by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason
|photo by Sir Knight Robert Johnson|
When you become a Master Mason, you quickly learn that there are a lot of things out there you can do, and a lot of appendant bodies and clubs you can become a part of outside of your Lodge. You can join the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, or you could become a Shriner. There's even a few groups you could join if you have certain interests--like a Harley in your garage for instance. If that's the case, you might want to contact your local Widows Sons club. That's right, there are motorcycle riding Masons! You can ride the road with Brothers that share that same interest, and help them raise money and do good in the world at the same time.
But there's one club I'm particularly proud of being involved with, because I didn't just join it, I helped charter it. It's a rare priviledge to charter a new Masonic club, and that's exactly what fellow Midnight Freemason Greg Knott and I did--and I'll give him most of the credit.
It's a long story about how we got there, so I'll save you the history. But just over a year ago, we chartered a brand new group called the Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. It's a lunch club. We're a little different than most High Twelve clubs because we had a very different goal. I can't say enough about how flexible High Twelve International was with us in allowing us to run this club a lot differently than most High Twelves operate. They were extremely accomodating, because I think they knew we were onto a very good idea.
We wanted to use the club as a bridge between Freemasonry, the community, and the campus of the University of Illinois. We wanted to create something very casual and "come as you are" and we wanted it to be open to both Masons and non-Masons. Only Masons can be members, but you can bring anybody you want to come along. Our members bring friends, spouses, family, and co-workers along for lunch. Many of our members are young and work for a living, so the rule is come when you can even if you're late, and leave when you need to. Each month we have lunch, and then an invited speaker. I started as the Charter President, and Greg Knott began as Secretary (for life). We got the word out about what we wanted to do, and we had a big group of Masons who wanted to join even before we chartered. When we were chartered, we were the largest new High Twelve club in the United States. And we've continued to grow. In the beginning, we started out with one table in the dining room of the Urbana Garden Restaurant where we meet. Just over a year later, we now have that entire dining room for our monthly meeting.
|UofI President Robert Easter with Todd Creason and Greg Knott|
It's worked out well. Greg Knott has lined up some impressive speakers. We've had the Sheriff. We've had the Presidents of two colleges as speakers (including the President of the University of Illinois). We've had the CEO of the Boy Scouts, and the Daughters of the American Revolution just to name a few--and we're just getting started.
But it's our members that have made it work. They bring new Entered Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, and Master Masons from their Lodges to lunch. These new members get a chance to meet and talk to a lot of Masons, and it helps them network, and meet other Masons. It helps them get used to the idea that Masonry isn't just in their lodge, they are part of a very large family, and we're everywhere--and they are welcome wherever Masons meet. Many of these new Masons go on to be very active in their lodges. We've also had a few of the non-Mason guests of our members get interested in becoming a Mason after meeting Masons from all walks of life in a very casual setting. They've petitioned a Lodge and have become Masons after joining us for a burger and fries and a great speaker. I knew our idea was beginning to work as we had hoped it would when I went to a 1st Degree at Greg Knott's Lodge and realized I knew the candidate. He was a University of Illinois student, and I'd met him at one of our Illini High Twelve meetings. He was the guest of one of our members, and he decided to join the Fraternity.
|In the beginning . . . just a bunch of Masons having lunch.|
I expect that idea Greg and I had will spread. It works because it's a simple idea, it's a fun and casual meeting, and we get some really good speakers and learn something while we're there. And what I enjoy the most is the opportunity to get together for lunch each month with Brothers that I really enjoy being around. Michael Shirley, another of the Midnight Freemasons contributor, is also a charter member of the Illini High Twelve. He's working on doing the same thing we've done at the University of Illinois at Eastern Illinois University where he is a history professor--and knowing him as well as I do, I'm sure he'll find a way to do it better.
The great strength of our Fraternity is that it empowers us. New Master Masons, being surrounded by industrious men, quickly figure out that each of us has a gift or a skill that we can put to good use in our communities, and within our Fraternity. That is certainly the lesson I first learned. The other early lesson I learned, is that only a small part of what Freemasonry is all about takes place within the walls of a Masonic Lodge--we take the values we learn in that Lodge and from our Brothers out into the world with us wherever we go. It's hard to tell in the beginning what interest or what passion you have will translate into a skill you can put to good use.
Greg Knott and I were able to take our GREAT love and passion for lunch, and turn it into something truly unique.
Todd E. Creason, 33° is the founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is member of Homer Lodge No. 199, and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL). He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL). You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org