Monday, December 27, 2010

Suburban World: The Norling Photographs

I'm a lover of history, most especially those events between the late 19th C and th late 20th C. Perhaps this makes me an outlier in a Fraternity filled with brothers who know the name of George Washington's horse in the French and Indian War but for me, some of the most interesting subjects in history happened between 1800 and 2000. I'd like to describe a book that takes a slice of life peek at the world of the 1950's, that much loved but misunderstood decade.

Irvin Norling was the unofficial photographer of one of the major suburbs to grow around the Twin Cities, Bloomington. Today, Bloomington is a town that hosts the Mall of America, the airport, dozens of hotels for travelers to these parts, and of course, the Masonic Homes and Grand Lodge headquarters. The Bloomington of the 1950's was a much different time and place than what I recognize when I pass by the neighborhoods of ramblers and tract homes.

Irvin Norling chronicled everything that happened in town, from the joyous events, like sock hops and Shriners activities to the tragic, like the many fatal car wrecks; Norling recorded everything. As I flipped through this book at my local bookstore, I became enthralled with these photos. Every detail, from the sign for the future home of the Minnesota Twins, the Met Stadium (no longer with us) to Howard Wong's Restaurant (a grocery store now stands on the site), I was witnessing a slice of life presented in vivid black and white. Every person seemed alive as if the picture would begin to move and the subjects would tell their story. It is a poignant collection of images digging deep into all aspects of suburban life at that time and in that place.

This collection is powerful and personal. There is no agenda, no elegiac longings for the idyllic nor accusations toward the hypocrites. The story is told by Norling's subjects presenting a life lived, even if that life is tragically cut short. I really believe that it is more than a coffee table book. You can find it on Amazon or if you live in Minnesota, you can find it in your local bookstore and you can catch a peek of the book at Google Books.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lodge as Lab Part 1: The Full Third Degree

By Hannes Grobe 19:04, 3 September 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

As I began to pull back into my new role as Lodge Education Officer, I’ve been thinking about all the different programs I tried at Corinthian Lodge No. 67 while I sat in the East. Masters are given a lot of leeway to try new programs out to get the brothers more active. We may not make innovations in the Craft but this prohibition is aimed at the ritual and have little to do with programs that make Lodge a fun and worthwhile experience, i.e. no fourth Craft degree. When I took the Oriental Chair, I began to view myself as a scientist, testing experiments on the brothers and candidates to see what works and what doesn’t work. The first experiment I would like to discuss is the idea of giving each candidate the full degree work.

In Minnesota, lodges have the ability to abbreviate the second section of the third degree on all but the last candidate. I wanted to see if retention and more especially, participation, went up if candidate received the full second section. I should first preface why I wanted to test this hypothesis.

For many years at Corinthian Lodge, we had many candidates go through and witness the second section performed on the last guy. I began to notice that there seemed to be a correlation between them coming to lodge and taking a part in the full degree. I also had a personal reason. The fee for degrees is not a small number. Many lodges charge hundreds of dollars to take the degrees yet we weaken the degrees’ punch by abbreviating them. Essentially, all but the last candidate becomes a spectator and loses any dramatic punch from the third degree.

This is what I did. We had three candidates for our spring class. (Corinthian Lodge ranges from one to three classes a year). I decided that I wanted each brother to receive the full third degree. As Master, it was my responsibility to plan the third degree and I took it upon myself to get the right brothers for parts. I doubled each part of the third degree and let the experiment begin. I also had all the candidates together for the first section of the degree as that was what they were used to. When the degree started, the results were astonishing.

I imagined the time to do each second section taking at least forty-five minutes if not longer. I was surprised to find out that it takes less than 25 minutes at a normal pace. With the right planning, three candidates at a normal pace take an extra 25 minutes maximum. Also, if brothers need a break, having roles doubled removes the stress and gives each candidate a different perspective on the degree. The ritual is the same for each candidate but the different emphasis and inflection of the words. Also, the first candidate to go through is able to watch the rest of the degree and understand more fully what just happened to him. Now for the results.

I have noticed that the first three brothers that we tried this on have been incredibly active. Two out of the three are in Scottish Rite and all are looking for other avenues for Masonic light within our Fraternity. All of them are voracious readers of our history and philosophy and are incredibly committed in just a short time of being a Mason. It looks like we will continue this tradition of the full second section on each of our new candidates.

My conclusion in this experiment is that we need to give candidates the same attention and care that we would want paid to us. Candidates pay a lot of money to join our Fraternity but may not get to experience the full feeling of being a Mason. Men petitioning now are looking for something more; not merely a place to hang out with the boys but a society of seekers looking for the tenet of Truth. They want to be true initiates of our Order. I think the only way we can give them that feeling and status is by giving them degree work without becoming a spectator.

Does your Lodge do the full third degree on each candidate? Why not leave a comment?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Call Me Past Master, Part 2

In a way, I don’t know why I argue with myself. Perhaps I am just lazy and can’t find the proper sparring partner with which to duke it out. Whatever the case, I have come to the realization that the title of “Past Master” and its accompanying honorific, “Worshipful Brother” have been earned. They have been earned by both myself and my family.

I have been accepting it more after reading the obituary section of the paper. A Past Master died on Saturday and his family honored his Masonic career by specifically mentioning his term as Master. The honor of Past Master is not only borne by me but also by my wife who spent days at home alone for me to help run this committee or that committee, be at this event, or that event, and to travel hours away and come home late into the night. She allowed me to do this even while pregnant.

The role of Master is also one of intense thought. A Master shouldn’t be at every committee meeting nor should he be willing to lay down his familial obligations to take care of lodge business. He should be ready to answer a phone call, to ask if a brother needs our assistance, and to both give and receive instruction through the attentive ear.

My advice to all Masters or brothers in the progressive line is to use themselves and their lodges as guinea pigs. The lodge is a laboratory, a place that new ideas can spring anew. Don’t allow the dull business drag your lodge to irrelevance. We were once the salons of discussion. If you would like to host a table lodge/EA degree, check with your Grand Lodge, and if it’s okay, plan it. If you want more papers on Masonic subjects, or non-Masonic subjects, plan to read at least one at each stated meeting.

Being Master is probably the most rewarding experience I have had in Masonry. If you are fortunate to serve in that role, relish the time you have in that chair. Your year will move incredibly fast. Plan accordingly. With all that being said, yes,  you may call me Worshipful Brother Nick.

Call me Past Master?

This is the pocket watch given to me for my year as Master of the Lodge.

I have been mulling over how I should have brothers address me. I am a big believer in meeting on the level. The concept of meeting on the level with all brothers seems to exclude the use of separate titles. On the other hand, I spent a good part of a year and a half as well as three years as an officer taking care of the needs of the Lodge. I know I have led my brothers through a very successful year. This brings me to my quandary: should I have brothers address me as Brother Nick or Worshipful Brother Nick?

An amazing aspect of the Craft is the number of titles a brother can collect as he lives a Masonic life. I was fortunate enough to give the Hiram Award to a very worthy brother. He is very active in York Rite and its related degrees and has led all major bodies of the York Rite culminating in being Past Grand Commander. He gave me his Masonic resume for the ceremony and it extended over two pages. Without reservation I call him Worshipful Brother because of how hard he has worked for Minnesota Masonry and my lodge having served at least two terms in the chair.

My mind remains clouded; I just don’t know if I have earned the sacred appellation of Worshipful Brother. I worked hard for my lodge during my year but I also believe that I have not done as much as other brothers. Maybe I’m just being excessively modest. Hopefully, as I grow in Masonry and become a wiser brother, (Masonry is a progressive science after all), I will begin to accept the honor of Worshipful Brother as a representation of my service.

I also wonder if being addressed as Worshipful Brother creates an unnecessary separation between hard-working brothers who have never sat in the Oriental Chair and those who have. However, the brother serving as Master will expend many hours of extra work during his year. It is an honor to serve as Master of a lodge. As any Master knows, a lodge is essentially a small non-profit business with property, bills, and “employees.” This work is done without monetary gain. The job of Master takes you away from things that you would like to otherwise do, missing minor family obligations, driving to far off lodges instead of staying home during a heavy snow, and making phone calls on a Sunday night instead of relaxing on the couch.

I love Masonry. I love working and being of service to my brothers and their families. My hope is that one day, signing PM behind my name in a lodge guestbook will feel earned and not just given. Again, thanks to the brothers of Corinthian Lodge for letting me try new ideas and have fun. I hope to carry over some of those same ideas to Corinthian Chapter as I take on the role of High Priest. I am honored to carry the title of Past Master and I will carry it dearly for the rest of my life even if I am unsure now about my worthiness.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Year

My year is complete and I am now happy to report of the great successes that we have had in Farmington, MN. When I first joined Masonry, I really didn’t know the brothers of the Lodge. I traveled to Farmington so rarely before joining that I didn’t even know the way to get there. Now, the path seems so well-worn that I sometimes forget the trip to the Temple. I have spent so many hours repeating ritual during that half-hour to lodge that I have probably conferred each degree a hundred times.

This year has been great. However, whatever success I have had has been a part of nearly a decade of growing from being small and nearly forgotten to well-regarded in Minnesota Masonic circles. I am proud of all the hard work we have done this year.

I started with some real goals to accomplish. The first task to tackle was my lodge’s website. We needed an overhaul. The ease of putting up content on the existing site was nearly impossible. Articles would disappear, trees would branch to nowhere, and I would have trouble transferring what I had written with pictures. I am a computer novice and sometimes these “compruters” confuse me. In just one simple switch, Corinthian Lodge No. 67 has one of the best sites in Minnesota. We switched to SquareSpace and Google Apps and never looked back. Our calendar is up to date and everyone knows what is going on at the lodge.

We started the year’s degree work with a Table Lodge/First Degree, something we had never done. All of the brothers were in good spirits and the meaning of brotherhood was never clearer. We had at that degree the just Past Grand Master, the sitting Grand Master, and the then Deputy Grand Master, now Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Minnesota. At that first meeting, we had four candidates as well as a recently raised Master Mason from the One Day class.

I also tried experimenting with our practices. One such practice is performing the full third degree on each candidate for Master Mason. The Minnesota Masonic Code allows for an abbreviation of the third degree for all but the last candidate. We, as a Lodge, had been abbreviating the experience for years. I wanted to see just how different it would be for the newly raised brothers if each brother received his degree in full. I called as many learned brothers as I could to share the degree workload and we did a wonderful job. The day was raining, the building was hot, but everyone had fun learning the important lessons of the third degree.  These brothers are now truly dedicated and rarely miss meetings and are completely engaged in the Lodge.

We hosted a great pancake breakfast for our scholarship fund, the first in many decades. We had fun discussing Masonry with interested men, showing off our nearly a century old temple and seeing all the brothers and their families. Chris Cakes worked the griddle which gave us more opportunities to chat with the public about who we are. Bro. Jarrod stepped it up along with Bro. Rick to make the event a great success. Kudos.

We also have done quite a bit of traveling as a lodge. Traveling is something that most Master Masons will never do while they are on this earth. In Minnesota, the right to travel is codified as an Ancient Landmark and every Mason in good standing should travel as often as they can. The types of Lodges a brother can visit in Minnesota alone are mind boggling. And once you have traveled in Minnesota, both A.F. & A.M. and F. & A.M., look to other states. Fraternal bonds can be formed in nearly every country in the world.

I won’t describe everything that we have done this year but I invite you visit the Lodge’s blog that lists all that we have accomplished. I have had one of the best years of my life and I hope that in my own little way, as I am an Eagle Scout, that I have left the lodge in as good, but hopefully better condition, than I found it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You Must Mean Someone Else

Okay, so I am still writing up stuff, especially now that it’s summer.

I had an interesting thought during my Lodge’s dark period. I was watching a show on TV and decided to “research“ the people on Wikipedia. Funny thing was, as I was going down the lead’s Wikipedia page, I noticed an interesting entry about the lead. He was, in fact, a Freemason. The entry was even sourced with a link to an article in a prominent paper with a named source naming this particular brother.

This leads to my question: are we using their fame for our own gains? We talk about George Washington, Ben Franklin, and FDR, but we also name drop brothers like Ernest Borgnine who are still alive.

I have certain misgivings about name dropping. Certainly I’m proud to know that there are many famous brothers but sometimes I wonder if we should call them out as our brother. In England, our Masonic brothers are distrusted. It’s a sad existence but it just is what it is. In the United States, we don’t have that problem (well, maybe a little). However, is it still wrong to name them?

Is there a way to discuss both the famous members of our Fraternity as well as to protect their privacy? Do we have to wait until the brother has passed away to discuss his and our fraternal bond? Am I being overly cautious? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

5 Reasons Why I Joined the Freemasons

I asked Brother Matthew to write something on the subject of anything that came to his mind. He has written a very well-thought out piece. Thank you Brother Matthew.

I couldn’t tell you what specifically prompted my interest in Freemasonry two years ago, or what spurred me to actually join early this spring. I think I just knew I needed an overhaul, and Freemasonry’s business was “making men better!” But I can give you the five reasons I ultimately joined, and made one of the very few totally good decisions of my life.

1. Friendships

I’m 32 years old, and part of a generation that was tagged pretty early on (probably deservedly so) for being slackers and man-boys, but even we have to grow up sometime. I was the second of my good friends to get hitched, and within three years all of us had wives. Some of us even have kids. What none of us had anymore, it seemed, was time for each other.
It’s no one’s fault. Even man-boys grow up, get careers, move away, have families, etc. but what can be so unexpected is when you finally carve out a free evening in your schedule and suddenly realize you don’t have anyone left to spend it with. And frankly, making friends at 32 is hard. Joining a lodge almost instantly gave me about a dozen fun, interesting friends, and about six million more whom I haven’t yet met.

2. Charity

I am not a charitable man by nature. If I’ve got money in my pocket, I’ll hand it out freely, but that’s because I don’t really value money. Giving anything of me has been almost an anathema. But though my sense of charity is underdeveloped, my sense of guilt does double-overtime.
I may be selfish, but I’m not dumb; I realize that living in service to others is how one truly learns to live in service to oneself. Freemasons don’t just write checks; they serve.

3. Ritual

I was raised in a mostly secular home; we never went to church. But more than that, we never really did anything religiously. Our holidays were inconsistent; we had no traditions to speak of, no yearly vacations or barbeques; we never said Grace, or had favorite bedtime lullabies. It was life devoid of ritual. Ritual is important, though; it’s how we remember. I don’t mean the memorization, I mean ritual is what keeps us, and what keeps our history, personal or cultural. It’s daily exercise for your soul.

4. The Bling

I have to admit to a certain retro-raconteur streak in my personality. I’ve always loved classic Mad Men-esque manliness culture. Couple that with my love of badges and accessories, and I was pretty much meant to be a Mason. No, it’s not the noblest reason to become a Freemason, but it is an aspect and connection to our history.

5. Good Things Deserve to Survive

There are some institutions in this country and this world that are…well…institutions. They’re good things. They do good things for their members and their communities. Damn the society that lets them die thinking they’re too out of touch, or too old, or too rigid. They’re not. They’re the sum of their members. My lodge is filled with young, fun, wise men and recovering man-boys. Freemasonry is helping them do that. Freemasonry is not going to die on my watch.

Those are five pretty great reasons, but the best part is that when I got in, there were dozens more: leadership training, exposure to diversity of race, religion, and politicals, education… Really, it can all be summed up in one word: light.

We’re a much younger generation than who is usually perceived to be a Mason, but that’s our strength. Yes, there is an age gap in a lot of lodges. There weren’t too many Baby Boomers who took up the apron, but that is indicative of our strength. Many of us are drawn to fraternity and Masonry without simply following in our fathers footsteps, but because of the reasons above. But how many young men and new dads have these thoughts and don’t know anything about Freemasonry? Sadly, it’s almost all of them.

We can’t ask them to join us, but we have to remember that we are truly not a secret society. Wear your lapel pins. Get one of those tacky car magnets your grandpa had. Go bowling with your Shrine or Grotto brothers and wear your fez, damn it! Talk about us to anyone who will listen. Let people know that we’re out there and that we are anything but irrelevant. We’re brothers.

Matthew Gallagher is a freelance writer in the Twin Cities, the head writer of Transylvania Television, and a proud Master Mason of Braden Lodge No. 168

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Passing of a Brother

It is my sad and solemn duty to report that my grandpa, Dick Johnson, has passed away. My grandpa was a member of Fidelity Lodge No. 39 for 60 years and is the man who got me into Masonry. More than that though, he was a great man and highly respected in the Austin community. I know that I will miss him and everyone who knew him feels the same way.

Richard Donald Johnson, age 82 of Austin, MN died at his home Tuesday evening, May 25, 2010. He was born November 11, 1927 to Alfred and Almeda (McDonald) Johnson in Madison, South Dakota where he grew and graduated from high school. He attended Dunwoody Institute for one year and received his boiler's license. Moving to Austin in 1946, he went to work for Milwaukee Railroad. He entered the US Army in 1950 stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He married Betty Lien on November 28, 1951 in Mason City, Iowa. They made their home in Austin. After Richard's honorable discharge in 1953, he returned to work on the Milwaukee Road where he retired in 1988. A member of Our Savior's Lutheran Church, 50 years with the Masons, Knights Templar and Royal Arch Masons, American Legion and the Eagle's Club, Richard also enjoyed bowling, crossword puzzles and fishing. He was an avid do it yourselfer.

Survivors include his wife, Betty Johnson of Austin; one son, Rick (Chris) Johnson of Eagan; two daughters, Jill (Michael) Novak of Las Vegas, Nevada and Sue (Reggie) Smart of Ham Lake; two grandchildren, Nick and Kerry; many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Bill and Ed; and two sisters, Ruth Marie and Marilyn.

Memorial services will be held at 2:00 p.m., Friday, May 28, 2010 at Our Savior's Lutheran Lutheran, Austin, MN with Pastor Glenn Monson officiating and military rites by American Legion Post 91. Friends may greet the family for one hour prior to the service.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guest Article: Visiting the Washington Masonic Memorial

Brother Nick Schlossmacher is a good friend of mine who is extremely dedicated to the Craft. He participates in a long list of activities in Freemasonry. I have witnessed him performing degree work and participating in Lodge meetings, including Sir Winston Churchill Lodge No. 351 and Braden Lodge #168. Brother Nick is a prime example of the future of Freemasonry. He has kindly written an article for this site about his trip to the GWMM in Alexandria. You can follow him on Twitter @njschloss


First of all, I would like to say thank you to WB Nick Johnson for running such a great blog. He is truly one of the most dedicated masons I know, and I feel honored to be able to contribute.

One of the great privileges that we enjoy as Masons is the ability to visit other lodges. It’s a great way to go and meet people from all walks of life, and gives us an opportunity to sample the different varieties of Masonry. I have always made it a point to try and attend a lodge meeting, or do some Masonic sight seeing when traveling. Recently I got to visit Washington D.C., and had an amazing experience there. Everyone knows that there is an immense amount of stuff to see in our nation’s capitol. You can walk around on the mall and see the monuments, spend a week walking around in the Smithsonian museums (and still not see everything), or even take a day trip to Mount Vernon. As a Mason though, the one place you have to go is the George Washington Masonic memorial.

If you ever find yourself in D.C. with some time to spare, hop on a blue or yellow line metro and take it to the King Street station in Alexandria. About a block away from the station is the George Washington Masonic Memorial. It stands 333 feet tall, and was built to resemble the ancient Egyptian lighthouse of Alexandria. It has ten stories inside, and is truly an amazing building.

The tour of the building was fantastic, from the main lobby with the 17 foot tall statue of George Washington, all the way to the observation deck on the top floor. The first stop on the guided tour is a museum dedicated to George Washington, sponsored by the Scottish Rite. It contains a lot of artifacts including Washington’s Masonic bible. The other floors on the guided tour are all sponsored by appendant bodies of masonry consisting of the orders of the York Rite, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. I could write about it forever, or you could go take an online tour of the building at, and see for yourself (they’re much better at it than I am anyway).

I got the pleasure of meeting the curator of the museum, WB Mark Tabbert. He showed us around to some other parts of the building that aren’t on the tour. We also got to see a storage room where they had grand lodge proceedings from all around the country. Some of these dated as far back as the 1700s, and they are currently working on converting them to digital format and creating a massive electronic Masonic archive.

There are also two lodge rooms in the memorial, and we got to attend a meeting at Alexandria-Washington lodge no. 22. This lodge was originally founded in 1783 in Pennsylvania, and moved its charter to Virginia in 1788 when George Washington was master of the lodge. It is one of the oldest active lodges in the country, and is full of rich Masonic history. The night we were there we got to see a presentation by an English Masonic author named Julian Rees. He gave a talk about his most recent work, titled “So you want to be a Freemason?”, and how as Masons we need to focus more about getting back to our Masonic roots. The meeting came to a close, and after spending nearly the whole day at the memorial, it was time to say goodbye.

I want to give a special thank you to WB Mark Tabbert for taking the time out of his day to show us around and being so hospitable. I also want to extend a special thank you to WM Andrew Hammer of Alexandria-Washington 22 for welcoming us into the lodge, and for presenting me with an AW22 pin.

I highly recommend anyone who is visiting the D.C. area to go and visit the memorial, whether you’re a Mason or not. There’s something for everyone to see there, and the tours are free.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sir Winston Churchill 3rd Degree

I was present at a truly amazing event for Minnesota Masonic history, the first raising of one of the newest Lodges in this jurisdiction, Sir Winston Churchill Lodge No. 351. The ranks of the Lodge are filled with many brilliant and distinguished brothers of this state including Past Grand Masters, Monitors of the Ritual Work, Past Masters of many Lodges, and some of the brightest minds in Minnesota Masonry. The Lodge is built upon the traditions of British Masonry, hence it's patron being the great British politician and Brother, Sir Winston Churchill. The Lodge, however, performs the Minnesota work, our own variation of Preston-Webb, which they performed last night in perfect form.

The Lodge moved its charter to the Minneapolis Valley Scottish Rite Temple to perform this Third Degree. The Minneapolis Valley is one of the few Valleys in this country that performs all 29 degrees of the Scottish Rite. I am not a member of the Scottish Rite, but visiting this beautiful and intriguing building has begun to whet my appetite for more Masonic participation. The building is epic, filled with a maze of different rooms and caverns. Strange implements of degrees I haven't taken a part. The library was amazing and the main room raised a canopy like those of heaven, just a beautiful sight to behold.

The idea of putting on this degree in the cavernous confines of the sacred space, with its various Masonic and Scottish Rite adornments defining the experience to be had within. How beautiful and fitting to confer the last and highest degree of Ancient Craft Masonry in this Temple dedicated to our highest aspirations and duties as Freemasons.

The degree work was done with great care and skill, led by Most Worshipful Brother Tom Jackson in the East. The entire degree work was performed, including the lectures, in handsome form. The lectures were crazy well-done by Bob and Doug, the Second lecture by Dan and the full third lecture by John. I really feel that the candidate got something from it. The brothers of this Lodge know their stuff and I was totally impressed. After the degree was conferred, I met with my friend and Brother, Nick, who had just returned from Washington, D.C. and was fortunate enough to sit in George Washington's home Lodge, Alexandria-Washington No. 22, and he returned with a gift for me, a pin from its Worshipful Master for this year. Nick is an extremely well-traveled brother with, dare I say (dare, dare) more knowledge of the Craft than me.

I'll try to get pictures of the event and publish them below.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Lodge Website

I know I've been away from writing for far too long. Apparently, I had no idea just how strong the hat can pull you away from everything but Lodge business. As a way to segue of comparing my duties as Master of my Lodge, my Lodge has put together a wonderful new website. You can visit the site at The Lodge site is an incredibly important tool for Lodges in terms of recruitment but more especially, for retention. I'm going to reveal a few secrets so that other Lodges can take them and utilize them in their own websites. And yes, I may run this website but that does not mean I have any technical skills with "compruters."

First, use an easy to update Content Management Service or CMS. During my time in the East, I said that although free options are available, I wanted to look at the full gamut of CMSes that we could use. We finally arrived at SquareSpace. SquareSpace is an amazing way to present a website. We required little to no training to get the website off the ground. We can update the content on the fly and if we are bold, we can even use the iPhone application to update. Also, the backend is flexible and allows us to try all kinds of different looks, feels, and logical arrangements of content. It is well worth the money you will pay.

Second, if you publish a newsletter, you can recycle the articles used on the site for the newsletter. And obviously, put your newsletter on the web as a way to get brothers to click and look at the full color option, thereby saving money on a color printing. You can even offer your newsletter as an email to those brothers with email while sending out a newsletter to brothers that don't.

Third, have a box for sending messages easily accessible. Ours is within one click of any page. This means that the curious reader, or person looking for information can easily research through our site and then hit us with an email to ask a question.

Fourth, create Lodge specific emails for all officers. Therefore, if you're looking for a specific officer, you can easily send them an email with little to no effort. Therefore if someone sends a message to master (at) corinthian67 (dot) org, that email will come to me only. If a person is curious about what is being served, they can write an email to srsteward or jrsteward. To talk to the secretary it's just secretary (at). This makes the flow of emails manageable. Also, if some event needs the attention of a few of the officers, you can mix and match who you will be sending the message to. Setting this up is easy and free through Google Apps. And yes, it is free. Included in Google Apps is the ability to use and to place a Google Calendar for your Lodge on your site. Another really great Lodge site is for Accacia Lodge and specifically their use of the calendar. Unlike most Lodges, Accacia is a moon lodge which means it meets on the Wednesday during the week of the full moon. How can brothers find out when they meet? By checking the Google calendar right on the site. A brilliant use for an important need. (Also, check out the rest of Accacia site, it looks amazing. Brother Greg, awesome job.)

Fifth, create a MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter page for your Lodge. You may ask why you would do something like this if you already have a website up? The reason you would put up these types of sites is to complete the circle. Men are looking for our Lodges in every corner of Internet and you need a presence at every location you can. Additionally, these services are free. My Lodge has a Facebook and MySpace to post upcoming events while our Twitter account posts the content from either of these sites for more mass consumption. On Facebook, brothers can be invited to upcoming events and it can give you a better sense of the number of brothers who will be coming. On Facebook, the concept of Fan page is incredible. Brothers and friends can see when some event, pictures or other content is posted on their news feeds and can then be shared even further out. It's that old commercial of telling two friends and their friends and so on and so on.

Sixth, make sure to check with your Grand Lodge to find out what they expect from your site. In Minnesota, a site is presented to the Grand Lodge and they approve it. If it is approved, a message is to be displayed at the bottom of the site showing that this site has been approved. After the site has been approved, the added benefit in Minnesota is that the site is included in the Lodge's general listing on the Grand Lodge site.

Finally, you need to be willing to keep up the content. That is you're number one job. If the content is not adequately up-to-date, people will think that you are irrelevant. You need to make sure that all of your officers' names are up on the site and up-to-date. No one wants to see Officers 2005-2006. Just like the ritual, if we don't present our website content well, the petitioners and candidates won't take us seriously either.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Our current Senior Steward and newly awarded Mason of the Year for Corinthian Lodge, Dan laid out our site and helps keep it up to date. He has done an incredible job and I want to applaud just how well he has done this task.

What ideas do you have for Lodge websites, how do you make them look good, and what hosting service do you use? Leave a comment so that we can make all our Lodge website look as good as we possibly can.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Past Grand Master Tom McCarthy's Farewell Address

This is the farewell address from our immediate Past Grand Master Tom McCarthy, a brother who has shown great leadership for Minnesota Masonry. Thank you, Most Worshipful Brother Tom and you are welcome in Farmington anytime.

Grand Orient of France to Now Admit Women

It has been reported in Le Figaro, that on Friday, April 9, the Grand Orient of France will now allow individual Lodges to admit female members, essentially making it a Co-Masonic body. The Grand Orient has, according to Le Figaro, been debating this change for years. Some GOdF Lodges have already admitted women into their ranks in what were called "des initiations 'sauvages'" or wild initiations.

The Grand Orient of France has dabbled in admitting women in Freemasonry for centuries, first by recognizing the Adopted Masonic bodies that began forming in the middle of the 18th century. Obviously, the above presented information is only an overview and you can find more online.


As a counterpoint, I would like to point all my readers to an interview on "The Art of Manliness" with a very wise and imminent brother, Worshipful Brother Robert Davis, FPS, which focused on Masonry as a rite of passage into manhood. I am in agreement with WB Davis' thoughts about what our Craft does for men. It's a great interview with many salient points made.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Annual Communication Wrap-up

Well my brothers, what a fun time I had in Saint Cloud. During my three years as a principal officer of the Lodge, I always look forward to attending the Annual Communication. I see brothers from Lodges around the state and visiting dignitaries around the globe. We are truly a worldwide phenomenon, a Fraternity built upon the principles of Brotherly love, relief, and truth. The knowledge that I have gained from attending these Communications has made me a better leader to my Lodge.

Firstly, I want to wish the Most Worshipful Grand Master, John Cook, a great year. He is a great Mason and has been an inspiration to me as a Masonic leader, passionate about getting our message to good men seeking to be made better men. He has been to Corinthian many times during my years in the Lodge and has always presented thought-provoking words to my brethren. I still have my Warden's Notebook, maintaining a calendar of events, and planning for the future of my Lodge.

The whole cavalcade of brothers from Corinthian Lodge were in attendance including our Secretary. We were able to cover all the break-out sessions and meet as many brothers as we knew and many we didn't. Of course, the "forgetful" Master forgot his nametag again (you know, that little blue plate displayed on my chest in the photo to the left). Thank goodness that I've traveled so often that brothers remembered me. I'm thinking that I should just get my name stitched into my suits. It's great to see these brothers, able to talk shop about their Lodge activities.

This year, my wife attended the open Annual Communication activities with me. The Banquet to the Grand Master was filled with fun, touching presentations, and a great Irish folk band. Although I won't speak for her, I think she had a great time, meeting these guys that I hang out with that she only knew by name.

This was my last Annual Communication as a principal officer of Corinthian Lodge so the whole experience was bittersweet. Yet I know I will be at the next Annual Communication in Saint Cloud, happy to meet all of my brothers and friends again. And of course, my Lodge brothers and I will be traveling like we do each month, meeting new brothers and having new Lodge experiences and trying new things in my Lodge to reinvigorate my Lodge brothers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pre-Annual Communication Preparation

The Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, A.F. & A.M. will be tomorrow. The Wardens, the Secretary and myself will be making the trek to the Granite City, Saint Cloud, to meet and greet the Masonic community of Minnesota as well as distinguished guests from far off places. The Most Worshipful Grand Master, Tom McCarthy, has been a great light to this jurisdiction and I'm glad to hear and meet him again at this great conclave.

Most Worshipful Brother Tom has been to many, many Lodges during his term as Grand Master, including two trips to my Lodge, Corinthian No. 67. He is a very wise man and a dedicated brother as evidenced by his many posts to his blog, MNGrandMaster09. I have been lucky enough to meet him as well during the formal consecration and installation of officers of one of the two newest Lodges chartered in Minnesota, Sir Winston Churchill Lodge No. 351. I was honored to have hosted the Grand Master at our first ever First Degree/Table Lodge. The event has been recorded in the annals of our Lodge history as one of the best attended functions in the Lodge's history. We had at this event, the Most Worshipful Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother John Cook, Deputy Grand Master, and Most Worshipful Brother Tom Jackson, Immediate Past Grand Master.

I remember the Grand Master's remarks succinctly, that we are separated from all other groups by our dedication to and knowledge of the ritual and the teachings therein contained. I have taken these words to heart and have asked my Lodge brothers, including non-officers, to take parts and lectures and have asked them to dedicate themselves to learning and understanding the ritual. He has done a great many things for not just my Lodge but Lodge's throughout the state. Most Worshipful Grand Master, thank you.

If you want to meet me at the Communication, just look at the photo to your right. I won't be wearing the top hat but I will be there, excited to see everyone this year, my last year attending as a principal officer of Corinthian Lodge No. 67. We are going to have a fun time.

Oh, oh, oh, almost forgot, my Lodge has now created a Facebook fan page. We will be posting events, photos and other fun stuff. If you want to, fan us up. It's not a group so no authentication is required.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lodge Tracker 2.0

Wow, I've been away from this whole awesome world of internet Masonry. I checked my last post's date and it appears to have been almost a month prior to this one. Well, great to be back especially since I'm very excited to tell all the brothers of the redux of an excellent website for finding and discussing Lodges throughout the United States, Lodge Tracker.

The website Lodge Tracker is a site I discussed a few months back as a great idea and implementation of that idea. I really thought that this site had great potential as a way to find Lodges not only near you but also when you travel to other states to find a Lodge to visit. The site seemed perfect as it was.

However, this website has now been reduxed and I am now completely impressed with the improvements made. The same format for Lodges has been kept intact including the ability to add all pertinent information for the seeking brothers and seekers alike. The best new feature is the ability to create a profile. Yes, I know it's another social networking thingy but I'm okay with that.

This website redesign is showing great promise. Not only is their the directory angle but also a social networking component. I would suggest that all of you try this website out as it is truly a great resource. You can use it as a tracking site, seeing which Lodges you have visited. It also helps in finding Lodges in those jurisdictions that do not have a Lodge directory on their website or one that is incomplete. Lodge Tracker is US only. I want to thank Bro. Abraham for this awesome site and keep up the good work. Now readers, go populate this site, add your Lodge like I've added my Lodge.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Please No Open Flames, Candle with Two Ends Present

If you ask, things will get done. Of course, when I ask for things, I should make sure not to have them all collide into one week of near Masonic overload. This week will probably be the busiest week of my life as a Mason.

Today, I was at the degree practice for the upcoming 2nd degree that we will be having for four brothers coming up tomorrow. I will be giving the full lecture for the 2nd degree (you know, that one), so I've been stuffing (well, more like restuffing) everything I can back from the six months that it's been. I have been practicing for around a month so I hope to truly make this lesson memorable for the brothers. I really enjoy the 2nd degree because well, firstly, I get an attentive ear (captive?) from the candidates as well as creating that all important but often neglected middle step.

On Wednesday, some brothers and myself will be going to _________ Lodge No. ____. I've left it blank just in case the brother in question that we want to surprise reads my blog. I've really wanted to travel to other Lodges and I'm thankful that my Senior Warden, Steve, has been pushing for more travel by the Lodge and I am more than happy to oblige. It's one of my goals to check out all the Lodges in the District and we'll see if that goal is doable.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention, Corinthian Lodge will also be hosting a 4th School of Instruction on Thursday. The 4th School focuses on opening, closing, balloting, and receiving Grand Lodge Officers. We will be fortunate to have our Area Custodian, RWB Brian Beermann, in attendance to help us with improving our work.

Hold on while let out a little primal scream, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! Okay so I feel better now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Great News Concerning the Philalethes Society Annual Feast and Forum

Most Worshipful Brother Terry Tilton, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, A.F. & A.M., and President of the Philalethes Society has great news for the upcoming 82nd Annual Feast and Forum being held in Bloomington, MN, the cost for attending the Forum has been waived. That means no cost for attending the Forum and it's open to all Masons. Most Worshipful wants an accurate accounting of the number of brothers coming so you need to send him an email saying, "hey, I'm coming." I will be attending and I hope other brothers take advantage of this great opportunity. For more information on the event, visit here. To sign up for meals, visit the Annual Feast page on the Philalethes Society website here. The Feast is being held at the Park Plaza.

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As a member of the Philalethes Society, I have discovered a great resource for my Masonic education. The quality of the work produced as well as the trading of ideas amongst some of the most learned brothers in the country has been a blessing. I've been reading "Fiat Lux" Volume One, compiled by Bro. Jack Buta, and I'm stunned by the wonderful papers produced between the 1950's and 1980's. You can get a copy of this book at the Philalethes Society website here or by becoming a new or renewed member for 2010. This is a must read for any serious student of Masonic history or philosophy.

I really have also enjoyed reading "The Philalethes" magazine. W.Bro. Shawn Eyer, the editor, has really guided a quality product and I'm truly impressed by the content. Also, Worshipful Brother Ed Halpaus, Grand Lodge Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, publishes a great series of articles called, "Masonic Matters." I am truly impressed by this organization and the Fellows and Members that make up its membership. Other opportunities include local Philalethes Chapters where members can get together to discuss Masonic issues.

If you haven't joined the Philalethes Society or have not subscribed to the magazine, I have one question, "What are you waiting for?" You can join by either visiting the Philalethes membership page or by mailing back this form. It is an excellent opportunity for brothers seeking further light.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Boy Scouts of America Celebrates 100 Years

On February 8th, 2010, the organization, Boy Scouts of America, will be celebrating its 100th year anniversary. This is an incredible event for the premier organization for boys and young men. During my time in Scouts, I learned a great deal of skills that I have used in my adult life.

Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, in my opinion, are in the best position to make good boys into better men. Boy Scouts is a great preparatory step into manhood. I loved my time as a Scout leading to the ultimate award, the Eagle Scout. Understanding the importance of Scouting on not only this country and its brightest minds but also the participating countries in the World Scouting Movement is essential to improve our young men. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't describe just how essential Girl Scouts of America is to improving the lives of young women. I have friends that are Gold Awardees and they have done many great and important things as well. Scouting has changed my life and I truly see many shared qualities between the Troop and the Lodge.

There is a modern convergence for Brothers that also serve as Scoutleaders. It's known as the National Association of Masonic Scouters. In Minnesota, the Grand Lodge recognized this organization just last year at the Annual Communication. There is also an award that Masonic Scouters are eligible for called the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Daniel Beard Carter was made a Master Mason in Mariner's Lodge No. 67 and later affiliated with Cornucopia Lodge No. 563. The Senior Deacon of my Lodge, Rick, was awarded the Award at the same Annual Communication that the Masonic Scouters organization was recognized.

Scouting also has its own "secret society" known as the Order of the Arrow. The only way to be eligible is to be voted on by the members of your Troop. The Order of the Arrow was created by E. Urner Goodman, who was a member of Robert A. Lamberton Lodge No. 487 in Pennsylvania. I am also a member of the Order of the Arrow and was very impressed by the work done by all the members. (Of course, that was many years ago. Now I feel old.)

In all, with this incredibly short account of Boy Scouts and their relationship to the Masonry has not done justice to everything that can be covered. It's also interesting to note that the man instrumental in bringing the Scouting Movement to America, William Boyce, was a Freemason and a Shriner. If you want more information, there is an article entitled "Freemasonry and Scouting" by Bro. Bainbridge at the Masonic Trowel. If you have a son or daughter, think seriously about having them join Scouts, it will change his or her life. Happy 100 years BSA, I hope for many more.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Drop of a Hat

At my Lodge's last meeting, we were fortunate enough to have a man waiting to take his first degree. He couldn't make the date for the First degree we scheduled for our degree class but he wanted to meet the brothers of the Lodge anyway. As the hands of the clock came closer to 7 and 6, I began to think to myself, "Heck, we have the players, we have the parts, the play's the thing, let's do it."

"Would you like to begin your degree work?"


"Places everyone!"

"We're doing a degree?"

"Yep, we can do this."

And so it began, the brethren and I initiated our new brother at a moment's notice. Our degree work was wonderfully done and I am so proud of my brothers. Where else but Corinthian Lodge could you do degree work for a brother at the drop of the hat?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1st degree plus a Table Lodge plus Grand Lodge Officers Equals Awesome.

Last night, Corinthian Lodge No. 67 did something that it has never done in its 142 year history, a table lodge/ 1st degree. We initiated four brothers into our Fraternity. But that wasn’t the only exciting event to hit the Lodge, we were also fortunate enough to host the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master, and the immediate Past Grand Master and to quote Craig Ferguson, "Whaaaat?! I know."

When I was installed as Master, I had decided to do something different, something new. It’s not that Corinthian has been hurting for candidates or a general sense of malaise has hit widespread. It’s just that I saw a pressing need to keep us relevant, to recognize that we, as a Lodge, must view what we do as a progressive science. We now do degree work on a scheduled basis, spacing them at about a month apart while giving an educational piece in between so that the lessons are better understood. We also used a seven toast Table Lodge in the 1st degree.

This event and program was truly enjoyable and I am so fortunate to have these hard working brothers with me. Our Junior Warden Joel and the Stewards, Dan and Art, really outdid themselves, offering a wonderful meal to all brethren assembled. As we began the meal, I saw the excitement and joy in the faces of our candidates, in our visiting brethren and the members of our Lodge. I was also very happy to see our newest Master Mason, Bro. John, at this meeting, where he was presented with his apron and Bible by WBro. Hugh in a beautiful presentation which I was told is unique at Corinthian Lodge No. 67.

After we had gone through two toasts, it was time to prepare the candidates. To paraphrase the words of our Grand Master, Tom McCarthy, what separates us from any other group is our ritual. It teaches lessons to our new brothers even if they don’t remember it all right there. I could see in the faces of all brothers those memories of our own initiation as well as the excitement and joy of our new brothers as they began their first step into Masonic light.

It was great to see MWB Tom Jackson as well who is truly a great friend and mentor to Masons everywhere, including myself. His zeal and understanding of our Craft is, in a word, "marvelous." It was also great to see Right Worshipful Brother John Cook, our Deputy Grand Master, whose prowess for ritual proficiency is legendary. I will be honored come March to see such a dedicated brother be elected as our Grand Master for 2010-2011 (should tradition prevail) at our Grand Lodge Annual Communication, my final one as an officer of the Lodge.

Seeing the three great light bearers in the state, the just was, is and will be Grand Masters of our state all within the confines of our Lodge hall was inspiring and I hope that our new brothers will understand the solemnity and importance of this meeting and our luck as a Lodge at hosting these three great Masons.

We were also fortunate to have a Custodian of the Work, Bro. Foster of Minnehaha Lodge and a friend of mine and his, Bro. Greg from Accacia Lodge in Cottage Grove were also there to celebrate in this joyous occasion. As you can tell from my feverish writing, we had many things to do that evening but even with all of this, I believe the brethren, especially our new brothers, found an experience that was unique and memorable. Next meeting, we will present more education on the first degree. It should be enjoyable and if you would like to participate, please come on down to Farmington, our doors are always open to a brother.

I have linked to the program that we used that can be found on the Grand Lodge of Minnesota's website. If you are Master or soon to be Master, I can honestly say, try it out. The brothers will love it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Member of the Philalethes Society

I'm proud to say that I have recently received my membership letter and dues card for the Philalethes Society. I'm very excited to see what I can expect from one of the premier Masonic research groups in the world.

The Philalethes Society includes amongst its ranks some of the brightest minds in Freemasonry today. Included in the membership is a subscription to the Philalethes Magazine. This magazine publishs influential and well-researched pieces about the subject of Masonry including the writings of WB Ed Halpaus, the Grand Lodge Education Officer of Minnesota.

Minnesota is very lucky this year. This year, MWB Terry Tilton is the current president and Minnesota will be hosting the 82nd Annual Feast and Forum. Included on the program is MWB Tom Jackson, who will be discussing how we fail with college men and what we can do to win. I am very interested to attend this event.

All in all, I'm very excited to be a member of the Philalethes Society. If you're interested in joining, visit

Monday, January 4, 2010

Farmington York Rite Installation

Tonight, my good friend and the Senior Warden of our Lodge, Steve, was installed as High Priest of Corinthian Chapter #33 and Companion Chuck was installed as Illustrious Master of Northfield Council #12. I will post pictures of the nights festivities below.

I can say that Royal Arch, in particular, and York Rite, in general, will feel a new sense of rebirth as Masonry is once again discovered. Royal Arch Masonry offers to the brother something further in his Masonic life, something new. Perhaps a brother doesn't find something he's looking for in his mother Lodge. Although he has a duty to attend Lodge, he may feel that his talents aren't being used to their fullest. That's where the appendant bodies come into play.

I really have enjoyed my time in Chapter, learning new ritual and witnessing degree work for the first time in four years as an actual candidate. I have opened a new area of study in my Masonic education. The best part of York Rite is its closeness in both locality and relationships with the companions in the local Chapter and Council. I hope that my soon-to-be Chapter and Council continues to have great success in the coming year and beyond.