I'm sure that during 2020, hardly a day has gone by when, like me, you haven't asked yourself, whatever next? Within Freemasonry at least, we have the re-assurance of the support and encouragement of our brethren and the hope and expectation of meeting together in the way that we all enjoy so much. When that time does come, we will have much to catch up on and we will certainly organise a suitable party to celebrate it.
Above all, while always following the guidelines, do keep together regularly in whatever way suits you best and remember that your lodge does not have just one Almoner now - we are all Almoners, with everything that that implies. I include in this the need to keep in touch - especially with our newer members and with our prospective members awaiting Initiation-surely at the start of their masonic career we must want them to see Freemasonry in the best possible light. Our widows, too, have the same reasonable expectation.
This address should have a link in the current edition of Square News, and on that subject I can't thank enough our retiring Provincial Communication Officer, Jonathan Swift and the editor, Andy Philpott and the whole of the Comms Team, for working so hard in producing this newsletter for our enjoyment every Monday. Jonathan thank you for everything – you should be very proud of what you have achieved and it’s been a great pleasure working with you. Brody Swain succeeds Jonathan as our PCO, he is a rare talent, I know that he will do a great job for us and we all wish him well.
We have also said farewell to our Provincial Assistant Secretary, John Humphreys, after no less than ten years of being fully committed to that job in support of three Provincial Grand Secretaries, and also as Secretary of the 2022 Festival Committee. Huge thanks, John, and we are all looking forward to see you installed as Master of George Taylor Lodge. Chris John has agreed to be Acting Assistant Secretary. I know that he will enjoy working with Iain and thank him for his support too.
Michael Dykes and the Communications team also organised a very successful "Audience with" Zoom meetings earlier in the year. The first of the second series took place last Tuesday with an excellent presentation by W.Bro. Tony Harvey, a member of our Installed Masters Lodge and well known to you all, I'm sure. Don't miss the ones that are to follow.
I hope that by now you will have received an email including the latest information from MCF setting out as it does the huge amount that our main central charity has done over the past year when calls on its resources have been greater than ever. Last year it supported freemasons and their family members with grants totalling £12.3 million.
I have seen at first hand the determination of the MCF to make an impact on our local communities on behalf of Freemasonry - the first tranche of £1 million enabled £100,000 to be donated to carefully selected charities throughout Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Salop and Warwickshire, and the second series of grants is, as I speak, being prepared with a further £2 million to be donated between now and June next year. There are three 'themes' and the first donation to Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Charities will be made by Christmas. You are entitled to feel extremely proud of this.
I needn't remind you of the fact that our 2022 Festival is one of the main ways of supporting the MCF and enable it to do these great things. Not surprisingly its income has slowed dramatically this year. I'm sure that there is money in many Lodge Charity Accounts waiting to support charitable aims - and I would ask you please to use that resource to donate to the Festival now, when it is most needed, and for individuals to reconsider making, or even increasing, regular giving pledges. Commitment to regular giving now and up to 2023/24 will contribute to the 2022 festival total.
All Lodges should now have access to the QR code on all correspondence which makes donations to the Festival extremely quick and easy.
In summary, the total given and pledged as at the end of October was nearly £1.3 million towards our target of £2.022 million, the increase in October being about £10,000. Patrick Firminger and I thank you very much for that – it’s a great achievement already. At the moment, I do not now propose to extend the Festival beyond 2022, so please do what you can to support.
The Provincial Secretary, Treasurer and Masonic Hall executives are all working very hard to ensure that we are fully ready for when Freemasonry in Worcestershire returns to something like normal. Everything needs to be ready when that happy day comes and we need to have the resources in place so that we do not fall short.
A major highlight this year has been the completion of the new centre at Stourbridge. We have a beautiful facility now in the centre of the town and great credit to all those involved in procuring it.
Sadly the centre at Dudley closed its doors for the last time. Dudley is one of the cradles of Worcestershire Freemasonry and it would be nice to think that meetings might return there one day. Major improvement works are proceeding at Kings Heath and I thank all those who are showing enormous commitment to that demanding project.
Extraordinarily the Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge took place under the Rule of 6 at Kidderminster on 2nd November. A dramatic contrast to the events of 2019. Living in Tier 2, it meant that I was unable to attend and not having missed Provincial Grand Lodge for about forty years that was a huge disappointment as you can imagine, but I am very grateful to my Deputy who chaired the meeting and conducted the essential formal business. I have to thank Stephen for his ongoing great support and also that of the incredibly hardworking Assistants, Patrick Firminger, John Crowther and Michael Dykes.
I and the Province owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Provincial Secretary and Treasurer Alan Robertson, to their support teams and to all the Collared and Non Collared officers without whose efforts the Province couldn’t function. Last year’s Acting Officers had a year that was cut short and I’m very sorry about that, but I sincerely thank them for their excellent work and the pleasure of their company.
On 2nd November the appointment of acting ranks, past ranks and promotions was confirmed and I congratulate them all including, of course, the new Wardens of the Province, Stephen Middleditch and Mark Gunton. In line with the policy of Grand Lodge, I propose that Acting Officers will have the opportunity to continue for another year.
A number of much loved and respected brethren have passed to Grand Lodge Above and we mourn them deeply. At the soonest opportunity we will hold a Memorial Service with the opportunity to say a proper farewell.
This has been, and continues to be a difficult year, but there are many positives, not least the way in which so many lodges are adapting to this temporary new world, and also to the pleasure of again working with John Phenix, our Grand Superintendent, in addressing these new challenges.
Brethren, with a half full glass in hand, let’s look forward to better times together again, keep safe, let’s hope we can enjoy Christmas, and best wishes from Stephenie and me – our thoughts are with you all.