Monday, January 12, 2015

Masonry Around the Dinner Table

I have been delving deeper into my faith lately. I have begun to attend church regularly. I've even done extensive research into the various different traditions found within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. During my meanderings online, I arrived at a very novel concept for a church, the Dinner Church. The church I am referring to is St. Lydia's in Brooklyn.

Each Sunday, at dinnertime, the congregants of St. Lydia's come together around a dinner table as the participate in a religious observance from the earliest days of Christianity, the agape feast. They sing songs and participate in Holy Communion as well as to share blessings and joy with each other. It is worship around the table.

Alright, usual disclaimer, Masonry is not a religion. Now that that is out of the way, I was thinking about this idea, Masonry around the dinner table. This isn't new. In fact, Masonry was performed in conjunction with food. We can read in old exposes the brothers rearranging the floor for degree work by moving tables out of the way, points in the expose when the stewards would refill tankards and places where the meal would be served. The first Grand Lodge was founded so that the Masons of London could get together to eat, drink, and be merry. Masonry and conviviality were nearly synonymous terms.

St. Lydia's approach, of sharing a meal and worshiping, is really intriguing to me, both as a Lutheran and as a Mason. My lodge, during my year, had two table lodge/Entered Apprentice degrees. It was incredible. The tl;dr, if you don't want to reread that post, was that we held a meal during the degree work. Here, in Minnesota, we have a program that allows for this. But why does it only need to be for degrees? Why can't we have a dinner in conjunction with every lodge meeting? Why do we separate the two?

Think about it for a second. Instead of stations and places, instead of a huge open space where everyone is a yards away from each other, we sit shoulder to shoulder, passing around food and drink, sharing in fraternalism in close proximity. The ritual can be done in this manner, was done in this manner, and, I'm gonna say it, should be done in this manner.

Too often, we see Masonry as this experience that is dry and boring. Minutes are read and business done. We may have a paper and we may even have a guest speaker. But all of these, every single one, is passive. We listen, we sit, we listen again, we close. We may as well have the lodge arranged as a high school classroom and issue hall passes. It doesn't have to be this way.

Imagine instead a lodge room, tables set out with food and refreshments. The officers arranged as we do now but at a table, on the same level. We open, we dine, we discuss, we close. Two hours of food and fun, enlightened discussions and fond farewells, as the Tyler's Toast is delivered and we all sing Auld Lang Syne. You like that, don't you? So do I.

We don't need to separate dining and lodge. We can do both simultaneously. This can be all one experience. Masonry is designed to bring us together. That's its stated purpose. We can bring our Craft back to its roots in a meaningful way, seeing each other as brothers, sharing our food, and sharing our time. Let's shake off the mundane and bring on the new; lodge as an experience instead of a lodge as drudgery. This can happen. This is possible. And this can be fun. Let's continue to build Masonry up, and have fun along the way. Let's eat, drink, and be merry, just like our speculative brothers did more than 300 years ago.

What do you think? Should the meal and the meeting be combined? Leave a comment below.


Anonymous said...

Please be welcome to visit Saint Paul Three where every stated communication is followed by a formal agape.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a great idea to me but unfortunately most of the ideas I've had to make things more interesting have been shot down. Even the smallest change seems to set certain Brothers off. I suggested that we do an entire degree by candle light and you would have thought that I suggested we dance around in tutus and sprinkle glitter around while blasting Hatebreed.

Unknown said...

Quinta Essentia Lodge No. 500 in New Haven, CT is essentially a "dinner lodge". We meet, hold lodge and perform degree work in a private room of a public house. We often have to rearrange the tables and chairs of our room to hold lodge. We bring in the all our lodge "furniture" and set it up. After the communication, we break it down, set up the tables for a full festive board, where we have a cocktail hour with toasts and then have a festive board. At the festive board, a brother gives a short presentation that becomes the dinner topic of the evening. We all sit around the table and have deep philosophical/historical discussions. Also during the dinner, we sing songs (usually quite badly). Afterwards, we typically retire to the Owl Shop in New Haven for a nightcap and a cigar. Each of our "meetings" takes about seven hours, but it feels like it goes by too quickly because we all have a fantastic time. Lodges should be a group of men dedicated to fellowship. Nothing more, nothing less.

Bro. Kristopher Dorsett said...

Bro. Charles, I can't wait to visit Quinta Essentia Lodge No. 500. I've heard nothing but wonderful things. As soon as my work schedule will allow it I hope to make Quinta Essentia my first stop as I do some traveling throughout the state.

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