In preparing this evening’s message, I was drawn to an Internet article which I recently received. It relates a true story of an event which took place in the USA in the mid 1880s. I would like to share it with you..
Moses F Shinn, a Methodist minister in Keokuk, Iowa, is the principal character. A powerful leader in his church and in his Lodge, he was loved and respected by all. A time arose when his church coworkers, persons uninformed as to Freemasonry and its teaching, sought to increase his usefulness to the church by requiring him to renounce Freemasonry and devote all his energies to their church. At the church’s next general conference, a resolution to that end was adopted. The church waited for Bro Shinn’s response.
Bro Shinn sat in thought for what seemed an eternity. The options presented to him were unbearable. He must either renounce Freemasonry or be separated from the work of God’s church to which he had hoped to give his life. His very livelihood was at stake! Could Freemasonry really justify such sacrifices?
Finally, Bro Shinn rose to his feet, looked into the faces of his friends and spoke in a clear voice: "I have for many years endeavoured to perform my duty as a faithful minister of Christ, and I believed I had extended the field of my usefulness, without violation of my vows to the church, by becoming a loyal and zealous Freemason. Now you demand that I renounce Freemasonry or retire from the church. The decision you require is a harsh and painful one. I must sever relations that have been pleasant to me and, I hoped, acceptable to others. I have friends in both the church and Freemasonry from whom I wish not to be separated, but you have made the requirement. It is not for me to question whether that requirement is right or wrong, wise or just. So, at your bidding, I separate myself from the Methodist Episcopal Church."
Bro Shinn then sat down to control his emotions.
The silence was oppressive. The Conference was stunned. Finally, one who had been active in proposing the resolution rose to his feet, walked to Bro Shinn, extended his hand and said, "My valued friend, there must be something very good about Freemasonry or you, whom we all love and respect so well, would not adhere to it so tenaciously. I want to be a Freemason. Will you recommend me and present my petition to your Lodge?" Others of the gathering followed the first.
One of these, Jonas W Brown became the 3rd Grand Master of Idaho while another, John C Ainsworth, became the 3rd Grand Master of Oregon. We can only speculate on how many others may have been attracted to the Order or positively affected by Bro Shinn’s stand.
When I received the email containing this story, the covering message centered around the interaction between our order and the church. While I acknowledge that there is merit in this interpretation, I have shared the story with you because I wished to convey a different message.
To me, this story illustrates the type of commitment to our Order and its principles that we must have if we are to grow and prosper in the future. To attract new members, our conduct is going to be the key. Yes, of course we must have promotional events, we must support charity, we must hand out leaflets, we must talk about Freemasonry to our friends but, above all things, brethren, we must act Masonically.
We must, like Bro Shinn, earn the respect and admiration of those around us. We must practice the basic precepts of Truth, Morality and Brotherly Love. We must be prudent, temperate and discreet. We must strive to be an example to other men by our exemplary conduct. To me, Bro Shinn’s stand equates to our active efforts to promote our craft. It drew attention to the issues surrounding Freemasonry. But it was because of the respect and admiration that they had for Bro Shinn that good men were persuaded to join the Order. Similarly, brethren, unless we practice our Masonic principles in our daily lives, no amount of promotional efforts or charitable works will ensure our survival. Above all things, our Order becomes attractive to the world at large, when they see us live our lives in accordance with our Masonic teachings.
R Wor Bro Geoff Edwards
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