It was another outstanding evening at old St. John's. The energy was at the same level as it was at our last meeting, and that one was buzzing. Brethren were arranged in groups chatting, laughing, and enjoying the greatest benefit of our craft, good fellowship among good men. The District Deputy was waiting for me when I got there(I am always the first to arrive) and quickly ushered me to the candidate preparation room because it was our annual inspection and it was time for me to be tested. No problems there. After blazing my way through the words and grips, I went back to setting up the lodge for our second Entered Apprentice degree in as many meetings. We had three candidates waiting to be brought to light and with the usual degree of pomp that accompanies a Grand Lodge inspection. This went on without a hitch, delivered meaningfully and gracefully by the Brethren of my lodge. Our three newest brothers were then treated to three meetings worth of minutes that had been pushed aside for too long and a couple of bills,which I was sorry they had to sit through! We then closed in due fashion and went downstairs for a little refreshment and more fellowship.
One by one the Brothers left until it was myself, the Worshipful Master, the Senior Warden, and the Junior Deacon. We started to discuss the heavy matter of the future of the lodge and during the discussion it was decided that we should move it outside so the W.M. and S.W. could have a cigarette and me and the J.D. decided to join them and have a cigar, which has become a little tradition that I am really enjoying with the J.D. after our meetings. All sorts of angles were covered outside and due to the cold, we decided to cut it short, so I went inside to lock up so we all could go home. Before I went inside I noticed a car pulling in to our parking lot, it kind of creeped in and parked near to where we were all standing. I thought maybe it was somebody from the church who owns our building and continued turning off the lights and when I heard a conversation going on outside, I came outside to check if it was indeed someone from the church needing to get in. It turned out to be a young man in search of some answers about Freemasonry so I went back in and finished locking up.
Now this is why I hate this post.
As you may or may not know, here in America there are two distinct bodies of Freemasons. Each has a tradition going back to the 1700's. Each operate in accordance with the ancient landmarks of our order. Each are proud to be called Freemasons and I see no difference between us as I have stated many times on my blog, but unfortunately due to the atrocities of history there evolved two distinct bodies of Freemasons, so called"mainstream" or regular Freemasons and Prince Hall Freemasons. We here in the state of Connecticut were the first in the nation to officially recognise each other and we continue to work together in harmony and brotherhood. It was my Grand Lodge that reached out and asked the Prince Hall Masons in our state for them to recognise us, not the other way around. It is a really incredible story that I have permanently added to my side bar and I think everyone should take the time to read just how hard it was to reach the point of recognition. Now to the crux of my post.
The young man asking us about how to join Freemasonry was African American, which makes no difference to me because I do not see people by their color, but I am in turmoil as to how to handle him. We all answered his questions about the fraternity and unfortunately due to the late hour and the cold ,we had to cut things a little short with him, but I gave him my card and told him to call me anytime and we could finish our Q&A session. During the conversation we explained to him that there were three lodges in our city that all operated the same way and he would be free to choose what ever lodge best suited his time schedule, as we all meet on different nights. Here lies my problem, while I whole heartily want to welcome this fine young man into my lodge and would gladly recommend him for the mysteries of Freemasonry, I don't know what to do about telling him about Prince Hall Freemasonry. I feel as if I were to say "one of the three lodges in our city is Prince Hall which is African American" would be like telling him we don't want him, which is not true. At the same time I feel as if I don't tell him about the P.H. lodge it would be like hiding something from him.
I hate that I am in this quandary. I hate the fact that after Prince Hall became a Master Mason and the Military Lodge that raised him left (which was Irish, I believe), he had no where to practice the lessons of Freemasonry. I love the fact that he did not let this stop him from forming his own lodge and extending the good work of Freemasonry to African Americans like himself. I love the fact that the lodge he formed spread and multiplied and became the foundation for the proud organization of Prince Hall Freemasonry. If my Grand Lodge allowed me, I would gladly affiliate myself with the Prince Hall lodge in my city as a dual member. I have worked with the Brothers from that lodge and marched with them in our Memorial Day parade together as Brothers. They are my brothers and I wish there were no line that separated us, but there is. If I were a Prince Hall Mason I would never want to relinquish the proud history of that organization and merge with a "regular" Grand Lodge, but it is that same pride that keeps us separate. We are a result of history and we cant change it. There are two bodies of men that practice the same tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and unfortunately the thing that keeps one separate is the color of their skin. We can recognise each other and work together as Brethren but I don't foresee any change in the fact that there are two separate but equal forms of Freemasonry in America, which is sad.
What can we do?
What should I do?
There is much work to be done.