50 YEARS HENCE IN 1973
PAPER by R.W.Bro. A. S. Oldham, V.W.Bro. H. Wyatt and W.Bros. M. Hynes and E. I. Runnerstrum.
ED. Note: This article from the United Masters Lodge in 1973 looks forward to the next 50 years. How much has come true? What have we to do in the next 8 years? The article starts with an explanation by the authors (in italics)
We are taking the rather unusual course of publishing, a month in advance, the Paper which will form the basis of our August meeting.
Last year, R.W.Bro. A. S. Oldham, then Prov. Grand Master, in the course of his remarks in the refectory, issued a challenge to this Lodge to prepare and present a Paper on the future of Freemasonry in New Zealand. The Standing Committee, after considering the proposal asked V.W.Bro. H. Wyatt to arrange for the presentation of a Paper and to organise a debate or symposium for our regular meeting to be held on 23rd August, 1973. The Paper now printed is the combined work of R.W.Bro. A. S. Oldham, V.W.Bro. H. Wyatt and W.Bros. M. Hynes and E. I. Runnerstrum.
The Paper is now published so that all those who will attend and may wish to join in discussion will have the opportunity of knowing in advance of the topics which are to be aired.
R.W.Bro. J. B. Christie, Prov.G.M., will chair the discussion, and we trust that many of our Brethren will come prepared to debate the important issues raised in this Paper.
"FIFTY YEARS HENCE"
The ability to see into the future with any degree or certainty, is not given to ordinary mortals. Therefore we must preface our remarks by saying that we have no crystal ball, and no magic formula to enable us to accurately predict the style of our Craft in future years. We can however, look at the past fifty years and endeavour to analyse the trends or behaviour in society, and the changes which have occurred.
We have seen the nineteen-twenties with their tremendous fall in moral standards, with a series of minor booms and depressions, with a new kind of post-war society, and the new rich appearing in great numbers. Then came the depressing thirties and the slow emergence from the great depression of that period. We had a brave new world poorly equipped to face up to a second world war.
The first half of the nineteen-forties was occupied with the war years, a period in which civilian casualties rose to an unheard of figure. The boundaries of the nations in Europe and Asia changed beyond belief. The fifties found religion losing ground and a further fall in moral values. The population explosion was making itself felt, and many unfortunate people were clamouring for their rights. The sixties brought inflation in a tremendous spiral, and a degree of permissiveness in society never before experienced. Today we are faced with a vigorous and expanding economy, with soaring costs and industrial strife. Out of all this Freemasonry has progressed over the whole period of fifty years.
Masonic Population (N.Z.)
1920 = 17542
1930 = 27259
1940 = 26491
1950 = 37522
1960 = 46362
1970 = 44219
From this it can be seen that although there has been a slight ebb and flow in our membership, yet the overall picture is one of positive growth over the whole of the period.
Social changes of the future must affect the Craft. In the Twenty-First Century we can expect totally centralised Government; population increase in Auckland to three million; equality of sexes; instant audio-televised communication with anywhere in the world; completely new universal currency with little practical use for coinage; instant information on any subject available to anyone from computer banks and libraries; almost total reliance on "no cost" public transport in the cities; and a large amount of non-productive leisure time. In spite of all these and other changes that will take place, we feel sure that Freemasonry has a positive and developing future in New Zealand. This statement is based on the progress of the past, the trends today, and the promise of tomorrow.
WHAT CAN WE SEE EMERGING?
In the Lodge Room
Because of the conservative nature of our institution and the maturity of our members, we cannot expect any great change in the appearance and furniture of the Lodge Room. Audio-visual equipment may assist in the working of some parts of our degrees. Much will be done to improve the comfort of those who attend with greater emphasis being placed on the quality of appointments, with air-conditioning and comfortable seating a necessity.
Lodges may tend to become occupation typed, and it may well be, with increasing leisure time and a greater opportunity for daytime meetings, that Lodges will assemble for afternoon or early evening meetings; and the members dine together afterwards. Membership will be by invitation, and increased autonomy will strengthen each Lodge as a unit, and make much of the present frenzied "visiting" unnatural.
Ritual and Ceremony
The Ritual will probably be subject to much pressure from moderns to re-organise the text, and it is felt that it will not remain in its present form, but with a tendency to reduce the working of the degrees to a minimum. An alternative, less protracted opening to the degrees may be accepted as an extension to the already commonly used short closures. The Tracing Board lectures may continue to lose their place in the ceremonies and be presented with an Historical Lecture on special occasions. Some Freemasons may even suggest that members be received on a solemn attestation, followed by a later presentation of an historical ceremony performed for the benefit of the year's Candidates.
Masonic Dress and Regalia
Relaxation of dress will probably be the first change and will no doubt be in line with overseas trends which would indicate a move away from full evening dress. Dinner jackets may serve for a time, but with the advent of some Lodges holding late afternoon, or early evening meetings, it is felt that the Masonic dress of the future will be a conservative style of the fashion which will prevail at that time. With this relaxation of dress, our ostentatious badges of rank, aprons, collars, and gauntlets, will probably be replaced with miniature jewels, symbols and pocket-sized aprons. We can also expect a radical alteration in Grand Lodge Regalia because or increasing costs. Overseas practice runs to a much simpler pattern with rank defined by an edging of narrow gold braid.
Charitable 'works within the Craft may well adopt a new look in the future. The gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' will widen and will have to be equalised by greater dispensing of assistance. Increased means of relief will be necessary to ensure that everyone associated with the Craft can enjoy the materialistic advantages of society in the future. With the trend of Government to assume an increasing responsibility for the sick and the aged, the main field of Masonic Benevolence may be found in attending to the needs of the individual on the one hand, and extending our assistance to say, medical research, non-commercial forms of the arts, education, youth work and scholarships.
The Refectory will always be an important part of Lodge life. With shorter ceremonies, the Refectory will become equal in importance to the ceremony. It will offer an excellent opportunity for fellowship and we can expect the form to change to a more relaxed atmosphere, bringing with it a new sense of value and a closer association with our Brethren. Dining Lodges will become popular, speeches minimal, and time made for informed discussions and consideration of socially beneficial ideas and ideals. It may become a common meeting ground for men's and women's associated organisations. We may also have to consider including recreational facilities within the Lodge Centre, for the Brethren, their wives and their children. Teenager Lodges may help to foster an interest in Freemasonry.
As the law will become increasingly severe on drinking of any sort and driving, there will be a tendency for more Lodges to become Temperance Lodges.
Costs and Membership
The cost of belonging to a Lodge today is proportionally lower than that of fifty, thirty-five or even twenty years ago. In the future, costs may result in Lodges either being smaller closer groups (with higher dues), or numerically larger, and thus able to operate on a moderate income. The outlook of the Roman Catholic Church to our organisation is changing, and we expect that amongst the Candidates coming forward for membership of our Lodges, a proportion of them will be members of that church. The age of admission will also be lowered.
Government of the Craft
Is it wise to continue with the Annual Communication in its present form? Could not the Districts under their own senior officer hold quarterly meetings, and send delegates to an Annual Meeting?
We can foresee the time when the day-to-day business of Grand Lodge will be handled by a small executive board of appointed members, instead of the two large boards we have today.
Present-day trends are for a more active participation by our ladies in the social and charitable activities of the Craft. The growing movements of "Women's Lib" will undoubtedly influence the attitude of our womenfolk towards Freemasonry. Integration cannot be envisaged, especially when one realises the possibility of official recognition of parallel women's organisations. It may be that additional degrees will be added to our present system to enable a working together, but these would be androgynous degrees having no connection with Craft Masonry.
Our Relationship with the outside world and the Government
The customs of society and the changing standards of morality have altered to such a degree over the past fifty years that we may well ask where do we go from here? History reveals a picture of recurring rise and fall in religious life and human behaviour. Past experience shows that we should expect a return to better standards in morality and social conduct. The Craft will become outstanding in our society of the future because of its rigid belief in God, and the practice of every moral and social virtue. This will clearly be defined in its unchanging adherence to the Grand Principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Freemasonry, along with some other present-day conventions, will maintain a conservative influence and assist in averting too rapid a change. There will always be a place for the Craft.
Increased leisure, greater education, the urge to be associated with something old and seemingly unchanging, a refuge for relaxation, and an oasis in a very materialistic world, will be some of the factors in the Craft meeting a need.
To maintain a good relationship with the outside world, we must achieve dignified publicity both inside and outside our Order. This may even lead to regular advertisements stating our aims and explaining our Order. The right publicity, could attract the interest of our Polynesian friends who will number one-third of the population of Auckland in fifty years time.
It may be that the Craft and its members who have been exempt from violence and abuse in the past, may have to accept some of this - and even stand up and be counted. Some form of representation and political contact with the country's authorities will be established on' an official level. This may be a statutory demand, but will prove our allegiance.
Of the future development of the Craft we have no doubt. The high standards demanded of her membership will mean that the quality of the Brethren will never lessen. Changes, undreamed of today, will take place more rapidly than in the past years. Therefore, we of today and tomorrow must face up to our responsibilities, some of which we present:
1. We must expect and see that we, the leaders and rulers in the Craft, provide a progressive and sound leadership.
2. We must make our Lodges more secure in finance and Lodge membership.
3. We must never relax to any degree our Three Grand Principles.
4. We must make our Refectory proceedings more efficient, and more attractive to the rank and file of our membership.
5. We must maintain and improve the quality of work in the Lodge-room.
6. We must extend more and more, the Masonic education of both Master and Master Mason.
7. We must achieve dignified publicity both inside and outside the Craft.
8. We must recognise that our womenfolk have their individual rights and privileges, and that we greatly value their co-operation
9. We should look to Grand Lodge to take a more positive lead in providing instruction and direction in Masonic education
10. We must develop Brotherly Love and Fellowship to a much greater degree than we do today
Food For Thought
European Hotel, Charleston
In its heyday a boisterous town of 18,000 people, Charleston by 1927 could boast as its only inhabited buildings the hotel, Post Office and Police station. As one of New Zealand's gold mining centres, its rise and fall were echoed in many other similar communities, springing up like mushrooms and declining almost as rapidly to become ghost towns.
The European, whose faded and tattered remains still stand was once a proud occupier of Charleston's "golden square" and one of the 93 hotels serving the thriving centre. A year after the discovery of gold nearby in 1866, the town was at its peak with fortunes being made by diggers and the inevitable hangers-on ready to relieve them of as much as they could. Every boat from Melbourne brought dancing girls, barmaids and diggers, the latter outnumbering the womenfolk by twelve to one. There were two newspapers, three breweries and three banks.
Of the three two-storeyed hotels, the European was the leading establishment. It was built by Charles Weitzel in 1866 and was in turn library, temporary church and the setting for marriages.
Its wedding breakfasts were unrivalled and among other West Coast celebrities, Seddon partook of feasts there for which 150 fowls were provided. The Masonic, Oddfellows and Foresters Lodges met in the long dance hall upstairs, the Masonic Lodge being Charleston Kilwinning, No.487 S.C. which was formed on May 1st, 1868, and lasting less than 30 years. For many decades after, the old pedestals, honours boards etc. lay gathering dust, perhaps some items are still there. The proprietor, Charles Woodhead, was initiated into the Lodge in 1885.
SOURCE: UML V21 N06, page 91-100