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Freemasons throw open the doors

August 27 2004

Freemasons throw open the doors

New Zealand Freemasons are opening the doors of their lodge rooms during September in an unprecedented move to dispel once and for all the incorrect public perception of secrecy that surrounds the organisation. There are just over 300 Masonic Lodges spread throughout New Zealand catering for some 13,500 members, and that makes Freemasonry the largest organisation of its type in New Zealand.

The Grand Master of New Zealand Freemasons, Central Otago high country farmer Laurie Inder, says all too often the good that Freemasonry brings to society and the very high importance and value of the moral and ethic teachings it brings to its members, are overwhelmed by a spectre of secrecy and conspiracy.

"Freemasonry is a very old organisation that can trace its roots back more than 500 years, and it has been a powerful influence in advancing many important fundamental human issues such as personal and religious freedoms, care for the sick and disadvantaged and the promotion of high moral standards, while carefully avoiding any involvement in politics or religion," he says.

"While the fundamental philosophies of the organisation remain unchanged, they are as relevant and as important today as they have ever been. But our organisation has evolved and continues to move with the times, and that is why it retains its relevancy in the 21st century, as it will into the centuries ahead."

Mr Inder says this continuing relevancy is behind the renewed interest in membership, particularly amongst thinking business and professional men.

As well as opening their doors to the public during September, Lodges throughout the country will be initiating a variety of community activities and events intended to demonstrate that Masonic lodges are a close and important part of their local communities, and to help bring Lodges and local communities closer together

Mr Inder says the open door policy is a tangible demonstration of openness and frankness that clearly demonstrates that Freemasonry has no major secrets or hidden agendas.

"Visitors to our Lodge rooms during September will be able to find out virtually anything they want to know about the organisation," he says. "But, we won't be talking about the details of our ceremonies:

Freemasons prefer to keep these private because to publicise them would lessen the impact of the powerful lessons they contain for new members." However, that wish for privacy doesn't extend to the installation of the new Grand Master of the order in Auckland in November, a ceremony that will be open to the families and friends of members.

While New Zealand Freemasonry is a male-only organisation, there are a number of Lodges which cater for both sexes, and others which are women only.

The depth and strength of Freemasonry in New Zealand is perhaps best demonstrated by its strong balance sheet. The Freemason's charity arm, the Fund of Benevolence, has almost $19 million in funds invested, and the Grand Lodge deposit scheme operated through the National Bank of New Zealand, has $259 million in funds held on behalf of Lodge members and their families. In addition, Freemasonry in New Zealand has charitable assets throughout the country, including homes for the aged and medical trusts, valued at around $150 million.

Charity is a major element of Freemasonry, and the organisation's national assistance programme distributes between $2 million and $3 million annually to worthy causes. These grants are made solely from the contributions of members, and are given based on the basis on the needs of the recipient, with no requirement for any Masonic connections. As well, individual Freemasons' lodges pay out around $1 million a year to help people in their local communities with a range of needs from housing, food and clothing, to education, health and daily living needs.


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