Got back to my room at 6:15 and discovered a note from Robert Cooper at the Grand Lodge, who said Lodge Waverley No. 597 was working tonight, and opened at 7:00PM. I blasted through a shower, threw on the tails and cabbed it to the lodge just as it was opening. To my great surprise, a group of Masons from George Washington Lodge in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania were visiting and demonstrated their Master Mason degree. I counted nearly 45 brethren packed into the comparatively tiny room. My best unscientific guess was that perhaps 16 or so were visiting for the ICHF conference like myself.
My deepest thanks go to the brethren of Lodge Waverley for their hospitality and their warm welcome. There were so many brethren there that I met in such a brief period of time that I can't possibly remember them all.
I urge my U.S. brethren to not jump up and start screaming at your monitor when you read this, but Americans are missing so much by our backward no-alcohol rules, as any Mason who has visited lodges outside of the States can tell you. I was with a group earlier in the day, and a Scottish Mason mentioned that there was always a "harmony" after the lodge. A brother from Iowa looked confused.
"What's harmony? he asked.
And that's what's wrong with U.S. Masonry.
The bar opened immediately after the closing gavel fell, and the truly fun, social part of the evening began. Literally dozens of brethren met and gabbed into the evening (11:30 when the last left). They caught up on each others' lives. They rekindled old friendships. They shared business cards. One brother got up and played a selection of bawdy songs on the guitar. In short, the evening was that perfect balance of ritual, formality, business, fun, friendship and the sheer joy of camaraderie and brotherhood.
I've had angry brethren at home seriously look at me and say "Oh, and we can't have that kind of evening without allowing alcohol?!"
In short, no we can't.
A stark church basement will never be as convivial to adult men as a place where a round of drinks is served. No one went home tonight plastered. Everyone was home by midnight. No bar fights broke out. No one threatened to sue the lodge or Grand Lodge or the lodge officers. No one in his cups cried in the corner. And the earth did not stop spinning on its axis.