GMat1090

The address given by M W Bro Paul W Johnston, PGHCh, GCSM, Grand Master on the occasion of the Tenth Annual Assembly of Grand Court at The Park Inn, & Conference Centre, Bath Road, Heathrow, Middlesex, UB7 0DU on Saturday 7th November 2015.

Brethren, I extend a warm welcome to everyone and it is delightful to see so many in attendance here today on this very unique and special occasion when together we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the inauguration of our Order. I appreciate that this one-off Athelstan special has moved us away from our spiritual home and our traditional meeting date; but it is amazing to see the level of support and I know that by the end of today everyone will be very proud of this Order and pleased that they attended. To have all three of the Assistant Grand Masters in charge present today, along with ten of the fifteen Provincial Grand Masters is just incredible. Thank you all for attending, especially those brethren who have travelled from Australia, America, India and Spain.

 I would like to congratulate all those brethren who have received their well-deserved Grand ranks today and to those who have retired from active office may I thank you for your service and dedication.

The two senior Provincial Grand Masters of the Order are retiring this year and it would be very remiss of me not to thank them, on your behalf, for their pioneering work as the Primus Provincial Grand Masters of their Provinces. In December R W Bro Howard Doe will retire as Provincial Grand Master for Kent after nine years and R W Bro Brian J Prevett is also retiring as Provincial Grand Master for Sussex at the end of the year after serving for eight years. I would ask both to stand and I am sure that you will join me by showing your appreciation for a job very well done by two fine Freemasons.

Brethren, when I was first elected as Grand Master I presented a manifesto to Grand Council and also laid down several challenges to the leaders of our Order. I believe that we have achieved more than I could ever have anticipated;

  • We now have a fit-for-purpose set of Statutes
  • We have light and learning in our Courts through lectures and debate
  • We have embraced modern technologies to prevent administration costs becoming a financial burden to our members
  • We have brought our overseas brethren back into our family
  • We have importantly produced a set of rituals that not only engages our candidates but are something that we can all rightly enjoy

Brethren I thank you all for assisting me in this, however small the part that you think you may have undertaken. We are all part of one Team.

Whilst I do not want to mention Brethren by name I feel that I must pay tribute to the wise counsel, assistance and leadership that has been exhibited by my Deputy, R W Bro Dr John Lloyd, my Assistant, R W Bro Dr Chris Ansell, and my Assistants who work so tirelessly Overseas, R W Bro D Allen Surratt, R W Bro Arthur Macken and R W Bro Chellappa.

Thank you Brethren.

Brethren, I also thank you for electing me for a further three years. I have a very clear manifesto and that is to keep our membership interested and to attract the dedicated and forward thinking Freemason into our ranks.

However, there is much work to be done.

In England and Wales some of our Courts face some tough challenges and times ahead.

We all accept that some Brethren will take up the invitation to join us and then find that our Order is not for them. There is a somewhat worrying trend, in some Courts, where senior officers such as the Wardens and even the Master are failing to attend Court meetings and carry out their duties. Your Provincial Grand Masters are now monitoring Courts and highlighting these issues in an effort rectify this. I will ensure that your Provincial leadership is visible and supportive and have the correct skill sets in place to assist.

Since the inauguration of our Order ten years ago it has attracted the interest of Freemasons not only in England and Wales but also overseas. The growth of membership in the United States of America, India, Australia and Spain continues apace. Earlier this year we consecrated a Court in Romania. Next year will see the Order established in Bolivia with the consecration of five Courts and the Constitution of the Province of Bolivia; the consecration of further Courts in Spain will lead to the Constitution of the Province of Spain; and a Court will also be consecrated in Panama.

R W Brother Mike Eckley recently informed me that so far in 2015 I have travelled 49,778 air miles on official Athelstan duties overseas. I am pleased to have visited every one of our Overseas Provinces on your behalf, which is my duty to the Order.

In all of our Overseas Provinces, we have been welcomed and encouraged by no less of an Institution than the Craft itself. In both Romania and Spain the Craft Grand Masters are fully involved in the future direction of Athelstan Masonry. In Australia and India, the Craft and Chapter are working in harmony with us.

Perhaps, it is in the United States that we have the closest alliance with the Craft as each and every Court is formed with the approval and approbation of its State Grand Lodge. As your Grand Master I am regularly invited to Grand Lodge meetings across America and we of course have a standing at the Conference of Grand Masters in North America.

Brethren I am also pleased to announce that discussions are taking place with a view to consecrations in many other Countries. Rest assured, as I stated in my address to Grand Court last year, that wherever we introduce our unique Athelstan Masonry due diligence will take place and we will only expand into those overseas jurisdictions that meet with our stringent requirements.

The growth of our Order is to be commended, and irrespective of the growth being overseas or here in England and Wales, I am ensuring that it is sustainable; that we have an administration that is able to function cohesively and effectively; that we embrace the latest technology; and that our growth will meet the full approbation of our original Founders. Growth does mean that by necessity there is some change, but that change will ensure that our Order grows and flourishes.

 I am reminded that Sir Francis Drake said;

"Grant us also to know that this is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same until the end; until it be thoroughly finished, that yieldeth the true glory".

But as far as Athelstan Masonry is concerned it will never be finished.

Brother Mike is today retiring as Grand Secretary after three years of total dedication and extreme hard work. It is fair to say that we have had some difficult times over the last three years and the measure of a man in my book is how he handles himself during those times; Brethren, as ever, R W Bro Mike was cool, calm and collective and breezed through problems with sound advice and action. Mike like his predecessor before him, is still a working and family man and I know how hard it is to juggle those balls and still maintain efficiency as a Grand Secretary. Unlike his predecessor, he still has his hair and is probably several millions of pounds richer! Mike, on behalf of myself and the members of this fine Order; thank you so much for your efforts and enjoy your retirement. Brethren, please join with me and show your appreciation to our Past Grand Secretary.

 The continuing hard work of our Grand Registrar, VW Brother Tony Burke, is bearing fruit. He has recently advised that the Order is to enter into the final stage of the organisation of our membership database and archiving processes. The present set up, with the Executive and Provincial Grand Secretaries, being able to access the database, via a web-based browser, has proven to be a great asset to the Brethren. This interim situation is now about to be improved, by migrating all of the Order’s data to the online web-based system. It will then allow the Grand Registrar to add / edit / amend records without having to rely on the slow Microsoft Access system. It will also allow the Grand Secretary and his Deputy, to do the same updating of records. The new system, will also allow the Provincial Grand Secretaries to make add / edit and make amendments, to their own Province’s records. This will then reduce the workload of the Grand Administration. The most important development will be the ability for Court Secretaries, to be able to view their own Court records. This facility will ensure more accurate data, as the Court Secretaries will be responsible for checking and maintaining the accuracy of the records of their Court. Training will of course be provided to the Provincial Grand Secretaries and, to a less detailed extent, the Court Secretaries, mainly by way of web-based training facilities.

Many will have seen that in the last couple of days that the Order has established its own Facebook page and I must thank Bro Michael Graham, Jnr, and W Bro Lee Everett for their hard work on that project. We are approaching social media with the same strict caution as observed by the United Grand Lodge of England, and as an inevitable informational tool. I will watch its progress with great interest.

 Brethren for our Order to grow and flourish in Bolivia and Spain we require our Ritual, our Statutes, and our administrative documentation obviously to be in Spanish. Last week I received notification that Bro Ruben Levy has completed the mammoth task of translating our Ritual and Statutes into Spanish. I thank him for his efforts, commitment and dedication.

 Last year our newsletter entitled ‘Cyningstun 10-90’ set out the vision of what we wished to achieve together in celebrating our 10th anniversary.

A committee chaired by RW Brother Roy Leavers went speedily to work. Brethren, on behalf of you all I wish to thank each and every member of Roy’s Committee; Brothers Lionel Mee, Noel Grout, Keith Waters, Chris Craddock and Bob Tuthill for their total commitment and thousands of man hours of hard work for the benefit of us all. The results of their labours will be fully appreciated later today at All Saint’s Church in Kingston.

I will announce the total that the Masonic Order of Athelstan has raised to assist the All Saints Heritage Interpretation Scheme at the celebratory banquet following the ‘Cyningstun 10-90’ proceedings.

Where will our donation be utilised?

Simplistically speaking it will assist on three fronts - the provision of a heritage worker whose role it is to work with school and community groups to help them know about and understand the story of Athelstan and the other important aspects of the town and church's history, to provide the costs of this interpretation work, and to move the Coronation Stone. The timing of the Coronation Stone removal is still unknown due to red-tape issues. All Saints has informed us that it also depends on whether they will build the new community and heritage building on the north lawn. If they can get the funds then they will wait to move the Stone until the building is built (so that they don't have move it and then have to shroud it in scaffolding while the new build happens). In any case the Masonic Order of Athelstan will be fully involved in the conservation and re-siting of the Coronation Stone.

It has been a challenging year; but this Order and its unique brand of Freemasonry now commonly referred to as ‘Athelstan Masonry’ has proved that in the twenty-first century, Freemasons can successfully interact with Church, State and the Public and assist in creating great works together.

To introduce the real King Athelstan and his supreme importance to world history to a new generation and to be a part of protecting a major historical monument is a fitting tribute to the founders of our Order and to all of you who have given freely and wisely. I feel sure that it will only be when we sit back and reflect on these last couple of days that we will fully realise what we have achieved as an Order.

Brethren, the business of this Annual Assembly is complete; let us now move from labour to refreshment.

I wish you a safe journey home and back to your loved ones, but first let us enjoy the rest of our day together in the company of our family and friends.

And one last thing…….Happy 10th Birthday!