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Look beyond the trees
Grand Master’s Installation Address:-
June 23, 2007

[Stephen Godfrey]
MW Bro. Stephen Godfrey
Grand Master 2007-2008

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. —Alvin Toffler
If you have attended lodge meetings at the masonic hall in Victoria, or travelled the passageway of the Grand Lodge office in Vancouver, you will know of the framed photos of Past Grand Masters gracing the walls. For three decades I have viewed these photos. To consider that I am about to follow in their footsteps is inspirational, and at the same time, overwhelming. These great men — masonic leaders, and pioneers in their own rights, have led our Craft through 136 years of Freemasonry in British Columbia and Yukon. And I now apply myself to humble service in the same cause; a different time, a different social climate, but the same fundamentals of Freemasonry to speak about, the same standards to uphold.
I am honoured and proud. I thank all those brethren who have shown support for me—so many of you and each of your supporting gestures have been different and important to my masonic journey. My personal thanks are extended to R.W. Bros. Art Scott and David Washington who have been my sponsors since my decision to place my nomination before you. I must also express thanks to Haida Lodge No. 166 who, from my affiliation, has been my inspiration. They have regularly allowed me to explore unknown areas bringing programmes to our meetings which have not been tried before. They have risked and they have grown as I have grown.
It is impossible to calculate the value the support given me by my family, Chris my wife, Treana and Bruce, and Tricia and Matt. To you all my deepest thanks for being there when I needed you.
I stand before you ready to assume the responsibility for Freemasonry in British Columbia and Yukon. The mantle of duty weighs heavy; the continued quality of Freemasonry to be maintained remains paramount; the service to my fellow beings, my main course.
While studying at the University of Victoria, a visiting professor challenged us to explore areas of study which were unknown to us. “Find a topic,” she said, “which demands new research—which demands new investigation.” By the end of the course, not only had we all expanded our own experiences, but also through our studies we had travelled to fascinating destinations, into the unexpected, captivating, and fascinating, areas that we would never have found out had we not been encouraged to look beyond the trees. That is my theme for the year—Look beyond the trees.
I offer you the challenge this year. In all that you do, in all that you research, find new knowledge, study new areas—find those interesting topics that are something that “you didn't know you didn't know!”
What you discover on your own is always more exciting than what someone else discovers for you—it's like the difference between romantic love and an arranged marriage, says the noted film critic, Terrence Rafferty.
Last year a paper titled “It's about Time” was published by the Masonic Services Association, Maryland, USA. Its thesis statement was that men seeking membership in our fraternity were not as enamored with what they saw when they arrived. The reasons concluded by the authors of the paper were:
1. Loss of masonic identity
2. Lack of energy invested in Freemasonry
I agree with the conclusions. Of our membership we know that 20% essentially are working for the cause of good in our lodges, and it is obvious that 20% are also working for our Grand Lodge.
But I am even more convinced that we can raise the participation higher by implementing much of what I propose. We are the change needed. The responsibly rests with each one of us. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We cannot shine if we have not taken time to fill our lamps. [D. H. Mumby, GM of GLCPOO]. Learn more about our craft. Make this year the year of commitment. Look beyond the trees, brethren.
Self-discovery and change take time. We are reminded of the efficient use of our time and, to some extent, the effective use of our lives, when we are presented with the twenty-four inch gauge. I believe there is good reason for placing this in the hands of each new brother as the first working tool.
To the initiate, its metaphor seems obvious, twenty-four inches and twenty-four hours of the day. The portioning of the twenty-four hours into three equal parts, at first glance also appears evident. It teaches time management,—a suggestion to bring our busy lives into a simplified correspondence of service: service to God and a distressed worthy brother, service to our usual avocation (here I use the old version of the ritual), and service to ourselves through refreshment and sleep.
The twenty-four inch gauge also reminds us that we should not live only for ourselves but for others, so as in just measure we serve our families, our friends, our neighbours and our country. (from 12° of Scottish Rite). It recalls to my mind the poem If by Rudyard Kipling, that we have no time to waste and to use every moment for good:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!
These time management skills empower our lives and so I am using the twenty-four inch gauge as the symbol of this year.
So, there is no time to waste. And Michael Altshuler said it best: The bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.
And we do have time—the very precious commodity so necessary for our fraternity. In our hurried lives, we tend to find less time for anything masonic. An advertising agency director, H. Jackson Brown, puts it all in perspective:
Don’t say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo do Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
Therefore I ask of you this year, give more time to the wisdom of Freemasonry.
Education is the major focus for this year. I encourage us all to read, read, and read some more. A new lapel pin has been struck for the year. Anyone can earn the pin by doing one thing, present some education programme in a lodge, a masonic function, or a social event. Be a masonic resource this year. The District Deputy Grand Masters have the pins. They will present one to any brother who helps with education this year. At the end of the year I will measure the amount of education in this jurisdiction.
Our District Deputy Grand Masters have received two CDs, the work of the Inter-provincial Conferences of the Officers of the Western Provinces—commonly known as the Canmore Conference. It is the complete set of papers and follow-up discussions presented from the years 1941 to 2001—260+ papers. The second CD is a collection of about 700 papers and articles. They also have a CD of the mentor programme and a new Power Point programme of learning for new freemasons created by W. Bro. Larry Burden.
The District Deputy Grand Masters also have book lists compiled by prominent masons—worthwhile books to start any Masonic library. I encourage us all to introduce these titles as extensions to all mentorship programmes. Make education count, make it worth something.
Five Pillar Plan
You have at this Grand Lodge approved in principle the long term plan we have presented as a map for the future of the jurisdiction. Under its five headings—Leadership, Education, Communication, Membership, and Community—plans are developing. With your help I will guide our jurisdiction along a new path of Freemasonry under a Strategic Plan—the Five Pillars Plan.
An Officers Conference is being planned for April, 2008. It will be a weekend of skill building and motivation. The workshop will focus on the management and running of a lodge. It will consist of a choice of ten sessions, including planning a lodge year, long term planning, financial planning and budgeting, goal setting and decision making, membership and mentoring, planning events, delegation and motivation, leadership. Your wives/partners are also invited as a ladies workshop is also planned. It will parallel the brethren’s sessions, and will also include some shared sessions.
The second Annual Seminar for incoming District Deputy Grand Masters was presented in April. The event is a thirty-six hour seminar spread over three days where members appointed as DDGM network, build teamwork, and learn important information required by DDGMs. One is planned for April 2008. The time spent brings together the Grand Executive with the appointed officers and prepares the DDGMs for their new roles. From feedback we have received from this past year’s DDGMs and this years newly installed DDGMs, the establishment of the annual seminar is a new and valuable service to our jurisdiction.
R.W. Bro. Barry Burch has been appointed as Youth Coördinator. He will work closely with Job’s Daughters and DeMolay. Again, I encourage the Craft to support both these youth groups closely connected with our Freemasonry. R.W. Bro. Burch will survey all lodges, recording the level of membership support—those who work with any youth groups as well as Job’s Daughters and DeMolay.
Conrad Hahn, Executive Secretary of the Masonic Service Association of the US in 1975, a most distinguished freemason, once observed:
The lack of educational work in the average lodge is the principal reason for the lack of interest and the consequent poor attendance in Masonry over which spokesmen have been wringing their hands for at least a century.
As much as a lodge is a fellowship for men of like minds, the premise of our foundation is as a school of learning, a place of knowledge, an opportunity for study—and it remains so today.
I ask that Education be a priority of all lodges. Our Immediaate Past Grand Master suggested that Education be put as an agenda item close to the top of the agenda of a lodge meeting. I endorse this concept and ask lodges which have not done so to please review their by-laws with reference to Order of Business and place Education at a time when brethren are refreshed and ready to learn. I recommend that presentations be between 7 to 12 minutes and that time is allowed for a follow-up discussion. A Socratic approach will spur more interesting meetings, I can assure you.
Some lodges have lodge libraries. I ask you to consider ways your lodge can build its resources and ways to encourage brethren to borrow books and read. And if your lodge does not have a library, ask your DDGM for a list of masonic books for consideration as a start to any masonic library, lodge owned (or personally owned). It is time for us to place purchasing of learning resources as a lodge budget item.
I have instructed the Grand Lodge Committee on Education to continue work on the Diploma Programme. New material from another jurisdiction is being analyzed and work has commenced to produce a Diploma Programme for our jurisdiction. It is expected to see the first year of the diploma programme ready by next summer (2008).
All DDGMs have been asked to consider planning an annual Masonic Day either for their district or in conjunction with neighbouring districts. These days should focus on district issues and concerns as well as a supportive role for supplementary work of the Officers Conference. The Vancouver Grand Masonic Day—now the Vancouver and Fraser Valley Masonic Day—is moving to Chilliwack this year and will be held on September 29th.
A further resource for education would be invited guests to speak at lodge events. Consider especially, leaders of your community as a way of involving your lodge with your community. Remember we look into the areas we don't know we don't know, rather than what we do know. Remember, look beyond the trees.
A report has been presented at our Communication this year to consider e-communications, bringing our jurisdiction on line with available technology for speedier communication. The report will be a major focus of our Board this year. I have asked members of the Grand Lodge Committee on Research to spearhead the implementation of this report.
Of more significance are our responsibilities to communicate with our brethren of our own lodges—regularly and habitually. Our lodges are really an extended family. Building connections benefits us all.
Our lodge halls are our homes. We must be proactive stewards of our buildings so that we can pass to future generations a place to meet. Our Finance Committee is available to any lodge that requires help in assessing their property and making plans of renovations and redevelopment.
The Lodge Excellence Programme is now in its third year and has been renamed as the Lodge Achievement and Recognition Awards Programme to be under the direction of our Grand Director of Ceremonies. The programme is a motivational tool for lodges that are seeking ways to stimulate membership participation. Come on board, brethren, and participate. Your DDGMs have the information and are there to help you. The programme is easy to initiate and certainly worthy of the consideration of Worshipful Masters and senior lodge officers.
I ask each lodge this year to organize one meeting—not a lodge meeting but a separate night to gather together as a masonic community to discuss the state of Freemasonry in your lodge. Such meetings should be an annual event for all lodges—an opportunity to ensure if the needs of brethren are being met in lodge and social events. I ask you to guarantee such an event takes place this masonic year.
I have asked DDGMs to support lodges to review the Five Pillar Plan and consider it as a template for creating individual lodge long term plans. Next April, I will ask all DDGMs to report on the number of lodges in their districts that have long term plans or who are in the process of creating such plans. I know some lodges are already in this process, working towards long term goals. Our success is seen when lodges are regularly checking that the needs of the membership are being met.
I have formed a special Ad Hoc Committee to survey all freemasons who have been members since 2002 (the year of the Masonic Commission) to seek information on their reception into Freemasonry, what they have found interesting and worthwhile, what could be improved, and in particular have we welcomed them well and made them feel a part of our fraternity? We will also inquire if mentoring processes are working.
I am calling upon the Grand Lodge Committee on Lodge Buildings, with the help of our Grand Historian, to build a pictorial history of lodge buildings in our jurisdiction. We are losing many lodge halls in recent time for various reasons. Our History of Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon tells us the story. Now we need to complement that with pictures, photos, of the lodge buildings. A substantial start has taken place with a donation of several photographic collections to our Grand Lodge Library. We are seeking your help to search through your archives, looking for photos that can be scanned. Our Grand Historian is ready to collect the photos. It is my hope that the project might be completed to coincide with our 140th year, 2010, the completed project to be a published book.
I again encourage all lodges to continue to support the Benevolent and Bursary Funds, as well as our Charity Community Fund. Our Cancer Cars are well known in communities where the cancer cars are employed. I will bring to your attention the work of our volunteers, and the testimonies of thankful patients with the help of the Cancer Car Committee.
Stephen Covey in his fourth book, The 8th Habit—a further study following his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states that the eighth habit is finding one’s voice first then inspiring others to find theirs. He speaks of determining what we wish to leave this world, what good can we offer those who come after us, and how can we help others to find a balance. He continues by saying we each have a body, a mind, a heart, and a spirit; a body to live, a mind to learn, a heart to love and a spirit to leave a legacy. That is what we must do.
I leave with you this final thought from Winston Churchill who said: “Those who try to build the present in the image of the past will miss out entirely on the challenges of the future.” The challenge is now ours; the future is in our hands and our destiny is in our hands. Look beyond the trees, brethren, look beyond the trees.


© 1871-2021 Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Updated: 2007/06/28