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District 15 Mason meeting held in Wall

by Del Bartels

The South Dakota Masonic District 15 meeting was held in Wall, Thursday, October 27. The district includes Philip Lodge #153, Wall Lodge #210, Kadoka Lodge #155 and Martin Lodge #219.

The meeting was open, thus wives of attending Masons and other guests were welcome. Wall Lodge Grand Master Grant Shearer lead the pledge of allegience, and the opening prayer was said. Then Shearer introduced District Grand Master Doug Thorson, Philip. Thorson gave the official greetings from the South Dakota Grand Lodge, then introduced South Dakota Grand Warden Chuck Gilson, Yankton.

Gilson said, "My kids grew up at the lodge. While men were upstairs, the women were downstairs doing their thing and the kids were outside playing. In 1956, there were over 20,000 South Dakota Masons. Now there are about 6,000.

"Philip is a bright light in South Dakota. They have done quite well," said Gilson. Philip is one of the fastest growing lodges, percentage-wise, in South Dakota, and has over 40 registered members. Gilson reported that some of the 89 lodges in the state are struggling to increase or even hold even with current membership, which is aging or moving out of state. "The question is, what are we going to do to help them?"

In 1875, the South Dakota Grand Lodge was formed by the then six lodges in the state. Gilson said that, since then, the Masons have inplemented into the state system the related organizations of the Shriners, the Order of the Eastern Star, the female youth group of Job's Daughters and the male youth group of DeMolay.

Gilson related what can be found on the website www.mygrandlodge.org. Masonry, also known as Freemasonry, is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. It's stated purpose is to make good men better. Many of this nations's founding fathers were Masons, including 13 signers of the Constitution. Fourteen United States presidents were brothers of the craft, beginning with George Washington. The over four million Masons in the United States from various church, professional and political backgrounds, have built the fraternity on the basis of friendship, compassion and brotherly love.

"Right now, we want to educate people and inform them," said Gilson. He said that for so long Masons have not drawn attention to themselves. Now they have the free Children Identification Program and the Model Student Assistance Program. A free CHIP was recently held in Rapid City as well as in Philip. The MSAP, also free, is a training program for teachers to identify, deal with and hopefully intervene concerning alcohol, other drugs, bullying and suicide. The Masons also support scholarships and charities.

Concerning MSAP, Thorson said, "The teachers sure like it because they get a half credit, or even a full credit, for recertification and they don't even have to pay for it."

Gilson said, "We need to brag about it and let people know these are available. We are not doing ourselves any favors by not letting people know we are here. ... Make people know you are active and they might want to join. People can ask us what we are all about." Gilson added, "Be proud to be a Mason; that opens the door. Wear the square, enjoy yourself, but be visible."

Gilson said, "Nothing in Masonry is secret. Unless you are in a meeting actually doing ritual work, that is the only thing not openly known. And if you want to know that, join Masons and find out."

Members of Masonic temples across the country are anticipating to act as information specialists and address questions generated from the upcoming movie "The Lost Symbol" based on a novel by Dan Brown. It is anticipated that potential membership should greatly increase because of this attention and the answering of questions.

Before the meeting's closing prayer, Kieth Smith, Philip, invited members of the other district lodges to attend the next Philip meeting, which will include the installation of at least three new members.