Questions had been submitted by email to the Provincial Secretary W.Bro. Chris Elliott which were followed by other questions that were prompted by the discussions.
A matter of concern for us all is the imminent return to Masonic Labour in all degrees with much speculation abounding about what is happening locally and in other Provinces. R.W.Bro. Peter Balsom reiterated a point that he as PGM could lift a local suspension as and when he felt it 'right to do' and was aware of Cornwall making it clear that business would resume after 31st August 2021. Our PGM is in constant communication with Mark Masons Hall as well as the neighbouring Provinces and is carefully monitoring the information and will announce a decision when the picture is clearer over this month and June.
He noted that the restart was also governed by the state of readiness each Masonic Hall was at. A register of Halls is held by the Craft and those Halls that feel they are Covid safe are noted. Ultimately it is incumbent on each individual member to decide what is safe for them to do and not to be pressured into returning to masonic activity until they are satisfied with measures in place to control the passing of infection.
Questions relating to the first meetings having to be an installation, any dispensations required and other business matters were referred to our Provincial Secretary who reiterated that he is available to be contacted to give precise guidance to Secretaries and Directors of Ceremonies.
The Provincial Officers asked about attendance at meetings as things open up. It was hoped that if a meeting was a 'full installation meeting' then Provincial Officers would attend (again numbers allowing and safety confident) however, perhaps not so many attending if a proclamation. Each Officer must decide for themselves what is appropriate for them to attend. At this point the PGM announced a change in Junior Warden and Master Overseer for next year. W.Bro Martin Aldridge will be the Provincial Junior Warden and W.Bro. Gary Kitchen the Provincial Master Overseer. Both were heartily congratulated.
The Mark Degree is often referred to as the 'friendly degree' and it was questions why it is so styled? Is it more friendly than any other degree? As a Progressive Order, friendship and camaraderie are key elements of its success. Friendliness is specifically expressed in the Ceremony of Advancement. It was noted by many that the Executive of the Order have been particularly proactive during the pandemic with excellent communication and willingness to attend virtual meetings which has don so much to keep the morale up and members in good spirits.
Our Provincial Almoner was asked about the Almoners role and W.Bro. Dennis Challis was please to report his contact with all almoners across the Province as well as two booklets he has prepared to help Almoners with their role in the Lodge. He made it very clear the he was available for Almoners to refer to as a resource.
V.W.Bro. David Purdie gave an update on the new golf Lodge St Andrews No.1370 and the opportunity in taking over a Lodge number that had unfortunately had to close its doors. The Provincial Grand Master also noted other Lodges that had closed but we had only lost two members overall because of age and infirmity. He is aware that whilst these are difficult decision to make, Lodges in difficulty should contact the Provincial Secretary early so that we can support them through DMST and other initiatives. DMST had been working well with visiting when they can to support officers in Lodges as well as having talks prepared for Craft Lodges or Mark Lodges about the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners.
The process of allocating the £1.25m donations to Hospices was discussed with the PGM hoping that all Secretaries would ask their Lodge members for a preference and then send this to Mark Masons Hall.
References to the new online year book were explained by W.Bro John Smerdon. He asked that brethren have a look at the books online. He said that a link was being sent to each secretary to log in this week.
The meeting was then closed with the thanks of the Provincial Grand Master for everyone taking out time to meet. A very happy and successful meeting in the Province.