The West Kent Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge

 

An Introduction by W. Bro. Kenneth R Lorberg, PSGD, PAsstProvGM

The rank of Provincial Grand Steward was instituted in the last century. It was the most junior and least regarded of Provincial Grand Ranks, but during the late nineteen thirties, the Provincial Grand Master of the old Province of Kent, Lord Cornwallis, re-appraised the rank. and its status within the craft. Eventually, he recommended the Kent Provincial Grand Stewards should form themselves into a Provincial Grand Stewards' Lodge and that in future, the rank be awarded as a mark of distinction.

 

Lord Cornwallis envisaged a band of enthusiastic and dedicated young Freemasons who would, by reason of their ability and Masonic track record, prove to be active servants of their province. They would be brethren likely to progress further within our organisation and, in all probability, be those suited to active rank when the time came to consider them for higher Provincial office.

 

Bearing in mind the momentous circumstances then prevailing, the formation of The Kent Provincial Grand Stewards’ Lodge No 5866 was delayed until 1943.

 

The nineteen forties were of course war years, when military honours were a feature of daily life. In such familiar terms Lord Comwallis said the award of a Provincial Stewards rank equated to the award of a DSO in Freemasonry.

Widespread acceptance of innovation in Freemasonry is often a slow process. Some Provinces, quickly saw the advantages of adopting Lord Cornwallis's ideas. Others, took years to adapt, and this is the reason why Provinces appoint and regard their Stewards in different ways. Fortunately, the majority now adopt the same criteria as that established in West Kent.

 

Once a Steward always a Steward. The implication being that no matter how exalted a brother eventually may become, he is always entitled, and encouraged, to wear the red apron in our Lodge or when on duty as a Steward.

Provincial Stewards are called upon to assist in a variety of tasks and duties especially when the Provincial Grand Master convenes major assemblies. The most important of these is the annual Provincial Grand Festival in May of each year. On these occasions, Stewards act as ushers; ranging brethren in their proper places, or checking and recording their attendance before they enter the Temple. Some are called upon to man the cloakrooms and ensure brethren fortunate enough to be receiving honours, are directed to their appointed seats. Each and all these tasks are vital to the smooth running of the festival.

 

The year's active Stewards take pride of place in leading the PGM's procession into and from the Temple. Past PGStwds also have prominent places reserved for them on completion of their duties.

Whilst discharging these duties, Stewards work under the direction of the Provincial Grand Secretary and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies and their respective teams, whose task is to undertake the massive organisation required on these occasions.

 

Stewards are also required to assist at such functions as the Provincial Officers Mess of which they may, should they wish, become members.

 

Individual Stewards may also be called upon to assist the Provincial Grand Master and the Executive in other ways, by undertaking specific commissions to assist in the ruling and direction of the Province.

As previously stated, the Kent provincial Grand Stewards' Lodges was consecrated in the 1940's, but with the division of the old Province into East and West Kent, there was need to create the West Kent Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge, No 8565 in 1974.

 

As its name implies, membership of the Stewards' Lodge is confined to those who have been Invested as Provincial Grand Stewards of West Kent and those distinguished brethren who were appointed Kent Stewards under the old regime.

 

The Lodge is not a Past Masters Lodge, for the Provincial Grand Master may appoint any brother whom he deems to be worthy of the honour. In consequence, a few of our members have never been through the Chair of a Lodge. Thus the Lodge has the right, like any other Lodge, to Pass and Raise Candidates on behalf of another Lodge, when properly requested to so do. Some Provincial Stewards Lodges do in fact work degrees quite regularly to relieve overburdened Lodges, but so far West Kent Stewards' have not been called on for such a task.

Most of the work in Lodge, other than the usual Masonic proceedings, is to attend various lectures, often given by the most distinguished of Masonic speakers. Though subjects of a non Masonic nature are sometimes included in the lecture programme.

 

The 'Home' of West Kent Stewards is the Masonic Hall, Oakley House, but it is deemed to be a 'travelling' Lodge and therefore it may meet at any of the other Masonic Halls in the Province large enough to hold its active members and their guests.

 

New members and visitors are often baffled by some of the Lodge proceedings. Unlike a Private Lodge where there is often a well defined progression towards the Masters Chair, in this Lodge, the General Committee has the task of recommending to the brethren the name of a suitable Master Elect. Such is the importance and standing of this Mastership, the recommendation is always referred to the Provincial Grand Master (who is a member of the Lodge) for approval. The Master Elect selects his officers from among those who regularly support and attend the Lodge.

Because the Lodge has a large number of members, voting procedures are somewhat different to those in Private Lodges. In this Lodge, only the Master and his Wardens take part in a ballot requiring the use of a ballot box. Should a member wish to exercise his right to vote, he is welcome to do so. This is a widespread practice in Past Masters and other Steward's Lodges. It arises from the large numbers attending meetings and the inordinate length of time it would take to ballot every member present.

 

The West Kent Stewards are closely associated with other Stewards' Lodges in neighbouring Provinces. Each year the members elect, by a show of hands, which of our neighbour's reigning Masters and Secretaries will be invited to our meetings as honoured guests. Usually there are fourteen Lodges we invite, including the Grand Stewards' Lodge and the Z and Scribe E of the West Kent Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter. They in turn reciprocate the invitations. All member's Lodge dues incorporate a small sum to cover this entertainment. It is by visiting that we keep in close contact and get to know our opposite numbers. It also provides our Secretaries with a good source of speakers for future meetings and ideas on a whole range of matters of mutual interest and concern. Obviously neither their, nor our own W.Masters and Secretaries are able to attend all meetings, but it is one of the more pleasant duties which are undertaken. Without these contacts, the Stewards lodges could become very introverted and isolated.

 

We meet three times each year; on the fourth Saturday in February and October and the second Saturday in June. Usually the Lodge meets in the morning and concludes with a luncheon. Thus we reduce the amount of time spent away from our families on Saturdays.