I am very happy to see so many Mark Masons here and I welcome you all to Provincial Grand Lodge today. I have already welcomed our distinguished visitors by name and I now take this opportunity to welcome all our other visitors. I hope you will have a very happy time with us.
My warmest congratulations to all the brethren I have had the honour to invest with Provincial Grand rank today. You have all worked hard to justify the honour, but your work does not stop here. We expect you to continue promoting the Mark degree, to recruit actively yourselves, to encourage recruitment into our Order by others and to use your experience to support the newer brethren, who are progressing towards the Chair.
I also offer my congratulations to those brethren honoured with Mark Grand Rank last month and Royal Ark Mariner Grand Rank last December. It is a great pleasure to see them wearing their new collars, collarettes and chains of office today.
Last year I spoke about the role of the Lodge Almoner and the importance of his office, not only in the context of looking after the welfare of his brethren and their families but also in the wider function of membership retention. I asked the Assistant Provincial Grand Master and the Provincial Grand Almoner to develop these ideas and their initial thoughts were put to the annual meeting of Grand Officers earlier this year.
Since then, a letter has been sent to all Lodge Almoners outlining these proposals. This will be followed up within the next few weeks and into the new season with a series of meetings with Lodge Almoners at which ALL Lodge Almoners are expected to attend and at which these ideas will be explained further.
If a brother is unable to attend a Lodge meeting it should be the responsibility of the Lodge Almoner to ascertain the reason and communicate that reason to his brethren. He should be proactive in fulfilling his office, not reactive. This will open the way to an active and successful retention strategy.
The corollary of retention is recruitment.
It is clear that in many of our Lodges, recruitment is left in the hands of one or at most two active brethren. However in some Lodges it is clear that no active recruitment takes place.
In the year to 31st August 2013, almost 30% of the working Lodges in the Province failed to advance a candidate.
Recruitment is not the prerogative of the Lodge secretary or the senior brethren within a Lodge. Every member is a recruiter, whether he has been a Mark Mason for 50 years or a few months.
The absolute minimum target for each Lodge should be two candidates per year.
I have asked the Deputy Provincial Grand Master and his Development Committee to devise a recruiting strategy, to be launched at a series of meetings in the coming Masonic year.
This strategy will incorporate and develop our “Mark meets the Craft” initiative, and I thank the Provincial Grand Master of the Craft, W Bro Paul Gower for allowing us to continue with this project.
We are all Craft Masons and the future success of our Mark and Royal Ark Mariner degrees depends on the success of the Craft. I urge you all to support your Craft Lodges actively and play a full part in the life of your respective Lodges.
This has been a busy and active year as the Provincial Grand Secretary indicated in his report and the outlook for the new season suggests another busy year for the new Provincial team.
My thanks go to all the Provincial officers who have made this a happy and successful year, but especially to those officers who are retiring today, having given long and devoted service to the Mark degree in this Province. I wish to mention in particular VW Bro John Lunness who has served as Provincial Grand Chaplain for the past 5 years, W Bro Peter Trowell who has served as Provincial Grand Treasurer for the past 4 years and W Bro Charles Ager who has served as Provincial Grand Tyler for the past 13 years, to all of whom I have made presentations and who have given unstinting and loyal service to the Mark degree in general and Hertfordshire in particular. Thank you brethren for a job well done.
These Annual Provincial meetings do not just happen. There is a great deal of planning which goes into ensuring a successful and happy event and this work falls on the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, his Deputy and Assistants and the Provincial Grand Secretary, his Deputy and Assistant and I thank them all for their hard work.
Recently our extremely active and hard working Provincial Grand Secretary, W Bro Trevor Clarke, suffered a mild heart attack, but he has made a good recovery and we are all glad to see him back in his place today. The consequence of his illness has been greater delegation of work to the Deputy and Assistant Provincial Grand Secretaries and I thank them both for the willing and unselfish way they have shouldered these extra burdens.
I also wish to thank the members of Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge, led so ably by their Lodge Secretary, W Bro Colin Taylor, who are responsible for setting up and striking down Provincial Grand Lodge and for much else behind the scenes. I thank them all for a job well done.
I hope you have a happy and peaceful summer break with your families and I look forward to seeing you again in the new Masonic season.
God bless you all.