Friday, September 21, 2007

That which was found

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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  1. I just attended my first "Traditional Observance" lodge.

    It's incredible. Just awesome. Find one. Go to one.

    Next time you're in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, drop me a line (my contact info is on my blog). I'll take you to Saint Paul Lodge #3, and it'll blow your mind!

  2. Dammit, dammit, dammit!

    I was really hoping to hook up with the two of you earlier this week, but I got sucked into doing my purple duties. The worst of it is that I explained a while back that Tuesday night was booked, but at the last minute the officer canceled his certification. I ended up at that lodge filling in as SW while the SW took the East for a rehearsal (and last night again for the actual degree.) Had he called me the day before, I could have gotten up to that area to see you.

    And it's really too bad that you missed an EA at Friendship - it was a move-up night, with our JW taking the East. I conducted him during his EA, and he was at my right hand for the last 4 years. Despite first-time jitters, he did an awesome job.

    Be that as it may, I'm glad that you at least met up with Bro. Don; I can't think of anyone else who would have given you a better look-see into Masonry in central Connecticut.

    Bro. Simon, our Grand Marshal, is a real character. He's the head of our Masonic Publications, and is fun to work with. He and I share a love for good ritual, and it was to his lodge that we traveled in my year to put on an MM degree with the added Hiramic drama.

    More importantly, though, is that you had the opportunity to see that, while the forms of Masonry may be universal, sometimes the practices vary in the jurisdictions. Up Nawth - at least in Conn, Mass and NY - we do tend to be more formal at meetings, and we try (well, most of us do) to be more serious about degree work, because that's what passes along those moral teachings that we're supposed to be so into.

    At least now you know that I wasn't trying to snow you when I kept insisting that your experience of Masonry didn't seem to be anything like my own. And look, not that I'm claiming that things are perfect here in Conn, 'cos they're not; but certainly things seem to be quite a bit different from what you've described.

    Looks like Bro. Don and I will have to find some excuse to get down to your neck of the woods.

  3. awesome bro W.S..
    It is nice to travel and feel the hospitality of brothers.
    Bro Tom Coste

  4. WS.

    I am glad you had a wonderful time. I wish you many many more!

    Br. Arthur Peteson

  5. It was a pleasure to sit with you in Lodge and host you in my home Brother. If you find yourself up this way again, please give us a call.

    I have to say I blushed to my ankles because of your kind words. I find myself presented with Master's Wages pressed down and running over.

    I'm still going to be very busy until Sunday afternoon, so I may not get to post again. Until then, be well.

  6. Our experiences in Freemasonry are all too often (and all too unfortunately) other than as you described this wonderful evening.

    I wish all our meetings were conducted with such dignity and fraternity.

  7. I'm glad the Widow's Son had such a good time in Connecticut, and it's refreshing to know that Masonry in some areas, apparently is still what it's supposed to be.

    On the other hand, the contrast also brings to mind a question: If Masons in jurisdictions like Connecticut, realize how corrupt and morally bankrupt mainstream Masonry is in jurisdictions like Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, Arizona, and probably a lot of other places, why don't they stand up for that they believe is right, and attempt to do something about it?

    As Master Masons, didn't we all take an obligation not to "wrong, cheat, or defraud" our fellow Masons, or "knowingly suffer it done?" Isn't it a violation of that obligation to be aware of wrongs committed against our brothers, yet do nothing to help rectify those wrongs?

    I recall the old adage, "no man is an island," and I suggest it applies equally well to Masonry: despite what many may claim, "no grand lodge is an island."

    When Masons in New York shoot other Masons in the head, it affects the perception of Masonry everywhere. Likewise, when Masonic leaders anywhere ignore their Masonic constitutions and bylaws, and treat their fellow Masons in unconscionable ways, that too affects the perception of Masonry everywhere.

    Perhaps this is where a good argument for a "national governing body" can be made. In many (if not most) private sector companies, a national governing body exists to maintain the company's standards and image in all areas.

    For example, many national restaurants are owned by private franchisees, but the parent companies won't allow their franchisees to do things that might harm the reputation and image of all their restaurants everywhere. If a restaurant in Alabama, decides to no longer serve black customers, there's no doubt that its parent company will immediately pull the franchise. Likewise, if one serves sub-standard food, or allows the grass to grow two-feet tall, and trash to pile up in the floors, the parent company will soon take action to revoke the franchise.

    Why should Masonry be so much different? Why should Masons in Connecticut, be forced to watch wrongs committed in other places, realizing that their own reputation is tarnished thereby, but having absolutely no power to do anything about it?

    That hardly seems fair.

  8. To the Anonymous poster above:

    I have given much careful thought to what you had written.

    One issue I would have with a GL that encompassed, (pardon the pun), the entire United States, is: what would happen if that governing body was ruled by those who woul perpetuate what we would like to see changed? Therein, to my mind, lies the danger.

    Be Well,



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