Early “Organizational” Life

My father was not a “joiner”, aside from those business associations which were necessary. That he did not engage with groups may have had to do with an event in his life, which I only heard about once or twice, but which I knew was a source of hurt. He had applied for admission to the local Masonic Lodge, and had been rejected … they called it, “black-balled”! (That name, in and of itself” is rooted in negative assumptions of “blackness”!) He was sure that some business jealousy was the cause of his rejection, but he was deeply hurt. He told me about that rejection when I became active in the DeMolay, often seen as a youth “branch” of the Masons. I became very active in the DeMolay, and served for several terms as Chaplain, and was given the highest award of the Order, the Chevalier Degree. Father was pleased, and I think saw my success as a vindication of his name.

Another incident in the DeMolay Chapter contributed to my eventual withdrawal from the Masons, and rejection of all secret and secretive institutions. In High School I befriended a boy in the neighborhood who had a reputation as “bad”. I submitted his name for membership in the Chapter, confident that membership would be good for him and the group. That same secret system which had denied membership to father, worked against Don, as members moved forward, each putting his hand into a box where a “black-ball” could be dropped without anyone knowing who had dropped it. At the time, though disappointed, I had no idea how significant that action was in forming my views against secrecy. Often too, I have reflected on the paternalistic feelings I had for Don, sure that I could help him! Another attitude to be “un-learned”.

As a young boy and teenager I also became active in the church, a in the children’s choir, and then as President of the youth organization. I became a church member while in High School; as a part of the service, I was baptized by what was called a “sprinkling”, a traditional Congregational way of avoiding the larger pool! As a part of the service, each of the new members was given a Bible. The minister, Rev. George Cary, read for each of those being inducted a Biblical verse, which was meant to have significance individually. The verse chosen for me was the magnificent word of Micah: “..what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” That verse has always had great meaning for me, and I hope at the end of my days, to have given actual substance to it in my life. One of the toughest parts of that verse is the bit about walking “humbly”. The presumption of even writing this story is rooted in what I hope is justifiable immodesty.

As President of the youth group, The Pilgrim Fellowship, I began to hone some organizational skills and interests, constantly engaging in organizing social events, meetings, lectures, etc. A number of people foresaw me as a minister, and this was confirmed when, after the 1938 hurricane, aged fourteen, I read during the Sunday service, an essay assuring all that our magnificent steeple had been saved by an act of Providence. !!!

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