Report on the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Provincial Priory of Surrey

Following processions of the Provincial Prelate accompanied by the processional cross and the Provincial Almoner, a deputation from the Order of the Knights of Malta, and distinguished guests from other Provinces, the Right Eminent Provincial Prior, attended by the Very Eminent Provincial Sub-Prior and Provincial Officers of the year, entered in procession into Provincial Priory.

After a brief welcome to all those present, The Provincial Prior, R.E.Kt. Michael James Banbury opened a Chapter of the Provincial Priory of Surrey at 11.00am. He was then proclaimed by the Provincial Herald, E.Kt. Garry Lewis and saluted by all those present.
The Provincial Registrar, E.Kt. Peter Brown, read out the names of those Brother Knights who had passed to the Holy City during the preceding year. The Provincial Prelate, V.E.Kt. Rev. David Allonby OBE, conducted a requiem with all present standing in silent tribute to the memory of departed friends.

The Provincial Prior warmly welcomed distinguished guests from up and down the country including Somerset, Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Middlesex, North and East Yorkshire, Oxford, Bucks and Berkshire, Kent, London, Leicester and Rutland, Devon & Cornwall, Hampshire & Isle of Wight, Essex and Sussex, together with representatives of many of the other Masonic Orders in Surrey.

The Roll of Provincial Officers and also of the 17 Preceptories in Surrey was called by the Provincial Vice-Chancellor, V.E.Kt. Chris Cradock, with a good attendance being obvious from both.

The Provincial Vice-Chancellor presented the Minutes of last year’s annual meeting and also his own detailed report of the Province during the preceding year. Both were accepted and approved and the V.E.Kt. Chris was duly thanked for all his efforts during what had proved to be an exceptionally difficult year for him. Within a week of last year’s annual meeting he had suffered an aortic aneurism. Thanks to the sterling efforts of the medical staff at St Mary’s, Paddington and his own determination he had pulled through and was now restored to full health.

The Provincial Treasurer, E.Kt. Graham Best presented his accounts for the year to 31st August 2013. These transpired to be entirely satisfactory and following his promise not to increase the dues during the coming year, he was re-elected as Provincial Treasurer.

Elections then took place to serve on the Provincial Committee, E.Kts. Tony Mullard and Dennis May and to be account auditors, E.Kts. Neil Bonter and Paul Kerswell. Finally, to end the business part of the meeting, the Provincial Vice-Chancellor proposed a donation of £3,000 to the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem which was seconded by the Provincial Treasurer and enthusiastically endorsed by all present.

The Provincial Prior announced that he had great pleasure in reappointing V.E.Kt. Pat Crossan as his Provincial Sub-Prior for the coming year. He thanked V.E.Kt. Pat for all his hard work and support during the past year and looked forward to working with him in the coming year. The Provincial Sub-Prior was then proclaimed by the Provincial Herald and saluted by the Knights of the Province.

The Provincial Vice-Chancellor then called out the names of those Knights who the Provincial Prior had appointed to hold Provincial Office in the coming year. Each Knight was conducted to the Provincial Prior who invested him with the authority of that Office. A full list of all those appointed can been seen elsewhere on this web site under the heading of ‘Provincial Officers of the Year’.

The Provincial Prior thanked the outgoing Commander and Deputy Commander of his Bodyguard, E.Kts Nigel Harding and Adrian Bean respectively, and appointed E.Kts. Peter Vosser and Mike Ellis to those Offices. Under the direction of the outgoing Commander and Deputy Commander, the Bodyguard formed up for inspection by the Provincial Prior. Retiring and new members of the Bodyguard were presented with their certificates and the Provincial Prior thanked all members for their unstinting service during the past year.

The Provincial Prior then presented his report on the past year, the Province’s Sesquicentenary year:

Provincial Prior’s Address
Brother Knights, the past year has been a very special one for us because it has seen our celebration of 150 years since the Province was consecrated on 18th February 1864. As those of you who were fortunate enough to attend will remember, the celebration took the form of a special commemorative Church Service of Rededication and Thanksgiving held in the magnificent chapel at Charterhouse School. All those involved in the planning had done an excellent job in producing a form of service which really gave the whole afternoon a sense of celebration and occasion. We were delighted to have with us the Very High and Right Eminent Great Seneschal, as well as Provincial Priors from our neighbouring Provinces and representatives from most of the other Masonic Orders in Surrey. For me the most memorable part was standing in front of the altar rail to receive our guests followed by a deputation from each of the Preceptories parading the banner of their Preceptory. DVDs are still available from the Provincial Vice-Chancellor for those of you who would like a record of this wonderful occasion.

The organising committee set up to make all the arrangements under the chairmanship of the Provincial Sub-Prior not only did an exceptional job with the ceremonial but also in organising mementoes of the occasion in the form of ties and lapel badges and also some very nice gifts to the past and present priors of the Province and the Great Seneschal. As I’ve already mentioned, a film was made of the whole service and many photos taken which can be viewed on the Provincial web site. I also asked our Provincial Almoner, David de Ville to update the Provincial history which he had so excellently produced and had published in 2000.

To further celebrate the sesquicentenary, a Hog Roast has been planned for next Sunday – not tomorrow. Unlike in the past few years when a BBQ has been held in my garden, this will be in a field near South Godstone, without the restrictions that size and a deep pond imposed on my property. There will be side shows of various activities for visitors to take part in, put on by the Preceptories in the Province. I understand stocks, stool and wet sponges will also be available for visitors to show their appreciation of some of their fellow knights – no names mentioned! Also displays where, it is hoped new members from the Craft and Chapter might be encouraged to join the Order. Tickets are still available and there are plenty of application forms around the Hall. The more members and visitors we have the merrier!

We also have our biennial Church Service coming up on Sunday 12th October. This year it’s the turn of the East of the Province to host it and we have booked ‘All Saints Church’ in the centre of Banstead and next door to a large car park. Let’s not forget that we are a Christian Order. We profess both before and when we join that we believe in the Trinitarian Christian Faith. It is right that every two years we should gather together and reaffirm that faith in God and our commitment to the Order. I personally would have liked it to be more frequent.

Brother Knights, this will be my last annual meeting and address to you. I have been most fortunate over the past seven years to have round me the most wonderful support team. I can quite honestly say that no Provincial Prior could have asked for better. Over that time there have been few changes but extra people have been brought in to help the executive and have proved themselves excellent prospects for the future. This became particularly evident in the team that worked on the sesquicentenary celebrations. My thanks go out to you all: Pat, Chris C and Chris E, Peter, Ian, Hugh, Mark, Mike, Tim and Charles. I do hope I haven’t missed anyone out. You have all been excellent in whatever you have been asked to take on.

I feel I must make special mention here of two of those knights. Very shortly after our last annual meeting Chris Cradock was taken very seriously ill and spent around three months in hospital and in a convalescent home. It was only thanks to the rapid response and wonderful treatment he received that he’s still here with us today. For the preceding six years Chris had been the best Provincial Vice-Chancellor anyone could possible ask for. He provided me, an ex-vice-chancellor myself, with information I didn’t even know I wanted till I got it. Chris had already told me he wanted this current year to be his last as Vice-Chancellor and we had fixed up between ourselves who would take over from him. So when he was taken ill, I merely had to ask Peter Brown if he would take over. Peter agreed and an excellent choice Chris made. Peter, you are a worthy successor!

I haven’t mentioned the Surrey Bodyguard. I never cease to be amazed at the support the Province receives from them. We see them put on excellent displays at our annual meetings, Church Services and full team Provincial visits. They are always willing to help at the Provincial social events, all this and regular practices in their own time and at their own expense. They have been excellently led over the past three years by Nigel and Adrian, ably assisted by firstly Doug and then Miguel as Registrars. Thank you most sincerely, Nigel and Adrian, and all the members of the Bodyguard for your help and support. The time has now come for a change. The three year term for the Commander and his Deputy is up and I have today appointed Peter and Mike to those two offices. I hope and expect the Bodyguard will continue at the same high level as we have come to expect in the past.

Some of the members of the Bodyguard have formed themselves into a group called the ‘Coeur de Lion ‘detachment under the enthusiastic leadership of Neil and Eddie. They have gathered into the group a number of fellow enthusiastic Knights, with the aim of supporting Preceptories that are in trouble attendance wise. They are also researching very old rituals with the aim of demonstrating them within and without the Province, thus raising money for the Eye Hospital. If you are interested in becoming a member, probably the easiest way is to contact the Vice-Chancellor or any member of the Bodyguard who will put you in touch with Neil and/or Eddie. From my point of view they are doing a magnificent job in supporting Preceptories with attendance problems. We all know how much difference a good attendance makes to any meeting and Coeur de Lion are helping to provide that difference.

Brother Knights of Surrey, there is one thing we can give ourselves a big pat on the back for and that is our contributions to the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. In the seven years from 2000 to 2007 we contributed a total of £7511 at an average of £1073 per year. Since then, over the past six years (I don’t have the figures yet for 2014) we have donated £27042, an average of £4507 per year. A wonderful effort Brother Knights. Some have asked why we should support this hospital in such a troubled part of the world. We belong to the United, Religious, Military and Masonic Order of the Temple and also of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta. The first hospital in Jerusalem was already in existence at the time of the crusades, the Knights Templar and the Knights of St John. A monastic brotherhood of Hospitallers, which could be considered the nucleus of the Order of St. John, was created for the purpose of managing the Hospital which was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. And so its connection to the Order of St John has continued right up to this date and our Masonic Order has a long tradition of support for that Order. We are in fact one of their major contributors. There has always been unrest and war in the area and that is as bad now as it has ever been. Eye problems are rife in the area and the Hospital deals with all peoples of whatever race colour or creed and regardless of ability to pay. It may seem a very distant cause to us here in England but that does not make it any the less deserving of our support. As a Province we have made a major improvement to our donations over the past few years but let’s not rest on our laurels. Please do your very best to support your Preceptory charity collections and raffles and the Provincial social events which are invariably in support of the Eye Hospital. You may remember about five years ago we had a representative from the London office of the Order down to talk to us about their activities and, in particular, their regular giving scheme. I’ve always been very disappointed with the response to that scheme but it still exists and for those of you who would like to donate a small amount on a regular basis, your Preceptory Charity Reps have all the information and forms.

Brother Knights, thank you for listening and thank you for your support and friendship over my past twenty consecutive years as Vice-Chancellor, Sub-Prior and Prior.

This was followed by thanks to the Knights of Nutfield Preceptory for all their hard work as Banner Preceptory for this year’s meeting and gladly accepted the offer of Gascoigne Preceptory to perform the same task next year.

Following the closing remarks of the new Provincial Vice-Chancellor concerning apologies and expressing thanks to all those who had helped him with the preparation of the meeting, alms were collected while the Templar’s Hymn was sung.

The Chapter of Provincial Priory was then closed by the R.E. Provincial Prior.

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