Grand Master's Address on June 10, 2023

It's Hip to be Square

Brethren all,

With great humility, I accept this Honour to serve as your Grand Master for the coming year. I am happy to be ascending to this role with our Craft in much better shape than it was as it endured and emerged from the Covid-era restrictions, and I have to thank my immediate predecessors, MW Bro. Murray and MW Bro. Uchman for their work to achieve that. More on that later. With the support of you, my Brothers, and of family, we will continue to move the Craft forward.

It has been a long Masonic journey to arrive here, and now that I have taken up this post, I most definitely have “miles to go before I sleep”.

My personal Grand Lodge journey started when I attended my first Annual Communication in 2008. It was great meeting with most of the Brethren in attendance, enjoying the camaraderie, and see how business is conducted within our democratic institution. I have attended every Annual Communication since and continue to enjoy our gatherings.

In those earlier days, I did notice a tendency towards “push and pull” between successive Grand Masters, or a small sequence of Grand Masters, sending conflicting signals to the Craft and hindering our ability to move forward, whatever that path might be. There was also a great deal of “tinkering” with the C&R most years, which given the other issues facing our Fraternity, seemed to be a bit of “fiddling while Rome burns”. Not that we haven’t made significant improvements to our C&R in those 15 years, including at this Annual Communication, but as I wrote in my essays before I was elected as Junior Grand Warden, I am most definitely a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of guy.

So, what, if anything, needs fixing in my opinion? I believe I’ve also made that clear in my writings and speeches as I progressed through the Grand Line.

Unlike some of my predecessors, who did not necessarily get to focus on their objective for their year as Grand Master, today’s circumstances allow me that luxury. I have to thank those predecessors for leaving our Jurisdiction in the current state that can allow this.

I believe it is best if I recite the Shepard’s Prayer – Astronaut Alan Shepard’s prayer before being the first American to be launched into space. “Oh Lord, please do not let me (mess) this up.”

If we recall our recent history, MW Bro. Cheel had focused on key administrative issues, including the separation of the management of the MHEBF from the management of Grand Lodge and updating the overall C&R to make it easier to follow. About 2/3’ds of the way through his year, restrictions were imposed in response to Covid which did not allow him to complete his work during his year. MW Bro. Karbonik had to preside over what could have been a “lost year”, but the work of MW Bro. Cheel was continued and completed, and we adapted better than many of our sister Jurisdictions and concordant bodies to the restrictions our Masonic fraternity endured. We managed to conduct a Hybrid Annual Communication successfully and subsequently integrate those lessons learned into our C&R.

With MW Bro. Murray’s year, the restrictions started to ease. However, the many periods of restrictions caused disruptions and discord in many Lodges and among many members. His focus was “Harmony through Grace”, reminding the brothers of Alberta (and NWT) that we are allowed to have differences of opinion, but we must have respect and harmony in our Lodges – to heal the wounds.  That focus assisted greatly in reinforcing the strong bonds of our brotherhood and allowing the Craft to move forward.

Restrictions fell away during his year, and he added the Edict to the Lodges to “Get Back to Work”. His outgoing Annual Communication last year was the first in-person Annual Communication since 2019 and was very well attended.

During that year, much progress was made behind the scenes. Most significantly, the Communications Committee was expanded, with the new Database (BC’s) being adopted and test-bedded in initial Lodges, and the new Website went live on the Monday following the Annual Communication. We also re-branded with the new Logo, advertising it at the 2022 Annual Communication where it formed part of the MW Bro Uchman’s “Bling” for this past Masonic year.

It was clear going into the current Masonic Year that our Lodges and members were “rusty” – out of practice for regular meetings, let alone Degree Work.

As we know, MW Bro. Uchman chose as his theme “Strengthening the Foundations of Masonry”.  It has been a success throughout most of the Lodges of our Jurisdiction, with all phases of Masonry (ritual, education and social events) improving markedly over the past year. I am also proud to have worked with both MW Bros. Murray and Uchman on the Amity updates over the past two years, including this year’s decision to finally recognize Prince Hall Masons.

With respect to membership, we fully expected not only a backlog of candidates, but a surge in new candidates, given the re-vamped Website and Branding. We were correct. The Committee for screening (and passing on to Lodges) candidates coming via the Website had to be expanded – the number of enquiries essentially tripled. There was no point in processing all of those candidates or encouraging more candidate applications if the Lodges were not “up to snuff” – hence the “back to basics” focus for the past year. Progress has been made in strengthening our Lodges and we are ready to move forward.

Lodges are taking more time to review and process candidates and there is no shortage. While a few Lodges have no candidates, most do, and some Lodges have so many new members to process that courtesy degrees have to be arranged. It is a promising sign, and the numbers reflect this.

Looking at our membership numbers since before Covid using the figures of all members paying Grand Lodge subvention (so that it includes all those with dual memberships), we saw:

Beginning of 2020 – 5859 Members
The end of 2020 – 5608 Members
December 31, 2021 – 5346 Members
Beginning of 2023 – 5382 Members.

Not much of a bump, my Brothers, but the first year-over-year increase in our membership in a generation.

We are moving in the right direction – Let us not lose this positive momentum.

My focus for the coming year, which was my stated intention when I was elected JGW, is to expand our outreach to encourage more men to consider our Craft.  I believe that I have made it quite clear in prior speeches, as have many other Brothers, that not all solicitation is “improper” and the long-held attitudes within the Craft towards solicitation and recruitment has been damaging to our past and present and will continue to imperil our future if we do not make adjustments.

However a Candidate’s interest is initially sparked, we have to do a better job lighting those sparks. So long as our Candidates can all honestly confirm during their initiation, having followed the lengthy process to be accepted by a Lodge and come to knock on the door, that they are joining of their own free will and accord and not with a view to material gains, I am satisfied.

Looking at my own experience, I was “strongly encouraged” by more than one Brother to consider the Craft. I have encouraged many others. I did not consider my “recruitment” to be improper, nor any of the encouragement I have given others.

The Grand Master of the UGLE, the Duke of Kent, has similarly stated his concerns with this issue and that every Mason, whatever his rank, should be active in recruiting potential Masons, stating, “I am particularly concerned to hear that very few members recruit at all, and that there is an unacceptably high loss rate.” The UGLE now has an active “Recruitment and Retention” program. We need to move in the same direction. If we are not signing sponsorship papers for men we know to be of good character to join our ranks, then who is ??

So, the primary focus is to grow our membership – continue the 7-step programs and have our re-invigorated Lodges allow their new members room to grow over a reasonable time frame, knowing that every member’s needs and desires are unique. But as per this year’s Edict issued last month, public displays of Masonry are encouraged. All of you, my Brothers, are encouraged to feel free to approach your friends, family members and close acquaintances to let them know that Masonry is an option – THAT WE ARE HERE. Let those worthy men you know to be of good character that our way of life can be very fulfilling.

As an aside, a Brother will have to work very hard for me to ever reach a determination as Grand Master that their solicitation is “improper” and deserving of a Cease and Desist Order – no coercion or hard selling tactics (we are not a time share property!), but otherwise, spread the word!

We have an improved Website. We are being more active as a Grand Lodge on social media. That being said, I do not wish to resort to public advertising like some of our sister Jurisdictions, but if our public Masons tell two friends and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on… .

When working to come up with a catchphrase for this year’s theme, I struggled. The Few, the Enlightened, the Masons? Be a Mason, Be Happy? Spread the Word? Reflecting on the ritual given this morning – “Masonry is Cool!” could sum it up. My good wife, Yolanta, came to the rescue. She reminded me that 80’s nostalgia is in, so for this year our message is “Its Hip to be Square”.

I wish to encourage all of our Masonic Brothers who are public in their membership to be more active in their respective communities, and not feel forbidden to approach men they know, who they also know to be of good character, to consider our fraternity. We will have our strengthened Lodges with their more formal intake processes to review and initiate the qualified candidates.

Let us turn to my second concern by reviewing our historical mission. Remember our teachings and what our teachings have accomplished. The Masons essentially built our Modern World. This is not an exaggeration. If we go back to the earliest stages of our Craft, the world was nearing the end of the Middle Ages, a period in which 2% of the population, the nobility, owned everything, and the other 98% did what they were told. Our founders were the skilled trades and then the professions – educated men who could “travel in foreign countries, work and receive Master’s Wages.” – they evolved into the Middle Class. Between 1560 and 1960 the middle class (and our Craft) grew – the middle class becoming over half the population of the Western World. In the meantime, we took the concept of electing our leaders within Lodge and transferred that to our society in general – modern democracy.  We have been in retreat since the 1970s, and this has been mirrored in a decline of the Middle Class. I, for one, do not wish to return to a society where the 2% own everything and the rest of us do what we are told. It is our duty to keep doing what we are doing and re-embark on a growth path. I do not believe I am wrong to state that if our Craft fails in our ongoing mission, our modern Western World is at risk of failure.

Borrowing from the General Charge, of which we are all familiar, remember that Masonry “opens the sources of knowledge, widens the sphere of human happiness, … Such is Freemasonry and such its mission – AND WE SHOULD NEVER FORGET, WHILE ENJOYING ITS BENEFITS AND APPRECIATING ITS VALUE, THE DUTIES WE OWE TO THE ORDER.”

Do we appreciate its value?

As we work to re-build our presence and our “Brand”, we have to examine what our Members pay for their memberships. This has been a long-standing pet peeve of mine.

While our Fellowcraft Degree emphasizes the importance of studying the arts and sciences, including arithmetic, we seem to share a continuing inability to understand or compute the impacts of inflation.

Over the past 50 years or more, we have not kept pace with inflation with respect to our dues and how much, in “real terms”, we charge our members. This is a Lodge-by-Lodge decision, but while some of our Lodges are slowly taking steps to adjust their dues upwards, we are at least a generation behind as to where our dues should be, having ignored the pace of inflation in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. That being said, even in a year of low inflation of, say, 2%, should a Lodge keep its dues constant, it means that Lodge has reduced its dues by that 2%.

It is worse than that, as we now have a “double whammy” impacting Lodges that stand pat on dues. Not only does inflation reduce the true net value of the dues, but our regulations now adjust the Grand Lodge per capita upward each year based on CPI. So, if a Lodge charges $150 in annual dues in 2023 where our per capita was $58, that Lodge netted $92. Our inflation rate is about 4.5% at this time, and the 2024 per capita (based on the then current CPI closer to 7%) is set to increase to $62. If this Lodge does not approve an increase in its dues, then the value of the dues will go down by 4.5% (about $143 in 2023 dollars), and the adjusted net will be reduced by the $62 per capita to $81. In this example, this Lodge reduced its income in real terms by $11 per member …. IN A SINGLE YEAR! THIS CANNOT CONTINUE!

As I’ve often stated, verbally and in writing, when it costs more to fill up your Truck’s gas tank than it does to be a member of a Lodge for a year, we have a serious problem. If dues were set appropriately, we would not be worried about the upkeep of our Halls, most of which would have Air Conditioning (a dire need, having attended some very hot meetings recently in May and June), and we could more effectively meet our key aims of benevolence and charity. STOP eroding the equity built up from our early years when Lodge dues were set at a reasonable level. Stop “cheapening the Brand.”

As Grand Lodge, we can only encourage our Lodges to take this path, and I will continue to strongly promote this value for value proposition. As one of our Brothers recently reminded me, we should all remember that “Freemasonry is not Free” !

We have done, still do, and must continue to do our great work. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes some of the resources (money) that our middle- class incomes provide.

Masons are builders and it’s time to get back to building.

Brethren, open up your contacts list and open up your wallets. Open up your Lodges to wider social events. Let the world see the benefits of our Craft – let them see how Mason’s love one another.

Let them see how cool it is to be a Brother – remember, ITS HIP TO BE SQUARE !

M.W. Bro. Kyle Scott
Grand Master

10 June 2023

M.W.Bro. Kyle Scott
Grand Master 2023

M.W. Bro. Kyle Scott is a Member of both Millennium Lodge No. 2000 (Fort McMurray) and Loch McKinnon Lodge No. 204 (Calgary).  He is also an Honorary Life Member of Aurora-Borealis Lodge No. 201.

Kyle was born in Winnipeg, moving to Alberta as a young lad in 1972.  Recently remarried in Edmonton to his wife Yolanta in a very “Masonic Ceremony”, they now reside in Calgary.  They have 6 children between them, but none together.         

Kyle is a corporate/commercial lawyer, practicing in Alberta since 1992, currently operating his own practice as the principal of Craft Law Group. Nearly one-third of his career was spent with Suncor (2005-2013), including head of legal and regulatory affairs for Oil Sands based in Fort McMurray.  His current practice involves making many “house calls” on clients, with travels across much of the Province, from Calgary to Edmonton and on to Fort McMurray.  These travels often overlap with his Masonic visits.

Kyle joined his mother Lodge, Millennium No. 2000 in early 2006, taking on the role of Lodge Secretary soon after being raised as a Master Mason. He served as Secretary, Secretary-Treasurer and then Treasurer of Millennium Lodge from 2006-10. He was one of the Charter Members of Aurora-Borealis Lodge No. 201 in 2008, serving as the first Secretary-Treasurer of this Lodge in 2008-09, ultimately rising to Master of the Lodge in 2011-12.  Despite a transfer back to Calgary in late 2011, Kyle completed his duties as Master and remained active with his Fort McMurray Lodges and within the Athabasca District, serving as DDGM for that District in 2014-15. 

R.W. Bro. Scott’s Masonic journey expanded beyond Craft Lodge and he is a member of most Concordant Bodies, most actively as the current President of the Al Azhar Shrine Mounted Patrol. As well as serving as DDGM, Kyle served three terms as Grand Piper.  He was elected to the Board of General Purposes for 2017-2020, before being elected as Junior Grand Warden in 2020.

In his younger days Kyle served in the Reserves (Officer in the King’s Own Calgary Regiment), and he has been involved in many Pipe Bands and other Scottish cultural activities since his youth, currently serving as the Piper for the Calgary Burns Club.  He also serves as the Officer Commanding for a private cadet corps in Calgary (the 78th Fraser Highlanders) and is a Director of Easter Seals Alberta.

An active member of the community, both within and outside of the Lodge.

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