Provincial Grand Master's Address PGL 2023
Welcome to the 2023 AGM of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Buckinghamshire which is taking place on a Saturday for the first time to eliminate the need for our working members taking annual leave to attend. I extend a very warm welcome to over 650 friends, brethren, and honoured guests for coming to London to share today with us.
“This is a fantastic turnout for us, beating even the BIG day by 30 attendees.”
My personal thanks go to our partners for their support and my own thanks particularly to my wife Sarah for the many things she has given up these past 6 years to help me.
A great event is always delivered by a great team, and I thank Tim Anders, Ian Bailey, Bill Smithson, Steve Pratt and those who always help to make this day special. I thank the Provincial Grand Stewards for the work they do both here and during the year and our very hard-working XO’s and Visiting Officers.
I congratulate those who have received their appointments and promotions today. Wear your new regalia with pride and be a leader in your Lodge. Remember, “We need entrepreneurial leaders, not caretaker managers.”
In June Graham Dearing, our Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch, launched “BIG RED” and they have Exalted 54 new members in September. This has again created an unmistakable energy in the province.
Hugh Douglas-Smith and Gary Brodie have now stepped down but will continue to work on our behalf, with Hugh as head of IT at UGLE and Gary continuing to work on Project Transform Phase 2, which he is pioneering at our Slough centre. I am sure that they will both be very proud of the difference their efforts have made in our province. In all their years of service Hugh and Gary travelled the country in support of Lodges and dedicated thousands of hours of their personal time and their own resources to support Brethren in every single one of our 117 lodges.
Today I welcome our new Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Neil Robertson, and Assistant Provincial Grand Master Matt Perkins.
I thank Bill Smithson who has stepped down due to illness. Bill has been a superb Director of Ceremonies and a driving force in the province in recent years, delivering magnificent events such as the 2022 Festival Ball with his wife Sue. After some time to recover, I am hopeful he will be back on the Executive team. Steve Pratt has stepped up to take Bill's place and I welcome him onto the team today.
Pro Grand Master, Jonathan Spence has made many changes and improvements since taking up his new role and we are inspired by his modern forward thinking. Taking the last Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge to Wales was a great success. Our strategy fully embraces his vision, and we will continue to work hard to deliver on our own strategic goals. In the last 18 months once again, we've had a record number of initiations.
Project Nurture has continued to reduce resignations in 2023 by being aware of members absence using dining records and making sure our elderly friends can always continue to attend and are looked after.
Project Transform will soon reach the completion of its first phase with new light and sound systems now installed at all our centres. This adds a wonderful sense of theatre.
“At this point the lights went out and the room was filled with spotlights and sound from the magnificent organ.”
The new lighting captivates new initiates as well as entertaining our members. I have personally delivered many double Third Degree Ceremonies this year with the new lighting and sound systems and on most occasions, all other parts of the ceremonies were carried out by the “Light Blues Brothers” who have all been in Freemasonry less than 3 years. This is an exceptional team put together by APGM Matt Eaton and is a great example to us all of what is possible.
I congratulate all the members of that team and others who received the Don Varney award today for excellence in ceremonial before going through the chair. I also thank the 350 plus members of our Northeast Corner Club for the work they have done in presenting new initiate packs under the guidance of John Palman.
Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Gary Brodie is undertaking a pilot for Project Transform Phase 2 at Slough to improve the environment and further enhance the membership experience. The transformation currently taking place in the dining room and main lodge room are magnificent.
Our Communications team led by Grae Laws consistently hit the targets laid down in our strategy of 100 joining enquiries every month. As a result of this success some lodges have stopped looking for perspective members closer to home.
To address this, today I am launching a new project called “Bring a Friend” headed up by James Blackhurst. The first event is scheduled for this month on the 25th of October at Slough. All are invited! There will be a complementary bar, barbecue and some sharp presentations from our Exec, Comms and Membership teams (When we last had an event like this at Bradmoor Farm in 2021, 14 people signed up for the BIG 100 Day). The event will run bi-annually at Bletchley and Slough.
To complement “Bring a Friend” we will also be repeating the “Twelve Days of Christmas”.
12DX23 will help to initiate some of those in the backlog of ceremonies and enable those wishing to join after the “Bring a Friend” event.
If your Lodge is not already signed up for 12DX23, then speak to Lloyd Harrison or Dan Cunningham. There are candidates available for lodges that wish to take part and embrace the opportunity.
Soon we will be consecrating a Football themed lodge to complement our already successful Rugby, Curry, Wine, Cricket, Classic Car, Motorbike, Caravan, Beer and shooting lodges. The details for becoming a founder can be found on the provincial website.
Our Provincial Charity Steward Mark Duncan has been relentless, since the end of the festival, in raising tens of thousands of pounds with bike rides, runs, walks and even fire-walks.
There are any number of innovative and interesting reasons to join Bucks Freemasonry!
For 6 years now it has been my privilege to be your Provincial Grand Master. In that time, we have exceeded all my expectations because we have so many exceptional, driven individuals who are making masonry in Buckinghamshire more captivating and fun than ever.
Let’s not take our foot off the gas now.
I’ll see you all at Bring a Friend and 12DX23.
Once again, I thank you all for attending today and hope that you will enjoy the entertainment and dinner that follows.
Provincial Grand Master for Buckinghamshire