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The Lodge You Deserve

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

On Sunday, Bro. Euphrates published a post on Freemason Information that reflects the attitudes that many Masons have about their own lodges. He wrote, in part:

Would you really want to explain to a prospective Mason what really goes on at a typical lodge meeting? Let’s imagine how that conversation would play out.

Inquirer: So what do Masons do?

Mason: Well, we have a couple of lodge meetings a month.

Inquirer: What do you do there?

Mason: We read the minutes of the previous meeting and make any necessary corrections to them. Then we pay the bills, read any correspondence, and vote on any new petitioners. Then we proceed to discuss business for about an hour. Like, last week we were discussing how we were going to put on a spaghetti dinner. Our Junior Warden had it all planned out and then one of the older Past Masters told him how he ought to do it. We also discussed how we might go about making the necessary repairs to the building. Then we closed the lodge and went downstairs to eat some generic-brand cookies and drink some coffee before going home.

Inquirer: I thought you had philosophical education.

Mason: We do when we perform the degrees.

Inquirer: How often does that happen?

Mason: Sometimes once a month. Sometimes we will go several months without doing any degrees.

Inquirer: What about the fellowship you were talking about?

Mason: That’s what the coffee and cookies are.

Inquirer: What about the charity?

Mason: Well, that’s why we’re doing the spaghetti dinner, so that we can raise money in order to write a check to the Grand Lodge’s charity.

Inquirer: That sounds kind of boring.

Mason: Want a petition?

Freemasons view the organization in the proper light, but they don’t always run the organization with that same philosophy. Freemasons need to take all of the great things that they have to say about the fraternity and actually accomplish them in lodge.

I was thinking about this when I walked up to my own lodge on Monday night. Outside, I saw a handful of brothers enjoying a quiet smoke after the meal that we generally serve before each meeting. I slipped inside, and tried to pour myself some coffee from the pot that is right near the door, but was somewhat hampered in my efforts by pausing to greet another half a dozen brothers who welcomed me. I looked around, and something compelled me to snap a few shots of the typical gathering before one of our meetings.

Typical Meeting

You can’t tell from the terrible pics of my phone cam, but we had a dozen officers (The spots from WM down to Tyler and Marshal are always filled, and we’ve even needed to create positions of “Associate Stewards” to accommodate the new members who want to help out). We had another dozen members, ranging from Past Masters, 50+year members, down to our newest Master Mason (one of three raised at a Special Communication two Saturdays ago). We had a couple of brothers from other lodges visiting, plus the District Deputy. And, as you can see from the pictures, we had a smattering of wives, girlfriends, and children.

Yes, that’s right. Our families come down for the meetings.

This has been a huge  shock surprise to brothers visiting from other lodges. Once, an older brother arrived and asked me if it was some kind of awards night. Another asked me if it was a Ladies Night. And still others have asked if there was actually a meeting going on at all.

Some of the families have dinner before the meeting, and then leave. Others will stay until we close upstairs. Mothers will take children home, sometimes leaving dads in the fraternal care of a trusted brother who will drop him off later on. They like to stay, of course, because we have coffee and generic cookies afterward. We also have pie — store bought or home made — ice cream, and for those who indulge, a smattering of alcoholic beverages, often consumed in conjunction with cigars, cigarettes, or the occasional pipe. Last night, it was after 11 pm when I finally left; more than two  hours after the actual Stated Communication ended. And I left behind me the District Deputy, the Master, and a couple of officers. A visitor from a neighboring lodge had left only a  half hour before I did.

Yes, this is typical. Sometimes there are more people, sometimes fewer. Sometimes we call it a night earlier, sometimes not. Sometimes more scotch is consumed, sometimes none. But the essential character of Friendship Lodge remains the same.

Why is that?

Simply put, it’s because the members run the lodge.

Yes, I know — of course the members run the lodge. Don’t they?

I’m going to suggest that in most many cases, the members don’t run the lodge at all. Instead it is run by Past Masters and/or Secretaries. I know of some lodges in which the incoming Master has to present the program for his upcoming year for the approval of a board of the Past Masters. While it is certainly helpful to have the advice and support of those more experienced, all too often such approval serves only to make sure that the new Master continues to do what the older members have always done — whether it works or not. Likewise, one should have respect for the Past Masters who stepped up to the Oriental Chair several times during those years in which lodges lost more members that they initiated, but too often those same Past Masters can discourage new members from implementing new ideas.

Sometimes, the reverence for the traditions and history of our Craft work against us; this can be seen in situations in which the lodge becomes so insulated from the surrounding society that it simply loses relevance. Lodge meetings become just one more thing on the ever-filling calendar. When members begin seeing it as a chore, it’s no wonder they stop coming.

A few years ago, Friendship Lodge installed cable television and wifi internet access. After the members have gone upstairs for the meeting, it’s not unusual to see a few women watching a show, doing some hobby or craft, updating their Facebook accounts, doing homework, or just net surfing. The lodge is now an enjoyable activity for them, which makes them less inclined to object when their partner has to come down on a Saturday for a special degree, or to attend another lodge to help out with something. And because the families are there, the lodge seems less insulated, and more relevant to the daily lives of the members.

Who made the decisions that allowed more family participation in the lodge? The members. Some of the members are Past Masters, of course, and personally, I don’t think that anyone envisioned just how successful these changes would be. And yes, a few of the old timers occasionally bemoan the changes, but I suspect that nobody hears them over the noise of the tv and Youtube videos, and of course, the constant chattering of the people-filled meeting hall.

There is an adage that says “People tend to get the kind of government that they deserve.” It’s a cynical perspective, but poignantly accurate. If you found yourself nodding and agreeing with Bro. Euphrates the other day, then maybe it’s time to ask yourself: What kind of lodge do I deserve?



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Categories: freemasons, Fun, Lodge, masonry

Weakest Trivial Pursuit of Final Answer Jeopardy Link

May 19, 2009 Leave a comment

A few years ago, RW Gary made up a cool little device that mimics the “Oooh, I’ve got the answer” gadgets that light up on popular TV game shows; when a contestant presses the hand-held button, his lamp lights up, and prevents the other lamps from burning. We combine that with randomly drawn questions on cards that contain queries both easy enough for a new Entered Apprentice, and those that will stump old Past Masters (and yes, even a District Lecturer). I think that the questions are from a British “Masonic Trivia” game, to which we have added various questions pertaining to exciting things in Connecticut – our rules and regulations, for example.

Last night, the brothers from Wyllys-St. John’s Lodge No. 4 in West Hartford came down to Friendship in order to challenge us on our grasp of Masonic trivia. Since it was their own meeting night, they got dispensation to move their charter, and held a meeting concurrent with ours. We’ve moved our own meeting in order to  show off have a Master Mason degree in another lodge; as far as I know this is the first time that another lodge has come to visit us.

This was no idle challenge, by the way; at stake was a $100 donation to the charity of the winner’s choice. The players on both sides did fairly well, but we all seemed to miss more questions that we answered. Despite the efforts of one of our own Past Masters who not only failed to answer a single question, but who, in fact, managed to caused us penalty points – not once, not twice, but three times – Friendship pulled ahead near the end after a squeakingly close contest. Worshipful Brother Craig can be proud of the efforts of his officers, especially his Junior Warden who responded with a little dance of irrational exuberance every time he got an answer correct.

All in all, it was a fun evening and a great chance to get to know brothers from outside our district. In fact, we enjoyed their company so much, that we decided to make them honorary members of the 5th District. We’re all looking forward to visiting their lodge in the fall.



2008 Apple Harvest Festival – Saturday

September 27, 2008 Leave a comment
Apple Harvest 2008
Dateline: 9/27/08 – Downtown Southington, CT
The 40th Annual Apple Harvest Festival was supposed to kick off yesterday, Friday evening, but the rain from the slow-moving Kyle system forced the officials to postpone the opening.The plus side is that we were already prepped a day early, so getting ready this morning was not the usual controlled chaos.
The weather is still lousy, and it’s been raining off and on, but the rain isn’t especially bad, and people are trickling down. We’ve already sold some of our delicious friend apple wedgies and a few Philly steak sandwiches, and right now most of the crew is hanging out inside the lodge. After fighting a bit to connect to our new wireless network, half the people are glued to the local Doppler maps with fingers crossed.
A couple of the guys set up a small portable tent in front of our sandwich booth, so that customers can wait out of the rain. Great idea! Now we just need to entice a few more in.
If the weather isn’t too bad, then the parade will take place tomorrow, early afternoon. The rain date will be next Sunday.


Animal House Lodge

April 28, 2008 Leave a comment

It has been at least a dozen years since Friendship Lodge hosted its own “Lodge at Table,” and even though the members are regular visitors (and helpers!) at other functions, WM Jim Sinclair decided that this was going to be the year that we would have our own.

WM Jim wanted to have some kind of theme to the dinner. Being proud of his Italian ancestry, he wanted to make that part of the theme, but having Italian food? Gosh, don’t Masons already eat enough macaroni and cheese or ziti with sauce? The answer soon became obvious: A Roman theme! And what better to reinforce the theme idea than to ask guests to dress for dinner… in togas ?

So the past week found a dozen different Masons wrestling with old bedsheets and bits of fabric, while the esteemed WB Richie took care of the menu. Ceasar probably didn’t eat pasta, but it’s quite possible that he ate freshly prepared vegetables, eggs, olives, chicken, lamb, pork, cheese and fruit. Oh, and in veritas, he would have had vino as well.

Roman Table Lodge
Click to see the online photo album

When I got there, the food was cooked, and WB Richie was preparing the dishes in his typical artistic fashion. I found the rest of the officers upstairs trying to get dressed, assisted by several wives and girlfriends who had shown up earlier to help in the kitchen. I’m happy to see that in some ways Friendship is becoming a nice hang-out spot for the brothers, and glad that their partners feel at home when they come down.

I noticed that it seemed to take much longer to dress the officers in sheets than it does to dress them in tuxedos. More ironic, too, because there is a hell of a lot less material in a sheet. On the other hand, most of the brethren managed to be fairly well wrapped. Interestingly, both WB Jim and I dressed alike, the both of us wearing tunics with purple togas draped around it. I didn’t actually use a sheet, my outfit was the result of a half hour at the local fabric store and another few minutes of my wife working up a few stitches on her sewing machine. I was amazed at the number of “toga party” hits I found when web searching, and was able to find quite a few tips on wearing togas – almost none of which worked perfectly.

And let me tell you – it’s dang near impossible to drive in one of those things.

Anyway, visiting brothers from Sequin-Level Lodge showed up to join the festivities, so we closed the doors and opened the lodge for the first of what we hope are many more Table Lodge functions.

When Bloggers Collide

April 9, 2008 Leave a comment

It was really only five years ago that I was the new guy, the young Mason attending Grand Lodge – or more correctly, the reunion and hospitality suites the night before Grand Lodge session. I’d taken the afternoon off from work and we’d spent the time prepping tons of food and drink for the wandering brothers. Several of the older, more experienced brothers took me around to visit some of the other rooms and introduce me to the brothers from other districts; I met a lot of nice people during the first year, and remembered most of them over the next several years. Grand Lodge is sometimes like the get-togethers you have at weddings and funerals: it’s the one time a year you might have to catch up on news and gossip. And I don’t know when it happened, but I’m no longer a new Mason. Last night Sunday night, it was my turn to be the older guy and take one of the new brothers around, and to explain how and why things work.

Yesterday Sunday evening, while most of the lodge parties were just getting underway, I met up with several other of the Connecticut Freemason bloggers. This was the end result of six months of emails and phone calls which began “Hey, we should all get together for dinner some night and talk about blogging.” After half a dozen missed opportunities, we managed to agree to meet the night before GL at the restaurant in the hotel. Fueled by the vapors of distilled grain, I had several hours of conversation with 3M of Northeastern Corner, the esteemed Traveling Man of Movable Jewel, and the Very Worshipful Charles Tirrell of Masonic Renaissance. We were missing MF (Metaphysical Freemason), whose father-in-law had to be taken to the hospital that morning. The pressures of work, family, geography, and of course our Masonly duties made scheduling one night a much more difficult task than you would have thought.

I’ve spent a little bit of time in and after meetings with both VW Brother Charles and with MJ, but this was the first time we’d been able to hang out without any particular agenda. And none of us have been able to spend much time with 3M, mainly because his district is down in New York (well, it seems that way anyhow). A pleasant and thoughtful young man, 3M was only raised a couple of years ago, making him the newbie. Nobody else from his lodge was able to make the trip up.

VW Charles brought up some officers from his own lodge, also younger Masons, and we spent a pleasant couple of hours having drinks and sandwiches, and just getting to know a little about each other. All of us being Connecticut Masons, we had the opportunity to discuss not just blogging and internet Masonry, but also topics concerning local, district and state events. Table conversation ranged from praising (and poking) other well-known bloggers and some of the recent topics, internet Masonry and how it can be better utilized to the benefit of the Craft (we’re in favor of more of it), District Blue Lodge Council meetings (some people find them to be a waste of time), the state of ritual (to some degree), and some of the items up for discussion at Grand Lodge (oh yeah, there’s a session).

After a dinner of sandwiches and frits (the French word for “fries,” I was informed), we retired upstairs to VW Charles’ room, where 3M treated us to some finely crafted hand-rolled cigars, which we enjoyed out on the balcony – smoking being prohibited in the hotel rooms. While enjoying the aroma, not to mention the invigorating New England air, we continued our discussions. The non-blogging junior officers lost interest, and retired to the warmth of the room, where they kept themselves occupied with a Wii, iPods, laptops, and various other electronic gear.

As Charles mentioned in his own post on this subject, we found it surprising that with Connecticut being such a small state, the four of us had managed to develop notably differing ideas and opinions about Freemasonry. This wasn’t so obvious when discussing our ideas for how to improve the quality of meetings and Masonic education, but was more noticeable when we discussed our positions on those states which have yet to fully recognize the Prince Hall jurisdictions, and how our UGLE-related fraternity intersects with orders that have long since split off: La Droit Humain, Grand Orientes, and Co-Masonry. Fortunately, real Masons manage to subdue their passions when discussing such potentially divisive subjects, and we soon veered off those topics to discuss the proposed legislation and some of the rumors that had been making the rounds. We also traded stories about some of the lodges that we’ve seen that are doing it wrong (and some that are doing it right), and kicked around some of our own ideas for what could make for better lodges.

Charles is a very progressive-minded brother who has a number of great ideas for lodges on his own site, including utilizing Pay Pal or similar services to collect dues money. We also thought that the dreaded dues increases would hurt less if we allowed the members to pay in monthly or quarterly installments; we noted that most dues are, um, due right around the holidays – just when people are already ticked about paying bills. Perhaps a subscription service might be a better way to go for some of the brethren. We also discussed having some of the brothers “pay” in service, rather than in coinage; some brothers could agree to a certain number of hours doing maintenance, cleaning, repairs, etc., in exchange for some abatement on dues. We also – and I hope he doesn’t mind my mentioning it here – tossed around the idea of recording video interviews with notable brothers; not necessarily the oldest or famous, but brothers with an interesting perspective on the fraternity. Any Connecticut brothers with video editing experience who are interested in lending some help might want to contact VW Bro Charles.

Eventually we had to go home – at least, some of us did. TM wandered off to his car, and I took 3M for a tour around the hotel to meet the members of Friendship Lodge. A couple of brothers were at the room, and others appeared as we were having a drink. I left 3M in the fraternal care of our SW Eric, who promised to look after him, and I left for home around midnight. Since 3M was staying overnight, I was reasonably certain that he wouldn’t get into much trouble. I later found that natural supposition to be erroneous, but that’s a topic for another article.

The four of us got together out of curiosity – indeed, we’ve been trying to find some way to get together for months, but just haven’t been able to get our schedules together. When we decided to meet, it was because we thought that we had two things in common: Freemasonry, and a desire to share our experiences and perspectives via this medium. There are five of us who blog about the Craft, not counting the few people who mention Freemasonry on their MySpace and LiveJournal pages. While it doesn’t sound like very many, it does, in fact, make up a significant portion of the Craft-bloggers extant on the internet; more impressive when you consider the size of our state. In an age in which internet communication is becoming more utilized by new and potential members, I’m glad that such a great group of brothers has been able to spread some light through this new medium, and I’m sure that all of us look forward to doing this in the future.

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Apple Harvest 2007

October 1, 2007 Leave a comment

Town and county fairs are a New England tradition, and Southington – a town in the Quinnipiac River Valley and known for its orchards and farms – holds a town event called the Apple Harvest Festival . It’s grown to a two-weekend event, and hosts the usual assortment of crafters, souvenir hawkers, baby-kissing politicians, and of course, an assortment of foods. Times being what they are, we seem to see fewer apple-related treats and more of the “deep-fried ice cream” or the “chicken-on-a-stick” genre. We don’t mind, though, because it’s all delicious. Diets take a back seat to deep-fried donuts, fritters, and of course, to the now-famous Friendship Lodge “Apple Wedgies.”

Hey, wait a minute… I wrote this last year!

The usual gang of overworked and underpaid craftsmen persons were on hand, starting with putting down the floor and putting up the tent on Wednesday evening, then setting up the grills on Thursday, and cooking up shaved steak on Friday, and (barely) waking up on Saturday morning to put in a full day of doing it for the rest of the weekend.

Being a Past Master, I was on hand in a purely supervisory capacity. More correctly, people were supervising me to make sure that I didn’t wander off or get in the way of people doing the heavy lifting. Very important to stay out of the way of those who do the real work.

Sales were a bit slower than last year, although several of the booths that regularly hit the fairs mentioned the same thing. Too many fairs and festivals get crammed into September and October, which makes a virtual competition out of drawing in the crowds for each weekend. Southington runs the festival for two weekends, which helps to mitigate the problem of several large and well-attended agricultural fairs that always occur at the same time. Nonetheless, by Sunday night we had gone through several hundred pounds of steak, and almost 500 tart, tasty Macintosh apples.

Sunday morning saw great weather, which meant that the Apple Harvest parade would proceed as per schedule. Last year, a morning downpour forced the parade to be postponed until the next weekend, which meant that few outfits could march, as some had commitments elsewhere. The parade always elicits groans from some of the marchers – it’s a short route, but waiting in the lineup for almost 2 hours to march for 30 minutes is frustrating, especially when you can smell the various aromas wafting from the food areas. But as usual, thousands mobbed the streets to watch and wave us on. More encouraging, some people even seemed to recognize us as “The Masons,” which is much better than in past years where I’ve heard people ask a neighbor “Who are those guys in the suits?”

Actually, every year is a fun, exciting time – a little bit the same, a little bit different. The rush of getting food out during hungry periods, the story-swapping during the lulls, the complaining during the evening cleanup are all part of the experience – corporate HR departments spent thousands of dollars for team-building exercises that aren’t nearly as much fun, nor do they leave you with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Masonic Scavenger Hunt!

June 20, 2007 1 comment

How about something Masonic that’s not about ritual, rules, regulations, Konspiracy theorists, or a complaint about the Shriners?

The Masonic Scavenger Hunt in Connecticut!

When I was a young’un, we would have neighborhood scavenger hunts on those warm summer nights when school was out. We would form into teams, and somebody – it always seemed to be one of the bossy older girls on the block – would hand out lists of the various items that we would have to scrounge up. Dog bones, bottle caps, soap cakes, safety pins, balloons, and other odd items figured heavily on those lists, and we would all scatter in different directions to search in open garages, knock on doors, and generally annoy the neighbors without children in our search for these useless treasures.

But even though the first day of summer is upon us, this is not a post for waxing nostalgic about those bygone days; we’ve got our own Scavenger Hunt right here in Connecticut. VW Charles Tirrell – my District Grand Lecturer counterpart in the 4th District – is behind the idea for a scavenger hunt with a Masonic theme. No scrounging in your neighbor’s garage for an old bottle opener; you’ll be traveling with a digital camera and your GPS in order to spot Square & Compasses on buildings and old gravestones, paintings and statues of Masonic presidents, and various items with Masonic symbolism.

What: A photo scavenger hunt, where teams of 3-5 Freemasons will take photos around Connecticut of a Masonic nature. The brothers will then recongregate and compare their photos in a fun and brotherly manner.

When: June 30th, 2007

  • 1:00pm-2:00pm – Registration
  • 2:00pm-8:00pm – Scavenger Hunt
  • 8:00pm-11:00pm – Judging and Refreshments

Where: 30 Church St., North Haven, CT

Who: Freemasons (EAs, FCs or MMs)

Cost: $30 per team (includes pizza and beverage costs for after the hunt), $6 per person if you’re just attending the judging

Contact: For more information or to sign up a team or individual members (We will assign individual members to teams that are not full, so that everyone can play), email Charles Tirrell at chtirrell@yahoo.com

More details are available at their website:

http://masonicscavengerhuntinct.pbwiki.com/

This all-day event will end with pizza and fellowship; and unlike back in the old days, your parents won’t be calling for you to come home by dark.

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