Last Friday night I made a trip to the northwestern part of New Jersey. It was my good fortune to have been invited to a Firefighter's Master Mason degree ceremony by Right Worshipful Brother Glenn Wilson, Sr. Deputy Grandmaster for the First Masonic District. The First District covers the far northwestern part of our state.
This was not to be a regular ceremony by any means. This was to be a ritual conducted by firefighters for firefighters all of whom are Master Masons. I considered it an honor to be asked to assist them as a member of their Fireman's Ritual team. After all, were we not all Brothers of the Badge, as well as Brothers of the Square and Compass?
As I made my way up north through the heavy Jewish Holiday traffic, a most non-Masonic thought kept running through my mind as I inched forward up Interstate 287. What in the world was I going to write for you this week? Sometimes my commentary is completed early in the week, and at other times I risk my web master's wrath by pushing the Saturday deadline.
I thought about some of the problems in the fire service. I pondered several of the points made by you kind folks over the past week. Should I praise, should I preach, or should I just bash the living daylights out of one or two people who had seemingly earned the privilege via their actions. In addition, of course, there is always the battle to remove the hands of greed from the purse of the fire service. Each of these could be fodder for the gristmill of my mind.
All of these thoughts were circling in my brain as I finally pulled up to the corner of Front and Greenwich Streets in Belvedere, New Jersey, the County Seat for Warren County. For those of you not familiar with the Garden State, Belvedere is a lovely little community tucked away in the far western part of Warren County, New Jersey, not far from the Delaware River.
If you ignore the new cookie cutter houses being built on the east side of town, you can concentrate on a picture of what our country must have been like 50 to 100 years ago. There are many fine older homes, and a great many solid local businesses. Warren Lodge No. 13 of Free and Accepted Masons is a well-kept structure dating to the 1920's. It stands representative of the place that our lodges hold in our communities: solid, respectable, reliable, and traditional.
A great many people are confused as to just what Masons are and what we do. Simply stated, we are men who believe in certain solid principles of conduct. Charity, kindness, and service are the hallmarks of our organization. We are an ancient and honorable fraternity, dedicated to the tenets of brotherly love, relief of the distressed, and pursuit of the truth.
As soon as I entered the Lodge, it was my pleasure to be greeted by the Brothers as a fellow traveler. I probably knew two people in the room when I arrived. However, that did not matter. We were Brothers in the Masonic fraternity who were about to come together to share some of the most sacred ritual in our fraternity. Many of us were also firefighters, another sacred fraternity.
This was the night that two men were to become Master Masons. More than that, both were brother firefighters in the local area. A tradition has sprung up in the First Masonic District. They have created a Fireman's Ritual Team. This means that they conduct all of their degree work dressed in their firefighter's full dress uniforms. This creates a special bond among the brothers. A similar team exists within the Grand Lodge of Delaware. As a matter of fact, I am a member of the Shield and Square Club of Delaware; an organization for law enforcement and fire service Masons in the northern part of the First State.
As the night went on, I was impressed with the splendid manner in which each individual member of the lodge staff and the ritual team performed their sacred duties. You may not know it, but all of our Masonic ritual work is done from memory. The manner in which these fine men performed their duties is truly a tribute to their fidelity to the fraternity.