Saturday, July 1, 2017

UGLE 300th Anniversary Celebration

Years ago I had a job which required frequent trips to Washington, DC. I became familiar with the area and bit by bit pretty much saw everything there was to see; and believe me, there is a lot to see. I soon learned you never need to rent a car; you just use the Metro. I soon learned you never want to rent a car because the traffic there will break the spirit of even the most seasoned commuter. I became an expert on the District of Columbia’s geography. I recall once I even gave directions to someone to the Russian Embassy, a building I called “the porcupine” because it had so many antennas sticking out of it… hmmm…

On one occasion a business associate gave me a tour of Old Town Alexandria. As we strolled down King Street he probably pointed out a massive 300 foot tall building to the west and he probably told me what it was. The fact is, though, I have no recollection of that.

I know I saw it because if you’re in Alexandria, you’d have to be blind to miss it. That building, I’m sure you can guess, was the The George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Didn’t go there; didn’t care.

You see, for all those places I saw in the DC area, I missed two of the most important: that Memorial building in Alexandria and the Scottish Rite House of the Temple. The thing is, back then, I was not a member of this fraternity.

Fast forward to 2017, the 300th anniversary of the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England. A group of young, dynamic, hard-working Brothers decided the US should celebrate the tricentennial along with the UGLE. From that idea that started out as nothing more than a brainstorm, those Brothers assembled a program that was one of the best Masonic forums I have attended.

Meeting on June 23rd and 24th, the celebration, held at that venerable George Washington Masonic National Memorial included a special tour of the Scottish Rite House of the Temple in DC; and there I was, able to tour those two important places I neglected to see all those years ago. For me personally, that alone would have made it, in a sense, the trip of a lifetime.

But wait, there’s more. In addition to the presentations throughout the day, the Brothers were insistent on giving every attendee a chance to speak and contribute. One of the most interesting parts of the event was a plenary forum where we discussed and debated topics important to the fraternity. Everyone had a chance to voice an opinion on proficiencies, dues and other issues. What’s more, the attendees themselves, not the moderators, chose the topics.

Of course, one of the things that makes any such gathering great is the ability to see old friends and make new ones. As my friend and Brother Greg Knott from Illinois put it in his essay on the Midnight Freemasons blog, “At any of these type of events, my favorite part is meeting and talking with Brothers from all over the world. I was particularly pleased to meet a brother from the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington DC. We had both lunch and dinner together and had some great conversations.” I had similar experiences.

Most agreed another highlight was Brother John Ruark’s assessment of statistics he has assembled on the fraternity. Sounds dry, doesn’t it? Quite the contrary. In a word, Brother Ruark gave us some amazing information on exactly who we are.

Brother Ruark is a member of the group behind this event. In addition to John, these Brothers, known for their podcast, “The Masonic Roundtable,” are Jason Richards, Juan Sepulveda, the newest member Mike “The Intern” Hambrecht and the host of this podcast, Robert Johnson. These are names you would do well to remember and The Masonic Roundtable is the Internet equivalent of “must see TV.”

Well, as Steve Jobs used to say, “there’s one more thing.” According to Brother Mark Tabbert, Keynote speaker for the event, that date — 1717 — may be in error. He thinks the correct date for the founding of the UGLE may be 1721. Hey, we’re Freemasons. There has to be some controversy. I say, let’s have another party in four years.

The members of the Masonic Roundtable put together an event that would be the envy of any Grand Lodge. Ironically, it was a celebration of Freemasonry’s past that may have revealed more about Freemasonry’s future.For the Whence Came You podcast, this is Steve Harrison with the Masonic Minute.

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