Thursday, November 12, 2009

Alpha hosts MW Hughes

Worshipful Master David Lindez, left, introduces MW Thomas R. Hughes, Sr., Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New Jersey at Alpha Lodge last night. The Grand Master was the ‘closing act’ on a very busy 2009 calendar of lectures and educational programs at Alpha.

The Regular Communication last night of historic Alpha Lodge No. 116 made for a superbly fitting crescendo to the ever heightening excitement and purpose that have been felt all year long. It was the final meeting of Alpha with W. Bro. David Lindez in the East; his remaining responsibility is to have his duly elected successor properly installed – and without putting too fine a point on it, he’s got that under control! (It’s been a pretty busy year for David, with a Master’s Degree completed and a new job begun.)

David’s capstone took the form of a big showing of brethren from the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New Jersey – and I mean about 45 guys! – accompanying their Grand Master, MW Thomas R. Hughes, Sr., the guest speaker for the evening.

“How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity....” Well they come from all over the world to dwell at Alpha, but there is a special friendship between the Masons of Alpha 116 and the Masons of Prince Hall New Jersey. Visitations of Prince Hall brethren to Alpha is not at all unusual, and official visits of entire PHA grand lines seem to have become an annual occurrence there. It is impossible not to appreciate these visits because dozens of Masons arrive, and the fraternal bonding ensues en masse, and what I notice particularly is how Masons who never even met before start chatting like they’re picking up a conversation that left off 20 years ago. I suppose it’s like a family reunion for a very large family.

Grand Master Hughes’ topic of discussion was the role of Freemasonry in the African-American community, and he gave us a frank talk that covered truths of both spiritual and historical natures. A less talented speaker could have resorted to an informative, but not truly effective, speech on treasured PHA Masons who contributed mightily to their fellow men – “The Famous Masons Speech” – and MW Bro. Hughes did touch on that, but he had a greater philosophical point to make: Where will the Freemasons of the next generation come from? His is not necessarily a grim forecast, but he is not unrealistic about the direction undertaken by society at large as regards the value placed on family, education, and morality.

Alternating between commiseration and humor, Hughes lamented how men “who look just like us” live in a world of crime and degradation; how counterproductive “No Child Left Behind” legislation sometimes needs to be replaced with a “Child Left With No Behind” policy; and how having a president “who looks just like us” does not mean there is no more work to be done in the home, in the schools, and in the streets. It was a rousing speech dotted with personal asides, like the wry tale of how he managed to lose both his 33° ring and his wedding band(!); and a joyful reunion with a former college classmate who happens to be a Past Master at Alpha; and even the startling revelation that Hughes is a descendant of Daniel Tompkins, the first Sovereign Grand Commander of the AASR, Governor of New York, and Vice President of the United States. (Coincidentally, New York Freemasonry had taken part in the rededication of Tompkins’ gravesite on Monday morning.)

I cannot emphasize enough the appropriateness – and I mean the tailoring for a perfect fit – of this particular address on this specific evening. Longtime Magpie readers have been following the events at Alpha of 2009, a full schedule of lectures that took the brethren on an intellectual and spiritual grand tour: Tim Wallace-Murphy visited to tell us how the unresolved mysteries of Rosslyn Chapel can be understood as the gnostic missing links connecting the Knights Templar to Freemasonry. Bro. Oliver taught us that some Masonic degrees in the world are treasured inviolable paths toward a communion with God. Alpha brethren themselves took turns exchanging their personal speculations of ritual and symbol, achieving poignant insights that were developed even further during the electrifying post-lecture discussions. And that ain’t the half of it. And in conclusion, last night, MW Hughes brought us full circle – a return to operative roots, if you will – with plain talk about the real world and the need for Freemasonry to take up its tools and starting building anew.

‘Under your present escort’ – Alpha Lodge receives Grand Master Hughes. Do not adjust your monitor. The air was thick with incense in Alpha Lodge last night.

I told the Worshipful Master today that from my seat in the west of the lodge room, where I could hear the brethren’s softly spoken replies to many of Hughes’ points, that it felt like a Sunday morning at St. Matthew AME in Orange. (No, you may not ask me why I’ve spent Sunday mornings listening to Reggie Jackson.)

Both Hughes and RW Charles Brown, Senior Grand Warden, received honorific parchments from W. Lindez. Then the lodge was closed with the bang of a gavel wielded by Hughes, Lindez, and RW Al Wright, PDDGM. The brethren headed downstairs for a feast and further fellowship.

David, you made it!

As above: Bro. Taoman, W. David, and Bro. Carlos.
As below: The brethren at the agape feast.


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