2020 Master's Address
Good Morning State Officers, Delegates and Patrons all.
All I can say is, “When do we wake up from this nightmare?” When I started this journey six years ago, I never would have guessed that my last year would be the strangest or hardest one of them all. It has been a real struggle for me as an individual, losing my job in March, as a Grange member, not being able to attend meetings and as your State Master, finding solutions for Granges to be able to meet despite the pandemic regulations and restrictions on individuals and organizations. This past year has been anything but normal and I, for one, am hoping that we can get through this storm that we are in. Facing the uncertainties of what are ahead of us and getting back to a sense of normalcy in the very near future. It has been a time for change not only in how we interact, but how we shop, what we do to entertain ourselves, how we communicate with each other, and more. Also in how we are allowed to meet, how we feel, how we act, how we treat each other and how we survive from day to day. If you are one of those people who is afraid of change, then this year must have made you feel anxious, fearful, uncertain, and other emotions that have caused havoc in your life. If you can relate to any of this, just know that you are not alone and that you are in good company, for I, as well as many others, have felt these and other emotions that we may have never felt before. Change is a hard pill to swallow but if you have faith in yourself and others, the determination to succeed, and a will to carry on, you will be able to survive these changes, trials, and tribulations and be better people in the end.
Most of you might think that after writing a Master’s address for the five previous years, that this one would be a piece of cake but this one seemed to be the hardest. I really struggled to come up with a message and the proper way to say it to you. The current reality of our world and what is going on in it has caused me to do a lot of thinking and praying over this address. Praying for God to help me to help you see through these dark days and hopefully bring us out of the storm that seems to have fogged our minds and hearts. I am far from an eloquent writer or speaker so bear with me. I tried to choose words that would inspire you, help open your eyes and minds to what is, what has to happen and what shall be if we work hard. I know that some of you already know what I refer to and some will still not understand, realize or believe after hearing and listening to the words. So I hope that this message might encourage, renew, enlighten and expose you to some good, bad and indifferent ideas of what our future may hold, not only in our personal lives but also in our Grange life.
Change is a six letter word that we all know and most of us fear. We get too comfortable in our routines and rituals that we don’t want anything to be different. But we need to fully embrace change and adapt to what is before us or end up dissolving into dust with nothing to show for our efforts. Rest assured that we all are going through this together, at the same time and need to rely on each other to overcome these obstacles and survive these difficult tribulations and challenges. Change needs to happen on every level in our lives and in the Grange. Each of us must take a step back, evaluate who we are, how we act, what we say and decide if the choices or actions that we are going to make are good or bad for our lives. The same goes for our Granges. Not only on the Subordinate and Pomona levels but also in the State and National Granges. Unfortunately some have lost the true meaning of what our organization was founded on and how the bottom is where our focus should be. We are a grassroots organization that is now in fear of losing its identity by actions being dictated from the top down. Our founders intended this organization to be led from the bottom through resolutions. legislation and the communities where we have a presence but in just a few short years that mentality has reversed. We are now being told how we will do things and instructions are being dictated to us by our National leaders who have no idea what is going on in our local area. They are trying to make this cookie cutter mold of how they envision the Granges should be. If there is even a sign of going against the grain, we are shot down and told to do what we’re told to do. It is important for individual members to remember that without our Subordinate and Pomona Granges, the State and National Grange do not exist. Even though there are some who would want you to believe otherwise, the truth is, we all have the power to make changes. There is strength in numbers and the odds are in our favor. This path that we are being directed towards has us headed for disaster. Starting at the local levels, we need to rise to the occasion, change our direction and get back to our foundation or we will no longer exist. I for one do not like the idea of this organization dying and because of that passion that I have, I am going to do all I can to keep it alive. I challenge you to look deep in your hearts and decide if you do as well. It is going to take a huge concerted effort by all of us, everywhere around the nation to change our direction and keep this organization alive.
I want to commend all the Granges that have been able to adapt to our “new world” and have held their meetings by using the conferencing technologies, like Teams, MeetUps and Zoom, that are available today. During this time of social distancing and gathering restrictions it’s important that we find other ways to stay in touch, conduct our meetings and do the business that needs to be done. Also I applaud those Granges who have now started meeting back in their halls.They are the true champions over this time of uncertainty. They have defied the odds and taken up the challenge to continue. We could all learn a lesson or two from these Granges. I feel like we have reached a turning point in our current situation and these are the first steps to recovery from the pandemic shut down. The Granges in New Hampshire, which currently have a large majority of people who fall into the high risk category for catching this virus, must adapt now. This reality makes things difficult for most Granges to get back to normal meetings but we need to do this as soon as we can. Some if not all of the members in this age bracket are afraid to even leave their homes, never mind going to a meeting at the Grange hall. All I can say to these members is we love, care and want you to stay healthy, safe and secure until it is safe for you to join us again. For those Granges that are still not meeting it is important to reach out to each and every one of your members and keep in touch with them. This is one of the reasons most of us have joined this organization and it’s important to keep this fellowship. If your Grange is meeting back in your hall make sure to take every precaution to provide a clean and sanitized environment. Let your members know what measures have been taken to make the space safe for them. If you think you can meet virtually via zoom, the State Grange now has an account and can provide your Grange with the ability to use this platform. It will take some training and help from someone who knows how to use the software but once members learn how to use it, they will see that it is a helpful tool. If your Grange is interested in utilizing this tool, contact the Chairman of the Executive committee to reserve a time for you to meet. Let’s embrace this challenge, meet it head on and work to improve our current situation. We as Grangers need unity more now than ever before. We should be finding new ways to be more active in our communities and providing outreach to our neighbors through physical labor, education, financial assistance as well as many other areas where Grange members have experience and resources. They need us and we need them. It is a symbiotic relationship that will benefit both parties.
Membership continues to be an ongoing issue for some Granges. This challenge is affected by many outside and inside interferences. Negativity, disparaging, bullying, talking down to one another and other factors are causing or contributing to our decline, reduction and loss of members in our local Granges. There are still many “cancers or viruses” in our halls that need to be resolved or removed. If you don’t know anyone in your Grange, that fits this label, that person just might be you. You could be the negativity that forces members to not come to meetings, leave the Grange and never come back or cause them to have outbursts that disrupt the meeting. You may be the bottleneck in the membership recruitment process and need to re-evaluate what you say or do to your fellow members. We all need to remember that it takes all of us to make a Grange work and just because something hasn’t worked in the past doesn’t mean it won’t work now. We should all be able to agree to disagree, work together for the good of the order and remain friends despite our differences. Remember that our actions affect not only the person that we are having the issue with but also other members around us. People subconsciously process what is happening and decide whether they want to stick around or get lost. We are losing younger members at an alarming rate because they have no interest, their ideas are often rejected or there is no mentoring coming from the seasoned members. We need to reverse this action and approach them with an open mind and heart. Try to understand that they were not brought up the same as most of us. Listen to their ideas and help them instead of beating them down. These are the future of our Grange, our Grange leaders of tomorrow and if we push them out, we will have no future. Welcome them, mentor them, teach them and make them feel important because they truly are important and ultimately our future. They say that sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some but right now we are losing pretty badly and we need to start winning again. It is said that it only takes a little faith to move a mountain and this is a good thing because a little faith is all we have right now. We need to overcome a large mountain that is in front of us and we need more Do’ers. Let's all do a better job at being a part of the solution and not a part the problem.
Communication is still an issue in our organization. I personally feel that this year has been better but that is a result of not being able to do much. I think that communication from the State Grange has improved some but the reverse from Subordinate Granges has fallen off some. Granges need to realize that when they have questions about procedure, the bylaws or how they should do something, they need to reach out before they take action. A prime example of this happened this year when two resolutions, that were submitted to State Grange, were publicly retracted through our Grapevine. Individuals should not be making decisions for an entire Grange and members from other Granges should not interfere or dictate what another Grange should do. All questions should first, be directed through the Pomona, then State Grange. We are the leaders of the organization and know the proper way things should be handled. Just because an individual has been a member for a long time doesn’t mean that they know the current and proper way to do something. Communication is a key to success and keeping the Grange work within the bylaws of our order is the responsibility of the State Master. She/He is the officer that makes all rulings on the State level and if they don’t know how something should be handled, they have the National Master to guide them and make the ultimate decision. Subordinate and Pomona Granges should make the decisions that pertain to their local Grange and if they have questions, they need to start with their deputy. When possible, these decisions should be made by the Grange body, not individuals. Our bylaws state that the executive committee, in conjunction with the Master of the Grange, makes the decisions of the Grange when the Grange is not in session or between meetings when the need arises. We need to follow this instruction and if they can not come up with a result, that action should be held over until the next regular meeting or when a special meeting can be held to discuss it.
I want to wish the new Master and other officers of the State Grange the best of luck with their terms and let them know that I will support them in any way that I can. My passion and love of this organization is something that I have always tried to exude/portray in everything I do. When I started as your State Master six years ago I made a goal to clean up the decaying branches of the order and try to leave the Grange in better shape then when I got it. I personally feel that I have done this but unfortunately there is still more work to do. I encourage every Grange to “work” on making their Grange stronger so that we don't have to lose any more of our Granges. My goal was not to leave a legacy, because it is not just one person's accomplishments that make an organization succeed, it takes the work of many hands, to ensure that the Grange will be strong and survive. Let us promise each other to rise up and make a difference in this ever changing world because let’s face it, ultimately it is not what we do personally but the Grange that should matter to all of us. We can rise up from the dust just as our founders did over 150 years ago and make this organization the powerhouse that it once was again.
In closing I would like to take this opportunity to thank some special people who have mentored and helped with the work that has been accomplished over the past six years. Kerriann Nightingale for being a sounding board, remembering tasks that need to be done, making runs to the store to get things I needed or forgot, taking care of lunches for Deputy School, listening to me when I was experiencing frustrations and a countless number of other tasks that I asked of her. Wilber and Jane Heath for bringing me into this world, raising me to be the man that I am, keeping me grounded, helping with the little things that I needed and always being that shoulder to cry on when things were difficult. Beth Merrill, Dan Bascom and Jim Tetreault for sound advice as past State Masters when I had questions about procedure, how things should be handled, providing suggestions and listening to my ideas of things I wanted to do. Edward Lutrell, past Master of the National Grange for being one of the greatest mentors a State Master could ever have. Dick and Debbie Patten, Lois Enman, Linda Phelps, Robert Haefner, Steve Tracy, Norman Brandt, Joann Brandt, Kathy Yardley, Joyce Martin, Jim Tetreault, Gloria Davis, Sarah Leclerc and Matt Collins for agreeing to help me as directors. Andrew Savage for jumping in with both feet to tackle the role of General Deputy, helping come up with the Grange requirements for Instructions and Inspections and for willing to host me for our meetings. My family members, blood and Grange both with us and those who have passed on, who have supported me throughout my entire Grange life. Past Youth directors Sherrill Bokousky, Jane Trombi, Beth and Arthur Merrill for molding me into the leader I have become and patiently teaching me the valuable Grange knowledge, policies and procedures that I have used throughout my terms as State Master. There is a list of countless others who have supported, challenged and encouraged me throughout these past six years and I am grateful for everything you all have done.
Christopher E Heath
NH State Grange Master.