Monday, December 17, 2012


My wonderful readers,

I am happy as a clam, as proud as punch, laughing like a hyena, yeah, I think that's it. Anyway, tonight is the big night for Corinthian Chapter No. 33. We will be conferring the big degree, the most sublime degree of the Royal Arch, on 10 worthy brothers. It has been a long road but we are almost there.

I am so proud of all the hard work my Chapter has done. All ten will then be greeted into our Cryptic Council on the 16th of February. And perhaps, a Commandery is also in their futures as it is mine.

This is also my last night as High Priest, after a two year stint. When I started, our membership was at 32. Today, we'll have more than 50 companions. All the congrats go to my team of officers and companions who have jumped in and really done a lot to make our Chapter emerge from the doldrums of slumber.

I have most of my parts ready and hopefully, we can all make this a memorable degree. The Royal Arch is my second favorite degree after the Entered Apprentice degree. The lessons and information one gets from this degree will stick with the candidate for as long as he is a Mason. The American Royal Arch degree is chock full of themes that tie together everything that Masonry means and what it stands for.

I am just so proud and I can't wait to see what the future holds for our Chapter. In the words of Stan Lee, "Excelsior!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Selling Membership in England

I happened to be going through Google News this morning and noticed a terrible, horrible idea. Apparently, one of the Co-Masonic bodies (considered clandestine by regular Masonry) is selling membership as a Christmas gift.

From the article,
The Masonic Christmas Gift Pack costs £80 and includes a tour of the local Masonic Lodge, an invitation to meetings with masons, and – subject to approval by the local Lodge - a year’s membership to the group.
This has to be one of the biggest affronts to Masonic ideals I have ever seen. There are a myriad of problems with this, from dilution of our Fraternity's ideals by a non-group, the idea that Masonry is so cheap that it can be conferred on anyone for Christmas, and a host of other truly terrible things.

Masonry is a transformative experience. It's not something that can be purchased off the shelf. The donning of an apron without earning it does not make one a Mason. It's in your heart, not in a gift certificate.

We, as regular Masons, must protect ourselves from an innovation like this. We must make membership a pinnacle of a man's life not something that he is given as a gift. Masonic membership is something earned, something granted for hard-work. And anything like this will only promote that which we are not, a social club with nothing to offer a man but a name badge.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

For further analysis, head over to Tom Accuosti's Tao of Masonry blog for his take.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Case for Candles

Courtesy of Unizar Lodge No. 347


I've been thinking about the constant tug-of-war between tradition and modernity in our Craft. It's an interesting issue that continues to arise as the modern world outside the lodge and the traditions within the lodge either clash, merge, become accepted practice, or exist yet are ignored. Case in point, candles.

At the beginning of speculative masonry, lodges used candles as the lesser lights. This was obviously out of necessity. The only way one could light a room effectively was using candles as the long lasting and practical Edison incandescent light bulbs would not be invented until the late 1870's. Candles were the thing to use, it was just that simple.

As with all modern advances, the light bulb began to be adopted en masse as Edison and several competing inventors changed the way we viewed light, the night, and time. Of course, this modern advance finally found its way into Masonic lodges.

I haven't found any source material on when most Masonic lodges in my state switched from candles to incandescent bulbs but it must have been very nearly after when the incandescent bulb was invented and mass produced from age of the lamps I have seen. I can't be sure why bulbs were chosen but I wish to speculate. I believe the reason was to save time.

If you've ever seen a lodge with candles and not bulbs, you have probably noticed the biggest difference when lighting the lesser lights. The candle route takes time, at least two minutes for the Senior Deacon to go from candelabrum to candelabrum while a lamp takes, well, a second. Flick. Now the lesser lights are on.

In this case, switching from our old way to light the lesser lights to this new way has not improved the lodge experience. In fact, I'm going to go further and say that the bulbs have done nothing but to remove an important symbol from our lodge.

The lodge visits I have attended that employ candles change me somehow. Both methods of light come from the energy of the sun but only with candles do I sense kinetic energy. Candles, with their dancing flames, placing light in seemingly random sections of the Lodge Hall, changes my experience. The candles encourage action, sharpening my mind in a way a light bulb never could. In fact, I would say, I put no thought into the lesser lights when a lamp is used. None. They are just a perfunctory step to opening and closing.

Tradition and modernity can work together. Lodges can and should have lodge websites. If a lodge wants an organist but can't find one, using a prerecorded track may be okay. These tools allow lodges to accept a changing world without losing everything that Masonry should keep.

Modernity should not force its way in, disrupting what is strictly not its purpose. I can imagine that at some point, a lodge will attempt to use a Kindle, its screen set to "Always On", as a representation of the Holy Bible. I suspect, that some brothers will attempt to record the ritual and have candidates watch a screen, thus, losing that important connection of ritual to self-transformation.

As with all things, we must take care not to lose our traditions. We must always balance why we do things with what we can do after advances in technology take hold. I do believe that we can create a balance, we need only be cognizant and vigilant at every meeting.

What are your thoughts? How do we effectively protect our traditions and accept helpful technological advances into our lodges? Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Knighthood or Bust

Today I start my first order in the commandery, the Order of Red Cross. As I think some of you may remember, I was hemming and hawing about even petitioning for the orders. I guess I should put my lists down again:

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.
After I thought about it, I decided that my family connection to the Masonic Templarism should win out. My paternal grandfather, Dick Johnson, was Sir Knight with St. Bernard Commandery No. 13 of Austin, MN. I felt that I should see what interested him. My grandpa was a good man and a dutiful Mason and I find as many ways as possible to emulate him.

The commandery I'm joining is Faribault Commandery No. 8 of Faribault. It's a small town commandery but with a lot of opportunities for growth. My degree work is being performed by Damascus Commandery No. 1 of Saint Paul. I want to thank the sir knights there for allowing me to be a courtesy.

I'm excited to see what this next avenue has in store for me. I'll let you know.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Not a Concession Speech

File:Gravure door Reinier van Persijn.jpg

As I promised, this is not a concession speech but a bittersweet statement. I have been an officer in my lodge, Corinthian Lodge № 67, since a year after I was raised. That's five years. I've worked hard as an officer to ensure that whatever the lodge needed to grow and thrive, I would be there.

But I feel good. I see the new officers and what they hope to accomplish and can be nothing but supportive. We are experiencing a fourth year of growth in the lodge. We are seeing a renewed interest in Masonry. Every meeting feels brotherly and I enjoy every one of them, even the long ones. It's been a fun ride.

Of course, even as I'm writing this, I'm remembering all the work that I still have to do in the York Rite. I'm currently the High Priest of Corinthian Chapter № 33, R.A.M. and Captain of the Guard for Northfield Council № 12, R&SMs and will be starting my Commandery Orders next Tuesday. I will finally be stepping down as High Priest. Currently, we have ten candidates going through this year and we have done a lot of work to bring life back to our York Rite. And when I say we have 10 candidates, I should say that my Chapter has less than 50 members meaning we will have increased our membership by more than 20% in one year. Wow!

I'm very excited to see where Masonry goes from here  for me. I see a lot of opportunities for leadership in my lodge. I'm learning from the Past Masters about the transition and I think I'm doing well. I will continue to work hard, continue to learn, and continue to teach other brothers and allow them to learn from their knowledge and experience. This isn't my swan song, regardless of the picture I chose above, but my triumphant song of happiness and relief.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Saw This on CNN

I saw this picture on the CNN's political ticker. This is a polling place in Orange County, Florida. Anyone know which lodge building this is? Comment below.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Relief Request for the Victims of Hurricane Sandy

I have received word that a brother from Minnesota has started collecting supplies for those in need of relief following the tremendously powerful and devastating Hurricane Sandy.

Dear Brother,
My name is Steve Willett, a Master Mason with Lake Harriet Lodge No. 277 and 32° Scottish Rite member in Minneapolis.
I have spoken to the New Jersey Grand Master, Glenn Trautmann. He stated that anything we can send would be appreciated. The food shelves are dry, people are in serious shape; besides being homeless, there is no food or drinking water.
We need to make this happen. They are setting up lodges to help with the distribution. I am also talking to Hormel foods  Cabela’s and Kenny Anderson (owner of Barrel of Fun and Kenny’s Candies) about contributions.
Buzzy Olson and I started this Friday at noon. I already have 10 pallets of bottled drinking water donated. We need food, clothing, tents, eating utensils, can openers, sleeping bags, diapers and blankets. We will also gladly accept monetary donations for fuel to deliver the donations.
We sincerely appreciate any and all help anyone can provide. Buzzy Olson and I will personally be going to New Jersey to help with the relief.
Steve Willett
Minnesota Freemason

Contributions can be sent to the Grand Lodge office, 11501 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington, MN 55437-3699.

This is not the only response that will be coming from the state of Minnesota. I have also received word that the Grand Lodge will likely be contributing as well to the Masonic Service Association's efforts. Donations sent to the Masonic Service Association for disaster relief are used 100% for that purpose, no administration fees or other expenses are taken from the donations. I will let everyone know about that as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cornerstone Laying for Newest Masonic Building in Minnesota

I have received a message from Rich Hervieux, the current Master of Minnesota River Valley No. 6, concerning a very rare event in the state of Minnesota. Minnesota River Valley will be moving to a new building. As we are a society of builders, there will be a cornerstone laying ceremony to kick off the renovation. Here's the message from Rich:

Attention all Minnesota Masonic Lodges, Scottish Rite, York Rite, Jobs Daughters and other Masonic bodies and friends.
I am proud to announce a cornerstone ceremony for Minnesota River Valley Lodge # 6 A.F.& A.M. it is being held on October 27th at 11:00 am at the new building, directly beside the American Legion Post on 124th St. between Princeton and Ottawa Ave's. in Savage Minnesota
All are encouraged to attend. This is a historic event as we do not get to build new masonic lodges very often. Your presence will be most appreciated.
Please share this message with all of your masonic friends and lodges here.
Rich Hervieux, Master
MNRV #6 A.F.& A.M
From what WM Rich told me, the cornerstone laying will be performed by the Grand Master and Grand Lodge Officers. There will also be a time capsule. Local media outlets will likely be there as well. As Rich says in the announcement, this is not a common occurrence. Please attend if you can.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hello Knight Masons, Thanks For Inviting Me

I received something quite interesting in the mail recently. Minnesota Council #34, Knight Masons of Rochester Minnesota had invited me to join their venerated organization. For those of you who don't know about the York Rite invitational bodies, the York Rite has a number of different related and associated Masonic bodies. These bodies are only accessible through an invitation. As you can probably guess, I am honored and humbled by my brothers.

The Knight Masons are a set of degrees, known as the Green Degrees because of their Irish origins. The degrees were historically worked in either lodges or more commonly, in preceptories in Ireland. You can read more about the Knight Masons at the main site or for a real great local body site, check out the Chicago-area Council, Saint Bridget Council No. 23's site.

My day started with my best impression of James Bond (this degree is tux required). I don't get to travel to the city of Rochester very often. It's a beautiful town, most famous for two brothers, who were also brother Masons, the Mayos, founders of the world famous Mayo Clinic.

When we arrived, I had no idea what to expect. My first honorary degree was actually a chair degree, the Order of High Priesthood. The Order of High Priesthood is a very interesting degree that provides many lessons for the Past High Priest. I really enjoyed myself at that one. But again, it was a chair degree; this was invitational.

There were many Masons there I knew so I was in good hands. The degrees were very interesting to me. They added more to my understanding of the previous degrees I had seen in Masonry, particularly the Royal Arch. Plus, the swag was pretty cool too.

From what I've learned, we refer to each other as "Cousin." I've also learned that "Cuz" is not an acceptable replacement. I'm honored that my Cuzz... Cousins have accepted me into this venerable institution. I hope to serve as best I can.

Sorry for the lack of information. I'm still trying to understand and add these degrees to the pantheon of Masonic degrees that I have seen. I want to thank all the brothers who were at the meeting. It was fun and interesting.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Movember 2012

The Masons of Australia, led by the brothers of the South Australian Constitution, are looking to do something huge. I hope some of you have heard of Movember but if you haven't here's a short explanation from the Grand Master of South Australia:


Since its humble beginnings in Melbourne Australia, Movember has grown to become a truly global movement, inspiring more than 1.9 Million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas to participate with formal campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, the UK, South Africa, Ireland and many more.

Movember is already an established fundraiser at an international level and popular with men of all ages.

Last year, over 854,000 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas around the world got on board, raising $124 million and Movember is now recognized as the largest advocate and fund raiser for research and support programs for men’s health issues.

Movember is our major focus for the next couple of months with a video already shot, used to 'rally' the troops and gain increased involvement from our members. Interstate jurisdictions are all on board as are several overseas, so this year could well be a very big promotional November for Freemasonry.

As registrations are soon able to be made on the Movember website, our efforts will accordingly gradually increase.

This is a truly national Masonic effort, ensuring that our reach is even greater than last year. We all operate in different jurisdictions with different members, different circumstances, different Grand Lodge officers and different agendas - but in this instance we can all work together towards one goal and I commend this project to you all.

To view the above mentioned video and registration page, go to the Movember section below and click on the pictures.

MW Bro Bob Parsons

The money raised within Australia will be used for two major health concerns for men, prostate cancer and mental health. Here's some more great information

The Movember Effect: Awareness & Education, Survivorship, Research

The funds raised in Australia support equally the two biggest health issues men face – prostate cancer and male mental health. The funds raised are directed to programs run directly by Movember and our men’s health partners, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and beyondblue: the national depression initiative. Together, the three channels work together to ensure that Movember funds are supporting a broad range of innovative, world-class programs in line with our strategic goals, in the areas of awareness and education, survivorship and research.

Let's support our brothers in Australia and get the word out. Visit the Freemasons global site. What a great idea brothers. Now to find some face Rogaine.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Observing the Craft" Open Forum

I read Andrew Hammer's Observing the Craft a few months ago. I have held off writing a review because I am still writing down my impressions. Of course, I should say that I'm nearly done with one to present to my lodge for the Masonic Light program. Instead of writing about my impressions of his book, I would like to open up this post to all of you. Here are some starter questions to help you.

What did you think of the book? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with?

Leave your impressions and observations as a comment below. 

If you haven't read the book, buy it now. I found it on the Observing the Craft website.

Monday, June 25, 2012

One of the Best Masonic Weeks... Ever

It's been awhile since I posted last. I have been extremely busy with my family, my Lodges, my Chapter, and my Council. However, all that work and good cheer has culminated in one of the greatest weeks I have had since I first petitioned my lodge. Where to start? I guess from the beginning.

On Saturday June 23rd, the Grand Chapter met for its Annual Convocation. This year was the 150th Annual Convocation. Our Grand Chapter had some business that it hadn’t had in more than sixty years. Our Grand Chapter chartered not one but two new Chapters, Overseers Chapter No. 103 and Anoka-Shekinah Chapter No. 104. I have now seen two lodges and two chapters receive charters in the state of Minnesota. This should end all the doubtful talk out there that Masonry is dead. There is fervency and zeal in Minnesota Masonry. What a proud day.

Companions of Anoka-Shekinah Chapter No. 103

Companions of Oveseers Chapter No. 103

Oh, oh, oh, and there was that little thing about Corinthian Chapter No. 33, the Chapter that I happen to be the High Priest of, was just award the membership award for last year for the highest net increase in membership. Hughie and I were completely without words... for about a minute. It’s because of the dedication of the companions in Corinthian Chapter and many great friends of the Chapter (James, thank you) that we are thriving. I know we will continue to serve as a beacon for Capitular Masonry with many petitions signed and petitioners ready and willing to jump into this major undertaking.

Okay, now that I’m done talking about Chapter, let me talk about my Saint John the Baptist’s Day. My wife and I woke up and got ready early on Sunday. Our son woke up just a little later. We were getting ready to go to church. But this wasn’t just a normal Sunday, this was June 24th, the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist, one of two patron saints of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. We hopped into the car and drove to Faribault.

I entered the Faribault Masonic Temple not really knowing what to expect. I’m a member of two lodges and Faribault No. 9 happens to be one of them. We had been throwing out an idea of reviving an old tradition of Masonry. There is documented evidence that Masons would, on the Feast Day of Saint John, process to a house of worship. We finally felt that we should and could do something like this. We received special dispensation to open our lodge, call to refreshment and process to Our Merciful Savior Episcopal Cathedral.

I’m not an Episcopalian. However, I do know about Our Merciful Savior because of its connection to a very prominent Minnesotan. Our Merciful Savior served as the cathedral for Bishop Henry Whipple. Bishop Whipple is best known for pleas of clemency to President Lincoln for 303 Eastern Dakota men who had been put on trial and sentenced to die as a result of the Dakota Wars that raged through the state of Minnesota. President Lincoln commuted 264 sentences but allowed 38  prisoners to be hung in the largest mass executions in American history. The memory of that sad day remains in Minnesota even now. Here is a copy of his letter to President Lincoln. This was a man holding to his principles against the hostile winds of Manifest Destiny.

Here's a video about Bishop Whipple and the Cathedral:

Going back to the Procession, I found it amazing that a mere twelve brothers could do something as historic as this. With our piper at the head of the line, our Master next to the Chaplain holding the Holy Bible, we began marching down the street. The walk was beautiful and the downtown quite empty. As we crossed Central and saw the Cathedral’s bell tower in view, I finally felt the historic nature of this event.

We entered the Church to the sounds of of a bagpipe echoing off the vaulted ceiling. Again, I had never seen an Episcopalian service before so it was a very new and richly rewarding experience to see how others worship G-d. The Worshipful Master was introduced and invited to give a few words. Worshipful Master Jimmy gave a short and respectful address explaining who we were and why we were there.

After the Church service ended, we assembled and processed back to the Masonic Temple. Of course, now the sleepy town had awoken and it was fun to see the confused faces as we walked back to the door. We closed the lodge, changed cloths, and had a picnic at the park across the street from the church.

Assembling Outside of the Church Before Processing in
Sorry for the, “and this one time at band camp” feel of this post. Right now, all I can think of is what we have done not what it means yet. I’m still wrapping my head around this. Everything we did was positive and it’s hard for me to get fully grasp right now.

We are starting to plan our next year’s Saint John’s Day procession. My hope is that we make this an annual event. Thanks to Our Merciful Savior Cathedral for allowing us to join you, thanks to all the brothers who attended and as always, a special thanks to the families that came, especially my wife, the love of my life.

Monday, June 18, 2012

For Your Saint John's Day Celebrations...

Saint John the Baptist by Titian

LiveScience is reporting that Bulgarian archaeologists may have found, at the site of an old church on the island of Sveti Ivan (Saint John) in Bulgaria, some remains of Saint John the Baptist. You can read the full article here. Of course, this would not be the only place that Saint John is believed to be interred. There is a legend that the head of Saint John (or Yahya), a prophet in Islam, is in his tomb at Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

Shrine of Yahya in Umayyad Mosque

Saint John plays a special role in Masonry, as we are all doubtlessly aware. One of my favorite articles was this one by Greg Stewart of Freemason Information. My lodge, Faribault Lodge No. 9, will be hosting a Saint John's Day event that we haven't done in awhile, if ever. (I'm still looking through the records which are very old.)

Here are all the details:
It is with great pride that we invite all of you to join us and our families as Faribault Lodge No. 9 revives the old tradition of celebrating Saint John's Day, Sunday June 24th. We will open our lodge at 8:45 am and form in procession to walk the four blocks to Our Merciful Savior Episcopal Cathedral. We will process in with the congregation at 9:30 am and attend services. Your families may also join us as well but only Masons may be in the procession.

The dress for church is dark suit and tie for the members of Faribault Lodge No. 9. For all other Masons, we would appreciate a jacket and tie but a tie and dress shirt is acceptable. After services have completed, you may either cross the street to Central Park or you may process back to the lodge where we will proceed to close the lodge. You can change clothes at the Lodge building before the picnic. 
After our procession, we will have our Saint John's Day picnic with our families at Central Park. Central Park is across the street from the Cathedral. Please bring a picnic lunch for your family only as we are unsure how many people will be attending. If you do not feel comfortable attending the service, which is perfectly acceptable, you are still most welcome to join us at the picnic. The picnic will likely start 11:30 am.

This tradition is indeed very old. We find references, in many historical accounts, of Masons, in full regalia, processing to a house of worship during the feast days of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. Visiting different houses of worship continues as a tradition in many Grand Lodges as a way to introduce themselves to local religious organizations.

We are especially lucky to be attending services at Our Merciful Savior. For those unaware, Bishop Henry Whipple, a well-known humanitarian, was the first Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota and his Cathedral was Our Merciful Savior. In fact, it was the first Cathedral in the state of Minnesota and continued to serve as the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota until 1941. It also has the distinction of being the first Episcopal Church in the United States of America to be designed as a cathedral.

Faribault Lodge has had many prominent members including Past Grand Master Frederick E. Jenkins (1922) and General James Shields. General Shields was a charter member of Faribault Lodge No. 9. He, along with Senator Henry Rice, served as the first senatorial delegation from the state of Minnesota. General Shields also has the distinction of being the only United States Senator to have served three states.

Again, all Masons are invited to attend. We will be in full regalia for this procession. If you are a lodge officer or Grand Lodge Officer, please bring your officer's apron and jewels. Also, we may not have enough white aprons; if you are not a member of Faribault Lodge, please bring your lodge's aprons to ensure all Masons are properly attired. We have also created a Facebook Event page which you can find here.
I just recently joined Faribault Lodge No. 9 and have had a blast. I hope to get more historical papers about Faribault and Corinthian out into the future.

Do you have a comment? Leave it below. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Where have you been? 2012 Edition

As happens about once a year, I have been remiss in my blogging duties. And guess what, it happens at around the same time every year. The reason for this is that the month before summer is when everything is getting wrapped up. Many lodges go dark for the summer because most of our buildings are old and don't have A/C.

I have been crazy busy. My mother lodge, Corinthian Lodge No. 67, is experiencing a major rebirth in interest. We are doing degree work a lot. We are wrapping up the last class on June 5th. It has been an amazing journey as a brother in this lodge. We have seen our lodge grow and prosper and have actually seen positive growth. Degree work can be taxing but thankfully, we have knowledgeable brothers who perform the work well and have the fortitude to keep going.

My other lodge, Faribault Lodge No. 9 has been very good about seeking lessons of the past and using them for growth into the future. The lodge is one of the oldest in the state, actually, it was chartered before the formation of the state, and has a very colorful history. The current Master is writing a history of the lodge and I hope that when he's done with the paper, he will publish it here. (That's right Jimmy, I'm calling you out.)

I was also fortunate to have met WBro. Andrew Hammer of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 while he was in MN. Calling him an enlightened Mason is like saying that Tesla was kind of smart. Masonry needs more observant Masons and more observant Masonic practice. I was very impressed and I hope to meet him again to "talk shop."

I was at the Grand Lodge Annual Communication and I'm happy to report that I had a great time. I met Cliff Porter and Rex Hutchens. It was like meeting a couple of rockstars. Knowledgeable and cool are just two of the adjectives I used when I met both of these brothers. Both of them exemplify what observant Masonry should strive to be. I will write more about what I learned at the Annual Communication in a later post.

The Washington Bible on the Altar

It was at this Annual Communication that I was also fortunate to be sitting in the presence of history. The altar bible that was used was the George Washington Inaugural Bible. It was on this Bible that President Washington swore to uphold the Constitution of a very young nation. It was on this Bible that the Executive Branch was born. Owned and safeguarded by the brothers of St. John's Lodge No. 1 AYM, this important document is a symbol of Executive power. I have no words to describe what I felt in that room.

As I am very active in the York Rite, serving my second term as High Priest has been rewarding yet again. We are seeing many petitions as brothers start to see the value in joining Chapter. I'm ready for the excoriating comments but I believe that a Master Mason must go through the Royal Arch degree to really understand the lessons of Masonry. Maybe I'm just biased. (Hate mail protocols engaged)

Upon a lot of reflection, I have petitioned Faribault Commandery. I sat down with several brothers and have come to the conclusion that I can go through with the Orders. My opinions continue to be informed by all of you and I'm curious to experience the Orders and learn what I can from them. (Head shaking emails engaged)

This summer promises to stay busy. I planning a visit to Castle Island Lodge, MN River Valley Lodge, and a whole host of other lodges just waiting to be explored. I also hope to blog more. Masonry is a part of my life and I like sharing it with you.

Please leave a comment below.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Speculative Freemason Blog

I love blogging. I think more brothers should blog because of just how much fun it is to chat with brothers from all across the world. Ideas are exchanged that help your Craft grow and get better. That's why I'm happy to report that one of my best friends in Freemasonry is now a blogger.

Worshipful Brother Gary Thomas is one of the Master Craftsman who raised Red Wing Lodge No. 8 from the rubble to be a beacon of Masonry in Minnesota. In fact, Red Wing Lodge just won the Mark Twain award from MSANA. Anyway, Worshipful Brother Gary is the LEO of Red Wing Lodge and has a lot of things to say about Masonry. So many things, in fact, that Gary need a channel to post everything he had in his head.

I am happy to point out Gary's blog, the Speculative Mason. The first article is about an interesting video that he presented in one of his LEO talks. Go ahead and check out his blog. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

GL of MN Annual Communication 2012

Well, this year, I'm very far removed from any important duties. I'm currently the Marshal of Corinthian Lodge No. 67 and a member of Faribault Lodge No. 9. I'm not a line officer in anything but the York Rite nor do I have a vote at the Annual Communication. That means, relaaaaaaxation. I get to sit and listen to the proceedings and see many of brothers I get to see once a year with a sense of calm.

This year proves to be extra exciting. The first big thing at the Annual Communication will be the George Washington Inaugurial Bible. That's right, the Bible that George Washington (and many successive Presidents of the United States of America) took his oath of office to serve as the first President of the United States will be on display. The Bible is owned by St. John’s Lodge No. 1 A.Y.M., F.&A.M., Grand Lodge of New York. This is a very great opportunity for the Masons of Minnesota. You can read more about the Washington Bible by visiting the Grand Lodge website.

Furthermore, the Annual Communications featured speaker will be WBro. Cliff Porter, Past Master of Enlightenment Lodge No. 198 in Colorado Springs, CO. He’s a writer of many great books including his current tome, The Secret Psychology of Freemasonry: Alchemy, Gnosis and the Science of the Craft. He also blogs at the Relevant Mason which is filled with great thought-provoking pieces about Masonry and the practice of Masonry. I am very excited to meet him and gain further knowledge into the esoteric side of our Craft.

It appears that the Annual Communication will be pretty swell this year. I hope to see as many of you there as possible. It’s going to be great.

Friday, March 9, 2012

UGLE's "The Future of Freemasonry" Report

As noted in the BBC News' article from yesterday, the United Grand Lodge of England has released a report today concerning the state of Freemasonry and its future in the country of England. You can read the report above.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Freemasonry: the BBC News Edition

London Whites (7)

An article about Freemasonry has been published on BBC News' site and seems to once again show cracked certain members of the British public really are about our Fraternity. The article by Tom de Castella is entitled,  Would You Want to Be a Freemason?

From the article:

Dogged by conspiracy theories, Freemasons insist theirs is a modern, open organisation. But can this male-dominated body cast off its secretive image and win over a sceptical public?
They designed the pyramids, plotted the French Revolution and are keeping the flame alive for the Knights Templar. These are just some of the wilder theories about the Freemasons. Today they are associated with secret handshakes and alleged corruption in the police and judiciary.
But dogged by this "secret society" image, the Freemasons have launched a rebranding exercise. On Friday, the United Grand Lodge of England, the largest Masonic group in Britain, publishes its first independent report. The Future of Freemasonry, researched by the Social Issues Research Centre, aims to start an "open and transparent" discussion ahead of the group's tercentenary in 2017.

I'm always shocked by the glib titles in articles about Freemasonry in England."Would You Want to Be a Freemason?" The editor might as well have said, "Would You Want to Get Cancer?" The article starts at a point of distrust and surprising, ends the same way.

As an American Freemason, I have experienced some Anti-Masonic comments. Almost always they come from ultra-conservative religious types. Usually the comments say that we worship some magic deity named Baphomat or that we're agents of El Diablo. Most in the general populace say to me either, "who are you guys?" or "I didn't know a Masonic lodge was here." (these are both real responses that I receive when I'm in Farmington frequently.)

Let me put forward an argument that you can either take or leave at your discretion. I wonder if, because we are a Fraternity that teaches "a course of moral instruction, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols", we cause people to feel uneasy. It's not uneasiness because of our symbols or our allegories but because we teach morality. We live in a society of ad men who tell us that we're so bad, we need to be repaired, not improved, repaired like broken toys. We seek to feel good and make stupid choices to arrive at that "good feeling." 

Masonry doesn't make you feel bad. As you progress through the degrees, you see a support system, a structure that will help you make good choices in your life. As someone who was a goody two-shoes, I can tell you that it's hard and you need positive role models to go against the Jersey Shore mentality. (Wow, do I ever sound like Tony Robbins) Perhaps the public sees this as a problem, that we are acting "too good." If that's the case, I won't apologize. Masonry gives my life supplemental meaning and value after my true happiness of being a good father and husband. Why should we apologize for giving men a mooring against this storm of hostility? 

I think the brand consultant makes a good point and one that American Masons won't quite understand, including myself, "[p]eople join the Masons not because it is a community group raising money for charity but for its "snob factor" and history." I think he's right. There is something elite about being a Freemason. 

I'm shocked that conspiracy theorists are given an equal footing with Freemasons in any of these news articles. An article like this begs the question, what is our duty to the public concerning our internal activities? The public will believe what they want to believe and we will have to live with that like we have for hundreds of years.

Men will find our lantern hanging on the Temple's portico. They will see the light to give them the tools for self improvement and happiness. They will find us. Looking for approval or going up against conspiracy theorists only leads to wasted time and effort. We are who we are and we should be proud of that. 

Should we go up against the pressures of society? How best can our Fraternity deal with scrutiny? Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Nostalgia: Is It Useful in Masonry?

I recently sat down to watch the newest film written and direct by Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris, and was struck by its theme. Why are we nostalgic and what's the use of being nostalgic?

The story follows a screenwriter, Gil, through his wanderings in the beautiful city of Paris. He's experienced a dangerous condition known as writer's block as he struggles to make himself something more than a mere screenwriter hoping to achieve the lofty title of author.

As he wanders through Paris, he is picked up, at the strike of midnight, by revelers in 20's garb. He's let out into the world of Paris in the 20's and he meets all the famous ex-pats that made the City of Lights their home during that period of intense creativity. Illuminaries like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Picasso are all there to welcome him to this world of the past. Of course, through reflection and a trip to the Belle Époque, Gil makes a startling realization when the film's love interest tells Gil to stay with her in that time.

"Adriana, if you stay here though, and this becomes your present then pretty soon you'll start imagining another time was really your... You know, was really the golden time. Yeah, that's what the present is. It's a little unsatisfying because life's a little unsatisfying."

I started to look back at my own Masonic journey. I started in Boy Scouts, learning self improvement through personal growth goals via merit badges and the Eagle Scout award. Later, I became interested in Masonry without any real, good information during the bad old days of the Internet. Finally, I found my Abe Simpson, my paternal grandfather, right there, a longtime member of his lodge wondering why it took so long for me to put two and two together that he was a Mason and that I could ask him to join. As I've grown into this Masonic life, I've found the good and the bad of nostalgic thinking. 

I have found the most satisfying parts of this journey in my own family history. Finding out that my grandpa was a Mason was amazing but then I found out that both my grandpas were Masons and one was a Sir Knight and the other a Shriner, I was wistfully content. Masonry was in my blood, in my heart. As I looked through more of my family records, I was finding great, great-greats, and possibly great-great-greats who were also Masons.

I imagined the Masonry of their era, a time of suits, pocketwatches, elegant dinners, and a sense of greatness. I wanted to be a part of that time and some days, I still do. It wasn't just Masonry, I was mournfully longing for the past. The present is tough. Things move fast, family and work lead to stress, and the modern age just feels generally busy. Yet, I knew that the past was never meant for me. My time is now, my understandings and existence depend upon this era. Hell, I wouldn't even be writing this article if I lived back then. But that elegiac feeling still exists, or maybe even persists, in me.

We hear in Masonry phrases like, "wasn't that way in my year", "that's not how we do that" and other cliche statements made by brothers not seeking to change things. There are certain things in Masonry that must remain as they are. These are our landmarks, our guideposts to the past. Yet, I fear we sweep many non-Masonic innovations in with our landmarks.

Our Order is built from stones hewed during the past. Temples have been built, physically and spiritually, to stand as testaments of our tenets and we are the fortunate recipients of that time and effort. Yet, at times, I feel the temples we live in now have become dilapidated. We allow the drapes to yellow, the stonework to weather, and the foundation to crack for fear of destroying that past, of insulting that memory if any of our efforts cause more harm. We feel the history and tread softly.

Nostalgia serves to mask recent innovations in the cloak of tradition. Many lodges run on a progressive line even when our ancient brothers did not. Our lodges have long-winded discussions on business, the minutes, and the Treasurer's report because it has been done that way for many decades. Many lodges don't have meals together. We see changes to the Fraternity of the recent past that choke out the changes needed for the future.

I would argue that we must take it upon ourselves to stop being excessively nostalgic, seeing its most destructive tendencies, and pushing to define the new century of Freemasonry. Just as the light bulb replaced the gaslight, we should find those things in our Craft that are inefficient and dangerous to renewal and replace them.

Here's a list from the top of my head. We need to have quality programs focused on modernity. Focus on modern philosophic study, on new scientific advances, or on ways to better ourselves as men and Masons. We should eat together even if it's at a restaurant, off the menu. Our lodges should resemble something more than service clubs.

I wonder, outside of a clear intent, if the Traditional Observance model focuses too much on the nostalgic when its greatest strength is its call to focused Masonry. I think most of the traditional observance model ideas are novel and perhaps the moniker of 'traditional' somehow creates a wrong impression of what the movement can do. Again, is nostalgia good, worthwhile or even correct?

Should we seek out the past to prepare for the future? Should we assess what we have now? We have the tools to make Masonry relevant. Instead of spending time on selling a product only to leave the new Mason with a sense of blah, we need to renovate our physical and spiritual Temples, honoring our ancient brethren, and worry more about protecting the memories. It is our time to lay and hew stones, to build our own temples; it's our time to make Masonry.

Monday, February 27, 2012

GL of MN 2012 Membership Seminar

I've been invited to be one of the speakers at this year's membership seminar on this Saturday, March 3rd at the Scottish Rite Temple in Minneapolis. The focus of the talk is on the Millennial generation. The seminar will begin at 10 am with a 9 am check in time.

From the January-February 2012 issue of the Minnesota Mason:

The Grand Lodge of Minnesota is pleased to announce the 3rd Annual Membership Seminar, March 3, 2012, from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Temple in Minneapolis. Doors open at 9 a.m. for check in.
The 2012 seminar will feature nationallyrecognized Masonic speakers and provide attendees with tools they can take back to their lodges to aid in membership. This year one of the main topics will be Freemasonry’s Growing Appeal to the Millennial Generation. The 2012 event promises to build on the success of the past two highly-rated membership seminars.
Space is limited, and RSVPs are required by February 15th. Cost is only $10 per person (lunch included). 
Please delegate two members from your lodge to take part in this event (additional members may attend if they wish). Payment can be made by either sending a check to the Grand Lodge office (c/o Grand Lodge Membership Committee) or at the door on March 3rd. 
Additional information will be sent to your lodge secretary shortly or on Facebook at “MN Grand Lodge Membership Committee.”

From what I've heard, the two keynote speakers will be PGM Robert Conley of the GL of MI and Jon Burgess. This seminar has grown in popularity over the last two or three years and has been extremely helpful with improving constituent lodge membership committees. All lodges in the state should send delegates because the information is that good.

If you're wanting to attend, you better let the Grand Secretary know now as space will be extremely tight.

I hope to see you at the SR Temple in Minneapolis on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Why Won't They Just Grow Up"

Expect Delays

The Atlantic Monthly had a very interesting feature today about the Millennial generation, in particular, how the recession has affected us and our push into adulthood. In "Adulthood, Delayed: What Has the Recession Done to Millennials?", Derek Thompson delves into many issues revolving around Millennials not "growing up."

What makes Generation Y different from all other generations? They're getting married later. They're having babies later. They're buying fewer homes, and living with their parents. Are they scared of adulthood? Maybe. Culture is complicated, and there are plenty of factors outside of the Great Recession that are shaping Millennials' conception of adulthood and family life. But it certainly seems like the story begins with economics.

I wondered, as I read this article, how this will affect a man in his twenties and his view of the Craft. My supposition is that if Millennials are willing to put off families, homes, and other guide posts of adulthood, they will put off joining Freemasonry as well.

This is going to be a challenge for lodges. How will we attract but more importantly, impact the lives of young adult men? What will Freemasonry provide and what impact will my generation have on Freemasonry?

I remember a talk given by WBro. Robert Davis of Oklahoma at the Philalethes Society Annual Feast and Symposium in Minneapolis in 2010. He discussed generational differences and Masonry's relationship to them. I took away from that presentation this point on Millennials, which I completely agree with, Generation Y is an extremely social group that craves knowledge. With this change in economic possibilities, we may be seeing a new need arising.

This extreme downturn has had a major effect on young men. They are lacking support in making that next step in manhood. That is what Freemasonry could provide. We offer growth, a chance to better our selves and others, and to find meaning.

Sorry if I'm sounding like Robert Bly. But in this new economic reality, I, like many men my age, feel that meaning has been lost. It's not so much a loss of innocence as much as a loss of context. Our actions seem to mean nothing. We are in Limbo, waiting to see if our collective sins have been redeemed. There are many places we can turn, some good, some bad. How our lodges perform their labors will be the key to it being necessary for the spirtual growth of our newest Masons..

I have a beautiful wife, a crazy fun son, and a house. (it's not big but it has four walls, so technically, it qualifies.) I'm not like this but I was. My wife and I took years to get married and have just now started having kids. It took us awhile to get a house. We are delayed. Yet, through it all, we've made it. My adult life seems to have finally started after many sputters and starts. I can thank my family, friends, and Freemasonry for these things.

It's been a rough few years. I've seen friends wait in the wings for their time in the spotlight. We've been watching and waiting. Yet, for me, Freemasonry is a key to unlock my potential, particularly in these dark days. It's a place to focus on making my ashlar smooth. I owe a lot to the Fraternity. It isn't the only place that I've found context but it does provide one landmark in my life.

What do you think of delayed adulthood? How has it impacted your lodge? Please leave a comment.

Justa Mason at the Just a Mason blog has made a great response, or should I say, a conclusion to this post. Go check it out now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Day 2012

The title I've chosen for this post can either be viewed as very boring or very provocative. The reason I say that is that One Day class remain, in the world of Masonry, a sore spot or a normal course of business.

I was asked to take part in the first degree during the One Day class held on Saturday, January 21st at the Minneapolis Scottish Rite building on Dupont. One Days, for those who don't know, compresses the three degrees into one day. They often have some of the best ritualists in the state and in many cases, have all the staging to really make the degree work pop.

There is debate that has been going on since the One Day format was started over its legitimacy and its efficacy in shoring up membership numbers. Frankly, I don't really have an opinion one way or the other. I like degree work in a small lodge setting but I also remember that Masonry is an ongoing lifestyle that has to be worked over a number of years. The initiation is important but it is not the end all be all for a Mason.

I was very impressed by the work I saw. When I say that the best ritualists are at the One Day, I'm not joking. All the degrees were performed in formal apparel, as in tuxedos. With spotlights to the front and custodians behind me, I was understandably nervous. I got through my part with only a minor hiccup. (For the sake of secrecy, well, maybe just embarrassment, I will not mention what I missed.)

I was also fortunate to be there with a lot of Southeast Area Masons. The Southeast Area hosts many, many Schools of Instruction. From the work I've seen in our more sparsely populated area, I really think we have some wonderfully good ritual being performed. Most Masons in the state of Minnesota don't come down to our neck of the woods and that's a shame. If you're interested in making a visit, just visit here.

What I really found interesting was the tour of the building. WBro. Mark Campbell led us through the building to see all the different areas of the building. The Scottish Rite temple was originally a church, the Fowler Methodist Episcopal Church. As explained by WBro. Mark, the congregation merged with the Heenepin Avenue Methodist Church and to prevent competition with some other church, the Church sold the building to the Minneapolis Valley in 1916. Many modifications to the building have occurred since that time. I was very impressed by the building and I think all Masons should make a trip to this amazing Masonic edifice. In fact, Lodge #19 currently meets in this building so all Master Masons from Grand Lodges in amity with the Grand Lodge of Minnesota may visit.

In all, I had a very enjoyable time and solidified friendships with many brothers I only see once in awhile. Congratulations to all the fine ritualists at the One Day; you guys did an outstanding job. Congratulations also goes out to the class for having been made Master Masons.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Nite Show: Interview with Professor Weinberger

I caught this wonderful interview on The Nite Show with Tom Mischke. On this particular program, Mischke is speaking with the author of Too Big to Know, Prof. David Weinberger. 

What is knowledge? How has the Internet changed how we as human beings seek out information and what does that do to the paradigm of knowledge seeking that we know? Just a wonderful discussion and as a Mason, I think that there really is some need for us to understand the way that the Internet will affect human knowledge in the future.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Life Masonic Podcast

Pictured: Jason Van Dyke and Brent Morris

Masonry is blessed in this new digital age. Never has there been a time for information to be so freely available to all peoples in all places as right now. At this moment, interested men are looking for information about Freemasonry and Masons are looking for more information about the same. One great addition to this bulk of information has been created and presented free by the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the United States of America. It's called the Life Masonic podcast and it has some great information for all Masons.

Jason Van Dyke is the host of the podcast. With the help of Eric Diamond of X-Oriente fame, the Supreme Council has created a first rate podcast. The range of topics has been great from discussing research methods with Brent Morris to discussing the need for leadership with the Sovereign Grand Commander, Ronald Seale.

The Supreme Council has proven once again that it "gets it." Embracing technology can only improve an organization's reach. I have found each episode engaging and of value, not only to Scottish Rite Masons, but to all Masons.

If you'd like more information, visit the Supreme Council's website. If you have show ideas, send them to Jason at thelifemasonic(at) I can't wait to listen to future episodes of this podcast.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Osman Shrine Website Redux

I know I'm on a "technology is good" kick but it's because I truly believe that sentiment. With that being said, I noticed that the Osman Shrine website that has just been renovated.

The Osman Shriners completed a major overhaul of their website and it's looking great. The website has everything a member and a potential member might need, calendars, links to events, and other pertinent information.

I spoke with current Potentate, Frank Spevak, about the website overhaul. The main purpose the website was improved was to foster communication between the Divan and the members. The site is using Drupal which I think is good as long as you have a capable hand on the wheel which it appears Osman does. It also appears that Shrine Clubs will also have pages.

I am not a Shriner (yet?) but I know that without a strong web presence, no organization is going to be able to survive. Let's face it, the web is the new front door. In a world where television is the dominating pastime, we will need to open potential members' eyes to our organizations. When I was first checking out Masonry as a young man of 19 years, I could find no information on Masonry. The door was only opened to those that knew someone and finding that someone was near impossible. (My origin story can be found here. I literally had a Stonecutters' moment when I found out my Grandpa was a Mason and here I am.)

The Internet has changed that reality. A man can now go on a Grand Lodge website, write an email to Grand Lodge, and receive a name and email address or number to a lodge near his home. A man interested in Shrine can visit Be A Shriner Now and be connected to a local Shrine group. This is the new reality. It's now our time to take control of our destiny.

As a plug for my buddy Dan, you can visit his company's website, Club Management Services at to learn more about what services he can offer clubs. He was the website designer of the new Osman Shrine site. He does great work and is an all-around nice guy.

How has you lodge or Masonic organization used the web? Have you found results, good or bad? Leave a comment.