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Grand Master's Message

Inaugural Address
By Robert J. Bateman
Right Worshipful Grand Master
of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania
Dec. 27, 2013


It is a great honor for me to serve as Grand Master of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania and my privilege to serve each and every Pennsylvania Freemason and his family for the next two years. I am committed to assisting our great fraternity in the future, whenever and wherever needed.

First and foremost, I would like to thank my family for all of their support throughout my journey in Freemasonry. I would also like to thank Bro. William Slater II, R.W. Past Grand Master, for appointing me District Deputy Grand Master for the 36th Masonic District, and Bro. Stephen Gardner, R.W. Past Grand Master, for bringing my name forward to be considered as R.W. Junior Grand Warden. I must congratulate Bro. Jay W. Smith, R.W. Past Grand Master, for his dedication these past two years as he continued to work toward securing the future of this great fraternity.

It is my belief that every organization and its membership needs to have goals to succeed and survive. These goals should encompass what the organization stands for and believes in and should be easy to achieve. Our goals begin with family involvement, interesting meetings, membership retention and growth, community and youth involvement, education, retention of past programs, the creation of new programs, and yes, even some changes. We have a plan to achieve these goals, and I hope that all of you will join with your Grand Lodge officers in bringing them to fruition.

Our initiatives for 2014 Ė 2015 will encompass the following:

  1. Family Involvment

    Freemasonry has always been a family organization, but we can do more to live up to that reputation. Hectic work schedules can leave many families little time to spend together. We need to begin inviting and involving our families in our meetings and presenting programs that all will enjoy. By including our families in lodge activities, they will have an opportunity to build new friendships, rekindle old ones and enjoy fellowship together.

    Every lodge in our jurisdiction should include families in two family nights after lodge, one in the spring and one in the fall.

    All Masonic achievements should be celebrated with families and guests in a public forum. This should include, but not be limited to: Masonic Service Emblem Awards; Masonic birthdays; brethren receiving certificates, citations, and Masonic Achievement Awards; and Officer Installations. Other family programs should include CHIP, fire prevention and bullying prevention.

    Our families are the keystone of our lives, and it's about time we let them know that they are the keystone of our fraternity, as well.

  2. Lodge Meetings

    Let's take a look at our meetings and see what we can do to make them more appealing through various new ways to build interest in the lodge.

    Worshipful Masters are encouraged to use opening and closing charges to run the business of the lodge at all their stated meetings. This will leave more time for fellowship and an earlier trip home for those who don't like to travel late at night.

    No degrees will be conferred at stated meetings without the District Deputy Grand Master's approval.

    A jacket and tie will be worn at all Masonic lodge stated, special and extra meetings, lodge banquets, funeral services and other Masonic occasions requiring business attire. If a brother shows up at a lodge meeting and is not properly attired, he is not to be turned away from attending lodge that evening. He should, however, be reminded in the most tender manner as to what the proper attire is for the next time he attends a lodge meeting.

    Since traveling at night, or even work schedules, may interfere with lodge attendance, I am requesting a Day Lodge be formed from an existing lodge in every Masonic district throughout Pennsylvania. This will assist those brethren who wish to attend lodge meetings but who are unable to attend them in the evenings.

  3. Membership Retention and Growth

    Membership retention and growth over the last few years in Pennsylvania Masonry has ebbed and flowed. We must remember that while increasing membership is always important, retaining our members is essential.

    Through personal contact, the Retention Committee will go back three years in its records and try to contact all the members who have resigned or been suspended for nonpayment of dues. The committee will attempt to find out why our brothers have left, and what it would take for them to renew their membership. We need to take their concerns seriously and change the way we have been doing business. The Worshipful Master will oversee this committee's progress and make recommendations and changes as needed. The District Deputy Grand Master will keep in close personal contact with all the Worshipful Masters in his district to review the committee's progress, make recommendations and changes as he sees necessary and send a monthly report of his district's progress to the Grand Secretary's Office.

    We need to inform our brethren about our programming, community involvement and the countless programs and opportunities available. We need to let them know that they are still a very important part of our fraternity and that they are not forgotten, but they are sorely missed.

    It is the goal of this administration that every Masonic lodge in Pennsylvania increases membership while maintaining current membership in both 2014 and 2015. Incentives will be given to both lodges and individual brethren who help achieve this goal.

    All first line signers on a petition will receive a sun shade for the windshield of his vehicle as my personal gift. This shade displays the state of Pennsylvania, the Square and Compasses, a telephone number and website for any interested person to get more information. Please use this gift every time you park your vehicle to help spread the light of Pennsylvania Freemasonry.

    We will continue to use selective invitation to bring new members into our beloved fraternity. If every Pennsylvania Mason would be the first line signer on one petition, we would increase our membership considerably, and the number of new Masons would be staggering. The rewards of increased membership could be the difference between healthy lodges versus merging lodges or even lodges going dark.

    There will be a One Day Class in both 2014 and 2015. These One Day Classes are to be run at the regional or district level. All One Day Classes will be governed by the rules that have been used these past few years. Appendant bodies may have a table set up at the One Day Classes.

  4. Programming

    For the next two years, we will continue to use the Call to the Craft Program, the Mentor Program, the Online Masonic Education Program, Random Acts of Kindness/Community Service Initiatives, Change for the Troops (previously called Help for Our Heroes), the Grand Master's Award Program and the Master Builders Award Program.

    The program at all Stated Meetings in May 2014 and 2015 will be for the purpose of honoring and thanking all Masons and non-Masons from the community who serve or who have served as first responders: police, firefighters or EMTs. At the stated meetings in November 2014 and 2015, the program will honor all Masons and non-Masons from the community who are veterans. These programs will be held after the stated meeting closes in an open forum for our families, our honorees and their families, and the community. These ladies and gentlemen put their lives on the line to help protect us in times of danger. Along with our appreciation and admiration, each first responder and veteran attending these meetings will receive a lapel pin as a token of our appreciation for his or her service to the community and our country. These pins are a gift from Grand Lodge. An agenda for each of these events will be sent to every lodge to be included as part of the program for those stated meetings.

    An Eternal Flame will be installed at the Veterans Grove at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown. This Eternal Flame is to pay homage to all veterans who served our country and all those who gave their lives for our freedom. We will be celebrating this event at Autumn Day 2014 (see pp. 16-17 for more information).

  5. Member Benefits

    Membership in Pennsylvania Freemasonry entitles every member and his family to gain access to the vast array of high quality services available at our Masonic Villages. These include retirement living and health care services, whether it be personal care, nursing care, rehabilitation, hospice or specialized care for those with dementia. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, individuals can continue to receive these services for the rest of their lives regardless of their ability to pay, should the need arise.

    In addition, membership includes the services provided by the Masonic Outreach Program. Individuals and families throughout the United States seeking information, direction and education can find the assistance they need through the Outreach Program. Staff can help you understand what services and resources may be available and refer you to the appropriate community services, such as personal care and skilled care facilities, government and state programs, caregiver support, supplemental income, transportation, senior centers, Medical Assistance and many others. While the majority of services are available to the community, the Outreach Program has designated the following services for Pennsylvania Freemasons and their families only: a Panel of Attorneys, a Finance Panel and Home Assistance.

    As an added benefit, the Masonic Blood and Organ Donor Club of Pennsylvania provides a valuable service to our fraternity. Each member of this club, his spouse and all children up to 18 years of age can receive blood without any limitation on the number of units of blood, and there are no geographic limitations.

  6. Masonic Youth Group Involvement

    Another way to continue building our future is through our desire to get involved with our youth groups. Freemasonry needs to use the resources we have. Our lodges are a safe place where Masonic and local youth groups can come and be mentored. Every Masonic district in this Commonwealth that has a DeMolay Chapter, Job's Daughters Bethel or Rainbow for Girls Assembly will appoint at least three members of the lodge to attend their meetings, get involved with their programs and support their dreams.

    The Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens of the lodge, as well as District Deputy Grand Masters, are encouraged to attend the meetings of our youth groups whenever possible. I encourage districts that do not have a Masonic youth group to attend the meetings of a youth group in a district close to them. If your district does not have a Masonic youth group, consider sponsoring one, or better yet, all three.

  7. Community Service

    We need to make it a priority to visit our brethren and/or their ladies who may be home bound or live at one of our Masonic Villages or at another senior care community. Every Lodge Secretary will publish and distribute in the February lodge notice a list of these brethren and/or their ladies so members of the lodge can visit, call or send cards and letters to them. Letís spread the cement of brotherly love and affection to those who really need it.

    Every lodge building will sponsor at least one open house in 2014 and 2015 to increase our visibility within our local communities.

    Through our presence in the community, we can show how Freemasonry builds character and is a driving force for good. Letís get involved in community activities and encourage our neighbors to get involved in Masonic activities.

    We should be cooperating with the local food banks, marching in local parades, participating in events that will help make our communities safer or sponsoring a youth sports team, just to name a few. All of these efforts will help to modernize our image.

  8. Masonic Education

    Education is VERY important in Freemasonry. For the next two years, there will be a MANDATORY Wardens Workshop for all Senior and Junior Wardens, Past Masters and anyone else who is planning to become Worshipful Master of his lodge. All District Deputy Grand Masters are required to attend and support the workshop in their region.

    If we want to keep our Masonic heritage intact, it should be the goal of every lodge officer to learn our ritual. There is nothing more beautiful, when conferred properly, than our Masonic ritual. Since we have had five years to use the ritual manuals for learning the work, it is now time to take the next step in the requirements to become Worshipful Master or Senior or Junior Warden. Every brother who is planning to be elected and installed as Worshipful Master of the lodge beginning Dec. 27, 2014, will be required, before his election and installation, to be certified by a District School of Instruction in the business of the lodge and two degrees. All brethren who are planning to be elected and installed as a Senior or Junior Warden of the lodge beginning Dec. 27, 2014, will be required, before their election and installation, to be certified by a District School of Instruction in the business of the lodge.

    Past Masters can be elected and installed as Worshipful Master or Senior or Junior Warden of the lodge again without the two degree requirement, but must attend the Wardens Workshop.

Freemasonry is ours to share with the world; itís not to be kept behind closed and locked doors. We are obligated to ensure that the future of our Craft is left in good hands and that our Masonic history be written by Freemasons, not by historians. Share the experiences and knowledge you have gained during your years in this fraternity with others who are seeking Masonic enlightenment.

If we want Freemasonry to grow, we should nurture it with brotherly love and affection by using the blueprints and designs from the past, the tools of the present and our dreams to build the future for our great fraternity. Brethren, we are the builders of our Masonic future, and it is about time we all get to work.

God bless the United States of America, God bless our great fraternity, and God bless all of you.

Sincerely & Fraternally,
R.W. Grand Master