One of the many casualties of Covid-19 and the lockdown has been charitable organisations such as Freemasonry.With gatherings not permitted, the social aspect of such organisations was the first to be suspended, but the philanthropic work carries on. Ruapehu Masonic District Grand Master Ash Williamson says Freemasonry New Zealand responded immediately to the pandemic.”We have suspended all Lodges until May 31, when it will be reviewed,” he says. “The Grand Master indicated we may go back under Level 2, but that is to be considered because the demographic of our members is such that many are over 70 and we don’t want to put anyone at risk.”
Last week a directive was issued from Grand Lodge to District Grand Masters on how Freemasonry will restart, but the date was left open, pending Government and health requirements.”I think we will wait until Level 2 and may even go on beyond the end of May.”During the lockdown Lodges have had to suspend regular workings such as service awards, degree workings and some have had to postpone their annual installation, where a new master is installed to govern the Lodge for the next 12 months.”Five installations in our district have been postponed,” says Ash. “Wharite No 451 was to have its installation the day after Lodges closed. I was to be the installing master and we were all geared up and couldn’t do it. The directive from Grand Master came out the day before and said ‘with immediate effect’, and there’s no way I’m going against the Grand Master of New Zealand.”
Other Lodges to have missed installations were Ruapehu Research Lodge No 444 (April 6), Manawatu Kilwinning No 47 (April 8), United Whanganui No 468 (April 21), Te Awahou No133 (May 19), Otangaki No 70 (May 26).He says if Masonic Lodges resume under Level 2 there will be restrictions.A lot of installations are done by Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge officers are mostly in the at-risk age range, he says.
In the meantime, work continues electronically.”In our district there are 13 Lodges and five of them are meeting on Zoom. I’ve also had Zoom meetings with newer members to keep them involved and we’re also doing weekly Zoom meetings with the Divisional Grand Master and the other four District Grand Masters — there are five districts in our division.”So there is still a lot of activity and Zoom meetings are going quite well.”Charitable works continue outside the lodgerooms.”Kapiti is raising money for homeless people to buy food … there were the big Anzac service on-line, we’ve had questions and answers with the Grand Master on-line.
“The Zoom meetings have been a real pleasure for me personally, and we will continue those through May, as part of our communication strategy, and who knows we may even continue when we are back, for things such as Masonic education, socialising, and general discussion about charity etc.”