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Masonic actions speak louder than words
Grand Master’s Annual Address:-
June 21, 2003

[William Ord Walls]
MW Bro. William Ord Walls,
Grand Master 2002-2003

Brethren, welcome to the 132nd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. I am delighted to welcome all of you to these proceedings. This is the first time that our Communication has been held here in Dawson Creek at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. To those of you who are attending Grand Lodge for the first time, I trust it will be a rewarding and enlightening experience. To those long-serving brethren who are here again, I hope it will be an enriching experience. To our distinguished visitors from other jurisdictions, I hope it will be a memorable experience here in the beautiful Peace River district of British Columbia.
In my acceptance speech given at the conclusion of our last communication, I directed our attention towards the following priorities:
• Raising the standard of lodge work.
• Continuing to restrict the performing of masonic work in public.
• Addressing our declining membership.
• Reviewing a perceived need for change to ritual, Constitution or Regulations.
• Revitalizing lodge meetings by increasing attendance.
• Planning the future of your lodge.
• Increasing the profile of Freemasonry and the masonic family.
Perhaps we should consider what we achieved.
Raising the standard of lodge work.
With relatively few exceptions, I have heard only laudatory comments from each of the District Deputy Grand Masters. It would appear that we are conscious of the image we portray to our Candidates and, for this, I commend your efforts.
Restricting the performing of masonic work in public.
The Grand Secretary reports that a healthy respect and level of consciousness is being demonstrated by the lodges with regard to any intended public performance or display of ritual before unauthorized bodies. This I consider to be prudent, thoughtful and conscientious behaviour on the part of the lodges and reflects positively on each of us.
Addressing our declining membership.
The Grand Secretary’s report, with regard to membership, will speak for itself. The suggestion that I made, with reference to a brother making the initial overture to a prospective member, is still acceptable masonic behaviour. Only time will tell whether you have exercised your prerogative in this regard. If not, please consider doing so at some time in the very near future. Our Craft still needs to replenish its membership.
Reviewing a perceived need for change to ritual, Constitution or Regulations.
For three years we have researched and canvassed the membership of this Grand Lodge, presenting conclusions which purported to reflect the will of the membership at large. We have even gone so far as to summon all members of Grand Lodge to an Emergent Communication for the purpose of developing, discussing, reviewing and disseminating the findings of this review. As a result of the opinions expressed, the general membership was surveyed and the data tabulated to reflect the opinion of the membership. It is necessary to point out that the data and information that was accrued, as a result of this survey, was tabulated and presented to the members without input, review, editing, sanitizing or manipulation by any officer of Grand Lodge.
In my acceptance speech at our last Annual Communication, I directed each member of the jurisdiction to review the data, commentaries and statistical information, all of which material was available on our website or through the Grand Secretary’s office. In turn, I requested any member to prepare a notice of motion or a resolution for any amendment that they felt ought to be placed before Grand Lodge. It was my hope and intention that, by this method, we could address, reflect and achieve the perceived changes required to our rituals, Constitutions and Regulations. You did not submit a single notice of motion for constitutional amendment. I must therefor conclude that your silence is acquiescence. In other words, inaction is positive action. The brethren have not demonstrated to this Grand Master any radical need for amendment or constitutional change, whether perceived or otherwise. It is my fervent hope that we have put to rest what I consider to be an on-going, disquieting and disruptive influence. We ought now to accept the solid opinion expressed by our silence and desist from the behavior of agitating for change. By doing so we will permit the Craft to continue with the implementation of other more positive actions which may be of benefit to the Society in which we live. This, in my opinion, was and is the purpose of Freemasonry, not self-inspection, self-analysis, introspective reflection or navel gazing.
Revitalizing lodge meetings by increasing attendance.
The reports of our District Deputy Grand Masters indicate a demonstrated willingness, on the part of lodges, to combine their efforts for conferral of degrees, buddy nights, social events etc. If this should be continued, I am confident that we will see a slow but steady resurgence of interest in Freemasonry.
Planning the future of your Lodge.
Again, the reports of the District Deputy Grand Masters indicate that most lodges did spend time in analysis and planning for the future. This is very positive and is recommended as an annual practice. Too many lodges have been avoiding the recognition of problems that are looming on the horizon. Unfortunately, ignoring these problems is not going to make them go away. By spending time planning for the future, it is to be hoped that some remedial action will be initiated at the local levels.
Increasing the profile of Freemasonry and the masonic family. In an attempt to increase the recognition of Freemasonry within the masonic family, I initiated an opportunity for the masonic family to participate with us in raising our collective profile. I offered each concordant body the opportunity to meet the brethren who are attending Grand Lodge; this was simply done by providing space for each concordant group to set up an information table or a booth, thus affording them access to reach out to over five hundred freemasons. I asked each of the concordant bodies to provide an introductory article for publication in our monthly Masonic Bulletin, thus again affording each body the opportunity to access the homes of the thirteen thousand freemasons of this jurisdiction. I afforded each group the opportunity to link up to the Grand Lodge website. This gave them access to approximately four thousand visitors a day.
These actions did not cost our Grand Lodge one cent. The appreciation and participation of the family has been tremendous. Indeed, it proves again that "masonic actions speak louder than words." I have attempted to attend, on your behalf, every Senior Level Meeting of each Concordant Body to which your Grand Master was invited. I must tell you that, without exception, the consideration and respect afforded your Grand Master is a sure indication of the high regard in which your Grand Lodge is held. I recommend to my successors that the Concordant Bodies meeting and the inter-action we have established, should be continued. I am firmly convinced that this will prove to be to our long-term mutual benefit.
Did we manage to improve the profile of the masonic order to the non-mason? I am convinced that we did. This year, whenever possible, I have encouraged the lodges to award service pins, jewels and certificates in the presence of wives and families, either at the festive boards or within our lodge room, when the lodge is at recess. I received numerous very appreciative and favourable comments from spouses of long serving brethren. Some of these partners were being permitted to sit inside a lodge room for the first time. I was also impressed by the reaction of several wives of our newer members who were delighted, and in some cases relieved, to find out that they had no reason to be concerned by our activities within a tyled lodge.
During the course of this masonic year, the Great Architect of the Universe has called many of our brethren to their long home. Many notable individuals were on this list. The names of our departed will be listed in the Proceedings of this Annual Communication and I ask each brother to take a few moments to review the list and to spend a period of recollection and reflection during your period of daily supplication to the Most High.
Each of the twenty-seven districts in our Grand Jurisdiction was visited at least once in this year by your Grand Master. My wife, Jackie, and I were accompanied on these visits by several of the Grand Lodge principal officers, the appointed Grand Lodge officers and, on many occasions, a very active and joyous group of wives and partners. Every district, with one exception, hosted a ladies' programme and invited the local ladies and families to join with us in celebrating these visits. This was a highlight of the year and, on many occasions, afforded the Grand Master a unique opportunity to address the combined assembly of freemasons and their wives. I must report that the generousity and hospitality of the districts was exemplary and fond memories of these visits will remain with Jackie and me for many years to come.
I am also delighted to advise you that, in keeping with the theme of "masonic actions speaking louder than words', Jackie and I had requested that, in lieu of gifts to the Grand Master, each District consider making a donation to the Cancer Dressing Fund of the local Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. I am pleased to tell you that the districts of this Grand Lodge, and the Vancouver Scottish Degree Team, have contributed a total of $11,892 to this truly masonic project. I can assure you that this action has reflected most favourably upon freemasons and Freemasonry. Thank you for your generous support.
Your Grand Lodge officers have worked tirelessly throughout this jurisdiction. The support they have afforded your Grand Master has been unfailing. The various and diverse committees of Grand Lodge have coöperated most fully and willingly in achieving the goals and the ambitions of the Grand Master. This was done with good spirit and demonstrated great concern for the wellbeing of our fraternity. I thank them on your behalf.
To the Grand Lodge office staff, thank you most sincerely for the dedication and devotion that you have demonstrated to this Grand Lodge and this Grand Master. I will miss working with RW Bro. Parent, W Bro. Gomersall, Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Gordon, Mrs. Benedetti and Ms. Rotz. Their dedication to the daily business and operating procedures of our Grand Lodge office is exemplary. A special note of appreciation is hereby offered to Helen and her staff at the Vancouver Masonic Centre and to Leo and his staff at Round Table Catering. This Grand Master extends his sincere appreciation for the exemplary coöperation and professional spirit demonstrated by these individuals. I will miss working with you.
I must make you aware of the proliferation of worldwide, North American and Canadian authoritative bodies that are, in my opinion, taking on the roles of unauthorized, self-appointed watchdogs. Their leanings and existence, threaten the autonomy of each individual jurisdiction. In my opinion, we must be cautious in our recognition of these bodies and not afford them legitimacy by permitting them to associate and correspond with Grand Lodge. The responsibility as to how we conduct ourselves, with whom we enjoy fraternal relations, and as to how we are to carry our message to the profane, rests here on the floor of this Grand Lodge.
I participated in the Conference of the Four Western Jurisdictions and thoroughly endorse the continuation and support of this conference. However, I encourage individuals and lodges to make better use of the incredible storehouse of papers and information which has accrued at past conferences. Prior to accepting the office of Grand Master, I canvassed earlier delegates and representatives to the All Canada Conference and the North American Conference of Grand Masters. As a result of my study, I concluded that there appeared to be little benefit from the Grand Master’s participation in these events. I do however, strongly recommend that the Grand Secretary be encouraged to establish and maintain social links through the process of networking within these conferences. It is my conclusion that there is more to be achieved by the Grand Master attending to the local requirements of this extremely large jurisdiction and attending the Grand Lodge Communications of our neighbouring jurisdictions.
As referred to earlier, I approved, for this year only, that space and coverage be provided in the Masonic Bulletin for the mutual interest and benefit of the concordant bodies. We have received appreciative comments from all of the groups who have taken advantage of this opportunity. On their behalf I thank you. This year I made a conscious decision NOT to use the Bulletin for the purposes of propagating the opinions, wishes and desires of Grand Lodge. As a result, there has been no selective editing on the part of Grand Lodge. Numerous articles have been printed which may have provoked reaction or caused controversy. If this is handled in good spirit, the enthusiasm of the membership will only be heightened. Please respond to such articles. Make your Bulletin a vehicle for open thought and not necessarily a medium for delivering the message of the Grand Master of the day.
Jackie and I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, The Grand Lodge of Oregon, the Grand Lodge of Colorado and the Grand Lodge of Washington. At each Grand Lodge, I conveyed fraternal greetings and information from the brethren of this jurisdiction. Our presence was appreciated. I am pleased to announce to this Grand Lodge that, as a result of speaking to the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario, I have been invited to be their keynote speaker for their annual communication in 2004.
I was delighted to accept, on behalf of all of the freemasons of this Grand Jurisdiction, the prestigious "Elizabeth Eisenhaur Lifetime Contributor Award'' from the Canadian Cancer Society. This award has been granted in recognition of the work performed by the Freemasons involved with the funding and operation of the Cancer Car programme, of which we can still be justly proud.
I have prepared and provided to the Grand Historian, a Grand Master’s Log of all visits, celebratory and otherwise, which I attended during the course of this year. Due to an extended period of ill health, our Grand Historian has been unable to participate with Grand Lodge as fully as he traditionally has done. It is my hope that the 'Log' will provide him with sufficient information to permit him to provide the usual detailed report that he submits to Grand Lodge.
In recognition of his exemplary leadership, service and encouragement to our beloved Fraternity, it is my pleasure to declare that RW Bro. Gary McCullough of Peace Lodge No. 126, is hereafter to bear the title, apron and honours of an "Honourary Past Grand Senior Warden".
Being made aware of problems that are being experienced by concordant bodies and by other Grand Lodges, I recommend to my successors that the principal officers of Grand Lodge avail themselves of "Director’s Insurance" or other Personal Insurance intended to protect their accrued personal assets in the event of lawsuits or claims. Although this has not heretofore been a requirement, it is my opinion that it is a matter of time until lawsuits become a factor in the daily life of this jurisdiction.
Further, I recommend to my successors that holding societies' or building associations be directed to review and re-affirm the variety of constitutions and by-laws under which they operate and report to government agencies. Many of these working papers are dated and, although not necessarily illegal, they do not necessarily reflect the current requirements of appointments, processes and procedures of reporting. We have traditionally tried to ensure that all of these businesses and transactions are, in fact, stand-alone reporting elements. Grand Lodge may be prudent to consider development of a steering committee to assist the holding societies and building associations through this process. I am aware of several areas where the stand-alone process has been impinged upon. As a result of this impingement, Grand Lodge and local lodges may find themselves cited as joint or individual defendants in future legal actions.
Once again this year, the reports of the various committees to the Board of General Purposes, have been 'received' only. In past years, several reports were 'accepted', leading to confusion within our membership that, any recommendations contained therein, would automatically be implemented by the Grand Master. It is worthy of note that several of the recommendations would have required constitutional amendment. What was forgotten was that reports to the Board of General Purposes require a simple majority to be 'received' whereas constitutional amendments necessitate a different and more elaborate process to be followed and pursued.
The determination of the current Grand Lodge officers to perpetuate the activities of Fraternal Representation is commended. The current list of representatives is under review and correction by RW Bro. David Kerridge and RW Bro. Robert McSween. I am of the opinion that it may requires a further two years to establish a working list of capable and active representatives. It has also been requested of these two brethren that they prepare a summary of the duties inherent to the position of representative.
Two workshops were held in the course of this year, one in Prince George and one in Abbotsford. I express my gratitude to the facilitators and participants at each of these events. The attendance was less than we expected but I am convinced that long-term benefit is being felt by the lodges in the host regions. A further workshop had been scheduled and arranged for Kelowna. Unfortunately, due to a lack of support in this region, the event was cancelled at some cost to Grand Lodge. I am still convinced that these workshops and seminars are an essential factor in our education process and they are continuing to serve their purpose.
Grand Masonic Day proved to be successful. The participants and speakers are to be commended for their efforts to further entertain and educate our Fraternity. However, once again, attendance was down from previous years. The organizing committee is currently reviewing the means and methods of revitalizing this special and worthwhile event.
I appreciate the active role played by RW Bro. John Teleske, as our Grand Treasurer to this Grand Lodge for the past nine years. It is regrettable that RW Bro. Teleske has decided to retire from this office. He leaves behind some very big shoes to fill. However, I am pleased to note that at least three qualified brethren have stepped forward to offer their services in this office, each of whom are proven good and faithful servants of Grand Lodge and it bodes well for our fraternity that brethren of such professional quality are available. I formally express a vote of appreciation to RW Bro. Teleske for all of his devoted guidance and assistance.
The office of Grand Secretary, as it is in most jurisdictions, is the administration centre for our entire operation. The current Grand Secretary, RW Bro. Larry Parent, took on this role in the shadow of a brother who left behind large shoes to fill. He has performed admirably and has coped with a daunting learning curve, despite having to work with an extremely demanding, uncompromising and unyielding Grand Master. I am pleased to tell you that your Grand Secretary is a man of compassion, good conscience and high morals. You are fortunate to have such a dedicated individual running the day to day operation of this Grand Lodge. The Grand Secretary’s role will be of increasing import during the ensuing year. This is due to the geographic difficulty inherent to the distance of the Grand Master’s home and the Grand Lodge office. RW Bro. Parent and his staff are well equipped with the latest tools and equipment to make frequent communication a practicality, regardless of distance.
The distinguished men who participated in the development of our Book of Constitutions were not stupid men. Having witnessed and participated in several debates and discussions over the years, hearing brethren imply that they know better or contend that we ought to be actively orchestrating change, I am convinced that we do not extend enough respect to a document which has served us well by not changing or fluctuating to reflect the flavour of the month or by giving credence or credibility to current or passing fads. It has been my pleasure, honour and privilege to uphold the Constitutions of this Grand Lodge insofar as my skills and abilities have permitted me to do so.
To my Grand 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 bringing light, humour, insight and warmth into the lodge rooms throughout this jurisdiction. Be proud of yourselves, just as I am very proud of you!
Finally—to my family, my participation over the past four years has been at the cost of time and resources that would normally have been spent with you. Your acceptance and understanding about the re-scheduling of important family events to facilitate the duties of my office, has been appreciated. You never once complained. This was something that Dad or Poppa just had to do.
To Jackie, the continuing light of my life—I extend my love and my appreciation for all of the sacrifices she has made to permit me to serve in this high office. You are still magic and I still love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow.
To the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon—as an emigrant to this great land of ours in 1966, I never considered that, at some time in my life, I would achieve such a lofty and respected office. Only in Canada - eh? It is important to realize that, under our present methods of selection, we must get to know our potential Junior Grand Warden at an early stage. I trust that your selection of this "pig in a poke" has left a positive mark upon our great fraternity.


© 1871-2021 Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Updated: 2003/08/28