Grand Lodge 2019: Brothers Increase Per Capita; Elect Bradshaw Grand Master Tending to the women behind the brothers


Grand Lodge 2019: Brothers Increase Per Capita; Elect Bradshaw Grand Master

By Beth Grace

Mason Editor

“We are keepers of the light!”

The roar of more than 1,100 voices could be heard outside the closed lodge doors and through the halls leading to the ballroom where the 232nd Annual Communication was in full swing.

“We are keepers of the light!”

Brotherly love was on full display as North Carolina Freemasons selected Right Worshipful P. Shaun Bradshaw as their new grand master, settled – for now – the ongoing debate over a per capita increase, welcomed a new Montfort Medal honoree, approved a budget, and spent a moment reflecting on the meaning of Masonic charity embodied in a new video.

Some 1,133 voters from 332 lodges – about 30 lodges more than last year -- reviewed a busy year and looked toward the future during the two-day event in a toasty Embassy Suites ballroom.

“I am touched and inspired by the confidence you have put in me,” Bradshaw said after the vote. “Without this organization, so many aspects of my life would be different.”

He was clearly moved when his son, Graham, strode to the stage to announce the results of the vote for Grand Master. Brothers had invited him as a surprise for his dad. The two shared a loving hug to resounding applause. Both Bradshaws are members of Stokesdale #428.

“I thought I was going to be able to hold it together,” he said in his acceptance speech, “but having my son announce the results changed that.”

The incoming grand master reflected on his own role as a father as he prepares for installation.

“When my son was born, I knew I needed help with the difficult task of being a good father. In 1997, my search ended in fruition when I asked about becoming a Mason.”

He told brothers that his plan for the year, focusing on how the rituals and symbols of Masonry hold the key to great universal truths -- is a natural follow to GM Sigmon’s program.

“Brethren, we are keepers of the light. Think about that for a second. We constantly talk about light in our lodges, The Light – the universal, spiritual truths – are there, in our rituals, in our symbols, just waiting for each of us to do the work necessary to suss them out, to discover and understand them at a deeper level.”

He announced a few changes to next year’s Lion & Pillar program, including establishing Masonic book clubs as an activity in the Education category. Other new items will focus on keeping in touch with Masonic widows, reaching out to initiates who failed to progress through the degrees, and participation in public events that will bring positive attention to the Craft.

Attendance was higher than usual this year, with more voters – and more visitors. Grand Master Dwight “Mack” Sigmon and Grand Line officers were joined by a large contingent of friends – Masonic representatives from 12 states and the District of Columbia; and representatives of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina, Masonic Service Association and from the North Carolina Scottish Rite, York Rite and Shrine.

“You’ve been awfully kind to me,” Sigmon said of his travels throughout the state during his term of office. “I have tried to represent the office to the best of my ability.”

He said he had promised to try to leave the office better than he found it even “my predecessors set an extremely high bar. But I never stopped trying.”

He says his main concern for Masonry as his term winds down is the improper use of social media by some members, reminding Masons to be above the fray in upcoming election seasons.

“I strongly encourage you to work hard to refrain from engaging in any of the rhetoric that we will be facing in the coming months and next year, the extreme negativity we experience every four years. You have a choice to play in that negative arena or be a Mason and raise yourself to a higher standard and ignore that opportunity,” he said.

Brothers also elected the following: R. David Wicker Jr., deputy grand master; Larry B. Thompson Jr., senior grand warden; and Kevan D. Frazier, junior grand warden. Brothers moving up in the Grand Line are: Donald E. Kehler, senior grand deacon; Robert W. Rideout, junior grand deacon; Steve M. Norris, grand marshal; and Gilbert D. Bailey, grand steward.

Grand Master-elect Bradshaw appointed Michael Allen Register of Pilot #493, as grand steward. Brother Register, 58, is a field services representative for the NC Department of Justice. He was raised in 1986 and is also a member of Lux Libertas #772 and Sophia #767.

He has twice served as a master, most lately at Pilot lodge from 2016-2017. He has served as a committee member on the Board of General Purposes, Board of Custodians and the Risk Management Committee, and currently is a trustee at Lux Libertas.

He recalled the moment Bradshaw asked him to join the Line.

“It was the longest hour of my life,” Register said.

Brother Register got a special surprise as his appointment was announced. His son, Christian, a brother at Pilot #493, came to sit with him.

In other action, the assembly decided four of five proposed amendments. The fifth, a proposal to administratively suspend the membership of a member who has been charged with a felony, was withdrawn by the proposing lodge.

A repeat proposal to increase the Grand Lodge per capita $5 to $25 per Mason was approved, while a substitute amendment proposing to increase the per capita $5 this year, in 2022 and in 2025 failed to gain the required two-thirds majority vote. See sidebar for a list of how each amendment fared.

Brothers also reviewed and adopted a new budget for 2020, which anticipates a spending deficit of $78,019 over income without any adjustment to the per capita.

A special honor was awarded during Annual Communication. Sigmon gave WB Hyler Wayne Cox of Atlantic #294 the medal, the highest honor bestowed in NC Masonry.

The assembly also was treated to a debut of a new video created by the North Carolina Masonic Foundation. The “Keep the Promise” video wascrated to honor the brothers who have given so much to support our two homes, and to ask them to keep the homes in their hearts and their giving plans, said Jeff Hensley, chief development officer of the foundation.

As the video, which featured WB Gene Lewellyn and MHCO graduate Devante Hicks, ended, Grand Master Sigmon took the stage and announced that in October, he will send a letter to every Mason reminding him of his charitable obligation.

“Regardless of age each of us are only a breath or two away from being that person Worshipful Brother Gene mentioned when an illness or unfortunate circumstance can put you in desperate situations. If that happens to me, I sure hope the Masons of this fraternity are there for me. We made a promise,” he said.

“We have hundreds if not thousands of more children to help. Most of us cannot truly imagine the difficult situations that some of these children face in their daily lives. Be proud to aid and assist in providing them a better tomorrow in order for them to become responsible adults, become parents, and leaders of their communities like Devante.

“We make a promise.”

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