INSPIRED BY MASONIC RITUAL
“Ritual is very important for the future of Masonry because it’s where the bonds are formed between brothers,” says Edwin Senga, junior warden of Atwater Larchmont Tila Pass No. 614 and an individual winner of the 2016 Ritual Awards. “The more solemn and heartfelt the ritual, the better the experience – and the stronger the bond that’s created between a candidate and his brothers.”
For Senga, the bonds he’s forged through Freemasonry have been the most rewarding aspect of his membership experience. From traveling throughout California to the Philippines, he’s seen first-hand how Masonic connections enable men to instantly form connections; to recognize each other as equals, united under common morals and values. “I can travel anywhere in the world and greet another Mason as my brother because of these ritual bonds,” he says.
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER
Senga’s own Masonic journey started serendipitously. He had been curious about the fraternity since high school, when he would see Masonic buildings on his commute to school and wondered about the significance of the square and compass emblem. Over the years, he dabbled with the idea of pursuing Masonry. He tried to research the fraternity online, but the websites he found painted conflicting images of Freemasonry and he wasn’t quite sure it right was for him.
Then, when he started working at a new job, he learned that the father of his carpooling buddy was in the process of becoming a Mason. His interest was piqued once again, and he asked his friend what the process of becoming a member was like. “He told me, ‘My dad hasn’t said much to me about it, but he’s always talking to himself,’” Senga laughs. “It wasn’t until I started preparing for my own degrees that I finally understood.”
Nevertheless, this coincidence – and the knowledge that his friend’s father was a good, solid guy – was just what Senga needed to get started on his own Masonic journey. He petitioned at Atwater Larchmont Tila Pass Lodge in 2012 and has been an active part of the lodge community ever since.
A LODGE, A FAMILY
From the beginning, Atwater Larchmont Tila Pass Lodge has been a perfect fit for Senga. The past masters of his lodge made consistent efforts to monitor his progress and encourage him to immerse himself in the lessons of each degree – to really integrate the lessons of the craft into his life.
“Our lodge is very family-oriented, so when someone gives advice, it’s very heartwarming and keeps you very humble,” he says. “The past masters at my lodge are great mentors. They want you to learn from them, to share whatever they can with you. Sometimes I’ll say something and they’ll say in response, ‘Hey, I think you got that from me!’ I can tell that being able to pass their wisdom along is what makes this whole experience worth it.”
In April, 2013, when it was time for his third degree, Senga was surprised to receive a special honor. Each year, Atwater Larchmont Tila Pass Lodge chooses one candidate to be raised as a Master Mason in Las Vegas, through a partnership with a local lodge there. That year, he had been selected. His entire lodge traveled from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for the degree. “It was a very memorable and very humbling experience,” says Senga.
This honor inspired him even more to live up to his lodge’s expectations. In 2015, he joined the officer line as senior deacon. He quickly learned that at Atwater Larchmont Tila Pass Lodge, joining the officer line has an implicit responsibility: mastery of the Masonic ritual. “We are very strict when it comes to ritual – the bar is very high,” Senga explains. “If you want to be an officer, you have to step up to the plate right away with your A game. If you don’t know your ritual as an officer, people wonder, ‘What are you doing here?’ It motivates us all to constantly practice, to always do better.”
AN AWARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE
This dedication to ritual brought Senga to the 2016 Ritual Awards, where he was recognized as a Best Individual Ritualist. “It was a friendly competition, but nerve-wracking at first,” Senga recalls. “I was competing with peers in my division and I knew almost everyone. Some of the people I competed against were people I had actually learned from. But, I had to represent my lodge. This competition isn’t just to bring attention to you – you are bringing attention to your lodge and everyone who has helped you reach this point.
“For these judges to choose me, it was very humbling. I have been lucky to have mentors who have always been there for me. They kept pushing and pushing me until this day came. The best advice they gave me was, ‘Speak from your heart.’ If you know what you’re talking about and you really believe in it, everything takes care of itself.”
For Senga, each degree brings its own inspiration: “In the first degree, from the moment you walk in, the adrenaline begins flowing. As a candidate, when you open your eyes and see all the brothers lined up together for you, it’s overwhelming and at the same time very humbling. During the second degree, you get more knowledge on how concepts are brought from the past to the present and how to apply these teachings to your everyday life. At your third degree, your raising, you’ve finally reached the pinnacle of the degrees – it’s the sublime degree – and just when you think you’re ‘done,’ you realize that your journey is just beginning.”
This journey, from learning to enlightenment to learning more, is one that Senga sees echoed within his lodge. “As lodge leaders, our past masters talk about their experiences so that those coming behind them can learn from their knowledge. It’s our responsibility to learn from them – to take their experiences and go even further.”