Click on the "pause ||" button to stop the music
Published on Christmas Day, 2013
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You have every right to wonder the reason for this intrusion in your Inbox on the Holiest of Holy days. Please allow me to explain.
2013 has been a fantastic year for Freemasonry in the Central Division. The Division has intitiated scores of men into our honourable and nobel order. As an organisation we have donated millions of dollars to charitable causes and many Lodge's have made a real difference to people in need in their community.
We have capped the year off by Installing one of our own as Grand Master for the next 3 years.
By way of introduction I produce the monthly electronic Masonic newsletters for the Hutt Wairarapa, Ruahine and Eastland Districts - but more on that later.
In my role as editor for these monthly newsletters I get to see the very best of what is happening, masonically speaking, in our Division. Two things constantly amaze me. Firstly, how much fantastic work we do as Masons; and secondly how many Masons don't know about it.
So I have taken this opportunity to spread the word; to share a year of great achievements; to bring you messages 'from the heart' from our leaders - both from within the Central Division and Nationally.
I suspect by the time you've finished reading this newsletter you'll be very proud to be a Freemason; and very proud of the great work we've done over the past 12 months. Forgive me - but this is such good news - and I knew you would want to read about it - even on Christmas Day.
Proud Of Our Leaders...
means to our leaders
I decided it would be interesting to ask our leaders what Christmas means to them. Here's what they said:
Our Grand Master
The Littons have celebrated Christmas in various parts of the world from Britain, East Africa and now of course in New Zealand. However, despite appreciating different cultures and climates, the excitement and enjoyment of Christmas has remained the same. Christmas for us is very traditional - we still have the roast turkey and all the trimmings, including bread sauce (although Di’s attempt at chestnut stuffing wasn’t very successful!) Christmas pudding with brandy butter and mince pies. And it is atime when we like to celebrate its true meaning.It is also a time when we remember family and friends, particularly those who live overseas.And we like to talk about the events of the past year.
We had many highlights in 2013 but two stand out. One was the birth of our youngest grandson earlier this year and the other was the Grand Installation and the privilege for me of being installed as Grand Master. We are both so grateful to all of those who organised, attended and supported us at this time.
Diana and I send you our warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year
Diana and John Litton
Our Board President
Our Chief Executive
Christmas to me means music and traditions and music reminds me of the similarities between my two hobbies Freemasonry and Barbershop singing, a subset of Acappella music. It is those similarities that make me a proud freemason and a proud barbershop singer. Both hobbies are about working in harmony to take something traditional and to use it to build a better world.
Click here to listen to this song and then I will explain what I mean about the similarities.
The first thing I notice with this group is that they are having fun and enjoying themselves. They are working together both in harmony and in sync to produce something that is stronger and better than any individual part. Each of them as individuals is contributing to the greater good.
They are honouring tradition and preserving it but doing so in a new and modern way that does not denigrate the greatness of the music but that enhances and enriches it. They as a new generation have taken a tradition from an older generation and rather than destroying it by bringing change to it they have protected its future.
They are working together with music, tradition, and harmony to promote faith and hope with a song about charity - the little boy who gives his only gift, his music.
(The picture above is of Laurence and his lovely wife, Sue. It was taken after last years movember event. Click on the picture for a better look. Ed.)
The sending and arrival of Christmas Cards was the signal of the beginning of the festive session. The trip with my Father and brother to go and cut down a tree and bring it home was a sense of adventure and fun. The mess the tree made over the next few weeks created endless work for my Mother. Today, I have not sent a Christmas card for many years. We create e-cards on the internet, fill in the message and click, off it goes. The cards are far more decorative and interactive than any store brought one. Are they the same, do they communicate the same sense of love and joy, friendship and fellowship? I am not sure.
But technology is here to stay and as Freemasons we need to adopt the use of our new and improved web-site to enhance the Freemason experience not only to our fellow Brothers but to the wider community, so they can experience what we are all about.
I wish you and your families a wonderful and relaxing Christmas Break and may 2014 bring you every joy, happiness and success and together,let us all enjoy our Freemasonry.
(You can view a video of John outlining his vision for his term as Divisional Grand Master by clicking on his picture above. Ed.)
Our Divisional Grand Master
Why has Freemasonry been in the doldrums for the past 25 years? Has Grand Lodge done enough to drive membership? Does our organisation have a bright future?
You might be surprised to learn that the future of our great organisation sits with YOU!
Not one person ever joined Masonry because Sir Charles Fergusson was a Mason. Not one person ever joined Masonry because Sir Keith Holyoake was a Mason. Not one person ever joined because of any of our great Masonic heroes. Joining doesn't make you any of those people.
Not one person ever joined in order to give a million dollars to charity. You don't have to be a member to give money.
Not one person ever joined because our ritual is outstanding, or our minutes are accurate, or a hundred other things we worry about. They don't know about our ritual.
They joined because someone they knew and admired was a Mason. It could have been a father, a friend, a man down the street, or someone a thousand miles away.
Who, it didn't matter. They admired him and wanted to do the things he did, and they did it in their thousands.
Want to help our growth? Be the kind of man someone admires. Someone will notice.
It is hard not to be proud of our leaders. Our Grand Master and his lovely wife Di are truly a credit to the Craft. Their journey as Grand Master (and Mrs Grand Master) has already started - but I was lucky enough to interview them both back in October before John was installed as Grand Master.
I was determined that this interview wasn't going to ask the "easy" questions. Instead I challenged John with the current reality of the Craft and what he sees as our future.
Click on the picture of John (at right) to watch the video.
Graham Wrigley is the President of the Board of General Purposes and has a key role to play in influencing outcomes for the Craft. In conjunction with several other senior members of the Craft Graham is to thank for the Strategic Vision that was announced in more detail at the Grand Installation.
When I interviewed Graham I was struck by his passion, energy and enthusiam. I came away from the meeting inspired by what our future has the potential to hold. I saved all of the "hard" questions for Graham including how he believes he can turn around our organisation and drive growth. If any one can, Graham Wrigley can. Click on Graham's picture (at left) to start the interview.
When you think of leaders of the Craft you typically think of the Grand Master, or the President of the Board, or the Superintendant of the Charity. Think again, one of our most potent leaders is on our Grand Master's right arm. Di Litton earned her stripes as a force to be reckoned with when John did his tour of duty as Divisional Grand Master. For those with their ear to the ground you will have sensed our wives and partners wanting to make us more accountable for freemasonry being enjoyable to them too. I am increasingly hearing our wives say "If you want to involve us in freemasonry - make it fun for us as well". I'm sensing that we won't always have the upper hand. If you want proof, click on the picture of Di at right to hear her closing remarks from the recent Grand Banquet. Di, we salute you as a leader of the Craft!
Proud Of Our Innovation...
In my opening preamble I talked about the privilege of seeing the best of the best in my role as editor for masonic newsletters.
What I find interesting is that you often see the same tall poppies turning up in different places. One such tall poppy is the Past Divsional Grand Master of the Central Division, Steve Salmon. One of Steve's visions when he assumed the role of Divisional Grand Master 4 years ago was to develop a website for the Division.
He was challenged by one of his District Grand Masters on why he needed a website - and in Steve's own words "..it was the best thing anyone could have done to challenge me..." That challenge lead to a series of discussions on who would be the audience for a Divisional website; why they would visit; and what would they expect to be able to do once they got there.
So after nearly four years of planning we are launching the website TODAY!
You can hear Steve's comments on the history of the website by clicking on his picture above.
You can visit the website by clicking on the picture at the left. For those of you who can speak 'geek' the url is:
Considered to be 'Phase 1' in a multi-phase project the website allows you to see workings schedules for all districts in the division. You can also keep up with the latest news from your District Grand Master and read the electronic newsletters being circulated by each district.
Add to that the Divisional Grand Master's Calendar and The Masonic Social Hub for the latest masonic social activities in the Division and you've got a veritable treasure trove of
masonic information at your fingertips.
You should still continue to use the Grand Lodge website for updating members details, submitting Lodge reports etc; but for all Divisional activities the new website should become your one-stop shop.
Future phases will include the ability to book on-line for special masonic events and social activities; the ability to search a 'workings' database to see when particular workings are happening (great for overseas visitors); and the ability for Lodge's to have their own information pages. Our long term goal is to make our website the best and easiest masonic site to use in the world. But you be the judge!
Check it out and let us know what you think. Check back often as content is updated weekly.
Proud Of Our Traditions...
Many of you may recall the questionnaire that was distributed a few months ago as part of the Strategic Plan exercise. The first few questions were focussed on understanding what brethren liked most about being a Freemason.
A surprising number of respondents rated ceremony and ritual as highest on their list of attractions to the Craft.
Proud Of Our Contribution Towards Medical Research...
Another highlight for me from the recent Grand Installation was the key note speech at the Business Session held on the day before the Grand Installation proper.
I had read the material distributed by Grand Lodge on the contribution made by our Charity to a newly established Chair of Nerosurgery. To be honest I hadn't really thought much about it other than to again, feel proud, of the great work Freemasons continue to do in the area of medical research in New Zealand.
The true significance of that contribution was really brought home to me when Bro. Professor Richard Faull spoke to us at the Business Session. You could have heard a pin drop as he described in detail what he had done; the results he has achieved; and how much of it was only possible through the help of our Charity.
Here's something else I found interesting as well... as Freemason's we are often referred to as a very conservative organisation; in fact many of our members are very conservative as well (my wife Tania would go as far as to say 'fuddy duddy' :-) ). With this in mind I was shocked to learn that Professor Faull had been turned down by funding agencies from all around the world. Many of them said "You can never do it"; "It's impossible", "Don't waste your time". Yet this conservative organisation of ours; that seemingly takes forever to decide what colour to paint the Lodgerooms was agile enough and innovative enough to believe in the vision and dream of a very gifted man; but not only believe in the vision - but support it with a contribution of $2,000,000. I can't begin to tell you how proud
that made me feel.
But don't take my word for it. I have managed to secure footage of Richard's speech at the Business Session. Click on the picture at left for 15 minutes of pure inspiration. And for Richard to show his appreciation of our support and his respect for our Order by choosing to join makes our contribution to his world breaking work even the more special. Richard - we salute you.
And to think that the vision and forward thinking of our Charity Team could lead to a cure for Huntington's disease; Alzheimers and Parkinsons is amazing.
Proud Of Our Charitable Endeavours...
How much do YOU know of the great charitable work we've done this year as Freemasons?
Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down what you think we've done!
I'm sure you'll have the Chair of Nerosurgey at the top. You've probably put the Chair of Gerontology on your list... starting to run out of items to add to your list?
You can probably think of a few local projects you've either done in your own Lodge or perhaps in your District or your Division - but I'm sure you've only scratched the surface.
Let me help you out a bit. Click here to see a list of the great charitable work we have done THIS YEAR! Kinda blows you away really doesn't it?
And while the Freemasons Charity may be the jewel in the crown of our endeavours as Freemasons, there is little doubt in my mind that
Sheila Hicking (pictured at right) is the jewel in the crown of the Freemasons Charity. I have had first hand experience of working with Sheila on Lodge charitable events - and she just makes the process so easy. Last time, it took me longer to complete the form and get it off to Sheila than it did for the Freemasons Charity to approve the funding. Provided you supply all of the information it is not uncommon for qualifying charitable funding requests to be approved in one or two days. Amazing.
Our Grand Master, in his interview featured in an earlier part of this newsletter, spends some time towards the end of the interview praising the contribution of his new Deputy Master, Mark Winger. However, even our Grand Master couldn't help noting that one of Mark's greatest achievements was hiring Sheila into her current role in the Charity. Sheila, if you were a bloke - I'd put money on you being a Right Worshipful by now! The work you do makes us proud to be Freemasons
Proud Of The Privileges of Being A Freemason...
For many year's one of the 'perks' of being a Freemason (or family member of a Freemason) has been access to the Grand Lodge Deposit Scheme.
For reasons outside Grand Lodge's control the fund has been eroded over recent years due to offerings being less attractive than they'd been in previous years.
That has now all changed.
Earlier this year, after an exhaustive professionally run market exercise was undertaken, Grand Lodge announced
that the Grand Lodge Deposit Scheme would move to Heartland Bank.
The move was met with mixed reaction from Brethren around New Zealand.
I did my own research at the time and was amazed at the mis-information and plain wrong information that was doing the rounds. My research resulted in a candid interview with our CEO, Laurence Milton and the Retail Banking Manager of Heartland Bank, Andrew Ford. You can hear their answers to some difficult questions by clicking on the video clip above.
I spoke with Andrew Ford last week and was genuinely excited to hear that investments in the fund continue to increase. While I am not an investment advisor; nor a paid promotor of the bank, my research has lead to such confidence that Tania and I have now invested our life savings with Heartland Bank. We are both proud to enjoy this privilege of membership.
Proud Of Our Values...
Here's a story about a farmer in Taihape during the 2nd World War. Can you relate to this?
"Mary, you have a shawl you never use, may I have it?”
She looked at him strangely, but got the shawl.
He thanked her and left the house. She was not only puzzled, she was suspicious. Several evenings during the last couple of months, he had left after dinner without any explanation. He hadn’t stayed away long, and when he returned he had a strange air about him. He seemed to have an inner peace. He said nothing; neither did she.
About a week after this latest incident Mary was shopping in Taihape when she saw her shawl again. She was shocked. It was on the shoulders of a beautiful young lady. Angrily Mary followed the girl to a shabby house on the outskirts of the rual town. After the girl had entered, Mary knocked on the door. The girl opened it and smiled when she saw her visitor. She held the door open and Mary stomped in.
As she looked around she saw an elderly lady propped up on a single bed. The lady smiled and said “How nice of you to visit us.” Mary was stunned. She didn’t really know what to say, so she just looked from the elderly lady to the girl. The girl asked if she could fix her a cup of tea. Mary nodded and the girl turned to put a kettle on the stove.
While the water was heating Mary sat in a chair beside the elderly lady. I don’t know exactly what to say, so I will tell you the truth,” she said. “I saw my shawl on your daughter and I was furious. Last week my husband asked me for it, but didn’t tell me why. I’m sure now that he did not have an ulterior motive, but I still don’t
Mary recognised her shawl being
worn by another woman...
understand how you have it.”
The girl and her mother looked at each other. Then the mother said: “We have no idea who left it. We have no idea who has been doing some nice things for us for the past several months. Perhaps now we can solve the mystery. It started soon after my husband died. We had no money and I am unable to work. And Nancy couldn’t find a job. We were desperate. We had no food and no fuel. Then one morning when Nancy opened the door she found several packages of food, clothing and coal on the doorstoop. You have no idea what that meant to us.
“A short time later, along with more packages, Nancy found a note telling her to see Mr. Tompkins, the lawyer, if she would like a job. She did and Mr. Tompkins hired her. He sent a doctor to see me. He has been coming regularly to see me ever since, and he won’t take any money. And we still find packages, but have no idea where they come from.”
They drank their tea and chatted pleasantly for some time. The mysterious packages were mentioned from time to time. Suddenly Mary asked: “Was your husband a Mason?”
“Yes he was,” said the lady. “He loved his Lodge. I don’t think he ever missed a meeting.” A short time later Mary left, promising to visit often. After dinner that evening, Mary worked on the quilt she was making while her husband read. She looked up from her work and said: “I think I learned the great secret of Masonry today.”
Her husband looked at her in alarm and asked: “Oh! And what is it?”
Mary answered: “To do good and not say anything about it!”
Mary’s husband and the members of the little Lodge in Taihape, plucked off their shoes to help those in need. Should we do anything less?
Proud To Be An Example To Other Freemasons...
About the song... you may be wondering why I chose Leonard Cohen's song, Hallelujah to accompany this newsletter. Cohen remarked that `Hallelujah' is a Hebrew word meaning "Glory to the Lord." Through the song, he was able to demonstrate that there are many kinds of Hallelujahs in existence. "All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value," Cohen said, "It's a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion."
That is how I feel about Freemasonry. If you are proud to be a Freemason - shout it from the rooftops and tell all of your friends. If you are not - get out of the way.
For me, Christmas is a time for family, friends and for reflection on a year passed and the year ahead. However, I am always very much aware that there are people who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves alone at this time of the year and unable to connect with their loved ones. Being our summer months, New Zealand almost shuts down while we enjoy lazy days, holidays, and a general feeling of joy having marked another successful year, but I encourage everyone to spare a thought for our Brethren, widows and families who may be alone during the festive season.
As my family consist only of a brother and sister who are resident in Wellington and Hamilton respectively, I take the time to leave Christchurch and spend time with those that I have not seen for some time. When reflecting, I think particularly about my colleagues in Christchurch who are still unsettled by the aftermath of the earthquakes, and those who have suffered poor health or family losses. Whilst I may be powerless to sort out some of their major issues, I do have the ability to ensure that they have the opportunity to enjoy the Christmas spirit. At this time of the year, I enjoy a personal interest and connection with those that I love and care about. For me, this is what Christmas is all about.
Best wishes to everyone…
"I don't believe in a Christmas celebration by the lodge. I don't think we ought to have one, or be asked to contribute to one or in any way engage in Christmas festivities."
"The Junior Mason spoke emphatically and with marked disapproval of the little ante-room group nearby, making happy plans for Yule-tide.
"That's very interesting," commented the Old Past Master. I like to hear points of view unfamiliar to me. Would you mind telling me why?"
"Of course not. It's very simple. Masonry is not Christian. King Solomon, of course, wasn't a Christian, nor were either of the Hiram's. Masonry admits to her ranks any good man of faith; Christian, Jewish, Mohammedan, Buddhist... it makes no difference, so he has a Faith. Then, as a lodge, we celebrate a holiday belonging to one faith. Now I personally am a Christian, and of course I celebrate Christmas. But my brother across the way is a Jew, who does not recognize Christianity. To ask him to spend his proportion of lodge funds in celebrating the birth of a Leader in Whom he does not believe would be exactly like asking me to celebrate, with my proportion of lodge money, the birth of Confucius. Of course, I have only one vote and the majority rules, but when it comes to personal contributions to a Masonic Christmas celebration, my hands will never come out of my pockets."
He shoved them deeper in as he spoke to emphasise his intention not to spend.
"Hum!" answered the Old Past Master. "So you think your Jewish brother across the way doesn't recognize Christianity? Don't you mean he doesn't recognize Christ as the Son of God? Wait a minute... Oh, Brother Samuels." The Old Past Master called across the ante-room. "Here a minute, will you?"
The Jewish brother rose and came forward.
"I just wanted to ask you if you are in favour or against the lodge Christmas celebration?" asked the Old Past Master.
"Me? I am in favour of it, of course, both for the lodge appropriation and the individual contribution."
"Thank you," nodded the Old Past Master. Then as the Jewish brother went back to his seat, he turned to the Junior Mason.
"You see, my son, our Jewish friend is not narrow. He does not believe in Christ as the Redeemer, but he recognises that he lives in a country largely Christian, and belongs to a lodge largely Christian. To him the Christmas celebration is not one of His birthday, but of the spirit of joyousness and love which we mean when we sing, at Christmas time 'Peace on earth, good will towards men!' If you argue that 'peace' is only a Christian word, he might even quote to you the words of One who said 'I bring you not Peace, but a Sword.'
"Now let me explain something to you. The Jew has just as much right to refuse to recognise Christ as the Son of God, as you have to refuse to consider Mohammed the Prophet the followers of Allah say he is. But as an educated man, you must know that Mohammed was a good man, a devout leader, a wise teacher. As an educated man, you admit that the religion founded by Buddha has much in it that is good, and you admit that Confucius was a wise and just leader. Were you in the land where the birthdays of any of these were celebrated, would you refuse your part in the people's joy in their Leader, simply because you followed another? I trust not. Well, neither do our Jewish brethren or our Mohammedan brethren, desire to be left out of our celebration. They may not believe in the Divinity of Him we, as Christians, follow, but if they are good men and good Masons... they are perfectly willing to admit that the religion we follow is as good for us as theirs is for them, and to join with us in celebrating the day which is to us the glad day of all the year.
"Believe me, boy, Christmas doesn't mean Christ's birthday to many a man who calls himself Christian. It is not because of joy the He was born that many a good man celebrates Christmas. It is because his neighbor celebrates it, because it is a time of joy for little ones, because it is a day when he can express his thanks to his God that he is allowed to have a wife and family and children and friends and a lodge, because of that very 'peace on earth' spirit which is no more the property of the Gentile than the Jew, the Chinese or the Mohammedan.
"It is such a spirit that Masons join, all, in celebrating Christmas. It is on the Masonic side of the tree we dance, not the Christian side. When this lodge erects its Christmas tree in the basement and throws it open to the little ones of the poor of this town, you will find children of all kinds there; black, white, yellow, and brown, Jew and Gentile, Christian and Mohammedan. And you will find a Jew at the door, and among the biggest subscriptions will be those from some Jewish brethren, and there is a Jew who rents cars for a living who will supply us a dozen free to take baskets to those who cannot come. And when the Jewish Orphan Asylum has its fair, in the Spring, you will find many a Christian Mason attending to spend his money and help along the cause dear to his Jewish brethren, never remembering that they are of a different faith. That, my son, is Masonry."
"For Charity is neither Christian nor Jewish, nor Chinese nor Buddhistic. And celebrations which create joy in little hearts and feed the hungry and make the poor think that Masons do not forget the lessons in lodge, are not Christian alone, though they be held at Christmas, and are not for Christians alone, though the celebration be in His honour.
"It is with this thought that we, as Masons, celebrate Christmas, to bring joy to our brethren and their little ones, and truly observe the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God, whether we be Jew or Gentile, Mohammedan or Buddhist." The Old Past Master ceased and stood musing, his old eyes looking back along a long line of lodge Christmas trees about which eager little faces danced. Then he turned to the Junior Mason.
"Well," he said smiling, "Do you understand?"
"I thank you for my Christmas present," came the answer. "Please tell me to which brother I should make my Christmas contribution?"
A Masonic Christmas
...in New Zealand...
Despite us having all been brought up with Christmas cards depicting winter and snow - we all know that there is no better Christmas than a Kiwi Christmas.
Nothing beats over-indulging in Christmas lunch and then cooking the left overs that night on the BBQ.
Nothing beats heading off to the beach for a few days; watching kids play with their new presents and observing all the grazed knees on those kids that were lucky enough to get a bike from Santa!
Both of the images at right are of New Zealand at Christmas time. Clicking on either of them will play video clips with a kiwi flavour and of things that are important to us at Christmas as Kiwis.
Here's wishing you a great Christmas, your best ever! Take everything you've learn't in 2013 and use it to make 2014 better. And most of all... be proud to be a Freemason!
Certainly the splendour of our ceremonies; particularly the ceremony of Installation of a new Worshipful Master adds a great deal to the lustre of our Order. Multiply that by a factor of 10 and you start getting close to the pomp and pageantry that is the "Grand Installation". Just a little over a month ago MW Bro John Litton received at the hand of his predecessor the benefit of Installtion using the same ritual and ceremonial elements that have been used in New Zealand for more than 130 years.
It was nothing short of breathtaking. To see over 500 Masons all saluting the new Grand Master in unison was an emotional moment.
The fact that our Order has been able to preserve, pure and unsullied this ceremony for more than 100 years certainly makes me very proud to be a Freemason.
For me, the highlight of the ceremony was Bill McRoberts presenting our Grand Master with the Working Tools of a Maori Master.
You can relive that experience by clicking on the picture at right. For the full ceremony, click here.