On Friday, November 20th, I visited a meeting of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351. This Lodge, although following what is termed the "Minnesota Rite" (a variation of Preston-Webb "American" Rite), it seeks to evoke the sense and sensibilities of the British Lodge way of life. It is a very interesting and different experience than what most brothers are used to.
Sir Winston Churchill is designed as an Affinity Lodge. An Affinity Lodge allows the brothers a better focus on a shared subject. An Affinity lodge can range from a British-styled lodge, a lodge of lawyers, or a Lodge of military men. The Affinity concept has been used for many years in jurisdictions like the United Grand Lodge of England or the Grand Lodge of DC, F.A.A.M. with great success.
Why do I think that Affinity lodges are so successful? I think it has to do with the common purpose or affinity. When a brother joins a lodge, he may not have a direct connection to the other brothers, either via avocation or interest. However, if that brother has that connection, he is more likely to become dedicated to that Lodge.
Sir Winston Churchill Lodge is also a mentoring Lodge. Sir Winston Churchill Lodge will partner with other Lodges to provide strategies for both Lodge leadership and Masonic growth in the state. Mentoring brothers is essential and this should include leaders of a Lodge. The Lodge has between five to seven years to get a brother ready to lead. We can and should help our Lodges in every aspect and SWC is one resource Lodge leaders should take advantage of.
A brother from my Lodge and his father and I went to SWC #351 only knowing what I had learned from talking with the brothers of the Lodge. Sir Winston Churchill #351 is the first Lodge in more than thirty years to meet in downtown Minneapolis. After making introductions, we began a social hour that involved a Emulation ritual degree practice an hour before the stated meeting started.
I have never seen this Rite done in any form and although I knew what I was seeing and hearing, it was like watching "the Office" from UK after watching "the Office" from the US. There are a few things that are different but the basic storyline still remains. The lessons of Masonry are taught through a new perspective. Marcus Aurelius wrote,"everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." Of course, the more perspectives of the same subject that you have, the better able you are to see the penumbra of truth. The pursuit of truth and understanding requires that you change where you gaze. As I watched the Emulation rite practice, I felt like our operative brothers, walking to another side of the temple to better understand the whole.
I have never traveled Masonically outside my own state. That's right, never, even though I live less than thirty minutes away from the Wisconsin border. I'm steeped in Minnesota Masonry without any broader perspective. SWC #351 has helped me see the wider world. All Lodges do something different but even more so, each Masonic jurisdiction has its own variation on how Masonry is learned. Ritual in Minnesota is not the same as Iowa or Wisconsin; Pennsylvania doesn't even have a staircase. It is great that the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge are trying something new, giving Minnesota brothers opportunities that we would have to travel many miles to experience.
Masonry is a progressive science and Sir Winston Churchill #351 is a great example of our dedication to evolve. As I said goodbye to the brothers, I began to understand what I was feeling. The air was electric, the mixture of dedicated brothers and a great idea. And that is really what Masonry is, a really great idea pushed forward by dedicated brothers.
If you are in the area and you are looking for a new Lodge experience, check out their new website. This Lodge represents a new and exciting chapter in Minnesota Masonry and I'm thankful to the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 for helping me to see a new perspective in Masonry. As Sir Winston Churchill said,”for myself, I am an optimist — it does not seem to be much use being anything else.” Yes, I'm an optimist, and this Lodge is the future and what a bright future it is.