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Inventory, the Lodge

If the Minute Books of fifty of the oldest American Lodges as of the period between 1800 and 1825 are compared with the Minute Books of the same Lodges as of the period 1900 to 1925 it will be discovered that the subject of the Lodge inventory was somewhere lost, abandoned, forgotten in the years between. Ever so often in the early days a Secretary with loving care, and often with an openly expressed pride, wrote out his inventory; and such inventories are for us now one of the best sources for a knowledge of what Lodge life was a century and a half ago, and coincidentally make vivid and clear one thing wrong with Lodge life now-- something lost out of Masonry, like the Lost Word, an old Landmark unintentionally violated; a thing lost though not necessarily beyond recall. The inventory was not of the carpets, walls, windows, or other structural equipment, nor was it for real estate or taxation or fire insurance purposes; it was an inventory of the treasures of the Lodge. In almost every instance each item was described as a gift from some Brother, or as a memento of some occasion long remembered; there were oil portraits, framed prints, photographs; jewels kept in cases, of silver, and engraved, once the property of officers who later had presented them to the Lodge; aprons, collars, ballot boxes, gavels, Bibles and books, music books, an organ, sets of plate, glass and dishes, altar coverings, certificates, cherished letters in frames, punch bowls, and there were gifts which the Lodge had made to itself, such as hand-made and carved chairs for the officer, a visitors' book bound in morocco, etc. The Lodge Room had a feeling of being richly furnished; it was filled with the emblems and symbols of Freemasonry, of the Lodge's own past, of the community's esteem for it, and the members who had gone were not completely gone. Men loved their Lodge, and because they did there was no need to devise schemes for persuading them to attend. In every Lodge, even the crassest, there are these untapped feelings of affection. Each one should have an inventory. When a Lodge room is empty, its walls bare, it has no atmosphere of its own, does not feel like home; the Ritual loses its soul because it has not the environment it requires; the worst effect of the bare Lodge room is that its Masonry becomes barren because the Lodge has only the sense of being in a room and does not have a sense of being in the midst of a living and moving Fraternity; nor can it have a sense of its own past, or the Fraternity's past, but sinks into a feeling of isolation and flatness--it cannot even have a banquet because it has nothing to have it with. The inventory was one of riches; the riches came not out of the members' dues but out of their affection.

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