Hard to believe that Conference is only a month away.
We are doing things a little differently this year. Because Divisional Conferences are now only held once in every 3 years we are pulling out the stops to make it a memorable event that you can bring your friends and family along to.
On Friday, 30 April we will be hosting a Charity Dinner at the Palmerston Conference and Events Centre. For those of you who have been asking for a WOW event – this is it! For our older brethren and ladies who remember the War we are having a Vera Lynn tribute concert “Hits from the Blitz”. Endorsed by Vera Lynn herself – this concert has toured the world to admiring fans.
We will then hold a charity auction with a number of fantastic prizes up for grabs – some worth several thousand dollars. We will also be auctioneering some contemporary art from up-and-coming New Zealand artists.
We will then hear from the Chief Executive of the Special Olympics (who will receive the proceeds from the Charity Dinner) followed by a cheque presentation of the amount raised.
You will then be able to trip the light fantastic to the sounds of No Strings Attached until late.
Both individual seats and corporate tables will be available for purchase. We have already sold 3 Corporate Tables so get in quick as numbers are strictly capped at 250.
The conference will follow on the Saturday and will continue the theme of Thriving Lodges, Engaged Brethren and Growing Attendance. We have a number of Lodges in this Division that have waiting lists to join – we’ll hear what their ‘secret sauce’ is and how you can achieve the same results in your Lodge. We will also hear from three “new generation” freemasons in the Division. They will share why they were attracted to freemasonry and what we will need to do to keep them.
A wives and partners programme will operate on the Saturday during the Conference. Activities will focus around the brand new Focus Point Café and Theatre recently opened and within walking distance to the Conference Centre.
What a busy week it has been. The week started with the Napier Roadshow on Monday; Whanganui on Tuesday and Petone on Wednesday. Then a trip over the Rimutakas to Masterton where I was delighted (and privileged) to attend the Royal Arch Convocation. Graham Redman is "one of our own" and it was a delight to witness this great ceremony. Graham has done a great deal for Freemasonry, particularly in the Central Division - so to support in this was a personal honour for me.
The Roadshows were amazing. Not everyone agreed with everyone else; and some of the topics discussed were polarising - but we need these sorts of robust conversations to ensure we don't drop the ball on our future.
For me - the key takeaway was the unity from our Senior Leaders to make enduring change. We know we have culture issues; and we know thosae issues are keeping many men away from attending Lodge. The irony is that often the cringe factors in Lodge don't even realise they are!
Our next big milestone is our Divisional Conference. This year we will be having a Charity Dinner the evening before which will be open to friends and family. It will be great to celebrate the amazing charitable works our organisation does.
Packs will go out over the next few days.
I can't wait for early March and the opportunity that will bring to meet you in numbers as we move around the Division promoting our One Vision, One Goal, One Team approach.
Sincere thanks to those that have already registered to attedn a roadshow. I am told that our numbers are already well over 250 across the Division. That's more than double the number we typically get at a Divisional Conference - so if those numbers come to fruition that will be proof to me that brethren are deeply passionate about forging a bright future for this organisation.
I am also delighted to announce that Steve Griffin (District Grand Director of Ceremonies for the Hutt Wairarapa District) will be facilitating all 3 sessions.
Looking forward to seeing you at Napier on the 8th, Whanganui on the 9th and Petone on the 10th. I can't wait!
For years now we've seen a slow but steady decline in the quality of ritual at our meetings.
We constantly look for reasons to "justify" this drop in standards. "It's the Gen Y's" we say "..oh the millenials have never been taught to remember anything" we say. "We all live such busy lives" we say...
I am sure that all of these observations have some foundation - but I am equally convinced that if it is important to you to learn and deliver ritual well - there's nothing stopping you.
I attended a 1st Degree ceremony last week where first time Senior Warden (and a younger mason) delivered, without doubt, the BEST final charge I have ever heard. You could have heard a pin drop in the Lodgeroom as the charge was delivered with a passion and sense of meaning I've never experienced before. The same mason filled in as Senior Warden at another Lodge the following evening and delivered the Final Charge in the 2nd degree with equal aplomb.
His stellar performance challenged most of the excuses we rattle off to justify or defend poor ritual. He has a stressful job as a national operations manager for a large retail chain store; he has a teenager; a working wife; and belongs to other service organisations. I couldn't help asking him what his secret was. He said "the candidate deserves the best that I can do. I didn't do it for me - I did it for him".
If I reflect on both workings - one a 1st - and the other a 2nd - the ritual at both was outstanding. I can't actually recall anyone needing a prompt - although I's sure I am wrong on that. What i also observed was that refectory is more bouyant when the ceremonial has been strong. Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm.
I remember as a teenager loving to play pool. I wasn't very good at it - but loved working the angles to improve my game. Eddie Charlton - a world snooker champion happened to be in New Zealand that year doing exhibition tournaments - my Dad took me to his Wellington gig. Someone in the audience asked him how he became so good. He answered "the secret to improving your game is to always play people who are better than you". When the standard of ritual is high in a lodge every one feels the pressure of wanting to get it right. No one wants to be the guy that didn't quite put the work in.
I'm not sure if there's something in the water - but my sense of it is that we are seeing a new breed of freemason - a breed that respects the ritual and wants to get it right. You owe it to HIM to set a good example. You need to be the man he aspires to recite rital like.
In a disposable world where everybody wants instant gratification - its reassuring that despite a new mason having to wait several months to join our order - the perceived value at the end of it is worth the wait. How better to honour that wait than to deliver well rehearsed ritual with meaning and passion. Why should the candidate expect anything less?
I am delighted to confirm that we have finalised a date and venue
for next year's Divisional Conference.
The conference will be held on Saturday May 1 at the Palmerston North Conference and Events Centre. I have attended previous conferences there - and the venue is top notch.
Thanks to Ashley Williamson, District Grand Master for the Ruapehu District for managing the logistics to date. The conference, which will have involvement from all District Grand Master's across the Division, is going to be a little different to anything you've experienced previously.
Early bird bookings will open next month - which as well as guranteeing you a place at the event will save you some money. All we need is 5 brethren from each Lodge in the Division to have 300 men in the room. Imagine what a buzz that would be.
So please SAVE THE DATE now. More information to follow next month.
What a topsy turvy year 2020 has been. After thinking we had eradicated the virus for good - lo and behold it comes back again.
Our Grand Master, MW Bro Wrigley aptly wrote in his recent comments on the Divisional Websites "it feels like the jaws movie". Just when you think it is safe to go back in the water IT strikes again.
However, as is so often the case - strength comes from adversity and as an organisation I am certain we are stronger as a result.
Meetings resumed again across the Central Division last week and like many others I couldn't wait to get back to Lodge and the inevitable fellowship and cameraderie that follows. I attended a double Gold Charity jewel presentation in Wellington last week - which was also the Master's last night in the chair. He commented on what a mixed year it was and how he believed the District should form a "Covid Masters of 2020" Association. I think he is on to something there. 2020 has been the year when we have renewed friendships with brethren overseas that we haven't seen for years. It has been the year when we've reached out to our older brethren and widows just to check that they are ok. It has been the year when helping our neighbour buy their groceries is simply the right thing to do.
The truth of the matter is that we shouldn't need a national epidemic to be kind. It shouldn't take a lockdown to encourage us to reach out to our friends overseas. It shouldn't take the fear of the unknown for us to help our neighbour with their shopping.
Covid 19 has given us a new sense of purpose. Don't let our eradication of the virus stop us from continuing to do all of the things we've done this year. I look at the charitable work we have done in the past few months; I look at the way we have rallied to help those at risk and it makes me incredibly proud to be a Freemason.
Our spirit of community is a key jewel in our crown. Let's not view the eradication of the virus as an excuse to go back to doing things the way we used to. Use it as the reason to polish the ornaments of our order in a way that reinforces our values.
Don't waste the momentum of this crisis. Go back to Lodge - be the man that another man admires.
Brethren, no one would have wished upon the world what we've witnessed over the past 2 months with the Corona Virus. I have just read a very sobering article in 'The Economist' on "Death Bed Etiquette for Sufferer's of Covid-19". What an incredibly morbid topic to write about - how to interact with a dying family member via Zoom. As countries move to report Covid-19 deaths that have occured outside of hospitals we're beginning to see the true impact that this virus has caused - it makes me sick to the pit of my stomach.
And yet in all of this gloom I have seen a spark in Freemasonry that I haven't seen for a few years. I hear from our District Grand Master's of the great work happening in their Districts; I speak to brethren who have met members of their Lodge via Zoom living overseas that they haven't seen or heard from in years; I see the amount of money being raised during lockdown - I heard yesterday that the fund raising for the Downtown Community Ministry in Wellington may reach as much as $25,000. For Freemasons (with the support of the Freemasons Charity) to raise that sort of money in 8 weeks tells me that we are as relevant as we have ever been.
I read the Instagram posts of Lodges that are meeting each week with a different theme; I read the newsletters from various Lodges talking about their good deeds during lockdown and I reflect on how proud I am to be a freemason. Could this be the turning point that we have all been so looking forward to? Has Covid-19 forced us to reflect on what is truly important in our lives? It is hard to imagine that some good has come from this ghastly wreach of a virus - but I witness this renewed energy amongst freemasons in everything I see and read.
We will all be watching our Prime Minister on 11 May to see what Level 2 might look like and what that might, in turn, look like for our work, our family and for our Freemasonry. None of us will truly feel safe returning to a Lodge Room until there is a vaccine for the virus - but we need to balance the risk with everything else we do in life. Our roads have stolen 4 times more lives in the past 2 months than the virus - the key is to be sensible and to not put yourself at unnecessary risk. When we resume - stay at home if you're not feeling well; but don't let fear paralyse your lifelong enjoyment in Freemasonry.
I am told that our live ANZAC Ceremony reached more than 10,000 viewers - and that more than 2000 people are watching, liking and sharing our Grand Master's weekly video updates. These numbers are extraordinary and give me refreshed hope that what we are doing as freemasons is valued, respected, and relevant.
Take care - keep safe - be kind.
Brethren, it is hard to believe that ANZAC day is just around the corner. The remembrance of soldiers who have fought and lost their lives in conflict is something that freemasons hold dear. Usually at this time of the year Lodges would be preparing to host the "Ceremony to the Empty Chair"; or participating in parades organised by their local RSAs. This year will be particularly difficult for the RSA, as they are unable to hold their national fundraising event (selling poppies). Money raised through this event is an important life line for the RSA and not being able to hold it this year will undoubtedly cause the organisation unexpected stress.
As masons we can assist in two ways. Firstly we can make a donation to the RSA by following the instructions in the recent email from National Office emailed to every Freemason. You can read it here. Secondly, you can attend the planned ANZAC ceremony this coming Saturday (ANZAC Day) at 10.00am. Although this is a 'virtual' meeting you can expect the same experience as you would attending a real ANZAC meeting, with the bonus of not having to be up before dawn.
I applaud the idea of Ruapehu District Grand Master, Ash Williamson who has suggested that brethren donate to the cause what they would have spent on takeaway coffees during the level 4 lockdown.
The Freemasons Charity has already committed to donating $10,000 to kick start the appeal - wouldn't it be great if brethren and Lodges could double or even triple that figure?
You can attend the 'live' ANZAC ceremony at 10.00am Saturday by clicking here. I hope to see you there - I wouldn't miss it for anything.
In the meantime - keep safe - be kind to each other - and start getting excited by the light at the end of the tunnel.
We live in complex times. Who would have thought 3 months ago that the country would be in a state of lockdown? Who would have thought that all but essential services would have to stay at home?
They say that 'crisis' brings out the very best and the very worst in people. For the most part - all I have personally witnessed is the very best. Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum - now is the time to work together. I continue to be impressed at the way in which our government has responded to this unprecedented set of circumstances. The fact that every person who has a job will continue to be paid; the fact that everyone who receives support from the government will continue to receive that support means that at least there is some normality at a time where little else is normal.
Global crisis is nothing new to freemasonry. In the 300-odd years since the formation of the Grand Lodge of England our order has witnessed numerous pandemics, world wars and political unrest. Indeed many of our brethren have fought the good fight as National Leaders; Presidents and the like. Freemasons have been at the forefront of science and research; have made up the Hollywood A-listers and have been amongst the worlds comst accomplished musicians and artists.
The legacy of those famous freemasons is that they performed their tasks with the utmost fidelity and integrity. We owe it to them to do the same during this time of crisis. That means having another read of the final charge in the first degree; it means having another read of the 2nd degree working tools; and vowing to live by the standards those two charges set. Give up every selfish propensity that may injure others. Be kind - and vow each day to do a good deed for another brother or a widow.
That means picking up the phone and talking to our older brethren. They are scared. They won't tell you as much - but they are worried; frightened - and you can be the important lifeline that keeps them reassured.
History will no doubt show that the next few weeks will be a time of great opportunity. An opportunity to iron out some of the bumps - that as a fraternity - will enable us to work more coherently once life returns to normal.
In the meantime focus on being kind. If you don't do any thing else - be kind. Tolerance has been a cornerstone of our fraternity for 300 years - it stood us in good stead then; it is now; and it will into our future.
Tania and I wish you and your family the best of wishes during this trying time. Take time to count your blessings. Be kind.