The calendar of Provincial official visits for the masonic year running 8th September 2023 to the 3rd of July 2024 lists ten Lodges that are celebrating significant milestones in their history. These range from a 50th anniversary to a 175th anniversary.
I was fortunate enough to attend United Service Lodge 1428 on Wednesday 27th September, to witness and enjoy the celebration of their 150th anniversary. Due to the expectation of a much larger than normal attendance, they had a dispensation to hold their regular September meeting at the Purbrook Masonic Centre, rather than their usual location of Havant.
The Provincial Grand Master was sadly forced to cancel his planned attendance, at the very last minute, due to sickness. Assistant Provincial Grand Master (APGM) Chris Bayliss competently stepped up to the task, and the official visit proceeded as planned, with a provincial escort of 28.
The temple seats were filled three rows deep to witness the ceremony. Chris Bayliss started the evening by presenting the Worshipful Master with a new lodge tie. This was followed by the presentation of a 40-year certificate to Worshipful Brother Richard Pound, and the presentation of a Grand Lodge certificate to Brother Michael Huggett.
Item 5 on the agenda was to initiate Daniel Easter a 22-year-old Royal Naval engineer (more on this later). Under the well-honed talents of Worshipful master Terry Raby, and his team, the candidate experienced a first-class piece of masonic ritual. The Junior Warden, Brother Matthew Round, delivered an outstanding recital of the Charge after Initiation. The Welcome to Freemasonry booklet was presented to Brother Daniel by the APGM.
Worshipful Brother Roger Smith delivered a superbly well-written and well-researched history of the lodge. This included such details as the number of lodge initiates in 1919, which was 79, and that membership was in excess of 900! There were twelve regular meetings held, and over 50 emergency meetings in order to cope with the ceremonial demands. In stark contrast, membership today stands at 32.
The evening encapsulated the importance of visitors to a lodge and clearly showed the way an evening can be lifted to a higher level when such increased numbers are in attendance. Amongst the many visitors was a group from “The Southeast Big Night Out” who presented the Worshipful Master with a commemorative Plaque.
In between the meeting and festive board, I had the opportunity to speak with the Initiate, Brother Daniel. He briefly explained his job with the Royal Navy and went on to say how he had been around the world a second time with them. I couldn’t resist asking who he had been around the world with on the first occasion, and was surprised when he told me that he was a musician (playing trumpet) playing with a band who had travelled the world competing. It turns out that this band are World Champions in their field of music. Once again, I never cease to be surprised by the people I meet through Masonry.
The atmosphere at the festive board, which dined approximately 100 brethren, was truly wonderful. United Service Lodge were great hosts, and it was encouraging to find out that they have another candidate lined up for initiation. I am sure we all hope that this upward trend continues for them.