Once again you have turned out in large numbers to support those brethren receiving Provincial honours today. I understand that this is the largest attendance of our members ever recorded and I thank you all for coming.
I have already had the pleasure of welcoming our Provincial guests and the Lodge guests were also welcomed earlier. I reiterate that welcome to all our visitors and I hope that you will all have a happy time with us and an enjoyable Festive Board later in good company.
To those brethren I have had the privilege of investing with Provincial Royal Ark Mariner Grand Rank this afternoon, I extend my congratulations. You have all worked hard for the good of the Order in general and your respective lodges in particular, and you fully deserve the honour.
I make no apology for reiterating once again that honours are not automatic, they have to be earned. Every recipient today has justified his recognition and it is a great pleasure for me to be able to reward able and dedicated brethren.
Last year I threw out a challenge to all the RAM lodges in the Province to make the attempt to become Grand Patron Gold Award lodges of the Mark Benevolent Fund.
I am glad to say that many of our lodges have taken up the challenge and two have achieved that objective. This has been done by a combination of individual generosity on the part of lodge members and by transferring surplus funds from the Mark lodge to which they are moored over and above the amount required for the Mark lodge to achieve the same honorific.
I repeat that challenge today and I hope that there will be many more RAM lodges who will reach that target during the next 12 months.
I understand that attendance at many of our Royal Ark Mariner lodges is 50% or less of the nominal membership of that lodge. I am sure that there is a combination of factors, which causes so many of our members to miss meetings and I wish to address two possible causes this afternoon.
I have mentioned starting times of lodges on a number of occasions in the past and I make no apology for doing so again this afternoon. We have to recognise that times have changed. Brethren cannot take a half or full day off work to attend a lodge meeting as could have been done 30 or 40 years ago and any start time earlier than 5.30pm is going to result in diminished attendance. Moreover, if the standard of work is not of the highest quality then brethren will not attend and this has a knock-on impact on both recruitment and retention.
The ceremony of elevation together with the normal administrative business of the lodge should only take about 45 minutes if the lodge officers are properly prepared. If tea is provided before the opening of the lodge rather than during the break between the close of the Royal Ark Mariner lodge and the opening of the Mark lodge that will also help the timing.
Lodges can go further and hold the Royal Ark Mariner lodge on a different day to the Mark lodge. Two meetings during the year instead of three would result in only one extra meeting during the year and the increase in both nominal membership and attendance will offset any increase in cost resulting from that extra meeting.
Two Royal Ark Mariner lodges in the Province have taken this step with a resulting increase in membership and an influx of candidates. Opening the Lodge at 6pm has also resulted in an increase in attendance.
I urge all the lodges in the Province to investigate this as a means of increasing interest in our Order.
The second cause I wish to address is the preparation and quality of the ritual.
W Bro Maurice Smith has been instrumental in setting up a very successful and well attended LOI at Watford and has created an informative and helpful accompanying website, which incorporates RAM as well as Mark information including meeting dates and times and a schematic for both Mark and RAM ceremonies. A second LOI has been established at Cheshunt recently and
details of this LOI also appear on the website. A revival of the LOI at St Albans is in the planning stage at present.
I urge all brethren both newly elevated and with long experience to support these LOIs and contribute to the improvement in our ritual standards and provide the best possible experience for our candidates for elevation.
Lodge Scribes and Directors of Ceremony should always spend time in proper preparation for each meeting and the same applies equally to Provincial meetings. I congratulate both the Provincial Scribe and his colleagues and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for the careful and detailed preparation that has been undertaken to enable us to enjoy a happy and successful meeting and to make this day a memorable one for all of us but especially for the recipients of honours.
My thanks to all of you for attending in such large numbers.
GOD bless you all.