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N.Z. Grand Priory
of the Order of St. Lazarus - James Gowans

A Sad Occasion Joins The Two Obediences :

James Gowans

Following the developments announced at the biennial reunion in Dublin in 2002 which markedly increased the likelihood of a speedy resolution of the difficulties which had kept the two divisions in the Order apart for so long, jurisdictions in countries where the Malta Obedience is operating were asked to do all that they could to make smooth the path towards reunification by working together, wherever possible, with members of the Malta Obedience.

It was envisaged that these co-operative ventures would operate at two levels, with high-level discussions between the International Order and the Malta Obedience being supplemented by grass-roots interaction at the Commandery level. Unfortunately in New Zealand the high-level discussions did not eventuate but discussions have taken place at an informal level and have been useful in highlighting some of the problem areas.

While these discussions were taking place thought was being given to areas where there could be interaction between members of the two Obediences and the Southern Commandery agreed as a start to invite members of the Malta group based in Christchurch to Commandery functions such as Investitures, where they would take part in the processions in exactly the same way as do members of the Order of St John.

Invitations were extended to the Malta members to attend the 2003 Investiture in Dunedin, but none were able to accept, so it was not possible to evaluate the success or otherwise of the Southern Commanderyís efforts with regard to formal occasions. There was, however, an opportunity for members of both Obediences to come together at the funeral of James Gowans, a former Chancellor and, at the time of his death, the Commander of the Canterbury Commandery of the Malta Obedience. James had asked that members of both Obediences be invited to attend his funeral wearing their mantles and a total of twelve members of the International Order and the Malta Obedience joined together in Christís College Chapel to pay tribute and to share a cup of tea afterwards.

With the election of a new Grand Master early in 2004 likely to lead to an early resolution of the difficulties which have kept the divisions apart for so long, the willingness of the two Obediences in the South Island to come together may represent a watershed in the relationship between them.

Merita Gowans, Jamesís widow, was thrilled that members of both branches of the Order with which her husband had been associated had come to join with the family and to express their sympathy in their loss, but she was probably not aware just how significant their attendance had been in the overall history of the Order in New Zealand.

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N.Z. Order of St. Lazarus - Table of Contents

This page was last updated on March 23, 2004