Provincial Grand Lodge
Provincial Grand Master's Address, Provincial Team & Lodge Visits
Click on the section headings below to see the various topics.

5th October 2016   
  Membership and the 2020 campaign
  Brethren, a year ago, I launched our 2020 for 2020 campaign, that is 2020 members by the year 2020 and I am very pleased to report that we are making good progress towards that target and I must thank the whole 2020 team, led by my Deputy Neal Spencer and Garry Heath, for their hard work in driving this forward. I can announce that we now have almost 2000 memberships (as opposed to members) once again, and our growth rate as measured by UGLE stands at 3.5% compared to a national average of 0.1%. This is tremendous, but we cannot be complacent and we must continue to work on recruitment, retention, rejuvenation and reconnection with the community. Our resignation rate is still too high and as lodges and centres, we must seek to benefit from the demographic growth in the province. We must adapt to do this, and look at how we run our meetings, without losing the bits we all value. I am pleased to say that a number of Lodges have embraced this and are now reaping the benefits, with multiple ceremonies and initiations in the pipeline and I am receiving requests for emergency meetings.
  Of particular note in this context, I must mention Blockley Lodge, which earlier this year was admitted as a member of the Universities Scheme, with a focus on Oxford Brookes. They celebrated this by initiating four brethren on one evening, and they have plenty more candidates in the pipeline and I believe had a table at Freshers Fair.
  I am also pleased to say that the Installed Masters Lodge is also growing, but frankly its membership numbers are still very poor when compared to other provinces. It has a great programme of events and it is an opportunity to keep in touch with those Masters with whom you shared your year of office. I would encourage all WMs and indeed PMs who are not members to give active consideration to joining – I would be very happy to propose you – and, as an added incentive, the Treasurer of the Lodge was able to reduce the annual subscription at the last meeting.
  It cannot have escaped anyone's attention that UGLE is celebrating its Tercentenary next year and there is great programme of events planned. At a National Level, there is the Grand Ball on 30th September and the Tercentenary meeting on 31st October at Royal Albert Hall. There is also a four part documentary being aired on Sky early in the new year. This will, we hope, increase our profile in a positive way, and we must ensure that as a province we leverage that effect to increase our membership, as well as our profile in the community in this county.
  Nationally, the attention this year has been on the Olympics, but we have been focusing on our own series of sporting challenges against our friends and neighbours – Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex and Hertfordshire. There are eleven events, the first of which clay pigeon shooting has already happened. It was a great day and looks like it will lead to the formation of a new Provincial society. If you want to know more about the other events and even better to participate, please see the website or talk to Paul Buck.
  Our main event will be the raceday at Windsor on Sunday 2 July, shared with our friends and families. The only prediction I am going to make is that it will be a great family day out and I encourage you all to sign up before Christmas at the reduced price of £19 per adult, children under the age of 18 are free. And finally watch for details of other events being organised locally.
  Although this is a Craft provincial meeting, I do want to use the opportunity to reinforce the close connections between the Craft and Chapter. At the Provincial Committee in June, we announced that we are re-launching the Chapter Representatives scheme under the title Chapter Ambassadors and you will be hearing more about this over the coming weeks. And I would encourage those of you who have not yet been exalted, or indeed have let your membership lapse, to talk to your friends about joining a Chapter in this province. Our chapter membership as a percentage of Craft masons is one of the lowest in the country and is something I am keen to improve. And finally, on this topic, I have no hesitation in saying publicly that membership and promotion of Chapter is one of the factors we look at when considering Craft provincial appointments and promotions.
  Turning now to Charity, I want to say how proud I am of what we do in this province in the cause of charity. The Pantomime project has been growing year on year; the fishing events are increasingly popular, we have added the circus to the calendar and we are increasing our links with the Scouts. When added to the donations that you as individuals and Lodges make, as well as the time that is willingly given, it is a marvellous contribution. And I am pleased to say that we are getting more positive recognition for this in the local media.
  Appointments and promotions
  Brethren, a couple of weeks, we held an informal get together of the outgoing and incoming teams of provincial officers. It was an opportunity to thank those leaving office as well as to welcome and congratulate those taking up new appointments. I'm not going to repeat what I said then about expectations, but I do want to pay particular tribute to a number of officers who have retired from office today after a number of years of excellent service to the province. Allan Peates was Almoner for seven years, Tom Byrne our Registrar for six years, Allan Jenkins our Tyler for six years, Roger Hampshire the Charity Steward for five years and Phillip Purves Chaplain for three years. I thank all of them for carrying out their roles with the necessary commitment and dedication and I know that they will continue to support the province and their successors.
  And finally ...
  Brethren, there is lots more that I could talk about – the Visiting Officers Scheme, Cardinal House, the importance of visiting, the travelling gavel to name but a few topics. But I sense that a pint of beer or gin and tonic are more appealing at this stage. So let me close but saying thank you to all those who have been involved in organising and setting up today; and also to my executive for their support and friendship, as well as constructive challenge, over the past year.
  Brethren, I hope you enjoy your masonry over the coming year. I thank you for listening to me, and I ask the Great Architect to keep you, your families and friends under his watchful eye.
  Brethren, those of you who were paying attention to my address may have been surprised that I did not mention the 2022 Festival. Since Oxfordshire held its last festival in 2011 which raised £1.6m for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, we have seen the amalgamation of the four Masonic charities under one umbrella organisation, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). Since it was formally launched in April this year, the MCF has continued the traditions set by its predecessors, but with the advantage that more of the funds raised reach the recipients and with a quicker turnaround. I will shortly introduce you to Les Hutchinson who will tell us more about the MCF and the good works that it is doing, both nationally and here in Oxfordshire.
  Today, I am able to announce that we will be formally launching our Festival on 24 February 2017, with a black tie dinner at the Kassam stadium. More details are available on flyers at the luncheon table and will shortly be on the website. W.Bro. Graham Ellis will be the Chairman of the Festival, and he will be ably supported by his key lieutenants – W.Bros Yanto Evans, Bill Butcher, Andy O'Sullivan and Russell Fowler. Graham is also keen to hear from anyone else interested in being involved. They will make a great team and I know that you will give them their full support.
  Although we will not formally launch until February next year, there is no reason why we should not start raising funds now. Gift Aid forms will be available immediately after this meeting.
  It is a real privilege that Oxfordshire will be one of the first provinces to host a festival in aid of the MCF and I have no doubt that the brethren of the province, supported by their friends and families, will rise to the challenge. The festival will culminate in 2022, by which time I am sure we will be able to announce that we have achieved a magnificent total, and we will be able to celebrate in true Oxfordshire fashion. We may be one of the smallest provinces to host a festival, but we can show that our relative contribution can match the largest.
  One of my main aims for the next five years is to ensure that everyone is involved. Whilst we will use many tried and trusted means of raising funds, let's also find new ways and new events, so that all of our brethren, their families and friends can participate and contribute, and not just rely on the faithful few.
  My other main aim is that we should all have fun during the next five years. I have seen many other festivals across the country and the most successful financially are those that have the most fun. Enjoy the festival, along with your fellow lodge members, your families and friends. Be proud of what you are doing in supporting the MCF and the work that they do, as well of being a freemason. Wear your festival jewel and tie with pride.
  Thank you in anticipation of all your efforts on behalf of this very worthy cause. And to tell us more about the MCF, let me now introduce W.Bro. Les Hutchinson, who is the Chief Operating Officer.
  Presentation Of Certificate Of Merit
  Brethren, I congratulate all those who have received appointment and promotion today – all are well deserved. But last year I introduced a Certificate of Merit and lapel badge as a way of recognising someone who has gone over and above the usual level of contribution. Whilst it was not necessarily intended to be an annual presentation, when I considered the possible candidates, I have absolutely no hesitation in making a second award this year.
  If you were to look at the bare bones of this brother's masonic record, it would be typical of many of the members in this province. Initiated over 30 years ago, he was subsequently installed as WM nearly 10 years later. After that he has contributed to the Lodge by acting as its Treasurer for more than 10 years. He was recognised in due time by the Province with appointment to PPrAGDC and has subsequently held a couple of active Provincial appointments as Sword Bearer and Senior Warden.
  But there are three particular reasons to mark out this brother for special recognition.
First, his support and promotion of Chapter. Whilst he has held active and high office in the province, he has quietly promoted Chapter within the Craft Lodges.
Second, in the address to the brethren, which I have been known to give on one or two occasion, we talk about the grand design of being happy ourselves and communicating happiness. This brother is the epitome of that, and there cannot by anyone who has met this brother who has not enjoyed his company.
Third, he has actively contributed over a long period behind the scenes to a large number of provincial activities. This he does willingly and cheerfully, with a great deal of commitment and to a very high standard. If I were to mention his involvement in the Provincial Calendar or the production of seating plans, you'd probably guess who I mean.
  As I say, brethren, I have absolutely no hesitation is presenting my Certificate of Merit to W.Bro. Mick Hollis and I know you will join me in applauding him as I ask the Prov GDC to escort him to me.