Welcome to this first briefing paper since the installation of our new Provincial Grand Master in October. In this document I have providing you with several pieces of information from which you can ‘cherry pick’ items of relevance to pass on to any Lodge for which you are a Visiting Officer.
The Centenary Fund has been in operation since 1992 and its sole purpose is to give consideration, and make donations when appropriate, to requests for help from non-Masonic charities, local voluntary organisations and needy individuals solely within the Province of Buckinghamshire.
The initial fund of £460,000 raised by the Brethren of this Province at that time, has been invested since then to generate income, and that income has then been disbursed throughout the county as and when necessary, by the Committee of Brethren that oversees the general running of this charity. That income has recently exceeded the £1,000,000 barrier in total over that period, and has satisfied in excess of 420 successful requests.
There is an ongoing request from Province, voted on and renewed every year at Provincial Grand Lodge, for each Lodge to make a voluntary contribution as a top-up to the Centenary Fund of just £2 per member. Bearing in mind the enormous amount of good this generates for those less fortunate than ourselves, as well as the goodwill created in the local community, this is a relatively small price to pay.
Some Lodges go further and make more substantial lump sums on a piecemeal basis which helps to boost the basic assets of the fund and increases the income which is needed to carry out this wonderful work.
Please explain the Centenary Fund to the Brethren as many of them seem unaware of how it functions and the good that it does. Also discuss with the Lodge Secretary or Treasurer whether their Lodge contributes the £2 per member and whether they might consider additional support by way of a lump sum. Inform them that any contributions they make will be thankfully received and faithfully applied.
Bucks Masonic Wanderers (The BMW Club)
This Club is made up of a group of willing volunteer Brethren from all areas of the Province who receive requests (centrally through the coordinator, W. Bro. Andy Collins) from Lodges that are low in membership and feel that they need to bolster the numbers attending certain ceremonies such as Initiations, etc., to generate a “bigger” and perhaps happier atmosphere and to fill the back benches, as it were. The result has been seen to be very beneficial by those Lodges who have used it.
The BMW Club is looking to add members of its own to extend this excellent service to the increasing number of Lodges asking for such assistance.
Members are not expected to attend every meeting - just those meetings they find to be convenient for their diary, even if this is only very occasionally. Members however are expected to pay for their own travelling costs to the meeting and to pay for their meal at the Festive Board (if they are able to stay for that as well).
One of the upsides of this service to struggling Lodges has been that the members make new friends and have a great deal of fun in doing so. Climb aboard and have a good time. Please inform the Brethren about the BMW Club and suggest that they contact Cliff Drake or Andy Collins if they would like to become a member or if their Lodge would like a visit from Club members.
The objective of the University Scheme is to establish or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other University members to join and enjoy Freemasonry.
Grenville Lodge, which meets at the Yeomanry Hall in Buckingham, has been identified as a suitable Lodge to Initiate and develop students from The University of Buckingham and the PGM has agreed that the Lodge can proceed with an application to join the scheme. Following various committee meetings members of Grenville Lodge have considered the mandatory criteria to which they must conform if they are to join the scheme and have agreed that the various scheme requirements are acceptable to the Lodge.
The Scheme’s Lead Regional Co-ordinator for East and South East England, W. Bro. Jonathan Rose and the Scheme Secretary, W. Bro. Mark Greenburgh will be visiting Grenville Lodge at their January meeting to discuss the progress of their application with Lodge members. It is hoped that other Buckinghamshire Lodges which are close to Universities will consider joining the Scheme in the near future.
Freemasonry in the Community Week
Over the last couple of years a good number of Lodges have carried out very significant and successful projects in the community and photographs and articles have appeared on our web site and in local newspapers. There does, however, seem to have been two main issues which have prevented some Lodges from taking part in this initiative. One has been the limited period of time suggested in June for completion of a community activity and the other has been the difficulty in finding a suitable project.
Robert Wharton, one of our newly appointed APGMs, will be taking responsibility for the Freemasonry in the Community Week in 2012 and is re-launching it with some fresh ideas.
In future a project can take place any time during the months of May, June, July and August. The details of the work carried out by a Lodge will be published in Concord and on our web site and from this year onwards the PGM will, at the Provincial Meeting, make an award to the Lodge that has implemented the most innovative and successful project during the year. Centre Coordinators have for some time been building up a list of suggested projects within their area and a list of organisations who may appreciate some assistance. This list will continue to grow as the scheme develops and Lodges should not hesitate to ask their Centre Coordinator for help if they are struggling to find a suitable project.
Full coverage of the 2012 Freemasonry in the Community Week will be given in future editions of Concord and on the Provincial web site. A letter regarding the 2012 plans has been sent to Coordinators, Lodge Secretaries and Visiting Officers. Please encourage Lodges to support this initiative and consider appointing a Lodge member to move things forward in their own Lodge.
Freemasonry Care in the Community
The Centre activities for Care in the Community have developed from two or three Centres being involved just four years ago to nine Centres now taking part. Most of these Centres are arranging one or two events each year and a full programme of events will be taking place during winter 2011 and spring 2012 at the Slough, Beaconsfield, Marlow, Aylesbury and Bletchley Centres.
During December there will be an OAP’s lunch at Bletchley and Marlow, a lunch for Carers and Alzheimer’s sufferers at Slough and a Young Carers event at Beaconsfield. A new strategy team is being assembled to identify major projects which can be adopted by both the Care in the Community and the Freemasonry in the Community Week teams in order to facilitate groups of Lodges or specific Centres to take on longer-term projects. Please encourage Brethren to support any event taking place in their Centre. Physical assistance to run an event is a need expressed by all of the organisers and is a commodity they are regularly short of.
Cheque Presentation Evenings
Our sixth presentation evening took place during November at Aylesbury Masonic Centre. On the night over 90 attendees, consisting of Lodge members and charity representatives saw £26,000 being donated to nearly thirty different charities. An excellent night was had by all and during the evening those present learned what the various charities did and why Lodges were supporting them. Many good photograph opportunities were presented. As a result some excellent articles have appeared in local newspapers which have presented Freemasonry in a very positive way.
The benefits to both Freemasonry and the charities are clear to see. The arrangements for the evening and the attendance of the charity representatives are organised by our Provincial Charity Steward ( now Graham Dearing) so the Lodge simply has to arrange a cheque to present and someone to present it.
Please point out to Lodges that if they have donations to make to any charity, either local or national, they may like to consider doing it at our next presentation evening in May 2012, or at a future event.
July 2011 saw the completion of two years for the ihelp project. In those 24 months iHelp has grown into a major Freemasonry in the Community youth initiative and has:
Those of you who read Freemasonry Today, Number 15, Summer/Autumn 2011 will have seen on page 32 that the Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent said " On a visit to the Province of Buckinghamshire to see their Freemasonry in the Community projects, I was particularly impressed with their ihelp youth competition - involving young groups competing for prize money to show the positive side of young people. These projects are supported by the local dignitaries and are enormously important for our external image".
For the 2012 programme we have set a target of 100 youth teams entering the competition and each team will be supported by a coordinator who will guide them through the entry process right up to when they have finished their project and have presented a report. Brethren can learn more about ihelp from our dedicated ihelp web site. Leaflets explaining the scheme are available in all Masonic Centres.
Please ask the Brethren to support the project and to give a leaflet to youth groups - such as scouts, guides, schools - or to any young person. We would like them to encourage youngsters to enter the competition with the possibility of winning a very significant monitary prize. We still need more coordinators to assist the teams and anyone who would like to become a helper and be the proud wearer of the distinctive new ihelp badge should let you know. You can assist them to be involved by putting them in touch with Eugene Matthias or John Poulter who are members of the ihelp management team.
The number of shows is being increased during 2012 and we hope to be represented at up to 10 events during the show season. The show stand content will be revamped during the year and a section of the marquee will incorporate a display of the ‘ihelp’ project. The stand will be manned by both show team members and ihelp coordinators.
North East Corner Club
This initiative was very successfully re launched during 2011. It now consists of six events each year, three in the south and three in the north of the Province under the guidance of a common committee. The events have ranged from Saturday morning ‘Breakfast Festive Boards’ to a visit to Grand Lodge which included wives and partners.
The recent emphasis has been on explaining those elements of Freemasonry which are not in the ‘Blue Book’ or regularly covered by a Lodge of Instruction and to promote fellowship within the community of less experienced Masons.
The new Provincial Mentor intends to have a hands-on direct contact approach with Lodges and Lodge Mentors. It is hoped that every Lodge will, during the next 12 months, have appointed a Lodge Mentor as a point of contact for the Provincial team. It is anticipated that the office of Lodge Mentor will become an officially recognised office during 2012.
An Oration team representative will contact each Lodge individually during the year and it is hoped that at least one Oration can be delivered annually to every Lodge within the Province. Please ask Lodges to contact the Provincial Grand Orator if they would like to receive an oration.
Provincial Web Site www.buckspgl.org
Please remind the Brethren that our web site is full of useful information on the above subjects and much more and is updated at three monthly intervals. By visiting the site regularly you will also get additional information and updates which you can use to keep the Brethren well informed.
Visiting Officer Reports
You will shortly be receiving a Visiting Officer report form and I would ask you please to complete it and return it to me, by email or post, no later than the end of January.
May I remind you that the success of most of our projects is dependant on lots of our Brethren getting involved and your enthusiasm for the current Provincial initiatives is very important in encouraging them to take part.
Thank you for your continued support and assistance and on behalf of the Provincial Executive may I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a successful New Year.
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