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Published on Christmas Day, 2014
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You may recall that I emailed you on Christmas Day last year to share some exciting news with you that I thought you might be interested in. You can view last years "Proud to be a Freemason" edition by clicking here.
I was worried that you might have thought me disrespectful encroaching on your Christmas Day - but instead you embraced my good news in your hundreds (thousands even). Our 2013 edition has been read in more than 20 different countries by over 1,500 people.
On the strength of last year's edition we've decided to do it all over again. We've retained the format; same audio track; and same layout - but the content is totally new.
This once-a-year publication has a simple purpose - to make you feel proud to be a Freemason. Under the cautious and considered leadership of John Peryer, the Central Division has had a 'blinder' of a year. We've achieved a great deal - and put in place the framework to achieve a great deal more.
Proud Of Our Year...
What being a
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 Chief Executive...
Our Divisional Grand Master...
For those of you who may not have caught up with recent developments, I first learned of John when I was emailed a copy of his "Alpha Gazette" last year. I was amazed at how knowledgable John was on all matters Masonic.
When John's involvement with the Gazette reduced earlier in the year I asked (begged) him to become my sub-editor on the Divisional website. He agreed!
I have asked John for a few words on what Freemasonry means to him; not only because he is my sub-editor but because he didn't become a Freemason until after he was 56! Here's what he said:
"I was 56 when two respected friends suggested I might make a good Freemason. I had to ask, and my wife Sarah had to give her support.
The ideals of Freemasonry matched my own beliefs - freedom of religion, it's the man that matters, benevolence to others, fellowship, and the quest to do the right thing. I found that I was among men of like mind.
However, Freemasonry is also a challenge - learning ritual, public speaking, and trying to be the best one can be.
Freemasonry benefits men of all ages. It is so vast a concept that no two brothers will agree as to what it means to them.
Freemasonry is about personal choice.
I chose to give as much back the Craft as I can, and I have chosen to give my time.
For that reason I took on the Alpha Gazette, and now a personal newsletter, and my pages on this website. If I can help brethren to enjoy their Freemasonry then I have achieved one of my goals in the Craft.
I have found that organising and managing Freemason New Zealand's stand at the Fieldays very satisfying. It is an honour and a joy to talk to the public.
I found out about Freemasonry late in life, but not too late. May I prevent the re-occurrence of the true story where the son of a Grand Master never found out how to complete his life's ambition - "to be a Freemason" like his father.
Our Central Division Website sub-editor John Barns Graham....
Freemasonry in New Zealand is on the brink of something special. Over the past few years our rapid drop in numbers has caused the organisation to reel and take stock.
During that time a number of changes have occured - many behind the scenes - to position our Order for the resurgence it deserves. Those changes have included getting our governance model right; adjusting our spending to live within our means; and to put our very best people in the roles that matter most.
The organisation now has a strong platform upon which to build. We understand our values and what we stand for. We recognise that our values are timeless and are as relevant to men today as they always been been. Perhaps even more relevant. 45% of New Zealand boys now have a man in their life that is not their paternal father. The principles of brotherly love, relief and truth are enduring and stand to make such a difference in the life of all men.
Although important, ultimately our Order won't survive on the quality of our ritual or the standard of our ceremonial. Great ritual is wasted when there is no one in a Lodge room to hear it; or no candidate to experience it. Ultimately, our survival is about YOU! It is about YOU feeling proud enough of our organisation and what it has done for you for you to want to share that experience with someone you trust and admire. And only YOU can do it!
So take 10 minutes out of your Christmas break to sit down and write a list of people you know who you would be proud to propose into Freemasonry - and then DO IT! If you can't think of anyone... ask your Lodge Secretary for the list of the members of your Lodge and then put a circle around those that you haven't seen in the last 5 years. Then make it YOUR job to ring them, and offer to take them along to your next Lodge meeting.
The future prosperity of Freemasonry in New Zealand doesn't rest with John Litton, Graham Wrigley or Laurence Milton. It rests with you.
Be proud to be a Freemason - be proud to be a man that other people admire. YOU are our future.
Proud Of Our Innovation...
Proud Of Our People...
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.
The Growth of Freemasonry - Be Proud of our Future!
...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.
Click on the picture at the right to view a youtube clip of what all true kiwis can relate to at Christmas time.
Part of being proud to be a Freemason is being proud in our great country and the wonderful, caring people that live here. We are truly blessed.
So take this once-a-year opportunity to wallow in all that is good and great about our amazing Order. Read about how our organisation is growing (despite what you might hear to the contrary) and how our efforts are making a difference in the lives of so many people. As Freemason's our ritual tells us to be meek, mild, humble and resigned. They are great morals to live by, but within the bounds of humility we also need to be PROUD. By the time you've reached the end of this special edition you will discover, like me, that there is SO MUCH to be proud of. Apologies again for interrupting this most sacred of days - but news this good simply can't wait!
Central Division Website
MW Bro John West Litton
How blessed we have been over the past 12 months to have a Grand Master of the calibre of John Litton. What better advertisement could there be of our Order than this man. Although he undoubtedly has the aura, mana and presence required for such a stately role; John manages to mix this with the perfect balance of dignity and humility.
John is pictured at right presenting a 70-year bar to RW Bro Jim Hogg, a Past Deputy Grand Master, and Past President of the Board of General Purposes.
I recently asked John what it meant to him to be a Freemason. Here is what he said:
"I have been reflecting on how I joined Freemasonry and my experiences in the Craft since that time. I joined in Nairobi (Kenya) and after qualifying as a Master Mason, I was made a Steward. This involved running the Lodge Centre bar for rehearsals and meeting nights as well as the other normal duties of a Lodge Steward. Some nights I didn’t get home until the early hours of the morning as after meeting nights had been completed the Stewards were required to complete a stock take and balance this with the ‘chits’ members had signed for their refreshments. Each member’s ‘chits’ had to be compiled and totalled for the Lodge Treasurer to send out member accounts for payment before the next meeting. I made many friendships being a steward of the lodge and had many late nights and early mornings!
I visited my first NZ lodge two weeks after arriving in Wellington and I will always appreciate the warmth in the way I was received. This experience was the same for every lodge I visited before joining Lodge Mana. Many of the brethren I met then have become wonderful friends and have given me and my family great support, encouragement and guidance for 40 years.
I have never forgotten the thrill of becoming the Lodge Master, being made a Grand Steward and in every position I have held whether in the Lodge or as an Officer of Grand Lodge, I have felt privileged and grateful. The greatest thrill, of course, was this time last year when I was installed as Grand Master.
And so when I am asked what is it like to be involved in Freemasonry I can honestly say that I do not know of any other organisation that would have given me so many opportunities and privileges. I am truly blessed to have so many friends, of being encouraged and supported by so many Freemasons and their partners, of being given the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and having so much enjoyment and fun. I am proud to belong to an organisation which helps and supports people in need and contributes so much to medical research and the development of young people.
As we will soon start to celebrate Christmas and the beginning of a new year it is a good time to reflect on our blessings of family, friends and the good fortune of being a Freemason. Diana and I wish you all a very happy Christmas and good health for 2015. Remember next year we achieve our 125th Anniversary and so let us celebrate well and talk to our communities about our very unique organisation"
I was privileged to interview John, and his lovely wife Diana a few months before he was installed as Grand Master. You can view that video by clicking here. I rewatched the video a couple of weeks ago and to John and Di's credit they've done everything they said they would do - and a whole lot more.
My guess is that this time last year when John was installed as Grand Master very few Freemason's would have realised that John's Installation signalled that the Craft had just received the most amazing "two for one offer" ever. Although Di has always said that her key role is to support John in his role as Grand Master, the reality is that Di has invested a huge amount of time and energy in building bridges between Freemason's and their spouses.
Those of you who attended last year's Grand Installation will have heard John talk about his vision of Freemasonry being more "open" and more "inclusive". Early successes in driving that vision have been achieved, in no small part, by the amount of work Di has done in her various communications and newsletters.
Her "Snippets" publications are now being read by hundreds of spouses around the country. You can read her latest edition, and all the previous editions on the Central Division website by clicking here.
When I asked John to tell me what Freemasonry meant to him I also asked Di to tell me why she was so proud to support John. Here is what she said:
"When I first met John some 50 years ago, I knew nothing of Freemasonry. My first introduction was via his father, watching him go off to his Lodge meetings and getting to know his Masonic
First Lady, Diana Litton
Building bridges and making
Freemasonry more "inclusive"
friends. Slowly, I got invited to Masonic functions as John’s partner and got to look forward to these social events.
John’s father was a quiet unassuming man, with depth of character and many qualities that as I got to know him better, I came to respect and love. He was always kind and would give away his last penny. So, knowing John’s father as I did, I had no hesitation in encouraging John when the time came for him to join Freemasonry.
I don’t think that becoming a Freemason changed John but, more, it cemented those qualities that were passed onto him by his parents. They say we learn by example. I am sure that it made him think more deeply about moral values and gave credence to the saying that the craft "makes good men better".
John’s association with Freemasonry has enabled me to meet a wonderful variety of people and I think I have benefitted from learning and observing the life experiences of many of them while at the same time enjoying their company. We have made some wonderful friends, many of whom we now regard as part of our own larger family or ‘whanau’.
I feel particularly grateful for the most enjoyable time I have had during the first year of John’s current role as it has enabled me to meet even more amazing people from all walks of life. There is a wonderful feeling of companionship, of belonging to a large family and so many people have been outstanding in their warmth and friendship. I am very much looking forward to the next two years and meeting more amazing Freemasons and their partners".
As I said in the lead-in to this item - Freemasonry in New Zealand is so blessed to have such fine, committed Leaders at the helm.
As most Freemason's are already aware, our organisation's primary governance group is the Board of General Purposes. Over the years the composition of this group has gone from a "cast of thousands" to a smaller group of people all committed to honouring the rich traditions of the Craft, but in a sustainable, enduring way for future generations. I am so proud to be the Central Division representative on the Board - and what I have seen, heard and witnessed over the past 12 months gives me a lot of confidence that our future is in very capable hands. What impresses me most is the Board's willingness to look at themselves, their structures and their people; constantly looking for ways to do things better ever mindful of the need for fiscal prudence and transparency.
What also impresses me is the Board's courage to innovate. What many Freemason's will not know is that the Grand Lodge of New Zealand is the ONLY GRAND LODGE IN THE WORLD to publish video highlights of their meetings within a few days of the meeting concluding. You can view the latest video by clicking here.
The Board and its work benefits from the diverse mix of skills around the table, not the least of which being our Board President Graham Wrigley. In his day job Graham runs the 'business end' of one of the World's largest voluntary organisations. He is intimately aware of the challenges faced by membership-based organisations and the constant need to balance the competing needs of our organisation with our limited funding through Lodge capitation fees. Brethren can take heart from how seriously Graham and his team take their roles on the Board.
President of the Board
Graham Wrigley. A lifetime of
experience in the 'voluntary' sector
I recently took the opportunity to ask Graham what Free-masonry means to him. This is what he said:
"I was a late starter in to Freemasonry with a gap of almost 27 years between the first opportunity as a 21 year old from a family of Freemasons, to a 49 year old career fire officer. Would I have been too young at 21 or was 49 the right age. I will never know the answer, but what I do know is that I wish that I had become a Freemasons much earlier than I did.
Why? All of my working life, and the people that I have worked with, have always had community values and been respected pillars, and although I never really understood the connection, outstanding Freemasons were all around me throughout my career. Most were my mentors, and looking back, I was proud that I looked up to them as guiding lights for my own professional path for it instilled in me those same values.
For the last 15 years, I have worked as a part of the world’s largest humanitarian organisation with strong fundamental principles and community engagement. Being a Freemason has ensured that people in need are always in the front of my
mind, and the knowledge that the work we do as Freemasons, actually does make a difference. In the last few years, I have become even more aware of the importance of our fraternity and how we, as likeminded men, can change values and the minds of others for the greater good of humanity. I am so proud to call myself a Freemason, and if I could turn the clock back, I would have started as a 21 year old".
I am very proud of our Board and their passion for the membership. To be such innovators on the global masonic stage is a true bonus.
Proud Of Our Openness...
This time last year we launched the Central Division Information Centre. The website vision, look and feel, and style were all the brainchild of previous Divisional Grand Master, Steve Salmon. We weren't sure if it would be used all that much - but we launched it anyway!
Since then over 12,000 visits have been made to the home page; over 26,000 visits to booked maked pages and more than 700 visits from overseas.
During the past few months we have added new content including pages for our First Lady, Di Litton, Our Charity - Sheila Hicking; our bank, Heartland Bank - and the 7 pillars.
We've also featured over 100 'cover stories' advertised more than 120 masonic events and reported on numerous items of a masonic nature.
When we laucnhed last year we advised that there was "more to come" and that we would be adding more content as time permitted.
Over the next few weeks and months you will see further changes as we introduce more new services.
One of the things we spoke about was allowing Lodge's to host either a few pages - or an entire website on the Central Division Website servers at no cost.
I approached District Grand Masters in September of this year and invited them to approach Lodge's in their District with a view to one or two Lodge's 'trialling' this potential new offering.
Ruapehu District Grand Master, David Johnston, was quick out of the blocks and only a few days later Ash Williamson had contacted me from Rangitikei Lodge, asking if he could be a "guinea pig".
In the few short weeks that have followed Ash has built a website for his Lodge and it is being launched today in this newsletter. You can visit his site by clicking on the picture at right.
If you would like to build a website for your Lodge and have it hosted free of charge on the Central Divsion website, drop me an email by clicking here.
I'll line you up with the software you will need and even help out if you get stuck.
I am very proud of our innovation!
On the wall in my office there is a small anonymous prayer that reads:-
So far today, I’ve done all right,
I haven’t gossiped, lost my temper,
been greedy or grumpy, been nasty,
selfish or overindulgent.
I’m very thankful for that.
But, in a few minutes, God,
I’m going to get out of bed.
And from then on, I’m probably
Going to need a lot more help.
This little prayer is my reminder that I need to improve and that each day I should strive to be a better person. Freemasonry means a lot to me as it provides me with the help I need to be that better person.
We refer to the craft as a fraternity and the definition of fraternity is "an organised society of men associated together in an environment of companionship and brotherhood dedicated to the intellectual, physical, moral, religious, and/or social development of its members". That is easy to read and give lip service to but much harder to actually achieve. There are many organisations that claim to be fraternities but that fail to uphold this basic definition.
I am proud to belong to Freemasonry as it is an organisation whose members uphold the true ideals of fraternity of helping each other and striving for personal improvement through brotherhood. The reward that I receive from being part of this organisation (and hopefully a reward I sometimes share by my participation) is what makes me proud to be a member.
What freemasonry means to me is brotherhood and friendship. It is about the helping hand when needed, support to each other, listening when necessary and providing counsel when appropriate. It is sharing the journey of self-improvement and through that making a better community.
When I first joined freemasonry I knew very little about it, what it did, why it did what it did, and what I would get from it. I was fortunate to be invited to join the Services Lodge of Hawkes Bay No 313, a lodge founded by returning WW2 servicemen in 1946 with very strong traditions and expectations.
I joined due to a curious desire to find out what Freemasonry was all about. As a funeral director I had experienced many professional involvements with Freemasons and I guess joining was the natural next step. I have always had a strong interest in history, traditions and ceremonial ritual and Freemasonry provided a perfect outlet for furthering knowledge in all these areas.
Meeting new people and devolving new relationships within my lodge and by visiting other lodges became an important part of my life. When serious illness affected me, the true concept of brotherly love was very evident. With support from Brethren (many I did not know) while recovering was outstanding and the work of Almoners just
magnificent. This area of Freemasonry is reason enough to join.
So what does Freemasonry mean to me? It has given me immense enjoyment,
fellowship, knowledge, support, achievement and above all a sense of being.
You've probably read the headline above and thought to yourself "this is an item about when Freemasonry was growing". You are right - this story draws its facts from the Central Division records held at Grand Lodge from the year 2014. That's right - 2014.
So what am I on about? Everybody knows that Freemasonry is dying... last one out - turn off the lights!
Not true - don't allow yourself to be caught up with tales of woe. You should feel proud to belong to our organisation that is growing - and I've got the facts to prove it!
In 2014 in the Central Division 24% of Lodges (16 out of 68) increased their members. The "stand out" District by-far - was the Ruapehu District where a whopping 54% of Lodges (7 out of 13) increased their members; followed by the Kapiti-Wellington District where 6 of the 18 Lodges in the District increased their membership. Click on the square and compasses "word cloud" above to see if your Lodge made the cut!
Congratulations to David Johnston (District Grand Master for Ruapehu District) and Graham Redman (District Grand Master for the Kapiti-Wellington District). Between you both you account for over 80% of the growth in our Division.
Take A Risk - Invite a Friend to Become a Freemason...
Are you scared of heights? Are you careful not to take risks in your life? If so, perhaps you shouldn't watch the slide show that sits behind the photo above...
Oh what the heck! Click the picture above and take a risk.
Risk is a very important part of our life. Some of us are reluctant to take risks because we are scared something bad might happen.
A famous philospher once said "If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained."
Take a risk - and invite a trusted friend to check out Freemasonry. Share with them the value that Freemasonry has added to your life. If your friend respects you - then they will trust and admire you enough to ask more. The greatest risk you can ever take is not talking to them about Freemasonry at all!
Freemasonry in this Division is on the brink of something special. Few of us appreciate the power we each hold in our own hands to energise the Craft. If each Freemason in New Zealand proposed just one new candidate every 3 years in 10 years time the Craft would number more than 60,000 the same number it was at its peak in the 60's.
The future of the Craft doesn't sit with your Lodge, or your District Grand Master or Grand Lodge - it sits with YOU! Take a risk - talk to your best friend about Freemasonry. You may be surprised at what they say.
Like Great Grandmother... Like Great Grandson...
I received some pictures the other day from Tim Brown, member of the Te Awahou Lodge.
It is interesting to see how the same characteristics are passed from generation to generation... you be the judge! Click the picture above to start.
Without a doubt - my favourite story for the year was the interview I did at Grand Lodge Headquarters in Wellington. Entitled "The Office" the interview spoke briefly to each staff member and attempted to understand a little more about each of them and what they do on a day to day basis. The key 'takeaway' for me was realising what a "lean and mean" ship Grand Lodge really is - any thoughts of ivory towers and gold taps in the toilets was quickly replaced with an appreciation of just how hard these ladies work to make our capitation dollars go further.
If you missed this interview first time around - or simply want to view it again you can do so by clicking here. Enjoy!
Proud Of Our Good Deeds...
"...always remembering that greatest jewel in our Order, Charity. Raising hope on the one hand; renewing faith on the other - but with Charity always in your heart...". Most Freemasons will be familiar with these words - they are said when investing the Almoner at every Lodge Installation.
Now, more than ever before, we as Freemasons have the opportunity to practice this virtue. If you look around in your community there is an unsatiable need for funding for a raft of projects. No other organisation can boast the existence of an overarching charity that can match money we raise 1:1 or some instances 2:1. It is this "power of multiplication" that gives us an edge when helping organisations in our community.
For several years now, Sheila Hicking, as our Charity Administrator has assisted Lodges to give away millions and millions of dollars to worthwhile causes. As Freemasons we can feel well proud of the huge good our Charity funding does in the community.
If there has ever been a reason to talk to your friends about Freemasonry - then our Charity work must surely be it. What other organisation does so much good - but without bragging or boasting or wanting prime time coverage on TV. We do it because helping others is fundamental to our being - it is at the very core of being a Freemason.
I have attached a summary from Sheila showing where a lot of the money from our Charity has gone over the past few months. Click here to read it. Print a copy out - show it to your friends. Better still - print it out and pin it on the wall next to your computer. Everytime you look at it - I guarantee you'll feel proud to be a Freemason.
I asked Sheila if she was proud to administer our Charity. Here is what she said:
"In my time in the job a lot of hard work from a lot of people has gone into improving our systems to make The Freemasons Charity funding more readily accessible than ever before.
Thanks to the last 125 years of diligent work by those who went before we have a resource today that can ease the need in the community.
What we can accomplish within 24 hours is absolutely awesome! The thought that I can play a part in getting funding to someone in urgent need, or by making a phone call or two I can get a freemason to visit someone who just needs personal contact - that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and into my car.
The thought that I can in some small way, by doing my job, make a difference makes me not only proud but also grateful - this is all part of my job description - how good is that!
None of this would happen without the dedicated network I can call on for help, they operate as our eyes and ears, their willingness to help is truly priceless.
I am lucky enough to see all the thank you letters, from a Freemasons Scholar - a recipient of a Hospital Pack- a Widow grateful for the gift - and from those who receive the help that doesn’t have a price tag, human kindness one to another.
This is my job - thank you all - how could I not be proud of this"!
Next year is a special year for all New Zealander's. We will be commemorating the landing of Kiwi troops in the first world war and what has become known as the carnage called Gallipoli.
"Christmas" and "War" seem like words that should be at opposite ends of our vocabulary. There is no place for war at Christmas time.
Sainsbury's in the UK have produced an advertisement for this Christmas, which although fictional, shows that while war divides people and nations - underneath we all have the same basis needs. Click the picture below to start.
Have a GREAT Christmas...
2015 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year.
The 125 year celebrations are already beginning to build momentum and I am already starting to get excited about the 2015 Divisional conferences.
I understand that a team of Master Mason's has been appointed to organise and run the next Central Divsion conference. Imagine how easy it will be to make decisions without a single Past Master in the room! :-)
All that remains is for Tania and I to wish you the best Christmas ever. Remember that people were made to be loved and possessions were made to be used. In this world we too often see possessions being loved - and people being used. Break the cycle - tell someone today how much you love them!