A specific example of leadership, high standards and humility can be found in a successful Visiting Grand Officer. A Visiting Grand Officer is a Lodge’s friend, a supporter who can – when appropriate – both advise and be the official link with the higher authority, whether in Metropolitan or Provincial Grand Lodge. The mark of success for a Visiting Grand Officer is when a Lodge welcomes his visit rather than seeing it as some form of inspection.
When I last addressed the Annual Craft Investiture I called for a period of consolidation. This, I believe, has paid rich dividends. I am regularly briefed on the progress of our initiatives, particularly on the good work carried out here, at Grand Lodge, for the English Constitution as a whole. Many of you heard the Pro Grand Master speak at the March Quarterly Communication – or have had a chance to read his remarks since on the Grand Lodge website or in Freemasonry Today – when by way of example he highlighted the success of four of the key initiatives: the Adelphi system, to which Metropolitan and all the Provinces have signed up, giving a quicker and more efficient process for registering members; the successful introduction of the Mentoring Scheme; the remarkable sixty per cent return so far on the Historical Survey and fourthly the wide acclaim that the new website has received. In addition the Grand Secretary is working on producing a strategic public relations plan up to 2017 and beyond. The plan will reflect our now established policy of open communication and our recent success with the Ministry of Justice. We are proud to be Masons and we want the world to know it.
I am pleased to hear that in the last three years the relationship between Grand Lodge and Metropolitan, the Provinces and the Districts has radically improved and I look to this being a continuing trend. Brethren, it is important that you all, whatever your Masonic involvement and especially including those far from London, realise the vital role that the Centre, here at Grand Lodge, plays in running the English Constitution on your behalf and in making sure that Freemasonry survives.
My Council’s Charities Committee, chaired by the Deputy Grand Master, achieved great strides last year in bringing the four Masonic Charities still closer together. For example, a Joint Investment Group has been set up and a new initiative ‘Freemasonry Cares’ –a joint venture to have one central point of enquiry from potential claimants - is currently being piloted. The Committee last December presented the current and future synergies to both my Council and to the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum.
The University Scheme has now been running for five years under the leadership of the Assistant Grand Master and I think it is appropriate to say a few words about its progress. There are twenty nine participating Lodges, with several more in the pipeline. The aim is to cover the country geographically and include all major centres of university activity. A real benefit the scheme confers is having young intelligent men joining us who will, we hope, contribute greatly to the future of the Craft, as potential leaders and sources of inspiration.
Essential to the overall sustainability of the Scheme is to plan for an undergraduate’s next step in Masonry after he leaves University and, with this in mind, potential Receptor Lodges are currently being approached. These are the lodges which are willing to welcome those itinerant undergraduates as joining members. I am encouraged by the support of the Scheme from the Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Masters and, with its clear sense of purpose and direction, I hope the Scheme will continue to prosper.
I was pleased that the Pro Grand Master had decided to organise an annual meeting specifically for District Grand Masters. This first meeting held here yesterday was, I am told, most constructive and underlined the importance we attach to all our Districts within the English Constitution. You would also have heard or read the Grand Secretary’s talk at this year’s March Quarterly Communication on how we are actively supporting our Districts. As I mentioned earlier, our relationship with the Districts has improved radically in the last three years and it is good to see they are so strongly represented here today.
Brethren, one final point I would mention, tomorrow at the Royal Arch Investitures the Pro Grand Master, in his capacity as Pro First Grand Principal will, among other topics, be announcing a Royal Arch tie. The reason I mention this today is because the Craft Rulers and the Board of General Purposes have agreed that this tie can be worn in Craft Lodges as from tomorrow. The clear reason for this is the indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch and the Grand Secretary will be giving further guidelines on the appropriate wearing of this impressive new tie.
And last of all Brethren, I know you would all want me to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Assistants for the skill with which they have conducted this very special ceremony this afternoon as well as the Grand Secretary and his team for the enormous amount of work that has made this a memorable occasion for you all.