The Provincial Grand Master’s introductory comments on the occasion of an additional meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge held to confer additional first appointments to Past Provincial rank

Brethren, welcome to you all and I am absolutely delighted to see so many of you here to support not only the Derbyshire Lodge of Installed Masters and our guest speaker, WBro Granville Angell, but most importantly those about to receive their first Provincial appointment.

The purpose of this meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge is therefore very simple and fairly obvious.  As I am sure you are aware the number of first appointments – Acting and Past – that any Provincial Grand Master is able to make is strictly regulated by the Book of Constitutions.  The number of appointments to Acting rank is dictated by the number of brethren in the Province and the whole, including first time appointments to Past rank, must not exceed the number of lodges.

At times of Masonic celebration, in this case my Installation as Provincial Grand Master, the Most Worshipful Grand Master may authorise additional first time appointments to past rank.  I am very pleased to say that the Grand Master has given his consent and so I am now delighted to be in the position of appointing an additional 15 brethren to the rank of Past Provincial Grand Steward – 1 for every 5 lodges in the Province.

The brethren so selected merit the appointment and I will cover that later on in the meeting.

The Provincial Grand Master’s address following the investiture

Brethren, first and foremost hearty congratulations to those 15 brethren who are now wearing the distinctive red apron, collar and jewel of a Past Provincial Grand Steward.

Over the last few weeks I have been approached by a number of brethren with just one question on their lips – why me? WBro Bishton has managed it 40 times alone!

I have previously explained why fifteen brethren have received an early – and additional –Past Provincial appointment.  But why these fifteen brethren?

The answer is very simple, as I have said to them already– at this stage in their masonic journey, they warrant it because of what they have already done and achieved.

However Bro Past Provincial Grand Stewards, your further progress in Freemasonry will depend entirely on how you conduct yourself personally, the work that you undertake and the guidance you give within your own Lodge and the assistance that you give to the Province.

I have had the opportunity of speaking to you collectively and individually and you know what I expect of you in your new rank. I am quietly confident that you will not let me, the Province of Derbyshire, your own Lodge and most importantly yourselves down.

So why Stewards? Let me answer that question by putting it in a wider context.

On Wednesday 18th November Kinder Scout Lodge in New Mills surrendered its warrant after 92 years – the 6th Lodge in Derbyshire to do so in recent years and I fear that others may follow suit.  In the last twenty years we have lost 30% of our membership and our Lodges, as well as the Province, have been weakened as a result. We have not been alone; other Provinces have suffered in the same manner and until recently we had no coordinated or planned response to this reduction – no plan B!

Many of you who were at Kinder Scout will no doubt recall what I said about the need for us to evolve in order to become stronger. To use a gardening analogy you often have to cut a plant back to strengthen it and encourage it to flourish. And so it is in Freemasonry – as has been the case throughout our 300 year history, some lodges will close and others form – it is the natural, evolutionary, order of things and the brethren of those closing lodges will join other lodges and use their energy and skills in supporting the new lodge and making it stronger.

But similarly we need to look at producing and planting hardier stock that will be stronger and more resilient. So it is with Freemasonry.

UGLE, and particularly the Membership Focus Group, are looking at our future direction. We know we have to develop co-ordinated plans and strategies to reduce the falling numbers. You will shortly see a copy of UGLE’s key strategies when you receive the next copy of Freemasonry Today. Now it is time for this Province to develop its own plans.

We need to:

  • Set ourselves targets and objectives and make people accountable,
  • Improve our image and the public’s perception of Masons,
  • Work within the community to make an impact,
  • Improve our leadership skills,
  • Share good practice between Lodges.

Brethren, I ask you all to think now where you as individuals want to be in 3, 5, 10 years’ time? Where do you want your lodge to be? Will your lodge reach its centenary or its next milestone? We need to move out of the “I’m alright Jack” attitude and start thinking hard about those young men coming through the ranks and what sort of legacy we can leave for them.

We need to listen to them and what their needs are. What guidance and training do they need to develop their masonic skills? Are our Halls fit for the purpose anymore? These are two of the key points that have come out of the Membership Focus Group survey and in Derbyshire we have already started to tackle these two issues.

So, brethren, what is my vision for Derbyshire? My duties are no different to those of any Worshipful Master – to leave this Province stronger than I received it.

Cherish – Nurture – Thrive – Cherish the youth coming through because they are the future; nurture them and see them and Freemasonry thrive. Brethren we have been complacent for far too long.

We are now at 2,666 masons in this Province – my target is to reach 3,000 by 2020 and with your help that target will be achieved

Let’s adopt the traffic light system in our thinking, to help us evolve so that we are fit for the future and strong and sustainable in years to come. Red – what practices or traditions would you stop doing immediately; amber – what would you continue with; green – what do you need to start doing anew.

Is there a need or a place for more specialist lodges like Flyfishers? A conservationist’s lodge perhaps?

Now I can address the question, why Stewards?

I prefer for us to play the part of the shepherd rather than the sheep and so it is therefore my intention, and the intention of my Executive, to form a new specialist lodge that will help us to achieve our goal for growth.

It is to be called, subject to Grand Lodge’s approval, The Cornucopia Lodge and will be the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge of Derbyshire. Some of you may have guessed that. Its very nature means that it will not be looking for Initiates nor will it be competing with this Lodge in terms of giving talks and lectures. It will be a working Lodge to serve the needs of this Province – to host the Promotions meeting and the annual Lecture Festival; to support the Provincial Secretariat and the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies in preparing, arranging and assisting with the Annual Meeting and the Promotions meeting; assisting the Special Events Coordinator with the Funfair and any other similar function; supporting the University Scheme lodges and our newer brethren as well as escorting the Chain Bearers and Wardens when attending any lodge meeting and so on.

Some initial meetings have already taken place and a sponsoring Lodge and Petitioners have been found. Now, more Founders are required.

It is open to all present and past Provincial Grand Stewards of this and other Provinces – in that last category we have some 20 or so who are members of Derbyshire Lodges and who have been Stewards in East Lancashire, Yorkshire West Riding, Nottinghamshire, Northants and Hunts, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire. I now encourage all past – and present – Provincial Grand Stewards to come forward and be part of this exciting new development.

Stewards’ regalia will, of course, be worn in the lodge. So all Past Stewards, irrespective of their current rank, are asked to purchase a red apron and collar and wear that regalia with immense pride.

As of next year it is my intention to use the rank of Provincial Grand Steward as an early first appointment for deserving Past Masters. Promotion thereafter will and should always depend on endeavour and conduct.

Thus amongst all the sadness of lodges closing we have the pleasure and joy of looking forward to a new and, dare I say it, vibrant and energetic lodge that will help us all in taking this wonderful province forward on its journey of evolution. Freemasonry should be fun and enjoyable – I expect this new Lodge to exemplify that and to give new impetus to many of our brethren and their activities.

Worshipful Master, thank you and the brethren of the Derbyshire Lodge of Installed Masters for allowing me to hold this additional meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge within your Lodge meeting.

We should all thank WBro Henry Kukiewicz and the Provincial Secretariat, as well as the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his crew, for their considerable additional efforts which ensured that this meeting went so smoothly.

I am particularly indebted to all my Provincial Officers for their continuing support.

And finally brethren, I thank you for attending and making this such a memorable and special occasion for our new Past Provincial Grand Stewards.

Brethren, as I have told you before, I am proud to be a Derbyshire Mason and I am proud of each and every one of you.

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