Well, Brethren, here I am delivering my 7th Address to Provincial Grand Lodge and it gives me great pleasure to do so. I am conscious that I ought not to speak for too long, especially as my colleagues and friends Terry Sheern and Eddy Garty have been suggesting that they were going to bring their pyjamas and duvets!

It has been another wonderful year in the Mark Province of Kent. Here are some of the highlights…

In March I had the privilege to Consecrate Fore Cantia Mark Lodge No. 2002 (our golf Lodge) at the Masonic Centre in Royal Tunbridge Wells. It was a wonderful occasion. The Lodge had 25 Founders, has already Advanced two candidates and has a queue in the pipeline. The Lodge started with a real bang and has already achieved MBF Grand Patron Diamond Award and 2020 Festival Platinum Award, the highest award levels that exist. The future is certainly bright for them. Another success story is the superb growth of Greenwich Lodge No. 332 (our fine dining Lodge). It was on its knees just 2 years ago. Today, it has renewed energy and vigour. The Lodge has introduced an annual Trafalgar Night Dinner, we enjoyed a partners’ white table dinner in the Drawing Room at Fortnum and Masons in December and two days ago 42 brethren dined at White’s Club, St. James’s with the Pro Grand Master, Deputy President of the General Board, GDC and at least four Heads of Order in attendance, with the Past PGM of London becoming a joining member. It is a wonderful testimony to what can be achieved.

We celebrated several anniversaries during the year. The Centenary of Pentangle Mark Lodge No. 682 with the Pro Grand Master in attendance, the Centenary of Saye and Sele R.A.M. Lodge No. 309, the Centenary of Manor of Chatham R.A.M. No. 584. Partners of members were present at the last two. Also, we dedicated new Banners in The Erdemont R.A.M. Lodge No. 1894; Westwood Mark Lodge No. 1354; and Dover & Cinque Ports Mark Lodge 152; just as well because we wouldn’t have had them as the Banner Lodge today. The banners were made again by Mrs. Janet Stiff, wife of our Provincial Grand Secretary.

I wish to formally announce today that I have commissioned work on a Provincial Book of Banners. It is being led by Ian Gallehawk and Steve Dunsdon. Once it is ready, the foreword will be co-written by me and Janet Stiff in recognition of her outstanding contribution to this Province.

The Annual Family Luncheon and Annual Burns Night were both successful and again held under the banner of Kent Mark Stewards’ Lodge. Kent hosted the annual Inter-Province Cricket Festival at The Metropolitan Police Sports Ground, The Warren, Hayes, Bromley. Middlesex were the winners depriving Sussex of the trophy. With the help of Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex we raised over £5,000 for the 2020 Festival. Now, we might not have won the cricket but I am pleased to say that Kent retained the PGM’s Inter-Province Golf Championship trophy for the 3rd year in succession.

Brethren, I’d like to say something now about the Province’s absolute priority, namely Membership. When I talk about Membership, I am thinking about three main categories: attracting candidates (Recruitment), keeping our existing members (Retention) and breathing life into our Lodges (Re-invigoration), which we like to call the 3R’s. Let me start by giving you a brief outline of where we are today. In 2004 this Province had approximately 1900 members (2329 Memberships). That has reduced to 1412 Members (1813 Memberships) today. A decrease of 488 members or 25%. Even more worrying is the data produced by the Provincial Registrar in hisreport to the Provincial Committee of General Purposes in March that just over half of our members are over 65 years old. With only 17% under 55. So, I wonder what the position of the Province might be in 2029, just 10 years from now if we don’t all work together to address the 3R’s.

Our Provincial Membership Committee, under the chairmanship of V.W. Bro. Fred Brown DPGM, has been working extremely hard on various initiatives since it started in March 2018 – to highlight areas of weakness, identify ‘at risk’ Lodges and to raise awareness of the Membership challenges facing the Province. Our classification of ‘at risk’ is defined as those Mark Lodges with 20 members or less and Royal Ark Mariner Lodges with 15 members or less but brethren this is not the whole picture, worryingly we have also identified Lodges both Mark and Royal Ark Mariner who have what looks like a healthy number of members on paper but in reality only half regularly turn up. This means more attention needs to be given to maintaining contact with Lodge members who miss meetings without giving any apologies. Brethren, you need to be aware of what is happening in your Lodge – the future of your Lodge is in your hands! Reports should be given on every member who has not attended a meeting, otherwise we could be neglecting members in need who might eventually resign or worse still be subject to exclusion or cessation – at a financial cost to you.

Many of these Lodges have begun to address the issues they are facing by discussing the 3R’s document in open Lodge, with the Provincial Membership Committee often assisting in the discussions. Together we construct a Lodge Recovery Plan. These plans consist of many different strands of activity from hosting a Magic of the Mark awareness event, building themed Lodges, Dine a Mason events. Blue and White tables or just simply asking a Mason you know and telling him about the Mark Degree. All of our ‘at risk’ Lodges have active recovery plans at various stages of implementation and we are beginning to see positive results in some cases. Brethren, would you believe that the longest number of days a Registration Form for a new member took to arrive at the Provincial Registrar’s desk was 356 days! Nearly a year to process a form that our best Secretaries and Scribes get done within 2 or 3 days. On a similar theme, the longest time taken to report a resignation is 1,214 days! It is these types of poor administration which have led to the setting up of a Seminar for Lodge Administrators (namely, Secretaries/Scribes, Treasurers and Almoners in particular), which I wholeheartedly support. It is my most earnest wish that one or more representatives of every Lodge in the Province attend this Seminar. Those who do will receive accreditation from the Province. The Seminar is being held at Maidstone Masonic Centre (Tovil) on Monday evening. This Seminar, and those that follow, are a major part of our 3R’s Strategy. In 2004 we Advanced 89 brethren into the Mark Degree in Kent. Last year that figure was down to 60 and I am happy to report that this year, due in no small part to the excellent work of the Membership Committee, we have increased that number to 66.

Brethren, in my view, the primary reason for the existence of Mark and Royal Ark Mariner Lodges is to Advance and Elevate new members, as is made clear in the Consecration ritual for a new Lodge. So, I would like to see us increase the number of candidates for Advancement in the coming year to 120. Brethren, this means that if each of our 60 Mark Lodges could aim to Advance 2 new members each this can be achieved and it is my challenge to you all. In real terms, Brethren, that means just 8.5% of our current members need to introduce just one candidate each, so please make sure you are one of that 8.5% and don’t leave it all to the others. Please continue to make use of the Mark and Royal Ark Mariner Tri-Fold leaflets as well as letting potential candidates know about the 6 reasons to join the Mark degree and the 9 reasons to join the Royal Ark Mariner degree all of these are available to download from the Kent Mark website. Brethren, your Executive team is working very hard to meet the overall challenge of Membership but we need your help. Please help us to help you – as I’ve said, the future of your Lodge is in your hands!

The role of Lodge Almoners is crucial to the retention part of our work on membership. It is key to reducing controllable losses. They must be selected carefully, because they have the skills to do the job, not just as an afterthought. Especially important in the future given the ageing profile of our Order. In terms of communication, our website is better than it has ever been; we have a super online presence on Facebook and Twitter, the modern ways of engaging through social media. Thanks are due to Robin Evans, Provincial Communication Manager, for all his hard work. Please do keep your stories coming in.

Progress for our 2020 Festival is going well. We are on target to achieve the target of £1.25 million if we keep up the momentum. The £1 million mark has only been reached three times in the 151 year history of MBF Festivals. Let’s make it 4 times.

Our agreed legacy is to:

Province to become a Grand Patron Gold Province;
all R.A.M. Lodges to achieve at least MBF Vice Patron; and
all 107 Lodges to achieve at least Provincial Bronze Award.

Bookings for 2020 Festival Result & Gala Dinner on Saturday 13 June 2020 are also going well with over 550 already booked in. The deadline to secure the special hotel rates is 1 st December so please do get your bookings in. It will be a spectacular show – champagne reception, four course gala dinner with fine wines, Steppin’ Out (Riverdance inspired) Cabaret, 12 piece internationally acclaimed showband and our special guest compere, Phil Collins. All in the presence of Pro Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Assistant Grand Master, and the President and Trustees of the MBF. Don’t miss it! I’d like to see at least one table of 10 from every one of our 107 Lodges. I do not think that is an unreasonable aspiration to have. The monies raised have already made a difference in Kent, donations to MS Therapy Centre (Canterbury), SERV Kent Blood Bikes and Ellenor Hospice. You will have seen outside some liveried vehicles – a SERV Kent estate car and a St. John Ambulance treatment centre, paid for by a grant from the Mark Benevolent Fund. A formal handover will take place immediately after Provincial Grand Lodge is closed and I do hope you will come along to support us.

Having been elected a Trustee of the MBF in June, with a seat on the MBF Petitions Committee, I am seeing welfare in a much clearer way. It can’t be right that some Provinces submit dozens of petitions annually and others none at all. We all need to do better at identifying and supporting those in need. I am announcing today that I am introducing a Provincial Welfare Committee. It will be Chaired by me. I will be assisted by the DPGM, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the KMBF, the Provincial Grand Almoner and a Secretary to the Committee.

You may have noticed that I did not invest W. Bro. David Barden as Provincial Grand Almoner. After careful consideration David is stepping down after 4 years in the job. I am grateful to David for all he has done and I thank him for agreeing to carry out his duties until his successor is identified. A new job description has been drafted. It will be circulated in the next week with a request for expressions of interest from those who believe they have skills, time and desire to take on the job. A further announcement will be made in due course.

Let me say something about the Kent Masonic (red) Year Book – your Lodge’s page needs to be ‘owned’ by your Lodge. I wish to emphasise that Keystone Online is used to inform the red book and we need KoL to be kept up to date and for changes to be made at the earliest opportunity please. A formal request will be sent out on 01/10/2019 to Lodge Secretaries/Scribes (and Heads of Orders) for views on the accuracy of their pages in the red book We shall be asking for you to return a signed certificate confirming accuracy.

Special events over the coming 12 months include:

25th November 2019 – Provincial Follow-up Meeting in Pilgrims Lodge at Wrotham.
25th January 2020 – Annual Burns Night at Mercure Great Danes Hotel. Tom & Eunice Quinn entertaining us. Nigel Scott-Moncrief doing the Toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns. Archie Torrance doing the Address to a Haggis.
29th April 2020 – GM’s Lodges of Instruction Festival at Mark Masons’ Hall with R.W. Bro. Archie Torrance PGM as President.
12th June 2020 – President’s Inter-Province Golf Championship at King’s Hill GC.
13th June 2020 – 152nd Annual Festival of MBF.

Thanks to my Deputy for overseeing the arrangements for today. Also, the ProvGSec and his team and the ProvGDC and his team. Huge amount of work, which is genuinely appreciated. Thank you all. (And they are all still talking to each other!).

I am proud to be the 13th PGM of the Mark Province of Kent and I look forward to seeing it blossom and grow in the coming years. Until we see each other again may the Great Overseer of the Universe keep you safe and well. Enjoy your Mark Masonry.
RW.Bro. Archie Torrance, Provincial Grand Master