M.W. MICHAEL ANTHONY WIGGINS
91st GRAND MASTER
MOST WORSHIPFUL PRINCE HALL GRAND LODGE
FREE & ACCEPTED MASONS STATE of NEW JERSEY

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Welcome,

       

            I greet you in the spirit of brotherly love, relief and truth, the tenets of this ancient and honorable fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons.

 

I am both humbled and blessed to greet you for the first time as the 91st Most Worshipful Grand Master of Prince Hall Masons in New Jersey. 

 

This auspicious occasion marks a historical account of a youngster born to the late James and Gladys Wiggins raised in the city of Brotherly Love.  

  • A young man who was taught by his parents both accountability and discipline.  

  • A man who would be blessed with three awesome daughters (Deja, Kyanna, and Devynn) and a truly spectacular wife (Monique).  

  • A man that in October 2004 would join an organization with an objective of just being better, would become a Master, and almost seventeen years later – be chosen to lead an organization.  

  • A man that recognizes the awesome power of GOD.  

  • A man of faith.  

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For the next few minutes, I’d like to take you back to a moment of American history.  From 1861 – 1865, the United States engaged in the American Civil War.  It was total devastation to the entire country affecting many lives.  It threatened the very infrastructure of the country.  Leaders were required to make arduous, unpopular decisions and were under constant criticism.  As a result, leaders often felt abandoned and perhaps unsure or hesitant about the next steps.  

 

The War eventually ended…and what remained?  Well, the history books refer to the period between 1865 – 1877 as the Reconstruction Era.  The Reconstruction Era was the period where the United States needed to heal, adapt, and grow, as a different and improved country.  It’s noteworthy to highlight that the Civil War lasted four years, while the Reconstruction Era is documented as lasting twelve years – meaning, the reconstruction period was three times longer than the war itself.  Some historians suggest that there were three phases to Reconstruction Era.  This indicates that there was a definite plan or a road map to progress. 

 

Why is this lesson in history important?  We have all experienced a Civil War of sorts.  Everyone was aggressively engaged in the war fighting the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Decisions were made and leadership was criticized.  Similar to the Reconstruction Era post the Civil War, our world, our country, our state and our Grand Lodge are entering into our Reconstruction period post the pandemic.

 

Now, history teaches us that prior to the Civil War the country had many challenges, some of which were exacerbated due to the war.  Please understand that prior to the Pandemic, Prince Hall Masonry in New Jersey also had many challenges which were made worse due to the Pandemic.  If we are going to be honest with ourselves, we learned exactly who we are as an organization and how far we are from the mark.

 

Truth is a divine attribute.  To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. It is only by acknowledging the hard truths that are beset before us that we can truly begin to adequately affect change – and changing our mindsets is what is needed to remain relevant as Prince Hall Masons.  

 

As the Civil War Reconstruction Era of 1865 – 1877 was separated into three phases, likewise the MWPHGLNJ Reconstruction Era 2021 – 2023 is broken down into phases as well.    

 

It is customary that Grand Masters provide specific initiatives for the Craft.  They are provided assist lodges with becoming and remaining relevant in their respective communities.  To actually affect change, we need more than initiatives.  Our Masonic Reconstruction begins with a cultural change of philosophy thus proving that we can truly extend our range of thought.  Our Masonic Reconstruction begins with acknowledging that we are NOT doing all that we can do. Attentiveness and motivation have been replaced with apathy and complacency.  

 

The Motto

 

The Motto for this administration speaks to the philosophical adaptation geared to positively influence change.

 

Remaining Relevant By Being F.I.R.S.T. 

As Prince Hall Masons we must be: 

  • Financial 

  • Intellectual

  • Resourceful

  • Spiritual 

  • Teachers

 

 

Remaining Relevant By Being FIRST allows for:

 

  • RW Michael P. Whiting (5), Assistant Grand Treasurer, to teach Lodges how to complete a simple audit and budget, to become more fiscally accountable.  Similarly, at the Grand Lodge level, the Grand Cabinet specifically will be held accountable to a budget as well.  If we are to preach financial responsibility, we must first be willing to model those expectations.  A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

 

  • RW Dr. Peter C. Madden (15), Grand Lecturer, will teach the Standard Work and ensure that lodges and districts are all practicing the same Standard Work and Curriculum.  

 

  • I added new appointments to the Custodians of the Work to include MW Thomas R. Hughes (17), MW Shelton J. Prescott (51), and RW Jeffrey M. Perry (15).  They have the specific task of reviewing the Standard Work for recommendations to make the work safer should the occasion require so.  We must also entertain the possibility of exemplifying virtual degree work.

 

  • RW Keenon R. Simmons (5), District Deputy Grand Master at Large, will use our Book of Constitutions to facilitate a Leadership School, as well as, for the first time in our history, establish a District Deputy Grand Master School of Instruction. 

 

  • MW Shelton J. Prescott (51) will join the Grand Historian staff and assist with documenting the history of our Grand Lodge.  In addition, the committee will be responsible for ensuring that the history of our subordinate Lodges is documented as well.

 

  • We will repurpose the “Together We Can Coalition”, an idea created under MW Tisan Rasool Dawud (29).  We will expand our resources at every Lodge level by establishing purposeful relationships with community stakeholders, thus securing a “seat at the table”. 

 

  • Bro. C. Andre Daniels (30) will coordinate the efforts to utilize our members of the Craft who are influential in their various communities to assist with facilitating our agendas.  

 

  • We will remind each other that a Lodge the Prays Together is a Lodge that Stays Together.

 

  • We will be committed to teaching each other, our communities, and most importantly those that will one day take the reins from us – the next generation.

 

 

Initiatives

 

The Grand Master’s Health Initiatives will continue to focus on Autism Awareness and Mental and Physical Health Awareness.  We will also highlight the various health concerns that commonly affect African American men such as High Blood Pressure, Heart and Vascular Disease, and Prostate Cancer.  To give special attention to our health initiatives, we have restructured the Grand Lodge Medical Committee to lead those efforts across the state.  The Grand Lodge Medical Committee, chaired by RW Eubert G. Brown (30), is excited about this new direction.  We have assembled an awesome team to include RW Eric Holmes (5), RW Leslie Greene (19), Bro Dr. Kenneth Smith (5), RW Eddie Davis (15) and several others from within our Prince Hall Family.  They will begin educating our Craft and our communities. 

 

The Grand Master’s Social Initiatives will continue to focus on My Vote Is Power and Anti-Violence initiatives with a significant focus on Domestic Violence.  As Black Men and Prince Hall Masons, we should be vigilant, purposeful, and present on these social issues.  

 

 

Our Challenges

 

While I am excited about the new approaches mentioned, I would be remiss if I did not touch upon a few of our organizational challenges.

 

  • Membership 

    • Our membership is steadily decreasing.  Today, we have less than 2,000 members.  We’d all say that we prefer quality over quantity.  However, our membership is getting older, the work is plentiful, and the laborers are few. 

    • We will discuss opportunities on how to appropriately market our Prince Hall brand while remaining relevant in our communities.  The two go hand in hand.

 

  • Finances 

    • While implementing audits and budgets are helpful with identifying opportunities, lodges must fund raise efficiently and prioritize spending.  

    • Lodges that own buildings must pay attention to their physical edifices.  All our lodges are getting older.  

    • Lower lounges are not necessarily the answer and, in some cases, may be the problem.

    • We will take a serious approach to grant writing.  If we have grant writers within our Prince Hall Family, we will use them.  If we need to hire outside help, we will consider that as well.  If we need to have someone in our Prince Hall Family trained, we’ll entertain that too.  

    • Why would we not want to invest in ourselves?

 

  • Communication and Technology 

    • Our organization had to begin learning how to utilize technology more efficiently.  I recognize the challenges due to accessibility and overall inexperience, but we will still progress forward.  As a body, we will continue to teach our Craft how to navigate technology and how to take advantage of all technology has to offer.

    • Normalcies such as notifications and calendars have evaded us, but we will get back on track.

    • The Technology Committee has been revamped and plans to launch a brand-new website by July 1st, 2021.  

 

  • The Grand East

    • While it is important to note that the Grand East is for the service of the entire Masonic body and the financial obligations rests upon the entire state, it is also the home of the Eighth Masonic District.

    • We’ve enjoyed good, spirited conversations and debates.  We heard sentiments about the Grand East and discussed possible options for our Grand East and we will continue to do so – but not forever.  

    • We will come together as a State to determine the best option as it pertains to 188 Irvine Turner Boulevard.  

    • Most importantly, we will not be afraid.

    • Great work is done by people who are not afraid to be great. 

 

 

 

 

The Grand Cabinet

 

  • RW James G. Allen, Grand Secretary and MW Ramon E. Nelson, Grand Treasurer, thank you both for being the support for our Grand Lodge.  Your efforts over the many years have not gone unappreciated.  It is my goal to provide for you a more efficient Grand Lodge and lessen the tremendous load you’ve been asked to carry.  Together we will improve our administrative infrastructure and modernize our Grand Lodge. 

 

  • Congratulations to the new Right Worshipful Junior Grand Warden.  I welcome you to the team.  I am sure you will fit right in and do your part to progress this organization.  However, your first order of business is to assure we reach our goal of $225,000.00 in our Annual Grand Lodge Raffle.  Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.  We are here to assist, and the Craft wants us to succeed!  

 

  • To RW Jimmy Barnes, Senior Grand Warden and RW Clyde H. Horton, Jr., Deputy Grand Master, congratulations on your elevation.  As your new duties and responsibilities are extremely important and pertinent to our overall success, I encourage you to continue observing and taking the initiative.  The fifteen-month hiatus leaves us with a lot of ground to make up, behaviors to correct, and obstacles to overcome.

 

 

From time immemorial, our Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons encountered many seasons.  We have experienced periods of growth and prosperity, as well as periods of challenges, trials, and tribulations.  It is written in the Book of Ecclesiastes that to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

 

  • A time to be born, and a time to die; 

  • A time to break down, and a time to build up; 

  • A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 

  • A time to love, and a time to hate; 

 

This occasion marks a new day.  This is our season.  This is our time.

 

  • Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  It was through FAITH that we endured the past fifteen months.  Freemasonry calls upon us all to have faith, to follow our ancient landmarks, adhere to our obligations, and let our Masonic story manifest according to God’s plan.

  • We were taught as Entered Apprentices that HOPE ends in fruition.  But what is hope?  Hope is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.  We must take refuge in the truth that God is with us and if we allow Him, He will guide us.

 

  • I Corinthians dedicates an entire chapter to Charity or Love.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  Love never fails. 

 

We are now entering into a season of Hope – hope for a progressive future.  Hope that we will right this ship, improve ourselves in Masonry, and fortify the foundation of our Ancient and Honorable Fraternity for the benefit of generations to come.  

 

Matthew 24:12 reads, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”  We are witnessing before our very eyes, that people do not love and respect each other.  As Masons we ought to be different.  Without love for GOD, ourselves, and our fellow man, we have nothing. Morality fades, families divide, and organizations crumble.

 

The Scripture that will model the expectations of this administration comes from the Book of I Corinthians 13:13 (KJV).

 

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

 

Thank You – In Closing

 

  • I sincerely thank MW Shelton J. Prescott (88th Grand Master), MW Tisan Rasool Dawud (89th Grand Master), and MW Jeffrey C. Spann (90th Grand Master) for first welcoming me to the team as the Junior Grand Warden in 2015.  I recall being eager and motivated to achieve.  I remember our competitiveness and sincerely wanting us to succeed.  I have learned a great deal from working intimately with each our you.  I remember the trash talking we shared…or maybe that was all me!  I learned from your successes and opportunities alike.  You each played a significant role in my growth.  In 2015, I was elected as the anchor on what was referred to as the Dream Team… an entire Grand Line under the age of fifty years old.  Well…your boy is in the hot seat now!  And with the grace of God and support of our Craft, we will establish a new Dream Team and set new standards of excellence.

 

  • To the First Masonic District, I sincerely appreciate your support during this journey.  As a small but mighty district we embrace moments for growth and maturity.  But I’m sure you can attest – even along this journey I have been there for our District, and I will continue to be there.  We will continue growing together.

 

  • To my beloved Hiram Lodge No. 5.  There are no words that can adequately express what being a member of the Hiram Lodge feels like.  You prepared me for greatness by demanding greatness from me.  

 

  • To my petitioner RW Edward M. Taylor, thanks for giving me the opportunity to join this great organization and pushing me to do the unthinkable.  To my Pop RW James L. Ferrell, Sr., thanks for being Pop and giving me all the fatherly love and advice over the years.  I love you both and I’m glad you have witnessed me ascend to the Oriental Chair.  I strive to make you both proud.

 

  • Today, I think of my parents and how proud they would be.  I think of my grandfather, the late Bro. Rev. George Williams, who was my motivation for becoming a Prince Hall Mason.  These are my loved ones that had such profound influences on my life.  Mom, Dad, Pop… I love you all and I’m doing my best to represent your legacy well.

 

  • Last and certainly not the least, I thank my girls…Deja, Kyanna, Devynn, and a special thank you to my awesome wife, Monique.  She is my biggest cheerleader!  You all have been part of this journey and are to be celebrated accordingly.  For without you, it would have been impossible for me to see this day.  I love you all and hold you forever in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In closing, let us be encouraged.  The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We will write that story.  We control our narrative.  We control our future.  Peace and blessings.

 

Fraternally submitted,

 

 

MW Michael Anthony Wiggins

91st Grand Master

Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge 

Free & Accepted Masons State of New Jersey