The charter members of DaVinci Council No. 477 of Allied Masonic Degrees met last night for the new council’s organizational meeting. DaVinci is one of four new AMD councils set to labor in New Jersey this year.
Councils of Allied Masonic Degrees are the hottest ticket in New Jersey Freemasonry at present. The AMD is a tiny, honorary order within the York Rite. I’ll say 99.999 out of 100 Freemasons have never heard of the AMD.
So, how could so small and obscure an order become so attractive and popular?
I attribute that to the AMD’s specific missions: to bring Light to the brethren by researching topics befitting Masonic conversation and presenting those findings at our meetings; and to preserve a corpus of fascinating, obscure degrees, some of which are known to pre-date modern Craft Masonry.
As for Light, we all know the typical Craft lodge isn’t getting the job done. In New Jersey we are fortunate to have Alpha and Nutley lodges, both of which distinguish themselves this year by providing the brethren first rate lecturers and other education programs for the brethren’s enlightenment. Atlas-Pythagoras Lodge and Union Lodge are making impressive strides in this direction, and I’m told will expand these efforts in the coming year. Peninsula Lodge is planning a classroom-like program of Masonic education for 2010. Of course there also is Sons of Liberty Lodge (which could, would and should be New Jersey’s answer to Garibaldi Lodge, if not for our stifling bureaucracy). That’s six out of about 160 lodges, not counting our lodge of research and education, so as a whole, our jurisdiction does not live up to its own ritual’s admonishment about the Beehive symbol:
He who will not endeavor to add to the common stock of knowledge may be deemed a drone in the hive of nature, a useless member of society, and unworthy of the care and protection of Masons.
Those of us who worry about this problem have been taking one of two courses of action. Most quit the fraternity in frustration. (I received an e-mail this morning from a local Mason pretty well known for his lectures on psychology and philosophy who informed me he is no longer a Freemason.) Others, like myself, retreat to the research lodges, the AMD, and other bastions of Masonic culture, frequently traveling outside the jurisdiction to find that which was lost. Or discarded, as the case may be.
DaVinci Council has been created to satisfy those in search of further Light in Masonry. It was very interesting to listen to the brethren discuss and write their by-laws. They are very serious about not only “guarding the West Gate,” about making sure only deserving and capable Royal Arch Companions are invited to join, but also about upholding standards and maintaining performance. This means DaVinci members will attend meetings and partake in the research and education functions of the council... or else find their memberships revoked.
Extending membership only to the worthy, maintaining attendance standards, and making Masonic education central to the brethren’s purpose are things merely talked about in Craft ritual. In the Allied Masonic Degrees however – especially in this council – these are the defining characteristics.
And the brethren are responding. The enthusiasm I witnessed took the following forms: Only one member was absent from this meeting, and that’s only because he was becoming a father that night. Another brother contributed $500 to help the council get started financially. Two papers were presented, by Bro. Mohamad and Bro. Brian; both were well written, advanced important theses, and sparked animated discussions.
DaVinci Council’s brethren know they have created something very special, and I wish them the greatest success.
Remember: Guard the West Gate!
Left: a close-up of DaVinci’s altar cloth.
Right: the charter.
I mentioned there are other new AMD councils in New Jersey.
In July, Cushite Council No. 474 held its inaugural meeting.
Next Friday, Alexandria Council No. 478 will receive its charter from MV Thurman C. Pace.
Also next week, Daniel Coxe Council will be chartered.
Brethren, please mark your calendars for Saturday, July 17, 2010, which will be the day of the annual Voorhis Ingathering. In deference to these new councils, we will confer the St. Lawrence the Martyr Degree, which is considered the entry degree of the AMD. And a selection of research papers will be presented. This will take place at J. William Gronning Council No. 83 in Freehold, at Olive Branch Lodge No. 16.