On Saturday evening I had the honor and pleasure of visiting the newest lodge in the state of Connecticut, Universal Fraternity #149.
A while back I was picking up some supplies from a local store and noticed the man behind the counter was wearing a ring with the square and compasses on it. Being a newly raised Master Mason and newly installed Senior Steward, I too had my ring on, and mentioned to him that we were brothers. A smile came across his face when he then saw my ring and we began to talk about the fraternity. I excitedly told him that I was the new Senior Steward at my lodge and he explained that he had just been installed as the Senior Warden at U.F. #149. I did not recognize the name of the lodge from my numerous viewings of the list of lodges in the state of CT, but after our meeting and promises of mutual visitation I found it right at the bottom of the page on the G.L. website.
I have popped in from time to time and kept up with my brother and a couple weeks back he mentioned that he was going to be stepping up to the East and doing a Master Masons Degree. I told him I was rehearsing the G lecture (ugh!) and promised that I would definitely make it up to his lodge to see him do the MM degree.
It had been hard for me to come and visit him because his lodge meets on the first and third Saturday evening of the month and my family has something planned most Saturday evenings. I finally got clearance from the boss (my wife) and proceeded on with my first visitation to another lodge on my own, because I could not get anyone from my lodge to travel with me, it being a Saturday night and also our Grand Lodge was having its annual session that morning so my mentor, who I have done all of my traveling with, could not come.
After a 30 minute or so drive I finally pulled up to the lodge, and as much as I had sped to get there, arrived 6 minutes later than I had wanted to be. I hurriedly walked into a very well attended lodge and after giving a wave to my friend in the West, sat down just as they were getting under way of opening the lodge. A brother on the other side of the lodge got my attention and reminded me that I had forgot to grab an apron which is needed of course to sit in a lodge, duh, so I stepped out to quickly grab a visitors apron. The Tiler was digging through a box of officers aprons and putting them on a chair when I asked him for a visitors apron. He muttered something and pointed to the aprons he was putting on the chair, all I saw were officers aprons, and while I looked around the waiting room for a visitors apron the Junior Deacon shut the door to the lodge so they could open. I asked the Tiler again and he explained that the officers aprons were the visitors aprons (that was all they had left), so I grabbed a Tilers apron that was on top and tried to enter the lodge when the Tiler, sword in hand, excitedly told me that I could not go in because they were opening. I thought since they were not tiled yet I could sneak back in before the gavel fell, but you don't argue with a Haitian man with a sword! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my friend and all of the officers of Universal Fraternity #149 are from Haiti.
Sitting outside the lodge in disappointment, I heard the first difference between my lodge and 149, I heard singing. Following along with the muffled voices inside, instead of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance they sang the National Anthems of the United States and Haiti (I think it was the Haitian National Anthem because it was in French). Then I deduced from the point of the ritual I believed they were at sang some song (again in french) while the three lesser lights were lit. It was such a strange yet wonderful thing to hear singing coming from the inside of a lodge room.
I finally was allowed to enter, salute the WM, who by that time was my friend who had stepped up to the East and returned to the seat I had sat in before, this time with an apron. They put on a great degree, which I thoroughly enjoyed and without giving up anything, I will say they did many things different including the singing and using a censer (a vessel with burning incense) at various points during the degree. I left greatly uplifted and happy to have visited my brother and his welcoming lodge.
I have read that our fraternity in the past often sang during lodge meetings and without much ado, what happened? I grew up in a family that sang together at family functions ( its not really that hard, after a few pops, to get any Irishman singing!). I have always enjoyed singing with friends and family in many different situations. I know in our world of I-Pods and XM Radio it is becoming rarer by the day when people gather to sing songs together, when they can so easily play their favorite artist or artists from something the size of a book of matches and I think we are worse off because of it. I know we are all not Pavarotti, but even the worst singer in the world can have fun while singing in a big group, and when the group is big or loud enough they cant even hear you.
I will definitely return to 149 and look forward to hearing singing in a lodge again.