Most Worshipful Grand Master Robert B, Ellston's Address to the brethren, May 2021.
Address to the Brethren
Grand Lodge Annual
17 May, 2021
Deputy Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Grand Lodge Officers, Distinguished Visitors, Brethren All. Good afternoon. And what a fantastic afternoon it is.
Today I have joined with a very distinguished group of individuals who have been chosen to lead and serve our great fraternity. I am extremely honored and humbled to serve you as your 166th Grand Master. I thank you for allowing me the opportunity and the privilege of serving our Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in this capacity. The confidence and trust that you have placed in me is overwhelming and I cannot promise any more than I will endeavor to maintain that level of trust and confidence as I assume the guidance and leadership of this great, honorable and ancient fraternity.
My life’s journey to this day has been a long and winding one. As a youth, I would read my father’s Masonic notices when they came in each month. In 1961, I joined DeMolay as a charter member of Wilbur Scott Chapter and rose through the ranks to serve as Master Councilor. Later, I made application to Mount Moriah Lodge No. 8 and was accepted and "raised". Life came along and I took a several year hiatus while I raised my family and furthered my educational and professional life. Then at the urging of a dear friend and Brother, I actively returned to the Craft, where I twice served as the Worshipful Master of Barney Merry Lodge No.29 and once as the Worshipful Master of my "Mother Lodge", Mount Moriah No. 8. I was appointed as the Right Worshipful Associate Chaplin to the District and have served in that capacity in all the Districts except the Southern. Eight years ago, I was appointed as the District Deputy Grand Master to the Southern District and began that portion of my journey, which brings me now to this time and place.
Of course, none of this would have been possible if it had not been for the support of my beautiful life partner and wife along with the rest of my family. My wife Dereth has been by my side for more than fifty years. During this time she has supported and counseled me in all of my undertakings and for that I publicly thank her for her candor and dedication. To my son, Brother Robert Bruce Ellston 2nd and my daughter, Dereth Lynn Ellston, you mean so very much to your mother and myself. You have given us four beautiful, wonderful grandchildren: Lillian, Trevor, Noah and Leddy, who we adore. Your Mother and I are so proud of what you have accomplished thus far and know that you will continue on and accomplish even greater things with your lives in the future.
Along my pathway through life, I have met many individuals who in their own way have nurtured and guided me on my journey. Some were non-Masons to be sure, but many more were, as I later learned, Brothers of the Craft. Perhaps too many to mention here and now, but I would be remiss if I did not recognize those individuals who had a more direct impact on my Masonic journey. First and foremost, my father, Clifford Ellston, Sr., who in his own quiet way introduced me to this wonderful fraternity and "raised".me in Mount Moriah Lodge fifty-one years ago. My Scoutmaster and the Wilbur Scott DeMolay Chapter Dads who so caringly aided in nurturing me. All of these have passed to their eternal reward, but the lessons they taught continue to live on in my mind and actions. There are two individuals who are responsible for a more recent direct impact on bringing my journey to this place where we are today. The first is Right Worshipful Brother David D. Lancaster, my appointment as District Deputy Grand Master At Large. Right Worshipful Brother Lancaster is responsible for "urging me to come back to Lodge". Had he not "whispered good counsel in my ear", I might not have actively returned and taken the path that I did in my Masonic journey. Thank you my Brother for your actions on my behalf. The next person that I must recognize is the one who most directly guided me to the place where I am today and that is Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Russell R. Davis. Most Worshipful Davis and I were sitting next to each other having lunch immediately after the Annual Communication in May of 2012 when he leaned over and asked me if I would kindly consider being his appointment to the Southern District during his year. Most Worshipful Davis, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the tremendous opportunity your question on that day has afforded me. Little did I ever expect or anticipate being asked or even considered for this august position to which I have today been elevated. I have enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity afforded me to meet and come to know so many Brethren in the Districts of this Grand Jurisdiction and to meet and interact with so many Brethren from other Grand Jurisdictions worldwide. Your actions of that day have bestowed on me an honor for which I graciously and humbly thank you. I will do my very best maintain your confidence and trust in me as I lead this Craft during my year as Grand Master. Again, I thank you for your faith in me.
To the Installing Team – Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Wyman P. Hallstrom, Jr., Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Wyman P. Hallstrom, 3rd and Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Dennis W. Pothier thank you all so very much. What an honor and a privilege it is to have such a distinguished trio undertake the task that you have today and to do it so flawlessly and with such meaning. Thank you most graciously.
Right Worshipful Brother Thomas R. Yeaw, as always, thank you for the inspiring prayer that you tendered over me at the Altar today. Your prayers continuously offer us a direct link to the Great Architect of the Universe for comfort and reflection.
Right Worshipful Robert A. Drisko and Brother Frank A. Castellone, I cannot thank you enough for the organ and vocal music that you Brothers supplied today, it added so much meaning to the ceremony.
To all of the Past Grand Masters who saw fit to re-appoint me as District Deputy Grand Master along with my Worshipful Grand Master of Ceremonies, Keith P. Moan to the various Districts during your respective year. We thank you. It has been our pleasure to serve you in this distinguished capacity.
To the Grand lodge Officers, both those that are newly appointed and those who are carrying on in their positions, thank you for accepting your appointments. As is often said, no one can do it alone, it takes a village or in this case a TEAM – that’s T-E-A-M in capital letters – you along with the Grand Council are part of the TEAM and it is incumbent on all of us – from the top down and the bottom up to work as a TEAM if we are to have a successful outcome. Thank you for your support and I look forward to working with you and receiving your input throughout the coming year.
Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Gary S. Kaufman. Most Worshipful, I know that in many ways it has been a disappointing year for you. While you may not have been able to do some of the things you had planned for your year, take solace in the fact that you led this Jurisdiction through an extremely perilous journey and kept the Craft on track and moving forward. No one could have foreseen the extent to which the COVID pandemic would have affected our Craft here in Rhode Island, let alone around the world. You are to be applauded by one and all for your Prudence, Fortitude and Leadership in dealing with this crisis. I personally thank you for all your guidance and administration in the daily happenings surrounding the effects of this pandemic. You have done an outstanding job and it will be recorded as such.
Now to my Right Worshipful Grand Marshal – sounds good doesn’t it, "Right Worshipful Grand Marshal" – Right Worshipful Brother Keith P. Moan. Keith, what can I say? It’s been a great ride so far and I’m sure the year ahead will be fantastic. When I approached you to be my Worshipful Grand Master of Ceremonies, I barely knew you. At the time you were the Assistant Grand Lecturer at Mount Moriah and did a great job at it, but that was all I really knew about you. When you agreed to join me, I informed Most Worshipful Davis that you were joining me and he said you were a great choice and he certainly was right. I am so very glad you said yes. Over the years we’ve come to know each other, shared our trials and tribulations and developed a friendship that perhaps would not have been except for the connection of this great fraternity. I am glad that your wife gave her blessing for this partnership. Thank you for coming on this ride with me, my friend and my Brother.
The year ahead should be an interesting one. There is no question that these are uncertain times. We are, thankfully, starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The scientific community has produced vaccines which hopefully will put an end or at least control this COVID pandemic which has so drastically altered our daily lives. Through their efforts and by maintaining a strong faith in the Grand Architect of the Universe we may be enabled to enter into a more normal lifestyle. For sure we will continue, in the meantime to have restrictions placed on us as to how we go about our daily activities. Given time, I am sure things will continue to improve and eventually normal will return to our Jurisdiction. However, let me assure you that any decisions made will be based on what is best for the health and safety of the membership of this Jurisdiction within the appropriate guidelines of the medical field. The brotherly interaction of our Craft is too important to do otherwise.
In the year ahead it is my strong desire to re-invigorate our Craft. The pandemic has affected not only this Jurisdiction, but the entire fraternity worldwide. It will take all of the Lodges working together with the common themes of: Re-opening our Lodges, Recruiting, Retaining and Returning – all within the appropriate guidelines mentioned above.
Re-Open Lodges: It is my strong hope and desire that the Masters of our Lodges will see the need to hold in-person communications to better promote the Brotherly interaction so vital to our Craft. Albeit, the use of Hybrid platforms may be necessary for some of the Brethren to attend in the near term. Several of our Lodges are currently doing this and as I said it is my strong hope and desire that all of our Lodges will follow this route and re-open their doors.
Recruiting: During the past year we have seen a number of new Master Masons "raised" in this Jurisdiction, despite the coronavirus pandemic. I hope that the trend continues, but we must be steadfast in our efforts to "guard the West Gate". To that end all Lodges will follow the newly published guidelines for investigating potential candidates, which includes the requirement of a permanent trained standing committee of five (5) members to perform the investigation. Additionally, time restraints for the handling of applications will be strictly adhered to by the District Deputies and the individual Lodges.
Retention: Brethren, it does us no good to bring in new Masons if we can’t keep the Brothers that we have involved. To that end I will be working with our Director of Masonic Education and the Leadership Committee to find ways to make the Lodge Meetings more meaningful and enticing to the Membership. I hope to see the Speakers Group revived, have more topics related to our Masonic Education brought into the lodge room and to generally make it so members can’t wait to come to lodge each month. I also want to see Lodges involve the members on the sidelines more. Masters, offer duties, and programs that will invigorate the membership and encourage them, in addition to the Officers to "get involved".
Returning: Returning correlates to Retention. It is incumbent on all of us to find out why a Brother or Brothers are absent and/or are not attending our meetings. It is strongly advised that all Lodges form a permanent standing committee to investigate as to why the Brethren are not coming to our meetings and to promote the means for their return.
The existing programs, such as Leadership Training, The Rookie Award, The Grand Master’s Award, etc. which are currently in place will continue to be offered during the coming year.
Some happenings of general interest are as follows for the beginning of my term as Grand Master:
We will be having an in-person assembly at the Veterans Cemetery in Exeter on Friday May 28th to honor our departed Brethren who gave their all for our freedoms.
My first Official Visitation to the Districts will be to the Southern District and will be hosted by Charity Lodge on June 19th. It will, weather permitting, be held at their "outdoor lodge".
The Junior Grand Warden is currently working on the Grand Lodge Picnic schedule to be held on August 8th, 2021 at the Masonic Youth Facility at Buttonwoods. It is to be a catered BBQ with all the fixings, and games for the youngsters among us.
There is a Grand Master’s Trip in the works. It will take place at the end of September and will be touring the Finger Lakes area of up-state New York. Please, plan on joining us to view some beautiful autumn scenery and enjoy scheduled stops at some very interesting venues along the way.
Times and further information relative to these events will be forwarded to the Lodge Secretaries.
Brethren, I see that I’ve already exceeded my allotted time at the podium, so I will close my address now and thank you all for attending this Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. For those who are joining us this evening at Blithewold Mansion for the Banquet, it will be my pleasure to greet you there and offer you the continued hospitality of our Grand Jurisdiction. For those who are unable to attend this evening’s festivities, my sincere apologies, but we are restricted in our numbers by the COVID Rules and Regulations as mandated by the State of Rhode Island.
Again, my Brothers, thank you for the honor you have bestowed on me today. May God Bless and keep us all safely in His embrace. So Mote It Be!
Robert B. Ellston