Expanding Your Circle
by Craig W. Shaffer, District Deputy Grand Master, 5th Masonic District
June 19, 2019, marked my 29th year as a Pennsylvania Freemason. On June 19, 1990, I found myself traveling to Skerrett Lodge No. 343 to be initiated into the mysteries of Freemasonry. As I approached Cochranville, the rain stopped, and the sunbeams broke through the clouds – a sign from my father, Brother William E. Shaffer – a message from above. I was apprehensive, but now I felt calm.
That day, I began my Masonic journey. What an interesting journey it has been. On St. John’s Day, 1990, I was asked to “take a chair.”
“Take it where?” I asked myself, not knowing the meaning of the phrase or the expectations associated with the request. I accepted.
I was a young husband of three years, a father of a one-year-old and a nursing student working a weekend schedule, all to improve myself to better provide for my young family. With that busy schedule, I unfortunately had to drop out of the line, giving the chair back and not attending my lodge functions.
2002 presented me with new challenges. Down and out due to a divorce and moping about with no real sense of direction, I returned to Skerrett Lodge. This was the turning point in my life, that plan the Great Architect of the Universe has laid out for me. I made a commitment to myself to become Worshipful Master of my lodge by my 50th birthday. I told this to the lodge officers, and began the next level of my journey.
Assisted by my mentor, who I met with weekly after work, I learned the Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft degrees. It took another year of ‘mouth to ear’ with him and the Master Mason degree was completed. I was certified the night before I was to be installed as Worshipful Master of Skerrett Lodge in 2008.
In the Valley of Reading, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, I met many more brethren and expanded my horizons. I thank my mother, Ruth A. Shaffer, for ‘The more you go, the more you know,’ a quote I live by daily.
In 2015, I received my 25-year Masonic Service emblem from Brother Scott J. Helm, P.M. (I was Brother Scott’s first line signer and mentor), was nominated to receive my 33° from the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and was asked to serve as the District Deputy Grand Master of the Fifth Masonic District. Talk about a whirlwind year!
The last three years have proven to expand my “circle.” I have met more brethren from around the state and improved my leadership skills. I mentored Brother Michael F. Bailey, Christiana Lodge No. 417, and presented him with his Master Builder Award earlier this year. Another memorable moment was when, as D.D.G.M., I presented Brother William H. Tennant, Jr., P.M. with his 50-year Masonic Service emblem. It was truly an honor to make that presentation to my mentor.
We all stand at one time in our Masonic journey: a point within the circle. To me, it began driving down the “Buck,” meeting my newfound brethren in Skerrett Lodge. This is where I began to learn the lessons taught in Freemasonry through various Past Master and mentors. That circle became larger as I traveled about the Fifth Masonic District, increased in the Valley of Reading and larger still as a District Deputy Grand Master.
To everyone reading this, remember, “the more you go, the more you know.” Find the true meaning of Freemasonry by learning the ritual to provide you with a greater understanding of the lessons taught through the allegories, remembering “The further you trace it, the easier it will become.” Also, look at your own self-awareness, into your heart, and find the meaning of Faith, Hope and Charity and your “circle” will expand beyond belief. Be a mentor, be a brother and most of all, be your true self.
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