A Remarkable Evening At Lodge Vitruvian

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33° 

Broad Ripple Lodge, Indianapolis, IN
There have only been a few times in the years I’ve been a Freemason when the experience actually met my expectation of what Freemasonry would be like before I joined. My visit to Lodge Vitruvian in Indianapolis this week was one of those times.

I was invited to speak at Lodge Vitruvian, and I thought it would be a very good opportunity to talk about some of the topics I plan to cover in a book I’ve been researching. As a writer, I’ve learned things that can fascinate me for months on end aren’t always as interesting to other people. Of course it’s a long drive, so I invited Midnight Freemasons Contributors Greg Knott and Darin Lahners along for the ride.

Vitruvian meets at Broad Ripple Lodge—I was a little disappointed when we arrived. It’s a very ordinary looking commercial building.  It could have been an attorney office, or an accounting firm, or a dentist’s office.

(left to right) Greg Knott, Darin Lahners, and Todd E. Creason deal with conflicting device navigation advice in regards to the best route to Vitruvian Lodge.  How did we ever manage to find anything before cell phones?
But as they say, don’t judge a book by the cover. As soon as we walked into the Lodge room all three of us were absolutely stunned. The Lodge is elegantly furnished, and meticulously decorated from floors, to walls, to the ceiling. The ambient lighting in the Lodge room was unlike anything I’ve seen in a Lodge. There were richly detailed murals painted on all the walls. And there was classic music playing low in the background. It was a lot to take in. It was a regularly stated meeting, but the officers arrived in tuxedos and white gloves. Conversations in the Lodge room prior to the meeting were quiet and subdued. It was a very different atmosphere than what the three of us were accustomed to.

Lodge Vitruvian is a European Concept Lodge. I couldn’t have been more impressed with their ritual, their tightly run and well organized meeting, and the formality of the Lodge members before, during and after the meeting. It was amazing to see, because Vitruvian Lodge is actually doing what I’ve been writing about for more than a decade. The Lodge’s focus is on Masonry—the application of Freemasonry, the member experience, personal growth of each member, and Masonic education. They are a lot further down the road towards that goal that we are in my part of the world, and they’re doing a lot of very smart things.

Todd E. Creason's talk to the members and spouses at the Festive Board
They intentionally keep their membership small (less than fifty, but they consider about 36 the perfect number of members). If they were ever to grow beyond that size, their plan is to split the Lodge. And those members pay a good chunk more in annual dues than most Masons in the U.S. And the reason they’re willing to do that? They get their money’s worth! They know that because they communicate with their members. They discussed a survey they recently did with their members. They ask their members if they were happy in their membership. They asked them what kinds of things they’d like to see the Lodge do. They asked them all kinds of questions on that survey. It tells the leadership how they can best serve their membership.

There have been a number of us on the Midnight Freemasons that have said many times before that Freemasonry is being made too easy, and is being sold too cheap. I absolutely believe that. It’s a very reasonable belief to hold that we appreciate things much more when we have to work hard for them. It is also reasonable to believe that if your dues are high, those that seek to join your ranks really want to be involved in what you’re doing, and are much more likely to participate in what you’re trying to build. Well, Vitruvian certainly seems to have proven the point so many of us have been trying to make for so long. If they were closer, they’d have my petition in a minute, and I’d gladly pay those dues. The difference between my experience there, and my normal Lodge meeting night is the difference between night and day.

After the meeting, we adjourned to the Festive Board at a local restaurant—the setting the Lodge has chosen was just as impressive as the Lodge they meet in. It was elegantly old world from its dark wood paneling to its d├ęcor.  I don’t think Freemasons themselves could have designed a more perfect space for a Masonic Festive Board--it's the kind of place where you wouldn't be surprised to see Sir Arthur Conan Doyle smoking a pipe in a corner chair while perusing the newspaper.  There were appetizers, cocktails, and amazing conversations. I gave my presentation on character in the social media age, and we enjoyed a fabulous dinner.

You can read more about Lodge Vitruvian on their website.  They also do a much better job than I have at describing what it means to be a "European Concept Lodge." 

We certainly enjoyed our visit, and we made many new friends. Freemasonry as it was meant to be is alive and well at Vitruvian. The Midnight Freemasons were invited back—and I would be very surprised if we didn’t take them up on that invitation. It was wonderful to see that there are still Freemasons that understand that Freemasonry isn’t just a social group—it’s a way of life. It’s a set of moral tenets that are to be applied rather than given lip-service. It's a lifelong pursuit of personal growth, character development, and knowledge.  And it was nice to see that the direction we’ve been heading in our neck of the woods is the correct path for our Fraternity.

Without question, Freemasonry has helped to shape our country in the past. The world today has never been more in need of men of character—like Freemasons. But if we’re going to provide the world with the caliber of men it needs as we have in the past, we’re going to have to start building them again from the foundation up. Freemasonry is meant to be so much more than a social club and a philanthropy—its purpose first and foremost is as a moral and ethical improvement center. We need to start seeing it that way again.

~TEC
  
Todd E. Creason, 33° is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series.  He is the author of the the From Labor To Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary.  He is a a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR).  He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP.  He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

2 comments:

  1. I recently attended an ohio version of your experience. Goose & Gridiron #1717 of which I am a founding member. G&G is an english emulation lodge. Members are required to wear proper attire, white gloves and UGLE apron. They meet 4 times a year. GL of Ohio officers were in attendance to read the proclomation and present the charter. Charter Officers were installed, several UGLE grand & past Grand officers were in attendance to assist with installation Very unique experience for me but I could see where this may not suit the american version of masonry most are a custom too.

    Thanx for the article

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  2. I am a member of a T.O. Lodge in Pennsylvania, which sounds very similar to what you experienced at Vitruvian. And I would mostly agree with your thoughts on demanding requirements and self-selection amongst the membership.

    The one thing that I might push back on a bit is expense of membership being one of those factors. While my Lodge is also one that has higher dues than most, to cover the cost of our agape after Lodge, I worry that purposefully making that one of the filters actually contributes to Freemasonry's already elitist - or at least classist - reputation.

    Why not let the challenging work, and expectations that come with it, be the crucible by which the better man is made, and by which the less committed are hammered out?

    I am personally fine with Freemasonry never being as big an organization as it once was, of it embracing it's mystery school roots and embracing the mystery. I am less a fan of many good men who would benefit from said work being kept out by a prohibitive cost, further cementing the perception that Freemasonry is less concerned with the personal development of any man willing to take on the work, and more concerned with creating and maintaining a private club for the (upper)middle and upper class gentlemen.

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