The North Carolina Mason

May/June 2020

North Carolina Mason

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May/June 2020 The North Carolina Mason Page 5 From the Grand master Masonry outside the lodge By P. Shaun Bradshaw Grand Master I 'm composing this article from what I hope is the other side of history. At the present moment, COVID-19 (the coronavirus) has forced us to shelter in place and kept us away from so many of the people, places, and activities that bring us joy. is is especially true for us as Masons. So much of our Masonic experience, until now, has been tied to our ability to attend lodge, perform our rituals, shake hands, share a meal, and discuss our thoughts with our brethren. But for now, at least, most of those experiences seem out of reach. Our fraternity has existed through multiple wars, prior pandemics, various local and national tragedies, and societal upheavals, but despite all that, our lodges (mostly) continued to meet, to bring brethren together to share their experiences, hopes, dreams, and desires for self- improvement. is time, it's different. We are faced with a pandemic that is particularly deadly for those who have compromised health condi- tions or are advanced in age. Unfortunately, a majority of our members, especially our most active members, meet those criteria and thus are especially susceptible to this indominable virus. As such, (along with the requirements from our state government) I was forced to make the difficult decision to shut down our lodges, and with it, a large part of what we consider to be our Masonic experi- ence. Prior to all this I was traveling four to six days a week attending district meetings and various other Masonic events, but now, I'm not certain when my next trip, district meeting, or lodge visit will happen. I realize it is difficult for all of us who are passionate about our fraternity to not feel discouraged, upset, or even lonely during this time. And I sincerely hope that, by the time you read this, we will be back in our lodges – even if we have to wear masks and mind our social distancing with fist bumps or elbow taps instead of handshakes and hugs – so that feeling, that emptiness may fade. It's funny, in a way, how Providence works in our lives. Like most, if not all of my predeces- sors, I had a plan for this year around what I wanted to accomplish, the message I wanted to bring to the Craft, and the difference I hoped sharing my story would make to some of my brethren. In fact, prior to writing my last article I struggled about the topic I wanted to cover. You see, just prior to drafting the article there had been some issues on social media which weighed heavily on my mind and I thought I might want to address in the article. In the end, I decided my preference was to maintain the focus of the articles on the broader topics of Masonic ritual and symbolism and my belief in the transformative power of our fraternity. Essentially, I made up my mind at the time not to write about contemporary issues, but try to provide more insight into my feelings about our Craft. And then the pandemic hit. Some- times Providence has a different plan from my own and I've learned not to fight it. So in this article I am compelled to write about the pandemic, its immediate impact on our fraternity and the potential long-term effects we may see as a result of it. Frankly, while there will certainly be some challenges to overcome, it's not all doom and gloom. In many ways, this crisis has the possi- bility of reigniting the promise of who we are as Freemasons. As many of you know, I've put substantial emphasis on the Principle Tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth this year and I cannot help but think that this crisis, this pandemic, provides us as Freemasons the opportunity to truly demonstrate our adherence to those tenets. In many ways, this pandemic may end up being a blessing for us. Until now, too many lodges and too many brethren only looked for their Masonry in the lodges. If a brother didn't come to lodge or wasn't regularly active, often they were forgotten. at's not what our fraternity teaches nor what we are about. Among the potential positives that can come out of this horrible time, I have no doubt the reconnection to our inactive brethren and our widows will be near the top. e opportunity to live our tenets of Broth- erly Love, Relief, and Truth and the realiza- tion that, as we are reminded in our Closing Charge, we should "forget not the duties, which [we] have heard so frequently inculcated and so forcibly recommended in this lodge" and that "these generous principles are to extend further." ese tenets and our need to live by them must extend beyond the lodge and beyond our interactions with our brethren. "Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all – recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful." With these thoughts in mind, I'd like to share just a few positive stories I've heard since the pandemic hit. Outreach – Brotherly Love Shortly after ordering lodges to cease Masonic meetings, I issued a directive to the Masters and Secretaries of all the lodges requesting that they prepare a list of all their lodge members and widows and begin contacting them immediately to see if they had any health concerns, needed any assistance, or just wanted to talk. e Grand Lodge staff and I knew it was highly likely that many of these members hadn't been contacted in years, so we also asked the officers to capture and update changes to the members' contact information so the member records could be as up-to-date as possible. Based on the reports I've received from some of the DDGMs, Masters, and Secretaries, this effort has been an unmitigated success. Many brethren who hadn't had any contact with their lodges (aside from their dues notices) were pleased to hear from the lodge and thankful for the wellness check. In a few cases, the brother or widow requested assistance, but most of the time they just appreciated the opportunity to talk to a brother. With that said, I was told that sometimes it took two or three calls before the brethren would warm up enough to have ■ see BRADSHAW, page 7 Frankly, while there will certainly be some challenges to overcome, it's not all doom and gloom. In many ways, this crisis has the possibility of reig- niting the promise of who we are as Freemasons.

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