In October I attended the 150th Anniversary celebrations of our District of South Island New Zealand. I was accompanied by the Grand Secretary and Very Worshipful Brother Andrew Wigram acting as Grand Director of Ceremonies. South and North Island are our furthest Districts and the successful visit was another example of our commitment to our Districts, however far from London they may be.
I highlight two events whilst we were there. The first was a march, in full regalia and with the Provincial and individual Lodge banners flying, from Christchurch Cathedral to the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings where the celebration ceremony was being held.
It was a magnificent sight which was much enjoyed by both the Brethren and the local burghers of Christchurch, albeit some having a mildly surprised look on their faces. The march lasted about 15 minutes and took us past a well known local hostelry called the Holy Grail. I am glad to say that we did not deviate.
The second was a service in the Cathedral – again in full regalia. The Cathedral was packed with Brethren and their families as well as many members of the regular congregation. I was asked to read the Gospel and the Dean gave an excellent – and very supportive – sermon, his father and 3 brothers all having been Masons. It was a very happy time and I am delighted that the District is in such good heart.
Brethren, those of you who were present in Grand Chapter last month would have heard my statement to the English Craft in general relating to the announcement by the Justice Secretary that judges and other members of the judicial system no longer have to declare that they are Freemasons.
The President of the Board today has given a more detailed explanation of the events leading up to this change and of the success that has been achieved in combating discrimination in the Government, Local Authorities and other parts of the public sector.
Brethren, we are all pleased that at last - what we have always seen to be an injustice – is being remedied and that, hopefully, we will no longer be subjected to this unfair discrimination. However I make no apology for stressing again that this does not mean that there is no need for you to disclose that you are Freemasons. You should continue to use common sense and disclose your membership whenever it is appropriate to do so. In any cases of doubt you should err on the side of disclosure, and we should all show our pride in being a member of our Order.
Finally, I thank the acting GDC for a highly polished ceremony and I wish you and your families a very happy and healthy 2010.