Provincial Prior's 2020 Address to the Provincial Priory's Virtual Business Meeting 

DSCN0949Brother Knights all: This year has indeed been a strange time for us all, with so many unknowns and much in the way of fearful messaging. It feels like now, more than ever, it is so important to stay grounded and connected to the values of Freemasonry.
All provinces have had to cope with the effect of Covid-19 this year. The restrictions imposed by Government advice have inevitably reduced Masonic activities across the board. Despite this, our team of acting Provincial Officers and myself managed a total of 109 visits, within and outside the Province, until Covid-19 effectively suspended our activities.
We are missing our Provincial Visitors from other Provinces as seeing each other at our respective Provincial Priory meetings is always a pleasure. It is an opportunity to renew acquaintances and exchange opinions and news. Our next Provincial Priors Conference in October will also be an online meeting.
I thank all the Provincial Officers who have accepted re-appointment for the coming year and congratulate all those officers who have received Acting Appointments and promotions in Provincial Office. You have all worked hard for these just rewards, I sincerely hope you will enjoy your year.
I also extend my grateful thanks to our Provincial Vice-Chancellor, E. Kt. Bob Diplock for his faithful support during this hiatus in Preceptory activities. If you think that this would make life easier for him, think again – I know he has been busier than ever.
I heartily congratulate E. Kt. Graham Seeman, our Provincial Organist, on his preferment as Acting Gt. Std. B. (B.) and only regret we cannot benefit this evening from his skills at the keyboard. E. Kt. Trevor Austin was re-appointed as Acting Gt.A-de-C. and first appointments to P.Gt.A-de-C. were awarded to E. Kts. Dean White, Malcolm Woolgar, and Graham Snell.
E. Kt. Ken Winfield, now an honorary member of Cygnet Preceptory after 34 years of service, reached his Centenary on the 30th of June this year. As we were not allowed to join him on the day, I am grateful to E. Kt. Graham Snell who was able to help with this and we presented Ken with a bound 100-year-old copy of the Times and a scanned set of best wishes from dozens of members of the Province on an impressively large birthday card.
My continuing thanks to E. Kt. Malcolm Woolgar who is running the Preceptory of Improvement for us. It is doing wonders for the confidence of those knights who are approaching new offices and the chairs of their Preceptory. We have all, literally, being Zooming around the province working online with our Preceptories to help them through the administrative formalities of their work and helping them through sometimes complex decisions.
Our provincial Almoner, E. Kt. Paul Jenkins has been working tirelessly in the background. In this time of uncertainty, his is a key role in keeping in touch with those knights in difficulty. Inevitably, there are some who have become disconnected from our Order because of the absence of physical meetings and the camaraderie of their Masonic colleagues and may even be re-evaluating how they feel about the Orders to which they belong. Brother Knights, and I cannot emphasise this enough; it is so, so very important that you reach out and stay in touch with all your members, preferably, by a chat on the phone.
To complement the provincial efforts in this regard why not set yourself a goal to make, say, four contacts every week so that you can chat to those who may feel isolated and, with their permission, let our Provincial Almoner know if they need assistance. I am sure your Preceptory Registrars would be able to assist you with a list of their contact details to help ensure everyone is being contacted in turn so nobody is left out.
2016 17 Address 1 cropThe Jerusalem Eye Hospital has been struggling valiantly of late in the light of a major reduction in their funding and needs our help more than ever. We, as a province this year have responded quickly bringing forward a donation we were going to make in our Sesquicentennial year. Could I suggest that you donate to them a portion of the money being saved not having to dine or travel to meetings as is the case for most of us? This can be done via your Preceptory Treasurer so that Gift Aid can also be included.

By way of future development for our province, as well as retaining our existing membership levels, we are very fortunate to count among our membership the Most Excellent Grand Superintendents of each of the three Holy Royal Arch provinces within our Knights Templar Province and have already opened a dialogue regarding our recruitment strategy.
I have been impressed with the way Mark Masons’ Hall has been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis – clear leadership is key to maintaining membership. The existing cohesion & co-operation across the three pillars of our Orders have never been more necessary.
We are all looking forward to working together again in our Preceptories, sharing our Knights Templar values of loyalty, bravery & truth and I am proud to be a member of this wonderful institution and it is an honour to be your Provincial Prior.
Brother Knights, please keep safe & well.

R E Kt Graham McGowan-Smyth
Virtual Business Meeting, 28th September 2020

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