A Phoenix Rises

A Phoenix Rises
By EC Ray Hayward
On Friday, October 9th, 2009, Minnesota Masonic history was made. The Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of the Grand Chapter of Minnesota, Douglas Nygard and many of his officers came to Hastings to install the officers of Vermillion Chapter # 2. What is so historic about that? Vermillion Chapter turned in its charter and ceased to exist nearly thirty years ago, back in 1981.


Vermillion # 2 played an important part in the forming of our Grand Chapter and establishing Royal Arch Masonry in our state. For years Vermillion was an active chapter with hundreds of members and produced two Grand High Priests. But, like many Masonic bodies, the older members looked around one day and noticed no new members came to take the reins and responsibilities. No one came to relieve the valiant companions who preserved the rituals, traditions, and history. No one came to take up the financial burdens and daily running of their beloved chapter. No one came.


The day arrived when the companions had to make the saddest decision of their Royal Arch life, to turn in their charter and cease to be Vermillion # 2. This was a sad day indeed. No one wanted to be the generation to lay down the working tools of over one hundred and twenty years of working the Royal Arch Craft. No one wanted to be the one to quit. But it had to be done. The companions voted to give life-memberships to the remaining companions, and then turn in their charter. And yet, in the last few decades, this has happened to many Masons in various bodies around the state. This is becoming normal, the status quo, and the common-place ending of so many quarries of laborers.


Now we come to a great a divergence, where the inevitable was changed, and the power and resolve of a few changed the course of despair and hopelessness. Starting as an idea, growing to become a dream, one man began the process that led to retrieving the charter of Vermillion # 2. Spear-headed by Companion Sean Gardiner, who comes from a family of active and distinguished Masons, and with the support and encouragement from his brothers at Dakota Lodge # 7 and his companions at Minnesota Chapter # 1, a dream became reality.


There are times and circumstances in our lives when things just feel right and all the pieces seem to fall perfectly in place. After many conversations and e-mails, Vermillion Chapter was granted their charter back to be worked under dispensation while the paperwork was completed. A dedicated and mostly experienced corps of companions agreed to sign the paper work and serve as officers. Many older companions came to help, aid, and assist, in many ways. The companions of Minnesota # 1, while cleaning out their storage cage, actually found a complete set of officer’s jewels, bearing the engraving of Vermillion # 2. The companions unanimously agreed to return those jewels to #2, which were used to invest the officers at the installation. Ralph Pendergast, a Past-High Priest of Jewel Chapter and a long-time member of Minnesota #1, donated his Order of High Priesthood bible to be Vermillion’s altar bible.


Over fifty people came to witness the open installation of officers. The Grand High Priest served as the installing officer while the Grand Capt. of the Host, Allan F. Kauppi served as installing marshal, and the Grand Secretary, Dexter Pehle served as installing secretary. One of the dramatic highlights of the evening was when the old sign-in book was brought out. There was one blank page left. The preceding page was from the last night of the old Vermillion, where comments were written as to how sad the companions were to be holding their last meeting before surrendering their charter. The officers and guests were overjoyed and moved to sign their names on the last page on this auspicious day and embark on the journey of the second life of Vermillion Chapter # 2.


To this date, no chapter charters in Minnesota have ever been re-instated. The High Priest and his officers are dedicated Masons who saw this through from its early inklings to its full fledged reality. Truly, Royal Arch Masonic history was made that night and I am proud to say, I was part of it.