WBro Kevin's original video presentation is located at the end of this article.
In these unprecedented times of national crisis and disruption, I just wanted to reach out to you all as your Provincial Grand Almoner in the Craft.
I am a Peterborough-based Mason and took over as Provincial Grand Almoner from WBro Gerry McLaughlin in February this year. My first two-months have been both challenging and interesting to say the least, as I am sure you will all appreciate.
In recent weeks, your lodge almoners and officers have been working very hard to ensure that every Brother and lodge-lady/widow is being offered appropriate support. As Provincial Grand Almoner, I rely on the almoners and a small but well-trained team to assist me in managing the welfare of the Masonic family in the Province.
We have two Assistant Provincial Grand Almoners: WBro Brian James in the South, and WBro Greg Warman in the North, and they are ably-assisted by eight Local Support Officers (LSOs) who are also trained visiting volunteers for the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Never has the phrase 'every Brother is an Almoner' been more apposite. We are relying on each other to make sure that no Brother, lady or widow slips through the support network, and I thank you all for your diligence in trying to achieve that aim.
To tighten our support to you, the LSOs have been assigned to named lodges and they will have already contacted you as we all begin to comprehend the impact that Coronavirus is having, and will continue to have, on and within our communities. Please cooperate with the LSOs as they are trying to ensure that our Province gives the best possible attention to the welfare of our Brothers, their families and widows.
It is vital that you let us know if you think a Brother or widow is not coping so well. Alert your lodge almoner in the first instance, or if you are the almoner, alert your LSO who will then liaise with me or my assistants to get help where it is needed.
In addition, we have also created a Province-wide 'Brother to Brother' (B2B) scheme, and we are indebted to the New and Young Mason’s Club for offering their support to this initiative. I am extremely grateful to WBro Dan Cooke (Chairman) and the rest of the NHNYMC team for their help, and we now have more than thirty ‘Light Blue’ volunteers on standby to do vital runs for food and medicines or to assist with other welfare needs. We can only do this if we are made aware of specific cases of distress, which is why I have already offered guidance on identifying those Brethren or widows most at risk.
Phoning people is fine, but I would counsel you all to think of the acronym CALL - C-A-L-L - Communicate, Allocate, Liaise, Listen:
- Communicate - Talk to each other regularly
- Allocate – Spread the workload to others in the lodge
- Liaise – Talk to fellow lodge officers, your LSOs and the wider Provincial Almoner team
- Listen – Just because they say “I’m alright”, doesn’t necessarily mean they are
The Brother to Brother' (B2B) scheme has seen some lodges creating simple telephone cascade systems, or social-media-based groups and, where they have the technical capability, even video teleconferencing platforms like Zoom or Skype to help keep in touch with each other.
This has had many positive effects, not least of all allowing us to reach out to other brothers we may not have known so well, and finding new interests and connections that might otherwise never had been realized.
It looks as though we will be socially distancing ourselves for a good while to come, and I am conscious that the initial push to make sure everyone is okay, but may not be sustained if we don’t keep at it and take our role seriously.
Please keep your own spirits up during these challenging times, I am confident that the bonds of Freemasonry in this Province will be strengthened by our current adversity and I am looking forward to meeting many more of you in person once we get back to normal.
An important message to remember is that the Masonic Charitable Foundation is still working on our behalf, but they are asking all referrals and reviews to go to them directly for the time being.
Sadly, we have seen our first Brother succumb to the virus, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. I fear we may lose more Brothers before this is over, but we can minimize the impact of Coronavirus by staying at home and keeping our distance from each other, physically, but not emotionally or spiritually.
I thank you once again for all that you are doing - keep up the good work. We will get through this together and please remember to observe the national imperatives;
- Stay at home
- Protect the NHS
- Save lives
Never forgetting our fraternal foundations of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Keep safe and well, Brethren. Happy did we meet, sorry we've been made to part, but happy we will meet again.
WBro Kevin Mackie
Provincial Grand Almoner