Companions. It is really good to be with you all today and to meet together after, what has been, a particularly difficult 18 months for all of us. Times of adversity often bring the best out of people and this has proved to be the case many times over not only in this Province but around the country. There will be a Provincial service of remembrance and thanksgiving on Saturday 23rd April 2022 to which you have all been invited. Whilst this will provide an opportunity to reflect, we must also look forward.
In terms of our Chapters, many Companions have gone ‘above and beyond’ to ensure contact has been maintained, companionship has been provided and, gradually, our Chapters have started meeting again.
The constant work, usually behind the scenes, of those in the Provincial office, ably lead by our Provincial Scribe Ezra, Excellent Companion Adrian Joyce has been outstanding and I thank Adrian and his team for all they have done.
You are all, as Active Provincial officers, now in possession of an ‘Active Officers guide’ which, from the feedback I have had, has been very well-received. This was one of the many progressive ideas that came out of the Chapter Focus group chaired by Excellent Companion David Bird. This team has continued to meet during the past 18 months and continues to impress with the quality of the work being done not only to highlight the importance of being a Royal Arch Mason but also in promoting the message that we would like our Brethren to want to join Chapter, not feel that they have to join. In this respect, each one of you here has a personal responsibility to encourage and support Master Masons in your lodges. You are role models to them and, as such, are great examples to them as to why they should join this special and enjoyable degree as the completion of their journey in pure and ancient Freemasonry. This continues beyond your time as an Active officer and I am sure, with your support, many Master Masons will be happy to take this important step.
At this point I wish to offer belated congratulations to the following who have received appointments to, or promotions in, Supreme Grand Chapter over the past two years: Excellent Companions John Lambert and Lynn Thomas to Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and Trevor Clingan, John Crutchley, Bruce Goodman and Peter Tong to Past Grand Standard Bearer.
I also offer congratulations to Excellent Companion Mike Rix on being selected to form part of a new Supreme Grand Chapter Communications and Marketing Group that is already starting to have an impact around the country of the future of Royal Arch matters. With Mike on board, I am very confident this group will have great success.
I welcome Michael Carter, pictured here, to his new and very important position as Third Provincial Grand Principal, and I look forward to working with him in his new role. It’s been a long wait Michael and I am delighted to have invested you today. Bob Smith would have been SO proud!
In a similar vein, I personally thank Excellent Companion Terry Wright for his extended tour of duty as our now Past Provincial Third Grand Principal. Terry has certainly enjoyed this role and I know that his visits to Chapter meetings have been very happy occasions, well-received by the Companions present. If anyone thought Chapter was a serious and humourless part of Freemasonry, Terry has certainly done his very best to dispel this! He has been a tremendous ambassador for the Royal Arch and I thank him for his magnificent contribution.
You will have noticed that we now have a new Provincial Treasurer. I warmly welcome Excellent Companion Ian Pounder back into this office and know that in his hands our finances are very safe! I thank our outgoing Treasurer, Excellent Companion Steve Hallberg for all of his hard work since 2017. Steve, we all know you are a very busy man! Despite the demands on your time, you have consistently delivered outstanding service in line with your predecessor who is now your successor. Thank you so much for all you have done on behalf of provincial Grand Chapter.
Finally, in terms of thanks and congratulations, I turn to my Deputy Grand Superintendent, David Bird, who has provided wonderful support to me and, in turn, tremendous service to our Province. Thank you, David, for all that you continue to do, I could not ask for more from you.
Companions, in closing can I ask you all to reflect on the unusual circumstances we have lived through over the past year and a half. It’s a cliché I know but you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Let us all move on now with renewed vigour, celebrate our companionship, enjoy everything about this wonderful Order and look forward with a new optimism to the future because the future of the Royal Arch in Lincolnshire looks very bright indeed. Thank you Companions.
Brethren. It is really good to be with you all today and to meet together after, what has been, a particularly difficult 18 months for all of us. Times of adversity often bring the best out of people and this has proved to be the case many times over not only in this Province but around the country. There will be a Provincial service of remembrance and thanksgiving on Saturday 23rd April 2022 to which you have all been invited. Whilst this will provide an opportunity to reflect, we must also look forward.
The work of the Province has not stopped in the last year or so. The new website is working well, thanks to the efforts of W. Chris Bradley, and the members area is gaining more subscribers. We now have a new Provincial crest, a change we had to make, which looks modern and fit for purpose. A new Provincial banner is being made as I speak. The Provincial office has made some much-needed changes to the back-office facilities in terms of our computer systems and budgeting procedures and, of course, our Province has led the region in terms of bidding for additional finance from the Masonic Charitable Foundation to help some very worthy causes. To that end, the East Midlands region gained an additional £355,000 for a range of charities including: Supporting the homeless; domestic abuse victims; mental health issues in young adults, caring for Carers and providing essential equipment for the NHS. My personal thanks go to W. Brother Pete Tong who worked very hard in supporting these additional bids to the MCF. We should all be very proud of our efforts during a time of national crisis.
Brother John Grimwood galvanised his dedicated team of Almoners and their work, often behind the scenes, kept our ‘family of freemasons’ together on many occasions.
Brother Tony Miller and his team worked throughout the pandemic to not only keep the Provincial office running but also to answer the myriad of questions arising out of the organisational changes created by both locking down and then catching up once we were able to meet again.
The Provincial Mentor, W. Brother David Buckenham, Membership Officer, W. Brother Mike Clay, and Learning and Development lead, W. Brother Nick Brown have been working very closely together not only producing excellent booklets for the information of our Brethren but also working as a team to provide a coordinated approach across membership, mentoring and learning and development to provide a ‘joined up’ approach across the Province.
In addition, the Province has provided mental health first aid training courses in a partnership with LIVES, for our own Brethren which will continue on an annual basis: financially supported St. Barnabas Hospice at Lincoln through the Lincoln ‘Imp’ tourist trail and maintained our support, through Lodge nominations, with grants totalling over £95,000 to over 140 local organisations. A donation of £5,000 has also been made to the RMBI care home at Connaught Court, Fulford, York in recognition of their 50th anniversary celebrated in September this year and today I have signed on behalf of our Province, the Armed Forces Covenant to support the Armed Forces Community and recognise the value Serving Personnel, both Regular and Reservists, Veterans and military families contribute to our organisation and our country. Who knows, this may be an opportunity to consider forming another new Lodge in the Province – a Military Lodge? Food for thought, perhaps?
Through the initiative of Brethren in the east of the Province and with some additional funding over 10,000 meals were provided, by an enthusiastic team of volunteers, to vulnerable and lonely people.
Finally, the communications team, led by W. Brother Stuart Pearcey have done their very best to keep everyone informed.
So, to the future.
Lodges are gradually feeling confident in meeting again. New candidates are lining up to join us. A national digital marketing campaign has just been launched and early results are very promising in terms of attracting new candidates through the medium of social media. Our core membership remains strong and, from what I have heard, our Brethren are enjoying renewing their personal contacts at their Lodges again.
For the first time in 15 years, the Province has a new Lodge: The Free Wheelers Lodge number 9991. If their consecration meeting is a measure, then they will have a very successful future. I thank RW Brother Graham Ives for taking on the role of Consecration Officer and VW Brother John Crutchley for acting as the Installing Officer at, what was, a very special occasion. John, on a personal note, thank you for your tremendous support over the last four months during my temporary absence. You certainly stepped up, together with W. Brother Tony Miller, to ensure everything continued to run smoothy and I thank you for that.
In terms of our buildings, many of our 21 centres have taken the opportunity of lockdown to make internal improvements and repairs and, of course, we now have a brand-new centre at Louth which is the envy of all who have visited there.
The 2025 festival team, under the direction of W. Brother Jez Hyland, is working well despite the recent difficulties. I know that they have plans in place to ensure that our Province tries it’s very best to achieve our £2.25 million figure in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
All of you, as Active Provincial officers, are encouraged to provide whatever support you can in all of the above areas. I know, from the enthusiasm you have demonstrated so far that you are up for the challenge.
I welcome back to the Provincial executive, W. Brother Ian Pounder as our Treasurer. Ian, thank you for taking on this important office. To our outgoing Treasurer, W. Brother Steve Hallberg I thank you for all of your hard work over the past few years. Despite your very heavy workload, you have never stopped smiling and have been a tremendous asset to the Province whilst ensuring our financial assets have been extremely well-managed.
In terms of congratulations, it would be remiss of me not to personally congratulate the following who have received Grand Rank appointments or promotions over the last two years:
Bros Malcolm Bilton, Mike Dennett and Pete Tong PGStB
Mike Gerry PAGSuptWks, Terry Wright PAGC and John Warwick PJGD
I also thank W. Brother John Lambert and Mike Dennett and their assistants for preparing the rooms today for both the Craft and Chapter Provincial meetings. Their hard work is appreciated.
Before I close, Provincial Director of Ceremonies will you present W. Brother Stuart Pearcey to me. Presentation of the 15th Provincial Certificate of merit for outstanding contributions during the national pandemic.
Brethren all, may I thank you all for your continued support and I look forward to working with you in the future as our Province continues to move forward in a happy and positive manner