Friday, January 30, 2009

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: The Last Templar Revisited

In the desire for completeness, my wife pointed out that the Last Templar has been posted on Hulu which I will post below. Sadly, for my readers not living in the United States, Hulu will probably not work. Therefore, I will also post the NBC website for the show here which has the show available for viewing in its entirety. I hope that works for everyone.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

“One For All and All For One”


Freemasonry is a society. I know that this phrase is both simple and obvious but it is important to understand this concept. Masonry seeks to create a cohesive band of brothers and joins together many parts of our world. We are viewed as brothers; not based on our race, color, religion, national origin but only that we are members of this band. Freemasonry spans borders and joins brother to brother no matter where he lives. The most important part of all this is that a brother joins into the Lodge, becoming a part of the Lodge and a part of Freemasonry around the world.

A man may ask to become a part of our Fraternity for many reasons. He might know a current brother or is related to a brother. He might seek to be a part of a charitable organization. He may want to learn more about the world. He might want to be a part of a Fraternity and is looking for friends. What is common in all of these is the human connection that must exist for the activity to be effective. Yet, there seems to be an obsessive streak to do everything alone by using the term “self-improvement”.

I understand the statement that we are a self-improvement society. The fact that moral lessons are inculcated in our ritual cannot be ignored but I think the “self” of self-improvement has been given far too much emphasis. Self-improvement is not something you can do by yourself. In Freemasonry, a brother’s character is improved through the interaction with other brothers, whether it is the ritual, helping others or just getting together for coffee (or in my case, tea). We are taught to help each other out by applauding publicly a brother’s successes or quietly admonishing another brother’s missteps. Too often, however, brothers are treated as individuals only instead of being accepted and absorbed into Lodge.

The biggest problem that I see with how new brothers are treated is that we don’t explain to them our expectations as a group. Many Master Masons merely become an individual member of the Lodge. They join and become flies on the wall. We are failing them by not giving them tasks, instructions, in general, by making them included in our shared Lodge. Unfortunately, the solutions to the question of why member retention is so low center around what the new brothers want without any regard to what we want from them.

When I first joined, the sitting Worshipful Master of my Lodge asked me to take part in different Lodge activities. Although I was never required to do anything I didn’t want to do, I was strongly encouraged to take part in as many activities as I could. I was told what I was expected to do for the Lodge. How did this affect me? I became more involved in the Lodge, which, in my opinion, has made me a better brother and a better person. Now, I am at every meeting, participating as fully as I can, trying to help my Lodge and Grand Lodge grow and helping to spread what I believe is the greatest organization the world has ever seen. When someone notices my Masonic ring, I will immediately state that I am brother in Corinthian Lodge #67. I want people to know that I am not just a brother but a brother in my Lodge.

I title this post after the famous axiom of the Musketeers in Alexandre Dumas’ famous series of books as a rallying cry for our brothers. We must remember to seek each other’s guidance, to give good counsel, and to work together to build our great societal structures and improve our communities. We need our brothers to improve ourselves. My advice to new brothers is this (a phrasing original delivered by President Kennedy which I have modified), “Ask not what your Lodge can do for you; ask what you can do for your Lodge.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: The Last Templar

Next Sunday, NBC will be airing a four hour miniseries, "The Last Templar." "The Last Templar" was originally a NY Times bestseller written by Raymond Khoury. The book remained on the bestseller list for 22 months. The story is based around the legend of the Templar Knights after their fall. The story follows an archaeologist named Tess Chaykin who goes on an adventure to find an encoder stolen by four horsemen dressed as Templar knights from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The miniseries stars Mina Sorvino as Tess, Scott Foley (from the Unit) and Victor Garber (from Alias). Although I am an admitted believer in Freemasonry being tied to the cathedral builders of the Medieval age, it is still fun to see stories surrounding the Knights Templar. The first part airs Sunday, Jan. 25th at 9/8c and the second part airs Monday, Jan. 26 at 9/8c.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Being Called to Serve

On January 19th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all Americans are being called to a day of service by the President-Elect Barack Obama and General Colin Powell. I think that this is an interesting concept regardless of the politics involved. A website, USA Service, has been created that allows different service organizations to post their charitable events to coincide with the National Day of Service on the 19th.

Although most Masonic bloggers disagree with me that we are not a service organization or hate the label of "service organization", I think it is a very important aspect of modern Freemasonry. There is a reason that I believe in service. From a young age, I was taught to do service in the community, to volunteer my time which eventually led to me becoming an Eagle Scout. When I meet new brothers, many have similar goals that I have. They are seeking service opportunities either in the Blue Lodge or in the Shrine. We, as Lodges, must provide these outlets to volunteer.

Yes, I know that anciently, we were a mutual aid society or wait... weren't we an intellectual society meeting in Salons... no, I thought it was a gentlemen's club. My point is that we have been many things and to be a service organization does not diminish or dilute our brand and fits the mutability that has kept the Fraternity alive. In fact, I think it has as many healthy effects on a Lodge as anything else we do. Service promotes camaraderie, a sense of accomplishment and the benefit of doing good for others. Even if Lodges don't take advantage of this day, I think we still must listen to the call of service that is imparted to all of us, no matter who asks.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rosslyn Chapel to Get a £13 Million Facelift


Pictured above The Apprentice's Pillar

The Scotsman is reporting that Rosslyn Chapel will undergo a £13 million renovation. This renovation will include new education space and cafe as well as a new roof. The renovation is expected to be finished by 2011. In the mean time, a temporary visitor's center will be created while operative Masons (stonemasons) work on the Chapel. The project is still £2 million shy and they will be seeking public donations. I would like to wish the Trustees of the Rosslyn Chapel good luck and I hope the renovation goes well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.

I have now started my slow descent into two months of Hell. Today will began the first day of the Bar preparation course. This course runs Monday through Friday and some weekends. As a result, I will be writing much less frequently than usual. I think I will continue to write with some regularity until the end of January.
I want to thank my Lodge brothers for understanding this short absence. Hopefully at the end of all this work, I will receive a passing score and be admitted to practice in the great state of Minnesota. I am still not sure if it is Purgatory or Paradise. I guess I will just find out soon.

Friday, January 2, 2009

1st Ever Masonic Presidential Inauguration Ball


William R. Singleton-Hope-Lebanon Lodge #7 of the Free and Accepted Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia will be hosting a first ever Masonic Inaugural Ball in honor of soon-to-be President Barack Obama. The Ball will be held on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2009 at 8:00 pm at Stars Bistro.
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The soon-to-be President was invited but will not be attending (I am sure he will be very busy that day).

Now, although there is a possibility that President-Elect Obama is a Mason and a Shriner (as evidenced by his campaign infomercial),

he is in fact not. That being said, I agree with what this Lodge is doing by throwing this Inauguration Ball. As Freemasons, we are taught to be peaceful subjects to our country. This invitation is an extension of our hand to the President as a gesture of peace and willingness to help this country.

Freemasons have had a long history of being in the White House but we have experienced a very long drought. To remain within the public eye, we must continue to offer our help to the leader of this country, no matter which political party he is affiliated. I wish the brothers of the Grand Lodge of DC and the especially the brothers planning this Ball all the best; it sounds like it will be very fun.