Fort Morgan Times - Fort Morgon CO
Cornerstone laying an ancient ritual
Fort Morgan church receives monument in ceremony
Ancient ritual Jesse Chaney/Fort Morgan Times
Monday, October 8, 2007
By JESSE CHANEY
The cornerstone-laying ceremony at Fort Morgan’s Christ Congregational Church Saturday was the same service U.S. President George Washington used to lay the cornerstone in the nation’s Capitol building in 1793, according to a Colorado Freemasonry official.
Karl Hinkle, junior grand deacon of the Grand Lodge of Colorado, said the same ceremony was also used to lay the cornerstone on the Colorado State Capitol building on July 4, 1890, and on its 100th anniversary in 1990. Additionally, nearly 900 public service buildings throughout the state received their cornerstones in the same way, he said.
During the ceremony, three lodge members held a Bible, a square and a compass, which Hinkle said are the three great lights of masonry.
“The Holy Bible is the inestimable gift of God to man,” he said. “By the square, we square our actions, while the compasses teach us to circumscribe and keep our desires and passions within due bounds.”
The members also carried three ancient building tools: a square, level and plumb. Hinkle said the tools were used by operative masons to assure the cornerstone was perfect and laid accurately, and they are symbolic guides for Masonry conduct today.
The square stands for morality, the level for equality, and the plumb for rectitude of life and conduct, he said.
The masons poured wine on the cornerstone to symbolize the need to refresh bodies and spirits. They poured oil to symbolize the need to soothe wounds and afflictions and further the spirit of brotherly love and harmonious relationships. They also held corn to symbolize nourishment and the sustaining of all who enter the building.
After members of the church and a local Boy Scout troop placed mud on the top of the stone, John Harrington, grand master of the Grand Lodge of Colorado, announced that the stone was ready to be placed in the cavity prepared for it.
Although the church was not yet ready for the installation Saturday, the Masons performed the ceremony as if the stone had been placed in the building.
When the stone is inserted, a time capsule containing modern items will be installed behind the monument not to be seen for many generations, Hinkle said.
Hinkle said that although the ceremony is nondenominational, it has religious overtones to “emplore the divine blessing of God to protect the workmen from accident, and to bless those who conceived the erection of the edifice and its humanitarian purposes and all those who will enter through its doors.”
Hinkle said the Masons used ancient words to mimic the language of the working masons, and they wore white leather aprons as a badge of masonry to remind them of purity of life and conduct.
He said cornerstones and the ritualistic ceremonies are as old as the art of building. He said the ceremony began with the most ancient colonies and has been passed down through the civilizations of Egypt, Babylon and Jerusalem.
Hinkle said cornerstones of the cathedrals and castles in Europe during the Middle Ages were laid by the mason builders of the time. Masonic ceremonies often took place in many federal, state, county and municipal buildings, as well as schools, hospitals and churches throughout America for the last 200 years, he said.
Although cornerstones and Masonic cornerstone laying ceremonies are symbolic today, Hinkle said they served an important role in ancient times.
“Large buildings traditionally constructed of stone were oriented to a massive cornerstone, which was the first stone laid,” he said. “Consequently, it was essential that such a stone be square and laid true to the intended position of the building.”
— Contact Jesse Chaney at [email protected]