By: M∴W∴Wyman P. Hallstrom, III, PGM
One year ago I stood before Grand Lodge with a vision that I hoped would move the Craft slowly toward a new way of looking at things. Over the course of the year, I presented those ideas, on investigation, on communications, on lodge programming, and of course, on the initiatic experience as a whole, as a way to better engage our existing and new members. Those topics, I believe will continue to be talked about, not just in this jurisdiction, but in most corners of Freemasonry for years to come.
I have always been very proud of Rhode Island Freemasonry, primarily because I look at myself as a traditionalist. I believe our ritual has remained fairly unchanged from the original rituals written down hundreds of years ago. I also have a belief that we need to focus on our strengths and our ceremonies and the brotherhood and fellowship that results from our experience, as it gives us a distinct edge over other organizations. During the course of my travels this year, I was pleased to see that our fellowship and brotherhood are very strong. Ron and I were happy to interact with all of you in your lodges and your concordant bodies and many of the programs we were able to see, were both educational and informative, and the social time was equally enjoyable.
There really is no way to be totally prepared to step in as Grand Master. I can equate it best to drinking from a fire hose. Everything hits you at once, and most of the things are good, many are for information and still others are actionable items you need to address. Very quickly you find the way to maneuver and catalogue everything in order to get things done timely. This year, we had a very robust schedule of things that we wanted to do and it was necessary to get the works rolling on those right away and sort the rest out as it came.
We accomplished a lot of great things together. We re-shot and produced a new and exciting version of "The Next Great Mason", we had the very first outdoor Grand Master's Official Visitation, we enjoyed a tour of fortifications and encampments all throughout the state, and we enjoyed one of the most successful Fall Festivals in years. Together, we reinvented the Grand Lodge Picnic and had a beautiful afternoon everyone could enjoy. We constituted the first new lodge in fifty years, COLLEGIVM LVMINOSVM which is our new Lodge of Research. We were one of the last jurisdictions to have one and now we should be proud that we do. The interest in Masonic Education beyond the mandatory forums has been pushing lodge programming for some time now, and during the year the COLLEGIVM LVMINOSVM spent Under Dispensation, the membership quadrupled, from nine to forty members.
The programs for my visitations this year were outstanding also. We had everything from the explanation of the outdoor lodge built by Charity Lodge, to the explanation of Angels and Demons and the sites around Rome, featured in the book by Dan Brown. We also had a home brewing demonstration with a tasting, a tactical firearms expert, and a coffee brewing presentation with a tasting. The visitation to my 'other' lodge, St. Johns No.1 Providence, presented one of the many noted authors to grace our State with a great presentation on his book Revolutionary Brotherhood. My year was capped off by the Visitation to my Mother Lodge, Roger Williams No. 32, which was a very moving night as it was seventeen years to the day that I began my Grand Lodge service. The program that evening was on 'Jack Daniels', one of my favorite spirits and many of the interesting stories from the brand along with a tasting.
One of the most special nights for me this year, was the Testimonial presented in my honor. When I saw all the people, and the wonderful gifts I received, (including Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker) I joked that it was too many people for an intervention, but I might need one after I get out of office. It was a very moving night, to see that many people come out to have a good time and enjoy Masonry and Fraternal ties.
We have had an outstanding time with our youth groups this year. I was so happy to have had the opportunity to work with two wonderful young people, Miss Erin Flynn, our Grand Worthy Advisor and now Brother Justin Cargill, our State Master Councilor. These two people serve as fine examples of how wonderful our youth groups are at strengthening the core of our society, one young man or woman at a time, and give us great hope in our future, far better than what we perceive in modern culture and the media.
In closing, I need to thank everyone who made this year special, and especially my wife Diane, for all the support over the last seventeen years, and my parents for their love and support and guidance throughout the trip. Special note to the Grand Secretary, who in addition to being my father, also performed his duties with the usual professionalism, expected of the office, and his office staff are always willing to go above and beyond. To my Grand Council, I cannot thank you enough for all your feedback and counsel during the year, no matter what the issue at hand, and that thanks also extends to my District Deputies and their teams as well, for representing me and our Grand Lodge in an exemplary fashion. In fact, I am extremely proud of all the Grand Lodge officers for the work and support they have done this year as well. Of course, I need to thank the best Grand Marshal a Grand Master could want, my friend and confidant, R∴W∴Brother Ron Reed, and I am sure there are very few brothers who would have put up with all that he has over the past nine years.
Brethren, my final thanks are to you. You have propelled me to test my limits and beyond, and to carry the love and excitement I have for Freemasonry to you on an individual basis whenever possible. I felt that if this is our Grand Lodge, I am your Grand Master and whether it was a lodge visit, a social time or just a quick drop in for a Selfie, it was my responsibility to bring the office to you. I hope that I have done that and I hope that I have succeeded in helping as many people as possible to have as good a time as I have in the Craft this year. God Bless our Country, the brave men and women who protect it, and the greatest Fraternity the world has ever seen. Thank you.