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Rilly Big Shoe

March 2, 2008 Leave a comment

I never got around to mentioning that back in January, I did a podcast with Cory Sigler of The Working Tools magazine and Masonic social networking site. It was one of those ideas that just sort of took root and spiraled out of control grew into something unforseen.

Cory had wondered if I would like to be a guest, and then we’d spend a half hour or so dishing discussing topics that were appearing on other blogs. As the agreed-upon date crept nearer, I was concerned that I hadn’t heard from him. After a series of calls and emails, it turned out that instead of discussing other blogs, that we were going to interview the guys that wrote “Morals and Dogma for the 21st Century,” a revised version of Albert Pike’s classic that had been written in more modern English in order to make it more accessible to newer Masons. In the end, we were joined by Chris Hodapp, which was a good thing because he was the only one of us who had actually *ahem* read that book. We had a 7-way conversation that lasted 90 minutes.

You can still listen to it online, or download the mp3 on the Talkshoe site:
http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/11669

For those of you who are gluttons for punishment, we have managed to put together yet another episode for your listening pleasure. This time we are going to be speaking with author Dr. Robert Lomas – yes, that Lomas, of the Hiram Key series, Uriel’s Machine, The Second Messiah, etc.

We will also be joined by Bro. Heath Armbruster, who is involved with an amazing study on the Kirkwall Scroll, one of the oldest known Masonic artifacts; it is a scroll which appears to have been made in the 1400’s and is possibly a tracing board for several degree ceremonies.

The Talkshoe format is similar to a live radio broadcast. Listeners can hear this in “real time” as we record. Additionally, you can also register (it’s free, natch) and log in to the recording area, where you can IM questions and comments for us, and if we’re in a tight spot, we will probably even respond to them. The show format even allows us to talk calls from listeners.

The date for this next podcast is Sunday, March 9th at 3:00 pm Eastern time. Hope to see you have you join us!

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Legislating (Masonic) Morality

November 7, 2007 Leave a comment

At the time of this writing, there are a dozen US states in which the AF&AM Grand Lodges do not recognize, or extend amity to the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodges located within those same states. All of those states are in the part of the US that is generally called “the South,” as they correspond to the states that seceded from the Union during our Civil War back in the 1800s. It seems that every week I read a diatribe from a (usually anonymous) commenter on a blog or web group that the Grand Lodges in those Southern states are “racist” for not recognizing their Prince Hall counterparts, and that they should move with the times, and come into the 21st Century.

And truly, while there is no room for racism in our Craft, it certainly seems that there must be a lot of room for intolerance, impatience, and arrogance; because I see those characteristics displayed quite frequently by the brethren who demand that these Grand Lodges fall in line with the other 38 states. More recently, I’ve even seen a new blogger who has drafted legislation – purely as a thought experiment or conversation point (I hope) – calling for the other states to drop recognition of at least one of these recalcitrant Grand Lodges. I must say that while I applaud the spirit of my brothers who would like to see recognition across all the Grand Lodges in the US, I am astounded and appalled at the behavior that I’ve seen them display toward that end.

Personally, I have no knowledge as to why the last dozen Grand Lodges have not yet extended recognition, nor do I know if indeed, talks are already in the works. I do know that recognition is a highly politically charged issue, not only for the AF&AM Grand Lodges, but also for the MWPH Grand Lodges as well; and it occurs to me that the demands and threats from the sidelines can’t possibly make things happen more smoothly. I’m going to leave aside the ethical considerations of threatening our sister Grand Lodges with the withdrawal of recognition, and focus on a point that I have not seen discussed elsewhere.

If the Grand Lodge of any of those states suddenly recognized the MWPH Grand Lodge of that state, what, I ask you, would actually happen? Would Prince Hall Masons – assuming, of course, that they reciprocate the recognition – suddenly stampede to sit in AF&AM lodges? That seems unlikely to me, and why would they? For the benefit of watching an AF&AM lodge pay some bills and plan the next fish fry? Perhaps for all of you to pat each other on the back after a speech about how great it is to sit in lodge together… and then to perhaps do it all over again in six months or a year? What’s the point of that? Most Masons don’t want to sit in their own lodges if all they’re going to do is argue about the phone bill and have some coffee and donuts afterward.

I’m going to be blunt here: the underlying issue isn’t the recognition itself; there are dozens of unrecognized jurisdictions around the US, mainly groups that have splintered off from a mainstream Grand Lodge. The underlying issue is that the people on the sidelines see the recognition issue as a factor of racism and discrimination. Prince Hall Grand Lodges tend to have mainly (but not exclusively) black members, while AF&AM tend to have mainly (but not exclusively) white members.

Without some insight into the politics and workings of these Grand Lodges, it’s impossible to determine if this is true, even in part. But even so, what do those clamoring from the sidelines expect that immediate recognition of the MWPH Grand Lodges would accomplish? Do they think that a stroke of a pen will end racism in their states? Isn’t that akin to legislating morality?

The real issue is that we sometimes expect our Grand Lodges to “fix” some problem that in actuality should be dealt with at the Blue lodge level – or sometimes even at the individual level.

For the brothers who have been demanding recognition, how many of you have had joint fellowship nights with your Prince Hall brethren? Obviously you can’t sit in lodge together, but that shouldn’t stop you from having dinner together. How many of you have planned a joint event, like a picnic, or a friendly barbecue and horseshoe match? And why stop at dinner? Masonry being about working, how many of you have held joint community service events in your area? Perhaps a joint Child ID event, or a blood drive hosted by two lodges? Here’s an idea: a Masonic weekend in which handy members of the local PH and AF&AM lodges lend their talents and energy to a Habitat for Humanity project?

Any of those have got to be better for jurisdictional relations than sitting in a stuffy lodge room.

The bonds of trust and friendship are not forged by the signatures of Grand Masters on some pile of papers; they are formed by getting together, face to face, side by side, and working at something useful. They are formed by meeting on the level, and by doing things that you both have an interest in doing.

Too often, when faced with a problem in the Fraternity we look at our Grand Lodge as if it were an adversarial organization. We demand that “they” should do something – when we aren’t demanding that “they” should stop doing something. We forget that we, ourselves, are the Grand Lodge, and that the Grand Lodge officers take their cues from what the members of the Craft say and do. If your Grand Lodge officers don’t hear or see any interest at the Blue lodge level, they certainly aren’t going to have any motivation to move the issue along at the Grand Lodge level.

This doesn’t mean that I think those clamoring from the sidelines should stop raising the issue; change moves with the glacial speed in Masonry, and sometimes we need people to help us keep track of our progress (or lack thereof). But instead of expending so much energy in anonymous rantings, perhaps we would all be better served if they put those energies toward promoting true brotherhood in a more constructive manner.

You can’t beat this cover

November 6, 2007 Leave a comment

Most US states have a Masonic publication, like a magazine or a newsletter. A few years ago, we went from a 4 color mag (The Square & Compasses) published quarterly to a monthly newspaper (The Connecticut Freemason). It’s more timely and gives more opportunity for the various lodges to get smaller articles in. It costs as much as the old magazine, but I think it’s worth the expense, if only for the sheer amount of information that we can pass along to the brothers – especially to those who don’t have the opportunity to get out to lodge anymore.

Like the publications from other states, though, it’s generally filled with the usual array of “shake and smile” or “grip and grin” photos that are the hallmark of in-house communication organs all over the known universe. You can’t help it; most articles and photos are supplied by the lodge members themselves, and invariably the only time someone thinks of taking a picture is when the Master of a lodge happens to shake hands with the latest award recipient.

Fortunately, the latest guy to be stuck with in charge of the newspaper is a creative sort, and between he and the other poor guy who got stuck with camera duty photo and layout expert, they’ve managed to snatch creativity from the very jaws of the mundane.

Since I only have a handful of readers in Connecticut, I thought that the rest of the Masonic world might enjoy seeing the latest cover. A number of us have had a good chuckle over it, but even so, it’s interesting to see how good graphic design doesn’t necessarily become outdated.

This link to the November CT Freemason will open a large PDF file of the entire newspaper, with the front cover prominently displayed.

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Teh Konspiracy

October 26, 2007 Leave a comment

Okay, so is this strange or what?

Last week, members of the Masonic Community in Action committee convince Hartford Advocate reporter Adam Bulger to write a piece about the Masons to coincide with the Open House that both the Grand Lodge AF&AM and Prince Hall are having; or rather, that a couple of dozen lodges around the state are having, for the purpose of public awareness and information.

On Monday, the story is published in their online edition. Paper editions are usually distributed on Wednesday or Thursday, in time for the weekend.

So why, on Friday evening, have I not been able to find a single copy at any of the usual distributors? The several gas stations and restaurants which carry the paper in my neighborhood have nothing. I stopped at a local music shop, and they told me that the deliveries never came this week.

It’s almost as if somebody doesn’t want the public to know. . .

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Getting The Third Degree

October 23, 2007 Leave a comment

The Grand Lodge in Connecticut has been pushing the idea of a state-wide “open house” for the public. Not for them to visit the Grand Lodge itself, which, until this week was still under construction (that’s right – Connecticut did not have a Grand Lodge building, meeting instead in one of the several large Masonic temples around the state, or in a hotel conference center). The open house is supposed to take place this Saturday, October 27th. Almost two dozen lodges have committed to opening and having tour guides or something of interest to the public, including Friendship Lodge, and my affiliate lodge, Sequin-Level No. 140. One of the committees, I think it’s Masonry in Action (I’m sure I’ll be corrected on the name) managed to contact a reporter for one of the “alternative” newspapers, who agreed to write up a little article to help promote this.

Accordingly, last week I exchanged a few emails with Adam Bulger of the Hartford Advocate, who called and chatted with me for a good half hour about Freemasonry. Unfortunately, Mr. Bulgar’s views may have been colored by first reading this blog. Yes, our big chance to make a good first impression, and of all things for him to research he reads random posts on The Tao of Masonry. While the article is not about me, of course, there’s no mistaking the author’s perspective when he writes:

“In addition to being the District Grand Lecturer for the Hartford-area district, [Tom] Accuosti writes the blog The Tao of Masonry.Accuosti’s blog is written in a lighthearted, jokey manner — he calls himself the “Exalted Keeper of the Secrets of Freemasonarianism” and “Crop Circle Planning & Zoning Commissioner.” Other Connecticut Mason blogs, including Movable Jewel, written by an officer in Middletown and New Haven Mason Charles Tirrell’s Masonic Renaissance, take the order more seriously. (emphasis mine)

My first reaction was “Lighthearted and jokey? Where the hell would he get that idea?”

Then I remembered the email I sent off to him, which said, in part:

“Masons having some innate love for assigning fancy titles, I now answer to “Very Worshipful,” which entitles me to as much respect as, say, an ‘assistant to the editor.'”

and

“[…] unfortunately, there are still a number of people who are under the impression that we are actually sitting on the Temple of King Solomon or hiding the Treasure of the Templars, or acting as advance scouts for the Illuminati (or the CFR, Bilderbergs, Zeta-Reticulans, etc.)”

Oh.

*ahem*

Yes, well, anyway, the online article features a nice shot of WB Dave Edman, PM of Friendship, and one of the brothers spearheading this publicity event; flanked by WB Jim VanderEyk (currently Chaplain at Friendship) and Ed Lawson, the Chaplain at Fredrick-Franklin No. 14 in Plainville. All were on hand to answer questions for the Advocate photographer.

Most impressive to me, though, was that the reporter was actually deferential in asking questions, and clearly was hesitant to ask something that might be overly personal or inappropriate about the Craft. I think I helped to set his mind at ease by explaining that the “secrets” of Masonry are not the ones written in the books – or as the case may be, all over various web sites.

I have no idea how helpful this article will be in terms of getting people to the lodges on a nice Saturday afternoon. But I certainly hope that it presents a new perspective for people who either have never thought about the Freemasons, or who only know us because their grandfather might have been a member.

Anyone who has not picked up a copy of the free weekly arts & entertainment journal can read the online article. And remember to leave a comment telling Mr. Bulger how pleased you are with his writing.

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Apple Harvest 2007 – Week 2

October 11, 2007 Leave a comment

What a difference a year makes! Last year Friendship Lodge finished up one of the best Apple Harvest fund raisers in recent memory, all the while dodging the rocks and ruts of the construction going on at the front of our building. This year we sold slightly more fried apple wedgies than last year – by 5:30 pm on Sunday we actually sold out of the 1,000 Cortlands that we’d bought. The word it definitely getting around about our delicious, tasty apple treats. We had an impressive number of repeat customers – some of them within a half hour of their first purchase!

Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of chopped steak left over, both cooked and defrosted. Ironically, we think that this is because the weather on Saturday was so nice – as in warm in the mid-80s – that people were too hot to eat regular food, and instead merely snacked on apple treats. Since the meat had already been paid for, some of the brothers on clean-up detail took it home (I’ve got a couple of bags in the freezer, just waiting for me to add it to a nice tomato sauce), and some of it was donated to the soup kitchen that uses our lodge hall during the day. This is the first year that we haven’t donated any healthy apples to them.

Although our profits weren’t as high as they were last year, we’re pleased that our expenses for the year are more under control. We’ve done a lot of repair and maintenance work, both inside and out in the last year, and the little bit that we have to go requires more time and sweat than actual money, so overall we’re in pretty good shape.

 

Apple Harvest 2007

 

Here are some pictures of the 2007 Apple Harvest, along with a nice shot of the completed front of the building.

And once again the thanks go out to the unsung (‘cos I’m not singing) heroes of the annual festival. We’d get nowhere without the usual dozen or so people who come down every morning to open up or stay until late to clean up. Again, great work and I’m sure that all of the members of Friendship Lodge thank you and your wives and/or partners for the hours that you put in. We certainly could not have made it a success without you.

Almost Famous

July 5, 2007 Leave a comment

The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in the State of Connecticut – more specifically, the Most Worshipful Web Site of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, etc., – has taken one step closer to the danger zone.

They linked to The Tao of Masonry.

Apparently, the poor guy nominally in charge of the web site was so taken with the great job that the Friendship Lodge web team was doing that he got caught up in the spirit of the moment and posted a link to this very un-official Masonic blog. Un-official in the sense that I wrote on a sticky note around here someplace something to the effect of

And of course, the inevitable disclaimer:
My opinions are my own. This is my own web log, and I’m writing only as myself and not to advance any positions or opinions of any official Masonic body. And as for official Taoist positions? Well, you know…

Can’t get any more un-officialer than that, right? Just so, you know, we’re all clear on the concept.

Actually, I have myself to blame for this; apparently I made some offhand remark (probably on the new Friendship Lodge web forum) about how the GL web site needs more content. Not that they don’t have content – but I’m talking about the cool type of content.

You know, teh l33t int3rw3bz kind.

Naturally, you can see how much they think of me by the placement of my link. Go ahead, go check out the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Conn website. I’m right there, under the tab for Masonic Links… and then you have to click the link for Masonic Information.

No, I don’t have any idea what kind of “information” this is supposed to be, either.

That said, this dovetails nicely with the work that we (“we” meaning “everybody else on the committee except me”) have been putting into the new Friendship Lodge web site. Apparently, the Grand Lodge web folks really liked what “we” have done -“we” being the Friendship Lodge web committee of Eric Charette (Chairman), Bill Reyor, Eric Tetrault, Kyle Charette, and, uh, that other guy who they don’t allow to touch anything. Excellent work, brothers.

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