GRAND ORATOR SPEECH
Good afternoon. In due and ancient Masonic form, the officers of the Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Nebraska have assembled here today to celebrate the rededication of Mizpah Lodge #302 AF & AM on the occasion of its Centennial. From our earliest known history, Masons have performed this time-honored ceremony to dedicate Lodges, public buildings, and memorials.
In ancient times, buildings were “plumbed”, “squared”, and “leveled” by stonemasons. Their cornerstones were the starting points for all buildings, and if not done perfectly, the quality of the entire structure would steadily diminish throughout the course of its life span. Since a cornerstone is perfectly hewn, it is symbolic of the quality of fellowship this facility will produce throughout its continuing life span. The officers of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska have now symbolically examined this building and ensured it is plumbed, squared, and leveled to carry on a tradition of civic pride and learning that permeates the history of Mizpah Lodge.
Having been instituted on November 12, 1918, Mizpah Lodge #302 petitioned the Grand Master of Masons in Nebraska and was granted a Charter on June 4, 1919. The Master of the newly chartered Lodge was W.B. Arthur C. Pancoast and the meetings of the Lodge were held in The “New” Masonic Temple located at 19th & Douglas. Mizpah Lodge #302 shared that building with seven other Blue Lodges, Tangier Shrine, several Eastern Star Chapters, the York Rite and a number of Masonic Youth bodies.
A review of the early minutes of Mizpah Lodge #302 indicates that they were a very busy Lodge often performing degree work 2-3 evenings per week.
In the 1970’s, the Omaha downtown area began to decay due to the exodus of business and residents “to the west”. Tangier Shrine relocated to a building near 84th & Center Streets and the other Masonic bodies in the, now-not-so-new, Masonic Temple building soon followed suit.
Mizpah Lodge #302 relocated to its current location at 1124 S. 48th Street in 1975. The Lodge renovated the building, which had been a neighborhood grocery store, and MW Brother Harold Hultman on August 30th 1975 laid the cornerstone for this structure. In spite of extensive termite damage during the early years of the 21st century, the Lodge has made improvements including new Lodge Room carpeting, a new roof, heating and air conditioning replacement, new lighting and ceiling tiles in the entryway and dining room.
Mizpah Lodge #302 has produced one Grand Master. Most Worshipful Brother John F. Futcher, who served as Worshipful Master of Mizpah #302 in 1953, was installed as the 95th Grand Master of the Grand Lodge Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Nebraska and served during the year 1960. The esteem with which MWB Futcher was held by his brethren in Mizpah can be evidenced by this quote from the June 1960 edition of the “Mizpah Bulletin”: “We proudly announce that, by the time this bulletin reaches you, our own John F. Futcher will be formally installed as the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Nebraska, the highest honor to be awarded by his friends in Masonry. Being keenly aware of his loyalty to all associates in Mizpah, he will always remain our good friend “John”. A shadow box of Futcher memorabilia hangs in the Lodge Room and the hat he wore as Grand Master is on display in the entryway of this Lodge building. At the time of the cornerstone ceremony, the building was dedicated to MWB Futcher.
After 100 years, Mizpah Lodge #302 is still an active, vibrant Lodge which remains committed to not only the Fraternity but also to the greater good of the community around it. Mizpah’s bylaws mandate that a minimum amount of the yearly budget be spent on Community Care & Outreach. Mizpah Lodge, over the years, has supported the Plattsmouth Masonic Home, the Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children in Fremont, the Omaha Home for Boys, and multiple Masonic Service Association Relief projects. Each year, Mizpah purchases holiday meals for the Fire Station up the street. The brethren of Mizpah have also provided Community Care and Outreach in the form of a roof replacement for a family whose chief breadwinner became disabled. Last year, Mizpah paid 100% of the purchase and fitting of a specialized hearing aid for a young girl who had fallen into a Social Services system gap.
We assemble this afternoon to mark not only a dedication, but also a renewal—a renewal of Mizpah Lodge’s commitment to secure the future of its Masonic heritage in Omaha Nebraska. On this day we rededicate a building whose spirit and legacy is already hallowed by the noble efforts of previous generations. You are strengthening the chain of your history that connects those who originally envisioned the creation of this Lodge with those who seek to ensure its integrity through the horizon of future periods. Remember that you are henceforth the custodians not only of this magnificent facility itself, but of the future integrity of the foundations of Masonry in this community.
In closing, like our Brother George Washington, the Grand Lodge of Nebraska is proud to use the familiar working tools of ancient stonemasons to redidicate this grand edifice. We are humbled to perform our time-honored ceremony observing the rededication of Mizpah Lodge #302 AF & AM. We extend to you, and all who enter its doors, the best of wishes in the years to come.
Michael W. Stuhr
Grand Orator, Grand Lodge of Nebraska