The Church in the Garden by the Sea is the wonderfully evocative alternative name given to the beautiful St John the Divine Church at Sandylands, Morecambe, which made a most fitting venue for the Group’s family service of celebration and thanksgiving to mark 300 years of Grand Lodge – The Tercentenary.
The occasion was made particularly special by the pageantry presented by the attendance of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison with his full retinue including sword and banner bearers whose processional entrance marked the start of a most moving and uplifting service which was attended by Freemasons, wives, partners and families from all parts of our geographically widespread Masonic group.
A warm welcome and the Bidding Prayer was given by the vicar Rev Linda Macluskie to whom, together with the church wardens and PCC the Group is most grateful for allowing the service to be held in their delightful church which, like our Freemasonry, has played such an important part in the history of the local community.
The Provincial Grand Master then gave a brief view of Freemasonry in the Community saying that although the origins of our institution may be shrouded in the mists of time, there is no doubt about the record of benevolence and charitable service of Freemasons to their families, their dependants and, indeed, their communities.
From the time of our entry into Freemasonry we are reminded of the value placed on charity and care for the less fortunate than ourselves. However, despite some erroneous opinions sometimes expressed, as Freemasons we do not limit charity to our own brethren.
Throughout our history we have given support to our communities, and to organisations within those communities.
This extended and practical charity can be seen throughout the country with active and voluntary support to churches, local authorities and to a wide range of local and national organisations, including uniformed associations.
Tony concluded his address by pointing out that this, our 300th anniversary, affords a glorious opportunity not only to show the world what we stand for and believe in, but also to look to the future and to continue the tradition of caring for those in need and to face the challenges of the future with that vigour, enthusiasm and commitment which have ever been the defining characteristics of our Order.
The service included five readings given by brethren from group lodges. The first was Psalm 122 which was read by Mike Ashton, WM of Poulton-le-Sands Lodge No 1051, which was followed by an Old Testament reading from the First Book of Kings delivered by Ben Yates, the WM of Heysham Lodge No 4108. Next was the reading of Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication given by Ben’s brother Max Yates the WM of Morecambe Lodge No 1561. A New Testament reading from the letter to the Romans was narrated by Ken Needham the WM of Runic Lodge No 6019 and the Gospel reading was given by Paul Dent the WM of Torrisholme Lodge No 5245.
The Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst delivered a resounding and uplifting oration in his own inimitable style and in a final act of avowal and reaffirmation Godfrey invited all the Freemasons present to stand and join him in a pledge of ‘Dedication to future endeavour’ which they all acceded to in response to each enquiry of ‘Will you?’ with the resounding reply of, ‘We will, the Most High being our helper’.
During the service the congregation certainly gave full voice to the well-chosen hymns and the service of thanksgiving should remind us all of the important role Freemasonry holds in our communities and stimulate us to even greater efforts to honour the countless numbers of Freemasons who down through the ages have worked to relieve need, engender friendship and promote honesty and integrity in personal and business relations.
Following the service everyone was invited to share in drinks and canapes kindly provided by a trio from the hard-working ‘Masonic Supporters Club’ in the form of Maureen Harrison, Penny Bury and Hazel Broadley.