The Journey of a Fellowcraft Mason

Visits to places near and far.

By: John P. Keel
Sandoval Lodge No. 76

John P. Keel

Salutations to all my Brethren and thank you for reading this, the first of what I would like to make a regular periodical. I enjoy attending lodges and meeting brothers all around our Country as I travel for work or pleasure. It always seems that I find fascinating brothers and historical information every time I visit new lodges and I thought that it would be fun to share some of the cool things I discover along the way. Recently, I visited Orlando Florida and had the opportunity to attend Orange Lodge #36 in Apopka as well as revisit Mokanna Lodge #329 for a very special “Lodge of Sorrows” ceremony.

I visited Orange Lodge on Tuesday November 21 and had dinner with the brethren where I learned that Orange lodge has the distinction of being the oldest lodge in Florida that still meets in its original building, though the lodge was lifted to become the second story of a new building built under it many decades ago. Additionally, the building has been there so long that the City of Apopka Florida was founded based on the lodge, with the original town limits being established exactly one mile in each of the cardinal directions from the Northeast corner of the lodge. In fact, the first town hall, post office and school used to be located in the ground floor structure that was built when the lodge was raised to the second story.

Orange lodge is also a moonlight lodge and in the early days of the lodge, Masons and their families would travel to the lodge and set up camp in the field surrounding the lodge. When the lodge was ready to open, one of the brothers would step out onto the front porch of the lodge and blow a brass horn three times to let the rest of the brothers know it was time for the meeting. This is a tradition that is still carried on today with a brass horn that replaced the original one more than 100 years ago. WB Patrick Tessier, Worshipful Master of Orange Lodge brought the original 200+ year old horn out of the archives for me to see as he was giving me the tour and history of the lodge. I was pleasantly surprised when the Tyler asked me to accompany him to the porch and give the ceremonial blasts of the horn. Not being a musician, the “blasts” I gave would more approximate a librarian’s warning to noisy patrons than that of a horn, but the bothers still gave me an applause and I was further surprised when I was presented with a certificate commemorating the occasion. The rest of the meeting was wonderful, with a presentation from two of their EAs and, afterwards we met for fellowship, which capped off a great evening.

The second Lodge I attended was Mokanna Lodge #329 on Monday November 27. Though I had visited this lodge before in 2022, this night was very special since they were putting on a Lodge of Sorrows which was a humbling and moving experience for me. The Lodge of Sorrows, for those unfamiliar as I was before this, is much more than the remembrance ceremonies we perform at our lodges each year.

The ceremony is put on in the name of a Brother who has left us to be with the Grand Architect but on this occasion was for all of the Brethren who have passed away in the preceding years. This ceremony truly reminds us of our mortality through a reading of scripture and performance of masonic ritual, to serve in many ways as a ceremonial memento mori, leading me to think again upon the lessons hammered home so effectively in our third degree. The ceremony also reminds us to be humble in our stations and to keep ourselves on the right paths so that when we go to the house not made with hands above, we do so with a soul as spotless as our aprons. Though funeral-like in its performance, I left the ceremony with a renewed appreciation for all the things we take for granted in this life and for this fraternity.

This was the first time the brethren in the Orlando area had hosted a Lodge of Sorrows in recent years so, the lodge was almost completely full of brothers from all over Florida and even a few traveling men like me. The ritual team did a phenomenal job on the ceremony and without a doubt, left me with an unforgettable experience.

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