Grand Master's response to Grand Lodge toast in Renmark - Renmark No 55
12 September 2020
Thank you WBro Andrew Gower for your toast, and you Brethren, for honouring it so warmly.
WM, Distinguished Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren,
It’s a great pleasure to be back in Renmark after having been here recently to present a wheel chair access bus to the Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network.
Three years ago we were a forgotten fraternity, losing members and closing Lodges. After very hard and consistent application to task by a team of brilliant men, assisted by their wives and partners, Freemasonry in South Australia and the Northern Territory is back in the eyes of the public in a positive way.
You can see how appreciative your community is of our generosity; this is reflected across SA and the NT; people are talking about Freemasonry again; men of today are wanting to join our great fraternity. These applicants are coming from a wide geographical area and across many professions and occupations. “What is this Freemasonry”, they ask; how have you managed to survive above all other voluntary organisations for over three hundred years? The answer is simple ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, we invest in people. We are reinvigorating thought about objects in our Lodge rooms which seemed almost meaningless ie taken for granted. Our new members enjoy being told about rough ashlars and working tools and their symbolism in the life of a successful man. These men see us as embracing not only modern technology but also ethics and leadership; we are addressing their opportunity cost of membership. Their partners are amazed at the manner in which we relate to each other, our discussions and the fact that we stem from an enormous variation in backgrounds and social status. Yet we meet on the level; to the best of my knowledge, we are the oldest fraternal society still existing in the world today; we are egalitarian; we are voluntary, ancient and traditional; we are gradually getting away from being motivated by egos and ambitions, by chains, collars and magnificent regalia. I am the Grand Master; yet I am simply a Master Mason who has the privilege of wearing a lamb skin apron.
As I look around me tonight, I see men who have been recognized with Orders of Australia, with medals for military service, recognition by peers, recognition within Freemasonry, achievers in business and life generally. All are supported by wives and partners who are equally recognised.
I have been taught to be a Freemason over almost sixty years by example and precept; I am still learning! Short of the religious faiths, no organization can boast such constructive input to character. If I sound excited, it is because I am!
Your team of enthusiasts have worked diligently to refurbish our corporate structure. This structure is not new; men as smart as we are had previously taken advantage of changing times and established the various companies. Unfortunately, those companies were not being used as our forebears set them up. We had stopped taking advantage of their learning. This has changed.
AF&AM Inc is now our membership services company, AF&AM Nominees Pty Ltd is now our property services company; Masonic Homes has been wound up; Masonic Charities Pty Ltd is now our major philanthropic company; responsibility for the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health has now been taken up by Masonic Charities Pty Ltd. We are looking to a shared services model to provide necessary administrative support to all companies. Thus, we have our organization working under the one square and compass in the most efficient manner. Please feel proud and never hesitate to extend your gratitude to all members of this team who have worked tirelessly for two and a half years. You may also boast that Freemasonry does not pay Directors’ Fees. We are all unpaid volunteers.
Have you seen any changes in our beautiful ritual? No! Have you been hit for increased Grand Lodge dues beyond CPI? No! In other words, success by sheer hard work!
The Grand Master’s duties are not purely ceremonial; he is the titular head of an organization valued at over $100,000,000. To raise the profile of Freemasonry he must be able to take his place at the highest level of Government and Academia and yet, maintain his common touch. Freemasonry is alive and on the cusp of a NET increase in membership greater than 5% in SA and the NT as a result of unrelenting application to task by a team of men supported by their wives and partners; to the best of my knowledge, this is better than anything in the world; we are hungry to ensure that the cities and country SA and the NT are part of this renaissance.
Please follow your fellow Freemasons’ example and work equally hard to make our fantastic fraternity most relevant again; make sure that every member enjoys his night at Lodge and that the public know that we mean it when we say: “you matter and we care”.
Thank you; Norma and I have enjoyed your beautiful Renmark town, country and company and may the Great Architect of the Universe bless you all.
MWBro Dr Neil Jensen