Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Lodges


Nestled along the body of water known as Long Island Sound, on the Eastern Coast of the United States of America, lies a small city separated by a river and gathered around a safe harbor protected by a string of islands. It is a typical New England harbor city famous for its oysters that thrive in the protected waters of the sound. It was colonised back in 1640 and was a major industrial city in the 19Th century.

Freemasonry came to this city by way of a certain merchant and sea captain who applied to the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York in 1765 for a charter to make masons. The lodge met and organised in the home of this Episcopalian merchant of Jewish origin and quickly grew and thrived. It survived the Revolution and continued to prosper and as it grew it met in various houses and buildings in the similarly growing harbor city.

Now, this city is not the biggest in the state of Connecticut and it certainly was odd that in the mid 1800's a certain number of brothers from the lodge decided that it was better to break off from the mother lodge and form their own just down the road from where the lodge met. They did this, according to their history, because their wives were unhappy with their getting home so late from meetings. The colloquial history of the matter is that the men who broke off to form their own lodge were unhappy with the progressive officer line and not being able to break into the line decided to form their own. This turned into another "tradition" of one lodge being the blue collar lodge and the other being the white collar lodge.

This division of brethren in the city was handed down generation to generation, father to son and boiled up from time to time. One such spat grew into an all out "Masonic War" that was covered by the New York Times in detail in the late 1800's. The fight got all the way to the point of the older lodge voting to leave the Grand Lodge over the unfair treatment of the matter by, according to them, investigators appointed by the Grand Master who had stronger ties with the younger lodge and gave them preferential treatment. This grew into a lawsuit against the Grand Master by the older lodge in court, which was consequently thrown out of court because the judge said the government had no jurisdiction in a matter within a private organization.

Old divisions are hard to get rid of and fraternal relations between the lodges have ebbed and flowed like the harbor in city that hosts the lodges. There were times were they tolerated each other and gathered together for events and times were communication was almost none. This division between the two lodges continues to this day and the biggest perpetuator of the split is pride, one of the seven deadly sins. Dante's definition of pride is "love of self, perverted to hatred, and contempt for one's neighbor." Pride is considered one of the most serious of the cardinal sins because it is one so easy to fall into. Pride in itself is not the bad thing, it is taking it to a level that leads to thinking you are better than others that is wrong.

Freemasonry has seen its heyday pass in this city. Both lodges prospered and had large memberships with tremendous participation at one time, enough to justify the need for two, this is no longer the case. With diminishing numbers and growing costs, merging the two lodges would be the best solution to reestablishing the craft that was once a cornerstone in the city but pride stops this from happening. It was once discussed not to long ago, but there were still old guard members on both sides who could not overlook their pride and history and move forward into the future for the benefit of the craft. Talks are swirling among some of the newer members who have not been totally indoctrinated into the old way, on both sides.
Perhaps pride could be put on the shelf for the good of the order in this city and a bridge could be built between the lodges separated by a river in actuality and a chasm of history and pride in the hearts of its members.
How do you get men who have carried a grudge longer than their own lives to come to the table of brotherhood?

1 comment:

Justa Mason said...

You wrote:
How do you get men who have carried a grudge longer than their own lives to come to the table of brotherhood?

On the contrary, M.M.M., "men" can not carry a grudge longer than their own lives. The Lodges may have, but the men have not.

Dynamics in a Lodge change over time. I belong to several Lodges, all of which have a completely different atmosphere than they did five years ago. The personality will change as the active membership does.

Unless a District Deputy or someone officially representing Grand Lodge calls them to a meeting, you can't "get" anyone to meet together. Like much else in Freemasonry, they can only do so on their own free will and accord.

Justa Mason