The Right Reverend Robert W. McKewin, D.D., 32
An Episcopal minister gives his reasons for continuing
his longtime Masonic affiliations.
When I was a little boy in St. Paul Minnesota, I went to church with my father and mother. They left me in the Sunday School while they went to the regular service at St. Paulís on the Hill Church. When Sunday School ended, my parents were still in the nave worshiping God. I was led to them and shared the rest of the time of adoration with them. I saw my parents on their knees before the living presence of God. This didnít impress me. I simply believed this was the normal way of life for all of Godís children.
As I grew, I became a member of the junior choir and an acolyte serving the priest at the altar. At the age of 11, I studied the Catechism, memorized it, and said that I believed it. What I said was true, though since then I have learned deeper meanings to the words of my boyhood faith. My attendance at church was regular, and I served as a Sunday School teacher, leader of an evangelism group, and as a senior choir member.
Brother Bob McKewin, 32, standing at the door of his present Lodge, Henry Thomas No. 278, Smithwick, Texas.
When I knelt at the altar, serving God, and when I stood in the choir, singing His praises, I had an inner knowledge that God was very close to me and that He loved me. Though that feeling has risen to glorious heights and ebbed to a near desert hunger and thirst, I know that God has never left me.
As a boy, I experienced the sight of my father dressed in a Knights Templar uniform. He left for meetings once a month wearing that uniform. It had a black hat with a white plume, and he had a beautiful sword buckled at the waist. My dad seemed to be especially glad to be wearing that uniform and going to that meeting.
When I was a little older, I learned that dadís Knights Templar work was a part of Masonry. He told me he was a member of the Blue Lodge as well as the Templars. Dad was a Past Master of the Blue Lodge, and one year he was Commander of the Knights Templar Commandery. In addition, dad and mother were members of the Eastern Star, and mother was a member of a womenís group, made up of the wives of the Knights, called the Beauceants.
I noticed that many fine men and women I knew at church were also Masons and/or Eastern Stars. I came to see that those associated with Masonry were people who were trying to live civilized lives and be of help to neighbors in need.
My brother became a member of a teen group associated with the Masons, the DeMolay. I didnít follow him into that group, nor did I follow him into the Masonic Lodge when he joined the Masons. My brother was a Christian, an honorable man who served our country as an Air Force officer for 20 years during and after World War II. He died of cancer more than 20 years ago. I helped officiate at his funeral. Brother Masons were there to honor him and to support us, his family. I was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota in 1960. While studying for orders, I noted that several clergy I knew and respected were Masons, notably the Rev. Richard Keene Smith, who has been an inspiration to me for more than 40 years, and the Rt. Rev. Philip McNairy who was, at that time, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Minnesota. Bishop McNairy was a York Rite Mason and a member of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.
Thus I recognized my father and brother as honorable and intelligent men, and two of my fellow clergymen as dedicated builders of the Christian community. They were men I wished to emulate. Not one of these Christian men would have been such a fool as to submit to unreasonable demands by a fraternity. They would each have seen through any clandestine teaching that would oppose their personal beliefs.
I decided I had time to study and the desire to learn more of Masonry. I applied to become an Entered Apprentice in White Bear Lake Lodge No. 166, in Garnet, Minnesota, where I was a resident. I was accepted by my future Brothers at their next meeting and was assigned an instructor, a state trooper who was a member of the local Lodge. Hours of study helped me achieve enough of the answers to the First Degree interrogation for me to be passed to the Second Degree.
Before becoming a First Degree Mason, I was assured that I would not be asked to promise anything that was contrary to my own personal faith. I found that to be true when making my first Masonic promises as an Entered Apprentice. It was equally true when I made my promises as a Fellowcraft and Master Mason, and it has been true with each Degree in both Scottish and York Rite, and in the Shrine, a route I followed nearly 20 years later, 1984, when I also became a Chaplain at the Masonic Home in Bloomington, Minnesota.
As a Mason, attending the Blue Lodges where I lived and where I visited on vacation, I found myself sitting with Brothers who were members of every one of the Christian Churches that I considered to hold to the faith of our Fathers, the Holy Faith to which I have sworn I would be true until death, and in which I expect to live with Jesus Christ as my friend, brother, Lord, and Savior forever. The Brothers with whom I associate are men of their word. If we agree to something and shake hands on it, we know we can trust each other and need no written contract.
Seven years after I became a Freemason, my wife, Pat, entered the Eastern Star. She was eligible because I am a Mason and because her father had been a Mason. My beloved wife is no fool. She listened to the initiatory rite of the Eastern Star and found nothing of cults or heresy and no requirement that she believe in anything contrary to her lifelong Christian faith. Pat asked me to become a member of the Star with her, and I did.
Bro. Robert W. McKewin, 32, is pictured here with Briana, one of the foster children he and his wife, Pat, care for in Marble Falls, Texas. Bro. McKewinís Lodge, Henry Thomas No. 278, chartered 1865, is pictured in the background. Marked by an Official Historical Medallion, the stone building bears a bronze plaque which notes, in part, that in 1874, Minister Henry Thomas moved the Lodge from Turkey Bend to this building which housed the Lodge in the upper floor and a store on the ground floor. The entire building has been occupied by the Lodge since 1952.
I rejoice that I have been a Mason for 35 years and a member of The Eastern Star for nearly 30 years. I rejoice, too, that I am a 32nd Degree Mason in the Scottish and York Rites as well as a part of the body of noble men who call themselves Shriners.
There was a time when over 80 percent of the priests of The Episcopal Church were Masons, and that an equal percentage of the Bishops of that denomination were Masons. I know of no body of men who are more erudite and who would very quickly discover anything clandestine, heretical, or unworthy. These are men of integrity. Their lives have proven themselves strong builders of human society and great evangelists for Christianity.
I have served as Chaplain in our local Lodge, Henry Thomas Lodge No. 278, Smithwick, Texas, and in the Lodges of each of the communities where I have lived: Elk River, Minnesota, and St. Paul, Minnesota. In each of these three Lodges I have had the honor of meeting with Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, Jews, Moslems, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals---most of them prominent businessmen or clergymen in those communities. Some have not had faith in God as I know Him, but by walking with such men, talking with them and living a Christian life before them, I hope to be setting such an example that I can provide a bridge of faith for them to cross into the life I know to be joyful fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Now I am 71 years old and have been told I have an incurable cancer. My time on this planet is not to be more than another few years, a decade at most. It would be foolish for me to write the above if I were one who did not believe God has no quarrel with Masonry. I continue to worship God in the Christian Churches in my community. I have celebrated communion in the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Baptist Church here in Texas.
I have also celebrated in holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I have led an untold number of men to the altar of God, and I rejoice that many others have seen my life as an example to follow. I have never said a derogatory thing against other sects and denominations of the Christian Church. I have honored the monotheistic men and women who have not chosen to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Each Tuesday morning, after my early morning work as a newspaper delivery person, I attend a prayer meeting which, by tradition, I close with these words: ďAlmighty God who lives and reigns forever, we give you thanks for all the gifts you have bestowed on us.Ē
Each of the men in that group is a believing Christian. Three are Methodists; one their pastor; one a Southern Baptist; two Christians of other denominations in our town, and myself---a former Episcopal priest and now a consecrated ecumenical Bishop who can see the presence of Christ in the faces of all He and the Father have created.
Thirty years ago I had a Pentecostal experience that brought me much closer to my God than before. This is true, though I had been ordained in my denomination for more than three years. When I asked for the Spirit of God to come upon me, He did!
At that time I heard a story about ducks on a pond. Catholic ducks were fenced in one place. Methodist ducks in another. Assembly of God ducks in a third, and other ducks in yet other fenced areas. They mingled with their own kind, but could not get through the fences to mingle with the others. Then one day God caused a flood to occur, and the pond filled to overflowing---a good deal above the top wires of the fences. The ducks began to mingle and found they all could quack together of the love they knew that came from God.
I believe the flood waters have overflowed where we Masons meet. There we discover that we all acknowledge the One God and Father of us all. Though He may have different names, He is the God of Peace, and intends us to live in love and peace with all mankind.
May I say to those who still doubt: Judge not what you do not know. Remember that birds of a feather do flock together. Look to the men and women you see associated with Freemasonry and Eastern Star. I believe you will see people who try to live exemplary lives and who find their strength in a relationship with their God.
The above article first appeared in The Texas Messenger and then in several other publications, Christian and Masonic. It is presented here, edited for length, as published in the Spring 1997 issue of The Scottish Rite Magazine of Freemasonry in Wyoming. After studying at the University of Minnesota and serving in World War II, Bro. McKewin taught elementary school for nine years before entering the Episcopal ministry. He has served several parishes in Minnesota as well as a church home for the aged in North Carolina and a Christian orphanage in Ramallah on the West Bank ten miles north of Jerusalem. Since retirement several years ago, he has written many articles, performed a prison ministry in Texas, and written two books, Behold the Man, a fiction about the life of Christ, and Our Generic Family, an autobiography about the foster care in which he and his wife still find much joy.