October 9th, 2006


A Busy Evening

Tonight was a relatively long Lodge meeting. Haven't been to one in a while (we take the summer off, and I missed September), so there was much news to prompt thought. The following is long, mostly because I'm going to spell out what's going on in detail rather than the usual jargon and shorthand, in case some non-Masons are curious.

The big news of the evening was that we are probably merging and moving. Now, I have to explain the "merge" thing for SCAdians, who might not understand the situation. Masonry, unlike the SCA, has no geographic exclusivity -- you can have many branches in the same location. In fact, it's routine to have several lodges meeting in the same *building*. That may seem odd to those who are used to the neat patchwork of the Society, but it has its advantages: in particular, it means that you can have several Lodges with distinct characters. And it's important for an organization where admission to a Lodge requires unanimous approval. (For instance, my Lodge was originally founded as The Jewish Lodge, back in the days when that was an issue: when the WASPs all blackballed them, they simply worked around it.)

So the vast number of Lodges made sense, back in the days when we had probably ten thousand active members just in the immediate Boston area. But now that that's dropped to maybe a thousand (and probably less), it becomes a real problem. We're very fractured, with dozens of Lodges in the area, most of which can only scrape together maybe 1-2 dozen active participants. So merging becomes crucial.

The scuttlebutt has it that we'll be doing what we should have done ten years ago: the surviving Lodges of the old Boston 3rd Masonic District are merging together in a 3-way join. That's less useful than it would have been back then -- we're taking three Lodges that are just barely holding it together, and will wind up with something that is probably just barely healthy. It would be better if we could manage to fuse six or seven together, and get a single Lodge that was really solid, but that's politically infeasible. So we'll do what we can.

Hammatt Ocean and Seaview will be subsumed into Mt. Tabor, because the latter is the oldest of the three (just barely), and Masonry is a great respecter of seniority. There's some annoyance that we're not merging with Mt. Scopus (another friendly Lodge) instead; that has entirely to do with the need to move.

You have to understand, Masonic Lodges have real problems when it comes to meeting space. Unlike an SCA group, which can easily meet almost anywhere, a Masonic Lodge really wants a custom-designed space, complete with altar, lights, seats surrounding the main floor, big chairs in the right places, and preferably an organ. (For extra style points, a pipe organ.) So you can't just use a college classroom and be happy with it. The result is that some Lodges own buildings, and those have both advantages and disadvantages.

The thing with Mt. Scopus is that, while they'd be lovely to merge with, they own 1/3 of the Masonic building in downtown Malden. Now, Malden is not exactly an ideal location for us. It's hideously inconvenient for most active members of our Lodge to get to, since most of us are in the northern suburbs. And parking sucks Sharp Flinty Acid-Covered Rocks. So, since Scopus is tied to Malden, and most folks don't want to go to Malden, that particular merge doesn't look like it's going to happen. Instead, it looks like the newly-merged Mt. Tabor, which doesn't own any property, is going to move to Wakefield, since our current building in Saugus is on the market to be sold. (Presumably to someone who will rip out all the lovely Masonic paraphernalia and turn it into condos or something.)

So lots of complexities in Lodge. We'll see how it works out, but it at least means a slightly healthier Lodge, in a location that's about ten minutes closer to my house, so it's at least a mild win from my perspective.

A bit of melancholy for the evening: tonight was the Annual Meeting, where all the business reports get read off, and it's the first since Milton Locke died. Milty has been reading the Trustees' Report since -- oh, probably before I was born, and everyone found themselves missing his particular bombast. The past few years have been kind of unique: since Milty was starting to slow down and forget things mentally, he had developed a bad habit of reading through the report one page at a time, moving each page to the back after he had read it, and simply failing to stop when he reached the end and got back to the first page again. (At least once, we had to stop him when he started the third iteration and we realized he might just keep looping.) In Milty's honor, Jimmy Goodwin said what I was thinking, and suggested that we should read the whole report over again.

On the more clearly plus side, we got applications for two new members today, to take the degrees and become Masons. This is delightful, but it was disconcerting to realize that it's been so long since this last happened that several of the officers no longer remembered how to run a ballot. Well, hopefully these two new members will enjoy themselves enough to become active...