Lodge #38 is not unique. Low membership and a shortage of younger men have made the average age of our members closer to the end than to the beginning of their Masonic journeys. This is typical of small rural lodges such as Williams-Grand Canyon #38.
My lodge is so small in fact that we have to “borrow” members from another lodge located 30 miles east of Williams just to perform degree work.
At first I thought that a lodge that could not fill enough seats to perform their own ceremonies to be a sort of a letdown. Do I really want to become a member of this lodge when I could just drive 30 miles east to a lodge with many more members who are a lot closer to my age? The answer came to me in a flash. That answer was YES, a big girl being asked to prom type of yes!
I live in Williams Arizona. It just does not seem right to represent another city as my home lodge. Just like the rising high school sports star that leaves his hometown the summer before junior year to play ball for the bigger city down the road. It is done, but it does not feel right, and the locals feel this too.
Imagine what would happen if all new Masons took that trek to another lodge and left their local lodge with aging members. The lodge would never renew itself. Just like a forest the year after a fire, Masonic lodges must generate re-growth. New members are the carriers of the seeds that will rejuvenate the ancient forests and keep them healthy and strong, making them too beautiful and too thick to cut down.
Representing your local lodge is important but that was not the deciding factor in my decision to join Williams #38. What made me take the invitation to the prom was that I have the unique opportunity of having the friendship and brotherly love of two lodges.
The other lodge, 30 miles east of Williams is Flagstaff Lodge #7. Flagstaff Arizona is much bigger that Williams, still pretty rural compared to Phoenix, but Flagstaff does have enough good men to run a successful lodge. Flagstaff #7 does have its fair share of older Masons (many are dual members that also belong to Williams #38), but it also has a fresh crop of relatively young Masons that are closer to my age of 34.
These two lodges, #38 and #7 are similar, of course, but also very unique. The stated meetings in Williams have been known to last around 40 minutes. That’s about an hour and a half shorter that the stated meetings in Flagstaff. The members of Flagstaff #7 dress more on the formal side. In Williams the pair of sweatpants or shorts worn to lodge is not a rare occurrence. The WM of Williams #38 sometimes trades his top hat for a thirst quenching 10 gallons of hat… A firearm on your hip seems almost mandatory. The Williams’s lodge room looks like Flagstaff’s lodge room after eating a cookie from Alice in Wonderland, identical but half of the size.
Upon my initiation as an EA, a man with a booming voice (plural member) invited me to visit him at the Flagstaff Lodge to practice my proficiencies and to discuss Masonry. I soon found out that “the voice” was the secretary Flagstaff Lodge #7. I met with the voice on several occasions. In our discussions he pointed to two businesses in Flagstaff who seem to employ only Masons. “These guys would be a great help to you on your trip up the Winding Stairs” said the voice in the way only a booming voice knows. Two of these Masons were people I had done business with for years and had no idea that they were part of the fraternity! Whoa, these guys are good a keeping secrets.
Soon after that I gathered some courage and decided to get out of my comfort zone and just show up at these businesses with hopes of not getting tossed out for bothering people at work. The tossing did not come. I introduced myself, begged for help, and handed them a box of doughnuts (how can anyone be annoyed with the man who brings donuts?). I did not have to beg. The employees/Masons at both businesses welcomed me with open hearts and offered to help me with my proficiencies anytime I wanted.
Proficiency practice was just a sample of what I received from these guys. I was shown that Freemasonry is much more that memorizing some lines and ritual. Discussions on Freemasonry are a form of mining. I was taught to use the tools of Masonry to mine deep into the meaning of what I was memorizing, and to excavate deeper into the infinite space between the words to bring to light the true meaning of my work. These men made me a Mason.
My Masonic experience reminds me of Chicken and Waffles. Two Lodges with Two unique flavors mixed perfectly make one hell of a tasty and satisfying dish. The differences between the lodges do not divide, they bring us together. The differences are what we find interesting. The differences give us something to talk about. Both lodges are quick to poke fun of each other when forgotten lines are exposed during degree work. “What is that, the short form?” is often loudly whispered when such mistakes are made. Everyone gets a laugh and a little bit closer. The friendly harassment is just extra syrup on those waffles.
What I see is two distinct lodges, coming together, setting aside differences, and making the Masonic experience better for all involved. And, when a Mason starts down that ruff and rugged road, it is always best to travel with friends. So believe me when I say that I was extremely proud that when the WM extended to me his right hand and invested me with friendship and brotherly love, it was the friendship and brotherly love of two lodges.
Bro. Michael Kennelly is a new Master Mason being raised in Williams - Grand Canyon Lodge #38. He is also the father of three ages; 16, 14, and 10, he is a busy brother. He is a utilities director for a private golf course in Flagstaff AZ. Bro. Kennelly lives by the motto "CDC" (consistency + discipline = CONFIDENCE).