Saturday 24th June 2023 saw the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham hosted at The Fed Gateshead.
As usual, the Provincial Grand Stewards were on hand with smiling faces to greet everyone on their arrival.
As the final rehearsals and preparations were taking place many of the early arrivals took the opportunity to chat and renew friendships in the robing and changing rooms, before taking their seats in the main meeting area.
The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Martin Rankin, then called the brethren to order to receive the various processions of Distinguished Guests, Past Rulers and Heads of Orders into the meeting, the final procession being the Officers of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham providing the escort to the Provincial Grand Master, John Thompson with the Standard Bearers to the rear.
Provincial Grand Lodge was then opened in due form, and after confirmation of the minutes of the last meeting, it was that sad time to stand to order and remember those brethren who had passed to the Grand Lodge above since the last meeting, as the Brethren stood in silence and respect, John paid tribute to the 101 Brethren whose names simultaneously scrolled on the digital screens either side of the dais and of course making a particular note to our Glorious Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Before proceeding to work through the agenda John individually welcomed his distinguished guests from various Provinces including Past Rulers of the Craft, Chapter, Provincial Team and Heads of other Companion Orders.
Prior to Appointing and Investing the Provincial Officers for the ensuing Masonic year, John paid special tribute to Paul Debenham, Michael Shaw & Andrew Thompson.
“Brethren at this time I would like to pay special tribute to our retiring Almoner WBro Paul Debenham. I know Paul is not here today due to family commitments. Paul came to me in April and told me he thought it was time for him to step down as Almoner and for another to take the baton. Reluctantly I agreed.
Brethren, during his tenure, as well as the routine work behind the scenes assisting and guiding our Brethren on personal matters, he established the Caring Volunteer Initiative to ensure we kept in contact with the widowed partners of closed Lodges, He started an Almoners Page with resources on the Provincial Website and for our almoners and headed the Visiting Volunteers and Retrievals Team.
He has served the Benevolent Committee for 27 years, and the GP Committee for 14 years, six of which as PGA and he also had the privilege of serving on the Advisory Committee for PGAs in London for 3 years as well as being one of our MCF representatives
Brethren this is what commitment looks like and we thank him for his care and we wish him all the best for the future.
Brethren similar thanks to WBro Michael Shaw who stood down this year as Vice Chairman of DB. Michael was very instrumental in supporting our charity for many years and especially ensuring DB support continued during the lockdown, and my thanks to our outgoing Provincial Grand Charity Steward WBro Andrew Thompson. Andrew thank you for the support you gave to the festival and especially to our successful launch event. Andrew was the Province’s first Provincial Grand Charity Steward and I’m glad to see that Andrew will continue his support for the province in supporting DB with our annual group break”.
After the Principal Officers had been re-appointed and this year’s Provincial Grand Wardens had been individually Appointed, Invested, and placed in the West and South respectively, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies called upon the Provincial Deputy Director of Ceremonies, assisted by the Provincial Stewards to take post.
The Stewards then expertly collected each recipient, escorting them before the PGM to be Invested, receiving their certificate of appointment from the Deputy PGM, and finally taking to their seat and acknowledged with the customary court bow, bursting with pride.
John then invited our guest Speaker Bro Shaun Butler the Director of Membership and Communications at Ugle, Shaun joined the United Grand Lodge of England in 2017 – leading on social media across a number of platforms, including the set-piece Tercentenary event at the Royal Albert Hall. He was promoted to Communications Manager in 2019 with responsibility for Membership Communications. During this time, Shaun launched a number of key initiatives, including the First Rising newsletter and other engagement programmes as the country endured lockdown.
In 2021, Shaun was appointed as Deputy Director of Communications and Marketing and led on the first National Digital Marketing Campaign in UGLE’s history, as well as the rollout of UGLE and SGC’s new 7-year Strategy.
Shaun following John’s introduction which included a nod to his other passion outside Freemasonry being a lifelong supporter of his Champions League club Newcastle United was given a loud Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough fc welcome.
Shaun then delivered his presentation entitled ‘Communicating Freemasonry in 2023’ during which he gave an overview of how UGLE is adapting to modern advancements in Communications encouraging us to embrace change, adapt and stem the tide of losses and look to a bright sustainable future as Freemasons.
On closing John thanked Shaun who stood to a rapturous Durham applause
A collection was then taken in aid of The Masonic Charitable Foundation where a fabulous amount of £3700.06 was raised inclusive of gift aid, with all proceeds being credited to the 2032 Festival.
John then delivered what can only be described as an inspirational address and in closing said:
“Can I thank you all for coming today and for making this day so special for those who have been appointed and promoted today and for the very kind attention you have given to this address, Brethren; I’m proud to be a Freemason, and extremely proud to lead this Province and to quote a friend of mine. Your lodge, your province, your future
Photographs of the day Click Here
To Meet The Wardens: Click here
To read John’s full Address: Click Here
There being no further business, Provincial Grand Lodge was closed in due form which was followed by the first 2 verses of the National Anthem, before the processions that had so ceremoniously entered the venue at the start of the meeting, processed out.
A hive of activity soon followed as the Provincial Stewards and the Catering staff went about transforming the venue into a banquet hall for 428 members. The venue looked magnificent and full to capacity for all to enjoy and the meal was duly served by the catering staff to the happy gathering to round off a fabulous day hopefully enjoyed by all.
Well done to everyone who made the day such a success, and congratulations to anyone who received a Provincial Appointment.
We Are Stronger Together..