Food For Thought

In the special Christmas messsage I wrote the following 250 words, which I will expand on in this page of Food for Thought.

My vision for the future of Freemasonry

Every Freemason hopes that Freemasonry prospers in numbers of brethren and Lodges, and that the Craft's principles spread throughout humanity.

However it is easy to say that, but achieving it is very difficult. It requires action on many different fronts. I list a few suggestions:

A. Public Meetings
Freemasonry New Zealand compose and adopt a public meeting opening and closing ceremony, which should be used at the following times
1. Presentation of awards - Scholarships, Sponsorships and Public recognition.
2. Ladies and guests evenings in the Lodge
3. For the use of Masonic clubs and groups
4. For Masonic use in public places such as hotels, cafés, halls, etc

B. FNZ sanction a small portable Lodge kit for use in halls and other venues

C. Encourage formation of travelling Lodges
1. the combination of two or more rural lodges to meet as one in different lodge rooms (each town time about)
2. Dining Lodges that visit towns and different refectory venues

D. Formation of University Lodges a.k.a. England, of junior clubs/lodges for both sexes and support a ladies' organisation

E. FNZ Supreme Scholarship
The present individual scholarships be reduced in value, the savings go to a FNZ Supreme Scholarship which is awarded to the best of the annual awardees. The value of this Scholarship to be higher than any other given in New Zealand including Rhodes scholarship. This scholarship to be purely on the masonic merit of the candidates.

All the above are to give more public perception of Freemasonry

It is all very well to write such headings but they are bare bones with no meat. So in this month's topic I have chosen to add some substance to my thoughts.

A. Public Meetings

Any meeting where the public or non Freemasons are present should still have an official opening and closing. This should be on a similar line to our actual Lodge openings and closings, although naturally doing away with any official signs. It should however, have the equivalents of the Inner Guard, Junior Warden, and Master. It should also include an introduction on behalf of visitors perhaps listing why they as a group are in attendance, and an introduction of the person conducting the business.

After the business is finished there should be a simple closing to show that the Masonic business is finished and the meeting can become informal.

This meeting ceremonial should be able to be performed by groups with a masonic connection, and though not initially encouraged masonic ladies should be able to take positions. This is because there should be enough Freemasons to take the posts.

Initiations, Passing, Raising and Installations cannot be conducted other than in a full lodge meeting, but normal lectures, talks, presentations of awards etc. should always be carried out under this open lodge. Grand Lodge should approve this as allowable as a normal night's working

B. FNZ sanction small portable Lodge kits for use in halls and other venues

With the costs of maintaining buildings being out of reach of lodges with small memberships, alternatives must be found to those lodges closing completely. Permanent Lodges have furniture which is definitely not portable. This prevents the possibility of meeting in anything other than a Lodge, exception is of course when there is a large District Meeting where the Lodge room is too small. I have attended two with carpet, pillars etc. brought out. Even that furniture is too large. The portable Lodge furniture should be of three sizes miniature, small and the Grand Lodge size I mention.

As a member of a daylight lodge we have some trouble parking near the lodge in daytime. It has been known that a member has gone home because he could not find a parking space. For other daylight lodges where no local Lodge has car parking available the use of a community hall may become feasible if the set up of the Lodge is simplified by standard kits.

Such kits might allow lodges with small numbers of members to use a local hall, rather than struggle, or worse fail, to keep their Lodge building. It just might make the Lodge continuance possible.

C. Encourage travelling Lodges

There are two types of travelling lodges that I foresee.

The first is the formation of a combined Lodge taking members from nearby Lodges which have handed in their charters. This allows brethren to form a lodge which meets at differing venues i.e one month in one town, next in another and so on. With so many lodges closing, the combined efforts of remaining brethren in forming such a lodge could be encouragement enough. The provision of a standard portable Lodge setup  would allow these lodges to have their meetings in differing venues if their Lodge buildings had been sold.

The second are similar to 500 lodges which look to fine dining. The refectory procedure can circulate to differing venues in cities, but this is not available to smaller centres. A travelling Lodge which makes use of Lodge buildings in different towns, not only allows for after meeting venues, but also extra income for the Lodge that owns the building. Such a travelling Lodge may attract a differing section of the public.

D. Formation of University Lodges a.k.a. England, of junior clubs/lodges for both sexes and support a ladies' organisation

There are University Lodges in England which cater for students, with some permanent members from the staff and community at large. Such student members have to find other lodges within a period of years after they leave the university. This is a constant source of young masons coming into the community.

It is pleasing to note that an Alumni organisation has been set up for scholarship winners, past and present. If such an organisation used the Public opening and closing mentioned earlier, it might be a model on which to base nationwide junior clubs and organisations on.

When I have been on the stand promoting Freemasonry, I have had the pleasure of talking to many outstanding ladies who love the concept of Freemasonry, and would join a ladies organisation based on similar ideals. I feel that FNZ should offer support and help to such an organisation if it is acceptable around the world. In its junior clubs and scholarship alumni there will be many women who would make excellent members.

E. Freemason New Zealand Supreme Scholarship

This concept is to provide a scholarship that is the largest (or close to) scholarship in New Zealand. The promotion that we are the largest private providers of Scholarship does not appear to warrant any press coverage, however, this change would do that.

For example using the present Freemasons New Zealand list would change thus -

Graduates Scholarships 20 at $6,000 = $120,000
Post Graduate - shared 2 at $6,000 = $ 12,000
Post Graduate 6 at $10,000 = $ 60,000

A total of $192,000

Suggested change
Graduates Scholarships 20 at $5,000 = $100,000
Post Graduate - shared 2 at $5,000 = $ 10,000
Post Graduate 6 at $7,500 = $ 45,000

A sub total of $155,000

The new FNZ supreme Scholarship = $37,000

GRAND TOTAL of $192,000

This is presented to the Scholarship awardee considered the most masonic, and unlike the other scholarships is awarded solely by Freemasons, not the combined panels of University staff and Freemasons. It is additional to the other scholarship received. Therefore a Post Graduate student winning the Supreme Scholarship would receive a total of $44,500, and an undergraduate a figure of $42,500.

Just imagine the presentation of all the scholarships together, as at present, with no one knowing who would be the Freemasons New Zealand Supreme Scholarship award winner. It would make good TV news. The Award would only be announced after all the other scholarships had been handed out. It would also re-inforce the masonic message of service to others, which seems to be currently lost in the pursuit of excellence in academic studies.

John Barns Graham