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

April 1, 2014 15 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.”

New England Brotherhood Night

February 13, 2014 3 comments

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:

New England Brotherhood Night

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.

Click Here For New England Brotherhood Flyer (PDF)

Hope to see you there!

Ask the Grand Master… Anything!

June 6, 2013 3 comments

GMM_SimonWhile some Grand Lodge officers are barely able to use their email, Connecticut’s Grand Master, MW Bro. Simon LaPlace, is going to do an AMA on Reddit Friday afternoon, June 7, from 3 pm to 6 pm.

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.

Friday, June 7th 3 pm to 6 pm EDT

Be there and be square!

 


Edit: Here’s the link to the AMA.

Grand Lodge of Connecticut Goes Virtual

April 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Like a lot of my fellow Masons, there are times when I get really busy with work, family stuff, work, personal health care, work, projects around the house, and work. In the last few years, I have often missed lodge meetings because I’m working until 7 or 8 pm, or because I’ve needed to do something with the kids, or because some other matter has cropped up that I can’t take care of at any other time. I’m sure that this happens to other brothers, too.

That’s why I’m thrilled by Maso-Net, the new program that will be introduced by RW Simon LaPlace, the incoming Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, that will allow busy Masons to attend their lodge meetings virtually, at their own convenience.  I don’t want to spoil the surprise, which he is expected to announce at his installation as Grand Master during next week’s Grand Lodge Annual Communication, so I’ll just mention some of the highlights of the program.

While there have been online Masonic communities of Masons since the before the internet was available to the general public, they have generally taken the form of text-based message boards. Maso-Net will be completely different in that it will allow lodge members to actually see, and in some cases, attend a lodge meeting in real time.  To accomplish this, Mason-Net will have several components. One will be a Skype-like interface that will connect members directly to a lodge. Participating lodges will be outfitted with a large screen TV on the North wall of the lodge room, with a corresponding webcam positioned in the Northwest and Southwest corners. Maso-Net Members will sign in and be presented with a view of the lodge room that includes the Master’s chair, and the screen will allow the other members to see who has signed in. Maso-Net members, though their own webcams hooked up to their computers, be able to attend the meeting and follow along with the proceedings without missing any of the details. Amplified speakers near the TV screen will allow them to speak during meetings as if they were in attendance.

RW LaPlace initially conceived of this as a way to reach out to older brothers who were unable to attend because of health reasons, but the idea quickly gained ground among the Grand Lodge technorati who, accustomed to live webcam meetings, saw this as a way to keep existing brothers involved. As a Maso-Net member, a brother could work late, and take a dinner break to attend lodge. Users with smartphones (apps for iPhones and Android phones running ICS or better are already being developed) will even be able to attend while on the road, although they will probably need at least a good 3G data connection.

A real advantage to Maso-Net meetings is that a WM will no longer have to worry about a last-minute cancellation on a degree night. A brother assigned to a particular lecture will no longer have to cancel if he’s away on business; the Master of a lodge would even be able to open if he’s out of town. Imagine an older brother delivering the working tools lecture to his grandson from the comfort of his own home — in Florida! Or imagine a District Deputy being able to attend a different lodge meeting every night of the week, and not spending a fortune on gas and car expenses.  This aspect of the program is certainly a way that the Craft can take advantage of new technologies.

Another interesting component to Maso-Net that RW LaPlace is expected to announce will be the ability to sit in on lodge meetings at any time of the day or night by the use of streaming technologies. Participating lodges will begin recording their meetings and using broadband connections, begin uploading those meetings to the cloud. Maso-Net members will then be able to find a lodge meeting and replay it. Members will be able to pause the recorded meeting for a break, or even better, skip through the boring parts.

Still unannounced is just where the video recordings will be stored. The Grand Lodge of Connecticut has its own servers, but as more lodges join the network the data storage itself  would become unmanageable, to say nothing of the capacity for streaming a number of different meetings back to the members. Early reports have suggested Youtube, perhaps a dedicated channel as the perfect storage & replay solution. Obviously, the concern was raised that anybody could view a lodge meeting on Youtube, however, the counterpoint was raised that any non-Mason who viewed one lodge meeting was unlikely to make it a habit of viewing many more. I suspect that talks are underway with Google about the possibility of a private Youtube channel. Another advantage of this would be the ability to upload sections of various degree ceremonies in order for lodges to watch them for the purposes if ritual instruction.

There are other aspects of Maso-Net that will be made public after RW LaPlace takes office. About a dozen lodges will be part of the initial phase, and RW LaPlace will probably announce which ones have been selected after his installation, with more participating every month. Brothers interested in signing up to be a Maso-Net member are encouraged to talk to their District Deputy, who should have the contact information.

As a busy Mason who has been having a hard time getting to lodge meetings lately, I’m happy to see that Connecticut is on the forefront of bringing Freemasonry into the 21st century. Kudos to soon-to-be MW Simon LaPlace, and best wishes for an exciting year in office.

The Greeks don’t want no Freaks

December 5, 2012 6 comments

Well, it’s about time that some of the Freemasons came to their senses, and we should all be thankful that Florida has the temerity to lead the way.  I’m talking, of course, about the recent edict by the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida who is evicting anyone from the Craft who are not right-thinking, God-fearing Freemasons.

The Masonic online discussion world has been all a-Twitter over this, so there’s no need for me to go over the details, but the essentials (from the Grand Master’s Edict page) are these:

The question has arisen if certain religious practices are compatible with Freemasonry, primarily Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, and secondarily Agnosticism and Gnosticism.

He then natters on about some legal stuff, and writes:

I. CONCERNING GOD AND RELIGION
“A Mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious libertine.”……….

And then finishes up with the important part:

Therefore, as Grand Master, it is my Ruling and Decision that none of the above mentioned beliefs and/or practices are compatible with Freemasonry since they do not believe or practice one or more of the prerequisites to be a candidate for Masonry listed above.

Further, any member of the Craft that professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.

Furthermore, Freemasonry prohibits the change of any of the Ancient Landmarks, and its members admit that it is not in power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry.

It’s about time that somebody took a stand to kick out those trouble-making types who can’t commit to a real religion, and who pick some made-up theology in order to join the fraternity. My only beef is that MWGM Jorge Aladro hasn’t gone far enough.

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to Tom Hanks, Nicholas Cage, or any of those TV specials that have come up in the last five years, the Freemasons have very few actual requirements for joining. You must be a man, of lawful age, of good character, with a belief in a Supreme Creator. Some jurisdictions change the qualifications slightly, but those are the basics. Florida, apparently, has gotten tired of non-religious posers who are trying to sneak into the fraternity by claiming to be believers in completely fictitious, made-up religions like Paganism. Personally, I can’t imagine anything good coming from allowing such trouble makers into the Craft. If a real religion isn’t good enough for those people — or as is more likely the case, those people aren’t good enough for a real religion — then they are obviously rebels who will end up causing nothing but trouble for those around them.

My only concern is that Florida is about 240 years too late. Reading through my Masonic history books, I see that quite a large number of Freemasons from that time were also posers who claimed to belong to some movement called Deism. You can tell that Deism isn’t a real religion because they don’t have any churches. But even at that, listen to what those guys believed:

From Wikipedia:

Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature that he configured when he created all things. God is thus conceived to be wholly transcendent and never immanent. For Deists, human beings can only know God via reason and the observation of nature, but not by revelation or supernatural manifestations (such as miracles) – phenomena which Deists regard with caution if not skepticism. See the section Features of deism, following. Deism does not ascribe any specific qualities to a deity beyond non-intervention. Deism is related to naturalism because it credits the formation of life and the universe to a higher power, using only natural processes. Deism may also include a spiritual element, involving experiences of God and nature.[17]

So, let’s see: No churches, no bible or holy book, and a God that makes stuff and then wanders off to God who know where. Those guys from back in the late 1700s obviously were not members of a real religion, either. Too bad MWGM Alandro wasn’t around to kick them out of the fraternity, before they got themselves up to no good.

If you’re interested in reading more about this:

GM of Florida Expels Wiccans, Gnostics and Others

An Open Letter to the Grand Master of Florida

More Masonic Purging Florida Style

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