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Foundation stone laid in colourful ceremony

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The foundation stone at Woburn Apartments was laid on Saturday in a colourful ceremony led by the Grand Master of Freemasons New Zealand, Mark Winger.

The chair of The Masonic Villages Trust, Bill Arcus, says the ceremony reinforced the connection between Wellington and Lower Hutt Freemasons and the charitable Trust the lodges established 50 years ago.

“It is unlikely that our founding fathers could have envisaged our Trust as it is today, with 450 residential units and 227 care beds, in professionally managed villages extending from Waitara in the north of Taranaki, to Woburn in Lower Hutt. But they did have a vision  of providing quality aged care and retirement communities for people from all walks of life. That is still our vision today,” he says.

Woburn Apartments is the Trust’s most ambitious development to date. Built in two stages, the first stage was occupied by residents in February 2015 and the second stage will open in late September. At that time, the full range of amenities will be available to the residents of the 86 boutique apartments.

The stone laying ceremony began with 60 Lower Hutt and Wellington Freemasons walking in a formal procession to the marquee, led by various officers of the craft, resplendent in their regalia. These included the Grand Sword Bearer, holding a massive sword pointed skyward and the Grand Standard Bearer carrying the official standard.

In the ceremony itself, the foundation stone was lowered in three steps, followed by symbolic testing of the stone using the traditional implements of stone masonry — the square, the level and the plumb. Each of these tests has a moral value, respectively: virtue, equality and rectitude.

The stone was then anointed in turn with corn, wine and oil, scattered and poured from Masonic vessels made from pure gold. The corn is an emblem of plenty and is intended to inspire the hearts of the people with virtue, wisdom and gratitude. The wine is an emblem of joy and gladness, in the desire that the nation will prosper. The oil is a symbol of peace, poured with a prayer that widows and the aged will be sheltered and protected and defended from the trials of the world.

The stone was not physically laid during the ceremony, which was largely symbolic. It will shortly be embedded in the north east corner of the Apartments, in accordance with Masonic tradition, along with a time capsule.

Arcus says the Trust has two charitable operating companies, Masonic Villages Limited and Masonic Care Limited. The directors of these companies report to the Trust board, which is made up largely of Freemasons, thereby maintaining a governance connection with the Lodges that set up the Trust in the 1960s.

The directors of the charitable operating companies, men and women, are selected on the basis of their professional skills and experience. Not all have a background in Freemasonry.

“The Trust is now one of the country’s largest charitable aged care providers. It is therefore vital that we have the best possible talent on our boards to guide our development and to make the robust decisions needed to meet the challenges the sector will face over the next 20 years,” Arcus says.

“To continue to realise the vision of our founding fathers, Woburn Apartments will be followed by other developments. Stage three at Manadon Village in New Plymouth will shortly be completed. More care suites are being built in Levin and upgrades of our care facilities in Lower Hutt and Palmerston North are on the drawing boards.”

Photos: Photos of Freemasons, residents and invited guests at the stone laying ceremony on 19 August. Photos by Brooke Woollett, IN Photography

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