Every year, on the Friday prior to Memorial Day, my lodge holds a ceremony in honor of our deceased past masters. Now, many lodges in my area pay tribute to the past masters of their lodge, however my lodge has developed a uniquely beautiful ceremony that honors our history and reminds us of those we have lost. I’ll include a copy of the script for the ceremony below, however first I would like to explain some of the set up for the ceremony and the traditions behind it, so that you may use this ceremony for your lodge if you choose.
Our past master’s event is arranged by the junior past master, although he is given the full support of the officer line in anything he may need. It begins with a nice dinner (usually one of the nicer dinners we hold for the year), and all members and their families are invited, as well as the widows of those past masters who are no longer with us. During the dinner, both the junior past master and the current Worshipful Master have an opportunity to speak, and if we’re very lucky we may also get to hand out an award for service; at this year’s dinner, I had the honor of presenting a member with his sixty year service award!
Following the dinner, we all retire to the larger of our two lodge rooms, where the lights have been dimmed. The altar has our holy book open, and a spotlight to light it, while the rest of the room is in near darkness. In a semi-circle on the west of the altar are the chairs for our past masters to sit in (all except for the junior past master, who sits in the east with the current Worshipful Master). Our digital projector is set up with a slideshow that has a photo of each deceased past master of our lodge, and it is the Junior Deacon’s responsibility to control the slides at the appropriate time.
Once everyone is situated in the lodge, the junior past master gives the order, and all of the past masters process into the lodge, in order of the year that they served. Each holds a number of white carnations; there is one carnation for every deceased past master of the lodge, and they are split evenly between those who are still living.
When all of the past masters have taken their seat, the following ceremony begins:
Lancaster Lodge No. 54, A∴F∴&A∴M∴
(Soft lights and background of subdued music . . . meditation. Presentation given by the junior past master)
In honor of W.B. Guy O. Seaton, I shall use, for the most part, the text written by him for this Memorial Service.
On April 20, 1874, a group of 26 Lincoln Masons were granted a dispensation by the Grand Lodge to organize Lancaster Lodge No. 54. On September 3, of that year, the lodge was duly constituted under a charter granted by Alfred G. Hastings, Grand Master.
During the 143 years of its existence, 135 of its members have served the lodge as Master, and have given unstintingly of their time and talents to the end that the affairs of the Lodge might be handled judiciously; that the principles of Masonry might, by precept and example be taught to those who seek them; and that the virtuous inculcated in Masonic teachings might become a living, vital part of the life of its members.
We are assembled here in observance of the 102nd annual Past Masters’ Day, and as we enjoy the fellowship which such an occasion makes possible, it seems only fitting that we pause for a few moments to honor the memory of those who served the Lodge so faithfully and well as Masters, and who have been called from their labors here on earth to the Great Beyond. They now number 104.
Let us turn our thoughts to them, who, but a comparatively few years ago, were among us in the pride and power of life. Let us be mindful of the record of their wisdom, their good deeds, their words of truth and their works of mercy and justice, that we may imitate them. Let us each rededicate himself to the high principles for which our great fraternity stands.
Today they sleep, watched over by the sun, the moon, the stars and by the God who fails not to mark the sparrow’s fall. Dreamless and untroubled in their slumber. Mighty forces may clash on the lands, on the seas and in the skies, but nothing of this reaches them. Utter peace they know and naught of this world’s strife. Rains give life to the turf above them, causing it to grow and shelter their resting places. All above them is life and the turn of the seasons. When Nature rests, snowflakes sift down to cover their beds; when Nature wakes and all is green and glad above them, still they are sheltered. The years pass – one-by-one – and through them all they sleep in peace.
These white flowers are emblematical of that pure life to which they have been called. As we deposit them upon the altar in their memory, may we be reminded that, as these flowers will soon drop and fade away, so, too, we shall soon follow them. But, let us then remember the evergreen, symbol of our faith in immortality, and know that they are but sleeping, and that the imperishable part within has survived the grave and shall never, never, never die. For in our archives their names and deeds are written, and in our hearts and memories there shall always remain a place for them.
I shall read the names of our departed Past Masters and the years they served. As I do, one of the Past Masters present will lay a white flower upon the altar in memory of him whose name is spoken.
As the sun sets in the west to draw to a close, so, one-by-one, we lay us down in the darkness of the tomb; to wait in calm repose for the time when the Heaven shall pass away as a scroll; and man, standing in the presence of the Infinite, shall realize the true end of his pilgrimage here below. Let these flowers be to us a symbol of remembrance of the virtues of these, our Worshipful Brethren, who have preceded us to the silent land; a token of that fraternal alliance which binds us together while on earth and which shall finally reunite us in heaven.
Memorial Service Prayer
(Prayer by the Worshipful Master)
Protect and perpetuate, we pray Thee, civil and religious liberty in this land, and prevent tyranny, subversion of constitutional government, oppression, injustice and usurpation, and defeat all mad and wicked schemes that with plausible pretexts lead to ruin. Teach all men the great truth that peace, good government, political freedom and religion walk hand-in-hand; and as Thou has united these, let none put asunder.
Make this Order of Freemasonry worthy of its high pretensions. Persuade its initiates everywhere to illustrate its holy principles of truth, brotherly love, virtue and tolerance; and when our labors in this earthly lodge and workshop in which we serve our apprenticeship are finished, admit us to the companionship of those who have worthily worked and gone away before us, in that temple of the heavens wherein Thy throne of love is established forever. Amen.
This concludes the Past Masters’ Day Memorial Service.