At the 11th International Conference on Freemasonry, expert historians train their sights on the lodge attic.
The east Bay hills beyond the Masonic Homes of California in Union City are an almost technicolor green these days. That’s one of the nice things that’s come from the back-to-back-to-back winter storms, or atmospheric rivers, that have drenched our state. What’s usually a swath of parched, dried grass is now literally bursting with life.
It’s a nice reminder of the promise of spring: renewal. To see the seasons changing so gloriously is to be reminded that life is full of cycles—endings and beginnings, deaths, and rebirths.
Masons understand this concept better than most. The idea of rebirth is central to our ritual; our lives as Masons are marked by passage through the degrees, in which we shed our old lives and begin anew in our next one.
California Freemasonry is in a rebirth itself. For three years, we’ve struggled through the pandemic. While some lodges were able to regroup relatively quickly, many have been slow to rebound, or haven’t at all. Without conferring new degrees—and with others letting their member- ship lapse, moving away, or transitioning into the celestial lodge above—our membership has fallen significantly. This has been a fallow period for Freemasonry in California; it was our winter. But now we’re seeing the first green shoots of life starting to poke up through the ground.
As I’ve met with Masons and officers throughout the state, I sense an optimism about the year ahead. More and more, we’re seeing lodges welcome candidates into the fold and begin putting them through the degrees. Prospects to our lodges are at an all-time high. It’s true that we need to adapt to a post-pandemic world, and we are. But then, Masonry has always adapted.
Masonry has been around for 300 years, and I have no doubt it will survive another century or three. That history is an unbroken chain of stops and starts, peaks and valleys. It’s a cycle of rebirth and renewal. That gives me hope. The hills are green again above the Masonic Homes. Let’s enjoy the view.
Sincerely and fraternally,
Randall L. Brill
Grand Master of Masons of California
More from this issue:
Round Table No. 876 performed 33 degrees last year. Only one of them was for a member of their own lodge.
AMC comedy series Lodge 49 showrunner Jim Gavin explains his fraternal influences.