Most Worshipful Grand Master Gary S. Kaufman's message in The Freemason Magazine, December 2020 issue.
2020 so far has been anything but ordinary! All of us have felt the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, many of us have missed activities and events we had planned for the year. I have to say, I am no different. I have taken an inventory of the events and Grand Master’s travel planned for the year and cannot believe that pretty much everything has been cancelled. Yet I am looking at what we have accomplished as a Craft so far, and I am pleased with our progress under the circumstances.
We established Zoom lodge meetings in May and returned to in-person/hybrid lodge meetings in the summer. Several lodges conferred degree work and welcomed new initiates into our Craft. In all, we keep moving ahead despite restrictions.
In August, I instructed our Junior Grand Warden, R∴W∴Douglas Grant, to put three-degree teams together to confer the degrees on consecutive Saturdays in September. I felt this was necessary as there were many candidates in lodges who were not moving forward. The degrees were very well presented and successful. We raised 42 new Master Masons. I thank R∴W∴Grant and all the participants for making this program some of the best degree work I have witnessed!
A new program led by R∴W∴Robert Ellston, with participation from R∴W∴Doug Grant, R∴W∴Mike Southern and R∴W∴Jack Anderson, as well as others, is finally taking shape. Over a year ago, R∴W∴Ellston initiated a revamping of the investigation process used for prospective candidates. Did you know there is an Investigation Manual to guide the process? The manual was written in the 1950s along with the investigation form that many lodges are still using today. The manual and forms have been updated along with the process. The process to be implemented this winter, will require each lodge to have a standing committee for investigations. More information will be coming out on this program shortly.
Along with the investigation program is a program that is now taking shape as well. One of the faults of so many Grand Lodges is follow-up on genuine inquiries. We are no different. The program headed by R∴W∴Jack Anderson, R∴W∴Mike Southern and others designed a process for in which inquiries come in, are assigned to a District Deputy Grand Master and then disseminated down to the lodge. We are hoping that this will cause all of us to follow up in a timely manner and contact the inquirer as soon as possible. The specifics of this program, if not out already, will be out shortly.
In the month of December, keep an eye out on I-95 around Thurber’s Avenue in Providence. If the plan does not get derailed, you will see a “Not Just a Man. A Mason.” billboard. I am excited for this is the first time the Grand Lodge has advertised using this format. Other jurisdictions have run successful billboard campaigns. If the first run is successful, more billboards will be put up around the state. The Grand Lodge is working hard to bring in new prospects. Using these tools, we should be able to grow our membership more than ever before.
Leadership training has continued with the latest event on November 7. There will be others each month of the year. I hope that the officers of each lodge are taking advantage of this wonderful training opportunity to learn valuable skills necessary to run effectively and efficiently operate a lodge. We have not had training program in a while, so I know everyone in the officer chairs today will benefit from this program. To make it convenient and because of the Covid-19 restrictions, we felt the Zoom format would be best.
Under my direction, the Public Relations Committee has lead the charge to get Freemasonry known in Rhode Island and under the direction of R∴W∴Jack Anderson and with the assistance of R∴W∴Mike Southern, they designed and published the first issue of the “Grand East Bulletin.” This publication will supplement the RI Freemason and is used to announce new programs and offer articles to promote Masonic discussions. Look for the next issue soon. Thank you R∴W∴Anderson and R∴W∴Southern for your tireless efforts that you perform for this Grand Lodge. It is the hard working behind the scenes brothers that keep this Craft running. I certainly appreciate all your efforts.
The Board of Managers of Masonic Grand Lodge Charities, Inc. had its Annual Meeting at the Semi-Annual Communication of Grand Lodge on November 21. Lead by R∴W∴Stephan Saraidarian as chairman, the board accomplished a multitude of projects. A mission statement was written for the board to follow, the Matching Grants Program was given a raise from $1,000 to $2,000, the scholarship policies and application process was revamped, and a new program “Charities in Action Committee” was formed to interface directly with local communities. Thank-you R∴W∴Saraidarian for your enthusiasm and strong leadership this past year.
As I write this, we are again wondering what the immediate future will bring. The numbers of Covid-19 cases are on the rise and there is talk of new restrictions. I know that the cancellation of the Fall Festival was just another disappointment. The social side of our Craft is important to all of us. I continue to plan for other events in the year. Baring restrictions, I hope to have an event soon.
As we continue to hold our Craft together through this pandemic, I am reminded of a quote I heard a number of years ago, “We are headed into the eye of the storm…….I just don’t know what we will look like when the storm is over.”
STAY STRONG MY BROTHERS AND STAY COMMITTED TO THIS WONDERFUL FRATERNITY!
Gary S. Kaufman
M∴W∴ Grand Master