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Address to the Virtual Annual Meeting by R. W. Bro. Eric Rymer, Provincial Grand Master on 12th September 2020

Well Brethren, one silver lining to the Covid cloud is that my address this year will be short!

Thank you for attending this virtual meeting. Whilst it is sad that we cannot spend time together enjoying the magic of the Mark, it is nevertheless good to see you. Most importantly, it is vital to keep safe and ensure that we remain healthy, so that when this awful virus is conquered, we can all return to our meetings and festive boards. In the meantime, please abide by the guidelines set out by the Government and Grand Lodge. More detailed guidelines for holding virtual business meetings will shortly be with the secretaries and scribes in the Province. If in any doubt, please ask the Secretariat for assistance.

It has indeed been a strange year – but not all doom and gloom. Just a few days ago – on Tuesday – we would have been at the Grand Lodge meeting to support the promotion of two senior members of the Province. W.Bro. Joseph Marzouk received the rank of P.G.J.D. and our Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Jeff Whiteley, became P.G.J.O., assuming the title of Very Worshipful Brother. Many congratulations to both.

Speaking of Grand Ranks, the Pro Grand Master recently issued an announcement that the active Grand Officers of the year would continue as such for the following year, so that they can enjoy a full year of being a Grand Lodge Officer. This means that W.Bro. Howard Smith will continue as an Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and W.Bro. Mark Winfield will continue as a Grand Steward next year – congratulations to both.

I have decided to follow the Pro Grand Master’s lead and consequently, the active Provincial Grand Lodge Officers for this year will continue next year in their respective positions. We all fervently hope that they will be able to get out and about in the Province as active Officers. Their appointments will be confirmed at next year’s annual meeting, which is booked for 12th June 2021 at Kings Heath.

In a similar vein, Advancees and Elevatees of this year, who would have attended this year’s meeting, will receive a token or lapel badge from me at next year’s annual meeting. I certainly look forward to that.

One of the casualties of the general suspension of masonry has been charitable giving. Please continue to give to worthy causes via your Lodge Charity Steward – the worthy causes need help more so than ever. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Provincial Almoner, W.Bro. Charles Gwynn, and the Provincial Charity Steward, W.Bro. Mike Gage, for their continuing hard work and efforts. Please support them as much as you can.

The Province will be donating to the East Lancashire MBF Festival for 2021 and the Surrey Festival, which is the following year. We will also be making a donation to the Worcestershire 2022 Craft Festival in the coming year.

Before the lockdown, there were some notable charity events. In July last year, I handed over a Treatment Vehicle to St. John’s Ambulance at Rainbow Hill, as part of the national donation of vehicles from the Mark of over £3.2 million. And in September, I represented the Province at the royal opening of the new St. John’s administrative centre, an event attended by HRH Princess Ann. Also in September last, W.Bro. Greg Boughton staged a wonderful charity concert at the Rose Theatre in Kidderminster, raising money for charity, split equally between the Craft and the Mark. A super show – it was due to happen again this year, but was cancelled because of the pandemic. Hopefully it will be staged again next year.

In November, I attended the handover of a range of technical equipment to help with children’s sensory requirements at Acorns Hospice in Worcester. This was part of the Mark’s Lifelites initiative, giving £141,000 for this very worthy cause.

So charity is still happening and I repeat, please continue to give to charity. Talking of which, my preferred charity this past year has been the Worcestershire Association of Carers and I thank you all for donations to this wonderful charity. In particular, I thank W.Bro. Mike Gage for his close contact with the association. As with active officer positions, I intend to continue with this charity for the next year, so that it will not lose out too much from Covid.

This past year has been almost washed out because of the virus. However, we still managed to celebrate the centenary of Moseley Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners in March, just before the lockdown. The event was attended by the Deputy Grand Master, R.W. Bro. John Prizeman and he was very pleased to preside at the presentation of the centenary warrant and witness an excellent installation and elevation ceremony. Well done and congratulations to Moseley R.A.M.

Congratulations also to W.Bro. Bernard Hardy, who achieved 50 years as a Mark Mason this year. Due to the pandemic, we couldn’t celebrate this in open Lodge, but nevertheless it is a super milestone. Let’s hope we can celebrate together next year, when he passes the 50-year mark as a Royal Ark Mariner.

Well Brethren, I said that this address would be short. It only remains for me to say a few thank yous.

Firstly, to my Deputy, Very Worshipful Brother Jeff Whiteley, and my Assistant, W.Bro. Paul Yarnell for their continuing support, advice and friendship. In particular, I thank Jeff for his weekly communication published on the website during the past 6 months. They have been informative, interesting and fun. Thanks also to Paul, for heading up the Recruitment, Retention and Reinvigoration initiative in Worcestershire. I’m pleased to say that membership in the Province is holding up well. Please let’s continue to engage with each other as best we can, to maintain our close contact within the Mark and R.A.M. degrees.

Thanks so much to the Provincial Secretary, W.Bro. Adrian Hutt, and his secretariat for all the great work they have been doing during these troubled times – it is very much appreciated. And in particular, thanks to W.Bro. Dr. Howard Carlton, for his technical expertise in hosting this virtual meeting.

My thanks go to W.Bro. Richard Green and his team of DC’s, even though they have been somewhat underemployed these past few months! You may have noticed that W.Bro. Richard is not attending this virtual meeting. That is because he is celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary today. Many congratulations to him and Margaret.

And finally, thank you to all of you for attending. Please persevere through this crisis, keep safe and I look forward to seeing you all for real in the not-too-distant future.

Update 15th June – Please see below the updated guidance for holding online business meetings.

Seven Step Process For Holding A Virtual Business Meeting
Seven Step Process For Holding A Virtual Business Meeting
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