Thursday, September 17, 2015

Project 353: Sharpening Our Knives

Bro. Matt has written our followup post answering questions and concerns some brothers have. Let's maintain a dialogue as we continue moving forward. You can also like our Agape Lodge Facebook page here.


We've received a fantastic response to Agape Lodge from some very talented Minnesota Masons. We'll be announcing a planning meeting soon exclusively for those who have signed up, so if this is something you want to do, please fill out the survey HERE.

We've also received some confused, and even negative responses. This is okay. This is something new. Dare we say, this is even an *cue scary music* an innovation in Freemasonry!

New ideas get resistance. That's great. They should get resistance. You sharpen a knife against an
unyielding stone. I've written about this before on my own blog.

For those who are resistant to change, like our old pal, Brother George, we wanted to address some concerns that have come up.

Can a lodge move around? Don't they have to have a building?

Yes, a lodge can travel around. We have an extremely successful one in Minnesota already that operates in much the same way, Sir Winston Churchill Lodge. They mostly meet in brothers' homes.

Hmm...sounds clandy. Is it legit? 

Good question. Let's ask one of its members.

...seems legit.

Okay, but can you meet in restaurants? 

It's a hurdle, no doubt. There has always been resistance to meeting in public places, but we believe that a well-tyled lodge actually takes a little effort. If we can tyle a quarry, or a hotel ballroom each year, we can tyle a banquet room with one or two doors.

Will you be drinking during meetings?

We're not serving alcohol during meetings. We will adhere to all rules regarding alcohol set by the Minnesota Grand Lodge AF&AM.

So you don't think a building is important for Freemasons?

We don't think it's important for every Freemason, for sure. Both Nick and I love our temples, and having a hangout is important for masons, but what we're trying to do is normalize the option of having different types of lodges, because we don't believe in the one size fits all concept of freemasonry. We think that lodges could certainly meet downtown on people's lunch hours, in a meeting room. We think that lodges can meet in peoples' homes or bars.

My lodge needs dues from all two-hundred of our members to stay alive. How are you going to make it with just a few guys?

We think that lodges can exist that have purposely low membership. They can make easier, faster budget decisions, and essentially have the power and ability to be what the members want it to be, without having to worry about angering a hundred other brothers who don't show up, but whose dues you can't survive without.

I'm worried this lodge will fail and that will damage Minnesota Masonry.

We're in this for the long haul, but I can't hold your hand and promise that everything will last forever and ever. Lodges fail.

Right now, sadly, we have a situation in place where Masons feel shame for a lodge that shuts its doors, and that they have failed in some way. Brothers, a lodge only fails when its brothers fail to become better men, and that happens in some of the biggest, oldest lodges in the world. Why do we worry about this?

Our ancient brethren would travel to many places and receive a charter to organize for a specific purpose; for building a specific structure. When they were done, the charter was dissolved and they traveled to new lands, chartering new lodges. That's ok. That's actually how it's supposed to work.

We think lodges can be convened for specific, limited purposes. As long as they're doing the work of the craft, they're succeeding.

Will you meet in a different place every time, or will Agape meet in the same place or same places regularly?

Totally up in the air right now. This will necessarily be a group decision, which is why it's so important that you be part of the conversation.

Will you be initiating, passing, and raising new Masons?

It's definitely something we want to do. As we're going to mainly be an affiliate lodge, it's probably not going to come up a lot, though we may certainly be open to courtesy work for other lodges. Eventually, if successful, we may bring in new masons of our own who find this format appealing.

Can you do degree work at a dinner table. 


Hmmm...sounds clandy.

Then our Grand Lodge is clandestine, because they actually have a First Degree Table Lodge that your own lodge can perform any time it wants, and you can read all about it HERE.

This sounds elitist and stuffy. Is this going to look like something out of Downton Abbey?

You know, the state doesn't really have a dearth of scotch and cigar lodges. We're feasters. Some of that is going to include education on table manners, both modern and archaic, but it's probably mostly going to look like a good old family dinner or Thanksgiving. It should be pretty working class and on the level.

Ok, but if you're not like the other lodges, and don't have buildings to take care of, what could you possibly be doing in these meetings?

Like all lodges, of course we will have bills and general business. We'll just be discussing them over appetizers. But mainly, we educate! In our mother lodges both me and Nick are pretty proficient at leading group discussions, Socrates cafe style, about masonic issues. When we need a well-directed,
productive discussion about masonic symbolism, we'll be at work with the worshipful master leading the group. When we need a more vibrant back and forth, we'll be at refreshment where it's more of a free-for-all.

Why have a lodge at all then? Why not just have a supper club with a bunch of smart-talking masons? 

We want to form a lodge for the same reason that our ancient brethren formed lodges. Benjamin Franklin could have stuck with his Leather Apron Club, discussing news, science, and philosophy over a pint at the local tavern, but he decided to become a mason, because ritual and structure is important. And that's the thing. There are a lot of rituals that we can inject into our lives that remind us to be mindful, and we're going to be exploring those, and the rest of freemasonry, around a dinner table.

Why start a new lodge? If you think meetings are dry, horrible affairs, why not fix your old lodges?

Let's be clear on this point. We find no flaws with our lodges (Braden Lodge and Corinthian Lodge). They are vibrant centers of ritual, education and fellowship. We have everything we need there. We want more of it. Sorry. I guess we're greedy. We want more great freemasonry.

Do you have other questions or concerns? Please ask them! Interested? Come and be a part of it.

Memento Mordere

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Guest Article: "Squares Upon Theirs, A pessimistic tale of the craft" by Herpes Quadmatestes

Squares Upon Theirs

A pessimistic tale of the craft.

by Herpes Quadmatestes

A man was curious about a building of brick,
He'd think and he'd wonder until he got sick,
So many times that he actually went
Into the building to talk and to vent.

He was greeted by a few smiles on geezers
Who had to take breaks in between their great wheezers.

The old men all sat in a huddle to find
The same type of men to fit the right kind
Of a mold that was cast
Far in the past,
With morals and trust who would do it all right,
Who wouldn't complain or put up a fight,
When the secrets were told and the beans were all spilled,
And the dues were collected and coffers were filled.

With greenbacks, dollars, shillings and a mark,
You'll have a fraternity with men who are still in the dark.
They lure you in, and give you a committee
It's only too late when you smell something $h!##y.

Where was the good stuff? The truth and the lore?
All there ever is are the minutes and what's more,
Is the complete lack of education I say,
And the geezers just grumble and then walk away.

They say that we're here to make good men better,
But all they do is collect money by letter.
Please give us money for this and for that,
The only thing I seem to be getting is fat.

It's so true that I've gained pound after pound,
Sitting in lodge has made me quite round.
Now I might know why these men never leave,
It's hard to imagine, so hard to conceive,
But imagine if you will, if you can,
A place that can't change, a place that is ran

By men with their thinkers that have all gone out,
By men and by geezers concerned about clout.

Titles, titles, titles galore,
But to you and to me its really a bore.

Men looking for something, anything to gain,
But all it causes the brothers, is great pain.
Not physical, but mental for that is that.
All those guys running, chasing a white hat.

Or purple or gold or red or for blue,
But nothing's awarded to the men who do,
The real work, the ones who without,
Nothing would happen, ever, no doubt.

They work in the quarries with unsung praise
Year after year and days after days.
Until one day they become a past master,
And they realize the new guys are a total disaster.

Nothing's changed in the years since you joined,
You've had wishes and plans and things you have coined,
But nothing, no nothing will make it down range,
Nothing no nothing will ever, ever change.
It once was something you thought you could mold
Back to the thing in which you were told,
Was the heyday of masonry with vigor and vim,
But that new guy, that young guy over there? Screw him.

He thinks he will move and change things a bit,
Not before us past masters have all thrown a great fit.

Well break him, we'll show him just what it means
To be a Freemason and all it's great scenes.
We'll decode them and show him a fanciful ruse,
By the time he finds out we'll already have the dues.

Year after year had passed on by,
If anyone told you things changed, its a lie

Then one day the past masters all died,
And the young men that had always tried
To change the lodge to make it new and great
Suffered until they met the same fate.

No matter the kind of lodge that you've got,
T. O., or Clandy or Regular it's not
Going to last any longer than those
Of other persuasions, they'll lock up and close.

That is why when the kids today ask
I pour my coffee and take out the flask,
I pour some old granddads label thats red
And I tell them the craft might as well be dead.

The good old days were here and now gone,
The sun is dropping, its no longer dawn.
It's setting down and will rise no more,
And then the last lodge too, will shut its front door.

It will fade into history and the candle once lit,
Will be a reminder of the words once writ  
It once was a beautiful and a colorful thing,
But now it's been broken and clipped in the wing.

It's doomed and it's done and all the men said,
This thing will be over just as soon as we're dead.

For they were the very last of their kind,
Of a noble thing, left so far behind.
A thing that was great and had a good chance,
To stay current and fruitful and dance the great dance.

But it all fell apart, right at the seams,
When the old ones didn't let go and stuck with their schemes.

So in the yard where rocks have the words,
Are the last remnants and herald the birds,
On tombstones and plaques which bare the great sign,
Of a once thriving idea, of not yours and not mine

But for all of humanity to study and to see,

What once was great and could have been yours, for a fee.

Thanks go to Quadmatestes for a very interesting poem. I'm sure some of you are offended but I do believe in giving all Masons a voice, even those feeling disaffected by our Gentle Craft. All voices need to be heard. Comments? Post them below.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Project 353: Agape Lodge

This is a guest post from my good friend and brother, Bro. Matt Gallagher of Braden Lodge No. 168. He also blogs at Stones 'n Bones. This post is about the lodge he and I are putting together and need your help. Yes, you.

Freemasonry adapts. Before our warehouse/office complex masonic centers, before our once lush, now crumbling masonic temples, brothers would gather where they could, settling themselves on pickle barrels on the second floor of a Five and Dime, educating and bettering themselves. And before that, the tavern lodge, where brothers would meet in a well-tyled tavern or public house. These were as much social gatherings as stated meetings, and education continued well past the rap of the Master's gavel, into the late, late evening over dinner, drinks, and strong black coffee.

It is in the spirit of this tradition, perhaps not "traditional observance" in its modern usage, but in its colonial one, that we're launching an expedition to explore newer, more flexible, and more self-sustaining lodges.

Project 353: Agape Lodge

Agape is a concept lodge exploring the ritual of feasting. Meeting monthly, likely on a Saturday night, nine months out of the year (we'll be dark January, July, and August). The winter and summer feasts of St. John will be our mid and end-season finales. 

How is this different than my current lodge?

First, at this stage Agape should be a mason's affiliate lodge. While we would like to reserve the right to perform table lodge degrees, a fully armed and operational masonic lodge, as you probably think of it, is not something we can initially, or even want to be. So if you get a lot out of your current lodge, think of us as premium bonus. 

Second, all the work will happen around the dinner table. We're not the first in Minnesota to do this, but we hope to be the best. The lodge will open, do business, call to refreshment, eat, call again to labor, have education, and close, all around the table, and not necessarily in that order, all in compliance with Minnesota Grand Lodge requirements.

Third, this lodge will be small and flexible. We may choose a single location meet, or move around. We haven't decided yet, but that's the point. We don't need to put anything in stone, and we don't need to be tied to expensive buildings or restrictive leases. We will be serious and elegant, but everything we need should be able to fit in the back of a minivan.

How is this the same as my lodge? 

It's pretty much the same thing, just more personal and flexible. We'll have lodge furnishings and regalia, but adapted to our use. We'll have committees, and business to attend to. And we'll have education in the oldest classroom on Earth: the supper table. The master of the lodge will not just conduct rituals and degrees, he will conduct exciting and on-point conversations about the Craft. 

You have questions. Ask them. But what we need, in order to explore the best answers, are interested parties. Dues are expected to be easily manageable, and ideally all-inclusive. Easy-going conversationalists are a must!

If you are interested, please fill out this brief survey: PROJECT 353: AGAPE LODGE

We hope you can join us, and if you can't, we at least hope you can support us. Freemasonry isn't the building, it's the brothers, and the work we do.

Memento Mordere... Remember to chew!

I don't normally do this with guest articles but seeing as how I'm also extremely involved in this very cool project, I just wanted to drop a note. Agape Lodge is one lodge in a series of lodges that we (a certain unnamed Mason and I) are calling Lightweight or Micro Lodges. The goal is to think smaller and grow smarter. An article describing the principles and tenets of lightweight lodges will be forthcoming but please be patient. The specifics are still being designed and worked out.

Comments? Post them below.