Brethren, firstly may I say how delighted I am to see so many Brethren of our district present here this morning, who together with our distinguished guests, have filled this room to capacity.
I am exceedingly grateful to my District Grand Prefect colleagues, their executive and members from other districts, who have in many cases travelled long distances, plus the heads of other orders within Sussex for their support at this district meeting. My sincere and grateful thanks to all of them, for the hospitality and friendship when visiting other Allied Districts and the annual meetings of the Craft and other orders within Sussex, during the past year and I hope that this morning we are able to reciprocate that warm welcome and hospitality.
Brethren, your District Executive have of course continued with their various responsibilities and travelled hundreds of miles during the last year throughout England and Wales. All Councils within the district have been visited on an official basis at least twice and may I offer my sincere appreciation to you all, for your friendly welcome and abundant hospitality during those visits.
A special thanks go also to the District Officers, who have accompanied me in such numbers on our official team visits. All, without exception, have given me loyal support throughout the year.
Today marks the beginning of another important chapter within our district. Before moving forward, it is only right that I mention some special thanks. This morning I have been pleased to re-appoint Dries Van Der Burgh as my deputy who has worked diligently and been supportive over the preceeding two years and I am confident that that will continue alongside his recent appointment as Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler for Sussex.
My special thanks to the outgoing Wardens, W.Bro Jerry Griffin and W.Bro Vic Wisden (until his untimely demise last Autumn), both who despite other considerable masonic duties, represented me on official duties in the East and West of the district.
Our District Secretary, W.Bro John Fuller and his team have worked tirelessly on the routine administrative work as well as the extra work generated by the consecration of our new Council and of course the preparation for this district meeting. On behalf of us all, I wish him all the best on his recent appointment as Deputy PGSR of Sussex in the Order of the Secret Monitor. W.Bro John Ellinger now takes up the baton and having worked with John in the past in other orders, I am confident that our standards will be maintained. It will be a pleasure working with you John.
Brother Secretaries, please do your best to forward all Council returns to the District Secretary promptly and accurately. It is only by doing that that we can maintain the records on the Grand Lodge database and publish accurate information in the Mark Yearbook.
I am indebted to W.Bro Bob Greenhead who will now be concentrating on his role as Information Officer, whilst the website development will be undertaken by Bro. Tony Padley in future together with Bro. Mark Bradshaw for his skills with our Facebook page. Please do pass all allied information, including photos if you can, to Bob, Tony and Mark for publication.
Throughout the year, I have had the support and guidance of W.Bro. Gary Bodle as the District Director of Ceremonies, together with his team. They have laboured long and hard to prepare the ceremonial for our team visits as well as for today’s meeting. I am indeed most grateful for their attention to duty.
There being no provision in the constitutions for a District Almoner, I asked W.Bro Norman Grant two years ago if he would act as a District Welfare Officer. He agreed and has done a stirling job ever since and I am delighted that he has agreed to continue to keep a watchful eye over the welfare of our Allied Brethren and to offer help should the occasion arise.
Moving on to the ensuing year, I would now most importantly, like to congratulate all those Brethren that I have appointed to District Grand Rank for the first time. I trust that you will enjoy your role as a District Officer and participate in the privileges of that rank.
At the same time, I congratulate those Brethern that I have promoted in District Grand Council. I thank them for all their past efforts and trust that they will continue their dedication and support to the district in future.
Every newly appointed or promoted District Officer will have been handed a promotional leaflet and Allied application form by my deputy after investiture at today’s meeting and I ask that each of you make every effort to introduce one candidate during the ensuing year. There is a further supply of leaflets should any other Brother need one.
Whilst on the subject of recruitment Brethren, it is paramount that we continue to support our Craft and Mark Lodges as well as our Royal Arch chapters. Our masonry starts with the Craft and it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to keep a watchful eye out for prospective candidates. You have nothing to lose by just asking. I am sure that there are many candidates out there waiting to be asked. Encourage Brethren in your Craft Lodges to join and reap the benefits of the Holy Royal Arch Chapter and the Mark Degree. Our order depends on those qualifications.
I have stated many times in the past, that it is only by good ceremonial that we can confidently recruit new members into our order – and keep them. I am comforted by the absence of ritual books in the main and the standard of ritual that I have witnessed in the last year. Keep it up Brethren, support the rehearsals and be proud of your performance during the ceremonies.
Our individual memberships have increased again this year, boosted by the consecration of the Monceux Council in September last year, by the most Worshipful Grand Master. Now meeting at the Masonic Centre in Hurstmonceux, the largest percentage of the founders were new to the order. The Grand Master was delighted with his visit to Sussex, which I am sure was helped by his personal tour of Harveys Brewery the previous day.
It is hoped that the Friars Bay Council of Installed Masters Will, as reported earlier, apart from other tasks, be demonstrating as a team, the ancient ceremony of a Secret Monitor, at one time conferred by Allied Councils. Although the ceremony is completely different to the OSM ceremony as now practiced we are awaiting a decision from the Grand Supreme Ruler as to whether the demonstration can be delivered in an Allied Council of today.
The meeting of Grand Council will this year, once more be held at Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street, London, on Tuesday 24th October. Please do join me and cheer on those Brethren from
Sussex who may be honoured with grand rank from the most Worshipful Grand Master.
Looking ahead to May 2018, I give you advance notice of our Allied social outing to Rhodes. Those of you who joined us last year in Faleraki and in the Algarve in 2015 will know what to expect. Brethren, by March next year, this trip will be sold out. We are limited with hotel space and flights to around 120 – it all depends on the deal that W.Bro Glen Conely can secure for us. If you haven’t been with us before, what can you expect – superior hotel rooms and private beach, unlimited branded beers, spirits, cocktails and wines, full board, breakfast lunch and dinner, black tie ladies evening with champagne reception under the palm trees, a fun variety cabaret evening, all flights and transfers. Bring your own sun cream.
Bring your family and friends. What better way for Non-Masons to meet us and witness Freemasons enjoy themselves alongside our charitable giving.
Finally Brethren, my thanks of course go to you the members of our wonderful District. This is your meeting!!! Your support and friendship is magnificent and I feel extremely privileged to be sitting in this chair.
We are all part of a wonderful order in Freemasonry and I wish each and every one of you continued good health and happiness for the future.
Now, I think that we all deserve some refreshment.
May the Great Disposer of all have you in his holy keeping always and I look forward to greeting as many of you as possible before lunch today and at your council meetings, throughout the year.