You need more flair

December 3, 2014 1 comment

We Freemasons love our flair.

I'm pretty sure that some of those are considered weapons

“Here’s a nickel, kid. Go buy yourself some real badges so we know you’re a Mason.”

Come on, admit it. You’ve run across some antique Knights Templar pin and think “Man, I gotta have that.” Or you see a shiny, metal car badge, and wonder if you should drill a hole into your hatchback for one of your own. You’ve got a little ‘Two ball cane” lapel pin, which makes you feel just the tiniest bit smug at knowing the pun. And then you go to a degree, and the guy sitting across from you has a pin  from every single order he’s ever joined. Yes, that lapel looks like a cheese grater ran over it, but he doesn’t care.

Personally, I only wear one thing at a time, perhaps reflecting my sartorially parsimonious New England background. Usually I have one small S&C lapel pin on my jacket, occasionally accompanied by a Grand Master’s pin (which I usually end up giving away to somebody). More recently I’ve replaced the S&C with a similar Past Master’s pin. But as I went to check, it looks like I have several of those pins so I can keep one on each jacket. Oh, plus an antique trowel pin. Umm, and some old S&C cufflinks. Oh, and a circumpunct pin. And an antique S&C with enameled colors.

Okay, so I have a small box of the damned things. Like you don’t.

So, for those of you who love your flair and who also love your internet, here’s a new piece to pin onto your suit:

Introducing the /r/freemasonry lapel pin

This is Snoo, the mascot of the web community known as Reddit. Many of you know that I’m one of the mods on the Freemasonry subgroup, found at:

http://reddit.com/r/freemasonry

 

What's Snoo? Nothing, what's snoo with you?

 

We’ve been talking about making up a Masonic Snoo pin for a few years, and Reddit has finally come up with a way for us to make that happen. One of our brothers put this together, and the /r/freemasonry lapel pin is now a thing that you can buy. And wear.

Even better, proceeds from Brother Snoo will benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital, so not only would would you be stylish, but you would be supporting a great cause.

So be one up on your lodge brothers next year. Swing by Redditmade and order your Brother Snoo flair today.

A bit crypto

November 12, 2014 8 comments

I’ve always believed that a large part of why Freemasons have the long history of secret passwords, etc., was because we (as a group) tend to be charitable, and when approached by people asking for some kind of charity, especially as Freemasons, we give what we can. Naturally, we give to other causes, but when you think that you are giving to a particular group – any group – you like to know that your gift, be it time or money, isn’t being diverted to other uses.

With that in mind, I’d like to mention something that has come up in the online Masonic world: GCoin.

First, I will freely admit that I don’t know enough about cryptocurrency to even hazard a bad explanation, so if you’re interested enough to research on your own, then by all means, start with Wiki and go on from there. Disclosure: I have some Dogecoin amounting to about 33 cents, and I haven’t done anything with it yet.

Earlier this year, someone posted to the Reddit subgroup /r/freemasonry, announcing an alternative to Bitcoin, calling it GCoin. He announced it as having been developed by Masons, and for the purpose of making charitable giving easier. Naturally, we joked that it was hard enough to get a lot of our brothers to use Facebook or email, so good luck in trying to explain how it was supposed to work.  Unfortunately, requests for more specific information from them was vague, when it was forthcoming at all.  More to the point, the person refused to give any actual proof that he was a Mason, or that other Masons were actually involved in the development.  We eventually forgot about it, as new cryptocurrencies are being introduced all the time.

This week, the same user posted another announcement that it was going to be officially released.  That recalled the original discussion threads, and again, the user was just as vague with the details. He claimed that anyone, not just Masons could use GCoin, and that coin users could vote for small percentages to go for various charities. Unfortunately, he again failed to specify which charities, or how the voting worked. For that matter, it appears that even if some Masons decide to allow some percentage of the interest to go to a charity, they might be outvoted by other users.

Again, I don’t know enough about cryptocurrency to understand how it works, or what differentiates this from others, such as Bitcoin or Dogecoin.  Since the link between GCoin and Freemasonry is so tenuous, however, I think that anyone – Freemasons or not – should approach this with caution.

That said, maybe it would be an interesting project for some of our brothers to develop a cryptocurrency (MasoniCoin, perhaps?) specifically for Masonic purposes.

 

 

 

Back (ward?) to the Future

November 6, 2014 4 comments

Several contentious years of Grand Lodge politics have culminated in an unprecedented (in Connecticut, anyway) upheaval in which the progressive Grand Line officers were voted out and replaced by a new line of elected officers.  The hotly contested elections (reportedly needing four votings to arrive at a majority) ended with the election of two Past Grand Masters and the re-instatement of a former Grand Line officer. The future of the Grand Line officers appointed during the past year is uncertain, as is the standings of the dozen or so Grand Lodge committees.

Edit: At the time of publication, several of the appointed GL officers appear to have resigned, as have several District officers.

In the time-honored tradition of keeping Masonic news as dry as possible, that would almost seem to be the entire story. Indeed, the only thing that would appear to be missing at this point would be a picture of MW Simon LaPlace presenting a gavel to our new Grand Master MW Tom Maxwell as both of them grin into the camera. Unfortunately, that is not the situation.

Leaving aside the rumors of collusion and conspiracy (on all sides) that have strained the patience of Connecticut Masons for the last couple of years, the situation at hand seems to be that a number of members, unsatisfied with the changes (both made and proposed) in Connecticut Masonry, managed to convince enough of their brothers that the changes were damaging to our organization, and that the only remedy would be to remove the current elected officers and to replace them with those who had a different vision.

This, of course, is the purpose of a democratic system, and it’s good to see that Freemasons remembered how it works.  Sometimes the good intentions behind having a “progressive line” in most US states leads to stale, if not undesirable Grand Lodge policies. At a time in which our membership is continuing to decrease and our societal culture moves away from joining groups, the remaining members have often been slow to react or have been unwilling to make changes that would attract or retain new members. In the US, this has led to Grand Masters with little or no vision, or Grand Lodge policies or programs that have little relevance to the needs or desires of the younger members that are joining the ranks. The events last week in Connecticut will hopefully serve as an example to Grand Lodges elsewhere around the US that members of the Craft can – and will – take the necessary steps to get the kind of leadership that they want.

That said, there is something symbolical about the recent overturning of the Grand Line that has many Connecticut Freemasons concerned: Does the election of older Past Grand Masters, who served respectively 18 and 25 years ago, mean that we could not find anyone younger, or more attuned to the needs of the latest generation of Masons? Or does it mean that our vision of Masonry for the state looks more like the 1970s instead of the 2020s, and that our desire for the coming years is actually just a reboot of something from the past?

Personally speaking, I share these concerns. I became a Mason in 2001, just before the DaVinci Code and Nick Cage movies were reigniting an interest in Freemasonry. Back then, many Grand Lodges still did not even have a website, let alone electronic contact information, PDF Trestleboards, or online committee meetings. Connecticut Masons have been fortunate that Grand Lodge officers from the previous several years have been forward-thinking, and willing to adopt new methods. More importantly, some of them have been willing to take on the difficult task of changing the culture of our organization. For example, we have nine Masonic districts in Connecticut, ostensibly to correspond with the train system that was extant in the early 1900s. With nine Grand Lodge officers, we have had a century of a progressive line, one officer from each district, with a new one appointed every nine years from the outgoing Grand Master’s district. The last two years saw a change in the district structure, and with it, a different way of choosing new officers. Changes like this are huge in Masonic terms, and it would be easy to believe that the voting reflects a reactionary attitude from members who object to these and other kinds of alterations (or “innovations,” if you will) in the organization.

A reactionary mindset among the members raises other concerns for the future of our fraternity, mainly that younger or more progressive minded members will no longer desire to work toward improvements, or even to aspire to a Grand Lodge or District position if it means constantly butting heads with the old guard. Ours is a volunteer organization, and most of our members are paid only in the satisfaction of a job well done; feedback in the form of being voted out of office with little or no prior warning would seem to be a disincentive for many of those who would be qualified for those positions.

Again, democracy obviously works — the recent voting was proof of that.  But we should also remember the words of Comte Joseph de Maistre: “Every democracy gets the government that they deserve.” For the sake of Freemasonry in Connecticut, let’s hope that we all have not taken a big step backwards.

 

 

An Introduction to Scotch

June 2, 2014 2 comments

Tom Accuosti:

I rarely reblog other posts, but here’s something that I know will be of interest to many of the guys in my own lodge, not to mention brothers elsewhere.
=======

Originally posted on The Mason's Lady:

At least around here, there tends to be one popular drink among Masons- single malt scotch. In fact, not only does our local Scottish Rite put on a scotch tasting every so often (with one next week!), but during major events like Grand Lodge, everyone brings out their bottles, and it becomes almost a traveling scotch club, with everyone trying new varieties and enjoying the fellowship that goes along with sharing a similar hobby. I will be the first to admit that I was not a fan of the stuff the first few times I tried it, but now it’s almost my exclusive drink, and with good reason.

What exactly is scotch?

Scotch, or scotch whisky, or single malt scotch,is very simply, a whisky made in Scotland in a very specific manner (actually, by specific laws!) It is almost easier to say what single malt scotch is not. It is…

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Categories: Freemasonry

CIVL Liberties

May 8, 2014 9 comments

The story: The other night I came home from work at about 6:30 pm, had a quick dinner with my wife, then went to an installation of officers at a lodge, after which I spent some time in fellowship with the brothers. By 10:30 pm I was back in the family room.

Double take: The lodge was in Canada.

Plot twist: The lodge only meets on the Internet.

Castle Island Virtual Lodge No. 190 — CIVL — was started not in Silicon Valley, but in Manitoba, Canada in 2010, to help meet the needs of Masons who because of constraints on time and distance might not otherwise be able to regularly attend a lodge. After a few years of trying out several web-based formats, they now meet regularly on the fifth Wednesday  of the month (obviously in those months that have 5 weeks).

I happened to visit on an evening that was not the regular meeting night; technical issues had prevented the lodge from having a proper meeting on April 30th, so the next meeting (and officer’s installation) was moved up to the following Wednesday. I can imagine some people rolling their eyes and saying  something like “Ah ha, see? Can’t always trust technology!” While that’s a perfectly understandable sentiment, those guys might want to think about how many lodge events were cancelled or postponed this past winter by the snowstorms or cold weather.

My friend and brother Nick “Millenial Freemason” Johnson introduced me to CIVL, and wrote a nice article about it a few years ago. Since then, he’s been a frequent visitor. Nick is one of those Masons who gets sucked into every Masonic event for 50 miles around, and probably enjoys being able to get home from an event at a reasonable hour once in a while. A bonus for me, though, is that I got to sit with a fellow blogger for the first time in an actual lodge meeting, as Nick was able to join in for the events of the evening.

The lodge uses a form of Emulation ritual, so the opening would be a little unfamiliar to most US brethren, but the officers did a very nice job. They had a short, but moving memorial service for one of their brothers who had recently passed, and then moved on to the installation. CIVL normally has over a dozen attendees, but because it was not the typical meeting night, some of the officers were not able to make the installation, and will be properly installed in a few weeks.

WB Jake Mohn, the new Worshipful Master of CIVL, presented us with a 20 question quiz on Masonic symbolism, to which I’m almost embarrassed to say that I got 5 wrong. So much for the plan of always picking “C” on a multiple choice exam…

Are there issues with having a virtual lodge? Of course there are. The meeting quality varied over the course of the evening, with sound sometimes dropping out, feedback, video lags, and the other typical issues associated with any online meeting format. One or two brothers had some odd background noises, and we all know what staring into a webcam looks like on the other end. But virtual lodges are not necessarily a replacement for a live-action lodge. The idea is to have a connection for those Masons who might be otherwise separated because of work or military service, or who may be incapacitated by ill health, or who may find themselves — as do several CIVL members — literally several hundred miles from the nearest lodge.

I have to admit that I was a bit shy at first, not knowing anyone else there, but the officers were friendly, and I hung around after the meeting longer than I had expected, getting to know the other guys, and indulging in the Masonic pastime of comparing our idiosyncrasies and differences. I expect that I’ll be attending again, and I’m hoping to see the full lodge in action. I wish the officers and the rest of the members of Castle Island Virtual Lodge the very best of luck in the coming years.

 

I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

April 3, 2014 1 comment

There’s been some interesting online discussion about the video The Grand Leveler from hip-hop artist Apathy, not just for his use of a Masonic Lodge, but because he, himself is a Mason. Some people in our fraternity enjoyed the music and his vision, while others believe it portrays Freemasonry in a bad light.

For anyone so inclined, you can jump into a discussion with Bro. Apathy that’s happening right now on Reddit:

I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

 

And after you’re done, then stop by the Reddit Freemasonry group to discuss it some more.

Grand Lodge of Connecticut introduces plan for refurbishing buildings and rejuvenating lodges

April 1, 2014 16 comments

WALLINGFORD — One of the items that is being overlooked in the agenda for the upcoming Grand Lodge of Connecticut Annual Communication is a bold initiative to help finance the rejuvenation of the state’s older lodge buildings, a plan that may be the first of its kind in the North America, and which may be the key toward not only rejuvenating the buildings, but revitalizing the lodges, themselves.

Like most of the areas of the northeastern US, Connecticut has a number of older lodge buildings, many of them built in the early 1900s or even before. While many of these buildings are located in the center of their respective towns, these historic buildings were often poorly maintained, and the funds for much needed capital improvements were often neglected by the members from the 1960s until today. Indeed, it’s not unusual for lodges to lack air conditioning or updated heating systems, proper kitchen and dining areas, or in some cases, even modern bathroom facilities.

“While some members of the fraternity might see their facilities as ‘quaint,’ the sad fact is that many members of the public, including potential members, see them as ‘antiquated,’ ‘dated,’ or just plain ‘old,’ and it becomes a real turn-off,” said Grand Master Simon LaPlace. “Unfortunately, many of the lodges were short-sighted and skimped on saving money for improvements, and with the lack of new members, they simply can’t afford to put the necessary thousands of dollars into building improvements, and many of them are just barely able to keep up with the basic maintenance. This is why we are introducing this plan, which should help them to raise the money to bring the facilities up to date.”

Lowe's Lodge & Community Center in Meriden, CT

The Lowe’s Lodge & Community Center in Meriden, CT will be getting a facelift over the summer of 2014 after the city council and zoning department approves the blue banners that will adorn the front.

The new program, called the Building & Organization Allied Sponsorship, or BOAS, allows lodges to partner with local or even national businesses and organizations in order to have a committed source of revenue that would be put toward building and grounds improvements, and updating the facilities inside the buildings. Lodges could look forward to new or updated lighting, handicap access, internet and wifi service, and cable tv, as well as kitchen and dining equipment, general upkeep, and yes, even more modern bathroom facilities.

When questioned about the criticisms that BOAS would lead to Freemasonry as being seen as “too public,” the Grand Master dismissed the concerns. “Corporate sponsored venues have been around for years,” he said. “A few large corporations put their names on ball fields, and nobody bats an eye. But a business puts a name on a small, little lodge, and everyone loses their minds.” Indeed, a quick survey showed that most people could not remember the previous names of the Xfinity Theater or the Comcast Theaters, although most people also did not remember that Toyota now sponsors the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford — ironically, the town in which the Grand Lodge of Connecticut is located.

A large concern for some is that the Connecticut Grand Lodge gets a percentage of the BOAS funds, and will start pressuring all of the state lodges or buildings to find businesses to partner with, or worse, may penalize some of the lodges for not doing so. “Grand Lodge needs to make money, too,” responded Grand Master Simon LaPlace. “None of those guys complaining think twice about spending money on a mocha latte several times a week; but if Grand Lodge asks for a five or ten dollar per member increase, suddenly we’re the evil empire. Sure, times are tough, but we’re talking about giving up the equivalent of a couple of coffees and donuts in a year.” He looked around and added “And believe me, many of our brothers could certainly afford to go without a donut once in a while.”

Not surprisingly, not all of the Masons are happy about this program. “It’s nothing more than plain, old Grand Lodge greed. They don’t actually care about the lodges, they just care about getting their cut of the action.” said one Past Master who refused to be named. “That’s not what we used to do back in the old days,” said another, “Back in 1968, when I was Master of the lodge, when we needed money, the wives around the lodge would help hold a bake sale, and we hit everyone with a ten dollar special assessment. Why, we once raised over a thousand dollars, which was enough to put on whole a new roof!”

A photograph shortly before the new signs and arches are placed on the McDonald's Masonic Center of New Haven. Many Freemasons are excited by the idea of partnering with large organizations in order to raise funds to revitalize the old buildings.

A photograph shortly before the new signs and arches are placed on the McDonald’s Masonic Center of New Haven. Many Freemasons are excited by the idea of partnering with large organizations in order to raise funds to revitalize the old buildings.

That’s not the attitude voiced by everyone, however. Many more members, and not necessarily the younger ones, seem to approve of BOAS. Several lodges around the state have already been testing the idea, and indeed, at least one partnership is in the final stages. “We have been fortunate to partner with a large, nationally recognized corporation that is known for its aggressive community outreach,” said a District Deputy from the 4th District. “We are just finalizing some details, like the new sign placement and promotional spots, and within a few weeks everybody should be seeing some big changes at the new McDonald’s Masonic Center of New Haven.”

While the larger buildings in the cities that host several lodges will probably benefit the most, smaller lodges in the towns will also be encouraged to seek out sponsorships, and the Grand Lodge will have suggestions for those who are interested. “Try to focus on the businesses that are important to your area,” suggested a Grand Lodge officer who would only identify himself as ‘Mike.’ “For example, Southington is known for its fruit orchards and large number of chain restaurants along the main street. I’d suggest that they approach Applebee’s. Newington has those shopping centers and the Berlin Turnpike running through it; I would tell those guys to look at Dick’s,” he said. “Or maybe they’d rather look at Hooters, instead. Unfortunately, towns like Putnam or Lakeville aren’t known for anything except being out of the way. We haven’t come up with any good ideas for them as yet.”

Putnam Moon Lodge in Woodstock, CT

Unfortunately, the Masonic lodges in towns like Putnam will probably not benefit from BOAS, leading to an ever-widening gap between the urban/suburban lodges, and the rural or farm district lodges.

Indeed, this highlights one of the biggest issues with BOAS: Lodges in the cities and along the “Gold Coast” I-95 corridor will probably have no shortage of possible sponsors, while those in the northwest (and northeast) corners of the state are in economically depressed areas, with few business or organizations that would have the financial backing to pay for advertising and promotion, let alone sponsor building improvements. Ironically, BOAS could well accomplish the very opposite of what the Grand Lodge hopes to achieve; as the urban and suburban lodges draw sponsorships and become more modernized (thereby attracting more members), the older, rural lodges will look even worse by comparison, and not only fail to attract new members, but perhaps even lose some to the modernized lodges.

“The big companies aren’t going to partner up with a lodge out of the goodness of their hearts,” explained ‘Gary,’ a former Grand Lodge officer. “Lodge buildings in the city offer some good exposure, plus the opportunity to use the auditorium facilities for meetings or presentations. Even the smaller lodges in the suburbs are usually located in areas in which the buildings are highly visible, which is at least good for advertising and promotion. The lodges out in the boondocks, though, will have a more difficult time attracting a sponsor because there’s no visibility. I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe they’ll have to get several smaller, local sponsors.”

Some of the members of the fraternity are ambivalent about the partnership idea, however. “Grand Lodge is always pushing some program, and every year it’s something different,” complained one member from a lodge that will be getting a facelift from its new sponsor. “It wouldn’t surprise me if in two or three years, whatever Grand Master happens to be in charge will scrap the whole thing, anyway. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

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