Monday, March 28, 2011

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: Psych

It's been years since I've posted a Pop Culture and Freemasonry article. I love the show Psych. I think it's a funny show with a great cast. If you've never seen the show, Psych follows the exploits of Shawn Spencer, a fake psychic, and Berton "Gus" Guster, his childhood friend and business partner in this venture. Think Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson if Holmes was a quick-witted slacker and Dr. Watson was a smart, neurotic pharmaceutical salesman.

This particular episode is entitled "Dis-lodged" and makes some funny jokes about the way secret societies work, from the funny handshakes to our ceremonies. A murder has occurred in the Monarch lodge and the police want answers. The lesson comes at the end and is something that all Masons can understand.

If you have Hulu+ or are a Netflix subscriber with Watch Instantly, you can see it right now. If not, here is a preview.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lodge as Lab Part 2: The Mentor Program

Well, to toot my Lodge's horn, I looked at the newest edition of the Minnesota Mason. The Minnesota Mason is our bimonthly Masonic paper and is a wonderfully put together publication. On the last page, there is a list of all the Master Masons raised in Minnesota. Corinthian Lodge No.67 had raised 10 Master Masons last year. What's even better is that we were one of eight lodges to accomplish raising ten or more Master Masons out of the 101 lodges that raised at least one brother last year.

As Worshipful Master, I really wanted to provide two goals, 1.) improve our programs by trying new things and 2.) utilize the Grand Lodge of Minnesota Mentor program. But as I have explained before, it isn't the Master that gets the job done, it's the Craft and I can safely say that the officers' corps and new brothers really raised the bar last year.

To go into some background, Corinthian Lodge No. 67 is a smaller lodge in a small town 45 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. Even with how far away we are from downtown Minneapolis, we have seen growth in membership. Why? We started focusing on our members, from the 60 year member to the newest Master Mason.

Bro. Wayne was instrumental as our membership/mentoring coordinator. Every lodge has a Lodge Education Officer but few have a Mentoring Coordinator. This job is as critical to maintain interest in the Craft as the LEO. Now I know that this statement is rather bold but here is why he is essential. The LEO is for the betterment of the Craft but what of the individual Mason? We need to make sure that the new Master Mason receive a helping hand from those already Masons. He needs a link to the lodge, a friend that can guide him not merely through degrees but also through life.

I am a product of mentoring. My mentor is one of the wise men I have ever known, a man that represents everything right in being a Mason. W.Bro. Don is one of my heroes as a man and as a Mason. The guidance he showed me not merely in the ritual but in life itself had made me the leader that I was during my term. I was proud to have him as my installing marshal and when he placed the square on my neck, I saw it as a passing of the square from one Master to another. To sum up, mentoring works.

The Grand Lodge has a great mentoring program that I have mentioned in previous posts. However, I cannot overstate just how important I found the mentor program. We now have an engaged Craft that is ready to do the work. Mentoring is an experiment that was truly successful. Bravo to my mother lodge, we did it.

If you want to look at the mentoring program for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, visit their website.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Work - Life - Masonic Balance

I know I've been away for another stretch but I promise that I'll be back to form throwing new ideas and events for the Craft to digest. The main reason why I have been out is that my wife and I have been blessed by the birth of our son, Xavier. This has led me to ask an important question, how does Masonry fit in my life now?

In an office setting, there is a common theme of Work - Life Balance. The idea is that the employee expects that life and work may interfere with each other but that in the end, both your work and your life will eventually balance out and the employee will be happy the balance.
I have attempted to balance my work and my life with my son and I am starting to feel a happy balance between them. Of course, work and life with my family is important but I am also a member of this great Fraternity. That brings me to my concern which I believe I share with many of my readers, how does Masonry fit?
After my son was born, I didn't know when I would be able to come back to Lodge and frankly, I didn't really care. This little boy, this perfect child, was my only concern. I was home for a few weeks on leave and I couldn't think of a day away from him. Of course, that didn't last for more than a week.

You see, we all need breaks. As I rounded week one and was running on just a few hours of sleep each day, I needed a place to go. As if the Great Architect knew I needed this break from daily family life, a second degree was coming up at my mother lodge and thankfully, I'm the only one who knows the long lecture in my Lodge. So I went and it was perfect. The Tyler's door was closed and the world outside was closed to the inside. I was able to see old friends and shake hands with the new Fellow Crafts. I was able to teach the lessons of Masonry in the degree that exudes Masonic education more than any other degree. I was working. When I got home, I chatted with my son, and continued to read to him before he went to sleep for the night (by night, I mean two hours.)

Now that I am back to work, I am again having to learn how to balance every aspect of my life. When it was baby and Masonry, there were two choices. Now I have work to throw me off balance. But I'm learning. Each of these parts should not serve as a distraction for the others. Each is a part of me and should be equally important to me.

Masonic life can be hectic. In my own Grand Lodge, a brother could go to a different lodge every day of the week (except Sunday) within a 25 mile radius. Add to that the Rites, Star, and Shrine, and his schedule could be locked up for months. Many Masons fall into this trap. They become enraptured with the ritual or the new found social group and soon, other aspects of his life start to be ignore. Our ritual teaches not to but we, as rough ashlars, can't help it.

Every meeting for me now involves a weighing of my duties. I check with my wife on if she needs me more. I check with what I have left to do at work. At the end of the day, that's all I can do. The lodge will always be there, and they will always need me to help but sometimes, my family will need me more. So that is where I'm at. But again, I'm learning and I think the lessons of Masonry are helping me to find this balance and teaching me how to best divide my time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Networked Blogs

As I am apt to do, I checked If you are unaware of networkedblogs, you're missing a great way to find interesting blogs that you can follow right on Facebook or Twitter. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my blog is ranked fourth in the freemasonry topic. So yeah, I guess I have that going for me. Anyway, all the blogs in that topic are great and I would recommend that you follow all of them. The wealth of information on freemasonry on the Internet is just astounding. If you are a blog owner, get on networkedblogs and boost your traffic.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Masonic Restoration Foundation Website Redux

The Masonic Restoration Foundation is an organization dedicated to improving the Craft through a list of best practices and education and they have just updated their website. For a lodge to be recognized as a Traditional Observance Lodge, it must adhere to those standards found in the Masonic Restoration Foundation Manifesto. If you are fortunate enough to live in a Grand Lodge jurisdiction with a lodge that follows the Traditional Observance model, you must pay a visit to it. I live in Minnesota and one of the greatest experiences I have had is visiting Saint Paul Three, the Traditional Observance Lodge here. Even if your Lodge does not want to follow the TO model, aspiring to its goals will improve your lodge.

Of course, in a broader sense, I see many lodges trying new and innovative practices. (innovative does not mean an innovation so those that are freaking out, breathe.) When I was Master of Corinthian Lodge in Farmington, I pushed for the third degree to be performed separately for each candidate. I have noticed higher retention rates of our new Master Masons. In fact, in Minnesota alone, I notice every lodge from the small country lodge to the new affinity lodges succeeding. And isn't that what we need at the end of the day, a push away from the old standards of boring business meetings and coffee after the meeting with everyone running home and replaced with a striving for education, improvement, and the sharing of the Fraternal spirit.

What does your lodge do to improve Masonry? Leave a comment below and let's start a dialog.