantly developed during his tenure of five years.
Lastly W. Bro Joe Savoo retires from the role of ProvGReg after 6 years, in what it is fair to say has been a varied role.
Once again thank you to our visitors for your support today and to you all Brethren for your support at our annual meeting.
Brethren thank you for your support I have received. This is an amazing role and I am immensely proud to be your PGM.
God bless you and your families and I look forward to seeing you around the Province.
R.W Bro Ian Chandler Provincial Grand Master of Surrey.