To The Most Worshipful Grand Master, Grand Lodge Officers, Distinguished Guests and Members of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois.
I am again privileged to serve the Grand Lodge through the Committee on Obituaries and appreciate the opportunity to present this report. Each year as we remember those who have entered the Celestial Lodge, we give thanks, not only for the ways in which they served the Grand Lodge, but we honor who they were as men and as Masons.
Recently I took on a project for our lodge Tyrian Lodge No.333 here in Springfield that seemed like something simple I could do to help out, but which had much more of an impact on me than I anticipated. I volunteered to wash, starch, and press our lodge’s aprons and gloves. As I said, it didn’t seem like a big deal or a very hard task, until I pulled the tangled mess of apron strings out of the dryer. I then realized this was going to take longer and be more difficult than I thought.
My frustration grew as I tried to untangle the apron strings one by one. but then several thoughts struck me. As I looked at the aprons, I remembered the words from our funeral ritual. “The lambskin, or white apron, was the first gift of Freemasonry to our departed brother. It is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Freemason.” I considered each apron as an individual Mason and understood how our lives are entwined in the local lodges, not just by our common degree experiences, but by all the things we do in supporting one another, and especially in the community.
As I starched and pressed each apron, I began to think about the number individual members of Tyrian Lodge No.333 and guests who had worn these aprons over the years, men with whom I remembered sitting in lodge and men I never knew, but who had paved the way for me, men who had served as Grand Lecturers, lodge officers, District Deputies, and three who served as Most Worshipful Grand Master – H. G. Reynolds, Myron Lingle, and Norman Buecker.
And then I thought about one man who desired to wear the apron of our lodge, but never did. Tyrian Lodge No.333 was chartered in 1860. It is a part of the oral history of our lodge that Abraham Lincoln petitioned for membership that year, but withdrew his petition because he didn’t want his motives to be misconstrued as to taking advantage of the fraternity for political advancement. Of course, President Lincoln never returned to live Springfield, and so a potentially great Mason was lost.
Yes, I said oral history, because lodge records were lost when the Masonic building in Springfield burned in 1871. Unfortunately we don’t know if his petition was tucked away somewhere safe or not. What we do have is evidence of a resolution passed by our lodge and the other Springfield lodges following his assassination which states, in part,
“That the decision of President Lincoln to postpone his application for the honors of Masonry, lest his motives be misconstrued, is in the highest degree, honorable to his memory.”
My thought is this. In remembering, today, those who have served the Grand Lodge, let us also remember and honor those many Masons who wore the aprons of our local lodges. Perhaps they served as an officer, a committee chair, or an Intender. Perhaps he knew the Senior Deacon’s lecture in the 2nd Degree forwards and backwards. Perhaps he was as a member who just was always at lodge meetings and degree work, or who was active in his faith community or in other service organizations.
And then, let us also be mindful of those who haven’t worn the aprons of our local lodges, yet. Perhaps he is a son, grandson, nephew, or son-in-law who knows you’re a Mason and wonders why you haven’t talked to him about it. Perhaps he’s a co-worker, neighbor, or friend whom you’ve always thought would make a great Mason, but you just haven’t gotten around to inviting him to an event. Perhaps he’s someone you haven’t met yet, but whose life will one day be entwined with yours as a brother of your local lodge, and indeed, then with all of our lives as brothers together in our Grand Lodge.
Now, let us remember those who have served the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Illinois and have passed away since our last communication.
Last year we stood together and closed with the Masonic Ode from the Master Mason’s degree. From your kind responses at that time, I’d like to suggest we do so again this year, and perhaps it will become a tradition during this report. So, if you are comfortably able, please stand and, taking your cue from the podium, let us join together and sing.
And so, when the Grand Warden of Heaven shall call for us, and we stand before the Grand Architect of the Universe, may we, too, hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Amen.
The 2016 Obituary Report presented by Bro. Eby at the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M of the State of Illinois