Well, what a year 2020 was!
When we look back in years to come, I suspect that 2020 will be remembered with horror, when COVID-19 arrived in the UK and affected us all in one way or another. It crippled our normal lives and put a stop to our masonic meetings. Our families, friends and fellow freemasons were all touched by the pandemic. We lost many whom we loved; some experienced coronavirus but recovered; some were furloughed or lost their jobs; others saw their businesses suffer; and many faced loneliness as a result of self-isolation or lockdowns. I am sure we shall all be glad when the year becomes a distant memory.
But I shall remember 2020 for many other reasons. It was a year during which I saw the best in people as they rose to the unprecedented challenges faced.
My senior leadership team of Chains and the Provincial Grand Secretary were magnificent in the face of adversity. They fully embraced our Coronavirus Welfare Support & Member Engagement Plan, which helped us steer activities throughout the year. They, and our Care & Welfare Committee, worked hard to deliver on our priority of Welfare, Welfare, Welfare as we aspire to become The Caring Province, but we must let you decide whether we are on the right track to achieve that aspiration.
Our Membership Committee, despite there being very few physical lodge meetings, continued its work. We published our Provincial Membership Growth Strategy 2019-2024, wrote to candidates for Mark Masonry, conducted a survey of members aged 50 years and under, introduced Lodge Membership Coordinators, held seminars for lodge officers, improved our digital online presence and delivered both The Keystone Connection lecture and the inaugural Mike Baker Memorial Lecture – How to Grow the Membership of your Mark Lodge. I am confident that the arrangements are now in place for Kent to return to a sustained period of membership growth and I am optimistic we shall see the positive impact of these measures in the coming years.
Our lodges and members themselves faced the challenges of 2020 with fortitude and determination. They supported each other in an outstanding demonstration of brotherly love and some went, and continue to go, that extra mile – volunteering in our communities, delivering shopping and prescriptions to elderly friends, raising money for charity, producing personal protective equipment for front line workers, embracing modern technology to keep in touch and ensuring that the business of lodges in this Province has carried on.
Perhaps the highlight of the year was hearing the Grand Secretary announce the amount raised by us during our 2020 Festival for the Mark Benevolent Fund. An overall total of Â£2,057,000 is quite magnificent and certainly beyond my wildest dreams. It surpassed the previous highest amount by almost Â£700,000; it easily met our target of Â£1.25M, indeed our own Mark and R.A.M. lodges achieved that themselves; and it led to Kent becoming the very first MBF Grand Patron Diamond Province in the constitution, an achievement that can never be taken away from us. You should be proud that we have raised such a stunning amount, which is making a huge difference to members in need and to local charities and worthy causes; long may it continue.
We are sad, of course, that we have still not been able to celebrate our festival achievements properly, but we are looking forward to doing so at the spectacular 152nd MBF Festival Gala Dinner & Show at the Kent Event Centre & Showground on Saturday 4th September 2021. I know many of you plan to be there.
At every opportunity the members of this Province have demonstrated what being involved in Mark Masonry means and I am grateful to each and every one of you. Thank you so much.
Let us look forward with hope that 2021 will bring us good health, prosperity, happiness and a brighter future.
R.W. Bro. Archibald I. Torrance
Provincial Grand Master