2019-2020 Annual Report of the Grand Master
As I accomplish this report, I reflected on the many thoughts and feelings regarding my year as your Grand Master. I would be remiss if I didn’t say it was a challenging but rewarding experience. Like Grand Masters before I have represented this great jurisdiction at neighboring jurisdictions, regional and national conferences, always focusing on how the ideas and programs reviewed may impact South Dakota.
A number of years ago the Grand Lodge Line Officers agreed to critically review South Dakota Masonry and bring our thoughts and ideas to the table to better program our jurisdiction for the future. Many times in the past each Grand Master had his own programs that were conducted his year and the next year different programs were focused upon. We decided to put our individual ideas and programs aside and develop progressive programs for the future of South Dakota Masonry. Divergent minds don’t always agree, but with many meetings and hard work we came together establishing the programs we have today. Along with this effort we realized the Grand Lodge needed to clearly define its Mission and the Goals to meet those requirements. While serving on the Grand Lodge Line over the past four years I have always reflected on the Mission of the Grand Lodge in all decisions and how they impact Masonry in South Dakota. It is our duty to focus on the Grand Lodge Mission of assisting our Constituent Lodges by being an asset to their membership and communities, promoting and maintaining the Ancient Tenets (Landmarks), and facilitating the charitable outreach of the Grand Lodge of South Dakota. With each decision we must not only look at our mission, but is this good for the Masons of South Dakota.
By continuing to improve the established programs we have seen the benefits of the Six Steps to Initiation with better retention; improved Leadership Training; completion of the new Identification Cards (members, life members, 50+ members, and Grand Lodge Officers); Lodge Matching Grants Program within our communities; updated and improved charities support to our Brothers, their Widows and Orphans; greatly enhanced MORI and OLP capabilities with websites for every Lodge; Longevity Certificates for 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 years of service and new pins for 50, 60 and 70 year Awards; New Brother packets to every new Master Mason; high quality Petitions printed on parchment; supporting Child Identification Programs; Masonic Model Student Assistance Training Program (Save A Child); and Grand Lodge Scholarships to support further education for our youth. By establishing these programs and striving to improve and enhance them we have strengthened the support of Masonry across the jurisdiction. As stated previously, we certainly didn’t always agree on the best programs for our jurisdiction but with diversity came discussion and better programs in the end. We now have some great programs in place that could continue to significantly improve Masonry in South Dakota.
In my travels this year I was always impressed with the thirst for Masonic knowledge and a profound sense of love of our Fraternity. The questions and discussions are inspiring and healthy. Everywhere I visited was a great experience that left a great memory. I participated in four Dedications and Rededication Ceremonies; Regional and National Conferences; Appendant Body Conferences and Celebrations; Table Lodges; Scottish Rite Biennial; presentation of red hats for Scottish Rite Biennial KCCH Degree work; Civility Champion Awards at Presho and Kennebec; Charter Rededications; Lodge Consolidation Ceremonies; and Annual Communications of most of our neighboring Jurisdictions. Unfortunately with the guidelines and restrictions brought on by COVID-19, my year was curtailed and we were unable to accomplish the scheduled Sesquicentennial Rededication for Elk Point Lodge #3 or the C.W. Nash, Founders Celebration in Philip. Those two events have been postponed until the COVID-19 situation changes. Additionally, the Grand Lodge is forced to hold an Electronic Session for Annual Communication in June 2020 and will address matters that allow your Grand Lodge to function for the ensuing year. Adequate representation and discussion on legislative matters will not be afforded under these conditions. In concurrence with Jurisprudence Committee, legislative proposals will be addressed at the next regular session of Annual Communication in June 2021.
One of our obligations as Masons is charity. Our vision to accomplish charitable support is though our South Dakota Masonic Charities (SDMC) Foundation. Last year the Board of Trustees transferred 4% of the earnings from the Grand Lodge Charities Fund to SDMC to assist in accomplishing the Grand Lodge Charitable Outreach programs. This was in keeping with the recommendations of our CPA firm and our Legal Counsel because our Charities Fund has been largely unused and our nonprofit status in regard to that fund could be in jeopardy. It is my recommendation that a portion of the Charity Fund be transferred each year to SDMC, where in turn it would distribute funds under charitable guidelines and the benefits to our jurisdiction would be unbelievable.
It has been a busy but rewarding year as your Grand Master. Leaving the post will be bittersweet, but I am encouraged by the new Brothers I have met and their enthusiasm and thirst for Masonry, showing signs of a bright future. Grand Lodge Programs we have put in place to recognize the great works of our Brothers and Lodges along with supporting programs will continue to serve us well as we go forward. I wish Deputy Grand Master/Grand Master Elect Jason Swindler all the blessings and joy for his year.
Thank you for allowing me to serve the Masons of South Dakota; it has been an incredible experience and an honor to have served. Under these challenging conditions we must remember what we are all about: Brotherly Love, Truth and Relief. Be safe, stay healthy and check on your Brothers. God Bless all of you and Masonry in South Dakota.
Harold D. Ireland
Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of South Dakota