East Kent Freemasons have donated £4,000 to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service
As an independent charity, they strive to save lives by providing the best possible medical care every minute of the day, every day of the year, which means every donation they receive is vital. Last year alone, they were called out to help over 2,000 people in life-threatening conditions.
On 30th October 2018, the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent, Neil Johnstone, presented a cheque to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service at Rochester Airport for £4,000. The grant was donated by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and has brought the total Masonic support given to the Air Ambulance Service to over £4 million since 2007, supporting over 22 Air Ambulances across England and Wales.
Presenting the cheque to the Air Ambulance crew, Neil said: ‘Words will never truly describe the life changing differences that you make to the people of our local communities who call upon your services. I am certain that many people today are grateful to you and we are glad that we can help to support the service now and in the future.’
The grant from the MCF was co-ordinated through the main charity for the Masonic Province of East Kent, the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons' Charity. Supporting Neil from the charity were the CEO Peter Rhodes, Chairman Pat Thomas, and the Head of Charities for East Kent, Mark Bassant.
Neil Johnstone was installed as the new Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent of East Kent on 3rd October 2018
East Kent has just under 7,000 members, meeting in 189 Lodges at 35 dedicated Masonic Centres located everywhere from Gravesend in the north of the county to Hythe on the south coast, from Paddock Wood in the west to Ramsgate in the east.
Neil, who joined Renham Lodge No. 8211 in Sittingbourne nearly 40 years ago, said: ‘I am proud to be the Head of East Kent Freemasons, whilst there is a serious side to what we do, I continue to meet many wonderful people and enjoy some very worthwhile and fun social times.
‘I am also immensely proud of seeing organisation and individuals in Kent being helped with our Cornwallis Charity. This is very heart-warming as it helps to make such a difference to so many peoples lives’ and makes it so worthwhile.’
The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Grand Secretary Dr David Staples, Second Grand Principal Russell Race and Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones were all in attendance.
Neil had 33-year career in the Police Service followed by 11 years in Local Government. His police career started at Chatham, in the late 60s and early 70s. Neil progressed through various roles and ranks in Kent Police until 1992 when he was seconded to New Scotland Yard to head a national and international unit co-ordinating the many and various aspects of planning for, and responding to, major incidents and the complex investigation processes that inevitably followed.
Neil added: ‘I was very fortunate to travel throughout the UK and to many other countries around the world wearing an Interpol hat and although challenging, it was a fantastic and professionally rewarding opportunity to have had. My succeeding service with our County Council involved the planning for and co-ordination of potential large-scale incidents in Kent, but aimed at minimising the impact on the public and supporting the emergency services. So that was my working life in a nutshell.’
Freemasonry is not a religion, but as a precondition of membership acknowledgement of belief in a Supreme Being is required. In recent years the members of the Province of East Kent have attended Evensong Servises bi-annually at Rochester Cathedral and last year at Canterbury Cathedral. The idea of holding a service at a local synagogue (thereby underscoring the broad faith basis of the membership) having been suggested, this was arranged under the auspices of the Provincial Grand Chapter, with the kind permission of the Margate Hebrew Congregation, at the Margate Synagogue on Sunday 19th June 2011.
The day was a mixture of sun, wind and showers, with the thunderous display of the Margate Air Show overhead. The Provincial Grand Chapter Stewards ushered the 120 strong congregation to their appointed places in the Synagogue. The Provincial Grand Superintendent, Michael Robin Bailey, his Deputy, Trevor Climpson, their ladies and the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Margate, were then processed in by the Provincial Grand Chapter Director of Ceremonies, Neil Johnstone.
The congregation were honoured by the presence of the Reverend Malcolm Weisman OBE, the Chief Rabbi's minister to small communities, who officiated at the service. Having welcomed the congregation, he gave a short introduction to explain what would follow. The order of service was printed in Hebrew with an English translation. After the Opening Ode, a thanksgiving prayer was offered by the Craft Provincial Assistant Grand Chaplain, the Reverend Howard Pashley. The Grand Superintendent read Zechariah Chapter 4, verses 1 to 7. Later the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Roger Odd, read Genesis Chapter 49 verses 1 to 12 and the Deputy Grand Superintendent continued the readi to verse 28.
The Ark was opened by a Synagogue member and local Freemason, Jon Lloyd and a Scroll taken out by David Gradus, the Secretary of the Margate Hebrew Congregation. Prayers were offered for the Royal Family and peace in the world before the Scroll was replaced and the Ark closed. The Reverend Malcolm Weisman then gave an outstanding address, in the course of which he made particular reference to his appreciation of the common beliefs of the Hebrew faith and Freemasonry.
The service was brought to an end with the Closing Ode and National Anthem, the singing being led by Companion Tony Eldridge.
The Officiating Minister, Provincial Executive and distinguished guests then retired in procession to the ante-room, where they were joined by the rest of the congregation and provided with kosher wine and challah bread.
The Grand Superintendent thanked everyone in general for making this special occasion such a success and the Margate Hebrew Congregation in particular for making the East Kent Freemasons so welcome. He concluded by presenting David Gradus with a cheque for £250 as a contribution towards the Synagogue's building fund.