My brothers, as I look out at all of you, I am reminded yet again of the significance of the term brother, to a Freemason. It refers to that respect and good will that we as Freemasons hold for each other. I read over a few of the addresses from Past Grand Masters for some insight as to what I should talk about. A common thread that re-occurs in the opening paragraph of every one I looked at is the reference in regards to ‘how humbling an experience it is’ to be standing where I am right now. I decided that I was not going to use that term, but would come up with a new, awesome term of my own. Yet a few days before I set out for Kimberly, I was reading over this address and started thinking about this upcoming year and the events that led up to this exact moment and you know, stating that I am humbled by this experience, standing and addressing you here and now, describes exactly how I feel right now, I could not find any more fitting or more appropriate words. I do know that I am somewhat overcome by the faith that you have entrusted to me those few years ago to protect and lead this, our gentle Craft forward. I can assure you that I will do my best to earn that trust you have placed in me.
These last two years have been a dark time for Freemasonry in this jurisdiction and elsewhere. I will be ever grateful to our Past Grand Master, MW Bro. Don MacKenzie for his temperance, patience, and guidance through some very trying and tempestuous periods, to get us here today. He, with the help of his officers, during his term embraced the theme of “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”. Their adoptive use of Zoom meetings as a useful tool enabled them to be the glue that helped to hold us together these long previous two years. On behalf of the Craft, thank you! Each and everyone of you.
I have this year decided to continue on with the previous agreement made between the Grand Line officers, with respect to the multi-year plan; that of not having a theme for the year, but instead to come up with a phrase or some catch words that will resonate with the brethren as we proceed forward. I have therefore chosen the catch words for my term to be “Renew, Reset, and Rebuild”.
Our lodges are now beginning to resume labour. This is the time to renew and embrace friendships with our brethren whom we have not met with person to person for some time; to renew ourselves with the ritual and protocol concerning the lodge and most importantly to renew with ourselves the obligations we have taken when kneeling at the altar and to renew ourselves with what Freemasonry means to us and why we became Freemasons.
This past period has been for those who attended one or more Zoom meetings, a time of enlightenment and education. The brethren have, through shared conversations with other Freemasons nationally and internationally, learned from each other some ideas and practices that have been successful for their respective lodges. This is the perfect opportunity to reflect on our current practices for attracting new members as well as ways of keeping the interest up of our current brethren so they do not drift away, especially in the first few years of their masonic careers. This is the time to hit the reset button in our lodges. We have in place various programmes that have been developed such as beginyou.bcy.ca – a website for those who are curious and want to know more about Freemasonry, including a link on how to contact us. The Cornerstone Project which includes in it the Six Step Programme as well as the Leadership and Membership programmes to name a few of those developed these past few years. This is the time for a fresh start, a reset if you will, in our lodges. A time to work together to consider a reset, by making those improvements that will help us to move forward. We as Freemasons need to align ourselves with the new generation of men coming into the Craft. We need to evolve so that we can continue to improve mankind, one man at a time. Our teachings and philosophies have never been as relevant as they are now.
Most importantly now is the time for each of us to help rebuild our craft. There are over 700 inquirers since covid shut everything down. It is necessary that we show these men what true Freemasonry is all about. This year we need to ask ourselves what it was that enticed us to join. What keeps us coming back? We need to convey these thoughts to the men who approach us about the Craft. This is what we need to remember when we are asked, what is Freemasonry anyway? There are lodges struggling, and some to be honest, may not be able to continue. My hope is that the brethren from those lodges will affiliate with other lodges, and use their experience to help rebuild their new homes to become more vibrant than they may already be. As brethren we have a duty to those freemasons who built the Craft before us to rebuild our lodges for future Freemasons.
I will be working with and through my DDGMs and the rest of my officers to help the push forward in bringing our Craft in British Columbia and Yukon back to its former status and hopefully to see it continue to see growth in the future.
The monthly meetings on Zoom with the DDGMs and other officers were so successful these past two years, I have decided that I will be continuing on with this practice. These meetings helped keep us informed, share ideas, and very importantly to discuss any problems that might have arisen in the various districts and offer input on how to resolve them.
Two of the themes that I would like to continue on with are the multi-year plan initiated by MW Bro. Barry Burch in 2018, which entails striving to continue to improve the quality of Freemasonry we are delivering in our lodges and to improve the face of Freemasonry in the community. We need to stop hiding our light under a basket and make people more aware of just who we are. This includes showing the community, without being ostentatious, the charitable work we provide in the community, with our donations of money as well as time. Secondly, I will continue to advocate strengthening our bond within our masonic family through visiting, joint ventures and continuing to give support and encouragement whenever possible to the masonic youth groups, to such bodies as DeMolay, and Job’s Daughters. The plans for another masonic ball in Nanaimo are in the works for later on this year. A perfect example of the masonic family working together. In turn our members in the concordant and appendant bodies need to remember that Freemasonry begins in the lodge, for that is where their future members are drawn from.
The two year District Deputy Designate trial programme that was implemented when I first became Deputy Grand Master will continue on this year. The programme began with a rocky start due to our friend covid, so I have decided to extend the trial period for one more year to be able to allow it to have a proper assessment. Our new Deputy Grand Master, RW Bro. Arthur Smith has already selected his team of officers for next year. These brethren will assist this years DDGMs with the aim to better prepare and educate them for their term in office.
This year I am announcing the amalgamation of West Kootenay District 6 and Boundary District 7. There were a number of talks between myself, RW Bro. Arthur Smith and the two District Deputy Grand Masters of these districts concerning the challenges facing these areas.
The conclusion of these dialogs resulted in a mutual agreement that the time was ripe for the union of these two areas. The term of office of the District Deputy for the newly aligned District 7 will be two years in order to enable him to perform his duties aright.
It is a sad fact, we are all aware of, that we have a declining membership. We are continuing to run some of our operations with the view to still being twelve thousand plus strong. With this thought in mind, I began to take a look at the number of appointments that are given out each year and have taken some small steps to help reduce the number. For example, I have appointed just six Stewards. I came to this number based on the simple formula of one per thousand members. Another step taken was to have the Grand Chaplain and the Grand Director of Music serve multiple years for a term of up to five years.
You also may have noticed that during the installation the office of Grand Standard Bearer remained vacant. This position is one that does not exist in lodge. I have decided for my term that instead of appointing a Grand Standard Bearer for the year, I will have a Medal of Merit recipient from the host district fill this position during Grand Lodge communications or whenever a ceremony requires it. This could extend to the Sword Bearer in the future.
These ideas that I have just mentioned should they be carried forward will help bring the number of appointed officers in line with our current membership numbers.
With regards to the number of committees and members, I have taken a serious look at both with regards to streamlining and reducing their numbers, A Zoom meeting was called to discuss these reductions and some recommendations were made. The ad hoc Committee for Review of Governance is to be commended for its work and I have asked them to continue to assist in this capacity.
I have not decided on the Grand Master’s Charity as of yet but will make my decision before September.
Just as no man can accomplish anything on his own, I would like to acknowledge those who have supported and given guidance, even when I didn’t think it was needed, (though it usually was) as I travelled the road to the east. MW Bro. Don MacKenzie for his level headed way of handling the day-to-day business. The Grand line officers for their input, MW Bro. Doug Franklin whose wisdom I drew on and will continue to do so. The Past Masters who are always willing to help. “Just ask.” A big thank you to the Grand Secretary, RW Bro. George Moore, the voice of reason.
I would like to thank the members of Chemainus Lodge No. 114 past and present for inspiring me with their wisdom and insight which no doubt was the catalyst to setting me on this path thus enabling me to stand here before you today. I would also like to give my appreciation to the committee that made this Grand Lodge possible.
A special thank you to my wife Joan for standing beside me and encouraging me to be my best. I couldn’t have done or continue to do the things I do without you.
Lastly, thanks to all of you for taking the time to attend this Grand Lodge communication. Your dedication to Freemasonry is what this fraternity is all about.
Safe travels, wherever your destination.
MW Bro. Kenneth M. Overy
Grand Master, 2022-2023