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Strength through unity
Grand Master’s Annual Address:-
June 21, 2006

[Robert D. McSween]
MW Bro. Robert D. McSween
Grand Master 2005-2006

Brethren, welcome to Chilliwack, the Green Heart of the Valley, and this 135th Annual Grand Lodge Communication. For those of you who are attending an Annual Communication for the first time, I extend to you a most cordial greeting and hope that you have a pleasant experience. For those of you who have been to Grand Lodge before, welcome back and again I wish you a pleasant time. To our distinguished visitors I would like to thank you for taking the time to be with us and I hope that your journey home will be filled with pleasant memories of this Grand Lodge and of the City of Chilliwack.
Firstly I must start by thanking you for giving me the privilege of serving you as your 135th Grand Master. It has been a distinct honour to have been given this opportunity to serve you, and I realize that I will never be given an opportunity such as this ever again no matter what or where I go.
My year as your Grand Master has passed very quickly and it has not only been a rewarding challenge for me but a very exciting challenge. As I have traveled this jurisdiction I have been able to renew old acquaintances and, most importantly, make new ones. It has been a year like I have never experienced before. The warmth and friendliness of the brethren that I had the pleasure of meeting not only put me very much at ease but renewed my knowledge with the fact hospitality is very much alive in our jurisdiction. When I look back at the year I also realize just how fortunate I have been to have been given the honour to serve as your Grand Master. Considering the number of members that we have and the fact that only one of us has this privilege each year makes one feel very humbled indeed.
Since the start of the year we have accomplished a great deal and set new paths for others to follow. To mention a few of these I would start with the following.
We have created Regional Leadership Workshops where the brethren of the lodges are now able to have Leadership Training in their regions on a need-as-required basis. The only region so far not covered is the Vancouver area and I believe this will be covered very soon. This is something that is not only very badly needed but something that will go to reduce the cost of Grand Lodge conducting Workshops within our Jurisdiction by a committee provided by Grand Lodge. From the feedback we have gotten on these workshops it would appear we are going in the right direction. I trust that we have done right by doing this.
We have also participated in the Lodge Excellence and Lodge Performance Award Program. While not all lodges took advantage of participating in it, this did not come as a surprise to me. It is something new and sometimes these things take time to prove they work to be successful. It was designed to make the brethren and the lodges more active in their normal roles. I am certain that if all lodges did follow this program they would agree. The goals set in it were very easy to accomplish. I am pleased to inform you that you will see this program continuing. Your future Grand Lodge officers feel that this was a worthwhile program and wish to see all lodges take an active part in it. Perhaps it will be far more successful if we try again to achieve these goals.
As 2005 was the Year of the Veteran many of lodges with their District Deputy Grand Masters took an active part in the Remembrance Day observances by laying a wreath in memory of our departed brethren and fallen comrades. I had the pleasure also of laying a wreath at Victory Square in Vancouver on behalf of Grand Lodge. This was, to my knowledge, a first for Grand Lodge. I believe this is something that will happen again.
Other things that were new this year were the Certificates from Grand Lodge to those lodges who have celebrated 50, 75 and 100 years of Freemasonry. This year I had the pleasure of presenting some of those certificates to Enderby Lodge No. 40 on their 100th Anniversary, Aurora Lodge No. 165 on their 50th Anniversary, Euclid Lodge No. 158 on their 50th Anniversary plus Atlinto Lodge No. 42 and Lodge Southern Cross No. 44 on their 100th Anniversary. Again, this is something Grand Lodge will continue to practice in recognizing significant milestones for our lodges and my congratulations to those lodges who have reached those significant milestones. The "Demit Report" was introduced this year and although it was not a huge success, it did give us an idea as to why we had been losing so many of our brethren. As I said, the report was intended to find out why we are losing a large number of brethren each year so that information could be passed on to the lodges in order that they could take preventive measures against this continuing in the future. The brethren told us of the parts of the report that they were uncomfortable with and amendments have been made to suit the brethren of the lodges. It is hoped that this new format will be successful in assisting us to slow the number of brethren leaving our lodges. The reports that we did receive will be brought forward for your attention. Hopefully this new reporting will prove to be successful and we can put a stop to the decline in membership.
Our Grand Lodge Representative system has been in need of reorganizing and I am pleased to inform you that with the work of the committee it is now in good working order. Another thing which is new this year for the Grand Lodge Representatives is the fact that there is now a jewel that their counterparts can wear. I would like to thank R.W. Bro. Gordon Phillips for his efforts in making it possible to have this beautiful jewel available to us. The only thing that I ask our representatives is that when they send this jewel to their counterpart that the brother receiving it obtains permission from his Grand Master to wear it. Hopefully we have started something that will catch on with other Grand Lodges in recognizing our Grand Lodge Representatives.
Previously District Deputy Grand Masters submitted a report at the end of their year to Grand Lodge and this report gave us information on the condition of the lodges and their buildings. However, this year "All Grand Lodge officers" submitted quarterly reports on those topics. When I say "All Grand Lodge officers" I mean "ALL" including Grand Stewards. This was done to give the Appointed Grand Lodge Officers more responsibility and accountability to Grand Lodge. It gave us a better understanding of the lodges' conditions and most importantly had the Grand Lodge officers in the districts more active in their roles and responsibilities. It also gave the Grand Lodge officers the additional responsibility of ensuring that proper attention was being paid to the lodges and districts. This again is something that we have not done before and is likely a practice that will continue for future Grand Lodge officers. I am pleased to tell you that the Grand Lodge officers have submitted reports that proved to be both valuable and positive to Grand Lodge.
Meetings were held with concordant bodies by both Grand Lodge and districts. Many of the lodges also took part in sending invitations out to concordant bodies to have them come and inform us of themselves in order that we might have a better understanding of each other. I was particularly pleased to see the DeMolay and Job's Daughters were involved by being invited as well. They are our future and it is important for us to support our future. Some of the meetings that Grand Lodge had been invited to were with the Order of the Eastern Star and Van Zor Grotto. Both of these meetings were likely a first in Canada if not North America. Invitations were also received from Giza Shrine, Daughters of the Nile, Amaranth, DeMolay and Job's Daughters. In February the concordant bodies were all invited by Grand Lodge for a meeting and it was a most successful day. In attendance were representatives of nineteen concordant bodies who gave us an explanation of themselves. It was certainly a day of unity for the Masonic Family and a day that will long be remembered by those who attended.
I had the pleasure this year to represent you at several other jurisdictions and pass on to those Jurisdictions the condition of our Craft. The Jurisdictions that I visited where, the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, the Grand Lodges of Alaska, Manitoba, Washington, and Saskatchewan. In each of these jurisdictions I heard the same story. Freemasonry is now on the upsurge and we are seeing more men interested in being a part of our fraternity. It is indeed a great time to be a freemason. I was especially proud to be there because I know that I belong to one of the premier jurisdictions of Freemasonry. Evidence of this has been shown to me in everywhere that I have been and in all that I have heard. I have seen record attendances in the official district meetings, on my surprise visits and from the information that has been passed on to me from my Grand Lodge officers. We have seen something that has renewed the interest in Freemasonry in our jurisdiction this year that we have not seen for the last fifty years. It is contagious and it is exciting. We are on the right track and all we have to do now is keep it going in the same direction. I think that we can if we have a mind to do so!
I mentioned my surprise visits. This has most certainly been a highlight for my year. I have made quite a few of them in order to see exactly how the lodges are performing and I must tell you that what I have seen has been enlightening. I have seen lodges as they really are, and they are doing a great job at Freemasonry. I realize that having the Grand Master just pop in does put them a bit on edge but the bottom line was that they knew what they had to do and did it. My congratulations go to those lodges and also to those who thought I was coming to surprise them and prepared themselves for what they thought would happen to them. I think we all learnt something on these surprise visits.
One of the issues that I spoke of this year was our membership status. I mentioned that we have seen a big influx in membership within our lodges. Although this is very exciting for us we must maintain a due guard on the west gate of our lodge. We must maintain and ensure that the dignity of Freemasonry has not and never will deteriorate. We must not only insist on good members joining our Craft but perhaps even raise the standard. We just do not want anybody joining our fraternity. We are not in the numbers game. We must strive for good men and good men only in our Fraternity. If we succeed in doing this then we will be successful in building a great fraternal organization. We have seen a large number of new members joining our Craft this year and what is most exciting about this is the fact that they are members who are young in age. Although this is exciting we must strive to give them what they are looking for so that they are not counted in the demitted members that we have been seeing in the last several years.
As I have stated, this has been an exciting year full of pleasant memories, but unfortunately there are also some unpleasant memories. Those unpleasant memories would be the loss of some great members of our fraternity who have passed to the Grand Lodge above. One such member was our senior Past Grand Master, M.W. Bro. James Hogg who served this Craft as our Grand Master in the year 1968. He along with the other brethren who have passed to the Grand Lodge above will be deeply missed for all they have done for the Craft, and I for one, and I am certain that we all feel the same way, feel extremely pleased knowing that they took the time to share their lives with us. They have left us a great void to fill and I am hopeful that we are up to the task.
Although this year has been successful I can not along accept credit for this achievement. The Grand Lodge officers that served with me and for you have done an outstanding job and deserve much of the credit. I speak of the Deputy Grand Master, Senior Grand Warden and the Junior Grand Warden. They along with the District Deputy Grand Masters and other Grand Lodge officers have carried the positive message out to the lodges and have done credit to Grand Lodge by the manner in which they have conducted themselves. To all of those officers, it has been an honour to serve Grand Lodge with you and I wish you much happiness and success in your future masonic endeavours. To the elected Grand Lodge officers, or line officers, I offer you all the support that I am capable of giving you. I look forward to the future years when you are the leaders of our Craft. I know that they will be fruitful years for us and we have much to benefit from your leadership. I must also give credit to the Grand Lodge office staff who worked untiringly to ensure that your requests were being attended to and for the pleasant manner in their daily operation made it a pleasure each time I entered the Grand Lodge building. Betty, Shelia and Jeremy have gone above and beyond their respective duties and we are the benefactors of their efforts. I must also not forget those other members who work in the Grand Lodge building who go out of their way to ensure that anyone who enters that building has a pleasant experience. Last but not the least I must not forget the most important person in Grand Lodge. I speak of course of the Grand Secretary, M.W. Bro. James Chalmers Gordon. He has been a pillar amongst us and has been, to me, a tremendous and valuable asset. We have been able to work together as a harmonious team and without him my year would not have been so pleasant. Having witnessed what he has gone though in his daily routine and then being able to see some humour in all that has happened has given me the inspiration to carry on in a positive manner. To the Grand Secretary I owe much and realize I can never thank him enough for what he has done.
Last but not the least, my biggest vote of thanks must go to you, my brethren. Without your dedicated support and encouragement we might not have had such a wonderful year. You are the ones who saw a need for a better way of conducting ourselves and our lodges and you made that change. You are the ones who make things work and I can never say enough for what you have done this year. You have given me a year that I will never forget. It was a year full of pleasant memories. All I can say to you is thanks. It is only one word, but there just are not enough words to tell you how I feel at this moment.
Of course there is one other person with whom I must share credit with for everything good that has happened for me this year. That person is my wife and my partner Eileen to whom I owe everything. Without her dedicated and continuous support I would not have had the strength to carry on. Eileen has been my crutch when I needed the moral strength and support in situations where things were not on an even path and to her I give a most profound thanks. From now on we will celebrate birthdays and anniversaries on the proper dates and travel where and when we want rather than when we have to.
I would like to leave you with this story that might tell you of how I feel. It is a story of a young lad who wanted to serve his country in the time of battle. Because of his young age he was not allowed to serve as a soldier but he was however allowed to carry the standard for the battalion. During the heat of the battle one day he became so enthusiastic in his duties that he neglected to take account of his position with the enemy and his own troops. He was far ahead of his battalion and almost into enemy lines. The battalion commander, realizing that he was in danger of losing the young lad and his standard, sent a messenger to the young lad telling him to rejoin his battalion. The messenger returned without the young lad but with this simple message from the young lad. "Bring the battalion to the standard". Brethren, this year you have brought yourself to the standard in an exemplary manner and should be very proud of what you have accomplished. You have without a doubt made everything happen this year in a positive manner. Without you we would have failed. You are the ones to whom I owe so much and to you I offer my most sincere and profound thanks. As I have said before, "It matters little who the leader is". Although my theme for the year has been "Strength through Unity" you have given me the strength and you have shown the unity. You are the ones who have supported Grand Lodge and you are the ones who deserve all the credit. Brethren, I am proud of your achievements and even more proud to say to anyone "I am a freemason, and even more proud to say that I feel myself fortunate enough to be a counted among you".
Brethren, thank you.


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