North Carolina Grand Lodges share historic moment at the Capitol08.04.2020
By Mason Editor Beth Grace
“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
Under a canopy of mature oaks on the east side of the Capitol in downtown Raleigh, some 200 North Carolina Freemasons gathered on June 13, 2020, to make history – and a stirring, public statement of brotherly love.
That Saturday dawned a bit cooler than normal, with a slight breeze. Perfect weather for an historic gathering of brethren, white and Black, all clad in dark suits, white gloves and protective masks, to talk about fellowship, fairness, race and brotherhood.
Only once before had these men met and made history in this place. On Nov. 21, 2008, they signed a “Compact of Mutual Recognition.” Both Grand Lodges on that day agreed to end generations of separation, recognizing each other and opening lodge meetings to each other. They remain the only two Grand Lodges in the South to sign such a compact.
Just like back then, not every brother was in favor of this gathering. Some feared it would appear that Masons were stepping into politics; others worried that any media coverage would misrepresent reality; some still object to the idea of mutual recognition.
And, just like back then, all hoped the day would play out peacefully, even as merchants just down the street from the Capitol were still cleaning up glass and scrubbing graffiti left behind from several nights of violent protest downtown.
The protests in Raleigh and around the nation followed the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
But the gathering went off without a hitch. Even passersby who knew nothing about the event – a couple thought it might be a protest rally but were educated by brothers standing near the back – paused to listen to each Grand Master speak from the heart about the power of living according to Masonic teachings inside the lodge, and why it matters to the rest of the world.
“We are here today, not because we all agree on the solutions to the injustices and divisions in our country, but because we understand the meaning, the hope, of brotherly love,” said Most Worshipful Shaun Bradshaw, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, A.F. & A.M.
“This tenet pushes us to see beyond those divisions, and as such, helps bring us together despite — and sometimes, because of — our differences. It unites us. … By coming together this afternoon we hope to show the citizens of our communities, our state, and our country, that it is better to be united against hate, intolerance, injustice, and violence. That our fraternity is stronger when we work together, that society is better when we work together, that we should build and unite, not destroy and divide. To embody the ideals of Brotherly Love so that our conversations and debates start from a place of respect and tolerance rather than fear and hatred.
“That is the promise of Freemasonry, the magic of it. The example it can be, and the example it is.”
MW Daniel L. Thompson, Grand Master of Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F. & A.M., brought the message home.
“Look at the statement our standing together makes. Freemasonry parallels the history of the United States. Freemasonry parallels the history of prejudice and racism. Eleven years ago, the Freemasons of North Carolina took the steps required to recognize each other as brothers and men; fulfilling the true principles of the fraternity.
“Today, as some in our state and country deny, ignore and turn a blind eye to the truth about prejudice and racism, it is the Freemasons of North Carolina, again, showing he world what right looks like. We stand together showing that it is the man’s heart, not his color that counts.”
He urged the brethren to listen with an open heart to his message of change – and act on it.
“Change is possible. But the change starts with the ‘man in the mirror,’” he said.
“We stand for justice. We stand for peace. We stand for under-standing. We stand here as Masons, we stand here as Men, we stand here with the support of our sisters and fellow citizens. Together, WE STAND!!!”
Music and prayers opened the gathering. Near the speaker’s area, Eastern Star sisters of the PHA, gowned in white, joined their brothers to hear a written greeting rom Gov. Roy Cooper.
“Since its inception, your organization has a proud history of promoting friendship and brotherly love in communities across North Carolina. Because of this, many lives have been affected in a positive manner,” Cooper wrote.
“You have reached out to the needy and the helpless and have given them encouragement, a sense of pride and, most of all, hope.
“I am grateful for your continuing efforts to bring unity, peace and under-standing to all of our communities.”
Since the Gathering, GMs Bradshaw and Thompson have met to talk about next steps. Neither brother wants to lose the momentum gained in June.
COVID phases permitting, both lodges will work together to host a legislative reception in September for brethren in the NC Legislature and those who work in that area.
And since the annual Masons Can drive at Annual Communication likely will not be doable, Thompson will ask his brethren to host drop-off sites around the state for all Masons to visit and leave cans of food for the needy.
GMs Bradshaw and Thompson will visit those sites during the collection to say thanks in person.
A third joint event is tentatively planned, most likely to happen in 2021.
Both Grand Lodges will work together to host joint blood drives at various locations around North Carolina. Details to come.