On a previous occasion, the members of Andrew Lodge No 3328, who in preparation for their imminent installation meeting were sharpening their ceremonial skills for the expected and intended visit of the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Phil Gunning, only to hear that due to a clash of diarised events, Phil was unfortunately unable to make the actual installation meeting.
However, after a later communication between the lodge secretary Steve Hayes and Phil Gunning resurrected the anticipation of an impending visit by Phil saying he would be delighted to visit the lodge and more likely, if there was a ceremony, indeed there was and indeed Phil was in attendance on a private visit.
The meeting held at Elm Bank Masonic Hall in Eccles was in good attendance, not only by its numerous members and visitors alike, Phil was accompanied by Eccles Group Chairman Dave Walmsley along with Craig Sutton (Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies).
WM Christian Hansford having opening the lodge rose to his feet in the time honoured and respectful tradition of offering Phil the gavel of the lodge. Chris said that he’d heard that Phil was quite good at ceremonies and in anticipation, said that he was most pleased to have the opportunity to pass the gavel over. Phil of course accepted the gavel and in humoured response said: “Yes, my ceremonial skills are not bad actually, but much preferer to pass the gavel back and really much preferer to enjoy the rest of the evening sat to Chris’s right hand side.”
The lodge business having been progressed as per the summons, the attention of the evening turned to a certain Mr Stephen Dyson, a candidate outside the door of the lodge room waiting to be admitted to enter upon a new Masonic career.
With the lodge officers in place, the ceremony commenced and Stephen was admitted, what followed was a perfectly balanced well shared ceremony and Stephen was initiated into Freemasonry.
On completion of the ceremony and at the first rising, Dave Walmsley responded on behalf of the grand officers, Dave said he and Phil had experienced an excellent ceremony, ably supported by a good team of officers and congratulated the newly made brother Stephen on his becoming a Freemason.
The lodge business having been closed, the evening then transferred to the festive board where after an excellent meal and beverages were enjoyed, Phil responded to the toast to the grand officers which of course was linked to his name.
Phil said he was delighted to visit Andrew Lodge and had really enjoyed his evening and thanked the lodge for their most welcoming attention. Phil said he had thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and congratulated all the officers who took part but wanted to single out a few individuals for their parts in the ceremony. Firstly, he congratulated the junior warden Howard Carr on his excellent presentation of the ‘charge after initiation’ and also to the junior deacon Paul Rostron on his excellent participation and method of directing the candidate. Phil said that the most important congratulation of the evening he wanted to make was that to the candidate, Stephen.
Directing his comments to Stephen, Phil and touched on the values of this fraternal membership by saying Freemasonry impacts peoples’ lives in the best possible way. He said Freemasonry has charitably assisted in excess of £100,000,000 to non-Masonic organisations; Freemasonry has a care structure in place to assist where possible those who are ill or suffer bereavement.
On a personal note, Phil said he and his family were one such case 29 years ago, when his family experienced the very sad loss of a son but the family were comforted by a Masonic vicar who assured them, ‘it’ll be reet’. This comment has clearly stayed with Phil and richly enforces the values and associations of Freemasonry. He said that if ever a non-Masonic individual ever asked what our fraternal organisation offers, ‘well, it offers the feeling of being valued, it looks after people, and it feels proper’.
Phil also mentioned numerous past disasters from around the world that had similarly severely affected peoples’ lives, for example, the 2001 Twin Towers attack in New York, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and other Caribbean disasters all immediately supported by Freemasonry either directly or subscribing by donation into various organisations such as Red Cross.
In closing his response, Phil re-iterated his own congratulations to Stephen and wished him happiness and enjoyment in his new Masonic experience, aided of course by a very good lodge.
Dave Walmsley had one of the group’s time honoured traditions to present Phil with the ubiquitous brown paper bag filled with the local delicacy of Eccles Cakes. Phil pleasingly accepted them and said they would be enjoyed later.
A short toast was given to the new candidate and Stephen responded for his first time in a very heartfelt manner saying he was thankful to this proposer and seconder for guiding him into the fraternity and now most pleased to having become a member of Freemasonry and looked forward to building up his experiences, Stephen brought a rapturous response from all the brethren.
The end of the evening was nigh and the very friendly jovial festive board, which had continued well into the evening concluded a most enjoyable meeting.