By Jack Buta, KCCH
The fifth annual Southwest Reunion in Phoenix, Arizona, is now history, but for all who attended it will never be forgotten.
For the first time in Scottish Rite history, all 32 Scottish Rite Degrees—including the three of the Blue Lodge—were exemplified in the same Reunion. It was near-impossible task with disaster threatening at every moment. Behind the scenes, hundreds of dedicated Brothers handled every problem that arose. Complete new casts had to be put together in just weeks to replace degree teams that could not make the trip to Phoenix at the last minute. Logistical nightmares were faced and defeated as rolls of antacids were consumed to calm upset stomachs. Yet the Reunion unfolded with precision worthy of a Swiss watchmaker for the Sovereign Grand Commander, the SGIGs of Arizona, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Colorado, the brethren who came from 23 different Scottish Rite Valleys, and the 114 or so candidates.
For many, the main attraction was the opportunity to witness the first three degrees of the Scottish Rite exemplified by the team from the 16th Masonic District of New Orleans, Louisiana. More than 300 Masons crowded into the Auditorium of the El Zaribah Shrine for two evenings to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a fun, exciting, educational, and totally rewarding experience for all of them.
Photo: (l. to r.) Santa Fe, New Mexico, team for the 18th Degree, Knight Rose Croix. El Zaribah Shrine’s “EZ Pops” band entertained at Friday’s wine and cheese reception. Denver, Colorado, team for the 29th Degree, Knight of St. Andrew.
For some, it was the ability to see degrees put on they previously had never witnessed. For others, it was the pure enjoyment of seeing the degrees conferred by some of the best valleys in the region: Los Angeles did their outstanding 4th Degree; Long Beach did the 90-minute 15th Degree entirely in Farsi and Hebrew; New Mexico did their famous 18th Degree; and Colorado conferred both their unique singing version of the 22nd degree and their impressive 29th Degree.
Not all of the drama took place on stage, though. There were personal stories being played out in the audience as well. In fact, perhaps the greatest drama was played out in the audience by three of the candidates who became Scottish Rite Masons at the reunion.
Three brothers, Russell, Richard, and Rowland Porter, members of Montezuma Lodge No. 35 in Phoenix, had gathered to honor their father who had wanted to become a Scottish Rite Mason last year, but his untimely death had robbed him of the opportunity. His three sons gathered in Phoenix. Richard traveled all the way down from Sequim, Washington, and Russell drove in from Littleton, Colorado, so that all three could complete symbolically their father’s dream.
Bro. Arstein Knutson traveled over 6,000 miles from his native Kristiansand, Norway, just to be present for this Reunion, and even the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction sent a dual-member candidate and an observer.
Now that it’s completed, I am sure other Orients will be inspired to follow the Southwest Regional’s example, but I would hope this reunion will inspire more than just the desire to replicate the event. The Rite is not just a few days of pomp and ceremony. The reunion is not the end result, but merely an introduction to the Scottish Rite’s real purpose. Within the lectures of these 32 degrees are the great Philosophies of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. They contain the very heart of Freemasonry, and it is no secret that in countries where the Rite is really studied and applied to the members’ lives, Freemasonry is flourishing.
The Scottish Rite is the “University of Freemasonry,” and within its degrees lie the secrets to change the face of Freemasonry in the English speaking world. To restore Freemasonry to its rightful place, one has to go beyond the dramas put on in the degrees and apply the lessons they teach. All the rest, as Hillel once said, “is commentary.”