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.