RIGHT WORSHIPFUL DISTRICT GRAND MASTER’S ADDRESS – DECEMBER 2020
Good evening Brethren All.
Immediate Past Right Worshipful District Grand Master, Past District Grand Masters, Commissioned Office Bearers, Officers and members of the District, I bring you hearty, fraternal and yuletide greetings in the precious name of TGAOTU and trust that my address to you this evening will reach you well and safe together with your respective families.
Before proceeding further with the business of the evening, I want to take this opportunity to pay our respect to departed brethren of the District who had their home call in the course of this year and are now in the safe abode of the Grand Lodge Above. May their souls continue to rest in perfect peace.
I also want to remember our elderly, homebound and sick brethren during this season and pray for their speedy relief, comfort, and full recovery in the shortest possible time. A bit more will be said about brethren in this category later in my address.
Brethren All, I intend to address you this evening on a number of issues and concerns facing the District for your information, consumption, contemplation and necessary action as may be appropriate.
These issues or challenges as I would usually say, though, formidable are not unsurmountable and with characteristic cohesiveness of the members of the District I am left to hope that your support and cooperation will go a long way in achieving our objectives and fulfilling my vision for the District.
Now let me beg your undivided attention while I address the issues sequentially:
1. INSTALLATION OF THE R W D G M
The position remain unchanged.
The Grand Master Mason has indicated his intention of carrying out this duty and he hopes to announce a new proposed date in January. I personally look forward expectantly to the new arrangements.
2. RECOMMENCEMENT OF MASONIC ACTIVITIES
Brethren All, I need not recall the total imbalance in which the entire World finds itself since the outbreak of the Corona Virus disease at the beginning of this year.
Not least, our Fraternity has been affected throughout the World notwithstanding some chequered responses to ensure continuity and sustainability of our Institutions.
I cannot elaborate on the many challenges that resulted from this situation, with Lodges in abeyance and the negative impact on the finances of the Daughter Lodges and the District itself. You will hear more on this later.
In August this year, we joined our sister constitutions in a decision to recommence Masonic Activities in September. General Guidelines were developed for adoption and were circulated to all concerned.
However, following certain interventions, I postponed the participation of our District after consultation with the DGM of the English Constitution, my liaison during the course of that exercise, for future consideration.
However, I am now pleased to say that following discussions and review of the position in the November Administrative Meeting of the District, Management has favorably consented to the resumption of Masonic Activities in early January 2021.
In this connection, I hereby directs that the suspension ban is hereby lifted and regular Masonic activities can be resumed with effect from first Monday in January 2021, on the same guidelines and conditions issued previously in August.
I hasten to add that I am in consultation with my colleagues Head of other Constitutions through the DGM, EC, to review the ban on Festive Boards. You will be advised of the outcome of that review shortly.
I hope and trust that the Lodges will rise to the challenge in holding their members together and by extension the District Grand Lodge itself.
3. FINANCES OF DISTRICT GRAND LODGE
As mentioned previously, the suspension of Masonic Activities has proved very fatal to the finances of the daughter Lodges and the District.
Rents are in arrears, membership and Lodge Dues have not been honored in large part.
The District remain hugely indebted to the Grand Lodge, which is of major concern to both the Administration and the Grand Lodge.
In the past week, the Grand Secretary has had a one-on-one Zoom meeting with our D G S on the issue. During the meeting, concerns were raised and Grand Lodge demanded a firm commitment on a sum for immediate payment, to be followed by phased payments.
I am expecting to continue with further discussion on this issue with the Grand Secretary in the course of this week.
The District will soon be communicating with the Daughter Lodges on the specifics of the Grand Lodge bill and to find a way going forward in resolving this matter.
On the domestic front, meeting the regular obligations of the District in terms of Staff welfare, office administration and utilities are being impacted negatively because of the restrictive cash flows.
I am sadly to observe that the District Staff salary Provision Account may be negative after December.
I want to implore Right Worshipful Masters, Treasurers and Secretaries of daughter Lodges to ensure that all outstanding obligations are settled with the District by the end of December 2020.
4. DEVELOPMENT OF DISTRICT GRAND LODGE STRATEGIC PLAN
Brethren, at my assumption of office, I appointed a Strategic Plan Technical Team to deliberate, consult and formulate a five-year strategic plan that will guide the efforts of my administration towards achieving my vision for the District through the next five years.
Although there have been reported delays in the course of its work, the program however, I am informed is on course and I am assured by the Chair of the Technical team of his and the Team’s commitment in delivering on my vision. I will continue to monitor their work closely.
5. THE GEORGACLAND MASONIC TEMPLE
I am pleased to report that the District has concluded an agreement with the Trust Board representing the owner Lodges in July 2020 on terms favorable to all sides.
The technical details have been documented and should be ready for execution before the end of the year.
Given the age of the building, maintenance and refurbishment remain a continuing process with its attendant effect on the cash flow of the District.
I am pleased to report that the windows on the upper floor and the residue on the ground floor have all been replaced to give uniformity to the façade of the building.
In this regard I again publicly thank all donors to this project for their continued support to the District and pray that you are rewarded mightily in return.
We continue to identify areas requiring refurbishing or otherwise, like the frontage of the building and pledge to carry out as appropriate in accordance with the Terms of the Lease.
6. COMMUNICATION WITH GRAND LODGE
Notwithstanding the cessation of Masonic Activities, we continue to have communications with Grand Lodge through bi-monthly Zoom meetings with the Grand Master Mason and email correspondence on specific issues and the Corona Virus Weekly update Bulletin issued by the Grand Master Mason.
The Grand Master Mason is determined to ensure the Grand Lodge philosophy of Proxies representing Districts, Provinces and Daughter Lodges in Grand Lodge effected to the satisfaction of All.
In this connection, I am pleased to say that we have a very willing and enthusiastic Proxy DGM in the person of Bro. David Reid, PM. There have been regular meetings between David, myself and the DGS on a number of occasions and some vital issues pertaining to our District have been resolved through this partnership.
I am happy to state that we have a ready help in David in giving assistance at Grand Lodge and such opportunities should not be allowed to wane.
In addition, David has identified proxy Masters of Daughter Lodges and fostered efforts at necessary introduction of them to daughter Lodges in Freetown and Banjul.
Regrettably, notwithstanding such sterling efforts by the Proxy DGM, the response from our daughter Lodges have been almost zero or at best lukewarm.
The Proxy D G M has also developed a matrix showing Daughter Lodges, their Masters and Proxies, respective email addresses, which I believe have been circulated to the Lodges but still of no effect.
7. COMMUNICATION WITH DAUGHTER LODGES
We continue to experience difficulties in dealing with Daughter Lodges. Response to communications from the District is poor and at times detrimental to the interest of individual brethren. I would cite a case in point here: District is aware of the fact that a number of brethren have not received their diplomas since they were initiated, with some dating over a decade.
The D GS on 2nd September sent a round robbin letter to the Secretaries of All daughter Lodges requiring information data on affected brethren for onward transmission to Grand Lodge and our Proxy D G M. The result to date – Your guess will be as good as mine – Nil, zilch, not even an acknowledgement from any of the Lodges. Brethren All, this attitude should change as it will only continue to frustrate our development efforts.
8. CHARITY EVENTS
Covid – 19 Challenge Fund
Grand Lodge in August 2020 approved £2,000 from the above Fund for disbursement of local recipients of choice of the District. The amount was to be equally matched from the Benevolent Fund of the District. However, the District successfully raised the sum of Le25m from supporting brethren and Lodges to augment the funds provided by Grand Lodge.
The funds have been applied accordingly. On 25th September 2020, presentation of essential medical items valued up to Le30m were delivered to the 34 Military Hospital, Wilberforce to assist the Covid – 19 effort as the prime care hospital for Covid – 19 affected patients in the Country.
At a well attended ceremony the presentation was done by the District delegation led by myself. The District delegation was well received as were the gifts, at a ceremony attended and chaired by the Deputy Minister of Defense.
The Ceremony was reported by news media on radio and television. A report on the event with video clips have been submitted to Grand Lodge and the ceremony was described by our proxy DGM as very impressive.
The second presentation was concluded on Saturday 19th December at the Makambo Community Makeni, the home of Lodge Wusum. This area was selected for patronage by the District as the first recipient of Charity from the District outside the Western Area.
The Depute District Grand Master led the delegation from the district, which included SDGM in charge of Lodge Wusum, Bro. Magnus Decker, PM, the D G S Bro. Alan Benjamin and representatives of Lodge Wusum to facilitate the presentation..
Food items comprising rice, vegetable oils, palm oil and other condiments valued at Le15m were delivered to the community. I await a formal report on the event but I am informed that the ceremony went on well.
I again present my hearty thanks to all the worthy brethren who at short notice made such generous donations to actualize those events. My thanks to the daughter Lodges and brethren who made donations through their Lodges. You are all worthily appreciated
Children’s Christmas Treat
On the advice of the organizing committee of this event in consultation with the D G Lodge Secretariat the Christmas Treat targeting children in the vicinity of the GAMT, this treat was cancelled in view of logistics and other organizational concerns.
Annual Christmas Fund Raising Lunch
In view of the Covid -19 situation this event is also cancelled for 2020 with much regret.
A significant contribution from this event usually goes to fund the Development Account of the District.
Visitation to Sick, Elderly and Homebound Brethren
The District in the past week, have been engaged in visitations to brethren in the above category. Fourteen brethren were selected in this first phase of visitation to brethren who hitherto have been active but due to ill health, age or distance have not been attending meetings before the pandemic. The exercise is on-going and in all cases hampers valued Le500,000 or cask equivalent have been donated to the brethren visited.
Two delegations are involved, one led by the D G Master and the other by SDGM, Bro. Magnus A Decker.
We did this to indicate to the brethren that we have them in our thoughts, our prayers and our plans. A second and final visitation will be made on Wednesday 23rd December. This event was funded from the benevolent fund of the District.
The recipient brethren including past RWDGM, Bro. Crispus Cole, Past District Grand Tyler, Bro. Captain (Retired) P D Greene and Past District Grand Director of Ceremonies, Bro J H H King expressed great appreciation for the visit and thank brethren generally for their support. I continue to hope and pray for your continued support to the Benevolent Fund of your Lodges and the District to facilitate charitable projects in the future.
I am pleased to announce that the Grand Lodge of Scotland has conferred honorary Grand Rank to the following brethren following their dedicated and meritorious services to Craft Freemasonry in particular in Sierra Leone:
Bro. Justin Hilary King – Hon. Grand Director of Ceremonies
Bro. George Adolphus Ebipaju Hamilton – Hon. Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies
Bro. Raymond Abisordun Benjamin Johnson – Hon. Junior Grand Deacon
Bro. Magnus Cassius Coker – Hon. Grand Inner Guard
I have no doubt that you will join me as I extend hearty congratulations to these brethren for a well-earned preferment and pray that they will continue to enjoy good health and strength to enjoy the fruits of their Masonic labours.
As I close, I want to thank all of you for your cooperation and support through this difficult year in all aspects of our lives. We nonetheless look forward with profound hope to a prosperous and Covid free world in the coming year and no doubt will be counting on you for a successful 2021.
I therefore want to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and my family to wish for you a blessed and cautious Christmas and a happy bright and prosperous new year in advance.
May you rise to the challenge in keeping and sustaining your Lodges during these difficult times so as to transmit unsullied to our successors this coveted legacy bequeathed to us by our forefathers.
I thank you all once more for giving me your time and attention.
Chrispin Bishop Deigh
DISTRICT GRAND MASTER