Wichita, Kansas was filled with Masons this week during a very successful Grand Lodge session!
As deputy director of the Kansas Lodge of Research, I have the opportunity to see into the inner workings of one of America’s most intriguing and important Masonic jurisdictions. Kansas Masonry holds a special place in my heart because my father’s ancestors(several of them Masons) migrated from Europe to Kansas in the 1800s. Much of the Marshall family still lives there today. This past week, Kansas’ Grand Lodge met in Wichita. I paired up with a long time friend and travel buddy, Ron Philo the accomplished anatomist, for the trip.
Kansas Lodge of Research
The Grand session kicked off with a panel discussion by the Kansas Lodge of Research. I missed it because I was busy cooking corned beef and cabbage for my home lodge but was glad to learn that the discussion was very successful. Most of my visit was spent representing the Lodge of Research at its table. The Kansas Lodge of Research is a decades old institution focused on motivating and enabling Masons worldwide to research and write scholarly papers about Masonic history. Since it is not restricted to the Kansas jursidiction, any Master Mason can become a member of the Kansas Lodge of Research.
Our director, Alex Powers, is a dear friend of mine and he does a heck of a job leading the Lodge of Research by example: he published his enormous volume on the history of his lodge, Gardner No. 65, earlier this year. On Friday night, the first edition auctioned for more than $1,000 at the Kansas Masonic Foundation’s annual auction. Celebratory balloons dropped as proceeds surpassed the $1.5 million dollar mark. Custom firearms, rare bottles of Scotch, and even a 90 year old collection of DeMolay marbles all helped boost the efforts. Between guns and whiskey, you can imagine this Texan’s juices were flowing.
Brother Gasten Schoonover and several others from Roanoake Lodge 668 near Fort Worth were also in attendance. I joined them on stage as they presented special Texas Masonic gifts to their long-time friend, Kansas Grand Master Bob Talbott. Certainly, Masonic fellowship knows no boundaries.
Kellerman Receives Award
I had the honor to sit at the incoming Grand Master’s table for the banquet auction. Worshipful Dale Morrow displayed numerous signs of humility and capable leadership during dinner. Kansas Masonry is in good hands with him at the helm. Meanwhile, Past Grand Master and Masonic extraordinaire, Daren Kellerman, busied himself with camera work all night until suddenly being summoned to the stage to receive Kansas’ equivalent of the Mason of the Year award. Few brothers demonstrate the level of commitment to the careful balance of service and leadership in Masonry as Bro. Kellerman has throughout his Masonic career.
Ben Franklin Signature Discovered
On Saturday morning, I had one of my favorite moments as a historian when I got to be among the first to behold newly discovered documents signed by founding fathers Benjamin Franklin and John Penn. The Kansas Masonic Library’s archivist Dylan Sweyko-Kuhlman did an oustanding job of framing and preserving these artifacts for posterity. I also went on a bit of a scavenger hunt through the Grand venue in search of QR codes created and placed by Bro. Powers. Each code caused my phone camera to light up with digital lessons about Kansas Masonry. While many jurisdictions are still struggling to bring Masonry up to date with even the 20th century, Kansas is apparently pushing things beyond the 21st!
Upon his installation, Grand Master Morrow gave a stirring speech in which he analogized the upcoming year to a harrowing incident he once survived with his Ultralight Glider. The Grand Musician elevated the ceremony with creative music. Finally, the wives and families in attendance received due recognition. Afterwards, I joined Bro. Powers with his family for lunch. I am reminded of something I’ve learned over and over in Masonry. A brother cannot be very successful as a Mason without the support and encouragement of his family. It was no surprise then, to witness the excitement and energy and loving support Powers’ wife and daughters have for his efforts within our ancient institution. . Needless to say, Masonry is alive and well in Kansas.