Grand Master's Address November 2020
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Grand Master's Address November 2020
17 November 2020
This afternoon we should be gathering in Edinburgh for the Half-Yearly Muster of Great Priory, exactly eight months after our Annual Muster on 17 March 2020.
When we met in March, we knew that there was something strange afoot but not exactly what or what the implications of it were to be. Some Fratres cautiously and understandably sent their apologies for absence but the whole Covid-19 pandemic had not yet developed to what it has become and although there were some restrictions coming into being, we were still able to legally gather in groups of up to 500 people. Little did we know that we would be the last full masonic meeting in Freemasons’ Hall in 2020 and that within just a few days we would be in lock down, that our lives and movement would be restricted and that masonic activity would eventually be suspended throughout the world with no certainty as to when it could resume. We will certainly remember 2020!
I must confess that I had what I now realise to be the vain hope that we were just going into an early summer recess and that we would all be back to normal by the autumn. We had booked to go to Australia to install the three District Grand Priors and we were looking forward to this winter season when we would be celebrating significant anniversaries of several of our Preceptories as well as visiting various others. Alas none of that was to be but, be assured, these celebrations are only on hold – they will happen.
I had a Zoom meeting with the most of the Scottish District Grant Priors in August and I was and continue to be hugely encouraged and grateful for all of the work that is going on to make sure that we continue to keep in contact with each other, to look after each other and as far as is possible keep the interest in our Order alive. The resourcefulness and imagination of all of you is outstanding. Grand Secretary has also been receiving or is seeking similar reports from our District Grand Priors and Preceptories overseas who are working equally hard within the restrictions imposed by their own governments.
As far as I am aware, we have not lost any Fratres to Covid-19 (if I am wrong please let Grand Secretary know) although I know that some of you have lost some close to you. To those of you who have suffered loss either because of Covid-19 or for any other reason you have our sympathies and support.
Unfortunately, I am unable to say when we will be able to return to normal (that is pre-March, 2020) gatherings. As you know in August the Heads of the Scottish Masonic Orders formally suspended all activity until 31 December 2020 but that was only reflecting what was then the law of the land. We have agreed to meet in early January 2021 to review the position but I do not see much movement since even if we get to Tier 0 in the Scottish Government’s current system, we will still be restricted to a maximum of 8 people from not more than 3 households being able to meet together indoors.
Also, if you think of the configuration of many of our meeting places, they do not lend themselves to social distancing and then there is the cost and practicality of the many hygiene requirements that will need to be put in place. Many of you are actively involved in your churches and so you will realise what will probably need to be done before we can even think about meeting again. I do, however, have the determination that we should be able to meet together as soon as possible and Grand Secretary will let you know when we start to see a practical way of safely doing that. Our Preceptories overseas will obviously need to comply with the requirements in their own country before they can meet again.
In the meantime, please keep in contact with each other – there should be no need to have any formal musters of Preceptories or meetings of Committees but should an urgent business or legal need arise please contact Grand Secretary for guidance before arranging any such meeting. As soon as we can foresee the resumption of meetings Grand Secretary will issue instructions as to how we catch up on the business and legal matters that have been missed. Having said that, there is no reason for not having virtual social events, lectures, etc. and as we come into the festive season this would be a good way of involving families as well as other Fratres so please think about it and do it.
A few weeks from now we will celebrate Christmas and then New Year so please take care of your families, yourselves and your Fratres and continue to hope and pray that in 2021 we will turn the corner, the pandemic will be overcome, probably by vaccination, and that we will be able to gather again in our Preceptories and Districts.
Finally, I realise the much of the above has not been very positive but we will get over this. In anticipation of the resumption of the better times ahead I am thinking about ways that we can not only commemorate those whom we have lost during our time apart but also celebrate our deliverance from the pandemic. Grand Prelate and Grand Chaplain are thinking about the spiritual aspects of this and I am thinking about the material or sustainable so watch this space.
With my very best wishes until we are able to meet again.
Yours sincerely and fraternally,
J Stewart Wood