Wednesday, March 19, 2008

West Virginia & Prince Hall Recognition - Where's The Solution?

I was hoping not to have to address this issue. I thought perhaps Masons finally got it, but they didn't. I see plastered all over the Masonic Internet the speech of Frank Hass before the annual national banquet of the Philalethes Society and also much ongoing talk about Prince Hall Recognition. But I don't see any solutions being advanced.

OK, we got a problem. HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!! Well that's half the battle, admitting that there really is a problem. So we won't waste time debating whether we actually do have concerns. But if we have concerns, er problems, don't we need to address them? Everybody I have listened to and read so far seems to think there is no solution. Most say it is the private problem of the Grand Lodges and their members.

So in regards to all American Grand Lodges demanding a belief in Deity how did all Grand Lodges come to the same conclusion? OK, pick a state, any state. We will call it state X. Now state X decides to change the requirement for a belief in Deity. It will now admit atheists. So will that change Grand Lodge X's relationship with the other 49 state GLs? All of them recognize Grand Lodge X now. What that GL does is its own private affair, right? And any correction is up to the members of that GL, right? So we in the rest of the 49 state GLs will continue to sit with state X's members?

Most of you say we won't. What will we do? Pull recognition from state X's GL? You're kidding! I thought all GLs were sovereign. We would actually mess with sovereignty? But that's just one extreme example you say?

So in regards to all American Grand Lodges excluding women how did all Grand Lodges come to the same conclusion? OK, pick a state, any state. We will call this state, state Y. Now the GL of state Y decides that it will now admit women. So will that change Grand Lodge Y's relationship with the other 49 state GLs? All of them recognize Grand Lodge Y now. What state Y's GL does is its own private affair, right? Who are we to criticize what they do? And any correction is up to the members of that GL. right? So we in the rest of the 49 states will continue to sit with state Y's members?

Most of you say we won't. What will we do? Pull recognition from state Y's GL? You're kidding. I thought all Grand Lodges were sovereign. We would actually mess with sovereignty?

So in regards to Prince Hall Recognition and Black men being admitted to Mainstream Masonry how did we all not come to the same conclusion? OK, pick a state, any state. We will call this state Z. Now the GL of state Z decides to exclude Black men. So will that change the Grand Lodge Z's relationship with the other states that do admit Black men? All of them recognize Grand Lodge Z now. What state Z does is its own private affair, right? Who are we to criticize what they do? And any correction is up to the members of that GL, right? So we in the rest of the states will continue to sit with state Z's members?

Most of you say we will. And that, my friends, tells me that you will discipline another Grand Lodge for violating a belief in Deity and for admitting women but for racism you will do nothing. And all the while you are cloaking your so called reasoned argument in the right of Grand Lodge sovereignty, sovereignty when it suits the argument and no sovereignty when it doesn't.

If a Grand Lodge or a Grand Master is in violation of the moral law, civil law, the by-laws and regulations of said Grand Lodge or the virtues, principles and landmarks of Freemasonry then the Grand Lodge or its representative has overstepped its sovereignty and has forfeited it on that particular issue or action.

To give a Grand Lodge or a Grand Master the power to be un-Masonic is treasonous and self defeating. So does a Grand Lodge have sovergnity? Yes, if it obeys the laws of God and man and the Institution and Principles of Freemasonry.

But to let a Grand Lodge or a Grand Master violate those laws and say that there is nothing that can be done because sovereignty cannot be limited or disciplined is just a foolish and radically unjust position to take and what will ultimately lead to the destruction of the Craft.

So you say again, well that is still a problem of the membership of that Grand Lodge and not mine? Frank Hass said before The Philalethes Society:
"We are one large fraternity divided into grand lodges. What happens to us reflects upon you. What happens to one group of your brothers affects the whole."
And it is not easy for members under the thumb of power to challenge that power and win.

Look at the world governments out there. Was it possible to overthrow Hitler? Has anybody been able to topple Castro? Would the people of Iraq have ever been able to oust Sadaam? We watch the citizens of some of these countries brought before firing squads and murdered. Mass graves hold thousands, even millions. And we sit by and do nothing because it is not proper for the USA to butt into the affairs of another nation? People point out that they are sovereign states and its up to the citizens of that government to correct any wrongs. It's not for an outsider to do. Would you have let the Holocaust go on without stepping in?

Was desegregation in the South accomplished without the use of external force? Did not the federal government send in troops? My God, that was 40 some years ago and we in Masonry will still not do the same. We will not step in with external force and make it right. We will allow Black men to be denied, we will allow good Masons to be expelled without charges and without a Masonic trial, we will allow prostitutes to run amuck in the Shrine, yet we refuse to take any action.

We must stop thinking about the sanctity of Institutions and start thinking about the treatment and rights of people. Tomorrow I would declare the states of WV, KY, TN, NC, SC, GA, FL, MS, AL, LA, AR irregular, clandestine and unrecognized. I would call for a national convention as we had in the Baltimore convention and they would draft up a national Masonic Constitution and Bill of Rights and anybody not signing them would be declared clandestine, that is if I was still in Mainstream Masonry.

We must stop sitting on protocol and find a solution or watch our beloved Fraternity disintegrate before our eyes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ten Minutes May Be Great For Hard Boiled Eggs But Not For Masonic Education

I have a great Worshipful Master, Worshipful Kazar. He is young, articulate, organized and he has a vision (see picture below). He also is pretty good at setting priorities.

Lately he has been revamping some of the Lodge procedures and tapping everybody's brain to try to make the way we do things have a well mapped out written process. One of the aspects he has been working on is the training of our candidates and getting to them some valuable information in handouts. He also is overseeing a way to formalize the training procedure in a handbook to make sure nothing is left out.

But the area I allude to in this article is what we call in Prince Hall -"The Lesson" or what you Mainstream Masons call Masonic Education at the Lodge which is normally accorded about ten minutes. Now my contention is that ten minutes is not long enough to teach or to learn much of anything and certainly there is no room for discussion which is an important part of buying into the educational process; long enough for a hard boiled egg but not anywhere near long enough to explain the intricacies of a philosophy which is a way of life.

How do we get more time into our meetings- just stay later? That is one thing Worshipful Kazar will not do. We meet for two hours and that is long enough, he contends. So to provide more learning time then business time has to decrease. And that is exactly what he did. He appointed a Steering Committee whose job it is to do the business of the Lodge when Lodge is not in session and to transact all such measures that the Lodge has voted on. This does not remove the voting power of any Lodge member. Large items are researched and an advisory opinion is voted on by the Steering Committee. Then the results of the Steering Committee is voted on by all the Brethren at a regular Communication. This just streamlines the process and allows the small petty stuff to be acted on outside of a Lodge Communication. If any action of the Steering Committee that is a votable issue needs to be reversed it can be simply and quickly at a meeting. But the endless debate and haggling over minor points is out the window.

So business now instead of taking one hour takes fifteen to twenty minutes. This leaves one hour to one hour and a half for actual learning and discussion. Remaining time is used in opening and closing Lodge and general non Lodge business talk.

Our last meeting was a good example of what can be done with time to get more deeply involved. We, as a Lodge, did a book review of "The Meaning of Masonry" by W.L. Wilmshurst. We all got a copy of the book, printed or online, and read it, the Master giving us two plus months notice of the event. This meeting we went over and discussed chapter one with the aid of our Junior Deacon, who was appointed facilitator for the night's lesson. Almost every Brother had something to say and all those contributions added up to one great night.

Now we didn't quite cover all the material in chapter one and we have already scheduled one more follow-up night at Lodge with the book with a third needed and to be determined. Some of the things we delved into were the "Sacred Mysteries" and how far back they went and how this was a certain philosophical, spiritual body of knowledge and understanding that seemed to be passed down from generation to generation through the ages albeit by different organizations. Wilmshurst says, "I am acquainted, for instance, with an Egyptian ceremonial system, some 5,000 years old, which taught precisely the same things as Masonry does, but in the terms of shipbuilding instead of in the terms of architecture."

We explored much that made for deeper meaning within the Craft including the author's characterization that Masonry was "a royal art." What really got us deep into the discussion were these words by Wilmshurst, "It is absurd to think that a vast organization like Masonry was ordained merely to teach grown-up men of the world the symbolic meaning of a few simple builders' tools, or to impress upon us such Masonry elementary virtues as temperance and justice - the children in every village school are taught such things; or to enforce such simple principles of morals as brotherly love, which every church and every religion teaches; or as relief, which is practised quite as much by non-Masons as by us; or of truth, which every infant learns upon it's mother's knee. There is surely, too, no need for us to join a secret society to be taught that the volume of the Sacred Law is a fountain of truth and instruction; or to go through the great and elaborate ceremony of the third degree merely to learn that we have to die. The Craft whose work we are taught to honour with the name of a 'science,' 'a royal art,' has surely some larger end in view than merely inculcating the practice of social virtues common to all the world and by no means the monopoly of Freemasons."

Well that really got the discussion going, back and forth. And in the end it led to one great result. When we left that night each man had searched his heart and had realized that Lodge was much more than a buddy, buddy time. We all learned more about why we are a Mason and why it is said that Masonry is a way of life. And our Lodge will be stronger for that. And it will have greater participation because of that. And a lot of the credit for all this goes to Worshipful Kazar who was not satisfied with just the allotment of time it takes to cook a hard boiled egg.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lodge: The Great Detoxer

Have you ever wondered what it is about being a Freemason? I mean what is that certain something you can’t quite put a handle on. Oh, we all know the great life of dedication a Mason lives, inspired by what The Craft teaches him. We all know that Freemasonry is something special. You only have to join to realize that you are far and away above the Elks and The Lions Club. But what attracts a Mason to keep coming back, to never miss Lodge, to thirst for time with his Brothers, who just can’t wait until the next Communication? What does the Mystic Tie mean? What does it refer to?

I read an article in the JOBS section of the Dallas Morning News which I clipped and threw on my “stack of stuff” on my desk. The article won’t leave me, won’t let me alone. Twice I have started to throw this clipping in the waste basket and was not able to do it. Something was calling to me, nudging me, asking me to see beyond the superficial.

The title of the article was “Try Detox To Deal With Work Disappointment” by Mildred L. Culp. DETOX, DETOX, DETOX, the words kept ringing in my ears, constantly in my thoughts. So my writing Angel wants me to talk about DETOX, and so I will. But this is not about alcohol or drugs but about life and its toxins.

Ms. Culp quotes many different authorities on this subject. Certified kundalini yoga instructor Gurujas Kaur of Santa Monica, CA says, “You simply, absolutely need an outlet. It’s as if you fill a vase of water and pour and pour to overflowing…….Emotional detox is a way for you to rid yourself of the toxins that have polluted your psyche.” And she isn’t referring to clinical depression but to a general state.

Motivational speaker Paul Davis of Dream-Makers Inc in Orlando, FL says in the article, “Don’t stay where you are tolerated. Go where you are celebrated.” Celebration, ah, a word I understand well.

We live in a world of constant stress with many people we associate with who are not of good character. We hurry to work, grabbing a sausage, egg and cheese from the drive thru, and get on that freeway that is beep and creep, stall and crawl all the way to work. We inch along gulping our food, shaving, making calls on our cell phone and having seven fits at the driver in front of us who lets every Tom, Dick and Harry go in front of her. At our exit a driver whips his auto from the middle lane to a turn off right in front of us, giving us half a peace sign as he cuts us off. At the office a fellow worker screws us and everybody else in an attempt to step on us on the way to the top. We are called an A-hole by our peers and our boss wants to know why we didn’t do the report he never gave us because his Boss is demanding to know who screwed up. The trip home is a repeat performance of the morning commute in. We come home and reach for the Scotch and settle into the Easy Chair and flip on the TV.

OR DO WE? Maybe we got out for the evening and DETOX. DETOX from life and from the stress that has us taking Tums and aspirin. We go to Lodge. We go where we can connect with men of like character, who will not curse or be rude and crude. We go to pay homage to those ideas that have made men noble and great from time immemorial. And ultimately maybe we move our life from being tolerated to being celebrated because Masonry has showed us what it’s all about. Maybe we think about changes we could make in our life to get us on the path of fulfillment.

When I think of what Lodge does for us I picture it as being:
• Family
• A stress reducer
• A place of comfort – leaving your cares behind
• Where one goes to be motivated and inspired
• Building character ~ satisfying soul
• Leaving the world behind and opening up the possibilities of striving for perfection
• Gathering insights into self improvement
• Reassurance
• Discovering how to being some peace into one’s world
• Help
• Brotherly love and affection

So the next time this little voice says to you, “What do you want to go to Lodge for tonight”, tell it you already know the answer and you are going. And may you find peace and meaning and mission in your life.


Mainstream Masonry has always been a dictatorship, a benevolent one and in many Grand Lodges guided by a voting body which is increasingly ignored. That seemed to serve Masonry well for many years. Perhaps there has always been some back room arm twisting and an Oligarchy working out of smoke filled rooms. But we always had the sense that our leaders had our best interests at heart and that they listened to the wishes and feelings of the average Mason.

We had a simple system for simple times. But times have changed. The rise of the Internet has changed the face of Masonry. Worldwide instant communication is now a way of life. Masonic blogging, Masonic You Tube Videos, Masonic Internet Magazines & Newsletters and Masonic Radio Shows having no allegiance to any particular Grand Lodge has led many Grand Masters to feel that their authority is being eroded, their monopoly on guiding the Craft is slipping away from them. Consequently many Grand Masters are striking back by repressing any Masonic thought that would seek to co-exist in equal standing with their rule.

As easy, fast communication has brought Masons from many different traditions together, the rise of universal Masonry reaching out across jurisdictions, seeking consensus and some kind of all encompassing identity has enjoyed an interstate bonding. Brothers from many different jurisdictions with the ability to communicate well on a daily basis seek to break down barriers of territorial exclusiveness. Naturally when power is eroded, dispersed and questioned it seeks to preserve the status quo, sometimes by whatever means.

Those of us who see Masonry not as West Virginia Masonry, or Indiana Masonry, or California Masonry, or Texas Masonry or Florida Masonry or Massachusetts Masonry or Black Masonry or White Masonry or Christian Masonry or non Christian Masonry but as just plain Masonry, that we are all one, that we are universal not just in philosophical thought but also in practice, in application, are regarded as a challenge to authority. And any challenge to authority is being sold as disrespectful, disloyal, unmasonic and a violation of one’s Masonic Obligation which pledge’s us to full loyalty to the jurisdiction in which we reside. SOLUTION – EXPEL!

Grand Masters used to obey the rules, especially their own by-laws, now many do not. Or they push through rules in their Grand Lodge which are highly restrictive and yielding a predetermined outcome. It’s much easier when the Craft is riding high to be the “top gun” – when membership is up and the coffers are full. But the pressures of leading a Fraternity in decline with commitments that it can no longer keep, has led many Grand Masters to take unilateral drastic and often illegal action.

And so comes along the question of Sovereignty that Brother Hodapp so articulately brings up.

“So, is a Grand Lodge sovereign, or isn't it”?
“Am I happy about the GLs in Dixie continuing to pretend there's no racism going on, and that failure to recognize PHA GLs is really about their origin and regularity and the bogus "freeborn" issue? Of course not. But I don't see the mainstream COGMNA GLs voting to shun or strong arm a big block of its own members, precisely because of the sovereignty issue. Because every Grand Master in that room is going to have that inner dialogue about 'what if it was MY GL these guys were trying to beat up on.' When the GM of West Virginia suspends a PGM, in part, by saying the mere act of speaking to the PHA GM in his state and shaking his hand was a Masonic offense, I just don't see how public censure of a GL will be effective.”

My reply on his site was:

“I believe in state GL sovereignty also. But I don't think that means that you can do anything, absolutely anything, without consequences. If a state GL is going to violate the principles of Freemasonry and violate the Civil Law then somebody better think of a way to correct those wrongs without wrapping the actions of the immoral and unjust in a cloak of divine right of kings. MY GOD you can't make each GM a Pope. GMs have to answer to somebody besides God.”

And here lies the crux of the issue, to sanctify the Institution in and of itself rather than holding the rights and freedoms of people paramount. One of us is saying the Institution has to be protected at all costs which is our first line of support and the other is saying people come before inanimate objects. Essentially the former argument is the one the Catholic Church gave in its response to its pedophile priests. Above all the church must be protected and remain intact and live on. And the other side is saying the healing and cure of the people violated and justice demands that we take care of the victims first and worry about whether the Church lives on second.

Furthermore there are limits to most anything in life, even freedom and rights. I have the right of free speech but the laws of treason, against inciting a riot, of hate speech, of yelling fire in a theater when there is no fire; limit my right of free speech. I have a right to bear arms but if I have a criminal record I may be denied and I will surely have to take out a license and register my firearm which cannot be a machine gun. Even the President of the United States is limited by Congress and The Supreme Court. But Grand Masters and Grand Lodges are not. As I said that worked well in times gone by, but this is the 21st century.

There are no blank checks left in 21st century America. And the dual components of Masonic governance, monopoly and dictatorship, are not working well. Halcyon Lodge, West Virginia expulsions and the remaining recognition of Prince Hall are all problems that you can see repeated over and over again unless some serious attention is devoted to solving this problem. And solving it may involve some kind of watchdog or overseer or spokesman or national contract, but that does not mean that Grand Lodge Sovereignty will be done away with. Our civil government was formed with a series of checks and balances. Power was diffused and not concentrated all in one person. But all institutions, all components, remained intact with responsibilities and areas of concentration.

Do I have the answer? NO, maybe some suggestions for further dialogue. But what we can’t do is throw our hands up in despair and say – “Well there is nothing we can do because Grand Lodge sovereignty means total control.”

I would call on all the well known national Masonic leaders to come together to work together to find a solution. Perhaps we need another Baltimore convention. Perhaps The Masonic Service Association of North America can play an important role.

When I started this blog I noted that this was 21st century Masonry. This is the Information Age. Masons will no longer allow themselves to be muzzled. Masons will no longer allow injustices to remain in the Craft. People will come first or we will die a slow death of bitter old men.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Performing At A District Deputy Visit

In Massachusetts a District Deputy makes two scheduled visits to each Lodge. One is an Official Visitation and the other is a Fraternal Visitation. Other than those two visitations the District Deputy cannot come to your Lodge unless he is invited. If he were to just show up he could legally be denied admission. Not too many Masters remember this. They forget to ask their District Deputy to all their social and special events. The District Deputy cannot always attend but he appreciates being asked.

At the Official visitation the District Deputy inspects the Lodge, the books (actually done prior -the visitation being the Official recording that it has been done), and the work of the Lodge. The Fraternal visitation is social in nature bringing news and reports.

At an Official visitation then the Lodge is required to perform some small part of the ritual work so that the District Deputy might judge their capability in this area. On my last Official visitation as Master I asked the District Deputy if I could do something different. I asked him if I could do a funeral service for all the Brethren of the Lodge that had died in my two years as Master. He said sure.

So the first thing I did was to put together this memorial. It was not going to be the Lodge memorial done in the ritual book. I designed my own borrowing some ideas from what I had seen or heard others do. After designing the service I put the players in place. I hired a Masonic organist who could play anything. Then I hired a Masonic soloist who could sing anything. We decided on the songs to be sung and the soloist and the organist got together on that. I asked the Chaplain to compose a special prayer.

The night of the visitation after the Official Inspection was completed and it was time for a recitation of the work, I placed the Deacons and Stewards on the West side of the altar facing East and so positioned their wands so as to form the likeness of the square and compasses (SEE PHOTO BELOW). Then I announced that 23 Brothers had died from my Lodge in my two years as Master. I read each of the 23 names. Then I placed 23 red roses on the altar as the soloist sang "I'll Walk With God". Then I returned to the East where I recited "The Hour Glass" as the soloist sang softly in the background "Nearer My God, To Thee." The Chaplain concluded the ceremony with prayer. I asked the Brethren present to take home a rose in memory of a Brother.

We had remembered our fallen Brethren and paid them due respect. Such is the Brotherly Love that emanates from our Order.

Grand Lodge and Local Lodge Special Awards

Many Grand Lodges have some sort of special award for individuals Masons, often the highest award a Blue Lodge Mason can receive from his Grand Master. I suppose some may not, I haven't researched all the Grand Lodges. But those that have this award have many different names for it, often naming their prestigious recognition after some early famous Grand Lodge Officer who made a significant contribution to that state's Masonry.

In Massachusetts this award is called The Joseph Warren Medal and it is a real medal worn by the recipient. Dr. Joseph Warren was Grand Master during the Revolutionary War and died fighting in Battle when he was Grand Master at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He made the ultimate contribution - his life.

The only way you can get a Joseph Warren Medal in Massachusetts is by recommendation of a sitting Master. You don't have to be a Master or even an officer to get this medal, but you do have to have made some pretty significant contributions to your Grand Lodge, your local Lodge and your community. The Master has to write a letter of recommendation to the Grand Master who then researches the Brother recommended and rules on whether he will give out the award. I have seen some Brothers turned down as they try to keep this award as something really special. But you can't apply for it yourself.

I have also seen many Masters forget all about the ability they have to make this recommendation. They pass up a real chance to award someone who in most cases is not an old Past Master but more likely a younger, vibrant maker and shaker.

I made that recommendation for Brother Dick from my Lodge. Brother Dick was a very hard worker who sweet talked me into his officers line as Senior Deacon while I was a sitting Master at another Lodge. I can remember one week of performing the ritual for the First Degree on Monday as Master in the East and then on Tuesday performing the Senior Deacon's ritual in the Second Degree including of course The Middle Chamber lecture.

Brother Dick was and is quite a man. He was Chairman of the Board for the local DeMolay Chapter. He made DeMolay work in our city. He was President of D.A.R.E. for the city and Masonic representative to that Masonic community involvement. He was chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Masonic Building. He taught inner city kids at his church what morality was all about as a religious teacher. He was a recent Past Master and his labor in the Craft was far from over.

The Grand Master granted Brother Dick that award which we all keep secret from the recipients until we spring the medal on them in a special Lodge ceremony. Generally what will happen is that the District Deputy will present the award (sometimes the Grand Master will do that). The recipients family is notified and asked to be present at Lodge. The District Deputy will request the Master to put the Lodge from labor to refreshment and the doors will open for all friends and family and non Masons to enter. Previous to which the District Deputy will have requested all previous recipients of this medal to attend the ceremony.

The recipient will be conducted to the East to have his surprise presented in front of family and friends. The District Deputy will then say some words as to what the recipient has done to merit such an award. Then the District Deputy will ask all the previous recipients of the Joseph Warren medal present to line up on the West side of the altar. He will then introduce each previous recipient and ask if any have something to say. Most do. Then all previous recipients will line up in the East, one by one congratulating the newest Joseph Warren medal holder. Lastly the recipient will say a few words. And this is exactly how it happened.The picture below shows the previous Joseph Warren medal holders congratulating Brother Dick as they pass through the East. This is a very similar to the way 50 year pins are presented in Massachusetts.

Brother Dick was the Installing Master who installed me as Master and all my officers. He did so dressed in Colonial Degree Costume as did the rest of the Installing suite. Brother Dick was also my sponsor into church. He now sits as District Deputy of my former Masonic District and he is far from done in what he hopes to do in the Fraternity.

Also in my two year tenure as Master I started a Lodge award from the Past Masters to the Lodge Brother who performed meritorious service above and beyond the call of duty. I called all the Past Masters into meeting and we nominated three Lodge Brothers for the award. Then we cast a secret ballot and awarded the recognition to the winner. I had a special plaque made for the recipient.

The first winner of this award, which we called the Past Masters Special Service Award,was Brother Joe. Joe was Chairman of the Service Committee. It was his job to visit the sick and report on the same at every business meeting. Well Brother Joe not only visited the sick, he drove them to the Dr's office, picked up prescriptions at the pharmacy for them, and visited the Lodge widows often bringing them flowers. He carried Masonic service to its finest height and it was a pleasure to honor him for his service.
I was not happy with the picture of Ye Olde Tavern and the Colonial Degree Team as shown, so I have added another picture which I think gives a better flavor of the event.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Recognizing Brethren

In your rush to celebrate your Masonry don’t forget to recognize those who preceded you. There are some Brothers who have labored long and hard and never received any recognition. When was the last time you recognized the accomplishments of a worthy Brother in your Lodge? Ever said even, thank you?

My Lodge had a number of older super Masons who had done some really remarkable things and the recognition they received was very little. Of course, being the men they were, they never sought any. They were happy having done a good job. I decided that in my two years in the East I would recognize four great Masons of my Lodge, while they were still alive.

The first one you have already met in the first post. Brother George was a man of immense presence. Where he walked men followed. When he spoke men listened. His barbs and sarcasm were unsurpassed for they were all presented with love, the great love Brother George had for his fellow Brethren. And when we roasted him all who attended knew that for the first time we had the upper hand on Brother George. To get things started for the night because Brother George had no idea what was going on, I walked around to the front of the table removing from a large bag one of those aluminum turkey roasting pans. As I brought it out I asked George, “Do you know what this is”? He replied with a quizzical look, “A roasting pan”. “That’s right”, I returned, “And surrounding you are the roasters and you are the roastee.”

Two years after being roasted Brother George passed to the Celestial Lodge above. In a booklet published in 2006 for the 150th anniversary of the Lodge titled “Reflections of the past Twenty Five Years” was this look back at that night.

September 18, 1999
“The Lodge was opened at 6:15 PM for the purpose of roasting Wor. George XXXX.”
“As serious as Masonry tends to be, from time to time.
The All Seeing Eye has a twinkle or two within.”

“There were many individuals who spoke about Wor. George this evening. The talks were fast and furious and at times hilarious. However, not all of the speakers were of high rank. George touched the lives of many people, most of who had no titles at all. Many subjects were talked about, most of a humorous nature, and many stories of a man who lived a humble Christian life, but went out of his way to make another Brother feel comfortable if his religion was unlike that of the other Brothers. To write about all of the topics discussed at this evenings gathering would take up much time. We talk of a man who lived a full life, for those of us who remember him, or perhaps some of us who shared one of his many Masonic adventures, we all share a secret Masonic smile, to the others, we shed a silent tear for the loss of this truly unique man.”
“A very, very, very large card was circulated around the banquet hall and signed by ll those in attendance this evening.”

The second Brother was RW Ted. Ted was the founding Director of the Colonial Degree Team and with Brother George the remaining original members when the Degree Team was started in 1975 as a celebration of our country’s bicentennial. Brother Ted and Brother George were best of friends. Brother Ted was at this point the Degree Team Historian. His twenty five years of continuous service to the Degree Team was very instrumental for its success.

I organized a special celebration to honor this man only telling him that it was to be a celebration of the twenty fifth anniversary of the Degree Team. Close by was one of the oldest taverns in the USA having operated continuously since the early 1700s as a tavern. I booked the second floor and invited all the Degree Team members and their wives along with the District Deputy and his officers. All the Brothers came in their Colonial Degree costumes and some of the women came in colonial dress also as did all the waitstaff. We enjoyed the adult beverage of our choice and a delicious catered meal. Afterwards we clued Brother Ted on why we were really there and many Brothers stood to pay tribute to Brother Ted. On behalf of the Lodge I presented him with a gift which he brought to the next meeting of the Lodge proudly showing it off, a grateful man always.

The third Brother was Wor. Ray. Ray was my secretary as Master and as every Master comes to realize, a good Secretary can make you or break you and is worth his weight in gold. Brother Ray was indispensible with his record keeping, fulfillment of all Grand Lodge paperwork requirements and the printing of our Lodge Notice. He was also very active in the community, in Boy Scouts and his church. Our Blood Drive breakfast always had Brother Ray in the kitchen helping cook. He served as a District officer on more than one occasion and traveled everywhere representing the Lodge.

In his honor we took over a good local restaurant for the evening. His large family all came to see him honored along with the District Deputy and District officers. His wife brought him into the restaurant after we had all gathered there and upon his entrance we all broke into song – “For he’s a jolly good fellow.” In came Ray and he broke into song with everybody else. When the music stopped I asked him who he was singing for and he said “I don’t know but if he is a Mason he is a good fellow”. Then I told him, “That good fellow is you.”

Well the speeches honoring Brother Ray were numerous and heartwarming and we all enjoyed a great meal. Before he rose to spoke I presented him with a gift on behalf of the Lodge. A scant two and a half years later the Celestial Lodge above called Brother Ray for membership therein.

The fourth Brother was RW David. David was in charge of our hospital visitation program for the entire Masonic district. My Masonic District, all eight Lodges, took turns every Sunday escorting the veterans in wheelchairs at the Veterans Hospital to church service. We wheeled them down from their rooms and wheeled them back, afterwards stopping to visit with them for awhile. Before the service all the Masons serving that Sunday morning gathered for coffee and doughnuts with the Pastor. Brother David organized this entire program and during some weekdays you could often find him at the hospital taking care of some special needs for a veteran. Every Christmas Brother David would make sure that the veterans were thought of. The minister who held the service every Sunday was so impressed with what Masons were doing that he joined the Craft.

One year when I was Senior Warden Brother David help organize a special service for the veterans. The Grand Master came out to the church service bringing many Grand Lodge officers and the Knights Templar came in full uniform. Afterwards we retired for a meal at the hospital.

For Brother David I held a prayer breakfast, at least that’s what I told him it was. We met at a neighboring Lodge that served a monthly breakfast and once again Brother after Brother rose to speak about the service of this Brother. The District Deputy came with his officers and spoke at length about how important and how inspiring was this ministry of Masonry Brother David directed. The last speech was left for our Reverend Brother who then led us in prayer. After presenting Brother David a gift he rose to speak and in his usual humble manner gave everybody else all the credit.

These four were outstanding men of my Lodge demonstrating over and over again, time and time again the Masonic principles of Brotherly Love, Relief & Truth. They were Brothers who labored long and hard in the fields of Freemasonry. They deserved to be recognized. Waiting until after they had passed would have been a great opportunity lost, a great chance to say thank you here and now and to experience that great outpouring of love which makes Masonry so extra special.

Celebrating Masonry instills pride and enthusiasm into your Lodge Brothers. It reinforces values and virtues of Freemasonry. It provides for a full Masonic experience rather than the same old, same old. Masonry needs to be done up proudly and those that have made significant contributions to the Craft need to be acknowledged and recognized for their achievements. If you are not enjoying your Freemasonry chances are you are not celebrating it. And if you are not celebrating it chances are you are not recognizing those Brethren that have worked so hard to make the Masonic community which you now take advantage of.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Celebrating Masonry


I often talk to Masons from many different areas who, after a number of years of attending Lodge, slowly stop coming. They tell me that they do the same thing over and over again. They say they grow bored and everything after awhile seems stale. Their meetings consist of either business meetings where they read the minutes, pay the bills, go over any correspondence and schedule any events or fundraisers, or the performance of a degree if they have any candidates. And that is all they ever do. I once had a prominent Canadian Mason and friend tell me that was what Masonry consisted of – the ritual which is self explanatory, and the business of the Lodge so that it could continue to put on degrees. That was it, which was what the Lodge was there to do, that and nothing else.

But this is precisely the reason Masonry is dying out. The Old Farts and The Past Bastards are crippling the Fraternity by holding it back, by not letting it be all it can be. There was a time when Masonry was imbued with grandeur and pomp and circumstance. Great gatherings of the Craft brought Brotherly Love & Affection to peak excitement. Those experiences seem to have been forgotten and Lodges seem to have evolved into the practice of the mundane. Perhaps it was the lack of young blood infusing our Lodges thereby resulting in Lodges filled with retired men with retirement attitudes. Perhaps it is because of dwindling membership, and drafty old Lodge buildings which are so expensive to operate and maintain in today’s economy or maybe because we seek to do things on the cheap, that we are stuck in a rut, a place where inventiveness and diversity no longer exist.

When I became a Mason and after I had gotten my feet wet and my wits about me, after looking around at what was being passed off as the practice of Masonry, I vowed that I was never going let my practice of Masonry be limited, stale and boring.

So first I set out to put into practice in my personal Masonic life some special ways of celebrating the Craft. I joined my Lodge’s Colonial Degree Team which performed the second and third sections of the third degree in colonial costume of the 1700s and after the degree added a patriotic message with a talk by the Degree Team Historian about the American flag and the sacrifice of Revolutionary War Masons. We marched into Lodge to the beat of our drummer, flag bearers carrying two flags, the Betsy Ross American Flag and the Degree Team flag. During the Historian’s talk we were all asked to stand and identify ourselves, each of us having taken the name of a prominent Revolutionary War Mason. We described that Mason’s place in history and what Lodge and jurisdiction he came from. I chose as my Colonial Degree name one William Munroe who came from the town I grew up in, Lexington, Massachusetts. It was here that the first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought and where in the early morning hours of April 19, 1775 Paul Revere rode into town exclaiming – “The British are coming”. There to meet him in the middle of the night was Brother William Munroe, Sergeant in The Lexington Minutemen, posted on an all night vigil. The Patriots gathered at the Buckman Tavern which still stands today and where my mother acted as weekend tour guide when I was a young boy. Later William Munore would be the Master of Lexington’s first Masonic Lodge. For years I performed the Masonic charge for this Degree Team.

Years later I was to add another important vehicle for the personal celebration of Masonry in my Masonic life. I was invited to become part of a group of Masonic players who performed the Carl Claudy play, “A Rose Upon The Altar” to Masonic and general public audiences. The Director of The Masonic players many years previous had petitioned the Grand Master to let the play be done before the general public by eliminating from it the Masonic modes of recognition. This play was usually performed by the Scottish Rite before Masonic audiences only. Now with the Grand Master’s permission we became the only Blue Lodge Masons performing A Rose Upon The Altar and the only one doing so before the general public. I took one of the leading parts in the character of Squire Bentley and thus was born my use of this name as a pseudonym thereafter.

Having spiced up my personal Masonic life with these additions, I set out to do the same in my tenure as Master of my Lodge which supported a two year line. One of the first celebrating events was organized by the District Deputy. The entire eight Lodges of the District were to perform an outdoor degree in the woods of our fifty acre Masonic Home grounds. There away from everything at the bottom of a hill a clearing had been made and stone stations and a stone altar permanently put in place. I will long remember my first look at the Secretary’s desk which was this long slab of imperfect rock with a stone seat. At the top of the hill we fashioned the door to the Lodge room by a cowhide stretched between two trees. The door knocker was a cow bell. That day we raised five Masons to the sublime degree of Master Mason and the Grand Master came to participate. We were all dressed in tuxes and adorned with full regalia. I performed the Third Degree Emblems lecture. What an inspiring time!! Later I was to attend a neighboring Lodge’s Communication aboard a mothballed WWII Heavy Cruiser anchored in a harbor as a tourist memorial. The two guides that manned the ship for this closed to the public gathering were both Masons employed by the National Parks Department. Now what can be more interesting than holding your Masonic meeting at some unusual venue?

One day at home I received a call from my church’s oldest member. She was selling her house which had been in her family for generations, packing up and moving to Assisted Living Quarters. In cleaning out the basement she found an old Masonic Diploma from pre Civil War 1800s which she asked me to come over and take into my possession. This ancient document was issued by a Lodge in the neighboring state of Connecticut. Tracking down the secretary of the Lodge, I suggested that I come out with a delegation from my Lodge and return this Masonic document back from whence it had originated. So the following month off we went with a van full of Brothers to not only present this diploma back to the issuing Lodge but to meet new friends and break bread together. Six months later we would return with The Colonial Degree Team for a historic performance with Connecticut’s junior Past Grand Master and three District Deputies present.

In my first year as Master I brought the Colonial Degree Team to the Lodge in Lexington, Massachusetts for a performance. What better place to celebrate Masonry than in the place where our separation into a free country started and on the very ground that Paul Revere had once ridden into town. But this was not going to be just any usual performance of the Degree Team. We brought together three Lodges, with their principle officers and a District Deputy presiding. And after the degree we retired to the dining room for a tri Table Lodge where a seven course meal and seven toasts made for hours of great camaraderie. We started at 4:00 PM on a Saturday and finished at 11:00 PM and there were more than one hundred Masons in attendance that night.

Soon after at our Ladies night in the Lodge I and my talented wife and a team of Brothers and wives decorated the Lodge. I booked an all women’s Barbershop Harmony Chorus of around twenty five members to perform the entertainment. After a delicious catered meal we all enjoyed about two hours of beautiful music and fine family Masonic togetherness.

There were two important new ideas that I instituted as Master. We published and mailed out a well laid out and presentable Lodge Notice or Summons. In addition to adding many Masonic stories and tidbits to the Notice I also started a page about our newest Master Masons, one by one printing their picture and answers to questions about their likes, dislikes and their vision. At Lodge meetings, as I would be presiding at the turn of the Century, I had the Secretary read the minutes of exactly one hundred years ago. The first one read was from November 1898 and that Communication was a fraternal visit from the District Deputy where there were in attendance that night 397 Masons.

While my Lodge had a Degree Team, that did not stop me from inviting in another Degree Team. So at a third degree the Kilwinning Degree Team, a Scottish Team performing with bagpipes with all dressed in kilts and Scottish wear performed. We packed the Lodge full that night to see this wonderful performance and when at the end all the members of the Team gathered in a circle around the altar holding hands and singing Auld Lang Sine, you hardly could see a dry eye.

The best time as a Mason I had in my Lodge was when I organized a Masonic Roast a la Dean Martin style for our most beloved Past Master. He was the Don Rickles of Masonry and was forever able to stick it to you with brotherly love and affection. As a member of all eight Lodges in the Masonic District he was the most well known, respected and revered Mason of that region. I opened it up to all the Brethren of the District and their wives and made it a surprise for him. All of his family attended and again we packed the Lodge dining room. After a catered meal we started in on him. We roasted him up one side and down the other. I laughed so hard my side hurt. At the end was the speech made by his best friend and then he himself spoke last. He was overwhelmed that somebody would do this for him and the laughter soon turned to tears, not of sorrow but of love and appreciation. I will never forget that night. My eyes water as I write this. Two years later this beloved man joined The Celestial Lodge Above.

Now my two years as Master was over. I thought, well the Celebrations will slow down quite a bit now. I was so wrong. While I was Master I was working on getting an invitation for The Colonial Degree Team to perform in my wife’s hometown in Indiana. It would require some financial help on the other end, permission from two Grand Lodges, and a lot of logistics to be worked out. The Master of the Indiana Lodge was very enthusiastic about bringing us out there but he just couldn’t make it happen. After more than a year of negotiations and trying I departed the East with this being a dead issue. Then all of a sudden a new Master came into the picture and he picked up the torch and after another year of preparations he made it happen. So five weeks after 9/11 about twenty of us were on a plane to Indiana. Our plan was to fly in Friday afternoon and fly out Sunday afternoon. The Indiana Lodge was to board and feed us, we were to pay our own air fare. We breeched our first roadblock by getting permission from both Grand Lodges to perform Massachusetts ritual in Indiana. A Past Grand Master of Indiana who was a member of this local Lodge met us at the airport in Indianapolis some 75 miles away with a van packed in the back with bedding. We were transported to a Shrine Club where we had a Friday night dinner and then to our place of Boarding, the state DeMolay chalet about ten miles outside the town where we were to perform. The chalet was two stories with a wrap around deck. The first floor had six bedrooms each with two double deck bunks and bathroom and showers. The second floor was living area with a living/dining room, kitchen and bath. When we opened up the refrigerator there was a case of beer there for us. Saturday the van picked us up for breakfast at the Lodge, everything you could think of including biscuits and gravy. Then we had a guided tour of the area in the van. Saturday night we performed the degree after dinner at the Lodge. After a super performance before a packed house we all went out to an Irish Pub. There we made some truly heartfelt Masonic bonding. Sunday it was back to the Lodge for breakfast before we were driven back to the airport. We had a really wonderful time, exchanged gifts and made some lasting friends.

Again I thought that this had to be the top of my Masonic celebrations. Nothing else big was going to come along. I was a Past Master now and slowing down. No sooner did I get relaxed and comfortable then I got a call that A Rose Upon The Altar was going to be given at a very special performance. The Masonic District south of me had an exchange program going with an English Lodge. They and their wives had already been over to England for a week’s visit. Now the English were coming here with their wives. The gala celebration was to last the whole weekend. We would perform the play Friday night for them and anybody and everybody who would like to come. Saturday morning they would do an English degree for any Master Masons and Saturday afternoon a DeMolay Chapter would do the DeMolay Degree for them. Then we would all gather for a huge Saturday night dinner. Sunday morning we would all gather again for breakfast before sending them off. Everything went as planned and it was an event I will long remember, reminding me of the universalism of Freemasonry. It bought back to memory another time not mentioned. When I was Senior Warden the Colonial Degree Team went to Maine and Brothers I had met on a worldwide Masonic Internet Forum came to watch, one from Maine, two from Ohio and one from India. It was very special to meet a Brother from half way around the other side of the world and to hear how Freemasonry is practiced in India. The two Brothers from Ohio also came to see the English Masons and to witness a Rose Upon The Altar. Again bonds of lasting friendship can be made in this Fraternity and in celebrating one’s Masonry doors open up for long lasting friendship and fellowship.

Just as I was beginning to enjoy life as a Past Master a dramatic event in my life changed everything. My wife and I decided that it was time to sell our house and move south. The market forces were just right and we would probably never get as much for our house as we could at that time. So here today, gone tomorrow. We upped and moved 2000 miles away. Finding new work, new doctors, new churches, new dentists, new car repair people was bad enough. Getting acclimated to Southern Masonry was not quite so easy.

While working my way into Lodge life in the South I had also continued my involvement with Internet Masonry becoming a Moderator on a Masonic Forum and writing a regular column for Masonic Magazine. One day I was amazed to find that I was invited to an all expenses paid speaking tour of Alberta Canada. While I have been avoiding dropping names in this message I cannot help but mention the over the top great hospitality of Brothers John Hayes and Stephen Dafoe. They are the ones who made that trip possible and who boarded and fed me and my wife, and drove us everywhere seeing the beautiful land of Alberta. I addressed three Lodges, one in Jasper Mountain National Park and another in Hinton where my address was taped by a TV camera. In Edmonton there was a special Festive Board at a very nice restaurant where I spoke to the Brethren after Lodge. We had a really great dinner, a great crowd and long afterwards we hoisted a few to the brotherly love and affection of Masons everywhere. I wrote two long papers for the occasion, “World Peace Through Brotherhood” and “Native American Rituals and The Influence of Freemasonry.” Both papers can be read on When I delivered the Native American paper I played a CD of Carlos Nakai we had brought with us and afterwards with the help of the Brethren present we reenacted a Native American Indian ceremony. The people, the places and the Masonic brotherly love and affection are memories which will last me a lifetime. Every celebration of Masonry just seemed to be getting bigger and better. When you set your mind to revel in the greatness of the Craft there is no telling to what great height you shall be taken.

Back home again I was having great misgivings with my Southern Mainstream Grand Lodge, so much so that I soon demitted and joined Prince Hall. So I took a turn at the fork in the road and now new experiences were awaiting me. I figured this to be a time of learning and adjustment and not of any big Masonic celebrations. How wrong I was. It just seemed that I didn’t have to go looking for it anymore it came to me.

I wrote my last two columns for the closing Masonic Magazine. But they were two of my most interesting pieces and ones I needed a lot of editorial help with. The first was an interview with my Prince Hall Grand Master. I went to the organization of a new Lodge where the Grand Master officiated and afterwards we sat down for a long quiet talk. I had an instant great affection for this wonderful man which would soon lead to things I had not envisioned. The last paper was an interview with the Secretary and the leader of the Oklahoma Masonic Indian Degree Team. I travelled to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to interview them both and that was just an amazing time. I left with a great appreciation for Native American history and what these Brothers were doing for the spread of Brotherly love and affection over a wide area.

Back home enjoying local Lodge life, I stepped into the office of Chaplain. One day I got a message from the Grand Master. Would I address the next session of Grand Lodge and what would I like to talk about? I wrote and delivered a too long paper entitled “What Really Makes a Successful Lodge” also available on But the highlight was the Grand Raising of 81 Master Masons. This was not a One Day Class. All Brethren had received their First and Second Degrees at their local Lodges and had passed their first two proficiencies. This was a Third Degree where each and every one was raised by the Grand Master. There was around four hundred of us attending that Grand Session. After the raising I gave the charge to all 81 new Master Masons, the Canadian Charge as it is known where I come from. Now I had done the charge many times before but never before so many at one time. You could hear a pin drop as I spoke and I was riding on pins and needles for weeks afterwards. I celebrated Masonry and passed that celebration on to many, many more.

Now you go and do likewise.

This story is all about me. It has to be. Nobody knows me better than I, myself. I don’t know about you and how you have celebrated Masonry. I don’t know anything about you. So please pass on some comments on how you have celebrated Masonry and what has inspired you in your Masonic life. I am eager to hear all about you!