The Provincial Grand Lodge of East Kent Annual Festival 2015

The Provincial Grand Stewards on parade before the meeting

It was standing room only at this year’s meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge at Margate’s Winter Gardens with more than 1200 Brethren in attendance.

Worshipful Brother Neil Johnstone, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, called the Brethren to Order and the Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Geoffrey Dearing, accompanied by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Officers of the United Grand Lodge of England and Officers of the Provincial Grand Lodge of East Kent entered the King’s Hall in procession.

The Deputy Grand Master with the Provincial Grand Master

As has become the custom, the scene was set by the Provincial Choir singing “Lead, Kindly Light” before Provincial Grand Lodge was opened in due form at 2.30 pm.

There was a report which proved to be Worshipful Brother Nicholas Burger, Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, informing that the Deputy Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Jonathan Spence, was without accompanied by a retinue of Grand Officers. An escorting party was formed and the Deputy Grand Master was welcomed to the meeting, and his Mother Province, by the Provincial Grand Master.

The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and his two Deputies

The Provincial Grand Master rose to report that the Province was mourning the loss of one hundred and nine Brethren who had been called to Higher Service in the last twelve months. The Brethren were called to Order in respect of Departed Merit and the Provincial Grand Master called upon the Provincial Grand Chaplain, Worshipful Brother The Rev Neville Gallagher, for prayer.

The Provincial Grand Master welcomed 65 Distinguished Visitors and Guests from other Provinces, including the Heads of other Masonic Orders. It was noted that Right Worshipful Brother Jonathan Winpenny, from our neighbouring Province of West Kent, was making his last visit as their Provincial Grand Master.

The Distinguished Guests before the meeting

The Minutes of the Provincial Grand Lodge held on 11th April 2014, the Provincial Grand Secretary’s Report, including the Library and Museum Report, the Audited Accounts for the year ended 30th September 2014 together with the Treasurer’s Report, and the Reports from the East Kent Provincial Charities Association and the Provincial Grand Master’s Charity were all received. As only one nominee for Provincial Grand Treasurer had been received, Worshipful Brother William Daniels was declared to be elected. Messrs McCabe, Ford and Williams were re-elected as Auditors for the ensuing year.

The Provincial Grand Master informed the brethren that Very Worshipful Brother Roger Odd was retiring as the Deputy Provincial Grand Master after a period of five years. He was warmly thanked by the Provincial Grand Master for his service to the Province since becoming Provincial Grand Secretary in 2003, during which time he visited all 185 Lodges in the Province, and then divested him of his chain of office.

The new Deputy Provincial Grand Master

The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Neil Johnstone, formed a deputation to escort Worshipful Brother Peter Williams into the Lodge Room. The Patent was read and, after reciting his Obligation, Peter was invested as Deputy Provincial Grand Master with his Chain of Office and then saluted by the Brethren.

The Provincial Grand Master then re-appointed Worshipful Brothers Roger Waltham, Peter Rodd and Peter Hagger as Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and they were also duly saluted.

The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies then formed a deputation to escort Worshipful Brother David Graeme into the Lodge Room. The Patent was read and, after reciting his Obligation, David was invested as an Assistant Provincial Grand Master with his Chain of Office and then saluted by the Brethren.

The Provincial Grand Master then re-appointed, appointed and invested the Provincial Grand Officers for 2015-16 and those Officers promoted in and appointed to Past Rank. The newly appointed and promoted Provincial Grand Officers were then saluted.

The Provincial Grand Master then announced his Merit Awards to Distinguished Brethren in recognition of their long and loyal service to Freemasonry in East Kent.

Worshipful Brother Colin Arthur Shaw was initiated in the White Ensign Lodge No 4180 in 1952. Some years later he joined Staplehurst Lodge No 8145 before his career took him to Ipswich, to help build the A12.

He joined a local lodge but this didn’t stop him attending Staplehurst Lodge which he still does to this day, as their organist of 30+ years standing, at the age of 85.

A second, surprise, presentation was then made to Very Worshipful Brother Roger Odd in recognition of his 12 years of service as Provincial Grand Secretary and Deputy Provincial Grand Master. The award was accompanied by a special gift from the Executive and also the staff at the Provincial Office in Whitstable. The Provincial Grand Master explained that although Roger had retired as Deputy, he wouldn’t be going far as he would be heading up the UGLE Tercentennial celebrations in the Province, including a cross-Provincial service in Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday 18th February 2017.

The Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Designate

The Provincial Grand Master then stood to address the meeting as summarised below:

It was wonderful to see the Winter Gardens so full with over 1200 Brethren and he thanked them all for their support from every corner of the province with a special thank you to our friends from other provinces. The support was greatly appreciated and helped to make it a special day in the annual calendar. He congratulated all those that had been appointed or promoted during the afternoon.

As this was the first meeting since the closure of the 2014 Festival, he again thanked the members of the Province for their outstanding support in raising nearly £3.7m for the Freemasons’ Grand Charity, more than 20% over our initial target. He then went on to express his pleasure at how well the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons Charity (CEKFC) was being received and how it was joining up charitable giving across the Province. He reminded everyone of the £10K appeal to support the Pilgrims Hospice “It’s a Knockout” event on 31st May.

A new fundraising initiative has been launched with a “fun” CEKFC tie which will soon be on sale and can be worn in meetings within the Province as well as socially.

The museum continues to go from strength to strength with 80% of visitors being non-Masons and 20% coming from overseas. This leaves some growth for visits from our own membership – it’s your museum, visit it and strongly consider patronage.

On the topic of recruitment and retention the Provincial Grand Master said that the local and central Grand Lodge initiatives were working, with a 12% reduction in resignations and with 20% of those indicating a desire to resign being turned around. In fact we now have the lowest resignation rate for years and the first quarter of 2015 shows a net increase in membership. 60% of recent initiations have come from the Mobile Display Units, Open Days and the Just Ask website. To this end the roles of Almoner, Mentor and Secretary are key to making the 3Rs a success, as are the Provincial Communications Board’s internal and external channels.

The new Provincial Wardens are congratulated

There was then a short address from the Deputy Grand Master who also congratulated those that had been appointed and/or promoted during the afternoon. Although he normally wears a stiff collar, he had worn a soft one on this occasion at the Provincial Grand Master’s request and now understood why as he was enjoying wearing his new, Brian Powell designed, CEKFC tie.

The Provincial Grand Master concluded by thanking those lodges and Centres that supplied furniture for this meeting and to the “A-Team” and other Brethren who helped to ensure that the Annual Festival was a success. He also thanked everyone present for their attendance and continued support and exhorted them to enjoy their Freemasonry.

There being no further business, apart from some apologies for absence, the 2015 Provincial Grand Lodge meeting was closed in due form. The Provincial Grand Master, accompanied by the Deputy Grand Master, processed out of the King’s Hall together with the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, the Provincial Wardens and members of the Provincial Executive.

Brethren enjoying the banquet

The Banquet in the Queen’s Hall was very pleasant as usual with much good humour and more than 450 enjoying the Winter Gardens’ customary efficient service that we have come to expect. The Banquet was then closed and the Brethren departed.

A link to more photos taken on the day will be posted here shortly.

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