I was raised in Ogden Lodge No. 754 along with two of my childhood friends. We went through all three degrees together and it was a special experience to share with these lifetime friends. After becoming a Master Mason, I don’t think I fully comprehended what I just went through or what was still to come.
Ogden is a strong lodge that has been in the community since 1877. Shortly after I was raised, Ogden celebrated our 130th celebration with a lodge rededication ceremony conducted by the Grand Lodge officers. It was impressive and was a nice compliment to the degrees I had just been through.
I started attending meetings regularly and we did the usual paying the bills, reading the minutes and other business. At the time, I really didn’t know the difference and just thought this was what we did. I started attending the pancake breakfasts and we did a roadside trash pick-up. We seemed to be an active lodge.
A few months later, I decided to become a plural member with St. Joseph Lodge No. 970, which is in my hometown. St. Joseph Lodge was on the verge of closure. It was having problems making a quorum and the members that did come were worn out and about to throw the towel in. There were conversations about merging with Ogden (which are five miles apart in distance). But another new brother had also joined St. Joseph lodge and together we had a lot of enthusiasm to make some changes. So, we started brainstorming ideas on how we could grow and improve the lodge. The existing members were very supportive and basically gave us the green light to try anything.
We did numerous things, which I have written about before if you search this blog, and we were able to turn the lodge around. In 2011, we were the first lodge in Illinois to receive the Mark Twain Award from the Masonic Service Association. Additionally, we have won the Grand Masters Award of Excellence on several occasions in the past few years. St. Joseph lodge still has new members coming in and is a very strong lodge. I am very proud we strengthened this lodge and saved it from closing.
Just because I needed more to do, I also joined Homer Lodge No. 199. Homer was also having a problem making quorums and about to close the doors and turn the lights out. Several of the brethren from Ogden lodge also became plural members at Homer and we began the work to turn things around there. Again, we have written about Homer lodge many times here on this blog and you can search for the stories, but this lodge has also stabilized and is growing again.
Two significant changes have happened in the last 10 years that I think are influencing masonry in a positive manner, social media and masonic education.
Masonic education had virtually disappeared from meetings over the last 75 years and the purpose of Masonry had essentially become degree work and boring business meetings. But by the beginning of the 21st century, numerous brothers were asking if there wasn’t more to Masonry than what was being practiced. In 2004 the Knights of the North published Laudable Pursuit, which laid out a framework of how Freemasonry could return to its roots. This work and Chris Hodapp’s book Freemasons for Dummies were a strong influence on shaping my knowledge of what Freemasonry is and should be. My research quickly told me that Freemasonry was much more than I was experiencing.
The other change is social media. Facebook, Twitter, blogs all have become part of daily life this past decade. These social networks became a way to keep me connected to not only the brethren I met in blue lodge, but also the Scottish Rite, York Rite and more. Then I met brothers from all over the country who gave me ideas on how to improve the lodge and encouraged me to keep working towards change. One common theme was repeated over and over and that was Masonic education.
I quickly became a convert in that Masonic education was the key to the future of blue lodge success. Reading numerous online website, listening to podcasts, reading books and masonic discussion groups, I expanded my knowledge and developed a much deeper understanding of Freemasonry. The task was to bring this education back to the blue lodges.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who sought to improve the Masonic experience. Two brothers have had a large influence in helping me gain a greater understanding of what is possible with Masonic education, Todd Creason and Robert Johnson.
Todd, I have known for years, even prior to becoming a Freemason. He was on my investigation committee and is a fellow member of Ogden Lodge and Homer Lodge. We began having conversations of how we could improve our meetings and we kept coming back to education. I was his first guest contributor here on the Midnight Freemasons and am proud to be a part of this amazing group of Masonic brothers who write here.
Robert was someone I got to know through social media. He soon also joined the Midnight Freemasons and eventually becoming the editor. I began listening to his podcast, Whence Came You, which I find is one the finest masonic resources available today. Robert’s continued focus on education, developing a deeper understanding of the craft and applying these principals in the blue lodge, I think is spot on for what Freemasonry needs to thrive.
There have been countless other brothers that I have meet along this journey that I now count among my closest friends. To each of them I owe something for helping make me a better person. Thank you.
Freemasonry, like numerous other organizations is going through change right now, but I firmly believe it is being strengthened as we work towards returning to our roots. It’s been a great 10 years and I look forward to the years ahead. I hope to meet you along the way.
WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.