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"Let’s Build the Craft by Using Our Tools"
Grand Master’s Annual Address:-
June 21, 2019

[Barry W.K. Burch]
MW Bro. Barry W. K. Burch,
Grand Master 2018-2019

Brethren, it is my privilege to welcome you all to this One Hundred and Forty-eighth Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. To the Past Masters, Worshipful Masters, and Wardens who constitute the membership of Grand Lodge, this is your Grand Lodge Communication—please give due consideration to the privilege of the decision-making responsibilities you carry. Our Constitution and Regulations are derived from your wisdom and stewardship of the Craft.
It is also my honour to extend a special welcome to the distinguished visitors from other Grand jurisdictions as well as those Master Masons of British Columbia and Yukon. The hand of brotherhood is extended to you all, and we thank you for coming.
To the Grand Lodge office staff, thank you for the dedication that you have demonstrated to the brethren of British Columbia and Yukon and this Grand Master. You carry out the daily business of our Grand Lodge office in an exemplary manner. I will miss working with you.
Appointed and elected Grand Lodge Officers for 2018-2019: please rise and face the west. Brethren, these Grand Lodge Officers have served you well—please acknowledge their contributions.
To our elected Grand Lodge officers—you have made me extremely proud to serve with you, bringing not only great dignity to the offices of Grand Lodge, but also by pledging to work together over several masonic years to achieve our mission.
The success of Freemasonry rests in the hearts and minds of each brother. Some of our brethren choose to exercise their talents for the benefit of Freemasonry in a leadership capacity. To MW Bro. Don Stutt, MW Bro. Jack Harper, RW Bro. Jim Ferguson and RW Bro. Dieter Steimecke: you have the thanks of your brethren for your service as you retire from your Grand Lodge committee chairmanships.
All Master Masons from the last five years please rise. It is to you that we look for the future stewardship of our lodges, districts and jurisdiction. Learn well the ways of the Craft.
Masonic challenges
Sadly not all is sweetness and light in British Columbia and Yukon. A brother unhappy in a Craft that espouses being happy and communicating happiness is a mystery to me. Our obligations reinforce to us how to live our lives, the commitment we make to one another and to rise above the trials of human nature. Sadly, more than we would like, there is interpersonal conflict that comes to the attention of the Grand Secretary and your Grand Master. This is extremely disappointing.
Maybe it's time to quit those things that are dragging us down:
- Speaking ill of a brother—we are taught that I will uphold your good name in your absence as well as your presence,
- Allowing petty grievances between individuals to become bigger problems in a lodge that forces brethren to take sides—we are taught how to deal with a brother against whom we have a feeling of animosity,
- Striving for what's best for me in Freemasonry instead of how I can do what's best for my brothers, my lodge and Freemasonry,
- Using past rank to get your way.
We are all in this together. These piques and quarrels can and should be resolved by the individuals involved before they become larger problems. The real test of Freemasonry occurs when we have conflict and adversity. That is the time to be reminded of our obligation and commitment to the ideals of the Craft and that we are brothers.
Fortunately the vast majority of our brothers and your elected Grand Lodge officers are working in a cooerdinated and harmonious way to build the Craft—we need all hands on deck because Freemasonry in British Columbia and Yukon has its challenges. Our numbers continue to decline and some lodges are struggling. In this situation we must focus on taking action where it is needed.
Right sizing our jurisdiction
Lodges come together for a purpose and sometimes they run their course. This masonic year, Aurora Lodge No. 165 turned in its warrant and Alliance No. 193 consolidated with Cascade Lodge No. 12. Summerland Lodge No. 56 and Trepanier Lodge No. 83 consolidated to form Peachland Lodge No. 56. The good news is that many of those brothers have found new masonic homes.
Furthermore after several years of discussion and consultations I decided to consolidate Districts 1 and 21 on South Vancouver Island. It is also worth noting that brethren in Districts 6 and 7 in the Kootenays have started reviewing the option of consolidating those Districts.
Membership 2018
In 2018 we accepted 129 men for initiation. In the end we raised 139 brothers. Sadly we lost 168 of our brethren to the Grand Lodge Above. It is disappointing that there were a total of 303 demits, 112 suspensions and, most disturbing to me, 75 men who dropped out of the process.
We cannot ignore this reality but it must not cast a shadow over our masonic light. Guarding the West Gate and using the Six Steps to Initiation programme can help. Focusing on new brothers by using the New Member Pathway helps establish a solid foundation of Freemasonry The good news is some lodges are thriving—some lodges and districts are successfully taking charge of their Freemasonry and building their Craft. This year we celebrated the 125th anniversary of Miriam Lodge No. 20 in Vernon and the 150th of Mount Herman Lodge No. 7 in Vancouver.
Building on Success
The Successful and Best Practices section on our website has a number of examples where positive outcomes were achieved. There are many more examples worth sharing; please check it out and add your own success stories. Your Grand Lodges officers have provided resources to help you take charge of your Freemasonry and build the kind of Craft you want from the ground up, not the top down.
Three Year Plan
This was the idea behind the three-year plan supported by MW Bro. Yates, RW Bro. Franklin, RW Bro. MacKenzie and myself: to focus on what we believe is needed to build the Craft for the benefit of the brethren and realizing that it would take more than any one masonic year. Our mission is to build Freemasonry into a strong, relevant and well-respected organization, meeting the masonic needs of our brethren. We will do that by:
- Improving the masonic experience by creating a quality lodge environment that attracts, engages and retains our brethren
- Raising the profile of Freemasonry in our communities.
We have spent a considerable number of months prior to 2018 to develop the resources we believed were needed for brethren to take charge of their Freemasonry and work together. If we are to build Freemasonry we need to know our starting point: what the brethren believe are their Lodge's strengths and areas requiring improvement
Lodge Health Assessment
The key exercise this masonic year saw 120 lodges undertake the Lodge Health Assessment to establish how the brethren viewed their lodge.
We are asking that you do the assessment again in late November or early December. If yours is one of the lodges that did not take part, the application is still available for your use now—talk to your DDGM. Our thanks go to VW Bro. Royston Colbourne and Bro. Andy Parkins for their professional services in creating this application. It is worth noting that the Grand Lodge of Quebec is also using this programme and other Grand Lodges are making inquiries.
Lodge Planning Tools
Knowing what's needed is the first step. Identified areas for improvement demand that action be taken. A number of our more successful lodges already have an established planning process. For those that don't have lodge planning resources, they have been provided in three different versions. It is our request that every lodge build their plan to create the kind of lodge they want.
Kudos to those lodges who have undertaken to embrace the Three Year Plan. This idea was formulated four years ago and was implemented this year starting with the Lodge Health Assessment. This was designed by professionals whose job it is to identify what makes organizations grow and succeed by applying certain time-tested practices. In visiting and in talks with brethren this past year, my opinion is that it is working, and working well.
Those lodges who have adopted some or all of the guidelines offered have been rewarded with a noted improvement in general attendance, new brethren and a newly-discovered awareness in their communities. I was pleased to hear that various lodges and districts are sharing their successful ideas so that others can benefit.
I thank my predecessors for the extensive groundwork they have done and continue to do in forming a solid base to this structure that will enable me to carry on with this valuable tool, as I progress in my masonic journey. I will be calling upon them for their help and guidance. Yes, this three-year plan is now a four-year plan.
Moving forward, I also hope to work with the various bodies of Freemasonry in bringing us closer together. The upcoming Masonic Ball in Nanaimo is a very good example. It disturbs me to hear the "us and them" attitude used when mentioning different bodies. The bottom line is that we are all Freemasons and should be helping support each other to grow and flourish.
Many lodges support worthy charities. This masonic year I decided to allocate 60% of the Grand Master's charity allocations to community-based organizations with the hope that brethren would come together for local causes. Twenty out of 24 districts took advantage of the revenue sharing opportunity of up to $1,000 per district to support district charities. This resulted in donations of close to $80,000, plus many hours of volunteer time in our communities. Most importantly we found local charities that were meeting a community need where our financial and volunteer contributions could make a difference.
Legacy Lodge UD
Sometimes a brother is not happy in his lodge—his masonic needs are not being met. The lodge experience is lacking. This typically results in a demit or a suspension for non-payment of dues. A brother who quits the Craft is a failure on our part
My preference is to have those brethren take charge of their Freemasonry and pursue finding or creating a lodge that meets their needs. This masonic year that happened with the institution of Legacy Lodge UD. These brethren decided to create a lodge with the kind of culture and focus they wanted and spent 18 months putting that idea together. This is good news. This kept twenty brothers in our Craft. Our brethren in California have chartered 13 lodges in the last 18 months and will charter seven more this October by working with disaffected brethren.
Thank you, Grand Master for allowing me a few minutes to address the brethren and to report to you some of the positive results I have seen during the first year of our multi-year plan. What I have witnessed is a renewed vitality and excitement. The members are working in a combined effort, getting back to the basics of Freemasonry and focusing on fellowship. We just must stay focussed and stay with our plan of improving the Freemasonry and education we communicate to our new brethren.
In April, I was asked to convene an online meeting with the concordant bodies which was very well attended. We came up with a plan to keep in touch regularly and to use the Masonic Google Calendar that will help us all to schedule events. I thank Bro Chris Croda and W Bro. Steven Chung for their expertise and hard work in this regard.
At our Grand Lodge communication last June your Grand Line promised to work towards our multi-year plan for a minimum of three years each to achieve our goals. I feel blessed to know that MW Bro. Burch, and our Grand Master-elect, RW Bro. Franklin, will be there to help through 2021. Our 150 year celebration of Freemasonry in British Columbia and Yukon is rapidly approaching, culminating at our Grand Lodge communication in June of 2021 in Victoria. I am extremely proud and excited to be a part of the two committees planning this historic event as, God willing and with your consent, I will be your Grand Master in 2021. This celebration proves to be not only a once in lifetime historical event, but our chance to showcase Freemasonry at its best to everyone in British Columbia and Yukon.
Keep June of 2021 clear on your calendars, it's an annual communication you won't want to miss. I hope to be able to share with you some of the exciting events and promotions that are being planned in the coming months.
Applying Technology
Another good news story is the work of the Technology Committee under the chairmanship of VW Bro. Steve Andsten. Our vision is to facilitate better communication to not only conduct the business of our very large British Columbia and Yukon jurisdiction but to link those in remote areas or those brethren no longer able to physically attend their lodge. Through Zoom, an online meeting programme, we have enabled several Grand Lodge committees, the Board of General Purposes and your principal officers to meet online—far superior to a conference call. I'm very pleased that a trial run using Zoom enabled a shut-in brother to meet with his lodge online from his home.
Working Tools Podcast
Thanks to W Bro. Stephen Chung and Bro. Connor Massey, the Working Tools Podcast is another way to communicate to our brethren. They will be producing a podcast at this Grand Lodge Communication.
The final comments I have are to encourage all lodges to at least request an insurance quote from Bro. Bill Brendon. It doesn't cost you anything. Last year this Grand Lodge approved that we go ahead and help the lodges to find if this insurance programme would be to their advantage. Some lodges seem to think that it is too much of a bother and don't request a quote even if they are paying higher premiums. This doesn't make much sense to me.
One of the major things the lodges should be doing is to at least get directors insurance. If anything happens in your lodge building and someone sues, they go after everyone including directors of the building society as well as the principal officers of the lodge. This means if the court finds in favour of the plaintiff they can go after everything you own.
We have also found that a lot of lodges are under-insured for replacement of the building in the event of fire loss. The brethren in Merritt found this out after they had a fire and they had to come up with thousands of dollars to finish the building. So please take your insurance coverage seriously and look into the matter to see if you are properly covered. It doesn't cost you anything.
Intelligence-led Decision Making
The secretary database has been developed and is providing an excellent source of useful information. The great work of Bro. Lucas Bussey recently has enabled us to mine this source of information to more readily identify trends and identify our membership makeup. From this database we now know:
- The average membership in British Columbia and Yukon Lodges is 50,
- Average age of all Freemasons in our jurisdiction is 65.1,
- Lodge with the youngest average age is Lodge Southern Cross No. 44 at 53,
- Lodge with the oldest average age is Admiral Lodge, on Saltspring Island, at 80.
Demographically, you can see that we continue to skew older. I don't know about you but I'm doing my best to not grow old but I appear to be failing miserably. We need not only younger men but to tap into a gold mine of suitable men residing in the ranks of the recently retired
This database can help to identify best practices. For example very soon we will be able to determine those lodges with the best membership retention rates and find out how they do it.
Membership Attraction and Retention
You will have found a brochure entitled Speaking for Freemasonry in your registration package. This is a guide produced by the ad hoc Membership development Committee in an adaptation of a programme used in New Zealand and Oregon. This is to assist you in communicating to those having an interest in Freemasonry.
Why is this important? Masonic research in New Zealand and Oregon has shown where new Freemasons make their first contact about becoming a brother—through friends and family. Furthermore our brothers in California and Oregon believe they will experience a net increase within two years. Your Grand Master is asking you to invest a few minutes to read it and formulate your responses to the commonly asked questions and then take every opportunity to share with others your experience in Freemasonry.
It has been my pleasure to have shared the previous three masonic years with the Grand Master-elect, RW Bro. Franklin, and I look forward to continuing that relationship.
Working as a team with our principal officers, it has been both productive and satisfying to see the results of our multi-year approach. In order to plan our future, we need to know where we are today. The Lodge Health Assessment exercise conducted during the past year has given all of us in British Columbia and Yukon a fairly accurate picture of our condition—both strengths and weaknesses—and where we need to improve. This has been a self-assessment, generated by us as individual members of our Lodges, but the results have given us a pattern and, even more important, possible ways to move ahead. I like to think of this exercise as a "Masonic GPS" in plotting our future.
In June 2015 I was given permission and support from my family to offer myself to the Craft. In the time and energy required to be a Grand Line officer this support has been tested many times. The love and support of my daughters Jessica and Keira and my life partner Ann, the Lovely Chief has made this all possible. This is the last time I will address you in Grand Lodge as your Grand Master. Thank you for the confidence and support shown me. Thank you also for the courtesy you have shown to Ann.
This however is not the end of my commitment to the Craft. Tomorrow afternoon I go to work for my friend and brother and I ask you to do the same. In June 2020 I go to work for our next Grand Master.
My final request of you is to determine the best way you can add value as a Freemason. Before you step through the doorway of your lodge, determine how you can make Freemasonry better for your brethren at that meeting.
Our masonic virtues are the content of our character, the elements of our human spirit. They grow stronger whenever we apply them. The social investment of your masonic virtues to your families, friends, and neighbours will improve your world. I'm very optimistic about our future if we each take charge of our Freemasonry and apply our tools.
Brethren, I feel myself fortunate enough to be counted among you. I am proud of your achievements and proud to say, "I am a Freemason and your brother."


© 1871-2021 Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Updated: 2019/06/26