While it is common knowledge the Stated Communications was cancelled last month due to concerns over the COVID-19 virus, all Lodge functions and gatherings have been put on hold until the 10th of June.
I received an update from Right Worshipful Jim Newcomer that Brother Earl Covey, one of our very senior and honored members, was not doing well physically and also may be beginning to show signs of Dementia, I ask that all of us please keep him in our prayers.
The Grand Master issued further guidance in a letter to the lodge’s leadership dated April 10th. I have pasted his letter in the entirety as I think there is more information to be shared.
As I write this update, you likely have more questions than I do answers. Thinking about what Virginia Freemasonry will look like on the other side of the COVID19 crisis certainly occupies my thoughts, as I hunker down with Frances here in Glen Allen, Virginia. I have many questions too, as I weigh different scenarios that could come to bear, and as I consider those decisions that might have to be made. I am hoping in the next four to six weeks—after we hopefully pass through the worst of the crisis— we will have a better picture of the path forward. We can then begin to put plans in place and transition from complete shut down to what will likely be a new normal. In the meantime, discussions among your Grand Line Officers and other well-informed Brethren are ongoing, but mostly for now, “we have to await a time with patience.” As the answers and decisions come, we will absolutely remain in contact with you. Know this, Frances and I think about you and your families daily, and we cannot wait to get back out there with you.
The following will serve as an update to previous messages from me, particularly the one dated March 16, 2020. Unless otherwise stated here, all previous directions and instructions remain in effect.
The suspension of all stated and called communications will now extend to June 10, 2020, in order to comply with Executive Order No. 55 issued by Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam. As was previously the case, I set aside Section 2.09 of the Methodical Digest, no further paperwork or dispensation is required. This suspension continues to apply to all building rentals, Youth organizations, and any other appendant bodies, which meet in any Masonic Lodge building holden under the Grand Lodge of Virginia. A clear rental exception would be, for example, if your Lodge leases space to the United States Postal Service or some other commercial enterprise not impacted by Executive Order No. 55. If in doubt, please direct any questions to your District Deputy Grand Master.
All District Official Visits by the Grand Master are now suspended until June 10, 2020. The Official Visits scheduled for April have now been rescheduled and options are being considered for those visits scheduled for May and the first part of June. Dates will be published when we feel the calendar has stabilized, an amusing but nonetheless hopeful thought at the moment.
With respect to the communication you received from the Grand Lecturer dated March 13, 2020, the suspension of all area schools has now been extended to June 15, 2020. Many of you have asked about alternatives for ritual instruction as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis. The Grand Lecturer is in consultation with the Committee on Work, and myself, to see what, if anything, can be done to provide a platform for continued ritual instruction. He has also reached out to his counterparts within the Northeast Conference of Grand Masters to see what adjustments, if any, have been made within their respective jurisdictions.
The deadline for submitting District Deputy Grand Master nominations for the year 2022 has now been extended to September 1, 2020. (Executive Order No. 1)
There is no way to know now exactly where things will be beyond June 10, 2020. It is, however, safe to assume that your Lodge may be unable to satisfy the Proclamations for the Youth organizations and St. John the Baptist requirements. Under the circumstances, with this, and all matters, I only ask that you do the best you can, if you cannot get it done, it will be forgiven.
Given the considerable logistics and coordination involved—not to mention uncertainty as to when normal travel can resume—any realistic hope of rescheduling the four cancelled Division Leadership Conferences—Abingdon, Roanoke, Warrenton and Alexandria—has now, most regrettably, vanished. We—myself and your elected and appointed Grand Line Officers—are deeply disappointed by this and so many other developments. As an alternative, we are working with the Grand Provost to see how we can get the message out there, possibly an informative video.
To this end, any and all unsatisfied Hillman Award requirements—linked directly to the COVID-19 crisis—will be forgiven.
I applaud Lodges for using Skype, Zoom, and other voice and/or video conferencing mediums to stay in touch and conduct welfare checks. You are reminded; however, all Lodge business must be conducted in a tiled Master Mason’s Lodge. (Section 2.02, 2.03, Methodical Digest)
Your response to the Grand Master’s appeal letter for the Grand Lodge of Virginia Masonic Relief Fund has been generous, thank you so much. Please be sensitive to those Brethren who may need some help—now is not the time for silence.
Remember, there is no roadmap for what we are going through. When decisions need to be made, common sense should rule the day. Be patient with us as we work to get information to you, and be patient with those around you in these challenging times. There is more than enough stress to go around. As the Jimmy Buffett song says, “Breath In, Breath Out, And Move On.”
Finally, thank you for doing what Masons do best, being there for one another and the community. Thank you for the phone calls and e-mails offering me words of encouragement at a time when I have to guard daily against becoming discouraged. It means more than you will ever know, and I will always do my best to be there for you. Being a Master Mason is a condition of the heart—a good heart, one filled with love and generosity—in these tough times, you make it so every day.
As we pass through this season of Easter and Passover let’s be reminded of the One who is really in control—and while it might not seem so clear at the moment—we can be assured it is not COVID-19.
Stay safe and be well.
Sincerely and fraternally,
Douglas V. Jones Grand Master
An administrative note on upcoming events:
As of this point, unless otherwise directed by Grand Lodge, I am still looking to hold the Stated Communications on our regularly scheduled day and time, Monday June 15th at 7:30 p.m. (1930 for those of us still in a military mindset). Any changes to this will be forwarded to everyone at the soonest possible time.
In the meantime, for those of us that are tasked with speaking roles in the lodge, I urge you to practice your parts, to include your obligation, as often as you are able as all things can become “rusty” if not used from time to time. Follow the old military habit of knowing the job of the person at least two levels above you to improve your proficiency.
And lastly, but most certainly not least, Due to the COVID-19 emergency, this month’s issue of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial’s newsletter, LIGHT, is being distributed electronically. This issue contains news about the opening of new exhibits for the Scottish Rite and Shriners as well as the continuing restoration of the Memorial.
Sincerely and Fraternally,