One Stone at a Time
Ephrata Lodge No. 665 F&AM of Pennsylvania
Introduction: Ephrata Lodge No. 665
- Applying the Principles: Inside the Lodge
- Masonic Ritual
- Masonic Education
- Masonic Fellowship
- Masonic Service
- Applying the Principles: Outside the Lodge
- Golf Outing
- Santa’s Helpers
- EASS Food Drives
Ephrata Lodge No. 665
Ephrata Lodge No. 665 Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania was awarded its charter from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1910. While not the oldest Lodge in our area we hold that Ephrata Lodge has always been a unique representation of Masonic Tradition. Now nearly 100 years old, Ephrata Lodge has never had a Worshipful Master repeat in the Chair. This is no small feat when we consider in that time we have seen two world wars, innumerable international crises, depressions, recessions and changes to the social fabric that would surely stretch the imaginations of that first small group of brethren who banded together to petition for our noble purpose.
As with most Lodges, Ephrata Lodge felt a wave of enthusiasm after World War II and membership rose at a rate that taxed the ability of our officers to perform the necessary degrees. But they knew that the tradition which they held in trust was one that had to be shared. They knew that they were honor bound, duty bound, to share the light of Freemasonry with this next generation of candidates and to continue to spread the principles of our fraternity as far as the Great Architect would have them go.
Today Ephrata Lodge boasts a membership of about 600 men. Our 18 standing committees are populated with over 50 members, many sitting on more than one committee. Our Lodge building is showing signs of age. We have been meeting in our current building since the early 1930’s and one of the great pleasures of welcoming new members is to take them to our third floor where two beautiful old Brunswick pool tables stand guard like Boaz and Jachin while the checker boards and card tables sit ready for new rounds of fellowship just as they have for over seventy years. A visitor can truly feel the presence of many good and worthy fellows who have met in this room before them. This room is one of the cherished gems of our Lodge, and through whatever renovation is to come, its character will be preserved just as our ritual has been preserved through the decades.
That wave of fraternal interest that followed WWII and brought so many good men to our Lodge has long since turned from brown to grey. Our membership, like most Lodges, is aging. The average age of our members now approaches seventy years, and many of our brethren find it a hardship to climb the mountain of stairs that brings them to our Lodge floor. Our building was built in the day when these men were young and filled with strength of body and spirit, and now the spirit is willing, but the steps are too many. Some no longer come to Lodge because they simply cannot surmount the obstacle that the building itself presents. So, we must attend to our older brothers and find a way to keep them active in our fraternity.
Membership at Ephrata Lodge will change in the coming years. The Greatest Generation will pass on to that eternal Lodge not made with hands and the next generation will take its places and stations to serve the members past and future just as their fathers did before them. Our line of officers is set to continue our tradition of sending new faces to the East for as far as we can see. A very real sense of purpose has lately come into our Lodge and as new petitions arrive we see a bright future. Even now our numbers remain nearly steady from year to year with new brothers being raised as our cherished older brothers depart for that glorious Lodge in the west. Newly raised brothers are invited to participate and made to feel especially welcome.
Our Mentoring program is designed to pair experienced brothers with new members and to make their introduction to Freemasonry one that will engage and involve them.
Our Membership Retention Committee has begun a program of contacting every brother on his Masonic birthday to wish him well and to invite him to come and be recognized at a stated meeting. By this we hope to reconnect with some of the brothers who have lost touch with the Lodge and remind them that there is a place to come and join their fellows for a noble purpose.
By these efforts we hope to strengthen the Lodge with new people and new enthusiasm and to rekindle in the hearts of our brothers that spirit of commitment and unity that has been for so long the cornerstone of our fraternity.Top of page
First and foremost, our ritual is by all accounts excellent. The officers of the Lodge rehearse every week either in individual study or as a body practicing floor work for degrees and special meetings. Working under the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania our ritual is considered to be a magnificent display of beauty. We use a printed ritual manual to which we can refer in order to standardize and perfect the beauty found within the words. It additionally provides more brethren the opportunity to learn about and memorize our beautiful Pennsylvania Masonic ritual. Most Worshipful Masters commit to memorizing all three degrees, all five charges, and the funeral service. In order to prepare the elected officers for their time in the East, following the summertime “off labor” period we have our opening and closing charges delivered by the Senior and Junior Wardens respectively. It continues to amaze us that we have brothers lined up to serve in the chairs given the commitment required for advancement. It is a testimony to the value we place on the legacy of the men who have come before us.
Every meeting has scheduled in it a period of Masonic Education for the benefit of the brethren. Each year we are required by Grand Lodge to exemplify the Funeral Service, so that we may pay our last respect to a brother in the most appropriate way. Also, each year the Lodge is required to exemplify the examination of a visitor so that should any of our brothers wish to attend a Lodge in another jurisdiction they will carry with them the pride of Ephrata Lodge and be able to answer well the questions put to them.
Other recent Masonic Education included a discussion of the “other tools” that are touched only briefly in our ritual, or which come to us from other jurisdictions but are not included in the Pennsylvania ritual. We have been visited by representatives of the Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons of Pennsylvania who shared a wonderful presentation of the history and development of Prince Hall Masonry. Also, we have entertained visitors from other states to tell us how our brethren in other states come together; how the ritual differs and what it is that binds us all as one sacred band.
Currently in the planning stages is a “small group” study designed to follow the guidelines of the Academy of Masonic Knowledge of Pennsylvania, a program of very intensive study and presentation requirements wherein certificates are earned at various levels of progress.
It is said that the word Lodge has three definitions; it is a building, it is a formal meeting, and it is the people who populate it. Ephrata Lodge has always had a tradition of fraternal gatherings. As mentioned earlier, the third floor “pool room” represents a throw back to the days before satellite TV and home entertainment systems, when people actually met face to face and conversed about things of interest. More than just a hang out, the “Masonic Social Club” room has inspired many of the more recent members to harken back to a time when a man’s honor counted for something and to strive to return that principle to its rightful place in society.
Picnics are regular events for Ephrata Lodge. Each winter we hold a picnic inside the lodge. Entertainment for the families has included the Shrine string band, an Illusionist and various face painters for the kids and grand kids. The Winter Picnic also claims the annual Lodge Pool Tournament. How better to utilize those beautiful tables than to invite families and friends to make use of them? Finally the picnic ends with a live auction of items donated by the membership to raise money for charity.
In the summer we hold another picnic, this one outdoors, to take advantage of the beauty of the season. Hot dogs and hamburgers, horseshoes and quoits, bingo and watermelon seed spitting are rounded out with an ample supply of ice cream donated by a brother in the business. These picnics may look to the casual observer as an easy thing to pull off, but behind the scenes for each of them are multiple planning meetings and countless e-mails to track progress. Every year dozens of people help pull off two very fun events which involve members, families and friends.
Each April we invite our ladies to come to the Lodge for a special presentation followed by a strawberry social, and every September we invite them again for peaches and ice cream.
Also in September the Lodge holds its annual Golf Outing. Until recently the outing was simply that, a chance to get together and play golf. In recent years it has become a charity event designed to raise money for a specific charity chosen by the Worshipful Master. Open to non-masons it is an opportunity to share the light and show our friends a small part of what it might mean to be a Freemason.
Finally, in October we hold our Blue Lodge Banquet wherein the Worshipful Master gives his thanks for the support he has received throughout the year. It also allows the brethren to thank their ladies for the support they have given us as we perform our Masonic duties.Top of page
Several committees are designed to extend Masonic service to our brethren and their families within the Lodge. First to come to mind is the Sick and Visitation Committee. Sadly, this has become a very active committee. Each month we are bombarded by messages of hospitalizations and illnesses. Cancer treatments are a regular event for many brothers and other geriatric conditions blight us with too much news of the infirmed. Our brothers on this committee spread the word when one of ours is laid low and a shower of cards and phone calls usually follows.
Our newly created Widows and Orphans Committee strives to keep the ladies of our departed friends engaged and active and to keep them abreast of the support offered by the Grand Lodge through the Masonic homes. The widows are invited to our banquets and picnics and where needed transportation is provided by the membership.
On a further sad note, the Funeral service is the final tribute we pay to our departed brothers and their families. It is possibly the most noble of our public ceremonies and it is performed by our officers with the serious deportment due such a solemn occasion. A phone tree has been created by which the brethren are to be alerted to the passing of a brother. Our seated officers perform the rite in tails and regalia and encouraging words of our ancient ritual, spoken from memory, often make a visible impact on the families and friends of our departed brothers.
The principles we are taught within the Lodge are to extend beyond its walls. Ephrata Lodge has long been involved in the local community and every year we work to demonstrate the principles of service and support that are the cornerstones of our fraternity.
Ephrata is blessed to have a local hospital which for many years has provided excellent care to the families in our area. At Christmas time our brethren collect toys and gifts for children who are receiving in-patient care that might keep them away from home for the holidays. A small cadre of elves and reindeer travel together to the hospital and deliver a little bit of holiday cheer to the kids.
We are taught in our second degree that we as Freemasons we are to pay particular attention to higher education. To that end, Ephrata Lodge annually awards both specific and general scholarships for students who live in our jurisdiction and are attending some institute of higher education. In 2007 our lodge awarded three general scholarships of $1000 each and one memorial scholarship in the amount of $1000. These scholarships are awarded not to the best and the brightest, or to the poorest of the poor, but to those students to whom so little attention is paid; to those middle class families who pay the most and take the least in our nation’s current system of entitlements and preferences.
32nd Degree Masonic Learning Center
Many of our Blue Lodge brethren are also members of Scottish Rite Freemasonry which has adopted as one of its national charities the 32nd Degree Masonic Learning Centers which help identify and instruct children with Dyslexia so that they can eventually develop the skills needed to thrive in today’s visually demanding world. The work of the dyslexia centers is well known in Masonic circles, but it is less well known among the community. Twice a year our lodge assists in the staffing of “Paper Drives” at the local markets to pass out flyers describing the program and to collect whatever donations might come in to the program at those times. Also, several of our brethren participate in the Hiram Scottish Riders Motorcycle Club where money is raised for the centers during rides and walk-a-thons. Our Winter Picnic is usually a fundraiser for the Learning Centers as well.Top of page
As in all communities like ours there are always those who cannot make their own way, who for whatever reason are unable to feed and clothe themselves. There is in our town the Ephrata Area Social Service, a non-profit volunteer project which provides food, clothes, money for oil payments or electricity and whatever else might be needed to get a family through a bad time. We asked the EASS when they had the greatest need and they told us that around the holidays there is abundant giving, but around mid-year the shelves are bare. Our brethren, therefore, conduct an annual food drive during the time when the needs of others are not always front of mind. This past summer we collected over 1500 pounds of boxed and canned food for our neighbors in need.
Memorial Day Service
On Memorial Day a contingent of officers and brethren from Ephrata Lodge braved the elements to stand for our fallen servicemen at the Denver, PA Memorial Day service. Our officers were color bearers and stood proudly on stage beside members of the military to pay respect to the men and women who had given their “last full measure of devotion” to serve their country. It was interesting to observe that of the dozen or so people standing on the platform that day, whether speakers or servicemen, seven of them were known to be brothers in the Craft.
In September of each year Ephrata boasts the oldest and largest “Street Fair” in the state of Pennsylvania. For nearly a week U.S. Highway 322 in closed for this wonderful bit of nostalgia that is in fact “old time America” at its best. Pig chases, antique tractor competitions and pie baking contests are but a part of this page from our country’s past. The high point of the Fair is without a doubt the parade which snakes for just under 2 miles through the heart of the business district and plays host to tens of thousands of viewers.
In 2007 over 200 floats, teams, bands, packs, troops, businesses, schools, churches and organizations participated in the event. The parade began at 7:00 PM and floats were still passing the starting line at just after 9:00. At the end of the night Ephrata Lodge #665 Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania was awarded First Place for non-commercial floats. It was our first ever win in the parade and it was through the concerted effort of over a dozen committee members that we were able to put our best face to the community.
Our parade float consisted of a fifty foot flat bed trailer, skirted with black cloth to hide the undercarriage of the wheels. On top of the skirt, completely surrounding the truck bed was a garland of red white and blue patriotic bunting to symbolize our patriotism and pride of country. Rope lights created a frame-like effect and towering spotlights set the whole float ablaze. And on top of the bunting hung a twenty foot banner announcing the title of our float, “Freemasons, Building America”.
At the center of the float stood a lighted sign announcing the Square and Compasses and boldly proclaiming our Masonic tradition. Along the body of the float stood a dozen brethren in costume representing but a small portion of those who were great men not because they were Masons, but who were Masons because they were good men. George Washington, Ben Franklin and Paul Revere represented our colonial heritage. Then came the pioneers; Buffalo Bill Cody and Daniel Boone, followed by a host of easily recognized faces including John Phillip Sousa and Harry Houdini, Cy Young and Arnold Palmer, Audie Murphy and Buzz Aldrin and the hit of the group, Colonel Sanders.
So now you have seen just a few ways in which you may become a part of your Lodge. Consider the many opportunities to participate and meet new brothers. Create new opportunities that may enrich us all. Be bold. Don’t wait to be invited to join a committee. Make you interest known. As you were taught as an Entered Apprentice; “A-S-K.”
We welcome you Brother, to Ephrata Lodge No. 665. May you find here a place to serve your brethren, your community, yourself and your God.
The Officers and Members of Ephrata Lodge No. 665