What a day! On Saturday the 17th Masonic District, essentially the Cumberland County region for Maine Freemasonry, had its annual meeting. The Grand Master was in attendance along with more brass than you could count with fingers and toes. Since the event was being held at my Mother Lodge, Deering Lodge No. 183 in Portland, Bro. Chris DiSotto and I ran the dinner. The cooking began at noon and we were able to offer people a choice of prime rib, salmon or an entirely vegetarian pasta dish. Feeding 100 people in a single sitting was a new accomplishment, leaving the entire kitchen crew exhausted by 7:30pm. We were very happy with the results.
The meeting itself was considerably more engaging than I remembered from the past. The District Deputy Grand Master, R.W. Bro. Kenneth Caldwell, ran a fabulous meeting filled with many surprise awards. V.W. Bro. Walter Lamb received the Daniel Carter Beard Award for his work with the Boy Scouts of America. Bro. Chris DiSotto received the Mason of the Year Award from the District. While ordinarily each of the nine lodges recommends a different Brother, this year six of the nine joined together in recommending Bro. DiSotto for his work within the District. It was a moving moment for a good man. Another wonderful Deering Lodge Brother, Bro. Robert Wade, Sr., received a very special award. He was appointed as Assistant Grand Tyler. His son was previously a Grand Steward making for two Grand Officers in one family!
The remarks by the Masters of the District, dignitaries and Grand Master were very interesting. There were two which made a particular impact on me. R.W. Bro. Ray McLellan, Master of Casco Lodge in Yarmouth, is in charge of a very active, community focused lodge. He is having a lot of success at his lodge and brings an "old school" sense of dignity to the office which is a good reminder for we younger Masters. Hopefully we will be able to set up opportunities for him to convey his know-how to officers in the other lodges. While not every lodge should necessarily be so focused on the community, they might be able to use a few of his techniques. The other interesting remarks were by the Grand Master. He noted two important shifts in membership statistics at the Grand Lodge level. First, our average age for new members has dropped from the 40s to the 30s, a great sign for the fraternity. Second, the number of new members is greater than the number of suspensions, for non-payment of dues, for the third consecutive year. These are both very good signs for the Craft and analyzing why their causation will take more time to uncover.
The final news to come from the District Meeting is the appointment of V.W. Bro. Walter Lamb as our new District Deputy Grand Master and yours truly as the new District Education Representative. Our installation will take place on the first Tuesday in May after the Annual Communication of Grand Lodge. I have high hopes that we will make a good team stewarding the District through an exciting time of growth and change. The family tells me that I get no special privileges as a "Very Worshipful" and I still have to do all my chores. Darn!