I extend my congratulations to all those brethren I have had the privilege of investing with Provincial Grand Rank this afternoon.
You have all worked hard to justify your appointment, but you should all be aware that this is not the end of your achievements, merely the beginning. Your new status brings with you added responsibilities. As senior members of your respective lodges and of the Province, you are expected to encourage recruitment, mentor those who are progressing towards the Chair, be proactive in promoting the Mark degree and be supportive of your lodge.
Recruitment and retention are the current buzz words throughout Masonry but we should never lose sight of the fact that we are looking for quality not just quantity.
We should encourage the curious among our Craft lodges. Those brethren who wonder about certain aspects of the ritual they have experienced and ask questions, which can only be answered by joining another Order.
We must be assiduous in supporting our Craft lodges. They are the bedrock of our Masonry and without them, we have no future. Encourage your Craft brethren to consider expanding their Masonic knowledge by joining the Mark. Explain to them that the Mark is an important part of their masonic development, but emphasise that we are not in competition with other Orders but complementary to them.
Openness in Masonry has been talked about for more than two decades and we are making progress in that area, albeit slowly. Do not feel embarrassed in talking to your families about your life in Masonry; you may be surprised by their reaction.
After watching the first episode of the recent TV programme “Inside the Freemasons” I asked my wife what she thought and was surprised by her reaction “ I knew most of that already.” After a later episode, she asked me when they were going to talk about the Mark!
You have been extremely generous in supporting the Mark Benevolent Fund and I know that the major donation to Hope for Tomorrow has struck a chord with you all. That donation ends with the 150th anniversary festival of the MBF in Lincoln in 2018.
The next major donation will be to St John Ambulance to replace the ageing and obsolescent fleet of ambulances which the Mark Benevolent Fund donated some 12 years ago. Each Province will have one of the new ambulances to hand over to the local County St John. I am certain that you will be just as generous in your support for this major donation as you have been in the past.
Two more of our Mark Lodges have qualified as Grand Patron Gold Award lodges during the year and one Royal Ark Mariner lodge has taken up my challenge from last year and has qualified as a Grand Patron Gold Award lodge. I am aware of other RAM lodges which have made significant progress towards this goal and there have been a number of individuals who have achieved this level, two of whom have had their jewels presented this afternoon.
Many congratulations to you all.
I reiterate my challenge to all the Royal Ark Mariner lodges in the Province to work towards reaching the Gold Award level in the coming year.
W Bro Tony Smith has retired this afternoon as the Provincial Grand Charity Steward. I thank him for all the hard work and effort he has put into this role since his appointment and I am sure that we all wish him well in his future endeavours.
As you all know, a considerable amount of hard work goes into preparing for this meeting and I am especially grateful to W Bro Trevor Clarke and his secretarial team and W Bro Roy Moth and his ceremonial team for all the time and effort they have put in to making this a happy and successful occasion.
I have now held active office for 20 years in this Mark Province including my current service as your Provincial Grand Master.
It has been a very rewarding period in my life, which I have enjoyed enormously and I hope that I have been of some help in expanding the knowledge and scope of the Mark degree in this Province.
However, all good things come to an end and I have concluded that it is time for me to retire and hand over to a successor who will bring new thinking to the Province. Therefore, this will be the last time that I shall preside over Provincial Grand Lodge.
Next year a new PGM will be installed and I will announce his identity as soon as the Grand Secretary allows me to do so.
I have made many friends in this and other Orders in Hertfordshire and I am grateful to all my opposite numbers in the other Orders, especially the Craft and Royal Arch for the happy and harmonious relationship we have enjoyed.
I have enjoyed the support of all the members of this Province and I shall take so many memories of good times past into retirement with me.
As you have all supported me over the past number of years so I am sure you will give my successor just a much support.
I wish you all health and strength to enjoy the future and may the Great Overseer bless and preserve you all.