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November 24, 2020

PGM’s Address to the Provincial VBM, 24th November 2020

Brethren,

This being a Virtual Business Meeting (VBM) and not a physical Provincial
Annual Meeting my address this evening has to be shorter than usual.

The first 5 months of our 2019/2020 Masonic year were fairly normal, certainly when compared to the current situation, but then earlier this calendar year and only a week after the March Grand Lodge meeting there was a 4-month total cessation of all Masonic activities – meaning that our Provincial Meeting could not take place at the Girls’ School in Rickmansworth on its normal date in July.

We had hoped of course to reconvene that meeting to earlier this Autumn but that was not to be the case. With the Coronavirus outbreak still being prevalent in the U.K., restrictions on the number of persons allowed to meet indoors has become even more stringent moving from 30 down to 6 and currently of course no meetings can take place. It is now clear that, once the current lockdown in England is removed, the tier system will be re-introduced but with even tighter restrictions. If that is so, and dependent into which tier Hertfordshire is placed, it is possible that meeting indoors will be so restricted that Lodges will be unable to form a quorum and therefore cannot meet. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

My thanks must go to those retiring Provincial Officers who supported our meetings so well before the various restrictions were put in place. I’m sorry you were not able to be seen around the Province for a full year but I can assure you that your contributions, however small, were much appreciated. Likewise I congratulate all those who should have been invested with Provincial Honours in person back in July but had to have them conferred ‘from a distance’. I look forward to the time when I can congratulate each of you personally and shake your hand (assuming of course that there will be a time when the shaking of hands is once again permitted).

Earlier this evening the Assistant PGM read the names of those who died during the year between our 2019 meeting at the Girls’ School and that scheduled for July 14th this year. Some had succumbed to Covid-19 but whatever the cause all will be sorely missed. There are others who have been called to higher service more recently, all of whom will be acknowledged both with eulogies in their own Lodges and at next year’s Provincial Meeting.

Very few of our Lodges have been able to have what I would call a ‘proper’ meeting since the start of the original Mark cessation although some have been able to hold a ‘Rule of 6’ meeting whereas others have been holding VBMs. You may think that nothing much has been happening with so few meetings taking place but that could not be further from the truth.

Your Executive has been holding fortnightly Zoom meetings and, with the assistance of the Provincial Development Committee, have introduced two
additional means of communication within the Province namely MailChimp and our new newsletter ‘Mark in Time’, both of which you will have experienced recently. My sincere thanks to the Deputy PGM and all of his team who have worked so hard on these projects. They are, by the way, now working on the next edition of ‘Mark in Time’ which should be with you all in time for Christmas.

At least two of our Provincial Officers are finding that their workloads have increased significantly since March. Our Provincial Grand Secretary has had to have even more contact than normal with Mark Grand Lodge – not only with regard to interpreting the required recommendations coming from the Grand Secretary and passing them onto our Secretaries and Scribes but also, in the reverse direction, approving summonses and getting them to Mark Grand Lodge to be appended to the various Lodge records held there. On my behalf he has also been issuing the necessary dispensations to allow VBMs to proceed.

The other Provincial Officer who has gone ‘above and beyond’ is our Provincial Grand Almoner. Norwell tells me that since March 17th he has been making between 10 and 30 phone calls per day to brethren and/or their dependents. By my calculations, and taking the lower figure quoted, he has already made over 2,500 calls to date. Brother Lodge Almoners I trust that each of you have been supporting Norwell’s efforts regarding the brethren of your respective Lodges.

You will see from the current edition of ‘Mark in Time’ that Charity has not been forgotten over the recent months. We have now purchased, through the LifeLites organisation, an EyeGaze unit which has been delivered to Lex – a young boy suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy with Respiratory Distress – and we will be watching his progress and reporting on it in future editions. You will also be aware of the Provincial initiative, running until July of next year, to provide a new motorcycle to the group that we know affectionately as the ‘Beds and Herts Blood Bikes’. We are on track to reach our £15,000 aim but we do still need your donations, so for any Lodge or individual who hasn’t yet contributed please do contact our Provincial Grand Charity Steward to rectify the situation.

Had this been an actual Provincial Meeting I know that by now you would all have been looking forward to getting to the bar for a quick drink before dinner. I expect that you have the same desire now, although of course you will have to provide your own refreshment. I will therefore finish by saying: My thanks to you all for what you have done over the past 16 months, for your donations to the Provincial Benevolent Fund and indeed for attending this meeting.

Please comply fully with all the recommendations coming both from Mark Masons Hall and Governmental sources so that the chance of contracting CoVid19 is minimised. For once I can wish you all ‘A Happy and Peaceful Christmas’.

Finally brethren. May the Great Overseer of the Universe bless and preserve you and your families and remember, ‘among Mark Master Masons you will ever find friends’.

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