IT COMES TO SEATTLE
Since 1780, Grand Masters from throughout North America have gathered together “to know each other and to learn how others are meeting and handling the problems of the Fraternity in their Jurisdictions.”
The Conference is attended by the Grand Master, Grand Secretary and stationed Grand Line officers of the member Grand Lodges, sister Jurisdictions and associate members, as well as heads of concordant bodies and Masonic organizations, and interested observers from many other affiliated groups.
Currently, the Conference membership consists of the Grand Lodges of the Provinces of Canada; the States of the United States of America, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; the State of York, Mexico; and the American-Canadian Grand Lodge of Germany. These Grand Masters represent some two million Freemasons in North America.
From the very beginning, it was clearly understood that these conferences are a voluntary assembly of Masons, meeting informally, and expressing their individual views on the subjects discussed. No definite action can be taken by such a conference which would in any way commit or bind any participating Grand Lodge. Each conference is a distinct and separate assembly; it has no permanent existence of authority. Its deliberations are never an official declaration of Masonic jurisprudence or philosophy. Each conference expires on its adjournment, except for the machinery it sets up for the next meeting or a voluntary association of Grand Masters to meet, to confer, and to learn from one another.
“What we have long needed, and in recent years have been developing, is a unity of purpose and action growing out of these annual conferences. We have learned that we can do more effective work in our own Jurisdictions if we are in a position to act in the light of as complete knowledge as possible of the aims and experiences of our Brethren from Maine to California.” (Willis J. Bray, GM 1946, Missouri) Knowledge is still one of the chief goals of the Grand Masters Conference.
Beyond the “think tank” atmosphere, the Conference is a venue for sharing of ideas. The Associations/Committees of the Conference include the Child Identification Program (CHIP), Commission on Information for Recognition, George Washington National Masonic Memorial Association, Masonic Renewal Committee, Masonic Service Association of North America, and the National Masonic Foundation for Children. The Conference has been the genesis of several programs that have made their way to our Jurisdiction: Long Range Planning, Bikes for Books, Six Steps to Initiation, and the Masonic Model Student Assistance Program come to mind. Additionally, ideas such as the Lodge Leadership Retreat, Outreach Services, and a photography archive have made their way from our Jurisdiction.
Formerly held strictly in Washington DC, the Conference has worked its way throughout the United States and Canada. At the recently completed Conference in Omaha, it was announced that the 2021 Conference will be held in Seattle. This will be an exciting opportunity for us to show how we practice Freemasonry in Washington. Over the coming years, in my capacity as event chairman, I will be asking Brethren to volunteer to be part of the organizing committee. There will be lots of things to do in the areas of greeting, transportation, hospitality, and concierge services – and that’s just for openers.
As a bonus for volunteering, throughout the Conference, you will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from Masonic leaders throughout the world of Freemasonry. Stay tuned as more information becomes available. I hope that you are as excited to welcome the Brethren to our great state.
THE POWER OF WORDS
Former Seattle Mariners third base coach Rich Donnelly had a nearly 50-year career in the big leagues. Perhaps the best-known story of Donnelly is his experience coaching the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series. His 17-year-old daughter, Amy, died of a brain tumor in 1993. Amy attended a 1992 playoff game in which Rich was coaching. She noticed that he would cup his hands over his mouth while yelling out instructions to runners on second base. After the game, she asked, “Dad, what are you telling them? That the chicken runs at midnight, or what?” Since her death, the Donnelly family would deem that as her catchphrase and serve inspiration for the family.
In 1997, as a member of the Florida Marlins, he met Craig Counsell, a player his son, Tim, nicknamed “Chicken” because of his unique batting stance. In the 11th inning of Game 7, Counsell reached base and was able to advance to third base as the inning progressed. Edgar Rentería then hit a single on which Counsell scored, winning the World Series for the Marlins. Rich’s sons Tim and Mike, who were honorary bat boys that evening, rushed to their father in celebration. Tim pointed out to the stadium clock which read 12:00 midnight, telling his father, “The Chicken ran at midnight, dad.”
As I was contemplating the deeper meaning of “the chicken runs at midnight”, I was reminded of the power of words. “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” (Yehuda Berg)
As an active participant in social media, I hope that my posts are encouraging, enlightening, and uplifting. I wish to use words for their greatest good, to help and to heal. Sadly, I am finding that men who hold themselves out as Masons are choosing to use words to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble. For example, I recently read a post where a Brother stated that he “had some fun trolling some ‘snowflakes’ this past weekend…” I am forced to wonder, how is choosing to be an Internet troll showing Freemasonry in its best light? Another stated that he simply posted what he saw from other sites, and if he later discovered that it was wrong he simply deleted it. My thoughts here are directed to the lesson of logic as put forth in our Middle Chamber Lecture. Remember stuff on social media never goes away, even if you delete it.
As Masons, we must be forefront in the practice of the teachings of our ritual – to borrow a phrase from a Past Grand Master, everyday in every way. This is particularly important when one considers that any post made on social media extends well beyond your friends list. When we engage in social media, it is well to remember the importance of circumspection – especially in the presence of the uninitiated who read your Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Freemasonry is a wonderful Fraternity. We are all Brothers, even when we may not always agree on all issues – we are still Brothers.
FREEMASONRY’S DAY ON THE HILL
This state’s first duly elected Governor was Most Worshipful Brother Elisha P. Ferry. This state’s first duly elected Secretary of State was Most Worshipful Brother Thomas M. Reed. One of the original authors of the Revised Code of Washington was Most Worshipful Brother Archibald P. Frater. Notice a theme?
The Grand Lodge of Washington was formed in 1858 – more than 30 years before the Washington territory achieved statehood. The legislature first met in the halls of Olympia Lodge, No. 1. In many ways, Freemasonry gave this state a sense of direction with respect to governance. Then, for whatever reason, we walked away. It is well past time that we return.
Thanks to the vision of Most Worshipful Brother Sam Roberts, a Legislative Liaison in the person of VW Clayton LaVigne was appointed to reintroduce Freemasonry to the Legislature. Along the way, VW Clayton has been instrumental in restoring signs at rest stops informing weary travelers that coffee was available; arranged for an audience with the Department of Revenue to open a dialogue to allow the elected line to discuss the importance of tax abatement for our Lodge buildings; and brought to our attention the opportunity to support and fund the Legislative Page Scholarship Program.
In a continuing effort to Reclaim the Narrative, we will be holding our first (and hopefully annual) Freemasonry’s Day on the Hill. The idea is for Brethren to set up appointments with their legislators to lend a hand to VW Clayton in reintroducing Freemasonry to the legislature by presenting issues that are important to the Fraternity. For this initial effort, we will present the importance of civility in dialogue, express our support of the Legislative Page Scholarship Program, and talk about the work of Washington Masonic Charities.
Freemasonry’s Day on the Hill will be held on Monday, March 20th. We will start with a meeting at noon in the House Rules Room (Room 123 on the 1st floor of the Legislative Building). Following this meeting, you will meet with your legislators to talk about our issues. You will need to contact your legislators in advance of the 20th to set up your meetings. Let them know that you will be in Olympia for Freemasonry’s Day On The Hill, and would appreciate having an opportunity to meet. The plan is for us to be there from 1:00 – 4:00, so be sure to request an appointment sometime in that timeframe. You should expect about a 10 – 15 minute time slot, so it is important that you have the talking points down – hence the group meeting at noon. You can contact your legislators at http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/.
Hope to see many of you for our Day on the Hill.