By Jonathan Mark Mills, 32°, KCCH
I joined the Scottish Rite at the 2004 spring reunion of the Valley of Roanoke, Virginia. My home is in a very small, rural town located in the southwest corner of the state, and the drive to Roanoke was a 334-mile round trip. Candidates traveling from Rose Hill, Va., traveled even further—452 miles round trip. After talking with Ill. James D. Cole, SGIG, and, Louis “Kerry” Campbell, 33°, Personal Representative in Roanoke, we decided to take our reunions “on the road” to make it easier for candidates to attend.
Plans were made to have the fall 2004 reunion at Suthers Lodge No. 259 in Norton, Va. (183 miles from Roanoke). Roanoke’s first on-the-road reunion was a resounding success with 27 candidates. Our SGIG, some grand lodge officers, and many other Scottish Rite Masons made the journey to bring Scottish Rite Masonry to the candidates. The Kazim Shriners also held a ceremonial the same day. A friendly and smooth working relationship with the Shrine has proven most helpful in scheduling “on the road” events that have benefitted both Masonic bodies.
The program was so successful that Ill. Cole made a commitment to try to have at least one reunion in our part of the state each year, and we’ve had five at different sites over the past six years. The reunion in Abingdon (134 miles from Roanoke) was our most successful one to date with 37 new Masters of the Royal Secret and over 80 Scottish Rite Masons in attendance!
The chart shown on this page illustrates the positive effects of instituting this program.
The Valley of Roanoke has proved that success in a large geographic area means “thinking outside the box” at times. As our Personal Representative stated, “Valleys such as ours need to go where the interest is strong and not be content with just sitting around waiting for candidates to decide to make the long journey to attend a reunion.”
Scottish Rite clubs are another part of our success; they give members a chance to get together when they are unable to attend the Valley. Clubs can develop degree teams, provide mentoring, organize study groups for the Master Craftsman Program, and much more. We signed up ten new Scottish Rite Masons for the Master Craftsman Program at our last reunion. The valley purchases the courses and books in bulk from the Supreme Council which saves participants quite a bit on shipping. Taking candidates on their first day of membership and stimulating their interest with an interesting and challenging learning program does wonders for keeping them involved and participating in Scottish Rite.
Part of our outreach program to distant areas is to visit lodges for presentations. With the Worshipful Master’s permission, we recognize our newest members, distribute patents, and perhaps make some Master Craftsman presentations. These kinds of visits are popular with our lodges and provide us a low-key way to spread the word about Scottish Rite Masonry. These visits usually double or triple attendance for the lodge that evening. It is a festive event that adds much to the Worshipful Master’s year.
What are you waiting for? If you want to cultivate interest and membership in Scottish Rite, consider taking your reunions on the road—Roanoke has had 108 candidates in five reunions! Develop the Scottish Rite Club concept and keep your members involved … it’s a winning combination!