Monday, March 30, 2009

Bluegrass Conclave, LCA Centennial '09

In this Year of Our Lord 2009 my collegiate social fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, is celebrating its Centennial. There will be major Centennial celebrations at our international headquarters in Indianapolis this summer. But I doubt very seriously that I shall have the finances and time to attend those.

But also as part of the Centennial observance of LCA, headquarters is reviving a concept dormant for a generation, that of regional Conclaves. This region, covering all of Tennessee and Kentucky and adjacent portions of Indiana and Ohio, is called the Bluegrass Conclave. Each annual Conclave this year is also celebrating the Centennial of our Brotherhood. And Vanderbilt's Gamma-Delta Zeta (Zeta = local chapter of LCA) is honored to be the host Zeta for this Conclave!

The meeting occurred this past Friday evening and all day Saturday. Late Friday afternoon I went to the announced registration site, Holiday Inn Select on West End Ave. next to Vandy's Dudley Stadium. The hotel isn't far from the Gamma-Delta chapter house on Vandy's Greek Row, nor very far from the fairly new Student Life Center building where all Conclave activities were to be held.

I felt odd as I walked into the hotel. You see, dear reader, the last time I'd been in this place was when it was the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt, and it was my wedding night of 19-20 August 1978! Well, just inside the door I met a few Brothers wearing LCA shirts, from Louisville. They informed me that registration had been moved to the SLC building where all other events would be. We all rode a shuttle over there, and got registered. Plenty of Actives -- undergraduate Brothers and Associate members (LCA abolished "pledgeship" just before I began my university experience and associated with the Brotherhood) -- were showing up as time progressed. I also met a few older men (i.e., closer to my age than your typical undergrad), including a couple of High Pi men. The High Pi is the Alumni Advisor/Director of a local chapter (Zeta).

All together, between Actives, a handful of Associate Members and another handful of Alumni, about a hundred men attended this Bluegrass Centennial Conclave of '09.

A dinner in a ballroom-like hall on the ground floor of the Student Life Center started activities. It was fried chicken and sides (no dessert). There were a couple of brief talks afterward, by such folks as the local co-chairmen, Brothers Jeremy Sandler and Cole Carlson. From Indianapolis our Director of Communication Bro. Tad Lichetnauer and our Dir. of Education Bro. Tim Reuter gave us encouraging words. Each attending chapter had opportunity to present a slide show about the state of their Zeta. These were fascinating; almost all chapters are doing very well and comparing favorably and positively with other fraternities at the same campuses.

Saturday morning we had three time slots, each with two workshops to choose from to attend. The first I went to covered the history of our Ritual. I'd served as High Phi, or Ritualist, of Epsilon-Gamma Zeta of LCA at Idaho my senior year (1975-76), and our Ritual shaped my comprehension and application of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus our Lord. I thus found the workshop, run by Bro. Lichtenauer, to be very stimulating and enlightening. Particularly in that it showed me a side of Bro. John E. "Jack" Mason of which I'd not known previously. Bro. Mason was the chief designer of our Ritual -- and he was a master craftsman!

The other two workshops I chose covered fraternity education (another natural for this teacher-type, who before being High Phi was High Kappa or Fraternity Educator for E-G at Idaho) and "exoteric mysteries". This latter concerned pre-initiation events, generally informal, that prepare the Associate Member for the big step of undergoing initiation thru our Ritual.

Following the third workshop session we adjourned to the Gamma-Delta Zeta house for lunch. I've never been in the chapter house and eaten (which I don't do every time I visit!), that the food wasn't simply delicious. Today's meal, roast beef sandwich fixings and potato salad, was catered rather than prepared by the chapter cook. Still it was delicious, and the talk with brothers sitting near me was as refreshing to my spirit as the food was to my body.

The couple of afternoon activities were oriented primarily to the Actives, so I chose to go home for a couple of hours, and change clothes. This was because the Saturday evening closing dinner had a dress code of coat and tie. I actually donned the same garb I had bought for and worn to the historic Tri-Zeta White Rose Gala in San Antonio back in April of '07. It was a brown suit, dark green shirt and golden-yellow necktie. (See my other blog, "Glen Alan's San Antonio", for my report about this historic Brotherhood event.)

When I stepped out of my room to return to the Vandy campus the sky was sunny, with few clouds. By the time I got to campus it was pretty much overcast, and shortly after entering the Student Life Center building I heard a tornado warning siren go off. Just minutes after it started and right when food for the banquet had arrived, the building staff came and herded all of us downstairs into the basement. Six o'clock (start time for the dinner) came and went but the siren didn't cease for a few more minutes. A batch more Brothers showed up, and they'd gotten caught, not in a whirlwind but in what back in San Antonio would be called a "gully-washer". These Brothers were suffering varying degrees of wetness. A couple just had a few spots on the shoulders of their coats while others had their suits, exposed parts of their shirts and their neckties soaked!

Nevertheless, the dinner went on. We feasted on barbecue pork in buns, with cole slaw and baked beans (no dessert again). After the meal, our Grand High Kappa, Bro. Fletcher McElreath, gave us sort of a Centennial State-of-the-Brotherhood speech. Let me tell you,dear reader, if I was already feeling very proud of our Brotherhood due to the slide show presentations of the previous evening, THIS speech REALLY got me "pumped up"! I was particularly elated with news that I actually already knew, that my home Zeta, Epsilon-Gamma at Idaho, is being re-colonized after being closed for some years. It's one of three such re-colonizations and at least one new start that Lambda Chi Alpha is making at university campuses all over the nation.

You know, since the beginning of '09 three months ago I've been praying daily that our Lord bless our fraternity, a Brotherhood firmly based on Christian teachings and the ideals to take good young men and make them better, during our Centennial Year. And surely from what I experienced in this Bluegrass Conclave -- on top of what I've witnessed at the Gamma-Delta Zeta at Vandy -- He whose Light we follow is indeed blessing our Brotherhood!

May Christ's blessings be multiplied on LCA, and may we all good Brothers shine out with the goodness of His Light! Our society surely needs such light as we can share!

Oh, and speaking of "light", the Lord did what He so often has done since I left Idaho in 1976. I'll be at a fraternity event or an event which I'll associate in some significant way with LCA or the Ritual -- and that evening I get to see a waxing Crescent Moon! So it was Saturday evening. Leaving the just concluded Conclave I walked to West End Ave. to catch the bus home. Looking across Centennial Park I saw low in the sky above the western horizon a very brand new, sliver-thin waxing crescent! The Cross and Crescent is an integral symbol in our Ritual and of our Fraternity; it's also the name of our magazine. Over the years some have asked me if this juxtaposing means that Lambda Chi Alpha is a combo Christian-Moslem frat. I gladly explain that no, the symbolism of the waxing crescent for us goes way back well before Mohammed. We give it the meaning it had in ancient Classical (Greco-Roman) times: purity and growth in knowledge. The Cross has its standard meaning of self-sacrifice for the good of others, such as Jesus of Nazareth endured on His cross. So the two symbols together signify for us growth in the life of self-sacrifice.

And whenever I've seen a waxing Crescent Moon in the post-sunset western sky, either a sliver-thin brand new one or one a bit wider such as in the LCA symbol, it has always encouraged me to persevere should I be enduring a trial of life or to be thankful to our Heavenly Father for all His goodness. And this past Saturday it was especially a Heavenly affirmation of all that the Bluegrass Conclave had been for yours truly!

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