“East Kent Combined Services Lodge No 10038”
A New Lodge is Formed!
What A Day!
Well Done Everyone
Wouldn't have missed it for anything
CONSECRATION OF EAST KENT COMBINED SERVICES LODGE No 10038
John Ray writes:
It’s not every year that East Kent Province celebrates the Consecration of a new Lodge. It last happened in 2015, when the Spirit of Rugby Lodge No.9922 kicked off to the sound of referees’ whistles and rugby balls as gavels.
On Saturday 14th October 2023, some 250 Freemasons from Master Masons to the Provincial Grand Master and a Past Deputy Grand Master assembled in the super-tent that is the Clive Emson Conference Centre at the Kent County Showground, Detling, to attend the Consecration of the Combined Services Lodge No.10038.
The Primus (first) Master was to be Steven Ian Simmons. In his introduction to a beautifully crafted programme, Steve set the scene:
“The desire to form such a Lodge was born from many Provinces’ signing-up to the Armed Forces Covenant and likewise wishing to form United Services Lodges. The Province of East Kent has a rich and proud history with both Military and Emergency Services Lodges. I was honoured to attend the Consecration of the Surrey United Services Lodge No.9999 in April 2022 and, whilst travelling home and reflecting on the day, concluded: well, if Surrey can do it, so can we!
“As our name suggests, we are a Combined Services Lodge. Our membership is made up with Brethren from a Military or Emergency background. We have all served the Crown in one capacity or another. From my own experience, once leaving the Military you suddenly realise you’re completely on your own and with very little support or understanding from our civilian counterparts. Freemasonry and the Military go hand in hand with both being well structured, organised, disciplined and with a sense of belonging.
“The ethos of the Lodge is to support both Military and Emergency Services Charities, but likewise being very mindful of our Masonic commitments. Strength and Unity play a very important part of our Lodge as we truly strive to adhere to the foundations and principles on which Freemasonry rests – brotherly love, relief and truth.”
Being a mere Observer, I rolled up at about two o’clock and parked close to the entrance to the Centre. Inside, to the left, was the Robing Room (where we put on our gear) and beyond that the main hall (Lodge Room) where the Ceremony would take place. To the right was the Dining Room, in front of which a young lady was taking the names of the 200 who would be staying for the Festive Board.
Having signed the Register, I had time to circulate – as Masons always do – and catch up with some friends. Peeking into the main hall, I spotted our PGM, Neil Hamilton Johnstone, at his chair: some last-minute checking, maybe? Also in the hall was our Provincial Grand Organist, John Fry. He had been there since nine o’clock, as had many of the participants. Having helped out occasionally at the Province’s Annual Meetings, I appreciate how much time and effort is put into getting our ceremonial Events just right.
Last m inute checks by our Provincial Grand Director of Cermonies, (Acting) Graham Cuthbert sitting in the Deputy Provincial Grand Masters Chair. Last bit of revision!
We were all in our seats by 1430 hrs – not ‘half past two’, of course: a Combined Services Lodge would use the twenty-four-hour clock, wouldn’t it?
Striding up to the “rostrum” came Graham Cuthbert, Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, accompanied by his colleagues David Martins and Warren Morgan. Graham told us that he was deputising for Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Andy Stevens, who was attending a family wedding. We were advised to turn off our mobile phones or we’d be “fined” by the Provincial Grand Charity Steward. As if!
At 1444 hrs (note the military precision) we were all instructed to rise and receive the Past Deputy Grand Master Russell John Race. Next came the PGM himself, accompanied by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Phil South and the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Mark Costelloe, Duncan Rouse and Trevor Carter, together with the Provincial Escorting Officers.
The PGM opened the proceedings, requesting his Provincial Officers to occupy their respective places in the Lodge Room. Next, he opened the Lodge in all three Degrees, whereupon we saluted Russell Race and the PGM himself in the usual manner. The PGM then welcomed us all, saying that he was sure this would be the beginning of a very special and successful Lodge, noting that its existence would add weight to the Province’s commitment to the Armed Services Covenant. “Brethren – enjoy the day.”
Following a Prayer led by the Provincial Grand Chaplain the Revd Howard Pashley, the Petitioners arranged themselves around the Lodge Board at the West end of the Lodge Room. Provincial Grand Secretary David Graeme read out the lengthy Citation from the Grand Master, the Duke of Kent, authorising the creation of the Lodge and instructing our PGM to lead the Ceremony of Consecration.
The PGChap delivered a very interesting and well-researched Oration in which he narrated the history in and around the time of the building of King Solomon’s Temple, concluding with the words, “May your Lodge flourish like an evergreen tree”. The symbolism of his remarks was heightened by the sound of life-giving, nourishing rain which by chance was then beating down on the roof of the Conference Centre.
Accompanied by various prayers and readings, the Convocation itself began in earnest. With the Founding Officers of the Lodge surrounding the Lodge Board and facing outwards, the PGM as Consecrating Officer scattered Corn – the symbol of Plenty and Abundance, then poured Wine – the symbol of Joy and Cheerfulness, then Oil – the symbol of Peace and Unanimity, and finally sprinkled Salt – the symbol of Fidelity and Friendship.
The Consecration has now finished, and the Worshipful Master and Oficers of the Lodge are Appointed and Installed.
At 1600 hrs the PGM vacated the Chair for his Deputy, Phil South, to install Steve Simmons as the Primus Master of the East Kent Combined Services Lodge No.10038. If you have attended the annual Installation of a Lodge, you will be familiar with the process: the Master Elect takes his Obligation, the junior Brethren retire for a short period while the Master is placed in the Master’s Chair, then the juniors return, and the new Master is proclaimed from the East, West and South. On this occasion the PGM then presented Steve Simmons with the Warrant and Charter of the Lodge.
The Deputy PGDC next presented the Officers of the Lodge in turn as requested by the Master and escorted them to their positions in the Lodge Room, changing places with the Provincial Officers. There was one unusual occurrence: the Master was given special dispensation by Lodge members to appoint his Treasurer and Tyler without a ballot.
Steve Simmons has a strong, clear, commanding voice, which was a pleasure to listen to. He thanked the PGM for Consecrating the Lodge, the DPGM for Installing him (Steve) as Master and the Deputy PGDC for running the show.
At 1713 hrs it was time for the Addresses, and a chance for the three Assistant Provincial Grand Masters present to demonstrate their prowess. Mark Costelloe gave the Address to the Master, Trevor Carter gave the Address to the Wardens and Duncan Rouse gave the Address to the Brethren. All were word-perfect.
At 1724 hrs Graham Cuthbert led the PGM and Senior Officers out of the Lodge. The remaining items on the Lodge Agenda were then concluded and the Lodge was closed in due and ancient form at 1740 hrs.
And that was it. Job done – and so well! No glitches – not that I noticed, anyway. Full credit to all those who organised the Event, from mastermind Kevin Stones – who now appeared a good deal less anxious! – to Graham Cuthbert, who was an excellent stand-in for Andy Stevens. If you’re seeking a successor at any time, Andy, look no further!
I didn’t stay for the Festive Board, but fortunately our Provincial Grand Communications Officer Paul Gear was there. He takes up the story:
We were all seated, when what should we hear but the distant sound of a beating drum. It was coming from outside the Conference Centre. All by now hushed, we listened as the sound grew louder and louder – and then, with a flourish, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, Corps of Drums marched in with drums beating and Bass Drum thumping. Quite a few military hearts were now a-flutter!
We all watched, thrilled, as we were treated to a display of precision stick work, skilled paradiddles and drumming of a first-class order.
The Drummers left to a rapturous applause by all.
Follow that, you might have thought. Well, what followed was a splendid, sumptuous meal. After Grace given by our Provincial Grand Chaplain, we tucked into starters of Chicken Liver Parfait or Mushrooms, then a main course of Roast Beef or Baked Aubergine, followed by Banoffee Pie or Dark Chocolate and Coconut Pot with Fresh Fruit and Mango Gel. I think I also spotted the odd bottle of wine here and there.
Time then for mastermind and Senior Warden Kevin Stones to run the Raffle. Congratulations to WBro Dave Hart of the Lodge of St George Bahrain, who won the gallon of Whiskey that was the First Prize. (Donated by Brother Trevor Collier) An even bigger Winner was the East Kent Province’s 2025 Festival, which benefitted from the amazing sum of £1,255 that the Raffle had raised.
Kevin proposed the Toast to the Provincial Grand Master, Neil Hamilton Johnstone, in his usual marvellous theatrical manner. In reply, the PGM delivered one of his best speeches – he has a wonderful, dry, sense of humour. He congratulated the Master and made a special mention of Kevin Stones and all the hard work he had done in arranging the Festive Board. He wished everyone in the new Lodge the very best for the future and thanked the Master for the wonderful bouquet of flowers that had been presented to him for his wife.
Steve thanked the PGM for attending and leading the Consecration, also the Consecration Team led by Graham Cuthbert.
Without the hard work, time and commitment from everyone that took part in the Consecration, the day would not have run as smoothly as it did. All the members of 10038 doubtless echoed those sentiments.
With a final flourish, Steve then presented a cheque for the sum of £1,038 to the PGM for the 2025 Festival.
With the festivities over, it was time to depart and head home, or “back to barracks” as some of us would say.
We now look forward eagerly to the first regular meeting at Ashford in December.
I, for one, can’t wait!