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Our Provincial Grand Master Leads The Membership Challenge From The Front.

Since the Pro Grand Master announced the Membership Challenge at the end of 2022, it has been actively promoted across the Province of Somerset by the PGM and all his officers.

Many Lodges were quick to rise to the Challenge by making themselves even more readily visible to their local communities, with some very interesting and encouraging results!

The Fidelity and Sincerity Lodge at Wellington secured four candidates through their involvement with the 2023 local summer fair. The Lodge of Agriculture at Yatton enjoyed similar success through its involvement with the local rugby club. The Lodge of Prudence and Industry at Chard now has fourteen candidates as a result of monthly informal coffee mornings where members are encouraged to bring a friend. There has been quite an amazing turnaround for these and other Lodges.

There are, however, still a few who doubt the necessity of the Challenge.

A response heard several times this year when we talk of increasing membership is, “I believe in quality not quantity” The implication being that seeking out candidates somehow produces unsuitable members.

PGM, Ray Guthrie’s response to this is – “There is no reason why we can’t have quality and quantity.” Lodges do have failures with some candidates because they haven’t interviewed them properly. How many candidates are rejected at the interview stage? Do Lodges ever say “I don’t think this guy will fit with us?”

Time to look at the Members’ Pathway!!!

Somerset swiftly adopted a proactive implementation of Members’ Pathway through numerous interactive presentations to the membership throughout 2020. The message was, and continues to be, upheld in our Lodges through active support from the Membership and Mentoring Officers appointed to each of the five areas within the county.

The successes of UGLE’s National Digital Marketing Campaigns (NDMC) via Facebook were also recognised whereupon, during 2023, Somerset funded two of their own, for one month, and then three months. These alone were responsible for over 70 Applicants!

2024 will see yet more Provincial activity, promoting the Challenge in Somerset by the introduction of Membership Challenge Visits (MCVs), where each of the 84 Lodges will be visited during the year by the PGM, his Deputy or one of the Assistant PGMs, together with a supporting team of Provincial Officers.

The purpose of the visits is to explain to the Brethren of each Lodge, the exact nature of the Challenge for Somerset in general and for their own Lodges in particular, and why it is vitally important that every Brother should be involved in its implementation.

The PGM has requested that Lodges allow the attendant Provincial Ruler a half-hour slot at the beginning of the Lodge meeting to make the presentation. This will include….

a) An overview of the decline in individual membership numbers across the Province during the last fifteen years, down from 4000 to 3000, and the possible reasons for it.

b) How the Lodge receiving the presentation has performed during that same period.

c) How the Lodge can increase its membership, particularly through active consideration of the four core areas of the Members’ Pathway, viz, to Plan, Attract, Engage and Retrieve.

PGM. Ray Guthrie delivering the first Membership Challenge Visit presentation to St Alphege Lodge, Bath.
The Festive Board at St Alphege Lodge, following the inaugural MCV, was great fun for all concerned.

Two pop-up banners are used at the presentations, one to emphasise the problems we face, and the other, some of the potential solutions already identified to help solve them. Members of the visiting team are then dispersed throughout each table during the Festive Boards to actively encourage debate regarding all aspects of The Challenge.

Each Provincial Ruler is responsible for the provision of continued help and encouragement for the Lodges to which he delivered the MCV presentation.

It is intended that the visits will be repeated in 2025 to evaluate the progress made.

MEGS. Ray Guthrie delivering the first of the Chapter MCV presentations to Connaught Chapter, Midsomer Norton.

Membership Challenge Visits have also been introduced to Royal Arch Chapters which have also seen a decline in membership numbers during the same period. The issues faced by Somerset’s 29 Chapters are, of course, somewhat different to those faced by Lodges, but are known to be inextricably linked.

Encouragingly, Somerset’s Chapters have already demonstrated a very positive response to the Membership Challenge, with the number of Companions in the Province actually rising by 1% during 2023; the first time there has been an increase for many years.

The first Craft MCV presentation was made by the PGM, Ray Guthrie, to St Alphege Lodge, No. 4095, in Bath, on Saturday 6th January. It was very well received and prompted a lively Q&A session which then continued at the Festive Board, as was hoped.

The evening also included the Lodge performing an excellent double Second Degree ceremony.
New Fellowcrafts, Brothers Clarence and Amit seen here with members of St Alphege Lodge,
PGM, Ray Guthrie and members of the Provincial Team.
That evening also included a very enjoyable Exaltation ceremony, performed by the Chapter, welcoming Richard Gilson (centre) into Connaught Chapter, seen here with the Chapter’s principal officers, MEGS, Ray Guthrie and members of the Provincial Chapter Team.

The first of the Chapter MCV presentations was made a few days later, on Tuesday 9th January, again delivered by Ray, to Connaught Chapter, No. 3573, at Midsomer Norton, with a similar reception and response.

The Province of Somerset looks forward to reporting sustainable future growth, through the dedication of those already involved in the planning and delivery of The Membership Challenge, supported by the wholehearted and pragmatic participation of all of our members.

Thanks to Provincial Photographer, Les Pickersgill, for taking the photos at Bath Masonic Hall.

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