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Provincial Prelate's address at the 2010 Annual Church Service

Once again we meet together in this lovely building to worship, to thank God for His goodness to us and to rededicate ourselves to His service. We are now in the season of Lent and perhaps it is appropriate to remind ourselves that the word ‘Lent’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘lencten’, denoting the ‘season of spring’. It is a remarkably apt word to apply to this period of the year that the Church, from early days, has set aside as a time of personal discipline and devotion in preparation for Easter. Rightly understood, Lent is intended to be a means of spiritual renewal, of further life in Christ, of deeper fellowship with God - a springtime within the soul - a time for removing the weeds of sin and cultivating the tender shoots of forgiveness, and of developing the love and word of God.

It might also be an opportune time to reflect on our own dedication to the causes for which we assemble together and to remind ourselves of the obligations to which that membership demands. ‘By virtuous, amiable and discreet conduct prove to the world the happy and beneficial effects of our Ancient Institution’. Masonry teaches us to do justice, love mercy, practise charity, maintain harmony, and endeavour to live in unity and brotherly love. As Soldiers of the Cross, we are to put on the whole armour of God and by our daily living take the light of Christ into this darkened world and so allow others to see those Christian virtues we hold so dear. We are called to be men and women of action; Remember we are told to practise out of the Lodge those duties we have been taught in it. We may enjoy the ritual but if its true meaning and worth remains in the four walls of the Temple and others do not see the value of its teaching then we are failing in one of the reasons for joining ‘to render ourselves more extensibly serviceable to our fellow creatures.’ We are called to be active members, playing our full part in our Churches and in the Community.

In today’s first lesson we are told it is our duty to thank God, to praise Him for all His goodness to us; to seek his presence continually in all we do; to tell of his marvellous works to all people. As Christian Knights, by our daily example we are to be His witnesses spreading His love and peace in this troubled world. Each of us has that task to fulfil; if we leave it to others we fail and our order weakens.

I am reminded of the vicar in a small village who announced in the local paper that the village Church had died and that the funeral would take place on Wednesday at 2.30 pm, and a Memorial Service would be held on Sunday at 11 am. Wednesday came, the Church was packed. Reporters from the local and even one national paper attended. After a suitable eulogy the congregation were invited to file past the coffin. Solemn music was played as they slowly passed by and as each looked into the open coffin they saw a reflection of themselves, for at the bottom was a mirror!

On the Sunday the vicar preached on ‘resurrection and that the little village Norman Church was alive again’. I was told that the mirror is now fixed on the wall in the porch as a constant reminder! How would we react to such a trial in our Church life, in our Masonic life? Are we really playing our part?

In the second lesson we are again reminded of the need for a close relationship with God if we are to be true disciples and Soldiers of the Cross. ‘I am the True vine and my Father is the Gardener, dwell in my love, for He who dwells in me will bear much fruit’. Time and again we come back to this basic of all Christian characteristics- love. First love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength, and your neighbour as yourself. This we can only do if we get to know Him through prayer and by reading His Holy Word.

If we dwell in the vine Christ produces the fruit through us. So, when the divine Gardener walks through His vineyard looking for fruit, He looks for it in your life and my life and in the lives of all Christians.

A missionary once asked a farmer in the outback if he was a Christian? The farmer paused, wrote down a few names and said ‘"Here is a list of people who know me best. Please ask them if I am a Christian." What would our friends say about us? Would we pass the test?

We are reminded to bless, praise and magnify His Holy Name and walk worthily in the light that shines around. Thus we become true soldiers of the Cross, living in the vine, spreading the gospel of peace and love and so leading others to Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life and likewise Masonry will earn the respect it deserves from those outside the Brotherhood.

Let us then this Lent rededicate ourselves to God’s service, draw closer to Him, so that as Christians and Freemasons, our light may so shine in this secular society darkened by doubts, selfish behaviour and intolerance that people may learn about, get to know and trust in the living God. God who is the source of hope, the God who simply loves us, who is continually knocking at the door of our heart, wanting to come in, to live with us and for us to live in Him so He may use us to further His kingdom of love and joy and peace.

V.E.Kt John E.K. Sylvester PGReg., Provincial Prelate.