Reflecting on a busy Masonic Year

Most Worshipful Grand Master Robert B, Ellston's message to the Brethren In the March edition of The Freemason.

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Greetings to you, My Brothers;

Greetings and Salutations from the Grand East. The ebb and flow of the seasons has brought us to the beginnings of another re-birth of nature. As I sit and write this message, I find myself looking out of the office window, watching a light snow falling upon the wet pavement, knowing that it will soon be springtime despite the cold dreariness of this day.

Somewhat difficult to believe is that in just a few short weeks I will be handing over "the gavel of authority" to my successor in office. Brethren, it has truly been "a very fast year". Covid has put some restraints on what might have been this year, but overall, it has been a very enjoyable and "eye-opening" year. I will carry with me fond memories of this chapter in my life as I continue my Masonic Journey.

To be sure, the year is not over yet. There are numerous "Fraternal Visits" still on the agenda for my Grand Marshal, Keith, and myself as we travel to those lodges in this Grand Jurisdiction that we have not as yet visited. There are two "Official Visitations" still on the docket. The first visitation will be to the East Bay District on March 8 at Washington Lodge No. 3 and the second on April 22 to my "Mother Lodge" – Mt. Moriah No. 8. I am looking forward with much anticipation to both of these events.

There is also the Conference of Grand Masters of North America being held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this year that I will attend as your representative from the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island. This coupled with the day-to-day happenings within this Grand Jurisdiction as your Grand Master should make my remaining tenure a busy one.

Thank you all for having so graciously given me the opportunity to serve you in this capacity. At the Annual Communication last May and again at the Semi-Annual Communication in November, I spoke of my strong desire to re-invigorate the Craft within this Jurisdiction. (Please, take the time to re-read my message in the June/July/August issue of the FREEMASON where I speak about the "4-R’s": Re-opening, Recruiting, Retention and Returning and in the September/October/November issue where I speak to Motivation and self-improvement.)

We have – by the Grace of the Almighty and adherence to the Covid Protocols – been enabled to Re-open ALL of our lodges. These lodges, for the most part, have Recruited, investigated and are working candidates while making every effort to see that the "West Gate" is securely guarded. Some lodges are even working candidates within their own lodge for the first time in several years!

The areas of Retention and Returning –which in large part are dovetailed to each other are first and foremost duties incumbent upon the lodges. Primarily it is the responsibility of the Master, Wardens and members of the lodge to make the lodge meeting meaningful and interesting and thereby keep the brethren involved in the workings of the lodge at all levels. Your Grand Lodge, through the Director of Masonic Education and with the assistance of the Leadership Committee, as well as other associated committees, is more than willing to assist the lodges in preparing and promoting various topics and programs to accomplish the task of providing the necessary tools to any lodge that requests assistance in this area.

I have recently sought out R∴W∴Michael Northup to assume the helm as Director of Masonic Education. He has readily agreed to accept this important station and is already at labor in this very important and necessary portion of the quarry. Be on the lookout for R∴W∴Northup as he comes knocking on your lodge room door, seeking admission to introduce himself and expounding on his concepts for Masonic Education within this Grand Jurisdiction. Let him enter, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The areas of Retention and Returning are topics or subjects that will be looked at and addressed as we collate and review the responses submitted by you – the members of this Grand Jurisdiction – to the Grand Lodge survey in assisting in the development of a "5-Year Strategic Plan". My brothers, I cannot express appropriately the gratitude that we have for your candid responses to our survey. Through your actions, we now have a clearer understanding of where we as your Grand Lodge leadership need to direct our energies in assisting the individual lodges and the fraternity as a whole rise to a place of prominence within the Masonic and profane communities.

In the "September/October/November" quarterly edition of the FREEMASON, I wrote that the Masonic Education, the Leadership, the Public Relations, and the Youth Committees, along with the Grand Lodge Charities Board of Managers, were endeavoring to bring forth "new" ideas to enhance "individual and fraternal Masonic growth" within this jurisdiction. Many of your responses to the survey are closely aligned with these "new" ideas while others will undoubtedly lead to more avenues of reflection and consideration as we endeavor to formulate a "5-Year Strategic Plan" to guide this Grand Jurisdiction into the future.

This "5-Year Strategic Plan" that we (the Grand Council and the "Plan" Committee) are working on will be an outline or guide, if you will, that shall in essence give the administration of your Grand Lodge a means of establishing a consistent direction, the goal of which is to align and maintain continuity within the Grand Line as we progress from one Grand Master to the next and onward with little or no deviation "either to the right or to the left and having eternity in view."

The "Plan" itself will not, nor can it be, "cast in stone." It must – as a living document – be fluid in nature, and as a result will need to be revisited periodically in order to continue to function to its fullest potential. More on this as it progresses. Once again, we thank all who have responded to our request for information via the "5-Year Strategic Plan" survey form. We truly value your input in this important undertaking.

While penning this my last message in this publication as Grand Master, I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to publicly – in print – thank everyone for their collective efforts and assistance in continuing to move this jurisdiction in a positive direction. In an earlier issue, I mentioned that old adage which states – "that no one can do it alone, it takes a village" or in this case a TEAM – that’s T-E-A-M in capital letters. That it was incumbent on ALL of us to work together as a TEAM to produce a successful outcome. I truly believe that we have, as a TEAM, had a successful year and I thank you for all your efforts on behalf of this Grand Jurisdiction.

Whether you served this jurisdiction as a Grand Lodge Line Officer or as a Grand Lodge Committee member, each and every one of you was an integral participant this year and your assistance in all areas was and is truly appreciated.

Moving on to the Grand Lodge Office Staff: Maria, Diane, Marcee and Dave. It has been a real joy to get to know you and work with you. There has never been a dull moment this year. Whatever I asked of you, either directly or through the Grand Secretary, you were always ready and willing to comply with to the best of your ability. You are an important part of the TEAM and I thank you heartily.

The inclusive Grand Council. Brethren, thank you so much for what you do for The Grand Jurisdiction of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Your counsel has been extraordinary, it has been my pleasure to work with you and you have made my load lighter as I have toiled in the quarry this year. R∴W∴ Keith P. Moan, my Grand Marshal. Brother Keith, I am so proud to call you Brother. You have been a "sounding board", a counselor, a confidant and above all a friend. Our travels from the Southern District to where we are today have brought us together in a way that might not have ever happened had it not been for our involvement in this "Gentle Craft." Thank you for saying yes to the journey nine years ago when I approached you to be my Master of Ceremonies. Thank you, my Brother.

Finally, and certainly not the least – YOU – the brethren who make up the membership of this Grand Jurisdiction. Without you and your dedication to this "Gentle Craft", none of what we do or what Freemasonry stands for would be possible. With Freemasonry first in your hearts and by your carrying the tenets of our institution out into the profane world in all your daily actions, you are the foundation on which this fraternity continues to build upon and grow. MY BROTHERS – THANK YOU!!! As always, may the Supreme Architect of the Universe bless and keep you and yours. Please, brethren, remember those less fortunate, and do as you are able to comfort them and relieve their distress.

Fraternally yours,
Robert B. Ellston
Grand Master