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Strength through unity
Grand Master’s Installation Address:-
June 25, 2005

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

Throughout my life I have received many accolades and honours, but, today you have bestowed upon me the greatest honour any brother can hope for. This day you have chosen me to serve as your Grand Master. This is an honour that I am very humbled to accept and an honour that I do not take lightly. It is indeed a very serious undertaking and in doing so I hope that I bring honour, not only to you my brethren, but, to the fraternity throughout our jurisdiction and wherever I may travel and in whatever I do. I realize that I have a great path to walk if I am to follow those who have walked this path before, and I look forward to the challenge with much anticipation.
There is a great challenge ahead of me; and I do not count myself as being alone in facing this challenge. Not only do I have a great slate of Grand Lodge Officers who also face this great challenge ahead of us; but, I trust that you will also be there to support, not only myself and my Grand Lodge Officers , but Grand Lodge and all it stands for in meeting any challenge that may lay before us. I believe that together we can do anything we set our minds to. Together, we can be a forcible team, which can achieve great things.
To meet this challenge I have chosen as a theme for my year,"Strength Through Unity." This theme has many meanings. It means having strength in our lodges, strength in our districts, strength with our concordant bodies, strength with our fellow men, strength in our community and strength in our every day life, with everyone we meet.
Having strength in our lodges means many things, such as having and demanding not only good ritual, good attendance, good deportment, and good behaviour, but most importantly, good fellowship. Lodges which follow these principles are growing and doing very well. They are attracting more members and have interesting meetings which members enjoy going to. Lodges that accept a lower standard are not achieving this high standard that we expect from ourselves and are slowly deteriorating. They are not attracting new members nor are they retaining their current members, but worse than that, they are not giving their own members the confidence they require in having the ability to achieve anything worthwhile. Having a strong and vibrant lodge does not come easily. It takes a lot of hard work through team efforts or unity, and once achieved it can be easily maintained if the effort is given to do so. The rewards for maintaining that high standard though are rich beyond belief. Lodges that are not prepared to put forth the effort to achieve success are likely doomed to failure and will fall by the wayside.
Having strength in our districts means many things also. The district should not only support each other’s lodges through visitation to lodge meetings, but in their leisure hours as well. Many of our lodges have social events that have taken a lot of effort on the part of a member or members of the lodge to put together in order to achieve success, but, we don't always see support from all the lodges within the district. On the same note, those who do not support others in their efforts and try something themselves that fails, feel rejected when they themselves do not get support. This is because it is, and always will require, a team effort to be successful. Remember, someone has to take the first step in being a team leader within the district and once it catches on it becomes contagious.
It becomes contagious because it shows success and everyone wants to be successful and they want to be associated with those who are successful. They require success to be happy with themselves and once done, it becomes habit forming.
In order to achieve this success and become a team, we must first of all have a clear understanding of not only who we are as a Craft lodge, but, also of whom we are as a collective body. Simply put, we do not know enough of or fully understand who we are. If I were to ask you to tell me about the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, the Shrine, the Order of Eastern Star, the Van Zor Grotto, what could you tell me, or the brother sitting beside you? Better yet, what could he tell you? Perhaps quite a bit, but most likely very little! The point I am trying to make is that we simply do not know enough about ourselves. If we do not know enough about ourselves, how can we project ourselves to others in a positive manner?
I believe that we can achieve success here if we make ourselves more knowledgeable not only about who we are and what we are about but also by knowing who our concordant bodies are and what they are about! What are our philanthropies and what are theirs? I have instructed the District Deputy Grand Masters to invite a concordant body to a lodge within their district and have them explain to the brethren of that lodge what their ideals and their philanthropies are about. This concordant body will be of the choosing of the DDGM and the members of his district. In addition, I have asked each of the concordant bodies to invite Grand Lodge to a meeting of their choice and location, in order that we also may make ourselves more knowledgeable of each other. At each of these meetings I would be pleased and honoured to have any brother available to attend to enter this meeting with me as a part of my suite--if this is allowed by that concordant body. By doing so it is my hope that we should be able to make ourselves more knowledgeable of each other. I must add that this is by no means a membership drive for anyone. In fact I would be greatly disappointed if it came to that. Instead it would be a drive for more knowledge. By being more knowledgeable of each other, we will also be stronger in supporting each other in "Strength Through Unity".
There is one catch though. That catch is simply that if there is a Job’s Daughters Bethel or Demolay Chapter within the district, they must be invited first, and then a concordant body can be invited. The reason for this is because we must support our youth first, and by doing this it will clearly demonstrate to everyone that we do support our youth members. In addition, I have asked each DDGM to have as many members from his district attend a Job’s Daughters Bethel or Demolay Chapter if one exists in the district.
Leadership is another area of concern. If we have strong leadership within our jurisdiction then it goes without saying that we will have stronger lodges. I have been able, with the assistance of some brethren, to set up Leadership Workshops throughout our jurisdiction and these will be run by brethren of that particular area. By doing so, we will now be able to run a leadership workshop on an as-needed basis, because the team leaders will remain in these areas. The areas picked out to date are Victoria, Nanaimo, Prince George, Okanagan Area, Peace Region, Vernon, and the Kootenay Region. I am still looking for a brother to handle the Vancouver area and Fraser Valley area. I am certain that we will find someone within these two areas who will take on this task for us. Once done, we will have no excuse for poor leadership in our lodges. We have had success in our Leadership Workshops which have been previously conducted in the past by RW Bro. Stephen Godfrey and VW Bro. Art Scott, and it is to them that we owe so much. Hopefully we can carry on with that which they have started and show strength in our lodges and districts with well educated brethren in running successful lodges. Remember, strong leadership also leads to "Strength Through Unity" within our lodges and districts.
Each of the DDGMs have been given a package which will assist the lodges in becoming stronger in "Strength Through Unity". This package is the "Lodge Excellence Award Program". There are two ways the lodges can receive this Excellence Award. There are two sets of standards that are easy to achieve, and it will all be on the honour system with the lodges in receiving recognition within their districts from the DDGMs. There are 11 Major Standards and 18 Optional Standards. To achieve a "Lodge Performance Award" they must achieve six of the Optional Standards and six of the Major Standards and to achieve the "Lodge Excellence Award" they must achieve seven of the Optional Standards and seven of the Major Standards. Again this is all on the honour system within the lodges to indicate that they have achieved these standards in order to be recognized by the DDGM on my behalf. I will leave the details of this package to the DDGMs to explain to the lodges within his district. It is my most sincere wish that the lodges look favourably upon this programme. I believe it can only lead to success within our lodges and districts.
The last thing I wish to speak of is our membership. Over the past years and decades we have dwindled in numbers. Some of us think that the reduction of numbers is extremely serious and that we will eventually cease to exist. I do not share in this belief. I think Freemasonry will always exist if we hold on to our ideals and do not drop our high standard of principles. There is one thing that we should remember and that is the fact that we have almost 12,000 members. We do not need more members. We just need to keep the ones that we already have. If we could get all of our members out to a lodge meeting there would be some lodges that could not accommodate them all because the lodge halls would simply be too small. This is the problem that we should have.
However, we can not ignore the fact that we are losing approximately 80% of our members within the first four years of their membership. To help us understand why we are losing so many at such an early stage I have instructed our Grand Secretary to send to all lodges a form that must be filled out whenever a brother requests a demit. This form will have certain questions to be answered and these answers will be compiled and presented to this Grand Lodge assembly in the year 2006. It will cover the top reasons for so many demits, and hopefully explain to us our shortfalls. We may not like the answers we receive but we also can not ignore their reasons for requesting demits. Perhaps if we understand why we are losing these members we can stop the decline from happening at such a rapid pace and perhaps we will finally realize that we are a strong fraternal organization with much to offer those who are interested in joining.
This is a year in which we can be productive in Freemasonry, by speaking only of positive statements, which come from positive thoughts, and then follow up with positive actions. Those who have a negative statement should remain silent. We simply do not have the time to listen to them and have them drag us down or degrade our high standards. For those with a negative statement, my only remarks to you are to keep quite and listen to the brother with positive statements and heed his words. With this type of attitude Freemasonry will always succeed and we can then be proud to say to everyone "I am a freemason and I am proud of what Freemasons do."


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