March of 2020 started as one would expect, with a regular Stated Communication on the first Thursday of the month on March 5th: minutes were approved, bills were paid, and our Lodge Education Officer, WB Jesse Williams, gave an interesting presentation, the second in a series of papers, on the topic of creating community. Just business as usual — but by the end of the month, nothing would be business as usual.
• Thursday, March 12th, was a Fellowship Night, and SW Erik Fairchild conducted a rehearsal of the First Degree in preparation for an Entered Apprentice Degree scheduled for March 19th.
• March 13th, MN Gov Tim Walz declared a state-wide peacetime emergency and issued Stay-At-Home orders to go into effect Mar 25th designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, giving Minnesota much-needed time to prepare hospital capacity, testing, and personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders.
• On Sunday, March 15th, the Grand Master of Minnesota Masons, MWB Ethan Seaberg, issued the first of several Edicts regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Initially, we could go ahead with Lodge meetings, but had to maintain 6-ft social distancing, and degree rituals were forbidden for now — so we continued with plans for our next Stated Communication slated for Thurs March 19th (without the EA Degree.)
• The successful series of “Murder Mystery” fundraisers organized by Treasurer WB David Allison, was not immune from the virus: the Bakken Museum, where we had scheduled five performances starting April 25th, notified us March 17th they were closing during the pandemic and cancelled all events, returning our deposits.
• On March 18th, in response to the increasing severity of the pandemic in Minnesota and our nation, MWB Seaberg cancelled all Lodge activities throughout the state thru April 3rd. (Remember when we thought this would blow over in a couple of weeks?) Our March 19th meeting was cancelled — as was the Grand Lodge Annual Communication set for April 3rd & 4th.
• Then came the fire of March 22nd. (see separate article)
• Starting April 2nd, we have been meeting “virtually” for Fellowship — using video conferencing platforms like WebEx and Zoom — to stay connected as a Fraternity and support one another during these difficult times.
• The March 18th Edict from Grand Lodge authorized the five elected Lodge officers (Worshipful Master, Sr & Jr Warden, Treasurer, and Secretary) to conduct the business of the Lodge in the interim while in-person meetings were suspended. We have had a number of Officers’ Meetings to pay the bills, act on requests for Brotherly Relief, and plan for re-opening.
• An Edict issued May 20th laid out a safe path for “A Return to In-Person Masonry.” We have tried since then to meet in-person, following all prescribed safety protocols: social distancing, limited attendance, no food, and no personal contact (handshakes or whispering the pass.) But many Braden members have medical conditions that make them high-risk, or live in households where others are in high-contact occupations, such as nurses and teachers, so they are minimizing risk by staying home. Two meetings were unable to garner a quorum.
• Then came May 25th, and the tragic death of George Floyd while in police custody that triggered numerous protests, which in turn led some to loot, vandalize, and burn buildings across the Metro. The violence affected the first-floor tenants of the Lodge building with broken windows and looting. The glass doorway of the North entrance to the upper floors (2nd floor Lounge, Kitchen, and Dining Hall, and 3rd floor Lodge room) was boarded over for two weeks and escaped damage.
• Several Brothers of Braden assisted other Brothers who live close to the center of the protest activities to move to safer places during the unrest, while others volunteered at emergency triage units at area churches, providing meals, water, and medical care to anyone injured during the protests.
• As the “second wave” of Covid-19 infections struck Minnesota this fall, we have returned to Zoom for Lodge activities, working with Grand Lodge to develop safe and secure procedures for voting and installation.
We do hope to return to in-person meetings at Lodge as soon as it is safe for us to do so. Be watching the website and Slack media for news of when we intend to resume in-person meetings.