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"The future is ours"
Grand Masters Annual Address:-
June 22, 2018
The time has come for me to say my final words as your Grand Master. My brothers, it has been a phenomenal four years of Freemasonry for my family and me, and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for the gift you have given us.
There are several people that must be thanked, from our Grand Line to our District Deputy Grand Masters, and our Grand Lodge officers, all have given yeoman service this year. Our committee chairmen have been at work with their committees and have produced a lot of work this year. Congratulations! As this year’s Grand Lodge officers retire from their labours, I must remind you that although you are Past Grand Lodge officers, you are still looked up to as leaders of our Craft, and I hope you will remember and act as such.
I must acknowledge the work of RW Bro. Wilson Beckett, for designing both posters that I have been handing out to our DDGMs on my official visits to their districts. Thank you, RW Bro. Beckett. I would also like to thank our two pipers who will be piping during our various ceremonies throughout this communication.
Your Grand Lodge officers and committees have been very busy this year. The principal officers, which include your Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Senior Grand Warden, Junior Grand Warden, Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary, have had monthly meetings via teleconferencing since last July and as a result have been able to complete several aspects of our Grand Lodge duties.
Now, what have we done on your behalf this year?
There are a couple of resolutions that will be put before you as a result of what I talked about when I spoke to you at last year’s installation. One is the resolution to authorize the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction to have one of their lodges work Freemasonry in our jurisdiction. We signed a document of understanding recognizing each other in 1996 and did not follow through with that recognition in our Constitution. So, basically this is a housekeeping resolution.
The other resolution to come to the floor is the dissolution of the Life Membership Program. This programme has hurt many of our lodges financially.
Last year we divided the Education and Leadership Committee into two committees. The chairman of the Leadership Committee is MW Bro. J.T. ‘Jack’ Harper, who has been in discussion with the Grand Line as to the direction we should go. As a result of our decreasing membership—I might add here that the loss in numbers has almost come to a halt—we have found that the number of quality leaders in the leadership pool has drastically decreased. Part of the problem is that there are some districts that still rotate appointments amongst their lodges in their district and recommend a certain brother for DDGM mainly because it is his lodge’s turn. No offence, but that is not the way to pick a good leader for our brethren. We must select our leaders from the best men for the job. We all know who the quality men are in our districts; they should be our leaders. We are now appointing DDGMs for two-year terms as needed and we can appoint PDDGMs as needed. These are new approaches as to how we select our middle management leaders. Remember, we vote for the best man in our lodges to travel to the east, and we vote for the best man in our Grand Lodge to travel to the east. Best man is the key phrase.
This year, I have created two new committees, Membership and Technology. Chairman of the Membership Committee is MW Bro. Donald E. Stutt and the chairman of the Technology Committee is W Bro. Steven D. Andsten. The Membership Committee has been working all year on developing retention policies and looking at the reasons for demits. I have asked the Technology Committee to investigate the possibilities of getting cable access and WiFi in every masonic building in this jurisdiction. Just think, we can observe education programmes, leadership training, Masonic Days, or any other live streaming that may be available to us in our own lodge rooms. There could come a day that we can observe Grand Lodge communications from our own tyled lodges.
Our Rituals Committee has been working very hard this year under the chairmanship of RW Bro. Michael H. Cockerell. You may recall last year I had mentioned that we would address the possibility of having optional open installations in the future. There could have been an edict on this matter but we sent it to the Rituals Committee for their input and advice. The Ritual Committee will be giving a report on this incentive and asking the brethren to give their input.
Another busy committee is the Lodge Buildings Committee. They have worked very hard to see that we get a good insurance coverage for the whole jurisdiction at a reasonable price. The one difficulty that the committee had, was that lodges that own buildings did not give the committee the information that was needed for the insurance broker. I have been told that they would not give this information to Grand Lodge as they didn’t know what they were going to do with it. I must say to you the information was not to be given to Grand Lodge but rather to a broker, the same information you would give to your broker to get your own insurance. However there were some lodges that did send in the necessary information to help the insurance broker to come up with an approxiamate quote. Remember when you look at the insurance quote to compare apples to apples. One lodge got a quote that was several dollars more than what they were paying. It turns out that the quote was on full replacement of the building and the coverage on the lodge at the time was only half the replacement value.
I spoke of getting a fund established for our future Grand Lodge and building. The Lodge Building Committees has found an avenue where this can be done: the BC Masonic Foundation. It turns out that the Foundation has two arms, the charitable arm and the capital arm. With an adjustment to the bylaws of the Foundation we can activate the capital arm. The Foundation has a Board of Directors which consists of the principal officers of Grand Lodge. I submit that with the change of the bylaws of the Foundation that we implement a board of trustees to oversee the workings of the Foundation. This is the body that the Board of Directors would have to answer to. With the addition of this new account, we could call it the Legacy Fund. Any donations that would go into that fund would not be controlled by Grand Lodge. In other words the property and building of a new Grand Lodge would be owned by the BC Masonic Foundation, and therein lies the control. I have spoken often that the buildings that we now have do not belong to us but rather to the Freemasons of the past. They paid it forward for us. Now we have the obligation to pay it forward to the Freemasons of the future. I would encourage those lodges that have very large sums of money in their control to consider turning that money over to the BC Masonic Foundation so that their money is protected and used for the future of Freemasonry. Your lodge would have an everlasting legacy to the future Freemasons of British Columbia and Yukon.
The Cancer Car Program has a new chairman, W Bro. Bill Wray, who has moved into his position very nicely. He has informed me that we have one car in Prince George, four cars in Kelowna, five cars on Vancouver Island and seven cars in Vancouver. There are approximately 500 volunteers that work for the Cancer Car Program.
Your Grand Lodge has donated $123,750 in student bursaries throughout the jurisdiction this year. There are many lodges in this jurisdiction that give away thousands of dollars in bursaries or scholarships in their own communities, and I thank you for that.
We have spoken often about our future and I found that we must put money away in a contingency fund for both Grand Lodge and the Cancer Car Program. Those of you who own strata property know the value of those funds. Some of us would call it a rainy day fund. I would suggest to the Finance Committee that we should be looking at starting to funnel some money into such a fund.
Our Constitution states that we can have up to twelve Grand Stewards, but that regulation was made when our membership was at 27,000. We are now just under 7,000 and it appears prudent for your Grand Lodge to cut back on the number of Grand Stewards that are appointed. Consequently there were eight Grand Stewards appointed for this year, however one appointee, W Bro. Victor J. Fleck, passed away just before his installation. I did not fill his position but instead asked the DDGM, RW Bro. Bob Baggs, to take that brother’s regalia to all of his official visits so that there would be a memorial chair in the east for our departed brother.
I hope lodges who own lodge buildings that need some repair and upgrading take advantage of the Building Fund to be able to do that work. Remember that the public see these buildings and first impressions are lasting impressions.
I have spoken at length about bullying in our jurisdiction. What is bullying? Bullying is when a person imposes his will upon another. I personally have been exposed to bullying in my earlier years as a Freemason and was going to quit the fraternity on two occasions, but my mentor, RW Bro. Louse J. Seidel, intervened for me and because of him I am here today. Thank you, my brother. I implore all the brethern to review their obligations and the Charge to the Brethren presented at the annual installation of officers. This is the manner in which we promised and swore that we would be kind and look after each other. I have observed that some brothers in this jurisdiction have not followed their obligations, but rather have conducted themselves in a manner that would benefit them only. I ask that brothers who fall into that category, please, change your ways and help look after your fellow brothers or get out of our gentle Craft. We don’t want you.
One of the greatest masonic adventures in my life was to represent you, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon at the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge England. It was an honour and privilege to meet their Grand Master, the Duke of Kent. He has been the Grand Master for the past fifty years and has been a wonderful ambassador for Freemasonry around the world. We met him at the Freemasons’ Hall in London and he told us that there are 190 Grand Lodges in the world and that there were 135 Grand Masters in the lodge room with him that day, the largest gathering of Grand Masters in the history of Freemasonry. I was honoured to have shaken his hand and have a few words with him. The next day we had the actual celebration of the anniversary in the Royal Albert Hall where there were 4,500 Freemasons in attendance. What a show! It chronicled the history of the United Grand Lodge of England. I did have the opportunity to observe an Entered Apprentice degree in Temple Lodge No. 10, and was quite surprised that the working was almost the same as our BC Canadian Work. Now I can actually understand where our ritual originated.
Last year, 24 June 2017, was the actual 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England. That day this Grand Lodge had two sitting Grand Masters, MW Bro. Ian J. Bowman in the morning and myself in the afternoon. I would like to remind the officers of this Grand Lodge that you had the privilege of being installed on the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England. What an honour!
I would like to remind the brethren that this Grand Lodge has a Social Media Policy that it can be found on the Grand Lodge website under the Member Resources at the bottom of the page. Remember, what you put on your social media about Freemasonry can be seen by the public. Please refrain from doing that if you can’t put us in a good light.
Finally, let’s talk about the Grand Master’s Charity, the Citadel Canine Society. I wanted to do something special for our veterans but there was nothing I could find that would benefit those men until I met a lady on the ferry who was fostering a Citadel dog. She looked after the dog for the first 18 months and then handed it off to a Citadel Canine Society trainer. The dogs were being trained as comfort dogs for veterans and first responders with PTSD. I contacted Brian Archer, who is the head of the society and he gave me a full explanation of what the organization did. After our Grand Secretary checked them out and found them to be legitimate, I decided to make them the Grand Master’s charity for 2017-2018.
Because of this charity, I had the privilege to meet three dogs who belong to three of our brothers, two in Victoria and one in Kamloops. I did meet another Citadel dog at my official visit in Trail. The veteran lived in Grand Forks and was invited to attend the banquet with his dog. He spoke eloquently about the value of the dogs to the welfare of veterans. This charity caught the eye of a number of brothers, particularly of the Worshipful Master of Rainbow Lodge No. 180 in Port McNeill, W Bro. Wayne E. Griffith. He told his sister, a dog trainer in Blaine, Washington, about the Citadel Canine Society. She checked it out, found it to be of good quality and donated a Labrador who washed out of the US Homeland Security Program. The two organizations are now working together to provide dogs to our veterans. As of the date of this writing the districts have helped to raise approximately $43,037 plus the donation of the dog from Blaine. Her name is Lola and she’s a showgirl valued at $20,000. Thank you to all the districts who supported this charity.
In closing I would like to thank all of you brethren for giving my wife, Jo-Anne, and me the gift of the greatest masonic year in our lives. You’re all very special men.
MW Bro. Ronald William Yates,
Grand Master 2017-2018