In the first minutes of the transfer of the gavel to our Grand Master at last month’s Third Communication, the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia was witness to an event that befits the unique nature of the Grand Jurisdiction, and its singular history of two centuries in the Nation’s Capital. Brothers from across the nation were assembled west of the altar before an audience of Masons and their families, and received the first Dispensation of the new Grand Master’s year, along with the long dormant 1811 charter of Union Lodge No. 6 of Washington, DC. As Master of the Lodge, I take this opportunity to provide some back-ground of our “new/old” Lodge, and its plans for the future.
Union Lodge No. 6 was constituted in 1811, the same year as the creation of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. Its charter captures the signatures of the first Grand Master MW Valentine Reintzel, his Deputy RW John Richards, the Senior Grand Warden RW Alex W. McCormick, the Junior Grand Warden RW Joseph Copsim, and the Grand Secretary RW Charles Jones. The Charter was awarded to Bros. Samuel B. Ellis (WM), William H. Ward (SW) and William Wood (JW). The physical charter is quite impressive, with all signatures quite legible although fading after almost 180 years in storage. At present it is in the hand of professional restorers, but a soft copy will soon be made available on the Union Lodge website.
Although created in 1811, the original Union Lodge did not operate for long. On May 5th, 1835 the Lodge placed its charter in the keeping of the Grand Lodge, under a resolution that granted it a right of restoration upon application of seven or more “original” members of Union Lodge No. 6. The original members of Union Lodge No. 6 have been called to the Celestial Lodge. Acting in their stead, a body of Past Masters petitioned the Grand Lodge in 2011 for the right to restore the Lodge to Labor as a Past Master’s Lodge in the service of the Grand Lodge, and in service of their mutual fraternity and brotherly affection.
On December 10th, 2011, the Grand Master of Masons of the District of Columbia, M.W. Joseph S. Crociata, issued Dispensation 2011-001, which dispensation acknowledged the petitioning Past Masters as the Masonic heirs of Union Lodge No. 6, and restored the Charter of the Lodge, based upon the resolution of the Grand Lodge of 1835 as well as other accepted Masonic precedent. As such, these Brothers were encouraged to resume the labor of Union No. 6, with the understanding that the Lodge would return to labor as a Past Master’s Lodge providing service to the several lodges of the District of Columbia and fraternal enjoyment to themselves.
While boasting an old charter, Union No. 6 is a young Lodge, as it is only entering its 26th year at Labor. Clearly, William R. Singleton-Hope-Lebanon No. 7 remains the oldest Lodge chartered by this Grand Lodge, and St. John’s No. 10 remains the oldest unconsolidated Lodge in the District of Columbia. The first organizational meeting of the new era took place on December 11th, 2011, and the first stated communication has been called for February, 2012, at which the Lodge will hear a presentation on Benjamin Franklin by James Sroudes, noted local author whose book, Franklin: The Essential Founding Father, was chosen by the City of Philadelphia in 2006 for its One Book-One Philadelphia community reading program in celebration of Franklin’s 300th birthday.
Lodges composed entirely of Past Masters have existed since the early 1700s, such as the Lodge of Promulgation and Reconciliation at the time of the Union and the unnumbered Grand Stewards’ Lodge and the Scrutator Lodge No 9379 of England today. A web search reveals many other such lodges, such as Past Masters Lodge No.4 in Orlando, Fla; the Past Masters Lodge No. 6 in Virginia Beach, Va; Phoenix Lodge in West Lancashire, England; the Munster Past Masters Lodge No. 1011, Cork, Ireland; and the Past Masters Lodge of Gujarat and the Nagpur Past Masters’ Lodge No. 342, in India.
Union Lodge is undertaking the preparation of a list of Past Master’s Lodges, their character, regularity and contact information, for the purpose of exchanging information and experiences. Although some Past Masters Lodges concentrate exclusively on ritual as assistance to other lodges in their jurisdiction, in general they have the following objectives: a) To constitute a resource to their Grand Lodge in assisting other lodges in matters not exclusively limited to ritual; b) To pursue masonry in the form of Lectures rather than Research, in areas of Masonic interest; c) To provide a social gathering for the more senior members of the craft for the informal pursuit of freemasonry; and d) To strengthen fraternal bonds. While Union No. 6 is chartered as a regular Lodge and retains the right at some future time to initiate, pass and raise its own members should its program and mission be amended through its ByLaws to do so, it is dedicated to the model of a Past Masters Lodge on the accepted historical model, and looks forward to long and fruitful service to this Grand Lodge as such.
Union Lodge No. 6 activities in pursuing these objectives will be, inter alia: Preparing a paper of interest to freemasonry every year, exemplifying or performing degrees for other Lodges every year, and inviting selected speakers to Lodge festive boards to facilitate informed discussion of a serious current or academic topic.Membership in Union Lodge No. 6 will be constrained by the need to ensure that it does not drain membership and resources from other Lodges in the District. Its membership therefore is likely to remain small, and be composed of brethren from many jurisdictions, including New York, Illinois, and Oklahoma.
Typical members tend to have travel commitments which preclude a regular position in their mother or affiliated lodges, but who can arrange their schedules to attend Union Lodge’s four meetings a year, and can also participate in the Lodge’s work through email. Union Lodge will explore all technological possibilities to permit members to work “virtually” throughout the year, and to provide continuity during the months that the Lodge does not meet. The brothers of Union No. 6 are a resource in numerous specialties that will be available for advice and assistance to the other Lodges of the District of Columbia and elsewhere.