The Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge

03rd December 2023

Progress is impossible without change – that was the key message, borrowed from George Bernard Shaw, from the Provincial Grand Master, R W Bro Ian Craigs at the annual meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge, attended this year by more than 450 brethren.

In his address, the Provincial Grand Master highlighted the need to focus on the Pro Grand Master’s Strategy for the future and ensure it is implemented. It is, he said, “the biggest step forward for the Craft and Royal Arch” in reversing the trend in membership decline during the past 30 to 40 years.

Plans are already being implemented by the Province’s Futures Group – a standing committee of the Provincial Executive – which has identified five key priorities: attracting new members, engaging our existing membership, ensuring the organisation and its premises are fit for the future, impactful charitable giving, and serving our community.

Lodges, he stressed, must be committed to reducing the membership challenge. They should find out why it is happening and this can only be done by asking. Do members want more or fewer meetings, different start times, are the meetings too long and are brethren worried about learning ritual? The answers require action and a plan to implement the findings. The Pathway Team is working to place new candidates with suitable lodges, with the difference between membership losses and gain declining, so things are moving in the right direction, he added.

The Provincial Grand Master also urged lodges to join the Members’ Pathway Charter Mark Scheme, which provides a framework for Lodges to identify good practice and, as a result, make your lodge something candidates aspire to join. He highlighted the fact more lodges are holding evenings for new members, with some having a candidate waiting list in double figures. Picking out The Gavel Lodge initiation of nine candidates in one evening, he remarked on the “wonderful ceremony” that “needn’t be a one off”.

Turning to our Masonic Centres, the Provincial Grand Master stressed the need for support from lodges and the need to implement improvements where required, picking out the success of centres at Shiremoor, Wallsend and Fern Avenue.

The Provincial Grand Master also highlighted the need for new Master Masons to be introduced to the Royal Arch. A similar scheme to Pathway will be rolled out for the Royal Arch – called Archway, there will be more news shortly.

It was a family affair when W.Bro John Nigel Bruce was invested as our new Assistant Provincial Grand Master. For, his father, W.Bro John Bruce , acted as chain bearer during the ceremony and son, W.Bro Ryan J. Bruce, was the cushion bearer.

A Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden of the Province, the new Assistant is a member of St Mark’s Lodge No. 5529, meeting at Fern Avenue, Jesmond. One of four Assistants in the Province, he succeeds W Bro Maj Alasdair John Phillips Watson PSGD, who was invested with his Past rank collarette by the Provincial Grand Master.

The Deputy Provincial Grand Master, V W Bro Peter Stannard PGSwdB, along the other Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, W Bros Dr Gregory Roger Smith PSGD, Gordon Craigs PSGD and George Joseph Sanger PSGD, were all re-appointed.

During his Address to the meeting, the Provincial Grand Master announced that W.Bro Bruce will head the charitable giving through the Richard Henry Holmes Masonic Benevolent Fund. The RHHMBF gives a significant contribution of £150,000 in charitable donations a year. In the past year, 72 local good causes were beneficiaries.  The Provincial Communications Team will be interviewing John later this month for the December edition of Second Rising.

The annual meeting also marked the retirement of several key members of the provincial team, who the Provincial Grand Master thanked.

At the close of the meeting, Northumberland excelled itself again with the donation of a cheque for £275,000 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The Provincial Grand Master was delighted to make the presentation to WBro. Oliver Coddington, Assistant Grand Secretary, who is director of the secretariat at UGLE in London.