Monday, November 29, 2021

‘America Lodge 57’

I feel like I’m the last one to see it, but there is this well produced 45-minute(!) video on YouTube about the first regular Masonic lodge for women set to labor in the United States. Women Regular Freemasonry and the Great Experiment can be found on the America57 Channel, which is named for America Lodge 57 in Washington, D.C., chartered by the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, which is based in England.

The word “regular,” I bet, is catching your eye. Some are thinking America 57 can’t be the first regular lodge for women because there have been women’s lodges here for years. Others will chafe at the use of the word simply because women are in the lodge. Most of the explanation is in the documentary, and I’ll add some history. America 57 is regular, it is said in the video, because it is regularly constituted by a grand lodge; it admits only women to membership; it requires belief in a supreme being; it displays the Three Great Lights on the altar; it proscribes partisan and sectarian lodge activities; and it has no tiled visitations with male lodges. So, that’s standard operating procedure. The missing historical context—or at least I didn’t catch it—involves a statement published by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1999 that calls the two oldest and largest Masonic orders for women in England regular in their practices. There’s no recognition—that’s a whole other determination—but UGLE said HFAF and the Order of Women Freemasons are regular.

Why women’s Freemasonry at all? America Lodge’s Worshipful Master explains:

“It’s very important for a woman to become a Freemason for a number of reasons,” said Lou P. Elias. “First, in the United States, women are still learning to juggle the different duties they’re expected to fulfill, so building a deeply rooted sense of confidence is very essential. Unfortunately, while the usual self-help trainings and confidence-building workshops are useful to a certain degree, their impact remains at a surface.”

“It is the initiatic path, the pursuit of women’s Freemasonry, that provides the woman with a powerful transformative self of unshakable confidence, impossible to describe in words,” she added. “Secondly, as women increasingly ascend to positions of leadership or in responsibility in business and government in civil society, women’s Freemasonry provides the teachings and the tools to help them build a stronger, wiser, more beautiful and more just society.”

“And thirdly, women in our country need to take the Great Experiment that we call America to the next level. [In] this Great Experiment in human governance, deeply rooted in the teachings of Freemasonry, the revolutionary has been dominated by men, and has reached a plateau, so we need women Freemasons to advance our unique experiment in governance to the next level.”

If W. Bro. Elias’ last name (and these Masons are called brethren) rings familiar, it’s because she is the spouse of MW Bro. Akram Elias, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. He too speaks in the video, defining that Great Experiment, a common topic in his addresses to Masonic audiences. (Maybe you caught his presentation to the Masonic Society in February.)

Well, it’s silly to keep writing about it when you could watch the documentary. There’s revealing footage of ritual, unmistakable messaging in the scenes of Washington, and keep an eye out for the Book of Ruth. Enjoy.

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