The Grand Masters' address to Grand Court, 26 October 2013

 

Brethren,

 

I humbly and sincerely thank you for your support today, not only for myself as your new Grand Master but to all those who have received Grand Rank preferment. Unless you have walked down the centre of this delightful temple when it is full to the rafters with finely clad brethren, you will never know what an amazing sense of occasion it is and what a lasting memory it leaves on those who have already proved themselves worthy of Grand rank in our Order.

 

Similarly, you will have seen processing in for the first time those newest members of the Appendant Order of the Scarlet Mantle, our recognition and reward Order. The Grand High Chancellor oversaw their installation at the ceremony last evening and is personally delighted that seven of the eight new Knights on that occasion were Worshipful brethren who in various ways had given exceptional contributions to the Order of Athelstan.

 

Looking around it is quite obvious that attendance today is the largest ever at an Annual Assembly; which is both humbling and exciting for me personally and demonstrates that this date is now firmly fixed in the wider Masonic calendar. For those reading this address who cannot be present today, please join in our annual celebration next year and you will gain an even greater sense of satisfaction as to how far your Order has progressed over the last 8 years.

 

Today I have obligated a new Deputy and Assistant Grand Master, two exceptional Freemasons and in the vernacular of my country 'Canny Blokes' who bring a tremendous amount of Masonic and professional experience to my already talented Executive.

 

Both fully understand the challenges that lie ahead of them and I am a very lucky man to have them by my side and I thank them once again for all that they do and the great works that they will produce in the future.

 

Before I move on I just want to revisit my previous words and in particular the word 'obligation. Brethren, the obligations that we take in the many Orders we belong to are not just words in a ritual, these are standards and ideals that we all commit to and must live up to, as we state them in many instances with hands firmly on the Volume of the Sacred Law and before the watchful gaze of the Most High.

 

Advancement and status in this Order has been and will continue to be based on merit and ability and recognition of those most able and deserving. Time served or status elsewhere has little influence on that.

 

Brethren, you will all have heard of the infamous phrase "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."!

 

Well now some further good news for you, perhaps unbelievably, you are not going to hear from me regarding any statistics!

 

The Order is doing very well both at home and overseas; the USA under RW Bro. Bryce Hildreth ably guided by RW Bro. Allen Surratt is now thriving since I removed some unfair obstacles placed in their path. Brethren you could not fail to notice that we have 9 members from America present today who have travelled at their own expense in support of their Province and our Order.

 

In India, especially in Northern India we have strong growth thanks to the hard work of RW Bro. Nagarajan and further good news will be forthcoming from Western India.

Australia is maturing as a direct reflection of the tireless work of RW Bro. Frank Jefferies and I do not refer to his advanced age! He has RW Bro Arthur Macken ensuring he keeps a spring in his step.

 

At home I am delighted to announce that the new Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Magonsaetan in succession to RW Bro. John Lloyd is to be ......VW Bro. Shaun Barry Crutchley.

Shaun, please stand and brethren I am sure you will show your acclamation.

 

Shaun will take charge of Magonsaetan as Deputy Provincial Grand Master in charge as of today.

 

In the last few days, RW Bro. Phillip Purves has stood down as Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Hwicce. Those who know RW Bro. Phillip are aware that he holds high rank in many Orders and has a most genuine love of the Craft and Chapter which takes up a great deal of his time.

 

Taking advice from my Executive and indeed from many members of Hwicce, one name stood out above all others, an excellent man and mason who has all of the qualities to offer a fresh approach with leadership skills that have been utilised very well in many Orders as well as ours;

 

I am delighted to announce that the new Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Hwicce in succession to RW Bro. Phillip Purves is to be ......VW Bro. John Harlow Wickes.

John, please stand and brethren I am sure you will show your acclamation.

 

I wish to thank VW Bro. Ron Bridger for his hard work as Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Hwicce and I pleased to inform that RW Bro. David Buxton, Past Deputy Grand Master will take charge of the Province until the installation of VW Bro. John Wickes.

 

Following the loss of my very dear friend RW Bro. Frank Barber, the Assistant Grand Master has taken temporary charge of the Province of East Anglia and I have asked him to continue for the foreseeable future as he has the most intimate knowledge of that Province.

 

In my maiden address to Grand Court in May I made several statements regarding my desire for change and reflection on where we have come from and indeed, where we are going. I have stated that it was my intention to re-establish the unique character of our Order for the benefit of all.

 

We have not been idle and you have already witnessed a dramatic change to the opening ritual of Grand Court, there will of course be a closing well...depending on how long I go on for!

 

The Masonic Order of Athelstan is not the Craft, it is not the Chapter, it is UNIQUE and it will have a ritual that reflects this and the desires of the original founders. We celebrate those Grand Designs of Craft and Chapter, but we must also celebrate our own uniqueness and the clue is in the name ATHELSTAN.

 

RW Bro. John Paternoster and RW Bro. Chris Ansell have been working hard over the last few months and will continue over the next 18 months to examine, revise, refresh, test and produce a distinctive ritual that we can all take pleasure in delivering and our candidates in receiving.

 

Don't worry, this is not going to happen overnight and not without consultation with Grand Council; however, I am pleased to set out a timetable as follows:-

 

A new Court opening and closing similar to that which you have witnessed today will be introduced to every Court in January 2014. This immediate change is not onerous and should not prove an obstacle to that already learned and it provides an Athelstan orientated ritual.

 

Rituals 2 and 3 are in need of a rethink and this is underway and I am very pleasantly surprised at some of the innovative suggestions. As these rituals are used once a year in every Court and with few participants, they should again be easier to bring online so to speak and these will be introduced in the latter part of 2014.

 

Ritual 1 is in need of major TLC and revisions and amendments to this will take place in 2015 and I will be better placed to update you at our next Assembly.

 

Responding to feedback received over many months I wish to announce an immediate change to our Court Installation proceedings:-

 

Installation addresses 1, 2 and 4 are essentially modified versions of similar Craft addresses and as we are all members of a Craft Lodge we hear these regularly and they do not need repetition; therefore with immediate effect a Court is absolved from delivering these if it so wishes.

 

Installation address 3 on the other hand is very important and unique and must still be delivered by a competent Past Master of the Court or the IPM as stated, and preferably from memory.

 

Brethren, I implore you not to use this as an excuse not to learn and recite to the best of your ability the current rituals; do not let yourselves, your Court or your candidates down!

One original tenet that has been sadly neglected is the research aspect that our Order was always intended to have; many will have no concept that this was and is a major tenet. I therefore announce that from 1st January 2014, it will be compulsory for every Court to have a short lecture delivered at its Installation meeting. This I am passionate about Brethren, so much so I have asked the Grand Secretary to begin the process for a change to Statute to reflect this.

 

There will be no proscription as to subject, length or lecturer. The only 'control' on the lecture will be that it is to stay clear of the usual prohibited and unauthorised subjects and be of general relevance to Freemasonry and interest to the brethren. Court and Provincial Grand Secretariat are to ensure that the title of the lecture and the name of the lecturer appear on the Court summons.

 

There are plenty of lectures appearing on the Order's website that I am sure the brethren of your Court will enjoy, however, many brethren are capable of compiling interesting lectures, short or long, and that will advance the daily knowledge of his brothers. Don't be shy and try to be original; your audience will be the best guide as to whether the lecture was of any merit.

 

This leads me nicely to the Chevalier Ramsey Lecture; this has been reviewed and it is my intention to appoint a senior brother to a new Grand Rank with specific responsibility to coordinate this important award. Henceforth we will expect and require each Province to put forward a lecture for consideration every year; we will refresh the whole ethos of the Award in time for the 2014 Annual Assembly.

 

On to matters administrative and firstly the Order's website is going to become the major news portal of the Order and you should check this regularly and subscribe to the RSS facility. You will see this address posted in the next day or so and also a news item re my recent trip out to America on behalf of the Order. The news has to be fresh and the webmaster can only add news stories as are passed to him. If you have something news worthy then you will be able to contact the webmaster directly via the website and I also urge Provincial Grand Secretariat to contribute on behalf of their Provinces; there is always something going on!

 

The membership of the Order is growing and as we employ only unpaid volunteers at Grand Court we must move with the technological times to ensure that we will not need to have paid employees to manage our ever growing administration.

 

The Grand Registrar has been tasked with these matters and he will be migrating the membership database to a secure online server in the next year. Security will be paramount and access will of course be strictly controlled and will be available to each Provincial and Court Secretary. This will be limited at first to view only but as we develop these new systems so its wider use within the Order will be expanded.

 

The Order Secretariat Executive, Grand Secretary, Grand Registrar and Deputy Grand Secretary will be contactable via a common email address for general communications. This will allow interchangeability and flexibility of working practices plus give holiday cover.

 

The Main Archive of paperwork of the Order will be scanned and stored online for future research by historians and the like. So, if anyone has an iconic document that needs to be stored centrally and scanned for research purposes, please submit it to the Grand Registrar.

 

As your Grand Master I have been invited to many national and international Masonic events, both Provincial and Grand, and a question often asked is where in London is your main office? I am honestly still trying to work out where it is but it is certainly not in London. I am clear on another matter and that is where we meet and where the Order has genuinely found a home and that is here at London Road, Leicester.

 

All but one of our Annual Assemblies has been held here and the staff of Devonshire Place has always looked after us royally; we have full use of the buildings facilities and temples. What may surprise you is that we have never been asked for one penny in the 7 years we have met here, including Grand Council, Committee and Scarlet Mantle meetings.

 

RW Bro. David Hagger the Provincial Grand Master for Leicester and Rutland who is charged with the care of this building has implemented major construction works in the installation of lifts to allow free and easy access to those with disabilities or mobility problems. This has not been cheap as you can well imagine and I am sure I speak for all in wishing him every success in such a worthy cause.

 

Brethren, RW Bro. David Hagger has been delayed this morning but I am pleased to say that he will join us at our banquet and I will make a formal presentation of a cheque 'in lieu' of our back rent to be forwarded to the London Road Lift Appeal on behalf of our Order.

 

Brethren, I do hope that you have enjoyed this morning and that you are seeing new and exciting things happening within your Order.

 

2014 is going to be an interesting year as we move towards our 10th Anniversary and please rest assured your Order is in safe and competent hands. Enjoy your festive board if you are staying and for all, please have a safe journey home.

 

Thank you for your kind attention.