"What in the world is Camp Masonry?", you may be asking. Well, I suppose before I tell you how it went, I'll tell you what it is. About three years ago, Bro. Jason Shamy and a group of close Brothers decided to do a camping trip together. Long story short, it's evolved into a huge thing. Two days at one of the largest campgrounds in America, cabins, tents, presenters, home cooked camp meals, fellowship and a few choice vendors. This year I had the opportunity to go and the honor to be a presenter. What I experienced was nothing short of what I can only describe as "a truly unique and definitive Masonic experience."
I arrived on Friday morning before the event took off. We pulled into the large parking lot of Camp Miakonda, the 6th largest camp in America and oldest in Ohio. It's a Boy Scout camp. The history at this camp was inspiring. I loaded my bags onto a cart and climbed aboard. We took a short cruise through a forest, over a bridge to a hollow where there stood a picnic ground, a large hall called "Council Lodge", the Ford Center and several small bunk house cabins.
The Council Lodge building was really nice. It's a round building which we were told used to have a fire pit in the middle and the roof would allow for ventilation. I'm unsure if it can still accommodate this feature, but it was amazing nonetheless. Walking around the camp grounds and familiarizing myself with the surroundings was a small adventure in itself. I soon met up with and made quick friends with Dan Hrinko, author of "The Craft Driven Lodge". I'll spare you the details of our conversation and instead direct you to his awesome book linked above.
Later on I was able to set up my bunk. An old metal frame bunk with a vinyl pad, a sheet courtesy of Bro. Shamy and my sleeping bag...the one I borrowed from my 8 year-old son. I set out to explore more of the camp sight and meet new brothers. I met Nate, a thirty year-old Army Veteran who's looking to become a pilot. I met Bro. Ken, an educator by trade who had a knack for keeping us focused on the days first real task, a free form exploration of Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia.
We sat around the park benches, we all had a copy of Mackey's and we arbitraraly flipped through pages until we found something of interest. We took turns reading the excerpts and discussing what we knew. Bro. Ken kept us on track. Before long it was time for the next agenda item, The Demolay Initiation.
I had never seen an initiation quite like it. They had a full slate of officers and lecturers perform the ceremony for six new members. I watched Masonic dads from around the room become very proud. Their sons were either performing the ritual or becoming initiated. It was a sight to see. Dinner followed and it was just a great time to eat and fellowship.
There were some brief remarks made by some Ohio VIPs and then I was up. I gave a presentation on Esoterics 101, what I refer to as part one of the Quantum series lectures. After this, it was 9:30 at night and it was time for the Mark Master degree. We began the walk down the trail through the dark forest, buzzing with nightlife noises. Frogs and bugs of all sorts provided the backdrop for a walk lit only by torches. The degree was put on in the "Fort", an enclosure with an open roof. The trees were all lit up red. Bro. Dave Bacon was one of three Brothers to become Companions. Full costumes and they had the A-Squad for the degree work.
The night wasn't over. We made our way back up the trail to camp where Bro. Albert H. McLelland provided us with an exclusive screening of Terra Masonica. If Albert sounds familiar, he is the creator and founder of MATSOL. After the movie, I headed off to bed, it was well after 1:00am.
Waking up at 7:30am and headed to the Council Lodge for a nice breakfast and to start out the days events. We once more made our way down to the Fort for the exemplification of the first section of the Master Mason degree. It was hot out. I had my black Camp Masonry shirt on and I had forgot my sunglasses in my bunk. A remarkable experience in any case. Next up, Lunch followed by a wonderful presentation by Bro. Jason Bryce.
Jason spoke about the varied symbolism within the letter G in our Craft lodges. He went into some deeper aspects of our spiritual work as Masons. I highly enjoyed his talk and found it edifying. Dan Hrinko, whom I had met the day before was the next presenter. We gathered outside and sat around picnik tables while he talked about Masonic experience and how to make it better. He outlined much of what his lodge, "Arts and Sciences" does and detailed it's success.
Next up was Dave Bacon who had quite the crowd. He spoke on how our individual experiences shape how we see symbols. He dove into the science of our brains, how we interpret things and as any good presenter will do, he made us all a little uncomfortable, a necessary part if we're to grow.
Bill Carter from the Grand Lodge of Ohio was the next to speak. He spoke at length about cellular technology, the ramifications for using it constantly, and how to counteract those consequences through fraternal means. It was my turn to present again, this time I spoke on the Tetragrammaton, or the ineffable name of God.
The Festive Board was the next thing on the agenda. Bro. Hrinko lead the evening with songs and toasts. The last speaker for the Festive Board was the Grand Master of Masons of Ohio, Eric R. Schau. WB Schau talked about his experience at the 300 event in UGLE. It was a great conversation.
After the Festive Board wrapped up it was time to take the "road to Eleusis", that trail lit only by torches once more, to the second section of the Master Mason degree. Arriving at the Fort again, this time in procession, and the trees were now lit by blue lights. It was a sight to behold. What followed, you can guess. Top-notch degree exemplification and a changed man.
On the road back to camp many of us said our goodbyes and went to bed. I awoke the next morning, packed up and flew home. Writing this, I cannot help but reminise on the new friendships, experiences and feeling I had over the weekend. I certainly hope anyone reading this will consider coming next year. There are few national Masonic events that are noteworthy. Most are filled with expensive dinners, endless introductions and programming aimed at raising charity funds. Those events are fine, but are not truly Masonic.
This was a Masonic event in every impart of the word. Education and Fellowship. No administrative tasks, no whining, no pomp just conversations which offered solutions. It was refreshing. Thanks to all who put on the event and to all my new friends. Until next year, Brothers!
RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He is also a Past District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.