Visiting Harmonie Lodge No. 699 in Buffalo

In one single night I succeeded to see and hear all the three obligations used in New York state – more exactly, in one of their lodges, Harmonie Lodge No. 699. It is not a typo how the name is spelled since this lodge was started by German-speaking Masons in 1869. Until recently, I didn’t know about their existence and here is how I came to visit the lodge last night:

Being a member in a Traditional Observance (TO) lodge (Templum Lucis No. 747) I was browsing on the Masonic Restoration Foundation’s website. The Foundation was and is one of the best resources regarding the Masonic renewal movement in North America and they provide many good resources. The site also has a list with lodges that are considered “Traditional Observant”. When looking at the geographical proximity, I noticed the Harmonie Lodge No. 699 in Amherst, practically – on Google maps and in the GPS – in Buffalo, NY.

Of course, first I clicked on a link and read (almost) everything on their website. I am quite familiar with our two TO lodges in Ontario’s jurisdiction and they both started as new lodges with the strong intent to create this new type of lodge. However, there are lodges on this continent with a long history and rich heritage… which are turning slowly toward the Observant model and renewing the way they work. Fittingly, on the Harmonie’s website they call it the Janusian model, after the Roman god Janus [IANVS] – the two-faced god of beginning and transitions (!). They named their model of restoration “Janusian” because they look forward into the future and back to recognize the ‘illustrious past’.

Unlike my lodges in Canada, they have a winter break, so during the summer, when our lodges are in recess, they meet every second and fourth Wednesday. I contacted them because I wanted to learn more about what they do. So I ended up last night at their lodge to witness a very interesting event:

a Masonic Rededication of our Obligations. This wonderful ceremony allows us to not only reaffirm our commitment to Freemasonry but will allow us to discuss our obligations role in everyday life.

While standing in a circle around the altar all three obligations were recited and then a short comment has been provided by the secretary, RW Bro Dan Di Natale. I would have liked to have there or later after the closing of the lodge some more discussion… maybe it happened after I left or maybe it will happen some other time. Even so, it was a powerful moment, as the three Masonic oaths were presented one after the other, and it definitely prompted me to analyze our obligations in a different light. On the long drive back (note to myself: avoid the Lewiston border crossing late evening toward Canada: it is full of trucks and the waiting can be hour-long) I had the chance to contemplate about the many differences in the ritual at my mother lodge in Budapest, Hungary, where I saw the light, in my present “foster” mother lodges in Hamilton and Stratford and at Harmonie Lodge, practicing the “American” work, as some in Canada call it… although it should be named correctly after Preston and Webb, as scholars mention this ritual.

As the program promised,

“The Master will also be going over his thoughts for the year and a deeper return to our Observant Masonic practice.”

And there was the Janusian concept ‘in vivo’ – among the candlelight and the excellent musical component, suddenly the Master of the lodge, W Bro William B. Chapin II, had a PowerPoint presentation projected on a screen while explaining his plans for the coming year. (He was installed just a few weeks earlier).

Harmonie Visit
Under the Lodge’s banner with WBro William B. Chapin II
Lots of good ideas and great plans – as it should be when a young brother gets to the helm of a lodge. However, there was one point where I almost jumped up to run and shake his hands. He brought up the “sacrilegious” idea of getting rid of the automatic progression(?) of elected officers! Even allowing worthy members to jump into the line, which also means allowing others to leave the line if things don’t work out. It seems that NY lodges created the same problem for themselves as we have it here in Ontario: once a brother started to “go through the chairs” there is almost no way to stop him to get into the King Solomon’s chair. Regardless of his leadership abilities or readiness and knowledge to lead. I really wish them to be able to promote only the best officers!

The meeting was preceded by a nice festive board and followed by cocktails. The festive board wasn’t as formal as in my TO lodge – and this was a conscious decision of the lodge leaders. It suits better their membership and traditions. It was a great opportunity to chat with a few brethren around the table and to exchange ideas and stories.
I promised I will be back and bringing with me brothers from my lodge(s). It was a great Masonic night.

One night – three obligations

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2 thoughts on “One night – three obligations

  1. Brother Horvath,
    We were honored to have you with us as we started our new year under the leadership of W:. Brother Chapin. Prior to his election, he and several other brothers, were taking steps to strengthen our offerings and rejuvenate the membership. As is the case with many other lodges, life gets in the way and the members find it harder and harder to make it to lodge. When the lodge fails to engage the brethren, the problem starts to increase momentum.
    The innovation that prompted the Janusian Model, lost its edge as it became the status quo and eventually worked its way to “old hat”. Over time we were failing our brothers and the sideline showed us this every meeting, month after month. It was the leadership of brothers like Mark Donnelly, Dan DiNatalie, and Bill Chapin who started to chew on ideas to get the brotherhood engaged again.
    What do we want as Mason? How are we going to get it? Outside of our obligation, what would compel us to come to lodge? They quickly found that they were not alone in this predicament. Other lodges were taking action and more than willing to share ideas and execution.
    Last night you witnessed rubber hitting the road. This morning’s Facebook chatter was a buzz and caught the attention of a few brothers who’s attendance had been marginal at best. I am excited, and could not be more proud to be a part of this particular group of Masons. Please know that our door is always open to you and we look forward to your return visit.

    Fraternal Regards,

    W:. Ted Clark
    Past Master
    Harmonie Lodge 699 OM

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