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Take it to the limit
Grand Master’s Annual Address:-
June 23, 2017

[Ian J. Bowman]
MW Bro. Ian J. Bowman,
Grand Master 2016-2017

It has been an absolute privilege to have served this past year as your Grand Master, to have received the unbounded support of dedicated DDGMs and Grand Lodge officers, and to have witnessed your solid attendance at all my official visits.
By this you have shown your commitment to your lodge, to Grand Lodge and to the well-being of Freemasonry in our jurisdiction. You have filled lodges from Campbell River to Nanaimo, from Smithers to Nelson and all locations in between. That tells us Freemasonry is strong, vibrant, open to hearing sound judgment and welcoming of good leadership.
It also shows a good measure of acceptance of my belief, that quality and perfection are more important than membership numbers. That change, where necessary, can be readily embraced if presented with civility and good reasoning.
You have shown great support in my efforts to improve our public image by improving our lodge buildings and I am encouraged by the amount of progress made to date and the ambitious plans for the future. I sincerely hope we can continue with these building improvements on an ongoing basis. There is still much we can do here by way of making funding more accessible and more competitive from our own sources within Grand Lodge. Freemasons need to look after their own interests as a top priority with lending rates being made available from our own Building Fund at the most attractive levels possible.
I firmly believe the single biggest thing we can do to improve our public image and move our Fraternity forward in the twenty-first century is to focus on this key objective, but this will need vision, leadership and dedication from a committed membership. We have the funding and the means to grow these funds. We also have the leadership and management skills within our Craft to make this a reality. All we need is the commitment. That brethren, must come from you.
I talked at length during my year about tackling the difficult aspects of being Grand Master. I have openly discussed how Grand Lodge operates. I have provided several open house style question periods on any subject concerning Grand Lodge, on any concerns and questions you may have had on the working of Grand Lodge. All of this was done to let you see how transparent Grand Lodge is in looking after your interests, while governing and leading the Craft. I believe these sessions were very well received and very worthwhile.
We talked at length about the delicate subject of consolidation of lodges and districts, and I feel you all now have a better understanding of the need for this to be considered and why this "might work" for your lodge or district. The emphasis being that this will be a lodge-by-lodge decision and not a directive from Grand Lodge. This is not something specific to us, it is common to lodges in most of the western world.
We need to look long and hard at the obvious advantage of this concept in some areas in the best interest of the lodge, the district and the community. As I have said many times, it is not the rural lodges that concern me. They have many challenges with travel distances and declining population growth. If they meet on a regular basis with a reasonable core of members, then more power to them. If on the other hand, they are struggling and another lodge a few miles away is facing the same dilemma, then there is surely room for some discussion. My concern is lodges struggling with membership and retention in growing major communities, especially when there are one or more strong lodges in the same building or nearby. Consolidation in these circumstances can only strengthen the Craft and will eventually be inevitable. I am pleased to report there are several lodges currently giving serious consideration to amalgamation in the very near future. To this end, I have suggested to the Grand Master-elect that we appoint a competent, well skilled brother this year to see these consolidations through to completion, if the brethren are so inclined.
Consolidation of some districts will make our jurisdiction easier to manage and will help in the selection of DDGMs, with the possibility of two-year terms to allow the DDGM more time to cover the district. It will also provide a more practical answer to district meetings that are already combined for Grand Lodge events. It would be my recommendation that the same individual selected for assistance in possible consolidations, include consolidation of districts under this same mandate. By this I do not mean adding a new committee as I feel we are in some ways committee'd to death. We need an action portfolio to complete consenting consolidations within our existing structure.
Civility and leading by example were continually at the centre of my approach to leadership in the Craft. By virtue of this and great support from the Grand Secretary, we were able to ward off potential masonic trials and harmful conflicts. I am pleased to say that as of today there are no active or pending trials. It is my wish that we can continue with this higher awareness of civility in aspects of lodge grievances and look within ourselves to make this more commonplace.
With this in mind, we need also to reflect on the basic principles of our fraternity, our requirements for membership and our oaths of obligation. At last year's communication MW Bro. Douglas C. Collins declared that this jurisdiction stands behind our claim of equality, regardless of faith, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
I supported the position taken by MW Bro. Collins and at this time, I wish to go on record, endorsing that same position, and our unshaken belief in the brotherhood of man. Making sexual orientation a criterion for membership injects a religious and political interpretation of morality into our fraternity that fundamentally misunderstands and misapplies the foundational philosophy of Freemasonry.
I also endorse the principle of Grand Lodge sovereignty. Each is fully independent and sovereign in the management of the internal affairs of its jurisdiction. That said, when a brother strays from his masonic path, it behooves us to offer a quiet word of counsel. When a sister jurisdiction falters, we can do no less than reiterate what we believe is defending a characteristic of Freemasonry: equality. To be a Freemason, a man must be freeborn, of mature age, profess a belief in a supreme being, and be under the tongue of good report...period. Any other restrictions are contrary to our ancient landmarks. In the words of Robert Burns, "The rank is but the guinea's stamp, the man's the gowd (gold) for awe that. " We surely must be steadfast in our belief in these basic principles.
As we move forward in this fast paced world of changing demographics, we need to be aware of some age old customs that might be uncomfortable for some brethren and off-putting for some potential candidates. By this I mean parades. Particularly those centered on a single, visible denomination. I believe it is time for us to look at what benefits are realized by these events that in themselves are contradicting our nondenominational ancient landmarks mentioned earlier. This of course does not include Remembrance Day parades, masonic services and other like events. Something for us to consider as our membership base changes.
A regular closing to my talks this year throughout the jurisdiction always included some aspect of my theme "Take it to the limit." This covered ritual work, lodge preparation, social programmes and all other challenges or positions we may have taken. It was meant to encourage all of us not to settle for mediocrity, but to take to the limit every task we had before us. I have strived to do this at every lodge visit, and encouraged you all to do the same. I am pleased to say that you have shown what can be done when we all participate. You have excelled in so many ways. Your attendance alone at official visits is a perfect example. The DDGMs certainly took their preparation to the limit in organizing these events and I thank you for the hospitality, encouragement and support you gave me this year. I thank you for all the great discussions on Freemasonry during the social hour that frequently went beyond the "hour", all of which was well worth the time and effort.
We have together raised the emblems of Freemasonry much closer to the pinnacle of the mountain as we set out to do last year. I ask that you do not stop there; there is still work to be done. Continue to soar to the summit and fulfill your goals. It has been a pleasure for me to have been at your helm during this time, to have shared in your aspirations and to see you work together in harmony. Remember the lesson of me asking you to build the perfect boat! I would not ask you to form into groups to decide how the boat should look, or how big the engines should be, or to decide on the colour of the hull. I would ask, if you have ever seen the morning sun come up over the horizon, to imagine what it's like to feel the salt spray on your face as you head out of the bay... and you will build your own boat.
Keep moving our gentle Craft forward with pride, integrity and determination. Build your own boat, or in this case your own lodge to reflect who we truly are and what we stand for as Freemasons. Keep thinking about what can be done rather than what has been done and take whatever you do to the limit.


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