By Most Worshipful Kenneth A. Clay, Jr.
Brethren, Freemasonry in the State of New Hampshire has been around for over 230 years. During that time, Freemasons endured World Wars, The Great Depression and pandemics. They also witnessed times of peace, financial prosperity and medical cures. In those 230 years, we have seen the highest of the highs, and lowest of the lows. What is important to realize, however, is that good really can come from bad. Let me explain:
“For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down…”
The world and Freemasonry are suffering from a pandemic, the likes of which many of us have never experienced. COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on our daily lives. Brethren and their families are getting sick. Many are observing the “stay at home order” from our Governor. Some have lost their jobs. And sadly, some have lost their lives.
An EDICT was issued authorizing Worshipful Masters to cancel Stated Meetings during the period of the pandemic. Numerous Masonic events have been cancelled or postponed. The Annual Communication of Grand Lodge was postponed for the first time since its forming!
Brethren, it feels like things cannot get much worse.
“That it will sprout again…and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.”
And yet, despite these many challenges, Masons throughout this Jurisdiction have stood up, dusted themselves off, and stand proudly upon the mountain top. How so, you say? Here are just a few examples of Masons doing what they do best:
Face Masks: Brethren are teaming with the Order of the Eastern Star to put their talents to work creating face masks for those on the front lines. Many masks have been made and are being distributed. Much work went into this endeavor, but even if one person is prevented from getting sick, or one life is saved, the fruits of your labors will have been realized.
Meals for the Needy: Lodges are purchasing ingredients, preparing and distributing meals to the less fortunate.
Blood Drives: Lodges are offering their buildings to host blood drives.Given the “stay at home order” blood supplies are dangerously low. Lodges are giving back to their communities by allowing Red Cross personnel to address this critical need.
Online Masonic Education: Members of the Education Committee are researching, preparing and offering online programs to help stimulate the mind and share light in Masonry.
Staying Connected: Masonic online gatherings are taking place throughout the state. Some are using online software platforms where the members are visible, others are holding phone meetings. This online process offers a way to connect, not only for Brethren we see frequently, but also for those who live far from New Hampshire. It is also a way for those who are less mobile to join with their Brethren.
Musical Treats: This is a stressful time for many Brethren. Listening to great music has a calming and relaxing affect. Some have shared their musical talents by posting daily musical ensembles.
Online Leadership Training: Spearheaded by our Deputy Grand Master, members of the Grand Line created and presented an online Leadership Training Seminar. Over 30 Brethren took advantage of the opportunity to build their leadership skills.
Family Bonding: Many have used this dedicated “stay at home” time to reconnect with family. We often get caught up in our daily schedules of work and Masonry. This period has given us time to better focus on our family, and the significance of their meaning in our lives.
On a personal note, this time has opened new opportunities for me. I have used it to connect with many of my Brethren and have enjoyed every moment speaking with you. In addition, each Grand Jurisdiction is an entity unto itself. As such, Jurisdictional leaders do not often get to meet and share ideas with their peers. During the last month, Grand Masters from the six New England states have been online meeting weekly, providing updates, sharing ideas to help advance our Craft, and bonding as Brethren. What a delight!
These are just a few of the many examples of good that has come from bad, despite being faced with daunting obstacles. Your Masonic spirit is hard at work, clearing the way for a better and brighter world.
What Lies Ahead
I firmly believe that in time, the way we have traditionally performed our Masonry will significantly return. It will not happen overnight. Until the medical community can mitigate and control the virus, we will need to adapt. In time, we will again be able to gather face-to-face. But for a time, those gatherings will need to be modified.
We may need to wear washable gloves and white aprons. Wearing of face masks will be permitted. Social distancing will need to be practiced in accordance with Federal guidelines. Hand sanitizer must be made readily available. And there are elements of our Opening, Closing, and Degree ritual that may need to be temporarily modified.
We’re navigating our boat through uncharted waters. Some ideas may need to be tested, some may fail, some modified, and tried again. But be heartened in knowing that patience and perseverance accomplishes all things.
Your Charge to Action
The world, our nation, state, and Freemasonry will emerge from this crisis. We may very well emerge stronger than before. Until then we need to continually honor our devotion to Brotherly Love and Friendship.
Brethren, I charge you to remember the members of your Masonic family. Find 10-minutes in your busy day to call a Brother, call a Special Lady. Often these folks live alone and would be thrilled to hear your voice. You’ll find this simple gesture to be highly gratifying. You’ll learn in a loving way that your call means not only that you care, but they matter. Brethren please pick up the phone.