How is your Masonic lodge responding to the almost nationwide shutdown of group activities as the coronavirus restrictions roll along?
Here in my own jurisdiction, my Mother lodge wasted no time in organizing a "virtual refreshment" Thursday night. Brethren connected via the Jitsu.org internet platform with their webcams and smartphones because Broad Ripple Lodge wouldn't be complete without a Thursday night meetup. I'm sure countless other Masonic lodges around the world are attempting something similar using Zoom, Skype, Teams, or other group video chatting and meeting solutions. If you are new to the idea, here's a list of some of the more common systems available.
Masonic education committees and just individual brethren everywhere are busily working on creating online video, audio or PowerPoint programs. Meanwhile, vast numbers of brethren are taking this golden opportunity to learn new parts of their ritual, or reacquaint themselves with old ones.
If you're a lodge Master, consider this little addition. Earlier this week I mentioned a Closing Charge for Master Mason lodges that many jurisdictions require, but others don't. Some states, like my own, permit this to be done by the Master as an option, and print it in their Monitor. It's been around for over 200 years in the U.S. The Brethren of Waco Lodge No. 92 in Texas posted this image from Jeremy Cross' True Masonic Chart in 1819. All of our brethren should take it to heart, and it's an important reminder to our members worth repeating after every meeting.
No time like the present to learn it, if it's not required in your neck of the Masonic woods.
Many grand masters have encouraged their area Masons to reach out and connect with their fellow brethren to be sure anyone needing assistance can get it, especially during this extraordinary and bizarre moment in time when enforced physical isolation is the rule almost everywhere. We should all be doing that without being reminded. If you have a lodge Brother who is currently bedridden at home or in the hospital, see if he has a smartphone, tablet or laptop and maybe include him in your virtual meetups. Or just check on his condition and cheer him up by utilizing Facetime or other video application.
Don't forget your lodge's widows at this time, too. Pay special attention to members and widows who are living alone right now. Everybody is using food delivery services to pick up dinner from their favorite local restaurants. Nothing prevents any of us from doing just that ourselves and delivering dinner occasionally to our shut-in members, as long as you wear gloves and use recommended hygiene practices.
But what about the wider communities in which we reside? What can Masons do to help our neighborhoods?
Masons in Belfast, Northern Ireland are delivering 300 'Rescue Packs' to the elderly that include eight rolls of toilet paper. Hard to believe that toilet paper would become such a vital and weak link in this crazy situation, but it has. Brethren at Belfast's Crumlin Masonic Hall have taken on the problem.
|Brethren of Iowa's Mahaska lodge in pre-COVID days|
|This Alameda, California food bank normally needs a hundred |
volunteers a day to operate under normal circumstances
Case in point: stories are appearing all across the country that food banks are being especially hard hit because their normal volunteer partner groups are staying home. In many populated areas, the bigger food pantries require a hundred or more volunteers every day just to deal with the demands of sorting, packing and stocking food and supplies. But volunteers (who are traditionally retirees and now the most at-risk members of the population) are staying home, and donations of both money and food are drying up.
A story from San Francisco reported Thursday that nineteen food pantries in the Silicon Valley which normally serve 2,400 households or more a week in usual circumstances have already shut down, with more expected to close by this weekend. In San Francisco, the number of pantries that had closed jumped from thirteen on Wednesday to nearly thirty on Thursday, out of a total of about 200. (Colorado had a similar story on Wednesday So did Iowa and countless others - it's the same all over the country.)
|Drive-thru food bank at a church in Oregon|
The largest food bank in Indiana, Gleanor's in Indianapolis, was just supported with a major donation by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. He announced via the local newspaper that he would kick in a million dollars to Gleanor's if citizens first raised $200,000. Donations poured in and hit over $300,000 in less than a day. Not every city or town has a local millionaire to do this sort of thing. Perhaps grand lodges or Scottish Rite valleys might consider a similar kind of challenge grant to help their communities and to remind citizens that we are still alive and well and vital to them.
It's the sort of thing we Masons used to do in an earlier time.
Has your lodge, chapter, valley or grand lodge come up with its own unique program to help your town or city during the COVID pandemic? Share your ideas with me and I'll be happy to pass along what you're doing here. Send me your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment at the link below.