by Midnight Fremasons Guest Contributor
Worshipful Master Kevin J. Wurster
Hilton Masonic Lodge No. 1143 (IL)
Hilton Masonic Lodge No. 1143 (IL)
One week prior to my scheduled "Honeymoon Holiday" to Edinburgh Scotland I received notice from the Grand Lodge of Scotland; they had located a lodge that would be having a meeting during our visit. I had already spoken to Illinois. Grand Lodge and had an official document to present, however I sent the information to Grand Lodge just to make sure. My contact in Scotland was Bob Cooper, curator of the Scotland Grand Lodge Museum. He instructed me to visit Freemasons Hall early on Thursday and they would have all the information assembled for me. I had no idea at this time what I was about to enter into.
Since I was visiting a Grand Lodge and making a meeting, I felt somewhat to be acting as a Representative of Illinois Grand Lodge, I contacted W.G.M. Terry Seward about some lapel pins. I also thought that since I was being invited to visit the GL Museum, that I needed some type of item to present as a gift. I contacted Illinois' own Todd E. Creason, author of Famous American Freemasons, and he was kind enough to donate a copy of the two volumes combined to give to the Grand Lodge Museum. With these two items I thought myself ready for the visit.
The first few days of our Edinburgh experience were great, busy, and more than I could have dreamed. But that is another story completely.
Thursday the 16th came as fast as I would have wanted it to. My new wife and I had already found Freemasons Hall early in our trip, so we knew where we were headed. About 10AM we made our way to the Grand Lodge… First was the experience of getting in, there was a buzzer at the front door. A pleasant young lady answered and I made my introduction, “No problem come on in and follow the stairwell up to the second floor to the Office. The entrance was like something in Washington DC, a large domed entry with windows in the dome. We made our way up to the office and were greeted by two very nice ladies that took care of calling for a Brother that had my information. He spent a good half hour explaining the history of Scottish Lodges, the history of Grand Lodge, and covering other tidbits about Masonic history in Scotland.
He explained how Scotland had no standard work; every lodge had control of its ritual. That when the Grand Lodge was formed the lodges would allow no such thing as Standard Ritual . . . many, many Lodges had been operating with Operative and Speculative Masons for 100+ years without a Grand Lodge and they had no need to have someone tell them how to do their work.
He explained that Scottish Masonry had written evidence of Lodges meeting in Scotland all the way back to 1599. That they actually had three lodges with written proof back to that date, therefore since the lodges were numbered according to the order formed, once Grand Lodge was formed, they actually had three #1 lodges. He then showed me the published Ritual that they considered to be most used and other books they had for sale in the Grand Lodge Store http://www.grandlodgescotland.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart
After making some photo copies and other information he gave us instructions on getting to the Museum, to visit the Curator, Bro. Robert Cooper.
With all this I thought I was prepared for a fun night, since the Brother at Grand Lodge informed me that the lodge was doing degree work that night. The only thought that would enter my mind was “How Wonderful to get to witness Degree Work from Scotland.” I was instructed to reach the Lodge around 6:45 that night and that a “Dark Suit and Tie” would be expected…No problem I came prepared and what I thought was ready, Boy! Was I in for the surprise of my life?
The Hotel was able to schedule a Taxi and I was right on time…maybe a bit early but excited… The Brothers welcomed me with open arms and ready, someone from Grand Lodge let someone know I would be there. It was explained early when I asked what degree they were doing that night, it was explained they were exemplifying the 1st Degree and had no active candidate. The numbers grew from two to probably 70 in no time. Many many brothers came up and introduced themselves, one hearing I was from “The States” mentioned his lodge had a visitor a few weeks back from Ohio..They were also exemplifying a degree. I made a comment about WOW what a wonderful experience. The next thing I knew I was in front of the Master of “Water of Leith Lodge #1267” and someone was asking if I could be the symbolic Candidate for the degree. I was asked “Do you really want to go through all that” Of course I stated it would be a wonderful honor and a terrific experience to hear a degree done 1st hand as the candidate--my fate was sealed, and my life never the same.
I was of course invited to remain in the room for the opening where I was also escorted and introduced as the “Reigning Master” of Hilton Lodge #1143 in Illinois. They escort and introduce all visiting Reigning Masters and Past Master and invite them to sit in the North side of the East. After a unique opening with things done in manners I had not seen in the States to the few Non-Illinois Lodges I had visited, I was asked to retire and be prepared.. That was all pretty much the same. From that point forward things were the same however different. As I stated above the ritual is not standardized and I understood and was ready for that. If a brother was helping from another lodge, he did his part as he knew it and the others as they knew their work. What I was not ready for was the beauty of the explanations, the way that the story was the same but yet completely different, and the way that even though I had done this before and heard it time and time again, It moved me in a way it never had before. Of course the Master made a few stumbles, he had to be prompted a few times, but I would never have known if it was word perfect or not… and neither would the other visiting brethren in the room. You see they have the mindset that there is no right or wrong way, that each lodge does this a bit different, and that is Okay. This even went for the etiquette of how one prepared himself for lodge. Some Brothers wear their apron inside the jacket some outside some had more paraphernalia than others… however they all looked at each other as correct.
I was even given a story when I asked about the apron, and if I would upset or stir attention having it outside my jacket. It was explained like this. Since in the beginning of Scottish Lodge there was a mix of Operative and speculative masons, it is understood that no operative mason would wear a jacket during his work that they would all take them off. The apron would have been to the inside the jacket ready for him to start his work. It was not until the English started Speculative lodges as dinner groups, that they started wearing the apron on the outside of the jacket. As you can see there is a little riff between English and Scottish Masonry.
The degree work went on through the entire 1st and second sections; there were a few items of difference that I of course have sworn not to repeat… May I suggest a trip to Scotland and take in some degree work.
Once everything was completed I was asked to make a few comments just like we would offer to a candidate…I would think that my comments were unlike most.
I let them know that it was so much the same but yet so different, that I was moved by how well their ritual explained some of the work, symbols, and the importance of caution when conveying the pass. That I could see that their ritual was probably the source of our version. However I could see more history and source to theirs.
After they closed the meeting, they had no other business, the officers and members torn down the lodge for a nice meal, with warm brotherly love, and support. It was at this point, my Masonic outlook would never be the same. I think that every brother in the lodge came up and shook my hand at least once. I was amazed by the number of gifts, small mementos, lapel pins (Which I still had from our Grand Master). I was presented with a lodge tie from Water of Leith Lodge, Forget me not flower Pins, a small Setting Maul wooden keychain…I was then greeted by a brother that walked up and handed me a little black book, asked me if I knew what it was? I flipped it over only to find it was a Illinois Monitor Black Booklet…..At that moment as far away from home as I was, I felt like I was at home. This brother had family in Northern Illinois and he had held onto it from his visit… I was then approached by a brother that handed me a small “Pocket Sized” Gavel and stated he wanted to give it to me. I thanked him and asked if he had turned this gavel? He answered yes.. but that there was an explanation he wished to convey to me about the gavel. He questioned me if I had heard of Rosslyn Chapel. I answered we had visited the Chapel on Tuesday. He then explained that he had purchased a section of a beam that had been replaced at the Chapel. That he had used that timber to turn several gavels for Masters and several Lodges. That when he was completed he had several small pieces left over and that this gavel was from those remains. Some of you can imagine the feeling that gift could cause, I was speechless and overwhelmed. There were several other items given to me one was a tie from a lodge named after the house of Stewart.
|Portrait William St. Clair in Museum|
Close to the closing of the evening I asked one of the brothers if he could make a call for a Taxi, I handed him the card of the taxi that had brought me to the lodge, he handed it back, stating “Not to worry brother it is on my way home”. Little did I know he functioned as a taxi for several of the lodge brothers. This allowed me to share even more time, learning the history of Scotland, William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and Oh YES let me not forget “The explanation from one of the English Brother as to why the English drive on the left side of the road and Americans drive on the wrong side.” The explanation made complete sense even coming from an Englishman.
I once heard someone speak about masonry, He closed his talk be stating “And pay the brothers their wages if any be due them.” The Friendship, Fellowship and Love shown to me, is that payment. What better payment then being able to go anywhere in the world with Freemasonry and be extended the hand of Friendship in such a great way.
I would have to encourage any brother, if you ever have the opportunity to travel a far, and attend a lodge meeting, Do So! It is well worth the time and effort, and you will probably form friendships forever.
Kevin J. Wurster is the current Worshipful Master of Hilton Masonic Lodge #1143 (IL), the Chairman Advisor of the Fides Chapter of DeMolay, and the Associate Guardian of Pekin Bethel #55 Jobs Daughters. He's also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Peoria (NMJ) and the Pekin and Peoria York Rite. He's also a member of the Morton Eastern Star, Red Cross of Constantine, the Peoria Abbas Grotto, the Peoria Heights UCCE, and the the Peoria Tall Cedars.
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