Letter from Warren Weir, Chairman of the Covid 19 Emergency Committee - 5th April 2020
It is now day 11 of the Lockdown and life has very much changed in New Zealand. Each of us is dealing with a very different personal world. For many brethren that world includes not only isolation but the very real economic effects of job losses. We are aware of a growing number of brethren and their wives who have both lost their jobs. Others are dealing with the horrible reality of laying off large numbers of staff and closing up their business. It is not a fun time for many and our hearts go out to them.
The good news is the preparations that your District began 15days ago are now firmly in place and are working.
The hand sanitiser:
The Clini-X 24hr hand sanitiser has arrived and is currently being distributed. In Auckland the bulk is being held at V Wor Bro Farouk Khan’s home and from there arrangements are being made to get it to your Lodge Secretary or Masters for lodge distribution. For lodges out of Auckland region, the sanitiser has been couriered to your Lodge Secretary to arrange distribution. The story behind how we ordered, obtained and shared the sanitiser is one worthy of being fully told one day. It was all done on the basis of Masons giving their word and keeping it. There was little paperwork but all involved were very aware that time was of the essence; and it worked!
The Lodge Communication Chains:
Most lodges have formed some form of communication chain with in its own Lodge group. Some are using telephone chains; others are using the “Whats App” and others emails or combinations of all. It’s a case of what works for you. What is becoming more apparent is how often both the Lodge and District records are out of date. It is obvious we change our telephone numbers and email addresses a lot more often than in the past. Frequently we forget to update both our Lodge’s and District’s records. Also in is not uncommon for people to hold multiple email addresses and at different times prefer one over another. The changes may mean important emails are being sent to the lesser used email address. At the end of this period hopefully both Lodges and the District will have far more accurate records.
The District Grand Almoner and District Welfare Teams:
Both these two groups have been making multiple phone calls across the District to say hello. The feedback from the District’s more vulnerable brethren is heart-warming. The isolation of the lockdown is never fun but when you are by yourself there is an additional stress. It’s nice to have a friendly conversation and it’s what families do in times of stress. The Lodge Almoners and the Districts team are doing a great job and our thanks go out to all involved.
So great has been the positive response to the District Grand Almoner’s phone calls that an Assistant Grand Lodge Almoner has been appointed to assist him during this period . Wor Bro. Ken Perkinson has kindly agreed to undertake this role. Frequently calls to ask how life in a brother’s “Bubble” is going have become hour long “chats”. Life in insolation at day 11 starts to lose its novelty.
It is strongly hoped that the pairing of Lodges to act as Almoners to a brother Lodge is never required to happen but as the news of the devastation this virus is causing worldwide it’s good to know this option is in place.
Let hope that at the end of this season we never get to this stage. At this moment NZ is faring so much better than the rest of the world thanks to prompt Government intervention.
If all that happens is that we have all got to know each other a little better then it’s not a bad thing.
Lodge Electronic Meetings:
From Wor Bro Michael James
A small group of us have been contacting Lodge Masters to see how their Lodges are dealing with communication amongst their members and masonic activities during this period of lockdown. We have found that most if not all Lodges have found a way to keep track of their members that suits the age and technical abilities of their members. For some it is a simple as a phone tree and others are using social media apps like Whatsapp or Facebook messenger.
The second question we asked Lodges was what they were doing in terms of Lodges of Instruction and meetings. Again the response varied from Lodge to Lodge dependent on their size and the abilities of their members. Some were hunkering down and waiting for things to return to normal and others were holding online rehearsals and meetups. Some of the Lodges were interested on online meetups but were not sure of the technical aspects of how to do it.
In an online format distance is no object so there is an opportunity for Lodges with a small number of tech savvy members to join together with other Lodges for some masonic education. For members of remote Lodges and particularly younger brethren it is a way to undertake some online masonic visiting to Lodges that they would not normally have an opportunity to engage with. For Lodges with a larger core of tech savvy members it is possible to hold rehearsals and mock meetings for the team to maintain and improve their skills.
To facilitate this for Lodges who have not ventured online, Michael James (W.M Remuera Lodge) will be hosting an online meeting for those Masters that are interested in exploring online options for their Lodge.
The Charitable Trust:
From: Wor. Bro. Murray Macdonald – Chairman of Trustees:
The objects of your Charity are to build and hold the fund (both as to capital and income) upon Trust for purposes within New Zealand which are charitable in accordance with the law of New Zealand. Trustees have determined that for the duration of the Covid-19 Emergency, the Trust will with immediate effect, be considering only claims to afford relief in New Zealand to impecunious or financially disadvantaged Freemasons/Widows who are members of English Constitution Lodges within our District of the North Island, New Zealand and any future requests received for assistance in other areas will only be considered if exceptional circumstances prevail.
Brethren, in these unprecedented times, the sad reality is there are going to be Members of our Masonic District who will find themselves in a distressed financial position caused by Covid-19 emergency. The empathy and sympathy of all in our District go out to these Brethren/Widows and to their families. Whereas Trust funds are not infinite, please be assured your Trust is there to assist Masons/Widows in need as much as it possibly can within its guiding parameters and it may be able to assist you with a helping and flexible hand, by way of a lump sum interest free 12month loan to at least provide some assistance over this difficult period (repayment date to be flexible depending on circumstances as agreed by Trustees). At all times, any Application to Trustees will be treated in the strictest confidence
As the NZ Government and NZ Banks have put in place special provisions for New Zealand citizens/businesses as a result of the effects of Covid19, it is necessary that these options must have been explored, tested and declined by the Banks/or Government Agency before Trustees can consider an Application for Assistance.
For your guidance, if the above Government/Bank provisions have been exhausted, the procedure for claiming assistance from the Trust will be as follows:
Persons in need should first make contact with the Lodge Almoner who will have access to and be able to assist with the completion of the required Trust Application Form.
Completed Application Form to be sent to Trust Secretary (Scan the document and sending this by Email would be fastest: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Receipt of the completed Application form within the District office will trigger a series of actions in place to ensure Trustees immediately receive all details to allow a quick decision to be made.
Trust Secretary will relay Trustees decision to the Claimant and where loans are agreed, Trust Secretary will then arrange for Legal document (deed of Acknowledgment of Debt) to be electronically dispatched to Claimant for signature and return,
When the signed acknowledgement of debt is received back from proposed recipient, arrangements will be put in place for an electronic transfer of funds into Claimant’s Bank account.
English Masons working with Essential Front Line Services
From Wor Bro John Robinson
As a result of the Government Covid-19 announcement of lockdown on the 25th March, the NZ Blood Service found itself in an unprecedented situation where the venues that had been booked for the collection of essential Blood to keep our Hospitals running, had all closed their doors.
Blood is required for emergency and critical care surgery and cancer treatment, and there was a fear that the supply chain would be interrupted.
The Lodge of Harmony were asked by NZBS if it could use the Ellerslie Masonic Centre (EMC) as a collection point. District Grand Lodge and Harmony responded immediately making the Masonic facilities available to serve in a time of dire need.
When English Freemasons are asked to assist the Front Line Essential Services, in New Zealand’s time of emergency crisis to support New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens, – the answer is a simple YES.
Within four days, District had added to NZBS advertising, and a short time later with all appointment slots fully booked by 100 donors, EMC opened on the 2nd April as a Blood Collection Centre and operated under the direction of the professional NZBS staff.
The reality is that in responding to Front Line Hero’s, we bring Freemasonry to life and are putting into practice the principals we believe in, and demonstrating our relevance within the wider community. Bro JC Remo, a newer Brother and a qualified nurse, volunteered his time and was a part of Freemasons walking the talk!
A part of the success was due to the location of the Ellerslie Masonic Centre, being near a large residential population. I know other Lodges have similar locations and can also offer their Lodges for this very worthy cause. W Bro Craig Harris is a Blood Donor Recruitment Manager at the NZ Blood Service, call Craig on 0275525162 or email at Craig.Harris@nzblood.co.nz and he will work with you to organise the day. There is very little work involved – essentially open-up, and close – Craig’s professional team organise everything else!!
With new people in your Lodge you can also create your own RECRUITMENT NOTICE – WIN WIN!!
The NZ Blood Service has expressed it's a deep gratitude at this gesture of coming forward to serve our community and we will be continuing with this service.
NB – Blood donation is an essential service and permitted by Regulation.
Stranded British Brethren in New Zealand
As of the 3/04/20 there are approximately 1,500 UK Citizens stranded in NZ trying to return home. The British embassy is arranging flights but in the meantime, they are stuck in hotels, camper vans etc. After discussions with the Grand Lodge, a small welfare teams under Wor Bro Barry Holland have been established to assist any stranded Brother or family member. Barry and his wife Gill (Both are ex English Police Officers) have made themselves available to be a point of contact should any wish speak to a friendly New Zealand brother. While this service can largely be offering moral support, when you are alone in a strange Country, in isolation at a time of worldwide crises, the value of a friendly chat is no small thing. It is even better if that voice you are speaking with is the voice of home. Barry’s and Gills personal cell phone number together with the District s email address will be put on the Grand lodges Social media sites. Depending on the volume of contacts this group may have to expand.
World Wide Brothers Link up.
In these unprecedented times where Covid-19 is a global crisis, it’s important that we maintain our links and think not just of those Brethren we are used to seeing or hearing from frequently but, perhaps more especially, of those we haven’t seen for some time. The United Grand Lodge of England has been encouraging its members to raise a glass to Absent Brethren at 9pm wherever in the world they maybe. Let our District join in this world wide toast.
Our Brethren in the Province of Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire, a ‘tea at 3 o’clock’ toast has been started encouraging all Mark Master Masons throughout the world to take a cup of tea at 3pm. At the same time, sparing a thought for all Mark Master Masons and our Brethren throughout the Constitution, trusting that they are both safe and well. Let our District also join with our Mark brothers in taking “Tea at three”.
The Pro Grand Master has committed to support this initiative. Confirming he will take tea (and a biscuit or two) at 3pm. So, come on Brethren, let’s get on board with this – why not send a photo of yourself to V. Wor Bro Farouk Khan to post on the District web site in ”Tea at three” photo section”. Coffee is allowed and seeing we are on ‘Holiday” even a glass of wine is permitted.
Wishing you continued good health. Stay safe.
Don’t forget: keep looking at the web site. It is constantly being updated.
Kind regards and best wishes,
Chairman of the District Covid-19 Committee.