Worshipful Master's Message
November 1st 2020
Brothers of Annapolis Lodge No. 89
In my sixth and final message to you as Worshipful Master, I wanted to give you an overview of a year where a rolling stone gathers no moss despite the effects of outside events.
I will start by answering the question most frequently asked of me, “Do you plan to spend another year in the East because of the way 2020 unfolded?” My answer to that is “No, but with good reason.”
First and foremost, we are fortunate to have a well-qualified line that has worked hard to be prepared to advance and it would be unfair to them to hold everyone back and to deny them the fruits of their labors. Moreover, I don’t really view it as a lost year when one takes into consideration all of the great things the Lodge has been able to accomplish despite the circumstances. After detailing them below, I am confident you will agree with me:
Even before the pandemic, we were working with a group of contractors that specializes in historical buildings to fix two bulges in the exterior wall that could have put our neighbors at risk. As related in an earlier message to you, we were able to fix in place both bulges well within budget and without having to invoke any oversight from the Annapolis Historical society as was originally contemplated. That happened early in the pandemic shutdown and we concurrently took steps to make ourselves more available for brothers in need as well as trying to maintain an active presence within a new operating environment. We had the phone line updated so that it would work over the new digital framework since the old number had fallen by the wayside with the digital upgrade of lines in the neighborhood. Once we got the line working again, we promptly established a digital voice mail service that also transcribed the contents of messages and emailed it out to the Secretary and Worshipful Master. This was an important upgrade, not only to maintain our line of communications with the brethren but we are in a good place to continue operations uninterrupted if the public health situation deteriorates again and if we have another operational pause mandated by the authorities.
Once the voice mail service was up and running, I divided our membership roster into equal parts and assigned each officer in the line a group of brothers to call. This was for the dual purpose of both checking in on their welfare but also to try and update our address roster which had fallen into disrepair over the years. We had some independent indication of this by the number of trestle boards that were returned as unable to be delivered with each mailing. While it is not a 100% fix, I am happy to report that we are improving on our rate of returned mailings and that helps us to maintain positive contact while also saving the lodge money on postage.
While performing the yearly audit as required by the Grand Lodge, we were able to begin an inventory of the many priceless artifacts within the lodge for the purpose of recording their existence and insuring them against potential loss. There are a number of not only past master jewels but several matching sets through all of the York Rite bodies that prior members have generously donated upon their passing. We will continue to catalog and record our artifacts in the coming year and we hope to use some of those pieces to enhance our display cabinets in the museum. To that end, I am also issuing a call to all of our past masters that, if you are borrowing a jewel from the lodge, please let us know so that we can make a record of it and make arrangements for return when you lay down your working tools. Over and above the cost of the gold itself, it is a tremendous loss to see these end up in estate sales or in online auctions because the family is none the wiser about the history and significance of them. The ornate craftsmanship of these past master jewels, in and of itself, is something that modern jewelers are unable to replicate except at significant cost. And, speaking of our place within the historical record, we have also become a friend of the Maryland Masonic Museum through the generosity of an anonymous donor who provided the funding. That is a significant event because, once the Lodge is a friend of the Museum, any of our members can join individually as friends of the Museum at a reduced rate.
With regard to other internal improvements, we were able to fix the railing on the landing that had vexed us for some time. And we were able to upgrade the fire suppression system in the kitchen to bring it back up to code so that we remain in compliance with the fire marshal.
Most significantly, within two weeks of the shutdown in mid-March, we were back up and running online without missing another meeting. And, by midApril we were able to institute and maintain a program of quality instruction such that we had online presentations all through the summer until just before resuming labor in person. While I do not have exact numbers for every lodge in the state, I can say with a high degree of confidence that we were among one of the most active lodges in the state during that time period and we had solid attendance throughout the shutdown. Many thanks, as well, to all the presenters for sharing your wisdom and humor to keep our spirits up while we had to stay away from meeting in person.
Lastly, I am very proud to report that we held an in-person open house event at the end of September where we fielded over 12 candidate inquiries. As of this writing, I do not yet have a full tally of all who eventually submitted petitions but we are well underway to initiate several worthy candidates as entered apprentices before the end of the year. This was only possible because of the strong support of the line and other brethren coming together to build for the future of the fraternity, generally, and our lodge in particular. And, to bring this message, full circle, these are the brothers I am proud to support as they continue in their journey advancing in the line. In sum, it has been a remarkable year despite the circumstances.
In closing, I have heard some past masters share with me the sentiment that there are things from their year they wish they could have accomplished or that may have inadvertently fallen by the wayside. Although this is not a year I would have ever chosen with advance knowledge to preside, it has been my honor to take stewardship of the lodge for this term and I step down at the end of the year with the great satisfaction of knowing that there is nothing I would have done differently and nothing remains unaccomplished on my trestle board for the year.
I hope you and your families continue to stay safe in the coming days and I look forward to continuing my support of the lodge as I step into the role of Treasurer for the upcoming year.
Sincerely and fraternally,
Paul C. Balassa
Annapolis Lodge No. 89 A. F. & A. M.