Monday, June 25, 2012

One of the Best Masonic Weeks... Ever

It's been awhile since I posted last. I have been extremely busy with my family, my Lodges, my Chapter, and my Council. However, all that work and good cheer has culminated in one of the greatest weeks I have had since I first petitioned my lodge. Where to start? I guess from the beginning.

On Saturday June 23rd, the Grand Chapter met for its Annual Convocation. This year was the 150th Annual Convocation. Our Grand Chapter had some business that it hadn’t had in more than sixty years. Our Grand Chapter chartered not one but two new Chapters, Overseers Chapter No. 103 and Anoka-Shekinah Chapter No. 104. I have now seen two lodges and two chapters receive charters in the state of Minnesota. This should end all the doubtful talk out there that Masonry is dead. There is fervency and zeal in Minnesota Masonry. What a proud day.

Companions of Anoka-Shekinah Chapter No. 103

Companions of Oveseers Chapter No. 103

Oh, oh, oh, and there was that little thing about Corinthian Chapter No. 33, the Chapter that I happen to be the High Priest of, was just award the membership award for last year for the highest net increase in membership. Hughie and I were completely without words... for about a minute. It’s because of the dedication of the companions in Corinthian Chapter and many great friends of the Chapter (James, thank you) that we are thriving. I know we will continue to serve as a beacon for Capitular Masonry with many petitions signed and petitioners ready and willing to jump into this major undertaking.

Okay, now that I’m done talking about Chapter, let me talk about my Saint John the Baptist’s Day. My wife and I woke up and got ready early on Sunday. Our son woke up just a little later. We were getting ready to go to church. But this wasn’t just a normal Sunday, this was June 24th, the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist, one of two patron saints of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. We hopped into the car and drove to Faribault.

I entered the Faribault Masonic Temple not really knowing what to expect. I’m a member of two lodges and Faribault No. 9 happens to be one of them. We had been throwing out an idea of reviving an old tradition of Masonry. There is documented evidence that Masons would, on the Feast Day of Saint John, process to a house of worship. We finally felt that we should and could do something like this. We received special dispensation to open our lodge, call to refreshment and process to Our Merciful Savior Episcopal Cathedral.

I’m not an Episcopalian. However, I do know about Our Merciful Savior because of its connection to a very prominent Minnesotan. Our Merciful Savior served as the cathedral for Bishop Henry Whipple. Bishop Whipple is best known for pleas of clemency to President Lincoln for 303 Eastern Dakota men who had been put on trial and sentenced to die as a result of the Dakota Wars that raged through the state of Minnesota. President Lincoln commuted 264 sentences but allowed 38  prisoners to be hung in the largest mass executions in American history. The memory of that sad day remains in Minnesota even now. Here is a copy of his letter to President Lincoln. This was a man holding to his principles against the hostile winds of Manifest Destiny.

Here's a video about Bishop Whipple and the Cathedral:

Going back to the Procession, I found it amazing that a mere twelve brothers could do something as historic as this. With our piper at the head of the line, our Master next to the Chaplain holding the Holy Bible, we began marching down the street. The walk was beautiful and the downtown quite empty. As we crossed Central and saw the Cathedral’s bell tower in view, I finally felt the historic nature of this event.

We entered the Church to the sounds of of a bagpipe echoing off the vaulted ceiling. Again, I had never seen an Episcopalian service before so it was a very new and richly rewarding experience to see how others worship G-d. The Worshipful Master was introduced and invited to give a few words. Worshipful Master Jimmy gave a short and respectful address explaining who we were and why we were there.

After the Church service ended, we assembled and processed back to the Masonic Temple. Of course, now the sleepy town had awoken and it was fun to see the confused faces as we walked back to the door. We closed the lodge, changed cloths, and had a picnic at the park across the street from the church.

Assembling Outside of the Church Before Processing in
Sorry for the, “and this one time at band camp” feel of this post. Right now, all I can think of is what we have done not what it means yet. I’m still wrapping my head around this. Everything we did was positive and it’s hard for me to get fully grasp right now.

We are starting to plan our next year’s Saint John’s Day procession. My hope is that we make this an annual event. Thanks to Our Merciful Savior Cathedral for allowing us to join you, thanks to all the brothers who attended and as always, a special thanks to the families that came, especially my wife, the love of my life.

Monday, June 18, 2012

For Your Saint John's Day Celebrations...

Saint John the Baptist by Titian

LiveScience is reporting that Bulgarian archaeologists may have found, at the site of an old church on the island of Sveti Ivan (Saint John) in Bulgaria, some remains of Saint John the Baptist. You can read the full article here. Of course, this would not be the only place that Saint John is believed to be interred. There is a legend that the head of Saint John (or Yahya), a prophet in Islam, is in his tomb at Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

Shrine of Yahya in Umayyad Mosque

Saint John plays a special role in Masonry, as we are all doubtlessly aware. One of my favorite articles was this one by Greg Stewart of Freemason Information. My lodge, Faribault Lodge No. 9, will be hosting a Saint John's Day event that we haven't done in awhile, if ever. (I'm still looking through the records which are very old.)

Here are all the details:
It is with great pride that we invite all of you to join us and our families as Faribault Lodge No. 9 revives the old tradition of celebrating Saint John's Day, Sunday June 24th. We will open our lodge at 8:45 am and form in procession to walk the four blocks to Our Merciful Savior Episcopal Cathedral. We will process in with the congregation at 9:30 am and attend services. Your families may also join us as well but only Masons may be in the procession.

The dress for church is dark suit and tie for the members of Faribault Lodge No. 9. For all other Masons, we would appreciate a jacket and tie but a tie and dress shirt is acceptable. After services have completed, you may either cross the street to Central Park or you may process back to the lodge where we will proceed to close the lodge. You can change clothes at the Lodge building before the picnic. 
After our procession, we will have our Saint John's Day picnic with our families at Central Park. Central Park is across the street from the Cathedral. Please bring a picnic lunch for your family only as we are unsure how many people will be attending. If you do not feel comfortable attending the service, which is perfectly acceptable, you are still most welcome to join us at the picnic. The picnic will likely start 11:30 am.

This tradition is indeed very old. We find references, in many historical accounts, of Masons, in full regalia, processing to a house of worship during the feast days of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. Visiting different houses of worship continues as a tradition in many Grand Lodges as a way to introduce themselves to local religious organizations.

We are especially lucky to be attending services at Our Merciful Savior. For those unaware, Bishop Henry Whipple, a well-known humanitarian, was the first Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota and his Cathedral was Our Merciful Savior. In fact, it was the first Cathedral in the state of Minnesota and continued to serve as the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota until 1941. It also has the distinction of being the first Episcopal Church in the United States of America to be designed as a cathedral.

Faribault Lodge has had many prominent members including Past Grand Master Frederick E. Jenkins (1922) and General James Shields. General Shields was a charter member of Faribault Lodge No. 9. He, along with Senator Henry Rice, served as the first senatorial delegation from the state of Minnesota. General Shields also has the distinction of being the only United States Senator to have served three states.

Again, all Masons are invited to attend. We will be in full regalia for this procession. If you are a lodge officer or Grand Lodge Officer, please bring your officer's apron and jewels. Also, we may not have enough white aprons; if you are not a member of Faribault Lodge, please bring your lodge's aprons to ensure all Masons are properly attired. We have also created a Facebook Event page which you can find here.
I just recently joined Faribault Lodge No. 9 and have had a blast. I hope to get more historical papers about Faribault and Corinthian out into the future.

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