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.
When the time came, I was privileged to play a minor role in the ceremony. I worked to get it right, so that I would do nothing to detract from the solemnity of the occasion. As I looked around me, I saw brother firefighters performing their duties in a similar manner.
After the completion of the ceremony, we spent time reflecting on the events of the evening. Many fine sentiments were shared. Many a hearty handshake was exchanged, and bear hugs were exchanged among the brethren. We were Brothers Times Two meeting in a brotherly fashion.
As I sat there in the afterglow of a well-done ceremony, the wheels of my mental computer began to spin. The words Brothers Times Two began to grow in importance. It came to me that I had to tell you about the concept of brotherhood, as it affects the fire service and the world of Master Masons. I just hope that my words do justice to the feelings of pride that coursed through my body on Friday night September 26, 2003.
Let me make a few comparisons between the world of firefighters and the world of Freemasons. Members in each world are expected to aid, support, protect, and defend their brothers. In the fire service this can often take a most personal and dangerous form. In the Masonic world, we are normally more concerned about the dangers inherent in our thoughts, deeds, and actions, as well as those of our brothers.
If you stop to think about it, both of these approaches to Brotherhood should form a critical element in protecting and enhancing society. The concept of taking care of others has fallen on hard times in society today. The concept of others before self has seemingly diminished in importance. We are urged by the media to ask one simple selfish question: what's in it for me? That is not what we should be about. Far too many societal problems we are facing can be traced to the selfish urges promoted in our culture today. When you combine selfishness with evil thoughts, the results can be devastating.
Let us also pause for a moment to contemplate the danger than an evil thought can inflict upon an unsuspecting soul. I know that I have written a word or two on this subject. I know of the danger in this arena. Then pause for another moment to ponder about the danger that an uncontrolled fire can wreak upon an unsuspecting firefighter. In times of great peril we must look to someone other than ourselves. We must band together for the common good. Firefighters and Masons understand this better than most.
In the world of Firefighters and Masons there is a great affinity for a simple credo. We are expected to be our brother's keeper. We are expected to protect them, support them, and encourage them in their every effort. We are all fellow travelers on a journey called life. We should work to minimize our differences rather that accentuate them.
Another important issue involves age as a delineator in society. Age should not be an issue among firefighters. The person with great seniority should be revered for their accumulated wisdom and knowledge. Their advice should be solicited and they must understand that they have a duty to share their accumulated wisdom with whoever asks. So it is also in the Masonic world, with the only difference being that the reverence is increased many times over. I have seen excellent ritual work performed by brothers who were over the age of 90. Their minds were kept bright and active by the words of their ritual. I have seen the admiration in the eyes of the brethren as they watched their elders at work.
As Masons we are urged to support an errant brother, remind him of his failings and guide him in the right direction. Jealousy is to be avoided in all cases. However, the key to success in this goal is to do it in a supportive and encouraging manner. I want you to know that Masons have been in the coaching and mentoring business for a long time. That is how we learn what we know. The older brothers pass on what they have learned to the younger members coming up behind them. Oh, if we did more of that in the fire service.
We in the fire service also depend upon each other for our very lives. I mean this in the strongest possible terms. We are expected to do everything in our power to see that a brother firefighter does not succumb to the ravages of fire. We are also sworn to help their families in times of crisis. This I have seen on far too many sad occasions.
The same thoughts pervade our bodies, souls, and psyches in the Masonic world. We are all sworn to aid our brothers to the greatest extent possible. We worry not only about the body, but also about the mind and soul. Our beliefs in this critical area are deep and abiding.
All of these thoughts began to come together as I sat there in the Warren Lodge No. 13 of Free and Accepted Masons. I thought about the bonds that exist between the Brothers of the fraternity, regardless of where they live. Freemasons exist in most countries in the world. I then thought about the many firefighters I have met during my travels around America. I recalled with great fondness the many kindnesses shared with me by people who knew no more about me than that I was a firefighter.
As I drove home after the ceremony, I thought of the many great parts of the two worlds that came together in the hallowed halls of Warren Lodge No. 13 in Belvedere, New Jersey. Two worlds dedicated to service. Two worlds that have sworn to be good and true came together in a brief moment on the face of the earth. The strengths of the firefighter and the strengths of the Mason were blended together in what can best be described as a symbiotic relationship. One can only imagine the relative strength that was created by our joint bond.
The Firefighter / Masons that I met form the solid rock upon which their organizations will continue to build. We were all truly Brothers Times Two.
I then came to a most comforting conclusion. I believe that the future of our great nation was made just a bit more secure as a result of what we accomplished in that small town in northwestern New Jersey on a quiet Friday night in September of 2003.
A Note From The Editor of www.HarryCarter.com (Bruce Lukaszewicz):
If you want to know more about Freemasons and what they do please click on the following links:
Looking to Shape Your Future...Freemasonry is the Answer! The Real Secret of Freemasonry...Making Good Men Better! New Jersey Freemasonry California Freemasonry California Masons: Making a Difference Through Community Service
Masonry is an ancient and honorable organization that seeks "to make good men better men.