Sunday, October 10, 2010

‘Consecrating the stone’

The Magpie got scooped by the Dummies blog! Fair enough. I’ve been a negligent blogger in recent weeks.

It’s rare that Freemasonry gets to display its timeless traditions in public, but the afternoon of Sunday, September 19 was one such occasion, as the Grand Lodge of New Jersey and the brethren of the local lodges in Union County performed the ceremony of consecration and cornerstone-laying at a church in Cranford.

Trinity, an Episcopal church that has stood in the center of town since 1875 (the church had been incorporated three years earlier) on land donated by parishioners, has renovated and modernized its building and grounds several times during its history. Hopefully this remodeling endeavor will serve the faithful for many years to come. The congregation will hold its first service in its newly renovated building on December 5, and on January 15, The Right Rev. George E. Councell XI, Bishop of New Jersey, will re-consecrate this sacred space.

This affair immediately brought to mind the 2009 Prestonian Lecture by Bro. John Wade, whose “Go and Do Thou Likewise” explained the purposes and history of English Masonic processions from the 18th to the 20th centuries. His title is borrowed from the King James Version of Luke 10:37, when Christ relates the parable of the Good Samaritan as the right thinking and right action rewarded with eternal life, so the connection to this ceremony on the grassless front lawn of Trinity Church is natural.

And we indeed had a procession. A century ago there would have been hundreds, if not thousands, of Masons and Knights Templar marching through town to celebrate an important cultural event for the town, but we do what we can these days. I’d say there were about 65 Masons present, with church congregants and other citizens drawn to the curious sight. The local police and fire departments were extremely helpful, closing off streets and hoisting an enormous 48-star flag for the occasion.

Templar honor guard leads the procession.

Members of local lodges approach the church.

An officer of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey addresses the audience.

The ceremonial Working Tools
and the Elements of Consecration are ready.

Junior Grand Warden David Dorworth proves the verticals
of the cornerstone by applying the Plumb.

Senior Grand Warden Glenn Trautmann pours the wine
of prosperity and gladness onto the cornerstone.

The Cranford Fire Department hoists
an enormous, antique 48-star flag over the site.

The Rev. Dr. Gina Walsh-Minor, Rector of Trinity Church,
sprinkles holy water onto the stone.

According to Bro. Wade’s research, there traditionally are three types of public Masonic processions: Display Processions, in which the brethren show themselves and their regalia; Ceremonial Processions, where Masons celebrate religious or civil occasions in public; and Building Processions, at which Freemasons demonstrate the operative origins of the Craft by inaugurating buildings. This occasion encompassed all three varieties.

“Processions are where we are most obviously in the public sphere,” Wade’s lecture concluded. “I suggest that we should explore the possibility of a return of these activities. I am concerned that, with regard to our public image, we have lost that civic association that we have had for hundreds of years. As we move further into the 21st century, we surely need to be proactive about our civic identity. For the man in the street, we should be demonstrating that we have a civic association with the community, and that we are not a secret society or private members’ club. Certainly we have our private space – and that is what distinguishes us from other charitable organizations – but we also have a rich heritage of moral integrity with its allegorical ceremonies and symbolism that has continued in unbroken tradition for close on 300 years. With such a sense of display, we can restore confidence in the genuine meaningfulness of what it is that makes us Masons.”

No argument here.

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