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Celebrating Fraternity Across the Globe

In June, Grand Master Heisner and his wife, Margo, gathered brothers from throughout California for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation: They celebrated the history of Freemasonry in the place where it all began! Read this first-hand account of the adventure by Grand Master Heisner, and see photos of the 300th anniversary banquet in the slideshow above.

“It was the trip of a lifetime!” one traveler said, describing the recently concluded journey that Margo, our fellow travelers, and I enjoyed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and England.

More than 170 California Masons and their families immersed themselves in the lifestyles of each country and the rich history of Freemasonry. We touched the soul of a very special past and returned with a better understanding about our present, as well as the foundation upon which our future may be erected. But – lest anyone think for a minute that this was a dull exploration of history – each day was a new adventure; a journey that melded the present-day life and times of the places we visited with the Masonic presence that has been there for well over 300 years.

Ireland – that great land of people dedicated to the pursuit of happiness, freedom and Guinness – ever so cautiously revealed its fierce grasp of human freedom. We learned that the independence Irish citizens fought and died for in the early 20th century was attained by a great sacrifice that included high-ranking members of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. We visited the Grand Lodge of Ireland, walked the cathedrals in Galway, and saw for ourselves etchings left behind by the Masons who lived there long ago. We toured Trinity College, situated within the modern city of Dublin, which educated our ancestors for well over 250 years. Today, it is one of the oldest and best universities in the world, and perhaps equally famous for its scene in the famous Harry Potter movies.

We traveled by ferry to Scotland, where everyone stood in awe of Rosslyn Chapel – a mysterious edifice erected by William Sinclair. Many consider Sinclair to be the “last Templar” of Jacques DeMolay’s famed Knights Templars (but please don’t mention that to Robert Cooper, the curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, whose book, “The Rosslyn Hoax,” seeks to end all speculation about the connection of the Knights Templars to modern Freemasonry). The great city of Edinburgh is rich with a storybook-like architecture. The very place where J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter novel conceals a history that includes a castle; Robert the Bruce, King of Scots; and Freemasonry. It is here that the operative Masons who built Kilwinning Abbey formed Kilwinning Lodge, the mother lodge of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. I climbed its winding staircase and my eyes widened when I spotted the markings left in the stone that were no doubt left by Masons there at least 300 years ago.

In England, we visit Freemasons Hall in London, home of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the mother grand lodge of the world. Today, every regular grand lodge in the world pays respect to the UGLE. Its hall offers 25 separate lodge rooms for Masonic use. It also serves as the home of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London – one of several provincial grand lodges within the UGLE system. Right Worshipful Stephen Fenton welcomed me and 90 other California Masons for a special St. John’s Day Feast celebrating the 300th anniversary of our craft. While he teasingly rued America’s independence, we joined beneath the portrait of Bro. Sir Winston Churchill in acknowledging our past, understanding that freedom is the gift to our present and agreeing that quality exceeds any consideration about the quantity of our membership. It was a meaningful reminder that one good man made better by Freemasonry – such as demonstrated by Sir Winston – can change the world for the better.

This truly was the journey of a lifetime. New friendships were formed; relationships among Masonic jurisdictions were enhanced; and everyone returned with happy memories and a deeper understanding of our Masonic and global societies.

- By John R. Heisner, Grand Master

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