The Rite Corner: "Sojourners"
Illustrious David L. Nielsen, 33°, S.G.I.G. in Montana
A word that we often hear in Masonry is "sojourners." It is a word we hear so frequently that we may think it is a Masonic word. It is not, but it is used for good reason. The official definition of sojourner is one who temporarily travels to another place. Snowbirds from Montana who go south for the winter are sojourners. They domicile (the permanent place they consider home) is Montana, as temporary residents of a southern state they are sojourners in that state. In Masonry we use the term to describe any brother who lives, whether permanently or temporarily, in a different Masonic jurisdiction from the one in which his home lodge is located. In our parlance a Sojourner describes a brother who no longer resides close to his home lodge or consistory.
The concern is that faithful brothers who move to another area that is distant from their lodges become separated from Masonry and for us, Scottish Rite. It is common to see brothers who were very highly Masonically involved in their lodge or valley for many years, move afar for love, money or retirement, away from their previous Masonic home. These sojourners may search out a new Masonic lodge or valley or, unfortunately, drop out. In the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite, there are approximately 20,000 sojourners. Sojourners comprise about 30% of the decline in Scottish Rite membership. We should be concerned, not because of lost dues money, but because we have lost a brother that has fallen off the Masonic grid. What is more unfortunate is that we lose contact and do not know when they are ill, suffering or even died, without us being able to extend our compassion, help or sympathy.
Is there no help for the widow's son? There are several things that we can all try to reach out to our members who are sojourners in a new location and those sojourners from other areas that have moved into our cities, counties and the State. Sometimes this individual responsibility is passed off as a job function of the Valley or Lodge Secretaries, but it is not. It is up to all of us to be alert when a brother is going to move to another locale or when we learn that a brother has just moved to our area. Scottish Rite is unique compared to blue lodges in that we have a network of contacts throughout the Southern Jurisdiction to alert another Valley or Orient that one of our brothers will be relocating to that Orient. With a simple contact from us to the Valley's Secretary or Personal Representative, or the SGIG or Deputy of the Orient, the departing brother can be met by a Masonic Welcome Wagon committee in his new community. The Valley Secretary can assist in making the contact.
Likewise, when we learn of a sojourner moving to our Orient and one of the six Valleys, we can search him out and prepare our own version of a Montana Masonic Welcome Wagon. Too often we expect the sojourner to search us out, but that is not fair to the sojourner to bear all the responsibility. As Masons, and especially Scottish Rite Masons, we should be the first to extend the hand of brotherly love and friendship. I am proud to say that I have seen this type of warm greeting and welcome extended by our Montana brethren to arriving sojourners. Keep up the good work and let us all be inspired to care for our brothers-those leaving us to make sure they are attended to in their new home and the sojourners coming to our Orient and Valleys.
If anyone knows of a Scottish Rite sojourner, whether involved in local Valley or not, please invite him to join with us in the virtual Orient Reunion we will be hosting on November 7 (4th-18th degrees) and December 5 (19th -32nd degrees). Both sessions will start at 9:00 a.m. Electronic invitations will be sent out with registration to gain admission. Let the Valley know if you need a registration invitation sent to the sojourner and we will make that happen.
Please watch for your registration invitation for the Orient Reunion and let the Valley or me know if you do not receive it.
Please stay safe.