Ephrata Lodge No. 665 opened a lodge of Master Masons in due form at 7 pm on June 24th, 2017, St. John the Baptist Day at Indian Echo Caverns, located at Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, one mile west of Hershey, with about 60 brethren in attendance to confer a Master Mason’s degree upon Brother Donald Eugene Reisinger in celebration of Freemasonry’s 300th anniversary.
Normally the Cave, which is privately owned, closes daily at 5 pm, so we had it to ourselves that evening. Prior to the meeting, the caterer, Buddy’s Log Cabin of Pine Grove delivered delicious broasted chicken and baked sausage, accompanied by an assortment of sides and topped off with a blueberry cobbler made by the Master’s wife, (owner of Yellowroses Bakery.) With our hunger satisfied we adjourned to the cave where, assisted by three sentinels, the Master, Jason Martin, opened a lodge of Master Masons in ancient form, delivered the opening charge, and performed the flag ceremony. Once opened, Brother Martin conferred the third degree and incorporated a beautiful Masonic Bible presentation at the end of the degree.
The location of the lodge was situated at the entrance to the cave and directly in front of the Swatara Creek. The shade provided by the trees along the creek bed and 75 feet above made it comfortable for all, and the peaceful breeze rustling through the leaves gave the whole occasion closeness to nature that never happens in an enclosed lodge room. Crickets were chirping, birds of all kinds were sending their call signs, toads and bullfrogs croaking, water flowing along the bank of the creek, and an occasional airplane in the distance provided a truly unique ambiance for all present. Our newly raised brother remarked that it was amazing to stare at the stars and be immersed in the sounds of nature.
As the degree concluded, we were graced by a beautiful sunset and as darkness fell, tiki torches set around the perimeter and as the three lesser lights, provided a special setting to the conclusion of the evening.
The officers of Ephrata Lodge clearly had prepared to do their best for the degree, and they did not disappoint. As brethren departed, the pleasure was palpable, and many commented their desire to visit again the next time a degree would be held at the cave. In fact, Ephrata Lodge plans to rotate degrees each time the event is held in order to mix it up for the attending brethren.
In addition to the regular members of Ephrata Lodge, there were visitors from lodges in New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and from many Districts in Pennsylvania – coming from as far away as Pittsburgh.
Ephrata Lodge is already looking at holding the event during September in the years to come when the First Masonic District does not hold the Lodge in the Woods event. This means that next year another Cave Degree will be held. Therefore 2017 was the exception and truly a special year, because it is had both the 300th anniversary of Freemasonry with the Cave Degree in June and a Lodge in the Woods in September. Beginning next year 2018, the Degree at the Caves will become a biennial event for Ephrata Lodge No. 665. Having it in September will also provide better scheduling for brethren that have a conflict with a Grand Lodge quarterly communication. Cooler weather in September also offers us to take advantage of the fire pit and add to the experience while outdoors.
The manager at the caves informed us that approximately 16 brethren enjoyed taking tours of the caves prior to the meeting and although more could have enjoyed the tour, it provided an excellent way to walk off dinner and enjoy an inner beauty of the earth prior to the meeting. All the brethren who enjoyed the tour commented that there were several masonic writings on the walls, something the manager was unaware of and plans to research more of and report back to Ephrata Lodge with her findings.
The event went as smoothly as could be expected, with no serious problems. In addition to the catered food being delicious, the pavilion for the dinner was well arranged for all to come and go during the meal time. The adjoining conference room next to the pavilion worked great as a changing area for officers, and the pathway to the caves worked great for the Tyler to setup a table and have brethren sign the register, prior to the picturesque walk down to the cave. The double door entrance to the cave worked perfectly for the candidate as the preparing room, in addition to the Tyler for his station at the outer door. The area outside the cave where the degree was held worked flawlessly as there was plenty of room to setup an 8×16 square for the officers and still have room for carpeted pathways for the candidate to walk upon during the degree. The area was spacious enough to comfortably seat 100, if needed. The tiki torches looked amazing for additional lighting. The three sentinels stationed around the area had no issues and were able to enjoy the meeting at their posts as well. At the end of the meeting most brethren helped return lodge items back to our vehicles thereby making clean up a swift process. Parking was plentiful and convenient.
Indian Echo Caverns has already informed us that many other masonic affiliations have indicated a desire to hold similar events at their venue.
For anyone who missed the 2017 Cave Degree, next year an Entered Apprentice degree is scheduled on September 15, 2018 and after that will not be held again until September 2020. Make it a point to enjoy something that is truly unique.
Jason A. Martin, Worshipful Master
Ephrata Lodge No. 665