Masons love to refer to themselves as “Traveling men,” and indeed, that’s one of the first things that we tend to tell new Entered Apprentice Masons. “Study hard, and get your Master Mason certificate so you can travel to other lodges.”
Well, here’s an opportunity for other lodges to travel to you:
From the Grand Lodge of Connecticut website:
New England Brotherhood Night is an opportunity for masonic brothers from throughout New England to meet, make new friends, see old friends, exchange stories, share ideas, and sometimes even arrange an inter-jurisdictional visit or two! The evening is open to all Master Masons, and starts with a cocktail hour, followed by dinner, and finally wrapping up with a program.
Saturday, March 22nd, 2014
Cocktail Hour 5pm – Southern Barbecue Dinner 6pm – Program 7pm
Woodstock Academy – 57 Academy Rd, Woodstock, CT 06281
This event rotates throughout the six New England states, so each state only has the opportunity to host this event once every six years. “Next year’s” host state provides the program for “this year”. Past programs have included Hollywood writers, the men who planned and commanded the Osama Bin Laden raid, and the captain of the Coast Guard cutter who sailed out into the “Perfect Storm” attempting to rescue the Andrea Gail.
Proper attire is a jacket and tie. This is not an open meeting, so aprons and jewels are unnecessary. Reservations and payment must be made through the Grand Secretary’s office. RSVP Deadline: March 14th
I’ve been to these nights, and it’s a great way to meet Masons from around New England. Hell, it’s a great way to meet Masons from around your state that you might not normally run into.
Woodstock is in the Rhode Island corner of Connecticut, and is home to Putnam Lodge No. 46, which is noted for the members who pushed for the Connecticut & Rhode Island Grand Lodge merger a few years ago.
Hope to see you there!
The “Golden Age” of Masonic blogging was probably from 2005 to 2010; Facebook and Twitter became the most used social networks, and most of the existing blogs lacked for readers, which in turn discouraged many writers.
I recently went through my own archives, and over the years I have subscribed to or listed just under 200 blogs by Masons. Most are now dead or dormant, but surprisingly, there are still a number of active blogs, and once in a while I’ll run across a new one that I find enjoyable. I’ve been trying to list them on my sidebar, or add them to my RSS reader so I can keep up.
More interestingly, some intrepid bothers will take the time to sit down with a microphone and some recording software, and put together a half to one hour program of discussion. While Masonic podcasts aren’t nearly as common, they are generally an enjoyable alternative, and you can listen to them in the background as you’re working on other things, or save them to mobile device and play it in your car on that long, boring commute.
I know that some of my readers are always on the lookout for new or interesting Masonic reading, so I’ve put together a new Masonic blog
aggravate aggregate; a collection of links to the more active blogs that I’ve been reading, and that other people have kindly pointed out to me. These are blogs that have all posted articles in the last year. Right now there are about 2 dozen, but hopefully that will grow. And since blogs are not the only Masonic writings available, the sidebar will have links to podcasts, web sites, essays, and other bits of interest to Masons.
Ashlar to Ashes: An aggregate for Masonic blogs and writings
This is just a little project that I put together in an afternoon, but if people find it useful, then maybe we can keep this going. If you have a favorite (or your own) blog, podcast, web board, or website that you would like added, please leave a comment here or on Ashalr to Ashes so we can check it out.
Freemasonry Today, the publication of the UGLE, has a short article from Bro. John Hamill, Director of Special Projects, in which he asks the question “Is it time to modernize the rituals?” It’s a great topic, and one that has initiated some
bickering discussion in some of the online Masonic communities, with the general consensus that this question should be answered with a resounding “Hell no!”
One might think that being a Past District Lecturer that I’d be completely against this; but I’ve given this some thought, and I think that one could make a case that modernizing the ritual might not be such a bad idea. As Bro. Hamill points out:
The English language is said to be one of the most difficult to learn, in both its written and spoken forms. Part of that difficulty is the wonderfully idiosyncratic illogicality of how we pronounce many of our words, which often has little bearing on the actual letters they contain. Another problem is that a simple word can have different meanings, or shades of meaning, depending on its context, or even where in the country it is spoken.
Our familiarity with words and phrases affects how we use them. Over time, the words develop different meanings or connotations. For example, our current Masonic usage of the word “clandestine” now means something slightly different than it did 150 years ago. Similarly, some words fall out of favor, some are preferred for written discourse, but are rarely used in spoken conversation. For example; “inculcate.” I suspect that nobody uses this in speech because it’s just a jumble of misplaced consonants.
Bro. Hamill also writes (and many others have pointed out):
English is a living language in which the meaning of words changes over time…
If our language is “living,” does this mean that some of our words and phrases can be taken out to the back field and buried when they are dead?
I bring this up because of practical reasons. As a visitor to many lodges, both in and out of my district, I watched as officers strained to deliver their various lectures and charges. You could see their brows furrowed, perspiration on their foreheads, and the tension just radiating from their body movements as they struggled to recite passages in a dialect that was strange and unfamiliar. Their lack of familiarity with the archaic expressions, I contend, is what gave many — perhaps most — of my brothers such a difficult time. Imagine someone from, say, the US trying to memorize a passage of French or Spanish, with little working knowledge of the language. Yes, you’d recognize some words, and perhaps some would sound vaguely familiar, but how well could you actually deliver the lines — especially knowing that some of the people in the room were listening for each little mistake? I think that the typical 30 to 40 year old Mason probably hasn’t read much 1700s Brit-Lit, at least, not since high school, so the lack of familiarity with the terms and usage turns a few paragraphs of a lecture into something akin to a foreign language.
Yes, I know that part of the appeal of Freemasonry is the rich history, but I sometimes think that those of us who decry the modernization of the ritual — or of any other aspect — is really saying that he made the effort, so now he expects everyone else to do the same. This position can be declared elitist, or possibly libertarian, but to some degree, it’s simply wrong. For example, I don’t hear very many of my brothers asking to bring back the even more ancient usages, such as:
The eghte artycul schewt zow so,
That the mayster may hyt wel do,
Zef that he have any mon of crafte,
And be not also perfyt as he auzte,
He may hym change sone anon,
And take for hym a perfytur mon.
Suche a mon, throze rechelaschepe,
Myzth do the craft schert worschepe.
You recognize that, don’t you? Of course you do; it’s the 8th Article of Freemasonry from the Regius Manuscript. What, are you having a hard time with the 14th century script? Here, let’s
modernize the text make it easier to read:
The eighth article sheweth you so,
That the master may it well do.
If that he have any man of craft,
And he be not so perfect as he ought,
He may him change soon anon,
And take for him a more perfect man.
Such a man through rechalaschepe, (recklessness)
Might do the craft scant worship.
So much easier to understand, don’t you think? Personally, while I find it interesting from a historical aspect, I suspect that if you went back to the late 1700s, we wouldn’t find a lot of Freemasons bemoaning the dearth of 15th century style lectures.
As a counter-point, I also suspect that if you sat down with a bunch of your brothers after lodge, most of you could act out and recite entire sections of favorite movies or TV shows. Most of the brothers around my own age could probably quote passages from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that are at least equal in length and difficulty as any of our lectures, and I know for a fact that quite a few of the younger brothers at my lodge can quote and act out scene after scene from most of the Star Wars movies. What’s the difference between Monty Python and the Middle Chamber? You might argue that it’s the repetition, but I’d say that part of it is the familiarity with the language. Yes, there’s the repetition, but think about this: Most lodges meet twice a month. A Mason who attends most meetings is going to see and hear the opening ceremony at least 20 times in a year. By the time he’s a senior officer, he could have well seen 80 to 100 opening and closing ceremonies.That is a lot of repetition, certainly much more than one would experience with most movies or TV episodes. And yet, how many times have you seen a Master of a lodge who could barely stumble through a proper opening and closing?
In answer to his own question, Bro. Hamill concludes his essay by saying:
Occasionally, we hear calls to modernise those ceremonies, to take out old words and phrases and replace them with modern, instantly comprehensible ones. I hope those calls are never answered. Our ceremonies contain some wonderful set pieces of English language that would be destroyed if we modernised them. Freemasonry is a learning process, and if we have to resort to a dictionary to fully comprehend what we learn, that can only enrich us.
Personally, I enjoy the works as they are. Although not a history buff, I appreciate the connection to the older days of Freemasonry, and I quite like the challenge of tackling some of the unfamiliar phrasing in order to present it as I imagine a brother of 1814 would have done. But if “modernizing” the ritual means that more members would be able to memorize it — and more importantly, to deliver it well to the newer members — then maybe this is an idea worth examining a little more closely, before we toss it into the “we’ve never done it like that” discard bin.
Back before I even became a member at my lodge, I can remember wondering which appendant body I should join next. The esoteric Scottish Rite — full of Morals and Dogma, and discussions of symbology, and the seemingly infinite number of degrees? Or the more traditional York Rite, to continue the Masonic lessons in the way that the early speculative Freemasons have done in the past? Oh, sure, older and wiser Masons cautioned me to wait a bit until I had a chance to settle in, but what the hell did they know?
But you know how things happen. Right after I joined, I
got sucked into was asked to join the officer’s line, and that turned into five years just trying to do a decent job, and I figured that after my year in the East, I’d start looking at joining something else again. But no sooner was I shunted off to the old Past Master home, when I found myself with the capacity to aggravate people in an more-or-less official capacity as a District Grand Lecturer. That became three more years of my being out several nights a week, and I really had no desire to add more meeting nights to my plate. And then I was busy with work, and barely had time to get to Friendship a few times a month, let alone do anything else. And then my daughter was in her last year of high school, and we spent quite a bit of family time together before we would send her off to be indoctrinated college.
And then in the fall, it got too cold (and dark!) to do any bicycling in the evening after work, and I found myself — somewhat uncharacteristically — with little to do. So , I again pondered my choices, and after some reading, and some discussion with friends who had been there before me, I asked a brother who frequently stops in at Friendship for a petition. Naturally he had one in the car (Masons, amirite guize?); I filled it out, asked a few friends to sign off for me (fortunately the Past Grand Master just happened to be there), and turned it back in that afternoon. I got lucky, because the next meeting was in two weeks, and as it happened, the Keystone Chapter No. 27 was free enough to confer a Mark Master Mason degree.
After a few back and forth emails, I showed up at the Meriden Masonic Temple on the appointed date, and even somewhat early. We had been having a particularly frigid cold snap, and I found it amusing that the thermometer in my car said 4º when I pulled into the parking lot. I chatted with a few of the guys, and was surprised that I hadn’t actually met any of them before except for RW Bob, who was going to be acting as the RWM that evening.
The brothers are to be commended for putting together a degree on such short notice, especially since several people were sidelined by the weather. I had a surprise at the end of the evening when the Senior Grand Warden revealed that he was originally from Minnesota, and was a good friend — in real life, no less — of one of the few remaining Masonic bloggers.
While most of the guys were anxious to get home, a few of us did hang around afterward, talking about the degree and some of the history behind it. I’m looking forward to doing this again.
Here’s a picture of the Masonic Temple in Meriden, CT., in which a number of lodges and chapters meet.
This past weekend saw another statewide “Open House” in which lodges across Connecticut were encouraged to open their doors to walk-in visitors who might be interested in the fraternity — and hopefully, interested enough to join. The Grand Lodge provided radio advertising and other promotional materials, and the participating lodges — over four dozen of them — hung out signs and notices directing the public. Southington was typical of the lodges around the state; Friendship No. 33 was open between noon and 4 in the afternoon, and a handful of brothers came down to hang out, drink some coffee, and chew the fat while waiting for visitors to come calling.
Similar programs have taken place in other states, with some reported success — “success” being that in many places people actually did go out of their way to stop in at a local lodge to ask questions. Friendship had two or three people stop by; ironically, none of them from Southington. Several other lodges reported similar results. At the moment, I don’t have any data on how many of those visitors have actually become members, but at the very least, the Committee on Masonic Awareness views this as an opportunity to educate the public.
I had a few errands to run on Saturday, and didn’t make it down to the lodge until about 1:30, and a walk-in had just shown up. I mused on the idea of “walk-in visitors” because the despite the fact that Friendship is situated right in the middle of town — on the town green, in fact — the visitor, like the several others, had driven some distance out of his way to get there. And that’s when the idea came to me.
Friendship Lodge, like many lodges in New England, is situated in the center of town, in a place easily accessible… for farmers on horseback, or for merchants with a trap or carriage, or for those that lived close to the center of town. But as the empty storefronts and lack of businesses can attest, nobody walks around the center of town anymore. This is why the Open House program, like many committee-developed ideas, is doomed to failure: it addresses an issue with a solution that is no longer relevant. It’s time for solutions to our dwindling membership that are more ambitious, and more relevant.
The people aren’t going to come to the lodges, so let’s put the lodges where the people are going: To the shopping malls.
New England is filled with many historic, old lodge buildings. By “historic,” of course, I mean out-dated firetraps with inadequate electrical and plumbing systems, poor accessibility for the older members, and little room for expansion. Oh sure, every other week you hear Chris Hodapp moaning about how some ancient “historic” building is closing, but there’s a reason those buildings have closed: they aren’t as interesting as the modern shopping malls. In an effort to attract and retain shoppers, they have a variety of restaurants catering to every taste, water fountains, gathering places, coffee bars, and pleasant ambient music. Unfortunately, the poor economy has caused a number of the smaller stores in many shopping malls and plazas to close, with few prospects for new renters on the horizon. It’s not unusual to see shuttered storefronts in even the busiest malls. In fact, some malls have even taken to creating fake storefronts to disguise the empty stores inside.
My proposal is that we start closing those old
firetraps “Historic buildings”, and start renting long-term space in the malls. With the number of lodges that we could move, we could surely cut a deal with the mall management companies for low rental fees. We would have more than adequate parking, handicap access, janitorial services, and plenty of three-prong electrical outlets. More importantly, we could have an Open House program pretty much every week, and be assured of having all the pedestrian traffic that we could handle. In fact, we’d probably have to have an Open House Month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, just to accommodate the crowds.
To sweeten this idea, why stop at lodge rooms? Let’s capitalize on the recent spate of Nick Cage movies, Dan Brown books, and History Channel specials by putting a small Masonic bling shop in front. Brothers would no longer have to haunt Ebay or thumb through last year’s Macoy’s catalog looking for rings, Past Master jewels, or auto decals; we could have display racks full of pins, bumper stickers, and coffee mugs. We could run sales flyers for the regular mall shoppers, reminding them to pick up a Square & Compasses ball cap for that special Mason in their lives.
Before you turn up your nose at this idea, consider something else: Who else hangs out at the mall during the weekends? That’s right: teenagers. The dwindling enrollment of our DeMolay and Rainbow chapters could also benefit from having our lodges in the shopping malls; most lodges do not meet on Saturdays, so we could easily use the space for our Masonic youth groups. Parents could drop off the children, do a little shopping, and pick the kids up when the meeting is finished. And once we get the lodges and youth chapters moved over, then we could start looking at those OES chapters.
It seems that I joined the wrong lodge. Or perhaps the Grand Lodge has been holding out on me.
Apparently not satisfied with generously sharing the bank accounts of deposed princes (for a small fee), Nigerian Freemasons have been offering a special deal: Join now, and after your initiation ceremony, you’ll be awarded such things as:
- A Cash Reward of USD $300,000
- A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000
- A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice
- One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination.
- One year Golf Membership package
- A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World
- A total Lifestyle change
- Access to Bohemian Grove
- One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World.
All they need is $300 initiation fee, and in seven days, you can be driving your BMW to Oprah’s house to have lunch with the Bills (Gates and Clinton), and then you’re off to a round at Pebble Beach.
Well, not at first. They go on to say:
Once you make the Payment and after filling and submitting the Registration Form,you are then invited to the Freemason Lodge where you undergo the Initiation Ceremony.
Seven days after the Initiation Ceremony, you are then Invited to an Awarding Ceremony where you are rewarded with USD $300,000
This Money is to enable you change your Lifestyle and your standards of Living so as to match with that of the Club Members.
This is important, because Freemasons certainly can’t be seen hanging around with anyone that isn’t up to their standards. I’m sure I’m at the wrong lodge, because I have to park my Chevy pickup next to a Ford pickup, a Toyota Prius, and a few other cars that cost considerably less than $120,000.
Wait, what’s that? I missed the deadline?
DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION IS: 30thAugust, 2013.
NB: After the Expiry of the Deadline above, FREEMASON and ILLUMINATI Membership Registration will close indefinitely in the above countries.
Dang! I hate it when that happens.
For those of you who might be able to get your bank cheque off by tomorrow, you can see more information below.
Reddit is a news aggregate site, similar to Digg or Stumble. Users submit news items and articles of interest, and readers vote on the quality, timeliness, and usefulness of the item. As the site has grown over the last five or six years, users have added sub-groups, so people interested in certain topics can find items more easily. There are now several thousand interest groups, ranging from art, to cooking, exercise, investing, home remodeling, coin collecting, bicycling, and yes, even Freemasonry. I know this because I happen to be a mod on the Reddit Freemasonry group, along with another one of your blogging friends, The Millennial Freemason.
/r/freemasonry, as the group is known, has been growing steadily for the last couple of years, with now well over 2,000 members. Since the Reddit user demographic tends to be late teens to 30s, the members are mainly younger (i.e., newer) Masons, most of whom are enjoying the opportunity to ask questions and trade ideas with Freemasons in other jurisdictions.
The other day, after I had been writing about how great Masonry is in Connecticut, and how progressive the Grand Lodge was with regard to online communication, one of the members asked if our Grand Master would consider doing an AMA. The next thing we knew, we had it set up.
An AMA is an online Reddit interview, in which a person of interest agrees to stay online for a few hours, answering questions from random users, mainly, but not always, about the topic at hand. While there have been several Freemasons who have volunteered for these on the subgroup /r/iama, MW Simon will be the first Grand Master — and apparently the highest ranking Mason ever — to sit in for one.
For some reason, I’m sure that this won’t stop the various conspiracy nuts from asserting that “Yeah, he might be a Grand Master, but he’s still not a high-enough ranking Mason to know the *real*truth about the Illuminati — Zeta-Reticulan — NWO conspiracy.”
If any Freemasons are reading this, please stop by and join in the fun. If non-Masons are reading this, please stop by and ask questions or offer up comments.
Be there and be square!
Edit: Here’s the link to the AMA.