The 50 Year Member: Part Seven - The Table Lodge
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Hosler, PM
It was a bitter cold December evening as Pudge walked through the door of the Masonic temple. As he opened the door, the smell of good food cooking filled the vestibule. He could almost taste the steaks as he walked down the hallway. Just the thought of the feast made his stomach growl.
Pudge walked into the cloakroom to remove his trench coat revealing his brand new suit. “The old man was right. I do feel like a million bucks when I dress up!” He placed his coat and hat on a peg and walked into the temple.
As he walked through the building he stopped and looked into the dining room. He could not believe what he saw. The lights in the room were turned down and the candles on the tables gave the room illumination. The tables in the dinging room were placed in the shaped of a “U”. They were covered with real white linen table cloths instead of the white butcher paper that usually covered them. An altar was placed in the middle of the table arrangement with the Volume of Sacred law resting on top.
Real silver cutlery replaced the usual plastic tableware. There were china settings instead of paper plates. As Pudge gazed upon this unusual scene, waiters and waitresses scurried to get ready for the meal. He thought how strange it will be to have someone serve the lodge meal instead of going through the normal cafeteria style that lodge meals are usually served in.
The social room was filled with laughter as he walked in. Men were standing around in little groups, talking and laughing. Pudge could tell by the conversations, as he passed the groups, that this was a joyous occasion filled with happiness in the air. The 50 year member was sitting in a leather chair in the corner talking with several other members. As he approached the group, Pudge could tell the conversation was about an event from years ago.
“Hey Pudge! Glad you could make it! Have a seat.” The old man stood and shook his hand. “That new suit looks good on you! You know the rest of the guys.” Pudge shook everyone’s hand and took a seat with the group. “I know this is old hat to you guys, but I am excited. This is my first Feast of Saint John. I don’t know what to expect.” All the men started to smile “You can expect a good meal and great fellowship. I look forward to this event every year. It’s like my Masonic Christmas.” Robert Davies exclaimed, “I never miss it. I was thinking about it this week. This is my sixty-fifth feast. I never miss one!” The 50 year member said in a laughing tone, “Robert you never miss it because you can’t say no to a free meal!” The whole group laughed.
“I mean it.” Robert said “I really look forward to this feast. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the regular meals we have but there is something special about this night. I don’t know if it is the meal or the toasts or the fellowship but the feast is always magical to me. I wish we could have it more often.”
Pudge thought for a second, “Why can’t we have it more often? We don’t need a special holiday to have a feast and celebrate Freemasonry.” Everyone got quiet for a second to think about this idea. Herb Walker broke the silence, “The idea sounds good, but the meal we have is pretty good. I don’t see why we need to change it.” Mark Miller quickly jumped in, “The food we normally have is good but there is nothing wrong with the idea of making our lodge meals more special. Instead of just feeding our bodies we could also feed our souls.” Herb replied, “I can see that but we can’t afford a steak dinner at every lodge meeting.”
Robert thought for a second, “It doesn’t have to be an expensive meal at every meeting. I am talking about how we do it. Right now we just serve food hoping it will entice members to attend our meetings. If we were to make our meals a celebration of Brotherhood instead of a gimmick to get guys to come we might have more Brethren show up.”
Pudge replied, “I think you have something there Robert. It is the quality of a lodge experience men are looking for. It isn’t about a quick meal and then sitting through a boring meeting. Men want to be inspired when they come to lodge.”
The 50 year member was listening to the discussion that the Brethren were having. When I visited lodges in England, Brethren would close lodge and enter the dining room to conduct what they call the festive board. They have it after ever meeting and degree night. Basically a festive board is exactly what we are talking about. The Brethren sit down and have a restaurant quality meal served to them by waiters. There was laughter and the telling of stories, just like we have at our meal. Once the meal is finished, the Brethren sing and have a series of toasts where several men would make remarks. It is a beautiful ceremony. Once the ceremony is complete they all shake hands and go to their homes. They leave their temple with a feeling of peace and fellowship. Each one arrives home with a warm glow of fraternity and they feel closer to the Craft and the Brethren who make it up.
The money we spend on the meal shouldn’t, in my opinion, be a factor. Can you put a price on Freemasonry? Sometimes you need to spend a little extra on something special. There isn’t a man here who would scrimp on a special meal with their family. Would you take your wife to a fast food joint on Valentine’s Day or your wedding anniversary? Of course not! Why should a night with your Masonic Brethren be any different? Nearly all of us have been to a Grand Lodge dinner. Do they eat baloney sandwiches and potato chips on paper plates? NO! They have a special banquet with the finest foods. We all have to ask ourselves a question. Did you join Freemasonry to be mediocre or to become great?”
The group became silent. “I sometimes think about staying home and not come to a meeting. I think about the meal being served and think I could be home eating a better meal at. Some of the Brethren are good cooks but I want my lodge time to be special like John was talking about. I think it is something we should think about, Robert said in a low voice. I don’t want mediocre. I want my Masonry to be special.”
Pudge looked at the group and stated, A Past Grand Master from Indiana, Dwight L Smith once said, “The Festive Board is not the wolfing of ham sandwiches, pie and coffee at the conclusion of a degree. It is the Hour of Refreshment in all its beauty and dignity; an occasion for inspiration and fellowship; a time when the noble old traditions of the Craft are preserved.” This is what a lot of the younger guys are saying. When we joined we wanted the Freemasonry we seen in the movies. We came to learn. We wanted to become better men. We wanted Freemasonry! If we want to keep the Craft growing we need to look at some of these traditions and bring them back. If we continue on the path we have been traveling we will soon cease to be the great fraternity our forefathers built.”
WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.