Details about the Monett Masonic Lodge and background on the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons was provided by Kevin Sligar at this past week's meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club.
Sligar, district director of the Grand Lodge for the 44th District in Missouri, said local lodges are an outgrowth of the Missouri Grand Lodge, which organized on April 21, 1821. Masonic lodges in Missouri date back to 1807, when the first lodge was formed in Ste. Genevieve.
The Monett Lodge was chartered in 1889. The first Worshipful Master in Monett was John Lopp. Today the Monett Lodge has 142 members and has one of the youngest group of members in the state, many in their 30s and 40s.
As district director, Sligar has a large number of lodges under him. Local lodges are in Monett, Mt. Vernon, Pierce City, Wheaton and Shell Knob. The current Grand Lodge of Missouri is located in Columbia. Current membership in Missouri is 46,250 in 389 lodges. Harry Truman is a past grand master of Missouri and is often quoted in Masonic meetings.
Lodges are like fraternities, Sligar said. One must petition the Lodge for membership. There are secret rituals and training to earn degrees for advancement. Lodges have committees that oversee business and charitable efforts. Part of the mission of Masons is to care for widows and orphans of deceased members.
Charities supported by Masons include the Children's Miracle Network, Masonic Homes of Missouri in Kansas City and St. Louis, 22 Shriner's Hospitals for Children, Scottish Rite Language Disorders Centers and the York Eye Foundation.
Supporting these efforts are appendent bodies of the Masons. In the Monett area, these include the Scottish Rite in Joplin, the York Rite in Springfield, the Shriners in Springfield and the Order of the Eastern Star in Verona, which includes wives of Masons. There are a number of youth organizations as well, such as DeMolay, Job's Daughters and Rainbow Girls.
"Masonry consists of people from all walks of life who are all brothers, like a fraternity," Sligar said.
Activities concentrate on personal and professional development. As a social outlet, Masonry provides endless contacts, opportunities to improve leadership skills and mentoring.
Historic references to Masonry can be found as far back as King Solomon. The first modern reference is found in the Regius poem from 1390. Sligar said Masonry thrived in the Middle Ages. The first Masonic lodges in North America were established in the 1730s. The First Grand Lodge in the U.S. was the Grand Lodge of Virginia, chartered in 1778. Fourteen U.S. presidents and many of the Founding Fathers were Masons.
Originally, "masons" referred to the trade of stone masonry. As a professional guild in the Middle Ages, Masonry taught its members both professional and personal skills about strength and leading balanced lives. Sligar said in the 1700s, the emphasis changed from the professional specialty to making good men better.
Kiwanis President Lisa Balmas presided at the meeting. The Monett Kiwanis Club meets every Tuesday at the Happy House restaurant for a meal and a program.