A Message from the Grand Master,
How good and pleasant it is for God’s people to live together in harmony. This is one interpretation of Psalms 133:1, which we find in our Entered Apprentice Degree circumambulation. Due to the prohibitions and mandates surrounding the COVID-19 (Corona Virus) outbreak, our togetherness is disrupted. It is only a matter of operating with Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, while keeping the flame of Hope alive, that each of us will do our best to address this extraordinary and complex situation at our Lodges and within our Craft.
I’ve written and rewritten this article several times, as the message I want to convey has changed over the last several weeks. You see, this is to be my last submission, as Grand Master, for our publications. It has been 10 months since I was installed as Grand Master of Masons in Louisiana. What an incredible journey you have allowed me to travel. My term was to end on Sunday, April 26th upon the installation of our new Grand Master. However, with us not being able to gather together, the 209th Annual Grand Lodge Session was postponed. Know that your Grand Lodge will be working to find a suitable venue and hotel accommodations to schedule the Grand Session as soon as the governmental restrictions and mandates are lifted.
The COVID-19 is highly contagious when compared to other flu-like viruses. It is far greater than what we have experienced in recent history. There have been deaths reported within our ranks, due to this illness. There have also been encouraging reports of members successfully recovering from the virus. When thinking of the word contagious, we normally associate it with a disease or illness. Especially at this time, contagious takes on a serious, life-threatening meaning. Because of this virus, your daily lives, and many of your livelihoods, have been affected. Certainly, our Fraternity has been disrupted. There are things that shouldn’t be altered or changed due to our current circumstances. Our philosophy, our tenets, and our beliefs should stand firm and unaltered.
Contagious has another meaning and is so appropriate today. This definition deals with spreading and affecting others in a positive way. Faith, Hope, Charity, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth are contagious when we put them into actions and they are observed by others. At this time, these actions should spread throughout our communities, our families, and our fraternity. These “lights” need to shine brighter and overshadow despair, fear, and uncertainty. We may be physically distanced, but we are equipped through technology to keep “in touch” with one another.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (I Corinthians 13:13). The church Paul established was in turmoil and was going through times of unrest and uncertainty, much like our nation is experiencing with COVID-19. The Apostle explained how his life changed from childlike thoughts to that of a man with faith, hope, and charity. Our journey in Masonry is similar. We enter the Lodge as a youth, living in darkness and seeking the light of reason Freemasonry has to offer. Our trust, as each of us expressed, is in God, giving us a stable foundation in life. As we progress through the degrees, we are taught hope for eternal life, and the lessons of charity. Charity is taught through our faith and hope. It provides forgiveness for faults and injustices, and for doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Our charity extends to those who differ in opinion, and to those who need wise counsel. Let your Masonic Light shine as greatly as that which you experienced upon being brought to light through the progression of the degrees.
There have been concerns voiced about whether many of our Lodges will survive or attendance will wane after the Governor’s proclamations have been lifted. There is some validity to these concerns. Habits of attending Lodge on a regular basis have been replaced with, in many instances, total elimination of all regular activities. We all know someone who has gotten out of the habit of attending church or Lodge on a regular basis. This may have been caused by illness, vacations, or life circumstances. We have probably experienced this in our own lives. Getting back into the habit took energy and self-discipline, and in many cases getting over the embarrassment of being absent. Lodges that were struggling to open or conduct business, prior to the virus outbreak, will continue to struggle. Some, unfortunately, may be dark forever going forward. Many of these Lodges were pursuing mergers or consolidations prior to our current situation. There were others that had already begun discussions on the future of their Lodge. But for the majority of our Lodges and our members, I have a strong conviction that the brothers are looking forward to the time when they can again meet on the level and let their light shine in the Lodge halls. I can be counted in those numbers.
I want to thank the Lodges that invited me to attend their special programs during my year. Thank you for the courtesies, fellowship, and hospitality I received from each of you. When Becky was able to accompany me, she was warmly received and made felt welcomed. Thank you for helping to create great memories for her. Many years ago, when I first began visiting lodges outside of my own, Becky would ask whether I knew anyone at the lodge I was going to attend. In some cases, I told her that I did not. She asked if I was uncomfortable going somewhere where I didn’t know anyone. I always replied that I was going to be with my brothers, so why would I ever feel uncomfortable? She now understands.
Sincerely, thank you. Becky and I have enjoyed your friendship, hospitality, and the fellowship that you bestowed on us. As my term is coming to an end, I want to express, to each of the members, my gratitude for allowing me to serve you. It is not only an honor and privilege but also one of great responsibility and expectations. I hope, in your eyes, that I have met those expectations and performed responsibly. I leave with wonderful memories and experiences.
Stay safe, remain calm, and follow the directives of your State and Local governments. Stay in contact with your members and brothers. Continue to pray for those families and brothers affected by this dreadful disease. We may not know when, but this pandemic and restricted life will pass.
May God bless and keep you, and continue to bless our Fraternity.
M∴ W∴ Steven Pence