On August 30th, in the harbor town of Excelsior, I was fortunate enough to see a ceremony for an event that has not happened since 1987, the consecration of a new Lodge, specifically Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351. Sir Winston Churchill is a Lodge that will exemplify the British Emulation Rite. It has been developed for the purpose of finding something new for brothers, as its ranks are filled with Past Grand Masters, Past Masters and interested brothers, all there to find a new source of light, wisdom and conviviality. It is only fitting that the brothers chose Churchill as their named patron, who stood up while others stayed silent to defend liberty against the most evil threat to ever arise on this Earth.
Churchill knew the dangers of appeasement, the coming onslaught of the totalitarianism, and the descending of the Iron Curtain upon the face of Europe. He proved his mettle through strength of arm, strategic aforethought, and a belief in the rightness in the cause of freedom. Churchill was also a Freemason, having been raised in Studholme Lodge #1591 in 1901. It seems fitting that a Lodge which seeks to exemplify the British Emulation Ritual would choose such a strong personality to emulate and honor.
For any who don't know, British Emulation Rite is practiced by the United Grand Lodge of England as well as other recognized Grand Lodges throughout the world. In Minnesota, we use a modified version of Preston-Webb known colloquially known as the "Minnesota Work" and are constitutionally bound to practice only this ritual in a Lodge constituted in this jurisdiction. Therefore, the Lodge must perform its official work using the "Minnesota Work." However, the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill will exemplify the British Emulation degrees and will continue their study into the rich traditions of English Freemasonry. They seek not to compete with other Lodges but instead present a different experience for interested brothers by sharing the British Emulation as an educational experience. I was given this two page primer explaining the goals and purposes of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 by MWB Tom Jackson:
As I mentioned, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota has not constituted a Lodge since 1987. Thankfully, through the hard work of the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill,
newly installed Master, WB John Gann, and PGM Tom Jackson, a novel approach to Freemasonry has come into fruition in this state. Most Worshipful Brother Tom McCarthy presided over the event and RWB John Cook, RWB Tom Hendrickson and MWB Andy Rice assisted in consecrating the Lodge. Also in attendance were many distinguished brothers from many jurisdictions to see this most important undertaking, including MWB Akram Elias, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, RWB Alan Tibbets, Deputy District Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, and Worshipful Brother Joseph Howell of Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83, Grand Lodge of Wisconsin. Benjamin Franklin #83 works the British Emulation Rite, following the traditions of English Lodges.
As the officers donned their resplendent blue aprons for the first time, I could sense a change. We are no longer a Grand Lodge based around cookie cutter Lodges struggling to regain interest in the Craft but an organization desirous to be as varied as the members who occupy it. I am thankful to see Lodges trying new things like Saint Paul #3 using a Traditional Observance model, or Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 exemplifying the British Emulation Rite. This should be the model, Lodges should find a niche, and they should try new things.
After the installation of WB John Gann as Master and the other elected and appointed officers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351, we began our processional lead by bagpipers to the Irish Pub across the street. I know what you're thinking, “an English-style Lodge meeting in an Irish pub?” Yet, I am happy to report that this Festive Board felt right at home in the dark, Walnut-paneled pub.
In the pub, we were all able to share a meal and toasts using the traditional English style. MWB Elias gave an impressive speech on where our Fraternity is and where it will be going, which was fitting as the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill embark on new territory in Minnesota Masonry. As we gave our final toast and sang our final song, I witnessed, in that dark, pub basement, the refulgent eyes of these brothers, their excitement and zeal casting a brilliant glow throughout the room.
At the end of the evening, some of us met at a bar across the road from Lake Minnetonka sharing cigars, stories, and songs. This gathering at the end of a perfect evening was proof of this auspicious occasion, an occasion of birth and growth, of traditions and experiments. It seems fitting that a Lodge that seeks to further enlighten the Craft would have its consecration in a town called Excelsior, as that word means “ever upward” in Latin, so this Lodge continues ever upward in the cause of Freemasonry. I want to congratulate the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 for the hard work for making Masonry compelling, heartening, and wondrous. I would also like to congratulate WB John Gann on his installation and MWB Tom Jackson for his leadership during his time as Grand Master to make this Lodge possible. I need only one word to sum up this experience and this Lodge, a word borrowed from Most Worshipful Tom Jackson, “Marvelous.”
I have been informed by Most Worshipful Tom that if you are interested in attending Sir Winston Churchill #351, you can contact the Lodge Secretary, Frank Harris, at fharris (at) usinternet (dot) com or Most Worshipful Brother Tom at tom (at) pro-activemktg (dot) com. If you live in or are visiting the Minneapolis area, you should really check out this fascinating Lodge experience.