Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Royal Arch and its Place in our Craft

I’m now serving my second term as High Priest of Corinthian Chapter No. 33 R.A.M. Because I've been serving long enough to understand the intricacies of the Capitular system, I feel I can start to make critiques and present potential improvements to the Royal Arch. The American system, and to some extent the Canadian system, follow the so-called Webb order of conferral. (Webb had nothing to do with it but many RAMs describe the capitular system this way.)

Let’s be honest for a moment, the order in which the Capitular degrees are conferred do not relate to each other. In fact, they’re a mismatch of four degrees that have nothing in common. Yes, I know that’s shocking... well, unless of course you’ve seen all four degrees.

In the original formation of the Royal Arch, the degree was closely tied to the Master Mason degree. Currently, in the United States and many other Chapters in the world, the Royal Arch is conferred as the last of seven degrees, three related (the first three Craft degrees) and three unrelated degrees (the Mark Master, Past Master, and Most Excellent Master) making for a very strange story told to the candidate.

I propose something that should be done in the interest of saving the Royal Arch from the slow death that it’s crawling towards; I propose that we have Royal Arch Chapters confer only one degree, the degree for which Chapters were initially created. Dropping the so-called preparatory degrees of the Chapter, which are, in actuality, not preparatory in anyway to the Royal Arch, will allow Chapters to focus on what's important. 

The Mark Master and Royal Arch degrees are separate and distinct. They should be separate and distinct because of the lessons they teach. The Royal Arch is the completion, the degree that gives us that which was lost. As Master Masons, we strive for that goal. The Mark Master is a side degree, a beautiful and interesting degree, but it remains a side degree. (To all my Scottish readers, I apologize as I realize that the Mark Man and Mark Master degrees are a part of your Fellow Craft degree)

The Royal Arch is a degree built and designed in many different parts. It’s complex. The staging requires many players who guide the candidate into the realm of further light. And, in my life, it holds a very special place in my heart. In my opinion, more education can be taken from the Royal Arch degree than in almost any other degree.

The reason I started thinking about this is that I see Chapter suffering. Chapter is not built in the same way as a Lodge, a Council, a Commandery, or a Valley. Lodge, Council, and Commandery degrees all have a story to tell that flows. Valleys have 29 degrees that can be conferred and can confer many if not all of them because they draw from a large population.

Chapters have some major disadvantages. Chapters meet in lodge buildings. Chapters have smaller populations, like lodges, but with more required degrees. Chapter degrees are a hodge-podge and it’s hard to completely grasp the connection. It needs help to survive.

I have three solutions to this problem (and yes, I believe the Chapter structure is a problem).

1.) Drop the PM degree, transfer the Mark Degrees to a separate organization that remains under the control of the Grand Chapter and make the Most Excellent Degree an optional degree like the Super Excellent.

This is how I would envision this structure: the Chapter would confer one degree, the Royal Arch. The chapter would confer it in grand style because the focus would be on making that one degree great. Anyone who has seen the Royal Arch realizes its importance in the Craft structure. It needs to remain close to the degree it is built to follow, the Master Mason degree. It is an important sequel, like The Godfather: Part II not Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, and we should deliver it in that way.

Furthermore, the Chapter would be given the option of conferring the Most Excellent should it choose to do so. This change would be similar to how the Super Excellent Master is conferred in a Cryptic Council.  The Most Excellent Master needs at least 20 people to make it an effective degree and by making it an optional degree, the hope would be that it would be conferred in grand style. The Most Excellent Master degree deserves better care and attention than that which most Chapters can properly provide. It's a shame that such a beautiful degree is often conferred without costumes, music, and any sense of reverential awe. It deserves more and the only way to do that is to make it an optional degree.

The Mark Master degree would be assigned to a Grand Lodge of Marks, still under the auspices of the Grand Chapter, but with its own Craft structure. In that way, there would be one Mark Lodge in each of the districts or areas of a Grand Chapter’s jurisdiction. The Grand Lodge of Marks would serve the Chapters in the jurisdiction and would confer the Mark degree at set times each year. What's more, this would give more potential Grand Chapter officers a chance to show how well they can run a Grand Masonic Body. We complain about the lack of interest and the lack of jobs; this would allow us to create more of both. The Mark Master degree is a special degree with a very different history from the Royal Arch degree. We should give this degree its due.

This is my preferred structure.

(Side note: I've been accused of hating on the PM degree. I accept that accusation as true. It is an unnecessary degree. It serves as the appendix of old, non-existent requirements for attaining the Royal Arch and has already been dropped by many Grand Chapters throughout the world. What once was necessary is not now necessary. Let’s just move on and focus on that which is important.)

2.) Reverse the order of the degrees and drop the PM degree.

By reversing the order, the Royal Arch degree is placed precisely where it belongs in the story, right next the Master Mason degree. The Most Excellent degree be conferred next and the Mark would be placed last. The importance of the Royal Arch degree would be given proper credence would truly serve as a transition from the Blue Lodge to the Red Chapter. 

If you know anything about the Veils, you will see the importance in placing the Royal Arch next to the Master Mason degree. This method, while not ideal, does serve to give the Royal Arch Mason all the degrees he would need to travel to other Chapters in the country and maintain the close relationship between the Master Mason and the Royal Arch. Again, this is not an ideal solution but could be the easiest to implement.

3.) Transfer the power to confer the Royal Arch and Mark degrees to the Craft lodges.

This has only been done on a local basis and only in one state, Lodge Copernicus in the state of South Australia. This would require a lot of coordination and a lot of Masons having to give up power. I don’t see it happening but I do think that this method would not just encourage but guarantee that all Masons would become Royal Arch Masons. Of course, instead of transferring, one other related approach, which is what Lodge Copernicus has in actuality done, is to receive a charter from the three degree-controlling bodies to establish a lodge that confers all the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry. This is a doable approach only if a Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter agreed and if the rules of each allowed something like this.

This change could be made more difficult by the existence of the General Grand Chapter but I think they are necessary changes. My intention is to not make the work of the Chapter easy but make it right to encourage the Master Mason to continue his journey. Instead of festivals and high turnover, we need to make the Chapter an important step in a Mason’s life. The Royal Arch degree is just too damn important to let it slip through our fingers.

What do you think? Does Royal Arch Masonry need a change? Leave a comment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Scottish Rite Craft Degrees Exemplified in Lake Worth


I came across a very underreported story coming out of the Valley of Lake Worth in the Orient of Florida, AASR (SJ). The city of Lake Worth is near Palm Beach. It's not a big town, its population hovering around 37,000 souls. From my experience though, small places can bring big changes, and boy did they ever.

I decided, after reading about the exemplification of the so-called "Red Degrees" in Lake Worth, that I needed to learn more. I contacted the brother who got the ball rolling. His name is Scott Schwartzberg. He's the Junior Deacon of Boynton Lodge No. 236, Boynton Beach, Florida. He's a great guy and I've really enjoyed talking with him.

For the uninformed reader, the degrees conferred by most states and some provinces of Canada originate from the Preston-Webb, while most lodges in the world use some variation of the Emulation Rite. The Scottish Rite Craft degrees are not conferred as actual degrees except in a few places in the United States, most well known being those lodges in the 16th District of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, F.&A.M. The only way for brothers to have seen these SR Craft degrees was to monitor the calendars of the handful of lodges that perform them in New Orleans and plan a trip there during those times.

Scott explained to me his reason for wanting to exemplify the "Red Degrees" in his Valley:
I had recently joined the Scottish Rite, despite having read much about Masonry and the Scottish Rite in particular since I first read Morals and Dogma over 25 years ago, and to learn more about the organization, I signed up for the Master Craftsman series of quizzes and essays. While reading about the 9th and 10th degrees, there was a brief mention of how the degrees continue the story of the 3rd, or Master Mason degree, which differs significantly from that which is in the Symbolic Lodge, both here in Florida, and in New Jersey, where I was raised. This piqued my interest, and I was discussing it with a Brother in my Lodge, who had recently returned from a visit to the Dominican Republic, where he had visited a Lodge and witnessed a Scottish Rite Entered Apprentice degree. We decided to see if we could get this ritual, and somehow exemplify it. I talked with Brothers from other Lodges in the District, and they wanted to participate as well.
The ritual that Lake Worth used for the exemplification was the "Ritual of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason Degree for Exclusive Use of the Scottish Rite Blue Lodges F.&A.M., working under the MWGL of the State of Louisiana, revised 1963. And for those parts not in the ritual, he incorporated some parts of Albert Pike's versions of the Degrees, found in "The Porch and the Middle Chamber".

The degrees were exemplified in three parts: EA on February 23, 2011, FC on March 23, 2011, and the MM on March 27th, 2011. The degrees were open to all Master Masons, and according to Scott, the response was tremendous and the exemplifications were very well-attended. The degree team for each of the degrees was assisted by members of the Grand Lodge of Ha├»ti as there are many lodges that confer the Craft degrees using the Scottish Rite ritual and these brothers had familiarity with the floorwork and ritual. You can find pictures of the degree team on Lantana Lodge No. 372's website here. Scott has written a very nice article going into more detail on the three degree exemplifications; you can read more from his article published in the October 2011 edition of the Working Tools Magazine.

I'll make my disclaimers now. I am not an SR Mason but I'm very antsy to start my journey. The Scottish Rite in Minneapolis and Saint Paul are very special. At any given time during the year, some Scottish Rite degree is being conferred somewhere in the state of Minnesota. The Valley of Minneapolis performs each of the 29 degrees in two long form classes spanning over 12 weeks. The degrees are presented in full theatrical form. Saint Paul Valley confers nearly all of the degrees once per year and the Valleys of Duluth and Rochester confer more than half of the degrees once per year. Minnesota was also very fortunate to have welcomed the brothers of Internet Lodge No. 9659 to exemplify the Emulation Rite third degree for a packed house of Minnesota Masons. (You can read about the trip here and here.)

I have to say, I'm very intrigued by a Valley performing these Craft degrees. I don't know much about the Scottish Rite but from what I understand, the differences between Preston-Webb (of which I include the Royal Arch Degree) and the Scottish Rite can be quite confusing when taking the American Scottish Rite degrees 4°-32°. There is a dissonance between 3° and 4° in the degrees as conferred by SJ Valleys (the NMJ has changed the 29 degrees under their charge many times and have very little in comparison to the SJ degrees.). That's why I've been reading the Porch and the Middle Chamber. I want to feel prepared when taking the degrees.

I've also read somewhere that a Valley in Arizona (I believe the Valley of Phoenix) has conferred all 32 degrees at a regional reunion. My hope is that more Valleys will be performing these in the future. Of course, my guess is that the usual permission must be received but I think that this is a very worthwhile educational opportunity for all Master Masons.

What Lake Worth has done is very important. Masons joining today are focused on light. I found as LEO of my lodge that Masons want a lodge meeting to be dedicated to education. I completely agree and I was very happy to appease the members with papers and opening the floor to other opinions. Allowing the "Red Degrees" to be exemplified will be a boon for Valleys and Grand Lodges. More Masonic opportunities will lead to more Masonry in the state. Furthermore, a Valley exemplifying these degrees will lead to many more candidates. Brothers will bridge the lessons of SR Craft degrees to SR higher degrees and will encourage them to join and, more importantly, participate.

I want to congratulate the brothers of Valley of Lake Worth for taking this first step. This is a gamechanger and you should be proud.

What do you think? Should Valleys be exemplifying the Scottish Rite Craft or "Red" Degrees? Leave a comment.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Business Meetings

This will be a short post because I'm on my phone and the keyboard won't turn to landscape. I've been looking at different models for Masonic lodges lately and there seems to be two related goals, more education, less business. I had to ask myself, while thinking about these two concepts, "is there a brother who wants more business and less education?" I've never met one yet many Masonic meetings devolve into the mediocre minutiae of boring business. Why? Is it how meetings are designed? Is it a rut? I don't know but I'm seeing a turnaround.

Lodges are unshackling themselves from tedious business. Minutes are distributed instead of read, committees are formed, and their actions approved in one fell swoop, and Masters are cutting off debate. These are great advances.

My lodge has the LEO speak before any business is discussed. That way, any of the inside baseball comments about the (insert fundraiser here) will hopefully die as no one wants or remembers to talk about them. Fundraisers are not Masonry, education is.

Business isn't evil but it should be handled well and quickly. Masonic meetings are supposed to be an educational experience. That is the way to save Masonry.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Which Rite is Right… for me?


I’ve been very busy with Masonry and family lately. Being a new father and a Mason is not easy, but I make it work the best I can. About two years ago, I joined my local Royal Arch Chapter. I was the first new candidate in about three years. In keeping with Masonic tradition, I was given a position in leadership, the High Priest. So I jumped a few chairs (as in all of them) but I’ve been kept out of trouble for a while at least. I also joined the local Cryptic Council because they met in the same building.

I’ve had fun serving Corinthian Lodge as LEO and Corinthian Chapter as High Priest. For the upcoming year, I’ll again serve as High Priest in addition to serving as Marshal for Corinthian Lodge. I have high hopes for the Royal Arch and the Cryptic Council in Farmington. I’ve even publically struggled over whether to join Commandery.

One other development in my life is the encouragement of the brothers to give Scottish Rite a try. I have so many irons in the fire that I sometimes feel I’ll get burned out. I love Masonry and I love being active in all aspects of the Craft. So I’ve been led to a quandary, which rite is for me?

I love the Royal Arch degree. I think it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. I think that there is a reason that the Antients believed in it so highly and why the UGLE Constitution still proclaims it, rightly or wrongly, to be a part of Ancient Craft Masonry. Of course, brothers disagree with this assertion with strong evidence of their own.

I like the York Rite from what I’ve already experienced. I like the York Rite because there is no pressure to join everything. If you just want to see the Royal Arch and the Mark Master, join Royal Arch Chapter. If you want to see the Council degrees, you have to be a RAM. If you want to be knighted, join the Chapter and the Council. The first two bodies are non-sectarian and in my opinion, at the very least, all Masons should join a Royal Arch Chapter.

I’ve posted at least two posts concerning the push by some brothers to make the York Rite one comprehensive system which would make it Christian only. I would disagree with any assertion that one must be a Christian to join a Chapter or Council. The Royal Arch is a completion in the Antients’ system of Ancient Craft Masonry. Restricting that to only Christians is patently wrong. Chapter holds a powerful and important set of degrees that is open to all Masons and should be advertised and celebrated as such.

With all that being said, I’m still very interested in the Scottish Rite. The Scottish Rite in Minnesota is very special. We have one of the few Valleys in the world, the Minneapolis Valley, that presents all 29 degrees in full form and Minneapolis Valley performs them twice a year. The other three Scottish Rite Valleys in Minnesota perform a majority of the Scottish Rite degrees, which again, is very uncommon.

To prepare myself for taking the Scottish Rite degrees, I’ve started to look at copies of the Scottish Rite Craft degrees, in particular, Albert Pike’s Porch and the Middle Chamber. Pike stated that to really prepare to take the Scottish Rite degrees, the enlightened Masonic student should have some familiarity with the Scottish Rite Craft degrees. (From Porch and the Middle Chamber, “[t]his Ritual is intended for instruction only, in the States of the Southern jurisdiction, where there are not Lodges working in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; to be studied and understood before investiture with the fourth degree. For, without it, the system of that Rite is incomplete, and even like a fabric without foundation.” (Pike, 1872))

That’s where I’m at. I’ve decided to really dig into the Scottish Rite Craft degrees. I want to learn the alchemical meaning behind the degrees; I want to study the mystic art that seems to permeate through them. I’ve been told that this is not really necessary and that I should just enjoy the degrees. However, I really feel like I should immerse myself before I take on the extra learning of the “University of Freemasonry.” If this process takes me years, then so be it. I took me 5 years to join the Royal Arch and I really feel like, even with the close relationship between lodge and chapter, I still haven’t skimmed the surface of everything I need to understand to be confident in my knowledge of the capitular degrees.

The lodge remains the center of learning. All great things happen within a lodge. However, the Rites provide that extra basis required to be a well-rounded Masonic student. I think a Mason can remain in Lodge and never have to see them and still be happy and complete. It’s the refining qualities that the rites provide that make them both attractive and useful.

Which Rite is right? I think the answer is pretty obvious. The right Rite is the one that feels right to you. (Sorry, I'm used to the standard law school answer of "it depends.")

To which Rite do you belong? If you don’t belong to a Rite, why not? Leave a comment.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marshal the Troops


At Corinthian 67, our bylaws require that the outgoing Master serve as Lodge Education Officer, and that the outgoing Lodge Education Officer serve as the Marshal. That means, if you are Master of the Lodge, you will serve two more years in some lodge leadership role. We designed our officer succession because we wanted to keep the Master in lodge as long as possible. We want his expertise.

As someone who has now been assigned a new role, I have to figure out what the heck I’m supposed to do exactly. I like to do my own thing so I’ve added a bit. Let’s start with the basic framework of a Marshal.

Let’s look at the language of the Minnesota installation ritual:
It is your duty to form and conduct processions of the Lodge on all public occasions, and to attend to such other interests in the practice of our rites, as the Master shall direct.
Okay. So I do some stuff, mostly in public. That's a start but I'm going to need some more information. Let’s go further. 

This is the description from the Minnesota Officers Guide:
The Marshal should:
1. Assist the Tyler to open and close the Lodge and to set up the Lodge.
2. Present the Colors of our country.
3. Assist the Stewards.
Okay, that helps a little bit more. I’m supposed to be a helper. I like to help but again, I’m not sure what aid, other than setup and cleaning, I’m supposed to provide.

I’m writing my own job description for the office of Marshal.

Here goes:

The Marshal should:
  1. Serve as the lodge’s Grand Lodge liaison. At a minimum, he will provide the officers of the Grand Lodge with the calendar of dates and invite them to all important lodge functions. 
  2. Present the Colors of our country. 
  3. Serve as the lodge’s public relations ambassador. These may include: 
    1. Inviting distinguished guests from the community to open lodge functions. 
    2. Asking community officials if they need assistance from the lodge.
    3. Planning and leading any community outreach with the assistance of other brothers. 
  4. Other duties as assigned.
I will probably think of some other stuff that the Marshal should do but that’s what I can think of off the top of my head. I hope to serve Corinthian Lodge well and I want to congratulate all the officers as they continue to lead C67 to further glory.

What do you think the Marshal should do? Does your state do something differently? Leave a comment below.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lodge as Lab Part 3: Let's travel!!!


Corinthian Lodge claims the great traveling sword of Faribault

In my continuing quest to help out Masters and other lodge officers in coming up with great ideas, I will discuss yet another important task that we took at Corinthian Lodge No. 67 during my year as Master. One project that we took upon ourselves was to meet other lodges throughout our area. The reason is that as Master Masons, we are encouraged to travel as much as possible to different lodges.

Traveling is an essential part of being a Mason. I was told by my grandpa, who was a railroad man, that during the end of the 19th and the start of the 20th centuries, railroad men would meet brothers whenever the crew would come into town, even if the lodge was not meeting on that day. The tracks were a fraternal lifeline connecting brothers from the beginning of their trip to the end. That's why many lodges were built near a railway station, as a welcoming spot for visiting brethren.

During my year in the East, we traveled to many different lodges. We didn't just limit ourselves to only the district but attempted to travel to as many different lodges as we had time for. You see, Minnesota is blessed to have many different types of lodges. We have a Traditional Observance lodge (Saint Paul Three), a British-style Lodge (Sir Winston Churchill Lodge No. 351), and a moon lodge (Accacia Lodge No. 51) just to name a few.

Traveling is a right, a couched right to be sure, but a right nonetheless. Traveling gains you new perspectives, new friends, and a new feeling of Masonic spirit. Before I took the East, we, as a lodge, rarely left Farmington. Farmington was home but sometimes, you gotta branch out and experience the wider world. And that's what we did.

Traveling has added benefits for a lodge. When you travel to a lodge, you become a representative of your lodge. If you represent your lodge well, you can create a connection, a bond with the lodge you visit. When we traveled to other lodges, invariably, we would get one or two guys to travel back to our lodge. As we traveled and shared ideas, we started something more. Lodges worked together on projects, success stories were shared, and we all became better men.

If you're a Masonic officer, plan one trip per month. It really only adds one extra day to your schedule but the payoff is so much bigger than the time you spend traveling. And you know, you've got a dues card, why not use it? Every lodge is special and every lodge has something to offer; you just have to get out there and see the Masonic world around you.

Have you traveled lately? Does your lodge have a travel schedule? What are your experiences in traveling as a lodge? Leave a comment.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Guest Article: Jack Roberts' KT Magazine Letter


I have received permission from Jack Roberts, High Priest of Minnesota Chapter No. 1, to publish a letter he sent to the editor of the Knights Templar Magazine. I think it's important read for all of us who are active in the York Rite.

Sir Knight Palmer,

I was disappointed to read in the March 2011 “Letters to the Editor” that another Sir Knight believes that those Brothers who do not conform to the beliefs of “fervent Christianity” should demit not only from their Templar Commanderies, but also all York Rite bodies.

The belief that a Brother must be a Christian – perhaps a fervent Christian, as suggested in the letter – to petition a York Rite body is entirely incorrect, and is a persistent mischaracterization of the nature of two of the three Masonic bodies that fall under the York Rite.

Neither Capitular Masonry nor Cryptic Masonry require a Brother to be a Christian. Neither body claims to be a Christian organization or based on Christianity. Although many of the values espoused and taught in both bodies have much in common with Christian teachings, a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons and a Council of Select Masters are more similar in membership and teachings to our Blue Lodges than Commanderies.

Perhaps I should say that Chapters and Councils “could” be more similar in membership and teachings to our Blue Lodges, but many Brothers perpetuate the myth that one must be a Christian to be a York Rite Mason. This myth wreaks havoc on our efforts to bring good and true Brothers to our Chapters and Councils.

Many times I have had to explain to Brothers that the structure of the York Rite is not like the Scottish Rite, which is a coherent and structured series of degrees that build upon each other. The York Rite is a loose confederation of three bodies that could operate independently, and have, in fact, operated independently in the past. Templar Orders are not the “capstone” or “completion” of the York Rite. A Brother can derive much value from the lessons and beautiful degrees of Capitular and Cryptic Masonry without taking the Templar Orders.

We in the York Rite need to let the strength of Chapters and Councils stand on their own, and stop suggesting that one is not a “complete” or “good” York Rite Mason unless one is a fervent Christian and a Sir Knight.

Regards,
Jack Roberts
Damascus Commandery No. 1
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Friday, October 28, 2011

Business Pundit's list of 10 Inventors who were Freemasons


Business Pundit has published a list of 10 inventors that you didn't know were Freemasons. I'm glad to see that Benny is right where he belongs.I was surprised that the inventors of the hot-air balloon, the Montgolfier Brothers, were Freemasons.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Past Masters Degree



I've been thinking a lot about the Past Master’s Degree. Why? Well, as a Past Master, I have taken part in both a virtual (capitular) and an actual (blue lodge) Past Master’s degree. I've been wondering for a while now if the Royal Arch Chapter should confer the degree and whether the degree is still necessary to any Masonic body, whether it be the lodge or the chapter.

I should explain what a Past Master’s degree is for anyone who may not know what it is. The Past Master's degree was originally intended to impart the secrets of the Oriental Chair on a newly elected or installed Master. It was the handing over of the keys from the old guy to the new guy. In fact, many Grand Lodges still have a chair degree for the new Master. Chair degrees exist in many Masonic bodies, most especially within the York Rite.

The bizarre case of the Past Master (virtual) degree in the Chapter is really representative of the fluid nature of Masonry, particularly during its nascent period. The Royal Arch, as well as the Master Mason degree, was most likely chair degree. There was an old requirement that a candidate for the Royal Arch to be a Past Master. This created a problem. Lodges, and the chapters that ultimately took on the Royal Arch, wanted to make the degree available to all Master Masons. The easy fix would have been to actually read the by-laws of that era, an example of which Jerusalem Chapter in Philadelphia states, “[n]o brother can be exalted until he has been at least three years a Master Mason and has presided six months as Master of some regular warranted lodge or has passed the Chair by Dispensation.” (I believe that it’s still the practice of the Grand Chapter of Pennsylvania to allow Master Masons to be passed by dispensation of the Grand High Priest.)

Sadly, our ancient brethren believed that to allow all Masons, not just Past Masters, to take the degree would be an innovation and thus illegal. So what did our ancient brethren do? They created an innovation by allowing a Master Mason to sit in the chair for a brief moment and be called a Past Master (virtual).

In our more modern times, our English and Canadian brethren removed this requirement from the Royal Arch. I think we should do the same. The Royal Arch is not under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge, at least in the United States and Canada, so there is no need to follow any old regulation.

I think the one advantage for removing it from the Chapter work and conferring it only in lodge is to really get that brother, who has been elected to serve a term in the East, ready for his installation. Being Master of the Lodge is not easy. When I was Master, I felt incredibly overwhelmed as I’m sure that all future Masters also feel. There's a lot of planning that goes into a lodge. 

Lodges are, for all intents and purposes, a small business. Many lodges own property, collect revenue, and have costs that have to be considered. The lodge has a duty to its members and to the public at large. Sadly, most Masters are ill-equipped to take on a lodge and its various business needs.

I think, by conferring a Past Master’s degree on a new Master, he can become ready. He becomes ready not because he must stand alone but because he learns to stand united with the other Past Masters that sat in the Oriental Chair before him. That’s its purpose.

Conferring the degree so as to teach a lesson is laudable but I really think that the original purpose as a Chapter degree remains, to allow Master Masons to be exalted. We can dress it up in all kinds of different costumes, add beautifully written lectures and the like but it remains unnecessary like an appendix or tonsils. It’s time to have our Chapters focus on capitular work and our lodges to celebrate the work and sacrifice of its officers.

Chair degrees are both a reward for service and a call to the leader of a Masonic body to be mindful of the work that he will have to perform for the good of the Craft. Being a Master is hard. A lot is sacrificed by the brother who takes that responsibility. Shouldn’t we at least be there, as PMs, to encourage him and give him our support, for the good of the Order?

What’s your opinion? Should the Past Master’s degree remain a necessary degree in the Royal Arch? Should it only be conferred in lodge?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Knights Templar: Questions and Concerns Before I Join



I will likely be petitioning a commandery near me. Before doing this, however, I’ve been asking around and researching Masonic Templarism. I’ve found some strange points that I need clarifying. In fact, from what I hear from some other Sir Knights, I’ve been made a little more reticent to join than during my initial inkling to petition.

I've decided to present my wants and don’t wants in a list.

Wants:
  • To learn about chivalry.
  • To practice chivalry.
  • To feel close to my paternal grandfather who was a Sir Knight.
  • To be an honorable man and true to his word through the lessons of knighthood.
  • To carry a sword because, well, it’s freakin’ cool to carry a sword.
  • To learn about the history of early knighthood, and what it meant to be an historical knight.
  • To present papers on topics of Chivalry.


Don’t Want:
  • To do an excessive amount of drill.
  • To join an evangelical Christian organization. 
  • To be a Civil War Re-enactor.
  • To join a Masonic body that believes all Masons should be Christian.  
  • To swear an oath to harm others of a different religion.


For me, I chose to go through the York Rite first. My paternal grandfather was in the York Rite while my maternal grandfather was in the Scottish Rite. I really had no idea which was better and Chapter and Council had moved to Farmington so it was an easy choice, at least for convenience sake. I have really enjoyed my time in Chapter and Council and love the challenge of making the Farmington York Rite viable. In my opinion, all Master Masons should go through the Capitular degrees, at a minimum, because I really do believe that the Royal Arch has something to say to them. Some days, I wash we lived in the English system of conferring only the Holy Royal Arch (as they call it) degree without the Mark, Past, or Most Excellent Master degrees being conferred previously because it would make that degree even more essential to the understanding of Masonry and would ease the pressure on Chapters in general. I finally have the time to “complete” the York Rite which is why of come to this series of questions and concerns.. (I’ve spoken with many companions who remind me that the three bodies are separate, so it’s not a completion of a Rite at all.)

I’m concerned that should I join the Knights, I will be joining an organization that I will demit from immediately. I was really struck by something that Worshipful Brother Ray Hayward wrote in his monthly message for Minnesota. He said that, “[s]peculative Knights Templar are those people who take the moral and spiritual aspect of the historical Templars and apply them to lead a fuller, more meaningful life.” I really hope that this will be my experience. I want to hold my sword before Circe, as Odysseus was instructed to by Hermes, using the lessons of speculative knighthood to be more assertive within my life.

In fact, I have used quite a bit of Worshipful Brother Ray’s writings to justify, for the most part, my decision to join a commandery. You can find his papers here. Worshipful Brother Ray is a very wise man and a brilliant teacher of those lessons we find within the York Rite.

So that’s where I stand right now. If you can help me out with my quandary, that would be great. Please leave a comment below or send me an email.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Minnesota Masons Featured in the WSJ

Today, in the Wall Street Journal, Masons of Minneapolis Lodge No. 19 and Braden Lodge No. 168 were featured on the front page. And they did a great job of representing the future of Masonry. The article features many of my friends and really discusses the Fraternity in glowing fashion.

Brother Matt, a good friend of mine, gave three reasons why he joined:
"I wanted to become a better person, I like retro stuff, and I'm a big believer in guys hanging out and talking with other guys."
I think sums it up for a lot of Masons.

I was fortunate enough to be in the discussion group at Braden described in the article. For me, watching Masonry evolve into a new style, unlike what are grandfathers or great-grandfathers were members of, will be interesting to see. Thank you brothers for allowing me to sit in with all of you. And congrats to WBro. Reed and Bro. Adam of #19 and Bro. Matt of Braden for the great quotes. What a great day for Minnesota Masonry.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Broaden Your Horizons

I wrote this article for the E-Mason Newsletter that goes out once a month from the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. If you want to subscribe,  fill in your e-mail address in the lower right corner of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota website. I subscribe to all six Area e-newsletters because I like to stay informed of what's going on throughout the state.


Masonic Education is such a broad topic for lodges to deal with when planning a stated communication that I think that lodges avoid educational presentations because they are unable to fully grasp what is expected. As LEO of my lodge, I have been thinking more and more what the brothers want. I think Lodges, and LEO’s in particular, are hit with two major assumptions, 1) that education should only come from the LEO and 2) only Masonic subjects should be discussed in lodge.

The creation of the Lodge Education Officer has been either a boon or a bust for lodges. I have heard from some brothers that the LEO is expected to come to lodge with education every meeting. This is patently wrong. It is the duty of every Mason to continue learning. So how can a LEO get other brothers involved in the education process? As I was thinking about this question, I remembered something that Amazon.com does for individuals and corporations. Amazon runs a website called the Mechanical Turk which enables companies to finish tasks that computers are incapable of doing by using human energy. In the age of the Internet, this is called crowdsourcing. People can look at photos and tag who’s in them or read an article and find word choice problems which computers are incapable of seeing and understanding. LEOs, use crowdsourcing to your advantage. You’re not alone. You don’t need be the only person to present education. Instead, get brothers to write papers or make presentations about subjects that interest them. This brings me to my next point: you needn’t be obsessed with dogfooding.

Dogfooding is a term used by software and Internet companies to describe using only those products that were created in-house. It’s the idea that if you only use what you make, you will make sure that it is the best. Many in Masonry think that the only truth we need to be in search of comes from inside our ritual. I disagree. Many times, ideas of a non-Masonic nature should be discussed in lodge. I find many interesting articles about new discoveries in space and physics, in philosophy, or art and music that are relevant to or pique the interest of another brother. Many times, any of the aforementioned subjects can relate back to the seven liberal arts and sciences.  We are restricted only from discussing politics and religion in lodge. Again, don’t get bogged down by content. We don’t need to regurgitate everything that Mackey has said, or look at every infinitesimal nuance that may be drawn out from the ritual. Learning what an actual stonemason does or discussing the advances in quantum computing is just as relevant to the modern Mason as the symbolism of the all-seeing eye.

LEO’s, just remember that you’re not along and that you’re not beholden to Masonic subjects. And as always, if you ever do hit a snare, make sure to contact the Grand Lodge’s Education Committee. They are an incredible resource. The Education Committee also publishes an assortment of papers and presentations that can be used in lodge. Education in lodge is not unattainable, it just requires a little planning.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Freemasonry and Pop Culture: Run DMC - It's Tricky

Although I'm not in the AASR, I've always wanted to join. Why? Because they wear fashionable caps. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Observe:



What do you think?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Article: Speech by MWB Thomas C. Jackson

This is a speech delivered to Guildhall Lodge No. 553 of Stillwater, Oklahoma by Most Worshipful Brother Thomas C. Jackson, PGM, Minnesota. Reprinted with permission. Please visit his great online Masonic resource, LodgeBuilder.

Thomas C. Jackson, PGM Minnesota 2008-09
Speech to Guildhall Lodge, Oklahoma
By Thomas C. Jackson, PGM, Minnesota
At the Petroleum Club, September 7, 2011

Guildhall Lodge brothers, and guests.
I am very pleased to join you on this beautiful evening, to share with you this wonderful festive board. My compliments go to the planners, and to Worshipful Master Dunaway for an excellent venue and meal, and to Robert Davis who invited me to speak.

I will do my best to provide you a topic of interest.

Before THAT, I’m going to tell you about myself, because it will help you understand how I came to the perspective I will outline today.

As mentioned in the introduction, I am a PGM of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, having served in 2008‐09, and am an honorary PGM of the GL of Cyprus, on whose behalf I have played the thrilling game of jurisdictional politics and helped them win recognition, in spite of England’s reluctance, as one of the newest grand lodges in the international family of recognized groups.

My interests as a grand lodge officer, and in the years since, have been largely focused on the area of revitalization, along with my foreign entanglements.

I obviously didn’t listen to Washington when he warned about those.

Besides Freemasonry, I also have a deep affinity and prior history of volunteerism with my college fraternity, and am waist deep in a project to finally deliver on the promise of connecting this fraternity‐friendly collegiate pool of fellows to Masonic lodges which can often provide a healthy post‐college step for these young men and a massive boost to our numbers.

Are there any college fraternity men in the audience?

It’s a topic for another day, but I want you to know that, I believe, jurisdictions that attempt to start a "university lodge” are almost certainly doing it wrong.

But like I said, that’s a topic for another day. Or maybe for the pub this evening.

Tonight I would like to address the topic of, “The Forgotten Freemason.” This is a fellow who MIGHT become a Freemason if we were to catch him at the right stages of his development. Or he might be too old for us to reach in time. As a group, I fear though, men like him represent a LOST GENERATION. I’ve brought a clip with me, a movie preview that will give you a visual…



Not to pick on Matthew McConnaghy, but his example is legion. Did you catch his age? 35, and living with his parents. We see ‘men’ like his character in films such as the Dumb and Dumberer movies. Anything with Chris Farley. Our Idiot Brother – not my actual brother, but the current movie of that title.… These movies reflect the cultural reality.

Here’s another:



How old were those fellows sitting around the living room in the afternoon? 30? And another:



I cringe any time this commercial comes on. These 20‐somethings are actual customers, extolling praise for a company called Game Fly, which is like Netflix for video gamers. These are probably not recruitment prospects. What they are, are casualties of war. A cultural war. Seriously ‐‐ Let me ask a question of those of you who are, oh, 40 or older. When is the last time that you said you were going over to some other fellow’s home to… PLAY!?! ‐‐In a nonsports related context. Sure, we play football. But I remember as I got older, IN JUNIOR HIGH, when I consciously lowered my voice and said I was going to go “play a game of hoops, Mom.” By 11 or 12 there was no talk of “playing” even though back in those days we had video games. Pong. Mario Brothers.

Today, our culture tells these fellows that, well, playing is what boys or even men in their 20s and 30s do. These are the men, the boys I want Freemasonry to rescue. With this context in mind of what the average boy or man does on a Wednesday evening in September, instead of joining us at the Petroleum Club, I thought I would explain some of the projects we’ve taken on and how we are addressing this freakin’ cultural wasteland.

We’ll get back to the Lost Generation.
‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐

Each of our revitalization projects aims to increase a man’s involvement in the lodge from a lower level to a higher one. I view lodge participation on a spectrum, when it comes to revitalization, with the goal being to increase participation and involvement wherever the man starts. Experience shows that having more, even if smaller lodges promote a higher level of average involvement per man.

One of the high‐points of my year as Grand Master was to have signed the charter petitions of two new lodges that we started; these represent the first new, startup, evening lodges formed in Minnesota in 25 years. Before signing these new charters, I told the assembled masters and wardens from my seat in the Grand East that we are simply out of the habit of starting new lodges, and far too practiced at closing or merging those we have.

Nationally, there are anywhere from zero to perhaps six lodges formed each year. HALF of these in the past decade have been Traditional Observance lodges. You can give yourselves a round of applause as one of the icons of this movement.

I assume most of you are founders of this lodge or of the Tulsa Traditional Observance lodge, true? As you well know, starting a lodge is harder than it may seem from the outside. I commend you for this work.

Half of the other half of new lodges formed in the US during the past decade, that is, about 25% of all lodges formed in the US going back even 20 years, have come from the GL of DC. I will explain shortly their approach to this successful effort.

So it was a rather big deal to start up two new lodges back home.

In this effort, I worked with a group of dedicated young leaders from around my state, who’ve done the heavy lifting. We’ve done it – not me. Nothing would have happened without them. I was the one pushing from the back, encouraging and rallying during all those late night “what if” discussions we had.

I tell you all this so you understand I want to help others find their entry into Freemasonry. I want to find a way to deliver Freemasonry’s gifts to society as a whole, and then to ensure we have vibrant lodges when they arrive. Our tactics have been to encourage involvement, lodge formation, solvency and membership stability, and a few other items I will describe later in this talk.

OK. That’s the introduction. There will be a middle section, and then we can all hope, a extraordinary conclusion. If I fail you in any way and you begin to get bored, please, do EVERYONE a favor, and ask me a question...

I want to discuss the impact of new lodges as a revitalization technique, but first would like to survey the field from a bit higher altitude. Help me list the innovations that have taken place in Masonry recently, will you?Say over the past forty years?

Traditional Observance – or Traditional Practice

Use of ciphers in most jurisdictions

One Day Classes – love ‘em or hate ‘em

Lodge Education Programs and LEOs

Repair of most Prince Hall relationships

Relaxation of some language on Masonic Solicitation.

The mind reels from the pace of such rapid change. Doesn’t it?

Another key innovation is the rediscovery of Affinity Lodges. I say rediscovery, because I am convinced that in the golden era, pre WWI, much of new lodge formation centered around a specific affinity, whether the members named it that or not. New lodges may have been job related, employer or union related, shift related, town or neighborhood related, or perhaps were connected to a Shrine unit or another interest group. To this way of thinking, a traditional practices lodge can be one form of an affinity group. Affinity is simply an additional point of connection that helps bond a group of brothers together. I don’t believe a single lodge can be all things to all brothers. Instead, an affinity strategy helps brothers (or prospects) of similar interests gravitate toward specific lodges.

The Grand Lodge of DC has formed a new lodge every 18 months for the past twenty years. They’ve doubled their membership in that time, and their count of lodges. These are small lodges, and for my part I am convinced that these are a bigger success story than any big, ponderous lodge such as my home lodge. Because with small lodges, every man has a job to do. Their affinity ranges from specific languages, to ritual variations, to professions, historical interests, and lodges to support universities. All are small‐to mid‐sized, but thriving. To compare and contrast, my home lodge has 650 brothers, 200 of whom we see at least once per year. The rest are in other states, or they no longer drive, or [air quotes] “life is busy”. You know the type of lodge. My new lodge, Sir Winston Churchill, has 45 men now, of whom we see 42 on a regular basis. Three are working out of state and visit when they can. A Traditional Observance lodge would feel more comfortable with our arrangement: required RSVPs, higher fees, festive boards, and certainly, vibrant presentations and expectations of every member.

Long ago, had my home lodge split into four or six smaller lodges over time, because of a Code requirement or ceiling, with all the groups meeting at different times at the same building, and with the resulting involvement of four or six full sets of officers instead of a single set, our brethren would be substantially more involved on average, leading to a healthier outcome for Masonry. Peripheral brothers would step up to take on roles that were not filled. I no longer believe big lodges are a healthy evolution. Of course, being dragged into this change wouldn’t work. Members would have to choose this course themselves, and have the positive attitude essential to any such culture change.

As a new lodge, the choice was before us at the beginning. Was our BEST PURPOSE to study Churchill, the roots of our ritual and other aspects of our English nature? So much of our past had been lost to the rise and precipitous fall of big lodge, social club Masonry. Just like Traditional Observance lodges, we could explore what our forebears did so well. Or, was our best purpose to take an opportunity where so much scrutiny was on us as a new lodge, and create a teaching lodge, a model lodge? Contemplating this, we had the idea of turning the word “Emulation” on its head, to not just practice Emulation Work, the predominant British ritual, but to be an EMULATABLE lodge. Without knowing it, our visitors would study US, to their benefit, if we were good enough. A third path was suggested, because with four, and now five men who had been, are, or who will be Grand Master, we may have easily slipped into a role of serving as the lodge that would get things done for the Grand Master – a project lodge – to serve any grand officer who asked. Pragmatic, I suppose, if not inspiring.

Historical lodge… Model Lodge… Service lodge…

Which of these, do you think is closest to the Traditional Practices model?

The question remains, now three years later. In a sense, we are doing all three. This gives us a dynamic unrest, and it’s in the ongoing conversation that we continue to derive benefit. We are inward focused, with a vibrant educational mission and core, strongly supported by the brethren. And we are outwardly focused, generating four festive boards a year and several big events, our recent Atlantic Brotherhood Summit and Masons in Motion are examples. The ABS brought in a dozen or more Masons from the UK’s Internet Lodge for a series of events, including a riverboat cruise, festive board and a British Third Degree exemplification that was witnessed by several hundred Masons. Our Masons in Motion event is a group of Masons running the Twin Cities Marathon this coming October 2nd, which was designed to raise charitable donations from all Minnesota lodges. We embarked on these events in spite of our being the youngest lodge in our state, with no building, no real money, and ‘only’ 45 men. Finally, our grand lodge‐centric view keeps us keenly aware of our job as role models, and where we can, we assist grand lodge officers who ask.

I’ll tell you this much: We prefer to call ourselves an Affinity lodge, versus a Traditional Observance lodge, though we have many, if not all the trappings. Informal polling suggested that, statewide, our brethren prefer the Affinity label to Traditional Observance. This may cut to the core of a problem with TO lodges: how one defines them.

“Problem” may be too strong a word. How about “Barrier to wider acceptance.”

You know more about Traditional Observance or Traditional Practice lodges than I do. So, please accept my notions as an example of the perceptions that are out there.

So we were aware of some ‘baggage’ with this ‘movement’ of returning to our roots. But we wanted some of the good things that we’d learned from leaders in the Masonic Restoration movement. Some of these leaders are here today.

During our formation, when we sniffed around, we found that traditional lodges – well, let me re‐phrase that. MAINSTREAM lodges, are a bit scared of you, of all Traditional Practices lodges. They don’t know if they can do what you do. They feel somewhat insulted actually, as if your mere presence says they are doing it wrong. They don’t know if they can keep it up if they tried to DO WHAT YOU DO. And because the definition is still slippery, they have a hard time pinning down whether they are doing it right IF THEY TRY. So they duck and cover when the subject comes up.

We had all this in mind when creating Churchill and MacArthur lodges. The question on our minds was, is our best purpose to be inward focused Masons and an inward focused lodge? Or are we outward focused? Can we be both?

I know what is easier. I know what is safer.

Heck, I know what is probably better for myself strictly as an individual Mason and seeker. But that isn’t the road we’ve taken, in developing the culture of Churchill Lodge. In this age of cocooning it is less risky and very comfortable to hunker down, individually, or with our families or small groups, and avoid the agora. ‐‐The marketplace. But which of these philosophies would usher in the best future for our friends, our community, our state and our grand lodge?

Not to mention, the kids of this lost generation.

That is the pivot point that I came to, which frustrates me about modern lodges, ALL lodges. The frustration is the same, whether they be mainstream lodges or traditional observance lodges.

We Masons lack deep engagement in our world today. We have the inheritance, the responsibility even, for ALL THIS GREAT STUFF! Yet we hide it under a bushel. Our focus is maddeningly ‐ selfishly ‐ inwardly focused. We’re monkish in our reserve, yet in the middle ages only a very few monks were able to hide themselves away in solitude and study. Most of them engaged with the world as a face of Godly service to humanity, in contrast to the more imperious priests. For a moment, picture Friar Tuck, just one of the fellows, or the Christian Brothers, happily making their brandy and wine for the townfolk, compared to the image of the priest presiding over high church before he retreats to his cloister? Today, what should be our best lodges, have a tendency to carry on like a group of modern St. Jeromes or those other cave‐dwelling, aesthetic monks, and worship at the flame of knowledge but with NO CALLING TO USE IT TO SPARK INSIGHT AND DEEPENING WITHIN OTHERS. At risk of being a tiresome nag, in many speeches I therefore have challenged my generation of Masons, my lodges, to impact society in a visible, authentic and fearless way. What good is it, I ask, to know the nuanced differences between Anderson’s first and second constitutions, but without an ability to proclaim Masonic Values – interchangeable with the highest aspirations of Western Civilization – to young men in the lodge, to prospectives, to our families and neighbors, and our fellow workers?

How long can the Craft last without an ability to readily proclaim our alternative course to a society that has fallen so far from its prime?

To engage in this fight, we’ve adopted a Culture of the Lodge document, discussed with each petitioner, and signed by all of us, along with our bylaws.

Key points of the Culture of Churchill Lodge:

1. Members must, must, must remain active in their home lodge. Our intent is to spread ideas around.

2. We discuss a pragmatic philosophical issue at each meeting. Examples include the nature of lodge charitable donations, raising self‐sufficient children, how ‘tough love’ works, and a roundtable about the most impactful mentors in each of our lives.

3. We discuss a lodge management problem at most meetings. Examples include NPD management, encouragement of volunteers, and lodge promotion. These discussions often occur after the formal close, when we are enjoying a meal together or gathering around the firepit.

4. We have a limit of 60 men, and some members are challenging us to limit the lodge to 40. Perhaps triggering formation of a new lodge when we hit the hard ceiling of 60.

5. We’ve agreed to a surprising level of transparency. Our discussions and many of our “sensitive issues” are reviewed on our website, and with our home lodges. The intent is to bring simmering issues to the surface. We realize we face many of the same problems other lodges face. Prospective members that shy away because we are dealing with real‐world issues are pretty much like fair weather friends, eh?

6. Members are encouraged to engage as leaders in their home lodges, but also in politics, church, etc. We have two brothers stepping up to run for local school board and city council seats.

7. Visitation is encouraged and visitors are ‘rushed’ in the sense that we make every effort to engage visitors in our conversations, to discuss problems and solutions that will help them, and NOT for the purpose of recruitment.

8. Collaboration with other lodges is highly sought after. Our big event in June, bringing those British Masons to the US for the Atlantic Brotherhood Summit meant we asked several neighboring lodges to assist with greeting, and to participate in our festive board.

All of these are steps that take positive action, going beyond study, and self improvement. The aim of the Craft must be to result in Action if we are to survive. Study and purity of form are not enough. We have been given a great gift, and I would that we were all to act as mirrors, reflecting our light outward, professing our values.

I imagine building a network of lodges that train engagement in professing our values.

In contemplating this, I am indebted to the great state of Oklahoma, and one of your own. He’s a friend I haven’t met face‐to‐face yet, but I know him. Brett McKay of the Art of Manliness website has tapped into something that I use every week in my fraternal work. Do some of you from Veritas Lodge know Brett?
Please pass along my greetings. I use AOM topics to derive discussion items at my lodges and with my collegiate fraternity chapters. A dozen of our brothers at Churchill Lodge have similar engagement points where they seek to make a substantial difference in the lives of young men at crucial points: With high school students, or young adulthood, in fraternal connections, at their first job. We engage in church, as professors, as scouting leaders or coaches. If we do this, new members will come. I’ve found that do‐ers attract other do‐ers to step up.

Our affinity then, is an external focus, but to do this we need a strong internal lodestar, a program where we challenge each other and teach each other to engage as best we can. I know from speaking with you tonight that my perception of Traditional Observance is colored by my experiences back home with our local group. In fact, I wish I had a group like yours in Minnesota to point to as an example when the subject came up. Warm. Tightly connected to the jurisdiction. We could easily support similar lodges in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Rochester. Maybe a couple more. I find that our local lodge of the Traditional Observance movement still lacks ‘warmth’ and engagement with the broader jurisdiction and community. Lodges can and should “feed us.” The pastor I had growing up told us how he would get so caught up in church politics and the day to day of giving his sermons, and in service, that he sometimes got dried up in a way. He had to break off and go somewhere so he, in turn, could recharge his spirit, and in his terminology, GET FED. Get fed. I always liked that metaphor. He would insist on his annual spiritual retreat. He would attend other churches and sit in the congregation.

I think that his example points the way for us in Minnesota, and may hold a clue for the role of a good lodge elsewhere. It recharges us, so we can get back to the front lines in the culture wars. Because we are, whether we know it or not, cultural warriors. We are called to fight for our values in a world that needs us so desperately.

The videos I showed you are snapshots of a terrible waste. These boys haven’t been challenged, haven’t had the right discipline, and they are left woefully unprepared for life in the real world. Commercials generally make me ill – it seems every adult male is portrayed as a dunderhead or child, compared to the wisdom of his wife. The “Peter Pan” games‐playing commercials are even worse. How can these young men waste their passion on things with so little meaning?

I call on you, the best and brightest of Masons, to use what you’ve learned from the Craft to engage outsiders even when it is scary and when the room isn’t sympathetic. Get yourself outside of the lodge, and lead, work, profess your values, teach, inspire.

Call video games and reality TV what it is: A waste of time.

Pull those whom you can influence into opportunities for volunteerism, charity and lessons of manliness. Be that interesting old man in your neighborhood who knows how to fix things, or who recognizes someone having a sorrowful day, and knows how to give good advice.

Run for office, teach a community class, start these conversations at your home lodges.

So many kids come from broken homes. Give them a role model. Talk with them.

Individually, we can only reach out to a relative few. But, like in the film, Pay It Forward, if we reach a few, they, in turn may reach others, and so on, and so on…

Wherever you can engage, get out there and make something good happen. Be more than just a knowledge collector, a title collector, or a pin collector.

Thank you for your time this evening.

Please visit www.ChurchillLodge.org and to www.TheChairmen.org for more information.
You are free to review and take content from our websites, designed for this purpose.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Masons in Motion Need Help

As many of you know, Masons in Motion is a great group of brothers who enjoy running and raising money for charity. Brother Bob Davis, the Junior Warden of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge No. 351, has sent me this message about a very nice way for the brothers of Minnesota to help with a great local event:


In support of Masons In Motion and to promote Minnesota Masonry, Sir Winston Churchill Lodge is hosting a Water Station at Mile 20.6 of the Twin Cities Marathon.  We are in need of Volunteers.  Mile 20.6 is also Mile 4.5 of the Twin Cities 10 Mile race. Volunteers will receive a Free T-shirt.  They will get an up-close view of the 10 Mile and Marathon races by providing runners with water and power-aid.  The event will be a lot of fun and camaraderie!

Who may volunteer?  We are promoting the opportunity to members of the Fraternity and their friends.  Responsible Youth (16 and up) may also participate.


Commitment6:00 AM to 1:15 PM.

Location:  Mile 20.6 of the Twin Cities Marathon.  This is located along the River Road in St. Paul (next to the Mississippi River) at the corner with Marshall (click on link of course Map below).

To register to volunteer, Volunteers need to email me the following:

1) Email address (included with email)
2) Volunteer Phone Number
3) Emergency Contact information: Name and Phone number
4) Volunteer Waiver (Reply email stating that you agree to the attached Volunteer Agreement Waiver).
5) T-Shirt Size
6) Over or under the age of 18.

Register today!


(The Staff at the Marathon would like a list by Monday, September 26th.  We will accept volunteers up to the Marathon, but I’d like to get RSVPs as soon as possible)

*UPDATED*

I forgot to include Bro. Bob Davis' email address: davisro2(at)hotmail.com

Braden Lodge at the MN Renaissance Festival

Braden brothers Jim and Laszlo
Braden Lodge No. 168 will be at the MN Renaissance Festival this Sunday. They were going to open a Lodge but as Masonic Lodges may not open on Sundays, they will instead host an informal and educational event and buffet meal for Masons, potential Masons, and brothers from all around the state.






From the Braden blog:

Ticket Info: Come to the Festival Box Office-GROUP WINDOW. It’s on the right hand side of the Booth as you walk up. Tell them you are with the Masonic Lodge. Families are welcome.
Children under 4 are free. Children 5-12 $8.50. $15.50 for Adults, discounted from $21.

At 7PM All Brothers or potential Brothers meet at Bad Manor for a Buffet $10 per Brother and an Evening of Fellowship with Masons from Local Lodges as well as Brothers whose Lodges are located around the country.

THERE WILL BE NO FORMAL MEETING NOR WILL WE OPEN THE LODGE!

This is just a chance for some camaraderie in an intriguing place…and time
ALL ARE WELCOME!! Brothers and their Families all day at The Festival and Brothers and potential Brothers at Bad Manor at 7PM. PASS IT ON!!

Hope to see you and other members of any Lodge on Sunday Sept 25th!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Braden Lodge No. 168: "No Chicks Week" series

Braden Lodge No. 168 of Saint Paul is hosting a series of papers about women and Freemasonry. It's a very interesting series that was instigated by the Lodge Education Officer of Braden, Bro. Matt Gallagher. The first paper is by Bro. Matt and it's a great piece on why Masonry is a essential to men. You can see this work and many other great papers on his Google+ page (you can find me on G+ as well.). I have also submitted a paper on the strange history women and Freemasonry in this country. Please visit Braden's site as many more papers will be posted on their blog in the coming weeks and months.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Guest Article: Jason Eddy - Charity

Jason is currently Senior Deacon at High Point Lodge #773 in Monroe, OH. He has a strong passion for Masonic Education and meeting and sharing with Brothers from all across the country.

Charity

Masonry is indeed about Charity, but what is the proper application of this virtue and are we missing the mark? As Entered Apprentice Masons, we are taught that charity “extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity”. I agree with this, but find that the proper application of Charity is often misunderstood among Masons. I had a discussion recently with a few Brothers about how to revive Masonry in general. At some point in the discussion, Lodge finances came up and I made the statement that we, as an Order, need to learn to live within our means. This led to talk about budgeting and forecasting of Lodge expenses. During this discussion, in response to a Brother who said that we need to make sure that we keep our donations to charitable groups going, I made the statement that “Masonry is not a charity”. He was visibly taken aback and challenged my stance. “Of course we are!” he said. “Each body has a different charity. The Shrine takes care of burn victims. The York Rite helps people with vision impairments. The Scottish Rite helps children with learning disabilities. Charity is what Masonry is all about!” We are certainly charitable men, but is Charity really what Masonry is all about? Perhaps a big part of it, but I believe that our Brothers are often misguided in its application.

I digress. We are taught that the three great tenets of our profession are “Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth”. I believe that they are taught in this order (at least under the Grand Lodge of Ohio) for a reason. We are taught to first look after our fellow Mason and see that he does not find himself in distress, nor do his widow or orphans. This seems to be overlooked by a great many Masons and perhaps even the Grande Lodges under which they exist. I see Lodges that will donate several hundred dollars (perhaps even thousands) to charities like Toys-for-tots or the Salvation Army but do not have a fund set up to take care of members who are distressed. This is not Masonry. In fact, it is not even Masonic. The intent of Masonry is to “Make Good Men better”. When this is done, those men will then go out into the world and provide relief to his fellow man. Right now, Masons seem to be so intent on being seen by the public as charitable that they are ignoring the needs of their own Brothers. Masonry is a system designed to help men grow into better men and therefore better citizens. This is our primary objective. We must focus on making our Brothers into the type of men that bring about positive change in the world. When we do the work to make men better, they will in turn make society better. This may take any number of forms, but most likely will include charitable giving. Let us not lose sight of the mystic tie that binds each and every one of us. Masonry is a castle in the sand right now. We are slowly losing sight of what we came here to do…..to earn a Master Wages…..to contribute to the relief of worthy, distressed Master Masons, their widows and orphans. Once that is done, we can look to the rest of society.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Albert Pike: A Biographical Monologue by the Minneapolis Valley of AASR

The Minneapolis Valley of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite has released, on its Youtube channel, an excellent video biographical monologue of Albert Pike. This video, in two parts, has really helped me understand Albert Pike. I think all Scottish Rite Valleys should use this video to help all new members understand this very famous Mason.





The Minneapolis Valley is one of a small handful in the Southern Jurisdiction that confers all 29 Scottish Rite degrees in full form, complete with costumes and scenery. I am not a member of the Scottish Rite but I know that sometime in the future, I will be. The birth of my son and my desire to learn the three Craft degrees of the Scottish Rite are the only two obstructions at this moment.

What a wonderful video and great work brothers.

*UPDATED*
I've added the hyperlinks to the Minneapolis Valley and its YouTube channel.

*UPDATED*
It appears that the videos have now been removed by the AASR channel. I will attempt to find out what has happened.

*Updated* The video is back. This is something that all of you need to show potential candidates to the Scottish Rite. I really want to join now.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Guest Article: The Case Against Theme and “Affinity” Lodges

Brother Jack Roberts is a great thinker in Minnesota Masonry. I am ecstatic that he's agreed to write an article for this blog. Thank you Brother Jack.

In a recent post on The Millennial Freemason, W. Bro. Nick Johnson discussed whether our lodges would be more successful if they adopted a “theme model” instead of a “destination model.” He stated that “a lodge needs a hook…something that captures the attention and wonder of a man…to keep singing the song of Freemasonry in his heart.” W. Bro Nick gives the example of a lodge adopting a theme as its hook, such as using British ritual and dress, or following the principles of the Traditional Observance Lodges as outlined by the Masonic Restoration Foundation. I left a comment to W. Bro. Nick’s post, and he asked me to expound on my comment by writing a guest post for The Millennial Freemason. I appreciate this opportunity, W. Bro. Nick. You should be commended for giving someone the “floor” on your blog who does not necessarily agree with you.

In my opinion, theme lodges and affinity lodges are an unfortunate formalization of the ongoing dance we do to completely avoid the reason the Craft exists and our required work. Freemasonry already has a theme. It is identical across jurisdictions and time: to provide men with the knowledge and assistance to achieve self-enlightenment and constantly move along a road of self-improvement. At best, a theme lodge is one of many tools we use to assist each other to move along this road. At worst, it is a distraction and a sales gimmick wrapped in a fancy label.

In my 12+ years as a Master Mason, I’ve seen a growing tendency for lodges to compete with each other on a variety of selling points: convincing a Brother to join a lodge across town because it has “better” fellowship than his local lodge, or “better” ritual, or a “more traditional approach.” In our more passive-aggressive moods, we simply state “we stress fellowship at our lodge…” Theme lodges, for the most part, are just another form of self-advertising, targeting a niche audience – “we dress better than other lodges,” and “we use fancy European ritual – no Preston-Webb work here except when Grand Lodge makes us use it.”

Somewhere along the way, we sacrificed the foundation of why meet as Freemasons – our “theme” – by elevating how we achieve our goals to supreme importance. Fellowship, ritual proficiency, and unique themes have become the reason for existence for many lodges. Lodges spend their time and effort to being the best or most unique at everything except what truly matters.

We sell Masonry under the oft-quoted maxim of “making good men better.” The all-too-familiar rant against our Craft is that we consistently fail to follow through on this sales pitch. We fail to teach and encourage each other to live our principles. We fail to consistently provide our members with the intellectual support they need to improve themselves. Masonic “education” is seen merely as an elective course, to fit in the schedule if we have time, but it is never to prevent us from planning the next cook-off or cause our meeting to run too long and interfere with our post-lodge fellowship. We perpetuate the neglect of our true purpose with a smoke-and-mirrors approach, throwing ritual, fellowship, titles, charities, and – our latest fad in Minnesota – theme lodges, at Brothers, while ignoring the hard work of actually challenging men to develop spiritually. What benefit is it to us if we restrict our Masonic dealings and efforts to topics that deal with nothing more than the outer, and not the inner man?

Some Brothers may argue that they enjoy spending time with “like-minded men” who appreciate ritual like they do, or British regalia like they do, etc. etc. Brothers, every lodge is full of like-minded men. The beauty of Freemasonry, one of our hallmarks, is that it brings together men from all walks of life, where we meet upon the level and part upon the square.

Brothers, I am not arguing that theme lodges are a bad idea. If they can use their themes in a way that fulfills the ultimate purpose of Freemasonry, then they should be commended, as should any lodge that accomplishes this purpose. But a Lodge with an absence of education, a lodge that focuses on the how at the expense of the why, a lodge that does not provide the means for its Brothers to improve spiritually – this lodge is failing at its mission, no matter how formally its members dress, what form of ritual it uses, or how often its Brothers meet for dinner and call it “festive board.”

Bro. Jack P. Roberts
Nicollet Lodge No. 54, Saint Peter, MN
High Priest, Minnesota Chapter No. 1
Illustrious Master, Saint Paul Council No. 1