Monday, August 31, 2009

Winston Churchill Lodge #351 Consecration Ceremony and Installation

On August 30th, in the harbor town of Excelsior, I was fortunate enough to see a ceremony for an event that has not happened since 1987, the consecration of a new Lodge, specifically Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351. Sir Winston Churchill is a Lodge that will exemplify the British Emulation Rite. It has been developed for the purpose of finding something new for brothers, as its ranks are filled with Past Grand Masters, Past Masters and interested brothers, all there to find a new source of light, wisdom and conviviality. It is only fitting that the brothers chose Churchill as their named patron, who stood up while others stayed silent to defend liberty against the most evil threat to ever arise on this Earth.

Churchill knew the dangers of appeasement, the coming onslaught of the totalitarianism, and the descending of the Iron Curtain upon the face of Europe. He proved his mettle through strength of arm, strategic aforethought, and a belief in the rightness in the cause of freedom. Churchill was also a Freemason, having been raised in Studholme Lodge #1591 in 1901. It seems fitting that a Lodge which seeks to exemplify the British Emulation Ritual would choose such a strong personality to emulate and honor.

For any who don't know, British Emulation Rite is practiced by the United Grand Lodge of England as well as other recognized Grand Lodges throughout the world. In Minnesota, we use a modified version of Preston-Webb known colloquially known as the "Minnesota Work" and are constitutionally bound to practice only this ritual in a Lodge constituted in this jurisdiction. Therefore, the Lodge must perform its official work using the "Minnesota Work." However, the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill will exemplify the British Emulation degrees and will continue their study into the rich traditions of English Freemasonry. They seek not to compete with other Lodges but instead present a different experience for interested brothers by sharing the British Emulation as an educational experience. I was given this two page primer explaining the goals and purposes of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 by MWB Tom Jackson:

As I mentioned, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota has not constituted a Lodge since 1987. Thankfully, through the hard work of the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill,
newly installed Master, WB John Gann, and PGM Tom Jackson, a novel approach to Freemasonry has come into fruition in this state. Most Worshipful Brother Tom McCarthy presided over the event and RWB John Cook, RWB Tom Hendrickson and MWB Andy Rice assisted in consecrating the Lodge. Also in attendance were many distinguished brothers from many jurisdictions to see this most important undertaking, including MWB Akram Elias, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, RWB Alan Tibbets, Deputy District Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, and Worshipful Brother Joseph Howell of Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83, Grand Lodge of Wisconsin. Benjamin Franklin #83 works the British Emulation Rite, following the traditions of English Lodges.

As the officers donned their resplendent blue aprons for the first time, I could sense a change. We are no longer a Grand Lodge based around cookie cutter Lodges struggling to regain interest in the Craft but an organization desirous to be as varied as the members who occupy it. I am thankful to see Lodges trying new things like Saint Paul #3 using a Traditional Observance model, or Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 exemplifying the British Emulation Rite. This should be the model, Lodges should find a niche, and they should try new things.

After the installation of WB John Gann as Master and the other elected and appointed officers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351, we began our processional lead by bagpipers to the Irish Pub across the street. I know what you're thinking, “an English-style Lodge meeting in an Irish pub?” Yet, I am happy to report that this Festive Board felt right at home in the dark, Walnut-paneled pub.
In the pub, we were all able to share a meal and toasts using the traditional English style. MWB Elias gave an impressive speech on where our Fraternity is and where it will be going, which was fitting as the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill embark on new territory in Minnesota Masonry. As we gave our final toast and sang our final song, I witnessed, in that dark, pub basement, the refulgent eyes of these brothers, their excitement and zeal casting a brilliant glow throughout the room.

At the end of the evening, some of us met at a bar across the road from Lake Minnetonka sharing cigars, stories, and songs. This gathering at the end of a perfect evening was proof of this auspicious occasion, an occasion of birth and growth, of traditions and experiments. It seems fitting that a Lodge that seeks to further enlighten the Craft would have its consecration in a town called Excelsior, as that word means “ever upward” in Latin, so this Lodge continues ever upward in the cause of Freemasonry. I want to congratulate the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 for the hard work for making Masonry compelling, heartening, and wondrous. I would also like to congratulate WB John Gann on his installation and MWB Tom Jackson for his leadership during his time as Grand Master to make this Lodge possible. I need only one word to sum up this experience and this Lodge, a word borrowed from Most Worshipful Tom Jackson, “Marvelous.”



I have been informed by Most Worshipful Tom that if you are interested in attending Sir Winston Churchill #351, you can contact the Lodge Secretary, Frank Harris, at fharris (at) usinternet (dot) com or Most Worshipful Brother Tom at tom (at) pro-activemktg (dot) com. If you live in or are visiting the Minneapolis area, you should really check out this fascinating Lodge experience.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Be Prepared, Not Afraid: Part 2

I have decided to republish a great comment to my post, Be Prepared, Not Afraid, by Worshipful Brother David Wells of Virginia. He is a Past Master of Taylor Lodge #23 of the Grand Lodge of Virginia. Worshipful Brother Wells has presented great answers to questions that may soon be posed to each one of us.

I think we should have someone in the media who is a brother mason to propose questions that local lodges could be called by local media to answer after the book comes out. Help our lodge leaders be prepared for the questions that will or could come. Questions like:

So they say Freemasonry is a secret organization are you?

Like many groups we have organizational secrets, modes of recognition such as our handshakes, words so we may recognize another brother Mason as we say in the light as in the darkness, literally. These were not developed just for the fun of it, they were developed over time for reasons. Early operative Masons (those who practiced the trade of building the great building of Europe) were had learned the building trade skills used in the construction of cathedral and castles were given special or secret words only known to other tradesman so they could travel throughout the land to practice their trade freely, therefore the name Freemasons. During earlier wartimes in other countries many lodges and brethren had their lodges destroyed and property confiscated and destroyed as Freemasons are viewed as a threat to totalitarian and dictatorial regimes. Today we use words and signs and handshakes to identify one another and to remind ourselves we can once again become the targets of those who oppose a free government and a free people.

Do you prohibit those of different faiths from joining?

No, we have members in our lodges locally, regionally or statewide who are Christian, Jewish & Catholic just to name a few. Our fraternity only requires a belief in God. I am a member of my lodge for fraternal fellowship & brotherhood; to explore how to make myself and others a better man by studying our Masonic ritual and exploring from an educational perspective what our symbols represent. I attend my church, temple or synagogue for a greater understand and search for my personal salvation. My salvation and grace come from my personal relationship I work on with God, my fraternal fellowship with brother Masons.

Do you allow only white males to join your lodge?

Most all Grand Lodges (Each state has its own Grand Lodge and governs it own jurisdiction) no longer discriminate based on race and culture. Like many organizations, both fraternal and otherwise in the past have discriminated against individuals for reasons that today we find blatantly wrong. Was it right then, we leave to antiquity but we continue to education ourselves and membership. Just like life we as individuals and organizations change and grow. That is what makes us human, at the same time always searching our past to take good men and make them better. That is what we do. Have we always been right, no, are we always searching for ways to make ourselves better, YES!

Who are your members? Are their any members of local government who are members of your lodge?

Our lodges consist of your neighbors, co-workers, and family members both present and past. We have everyone from governmental leaders in our ranks, to labors. That is what makes us unique, all men meet on the same level when we are in lodge and how we treat one another in our community and our life. No matter your occupation, your age you are no better than the next brother.

These are just a sample of some of the questions. Ask the hard questions; help formulate replies to these questions using bridging techniques of communication. You do not have to answer each question direct, although most of the above you can without any problem. How do you reframe the question? How to expand the question to inform the audience of what we do, not just what the interviewer has asked.

What are your questions? What do you think will be asked by your local media? Help us all be prepared to help our communities understand who we are, what we stand for in our towns, cities, shires and states.


WB David would also like to share with you his Twitter account if you would like to follow him: @DavidWellsVA Thank you WB David again for this great response. It was timely and good. Now that we have seen the novel from Dan Brown, it's the time to get ourselves into action. The Relevant Mason has posted a great article about what we need to do entitled, "Dan Brown Got it Right". Thanks to brother Porter for his great article.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Masonic Question for the Week of August 24th

#MQW (via @nickjohnson) Have you ever served as an officer in your Lodge? What and when?

Friday, August 21, 2009

More NY Times Reporting

The Antiques column in the Arts Section of the New York Times has written an article entitled, Masonic Lodges Open Those Mysterious Doors. The article focuses on our great treasures that Grand Lodges are revealing to the public and the renovations that are currently ongoing on our treasured halls. As an avid reader of the Times (which I consider the paper of record for the USA), I was hopeful but reticent that an article was mentioning our Fraternity. The last two articles of recent Masonic events have been less than pleasant and the obvious agenda behind both articles was focused more on potshots and less on objective facts and subjective policy changes.

As the paper reported during the MWB Haas case reported earlier this year, the author of that particular article took direct potshots at Freemasonry as a good ol' boys club focused on silly rituals. The intent on the article was not about a procedural due process concern but rather our restrictions to men only "[a]nd its taste for pompous honorifics and ornate regalia may conjure images of solemn men with arms interlocked: Laurel and Hardy meet Babbitt."

The Gate City case was reported fairly but has still caused irrecoverable damage. I don't blame the Times nor Gate City but rather outdated ideas still held by brothers, outdated ideas that I hope will have been officially put to rest by the current edict issued by Grand Master Jennings. We have not received good press from the Times as of late but I was pleasantly surprised to see good news with this article.

Our very knowledgable brother, WB Arturo de Hoyos, Grand Archivist of the Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction, was interviewed about the pieces being shown to the public and the updating and changing of Masonic presentation to our brethren and the public. He did a fantastic job presenting our Craft as well as explaining the need to create a coherent presentation to the public. We can hope that when the "Symbol" storm is upon us, we will receive as kind of press as we received today.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Masonic Question for the Week of August 17th

#MQW (via @NickJohnson) What do you think of Masonic Baptisms?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Be Prepared, Not Afraid

Okay, so I have to confess something, I'm a little intrigued by the new Dan Brown book about the Fraternity. Okay, I feel a whole lot better now. Obviously, I read many comments from brothers in newspapers, forums, and other fora who are not so happy nor appreciative of his book. Rumors and fearmongering seem to be the name of the game concerning our Craft's reaction to this book. I'd like to say just one, teensy-weensy little word, "STOP." Okay maybe a few more, "you're not helping."

This book is going to be huge, like five-million-copies-on-its-first-run huge. Obviously, if this book has any relation in topic or reference to Freemasonry, we are going to be affected for years. We won't know its actual impact until the novel hits the local mega-bookstore. Angered rhetoric might makes us feel better but it really doesn't matter in the aggregate, and here's why: we can complain about or fear the coming of this novel, but it's coming out, plain and simple.

Let's be frank: "The Lost Symbol" is being published, it's being published soon, and we're going to have to live with it. There will be a post-Dan Brown world and we, as Lodges and Masons, are going to have to live in that world. Sorry, we don't get to control the printing press, despite some Anti-Masonic belief to the contrary so we need to understand its impact and be ready for the deluge.

When I see or hear the annoyed comments from brothers, I feel like I've joined a tribe of sun-worshipers who are about to experience their first eclipse. There will be a sun once the excitement dies down and a new day will dawn. I can understand the frustration; we don't know what the story is about and we don't know how it will affect the Craft. Whether brothers want to accept it or not, it's coming.

For years, the numbers of brothers and relative interest in the Craft declined precipitously. We became irrelevant, a fixture of the past to be forgotten. Grand Lodges attempted anything to keep the numbers at a sustainable level through One-Day classes and simplified catechism but still the numbers dropped as Lodges were unable to find their groove. Then, through some miracle, the media began to take a second look at Freemasonry and we were once again in the spotlight.

Sadly, I think our collective response has been less than stellar. Interest was peeked but many Masons remained unable or unwilling to speak about the Craft leaving a hole to be filled by everyone else. This book offers us a second chance to be recognized and I'd like to not see us fail at this again. We need to be prepared for that day, and I believe we can, it's just going to take every Mason to do it.

My advice for everyone is that we plan for both the bad as well as the good press but most importantly, we need to prepare. Each brother needs to know how to explain what Masonry is, what Masonry means to them and what Masonry should mean to the general public. Each Master should be ready to have their local paper ask them a few questions. Each Lodge should be educating their members on what may and may not be discussed about Freemasonry. It won't matter how big or small the town is, this novel will affect everyone.

To sum up my advice, be prepared. We can all do this but we are going to need guidance and aforethought to give an effective and most importantly, coherent and cohesive answer to the questions and attention that we'll most likely endure because of this novel. If we play our cards correctly, Freemasonry may once again climb back to prominence.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Masonic Question for the Week of August 10

#MQW (via RWB Tom, SGW of GL of MN) What in Freemasonry do you value?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Masonic Question for the Week of August 3

#MQW (via @tybaltknight) from the g/f: How do you explain masonry to non-mason family & friends?