I've just returned from a very enjoyable trip to Hartford, Connecticut. Though the trip was for business purposes, as the Gods and Goddesses of Coincidence would have it, the hotel I was staying at in Connecticut was within a five minute drive from the home of my Masonic Brother Don Tansey of the blog Movable Jewel.
Such Masonic fellowship and courtesy I've never had! We're all truly blessed to have Bro. Don as our brother.
Bro. Don picked me up at my hotel after day one of my conference, and off we went to his lodge for dinner and an Entered Apprentice degree.
I was warmly welcomed by those brothers who were already assembled at the lodge. There were many men there from Bro. Don's lodge, St. John's Lodge No. 2, as well as local brethren from other lodges.
I then accompanied Bro. Don into the lodge room to assist him in setting out the furniture, aprons and jewels. Bro. Don treats doing this as a solemn occasion, a few moments to "get into" the subtleties of feeling that accompany a communication. I tried to maintain a solemn dignity, but I was overwhelmed by the interior of the lodge room, and couldn't stifle quite a few utterances of the word "Wow!"
The ceiling of the lodge room is vaulted, and must be 30 or 40 feet high. It is painted sky blue, and around the edges are realistic-looking clouds. Massive columns surround the stations of the East, West and South. An incredible organ sits in the North. The altar is covered with a beautiful blue cloth, and is surrounded at three corners by real burning tapers, not electric light bulbs.
After we finished laying out the aprons, etc., we went back downstairs for a tasty dinner. I sat with some of the brothers while Bro. Don slipped off to put on his tuxedo, which all officers wear at each meeting.
I and the other non-officer brothers were wearing suits or jackets with neckties. This formality of dress is something I've never seen. In Georgia, well, clean overalls and work boots are perfectly accepted attire.
To me, this formality added an elegance and solemnity to the proceedings to come.
After dinner, Bro. Don and I joined the Grand Marshal, who was visiting that night, for my examination. An examination, in case you don't know, is a procedure that a visiting brother who has never sat in lodge with a member goes through, to prove he is in fact a Mason.
After I proved my worthiness, the Grand Marshal, W. Bro. Simon R. LaPlace, asked me what was only an academic question: "What would you do if we had a visiting Prince Hall brother here tonight?"
As there was no Prince Hall brother actually attending, I didn't have to answer or even ponder it, but it was food for thought. The Grand Lodge of Georgia, of course, does not recognize Prince Hall Affiliated Masons to be Masons, or, rather, considers them "clandestine."
I would have welcomed the opportunity to sit in lodge with a Prince Hall Mason. A sojourning Mason temporarily falls under the jurisdiction of a regular Grand Lodge of the state in which he is visiting. Since I was in Connecticut, the rules and recognitions of that Grand Lodge are supreme.
The lodge meeting itself was impressive. I can't go into details here in a public arena, but suffice it to say, it was an awesome experience. I was most taken with the dignity and respectfulness of the members. Joking, sideline talking "general foolishness," sadly so common in previous lodges I've attended, were minimized. That's not to say the brothers didn't act human; it's just that they acted with an air of awareness that what they were doing wasn't just a mere Monday night social "greet, eat and meet" or prayer meeting.
Bro. Don was the most "professional" of them all. His floor work was outstanding, and, in his role as Senior Deacon, the most active physically and verbally in an E.A. degree, he was impeccable.
It was a pleasure seeing just how different a lodge meeting in Connecticut — both demeanor and the ritual — is from a meeting in Georgia. While of course everything was similar enough to be recognizable to me, it was different enough to make me sit up and take notice. I see why my northern brethren have repeatedly told me that the Masonry I've described (in the South) doesn't match their experience.
I left the meeting, truly, with a "contact high," from simply being there.
Before the meeting adjourned, I was escorted to the East, by the Senior Deacon, and officially welcomed by both the Worshipful Master and by W. Bro. LaPlace, and given an official lodge coin of St. John's Lodge No. 2, which celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2004, as well as the Grand Master of Connecticut's official lapel pin.
On my second night in Connecticut, Bro. Don again picked me up at my hotel, and took me to his house, where I met his lovely wife. We shared a fine evening of food, libations and fellowship. I know now that I truly have a brother in Connecticut.
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