Brothers, I’m proud and pleased to report that Masonry is alive and well in Jacksonville. I know, that’s not news to most of us who are involved in seeking and sharing the light. But, it was evident in Stafford Caldwell Lodge No. 342 last evening at a regular business meeting. I picked up a traveling partner shortly after 5 pm and we headed over to the lodge to enjoy a little fellowship before the meeting. Of course the first Brother I saw when I entered the building was our own “District Ambassador of Masonry”, RW Richard Ivy Lanier who was sharing his considerable wisdom and experience with a younger brother. After a warm greeting from him I wandered around the room and spoke with several other brothers who I’d seen at other times and other places.
The Junior Warden, ever conscious of the time, called us to dinner promptly at 6 pm. I was a bit surprised and honored when he called upon me to offer the blessing. The meal was simple: build your own sandwich with plenty of fixin’s and tempting sweets to top it off. That’s when I noticed the layout of the tables. It didn’t register when I entered the room, but all the tables were moved around to form a large square table which encouraged the brothers to talk with each other during the meal and all were part of the conversation. Here is where I had another surprise. I got to know a few more brothers as they shared their individual experiences of the day. Yes, I know we do that in all lodges but in many, we sit at long tables and in small groups with the same brothers each night. In this setting, the entire room was involved and brothers were free to enter and leave the discussions at will. It was such a warm and relaxed setting. It reminded me of the evening dinner with the family when I was a young boy. Although I did more listening than speaking, I felt much closer to these brothers than in the past and had a renewed appreciation for the spirit of Masonry.
Then came the stated session at 7:00 PM. The lodge opening was a bit of a challenge at moments but the brothers managed to get through it. The emphasis here was on instructing the brothers and helping to prepare them for greater responsibility. The key attributes I observed here were patience and understanding. Although there is much work to become proficient, these brothers were trying and some were obviously up to the part. The Secretary’s report was the usual efficient routine but then came another surprise, for me. The Master asked for reports of Sickness and Distress. Of course we always do this at our meetings. But, the report given by the JW was quite moving. He and a group of 3 other brothers had recently made a trip down south to visit a brother who had not been in lodge in quite some time. They brought with them some groceries and a fraternal spirit of brotherly love and relief. The brother and his wife were so moved by this generosity that they sent a letter which the JW then read to us. It was as heart-warming as any story I’ve heard. Following this report, the SW related his personal commitment to visit with at least one brother every two weeks. He shared a story of service to another on one of his visits involving a home repair. After the meeting, another brother told me a story of his continued contact and connection with another brother who had recently experienced some tragedy in his life and had withdrawn completely from outside contact. He told me of his plans and attempts to reach out and bring this brother back into the human family. After all the reports, the Master called upon the Chaplain for a prayer for all mentioned and those thought of but not spoken aloud.
We moved on to a discussion about the legislation at the recent Annual Grand Communication. The Master did an excellent recap of the legislative action. The Master then announced a few upcoming events and reminded the brothers especially about our upcoming Table Lodge to benefit the Masonic Association of the 11th and 12th Districts. No further business to come before the lodge, the Master closed in due form and harmony prevailed. I went around and bid good evening to each and every brother. We exchanged warm smiles and firm handshakes and expressed our joy at being together for such an important routine occasion.
As I stepped out into the evening and into a light drizzling rain my heart was warmed by whole experience. Yes, Masonry is alive and well in Stafford Caldwell Lodge.
Patrick Farrell, PDDGM
2012 Junior Grand Deacon
Secretary, Masonic Association
11th and 12th Districts
“Let’s Learn To Communicate Better Together!”