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.