Respectively submitted to the Brethren of the Grand Lodge of South Dakota:
Traditionally this report includes a list of events and meetings I was able to attend during my year. Unfortunately, as you would probably expect, that is a fairly short list. I was able to attend a few Longevity awards, a Daughters of the Nile banquet, the All-Orient Reunion of the Scottish Rite and most of Resurgam #31 regular Lodge meetings. I was honored to represent the Grand Lodge of South Dakota in the virtual version of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. In addition to attending the COGMNA, our Jurisdiction hosted the Midwest Conference of Grand Lodges via Zoom and I can honestly say it went very well. It was nice to finally touch base with all the Jurisdictions in the Conference.
I believe that this report should include my overall opinion of the state of Masonry in South Dakota. While some Lodges are doing well, there are many Lodges that are struggling and that is disheartening. The pandemic has negatively affected our Craft on many levels. I worry about how hard it may be to get some of our Lodges back up and going. Some have not met now for over a year and, don’t get me wrong, I place no blame on them. But what will it take to get Lodges and Masons reengaged?
I have said this before, but I think it bears repeating. Sometimes as a Lodge, we get so focused on what we are doing that we forget about Masonry in South Dakota as a whole. Each Lodge in our State has its own personality and goals which is great! I do believe “Masonry is Local” and that each Lodge needs to focus on what is important to them in their community, as well as supporting the programs of the Grand Master. But I also believe it is important to support our neighboring Lodges. Historically Masons regularly travelled to other Lodges, which is essential. Not only does it show support for that Lodge, it also gives that travelling Mason insight on what is important and driving Masonry in that community. If you have ever attended an Annual Communication and wondered why certain pieces of legislation are being proposed “because it has absolutely nothing to do with you or your Lodge,” remember it does mean something to other Masons and Lodges in South Dakota and it is important to listen closely to each side of the debate and ultimately use good Masonic judgement. We are all Brothers, we do not always need to agree, but we do need to meet on the Level and part upon the Square. The balance of Masonry in South Dakota is dependent upon it.
The days of being just a Shriner, just a York Rite or Scottish Rite Mason or just an Eastern Star member are in the distant past. As Masons we need to support our Blue Lodges, without them there are no concordant bodies of Masonry. We should be teaching Masons at the Blue Lodge level and giving them a strong foundation on which to build their Masonic career. Now is the time to get back to Lodge and start building what we want Masonry in this Jurisdiction to be for years to come. I truly believe your home Lodges will receive you with open arms. If you haven’t attended in a while, your Brothers will be there to support you. We have also done some work on getting the Rusty Nail Degree back up and running. We want everyone to feel comfortable and have a desire to get back to Lodge. We need to realize what we do as Masons is important both personally and publicly.
Although my year did not go as planned, we did get a lot of behind the scenes projects up and going. RWB Burma, Gwen, Sharon and the Elected Line Officers have worked hard to get our Grand Lodge office running more efficiently. It is our hope that the office will be there to assist our Lodges as much as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out because we are here to work with you and your Lodge.
Full audits were done for both the Grand Lodge and South Dakota Masonic Charities (SDMC) which will give us a fresh starting point to work from. I am happy to report your Elected Line Officers, Trustees and SDMC Board have been working closely together to get both some short-term and long-term plans in place. We currently have some key Brothers working hard to ensure the funds of the Grand Lodge and SDMC are seeing their full potential.
With a ton of work by RWB VanCuren, we began the rollout of the South Dakota Blood Program. I truly hope this program gains some traction and turns out being something we can be proud of as a Fraternity. There is a need for blood donations, and we can easily get involved and make a positive impact on our State with very little cost. We only need Masons and Lodges to get behind it and promote its immeasurable benefits.
I want to thank RWB VanCuren, RWB Nace, RWB Zahn and RWB Burma for all their support and advice this year! We built a solid team and worked earnestly for Masons and Masonry in South Dakota. I look forward to working with each of you in the years to come. I would also like to mention MWB Denny Robinson. He has had the biggest impact on me as a Grand Master and without his guidance and counsel I shudder to think how the last three years would have gone. It has been an honor to serve as Grand Master and something I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you ALL for your hard work and support over the last year. I have had the opportunity to meet some truly incredible Brothers over the course of my Masonic career and look forward to making more connections in the years to come. My Brethren, as always, continue to search out Light, be the Light and shine your light as Masons.
Jason D. Swindler
Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of South Dakota