Volume LVIIAugust 2010Number 3

Grand Master Calls for 1st Masonic Congress in 15 years!

The 8th Pennsylvania Masonic Congress convened on June 19 in the Freemasons Cultural Center at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown. Called by R.W. Grand Master Thomas K. Sturgeon and moderated by Bro. Samuel C. Williamson, R.W. Past Grand Master, the Congress was attended by 13 Grand Lodge representatives, four York Rite leaders, 11 Scottish Rite officials, three Shrine leaders and five officers from the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.

Topics discussed included membership, dues and initiation fees, communications, relations among Masonic bodies, calendars and scheduling, regulations and other topics of mutual concern. Grand Master Sturgeon charged the Congress members to embrace the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance program for the good of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania. He assured the brethren in attendance, "This Masonic Renaissance is not for me - it would have been easier not to do anything - it is for the future of our fraternity...."

Grand Master Sturgeon announced that he would be issuing two new decisions. The first decision would give all appendant bodies access to the Grand Lodge membership list for limited mailings under certain conditions that would protect the members' privacy. The second will permit symbolic lodges to include information from appendant bodies in the printed lodge notice.

The Congress heard presentations on a variety of topics to stir discussion. Bro. Joseph E. Murphy, Abraham C. Treichler Lodge No. 682, Elizabethtown, Chief Executive Officer of the Masonic Villages, provided a PowerPoint overview of the 100-year history of the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, and gave his assurance that the financial integrity of the villages has been maintained through recent difficult financial times. Bro. Kenneth E. Beard, P.D.D.G.M. of Masonic District 2 and Coordinator for the One- Day Masonic Journey in Harrisburg, reviewed the tentative schedule for the one-day events that will be held in 12 locations on Oct. 30, and answered many questions.

Bro. S. Eugene Herritt, D.D.G.M. for District 3, presented information regarding the financial challenges faced by the symbolic lodges, asking whether costs of being a Mason should be kept down so as to make membership affordable to all age groups. Bro. Rodney E. Boyce, D.D.G.M. of the 30th Masonic District, presented an overview of the restrictions currently in place regarding the publication of rosters of active members of the symbolic lodges, and reviewed the benefits of a published roster in order for Masons to know who their brother Masons are. This proposal generated significant discussion and debate. Bro. P. J. Roup, D.D.G.M. of the 54th Masonic District, discussed the importance of adhering to a minimum set of requirements for the leaders of the symbolic lodges and appendant bodies. He stressed the importance of officers attending the Warden Training Seminars and other opportunities to enhance their ability to provide Masonic leadership.

Bro. Richard N. Fitzsimmons, D.D.G.M. of the 24th Masonic District, offered a comprehensive report on the Masonic Summit held in his district on Feb. 6 in order to improve the working relationship among the various lodges and appendant bodies, including the youth groups, that meet in District 24. Two of the key components of communication include a Web page and a shared calendar of events that will enable all of the Masonic bodies in the district to coordinate their plans. This prompted spirited discussion of the creation of a shared online calendar of events that would list the meetings and activities of Grand Lodge and the appendant grand bodies. The Grand Master noted that this was an excellent idea that will be added to the list of Grand Lodge projects to implement later in his term.

A discussion of suspensions and how they affect the appendant bodies ensued, with the Grand Master acknowledging that the Grand Lodge needs to do a better job of notifying the appendant bodies when members of the symbolic lodges are suspended for non-payment of dues. The Grand Master also outlined a new "amnesty" program to bring suspended members back to active membership more easily.

Grand Master Sturgeon remarked that the Grand Lodge is still working on the project to enable the payment of dues through the use of a credit card or an automatic checking account withdrawal, and that this opportunity should make the payment of dues much easier for the membership, with implementation expected for the coming fall.

A discussion on wearing regalia by appendant bodies at symbolic lodge meetings resulted in clarifying that it would be permissible to wear a special apron displaying the emblem of the appendant body. It would only be permissible for an appendant organization to wear its regalia to symbolic lodge meetings when presenting a program on its organization.

Bro. Williamson led a discussion on the value of the 2010 Masonic Congress and the support that future congresses would receive. The overwhelming response was in support of a Masonic Congress being held every other year.

Bro. Jay W. Smith, R.W. Deputy Grand Master, thanked the Grand Master for having the vision and foresight to organize the Masonic Congress. He explained to everyone that he is 100 percent in support of the R.W. Grand Master and his programs that are providing for a true 21st Century Masonic Renaissance in Pennsylvania. "There is this perception out there that in two years we will return to where we were before, but I am here to tell you that that's not going to happen ... these programs are working, and I like what I see going on in my lodge and all across the state." Bro. Robert J. Bateman, R.W. Senior Grand Warden, and Bro. Raymond T. Dietz, R.W. Junior Grand Warden, also indicated their ongoing support of the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance.

The Masonic Congress accomplished its goal of bringing together the leaders of Freemasonry across Pennsylvania to discuss ideas of mutual concern to all of the Masonic bodies. With a better understanding of the needs of each group, we can work together to improve the Masonic fraternity.

The first Pennsylvania Masonic Congress was called in April 1961 by R. W. Grand Master Max F. Balcom. The second was called by R.W. Past Grand Master Williamson in April 1983. The third Masonic Congress was held in August 1992, and successive Congresses were held with one in 1993, two in 1994 and one in 1995.

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