“I sat in lodge with you…”
How momentous that phrase is…
When a candidate receives his first degree and becomes a Brother of the Craft, it is explained to him that his obligation stipulates that he may only recognize the men currently in the room as Entered Apprentice Masons (Fellowcraft Mason or Master Mason for the subsequent degrees), or if properly introduced by one of those Brethren to another whom they have sat with in lodge. This serves a two-fold purpose; first, the Mason can be sure a man he meets outside of lodge is a Mason, verified through the fraternal experience of sitting in lodge together, or the experience of a mutual third party with proper Masonic introductions, and secondly, to encourage attendance and traveling to other lodges, so that the Mason’s circle of Brethren grows ever larger through brotherly interactions.
There are roughly 100,000 Freemasons in Pennsylvania alone, and while we can argue membership trends until we’re all blue in the face, how many of those men can you recognize as Freemasons per the rules you obligated yourself to when you entered the fraternity? My lodge boasts a healthy membership of around 300 Masons, a rather average number when it comes to membership across this great state. How many of those men can I recognize as Masons because I’ve sat in lodge with them directly? 15% – 20%, tops. That number obviously grows with the amount third party interactions, but the vast majority of those do not include a proper Masonic introduction among brethren, which is key to counting men among your circle – lawful Masonic information is not taken lightly.
I consider myself a moderate traveler when it comes to lodge. I’ve attended a majority of the stated and extra meetings at my lodge since I joined in 2013, I’ve traveled to lodges inside and outside of my district, I’ve attended Grand Lodge communications. I imagine my Masonic recognition through sitting in an open lodge with brethren directly comes close to roughly 1,000 Brothers. That’s 1% of the total membership of Pennsylvania. 1%. Wow. If I follow my obligation, as we all should, how tiny my circle within this fraternity feels in comparison to the fraternity as a whole.
Sitting in lodge should not be looked at as an annoyance or a chore, but rather a wonderful experience to be shared with the men in the room. One meeting may forever bind you with another man as a Freemason, who can now acknowledge one another outside of the lodge room. Proper Masonic introductions should be a badge of honor to be shared as well. If you sat in lodge with John, introduce John to another brother whom you’ve sat with but he hasn’t. Share your lodge experience together with another brother, that he may partake in it as well. If we stop looking at meeting attendance as a burden and start treating it with the reverential awe of being an everlasting fraternal event, not only will outsiders be drawn to the fraternity for those experiences, but maybe a few estranged members find their way back to lodge to once again partake in fellowship. Not only do we need to boost our numbers in the fraternity, but we need to boost our numbers in the lodge room as well. Creating everlasting experiences between brethren can accomplish both of those ends with exceptional means.
Be present. Travel. Communicate. To share in the experience of fraternal love during meetings you must first be in the room. How wonderful it truly is to be able to look at a man, call him a Brother Mason, and say “I sat in lodge with you…”.
Bro. R. J. Hughes is the Senior Warden of Armstrong Lodge #239 in Freeport, PA and a member of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s Academy of Masonic Knowledge. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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