Sunday, December 8, 2013

CBS Sunday Morning: Inside the Secret World of the Freemasons

This morning, CBS Sunday Morning featured a story on our venerable institution. It was very positive. Host Mo Rocca looked into our fascinating world to see what we are up to.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Tribute to Nelson Mandela

I spotted this posted on Reddit this afternoon.
Imgur link:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sons of the Desert: Nothing But Trouble Oasis No. 309

Oliver: Now isn't this nice?
Stan: It sure is. We're just like two peas in a pot.
Bro. Matt Gallagher of Braden Lodge No. 168 in Saint Paul has sent me a paper on a new body that some members of his lodge have started, Nothing But Trouble No. 309, Sons of the Desert. Enjoy.

On Thursday, November 14th, at 7:00 pm several brothers from my lodge, Braden #168, are hosting an event we hope will become a continuous tradition for local Masons, their friends, and family. In cooperation with the Sons of the Desert (the Laurel and Hardy fan club), we have chartered our own group (also known as a "tent" or "oasis"), Nothing But Trouble No. 309.

Why? Well, frankly most of us just didn't care to be Shriners.  Not for any malicious reason. Some just don't like the Shrine vibe. Some can't afford the expense. And for a lot of us it would have just been one more thing. But we all love fezzes.

The Sons of the Desert is an honest-to-goodness "fraternal order," taken from the famous movie of the same name, and started by the great Chuck McCann and company, to honor and preserve the films of the even greater, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Starting in New York City, with Sons of the Desert Tent No. 1, they have formed these tents across the country, and around the world, to gather, drink, watch, laugh, talk, drink, laugh, drink, and pass these films to a new generation who get an inexplicable, empty feeling watching Dumb and Dumber.

The Sons of the Desert, from the movie, were a fraternal order based not-so-loosely on the Shriners, in a tongue-in-cheek, affectionate way. Oliver Hardy was, himself, a Shriner. The real world organization was formed with the blessing of Stan Laurel, who even contributed some ideas, not the least of which is that it have a "half-assed dignity about it." With that mandate in mind, we have formed and officially chartered Nothing But Trouble:  Sons of the Desert Oasis No. 309. Our evenings will consist of films (Laurel & Hardy, and others of the classic era), filmography, cocktails (mocktails, actually, as we meet happily in a dry building), a little comedy, and a lot of great fellowship.

We have no annual dues, and there are no door fees. We will be charging $5 per person for a free all-night pass to the concessions counter. All profits and donations will go to a fund reserved for the preservation and revitalization of Triune Masonic Temple, the last building from the turn of the 20th Century in Saint Paul still in Masonic use today.

In short, it's all for laughs and good fraternity, as well as the ability to mingle fraternally with other masons, non-masons, and yes, even women. If you would care to join us, our Facebook page can be found here. If you can, please RSVP to next week's event here, and if you are not on Facebook terms with the internet, you can always subscribe to our newsletter here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

House Stenographer Disrupts House Proceeding to Denounce Freemasons

I saw on the NYTimes website last night that a House stenographer got up during the final vote count to reopen the government to denounce Freemasonry and that the US was no longer "One Nation Under God."

“The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under God. It never was,” the stenographer said as she was carried off the House floor, through the speaker’s lobby and into the hall. “It would not have been. The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons that go against God.”
And here's the video for posterity's sake.

I'm going to make a giant assumption that she believed that the Constitution was not written by Freemasons because we don't believe in God. You know, it's hard to tell (Washington) just how many Freemasons (Franklin) signed the Constitution (Bedford), if any (Carroll). Freemasons (McHenry), after all, were hard to recognize (Dickinson) and most kept their membership secret (Gilman). Masons (Brearley) try hard to stay out of civic life (Broom) and I'm pretty sure Masons made sure to stay out of the Revolutionary War (Dayton). And as we all know, God plays almost no role (Paterson) in our lodges. No spirituality (Blair) here. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there were no Masons (King) involved in the drafting of the Constitution because that would violate "One Nation Under God."

Special thanks to Paul Bessel for his awesome list of signatories of the US Constitution who also were Masons.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

High Church - Low Church and the Masonic Meeting

As is probably obvious from my posts on joining Commandery, I would describe myself as Christian. My Christian path as a child wound through many different church cultures and traditions but all of them were decidedly Protestant, and particularly focused on worship unbounded by strict formalism. However, as I have been exposed to different worship services and styles, I have found myself gravitating to what might be described as "high church" or "broad church." (In this case, I'm not describing doctrinal high church, rather formalism in the church service.) Sometimes, this is pejoratively styled, "smells and bells." And apparently, I'm not alone.

This is an example of High Church.

According to a post entitled, "Young Evangelicals Are Getting High" on the Christian Pundit website, a number of evangelical Millennials are dumping the traditions of their youth for Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, or High Church Lutheran services. They are attending Evensongs, participating in Ash Wednesdays, and other ancient traditions of the Church.

The author, in fact, is puzzled by this change.
In a way, it’s hard to understand. Why would you trade your jeans, fair-trade coffee, a Bible and some Getty songs for formal “church clothes”, fasting, a Bible and a priest? It makes no sense to want to kneel on a stone floor instead of sit in a comfy chair. And if you’re hearing about Jesus anyway, why does it really matter?
My teenager years were spent in a Methodist church. I'm used to rock bands, fun youth pastors, Christian rock stars, and blue jean wearing parishioners. Yet, when I attend a service like this now, it feels incomplete. Sometimes I wonder if the main reason people attend church is to hurry up and get to the coffee.

I attended a worship service awhile back and the pastor was going a little long. Well I guess he was going long but I didn't notice. I was enthralled because he was explore doctrinal ideas and issues that I had never heard in a sermon. He was exploring Christianity. He wasn't the Bible thumpers of television, he wasn't the storytellers trying to compare God to a caddy, etc. No, he was shaking the contents of the Bible out and looking at how it mattered.Yet, I was distracted by the coughing, watch-looking congregation. Weren't they listening?

I was frustrated. Here was a very young pastor who was exploring his faith and letting us in on the ride. In fact, he was giving a very good lecture on doctrine. The congregation was furious. They just wanted in, they wanted out, they wanted to go and chat about this or that, and then they wanted to go home.

This isn't to say that I haven't gotten something out of non-traditional, evangelical, or "low church" services as well. There have been moments of ecstatic faith. Moments of finding God within the service itself. However, I'm finding fewer and fewer of those moments within less tradition-rich environments.

So how does all this relate to Masonry? Right now we see various types of Masonry. There's standard lodges, there's Traditional Observance, European Concept, Restoration, and Affinity just to name a few.

I view Masonry through the lens of tradition. I think, in the Fraternity's transformation from the pre-World War II era to the post-World War II era, something was lost. The Fraternity ebbs and flows often. You know, maybe that's not the right phrase. The Fraternity is a double edged sword; on one side, it's a search for philosophy, for meaning, in other words, an introspective journey, and on the other side, it's a search for fraternal love, belonging, in other words, a community building organization. Frankly, we've been cutting with the fraternal side so much, it's becoming dull and blunt.

We live in the era of the 50's. The 50's era brought a lot of men into the Fraternity. They were good men for the most part but the lodge became very fraternal. That period did not bring a lot of different thoughts, of traditionalism. It was about easy opens and easy closings to focus on the lodge business, electric lesser lights, printed ritual, and a relaxed dress code. It was good for those men. I would argue, however, that some of us in the younger generation are not looking for that.

My optimal Masonry is focused almost solely on education, ritual, and tradition. In my mind, I see real candles for the lesser lights, formal dress (not tuxedos because they have been done to death), classical music or even better, organ music, incense, and deliberate take on the ritual. It's not that I want to make Masonry into a church. Masonry is not a religion. Instead, I want more focus. I don't want business meetings that drag on, I don't want brothers to look forward to the outer lodge because the lodge experience itself sucks.

Nothing I'm saying can't also be achieved in a less formal setting. A lodge that breaks itself of the useless business is on the right track. A lodge seeking to make education the highlight of the meeting is doing it right. Pancake breakfasts and reading the minutes and financial reports is not the right way. I don't want more Masonic business, I want more Masonry. Or maybe even better, I want the business of the lodge to be speculative Masonry. These can be accomplished in both high Masonry and low Masonry. I enjoy lodges in both traditions. It's the deliberation that the brothers make to the Work that makes a great meeting.

I understand that my view is not everyone's view. I might be just a tool. But I know what I like, and I think a number of younger Masons are in agreement. Tradition, focus, and education are essential. We have to make our meetings meaningful or men will turn away from the front porch, to find it elsewhere.

We are a society dedicated to self-improvement. This self improvement comes from external sources, our brothers, our ritual, or our explorations of our traditions and history. Even something as small as a candle helps me to focus my thoughts to the work at hand. For me, Masonry is work, not a chore. This isn't to say that I don't want Fraternalism. Masonry isn't just a "fix me" organization. We should have a good time. We just need to focus on both sides of the blade so as to not dull one side or the other.

What do you think? Are you a Mason in one of the aforementioned lodge types? Why or why not? Am I way off base? Leave a comment below.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I've just been invited to AMD


I usually don't get all gooey about stuff. In this case, I make an exception. I've been invited into the local AMD Council. This is amazing.

I'm not sure what to expect but from what I understand, AMD is right up my alley. Discussions, papers, ritual, it's all there. I'll let all of you know in December how awesome it all is.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Wild and Crazy Summer

Well, dear reader, I apologize for taking so long to get anything up on this blog. I've been really busy with family, friends, and Masonry. But I'm back to give a little bit of my adventures during the month of June.

In May, I was installed as Captain General for Faribault Commandery No. 8. It has been great to serve in this capacity and attempt to bring forward a great many ideas to encourage the Templary side of Masonry.

June became a crazy month for me. The first big event was the first Order of the Temple to be conferred in Faribault in many decades. For many years, new Sir Knights had to go through the One Day to Templary or find a place to do courtesy work. However, after many years of working, gaining incrementally, and reviving the spark, we turned the Commandery around and now have many new Sir Knights willing to jump in and do the work. All this culminated in the Order of the Temple. Special thanks to the Sir Knights of Cyrene No. 9.

The Sir Knights of Faribault Commandery with our two newest candidates.
This next event was a Saint John's Day procession to attend worship services. This year, we attended the services of the Congregational Church of Faribault. Faribault Lodge and church have had the same members since the founding of both. The Grand Lodge of Minnesota laid the cornerstone of the Parish House for the Congregational Church.

Cornerstone of the Parish House. PGM Jenkins, PM of Faribault Lodge No. 9 , was the presiding GM in 1923.

We, as a lodge, opened and assembled ourselves into procession. We processed the three blocks from the lodge hall to the Church, in full regalia. We then sat for services. It was a wonderful day without rain. (Minnesota now apparently has three seasons, winter, road construction, and rainy.) Thanks to Pastor Jan and the wonderfully welcoming congregants of the Congregational Church of Faribault.

With Pastor Jan
Then, the next day, Monday the 24th, I attended a Saint John's Day procession being held by Red Wing Lodge No. 8. I was the Marshal, as I have planned these processions in the past, and was honored to serve in that capacity. This was a procession to the local Lutheran Church but without any worship services. Instead, we were fortunate to behold a fantastic meal set before us and a wonderful speech on Masonry in America by MWB Tom H., PGM of Minnesota. It was a wonderful and moving experience for all involved.

We processed to the Lutheran Church two blocks away
Now, if all this was not enough, I attended the Grand York Rite Session as I am both the Principal Conductor of the Work for my Cryptic Council, Northfield Council No. 12, and Captain General for my Commandery. I also happened to have been appointed and installed as the Grand Chaplain for the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Minnesota. So yes, I am a purple coat now. Thank you MIGM Jim for your confidence in me in this endeavor.

Ta da! Notice that I have the wrong apron. 

I think that's it in the Masonry sphere. It's been busy but that's cool. Hopefully, we can keep this going. I have many more ideas I'd like to implement and hopefully, I can continue to write about them.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The first every Grand Master AMA in Reddit history on now

The Grand Master of Masons of Connecticut, MW Bro. Simon LaPlace, is answering questions on the Craft, life, and anything else he wants right now on Reddit. Come on out to his AMA and ask him anything.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Installed as Captain General of Faribault Commandery No. 8

Last knight, hm hmm, night, I was installed as Captain General of my Commandery, Faribault Commandery No. 8. My jewel is the Level, surmounted by a Cock. It's an interesting concept to have the announcer of the day sit upon the level, the jewel of the Senior Warden. I will have to study the symbolism more to full understand why both symbols were chosen.

My medal is on the top right row, far right.

I have had an enjoyable time in Commandery. We are still planning out what to do with the year. I can't wait to be of service to the Commandery.

Do you have suggestions for running a successful Commandery? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Appointed as Grand Representative

File:Hans Holbein the Younger - The Ambassadors - Google Art Project.jpg

I am excited to announce that I have been appointed as the Representative to the Grand Lodge of Quebec.

Many brothers seem unaware of the concept of Grand Representative. According to Section G1.09 of the Minnesota Masonic Code, a Grand Representative is "authorized to extend the fellowship and good will of the Grand Lodge and to protect the interests of the Craft of this Jurisdiction, as occasion may require." Essentially, a Grand Representative serves as an ambassador for the foreign Grand Lodge to the Grand Representative's Grand Lodge. I'm still learning the position but I'm pretty excited to extend a Brotherly hand to brothers in another jurisdiction.

If you are in the Masonic Light program under the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, one of the competencies is to serve as a Grand Representative and exchange correspondence annually.

Are you a Grand Representative? What has been your experience? How has it enhanced your Masonic life? Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An Idea for Lodges: the Free Little Library

Little Free Library #1967

For some reason, Masonic buildings seem to be on two ends of a spectrum. On one end, the building is imposing, i.e. the Detroit Masonic Temple. On the other end is a building like my lodge's, a facade that disappears into downtown. In both cases, the community can feel a bit put off. So, what do we do? A lot of lodges smartly host community events, meet at neighborhood functions, and perform other outreach ideas. But there are always more good ideas that we can employ.

One idea that is coming out of Hudson, Wisconsin that is garnering a lot of attention is the Little Free Library. The concept is relatively simple. A neighbor puts a box that resembles a dollhouse on top of a post. Inside the small house is a shelf or two of books. The books are donated by the community, including the Steward of the Little Free Library.

At least from all the articles, once the Little Free Library is installed, the community starts to come together. It becomes the community watercooler as people gather to see what books are there and to chat about what's going on in the neighborhood. The library is filled with an eclectic mix of donated books and the books are labeled with the phrase, "Take a Book, Leave a Book."

I was thinking about how this idea could be used by Masonic lodges, especially those with front lawns. Think about it. The Little Free Library could be filled with interesting Masonic tomes, books about self improvement, Dan Brown books, or whatever the lodge that meets there thinks is a cool idea. The Little Free Library is cheap to build and can be made with recycled material. The cost for registering it on the map is a paltry $34.95.

I think this idea is great. Just think, a nice looking box of books open to the community to share would be something unique and acceptable to the neighborhood. In one article I read, a comment is made that the Little Free Library is like a porch that extends to the street. I think this is a wonderful community outreach program that doesn't cost much money and would extend porch of King Solomon's Temple to the street. Let's make this happen.

What do you think? Should Masonic Lodges put Little Free Libraries in front of their temples? Leave a comment below.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Shrine Questions

I'm not ready to join anything big (monthly meetings or more). Between working nonstop at Lodge and in the York Rite and having a family and a job, I have very little free time. Yet, during one of my mindless thought experimentation sessions on the bus to work today, I actually found myself thinking about Shrine.

As I'm sure many American and Canadian Masons will attest, if you are a Freemason, at least once in your lifetime, you will receive a petition to join the Shrine. I have received three. My maternal grandfather was a Shriner but my paternal grandfather stayed away from Shrine. Each made a conscious decision concerning whether to join Shrine.

I'm not yet convinced to join Shrine. I'm not looking for a scotch and cigar club as I drink very little and never smoke. I don't like circuses (I'm still scared of clowns at 30 years of age). And if you ask my wife, she'll tell you that I'm just not a parade guy (too many years in marching band killed any joy in them). So I have to ask, is there anything else? I donate to the hospitals and I appreciate the Legion of Honor Degree Team but is there anything besides parties, cigars, parades, and clowns?

I started to think about clubs that would interest me. During one of the many petition situations, I was told that clubs were "the thing" when it comes to Shrine but they can get expensive. As I looked through the lists, not a lot was popping out at me.

"Parade, parade, parade... clowns [shivers], parade, parade, parade, ham radio, hmm... [writes down on pad]... parade, cigars... wow, not much."

Then I thought, "why not a club for gamers?" Nah, I play video games at home.

"Why not a tabletop RPG or Magic club?" Again, I play these at home. (Well, not these anymore since I have no friends who play them. Perhaps a +1 to Charisma?)

"Hmm, a Shrine movie club?" Maybe but still, probably not.


Every idea coming to me was something I did with my friends without requiring a "group" to organize them. We just did them.

I've been told that there's a lot of family activities, which is cool, but I really need more to jump in and join. I mean, are these family events something I could just do at my lodge? My lodge is already pretty open to family events as it is, what with family picnics, table lodges, and sweethearts' nights. Are the Shrine events that much better or significantly different?

And, I'm not trying to belittle Shrine. The hospitals are important and wonderful institutions dedicated to alleviating pain and suffering of kids. I just want to know if there's something for a guy like me outside of my yearly check to Shriners' Hospitals.

Help me out Shriners and non-Shriners. Why have you or haven't you joined Shrine? Comment below.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Jack White Explains Record Pressing and Secrets

I won't ruin the surprise. You'll hear it.

I think it's a pretty funny video overall.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Found a Picture of my Grandfather at the Minneapolis Valley

Grandpa Jim in the middle with glasses and tan suit
When I first was thinking of Masonry, I assumed that no one in my family was a Mason. Then I found out my paternal grandfather, Grandpa Dick, was a Mason and a Sir Knight. He was the man who signed my petition and led me to a lodge near my house.

A couple of months later, I found out that my other grandfather, Grandpa Jim, was a Mason, a 32°, and an active Shriner. I was floored. Two men in my family were Masons and I had never known at all. When I found out, Masonry felt more and more like it was in my blood. I found out further that several greats and great-greats were also Masons.

At the One Day to Masonry, two good friends and I started looking through the pictures of the different Scottish Rite classes. I knew my Grandpa Jim was a member of the Minneapolis Valley and I checked my phone for his Masonic record (I had asked about a year earlier) and we started flipping through the photos for the class of 1979. It took a bit as classes in those days were huge but then, I saw him; my Grandpa was just smiling back at me.

As I went back to perform my part in the second degree, I looked in the Minneapolis Valley auditorium and thought that in one of those seats, my Grandfather had watched the degrees of the Scottish Rite, absorbing the lessons as he worked his way to the 32°. It really changed how I performed the work, as if I were performing it for him.

I know both my grandfathers keep watch over my family and I know that they have earned their reward in that spiritual building, in the Great Lodge Above. I love you Grandpa Jim and Grandpa Dick and I hope to be able to see you both when I lay down my working tools.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Polar Plunge 2013

"Jump in a frozen lake", they said; "it'll be fun" they said. 

Okay, quit whining. You'll be fine. They'll have EMTs on staff. 

EMTs?! Am I going to die?

Knock it off you baby.

Okay, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Ok, now I'm ready to do it. I'm ready to jump in but I'm going to need everyone's help to get me over the mountain.

Polar Plunge 2013 is a great charitable event for Special Olympics Minnesota. My lodge, Corinthian Lodge No. 67, is fielding a team of crazy... intrepid brothers who are going to jump into the freezing cold water of Crystal Lake in Burnsville. Our team name: The Stonecutters. The jump will be on February 23rd. The actual plunge starts at 2:30 pm but I'm unsure when my team will be jumping. There will be a free shuttle going back and forth from Brunswick Bowl in Lakeville just so you can avoid the parking snares that may occur.

If you would like to donate, just visit our team page and pick any of the team members to donate. We're all swell guys and would really appreciate your support in this extremely worthy cause.

I think I can, I think I can.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

George Washington's Inaugural Bible Featured on CBS Sunday Morning

The Bible that George Washington swore his presidential oath was prominently displayed on CBS Sunday Morning. I was fortunate to be at the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota to be within inches of this founding document. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I also was able to speak with WBro. Piers, the Master of Saint John's Lodge No. 1, AYM, owners of the Bible. His insights were quite astute. If you have a chance to see the Bible, you will not be disappointed.