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It is good to see you all, particularly our guests from other Provinces.   You are all most welcome and I hope you are enjoying the day.

When I addressed you last year I spoke of our strategy for development of the Province and I felt that I should start today by updating you on progress.

I have to say Brother Knights that I am delighted with the progress, and the way in which you have responded to the work of the Development Team under the leadership of the Provincial Development Officer.  He and his team have worked tirelessly to promote this strategy and I extend my personal thanks to him not only for this work but also in the production of ‘Non Nobis Domine’  and other material.

Following the pilot scheme in Leeds we are now rolling out the strategy throughout the Province and Preceptories are being asked to appoint Development Officers, and I believe most have already done so.

The area that particularly heartens me is Growth.   We have had 61 in the Candidate Pipeline, of those 5 have joined us a joining members and a further 16 Knights have been Installed.   I consider this an enormous success and we are currently working with our colleagues in the Royal Arch to find suitable Chapters to accommodate those in the Pipeline who are not yet in the Royal Arch.

Our work to raise the profile and an awareness of the Order is continuing through the use of the Introductory Card, and our much acclaimed monthly newsletter ‘No Nobis Domine.’ The twenty-eighth edition was published earlier this month, which continues to give some really interesting detail about our Medieval namesakes and updates about what our fellow Knights around the Province are getting up to

However not everything in the garden is rosy.

Brother Knights we need to up our game to make further efforts to keep existing members and also encourage those Knights who are not attending to come back.

But more importantly I have concerns at the challenges facing some of our Preceptories as changing demographics and the longer effects of the recent pandemic continue to unfold.   I will be tasking the Provincial Executive and the Development Team, as a matter of urgency, to make a strategic assessment of Preceptories, that may be ‘at risk’ because of these effects, and develop action plans with them to deal with the issues identified.    However, the Province is clearly not here to direct a Precptory what to do – it is here to facilitate their wishes, but we have to be realistic about the environment we find ourselves in, and however laudable the aim maybe we cannot protect the future of every Preceptory.   But let me assure you that I will not agree to the closure of a Preceptory until I am satisfied that every avenue has been explored to try and secure its future.

I also have concerns about the potential effect the current economic situation in the country may have on Freemasonry.   It is clear that we are going to be faced with increased costs in rent and meals, which will have to be passed on to members.   But this is only one element of a Brothers life and day to day living costs will also be increasing.   Therefore each and everyone of us will be examining how our disposable income is used, and I fear that this may have an effect on Freemasonry.   Brethren holding multiple memberships in the Craft, Royal Arch and Other Orders will I am sure be seriously examining their commitments.

The Provincial Prelate has already referred to those Knights who have departed on that pilgrimage that ends in the Holy City.   Their contribution to the work of the Order of the Temple, however small, is much appreciated and they will be sorely missed.  We mourn the loss of all the Brother Knight and extend our sympathy to their loved ones, but rest in the consolation that they are now at peace.

Brother Knights I am delighted once again to re-appoint my Sub-Prior and I thank him for the loyal support he gives to me and the Province.   Brother Knights he still gets frustrated with me, as do others, but he is always there to offer measured guidance in the affairs of the Province.

I have today appointed, re-appointed and promoted certain Knights in Provincial Priory.  I collectively offer my congratulations and best wishes to them all.   To the Acting Officers who are retiring I extended my thanks for their fealty and support.

During the year the Ritual Rovers have been called upon 27 times in varying degrees and a subgroup of that team has been asked to support Preceptories and Priories on 16 occasions by just being there to swell numbers.   Which leads me to the thrust of my message to you at the start of this current Masonic year – VISITING.  Visiting is such a wonderful experience and we should help and encourage our newly installed Knights to join us when we travel around the Province.  No invitation is necessary, so book yourselves in and expect a warm and hearty welcome and a great evening of Templar activity and new friendships aplenty. The more our newer Knights visit, the more they will enjoy their participation of our Order.

Our Facebook Page now has 123 members who are treated to snip bits about what is going on around the Province and to highly unusual information about our forebears mainly via its “Fact Friday” feature. So if you’ve ever wondered where the expression “to bite the dust” came from then join the group and find out for yourself

I must express my thanks to the members of the Provincial Priors Council for their continued support and encouragement.    To the Provincial Marshall for the work he does, not only throughout the year, but also to ensure today’s meeting has been conducted with the usual ceremonial.   To the Provincial Chancellor for his sage advice, which is valued by us all; the Provincial Treasurer for his management of the financial affairs of the Province; and the Provincial Registrar for overseeing the arrangements for our meetings, ensuring that we are adequately sustained whilst at refreshment.   Lastly, but not least, our Provincial Vice-Chancellor.  I know that we are all mystified when we receive emails from him timed in the early hours of the morning – I don’t know whether it is insomnia or dedication to the Order?   I am sure it is the latter – for his dedication and work ethic in helping Preceptories and looking after the administrative aspects of the Province is exceptional and most appreciated by myself, and I know the rest of the Province.

I also express my thanks to my Bodyguard Commander, his Deputy, the Registrar and members of the Bodyguard for being in attendance, not only today but when either myself or the Sub Prior have officially visited Preceptories.   Your work is much appreciated and I know the Commander is much relieved that our recent recruitments have enabled him to swell the numbers in the Bodyguard.

Finally Brother Knights, last month Her Most Gracious Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth passed from this transitory life to rest with Almighty God.   Queen Elizabeth was one of the greatest figures of our age.  This was not only because she reigned for so long, but because she did so with such ability, commitment and grace.    She was a faithful Christian who drew on her faith to serve God and the common good in the role that God had given her.     She reigned with great integrity and we thank God that she was a great servant of her people and an unequalled example of public service throughout her long life.

I can do no better than leave you with her own words from her Christmas broadcast in 2002.

“I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad.  Each day is a new beginning.  I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings and to put my trust in God … I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian Gospel”

What wonderful words.  Oh that if we could all emulate in some small way those sentiments of faith the world would be a far better place.  We pray that the reign of His Majesty King Charles will be blessed with the same richness of purpose as what that of his mother.

Brother Knights I wish you all well in your endeavours, with continued vigour to uphold the excellent ideals of this Order, and strength to continue to profess our Christian faith.

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