Can You Be A Christian And A Freemason?

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

There’s a couple reasons I wanted to address this topic—primarily it’s due to the number of comments and questions I get on this subject. More often than not they aren’t questions, I get told “you can’t be a Christian and a Freemason.”

That’s not true. I’m a Christian and a Freemason. And I have things in my life aligned in the right order, too. God first, then family, then my job, and Freemasonry taking up the rear. I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years now. I’m a regular Bible reader, and I attend church. Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with God. I’ve worked hard in my life to apply those values I find in the Bible to my life, and like all Christians I fall short. However, I’ve never found anything in Freemasonry that conflicts in any way with what I’ve read in the Bible. And I’ve never been involved with a church that had a prohibition against Freemasonry—in fact one of the Deacons in a church I belonged to for more than a decade was a 33rd Degree (long before I knew exactly what that meant).

Some denominations and some individual churches however prohibit their members from joining the Fraternity, for a variety of reasons. I won’t go into all of those reasons, but the most common complaint I hear in my area is the fact that our Fraternity is open to all men who believe in the existence of God—so it’s open to all the major religions. Our opening and closing prayers are nonsectarian so they can be applied to any of the major monotheistic religions. Because  Freemasonry welcomes men from all religions, we don't close our prayers with "in Jesus' name we pray."  Some Christian denominations and churches have an issue with that. And that’s their right, and I can even respect their position.

This position on admitting members from all religious beliefs isn't new to Freemasonry.  In fact, Freemasonry has served a very important role in our nation's history on this very topic of religious toleration and religious freedom in America.  In America, we have the freedom of religion. It’s in our Constitution—it’s there BECAUSE of the Freemasons. That concept of freedom of religion came from the Masonic Lodges.  In fact, there were a few concepts in addition to religious freedom that were borrowed from Freemasonry by our Founding Fathers when they were drafting the United States Constitution. Because Freemasonry yesterday and today respects ALL religions, ALL Americans have the right to worship as they wish.  And because of those rights secured in part because of the traditions of Freemasonry, those churches today have every right to prohibit their members from joining our Lodges if they feel it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

How do you like that, huh?  This was our idea!

So I’m not going to argue whether or not denominations or churches have the right to make rules like that—they clearly can. And I’m not even going to argue whether those prohibitions are right or wrong. If those are their beliefs then we need to respect that.  And one thing we should never do as Freemasons is to discuss religious beliefs in our lodges, or pass judgements on these policies or these beliefs--I see this a lot on social media.  Questioning someone's religious views or their church's policies is the surest way to start a fight--it's something that's deeply personal.  One of the surest ways to divide your Lodge and alienate one Brother from another is to discuss religion among yourselves--the second way is discussing politics.  We all know we shouldn't discuss religion or politics in Lodge and the reasons why.  Another reason I wanted to touch on this topic is because of some of the ugly things I've read on social media lately aimed at churches and denominations that have a prohibition against joining a Masonic Lodge.  As a member of the Fraternity that helped found the concept of religious freedom in America, we should practice what we've been preaching for so long.

Not all churches feel negatively about Freemasonry--far from it! Many respect the organization, and many even join with the Freemasons in raising funds to support local causes. I recently joined a church I’d been attending for some time, and before I joined, one of the things I asked the Pastor of that church was how that church felt about Freemasonry. That church respected the good work that our Fraternity does, and there are a few Freemasons that attend my church—I noticed Masonic license plates in the parking lot the first morning I attended so I was pretty sure I knew how he was going to answer that question when I asked it.

I’m a believer. I’m also a Freemason. In my experience I don’t see the two conflict with one another. In fact, I think they complement each other. Many of the morals and tenets taught in the Bible are mirrored by the teachings of the Fraternity as well. Concepts we strive towards as Freemasons like truth, brotherly love, charity, toleration, etc., are the same concepts the Pastors of Christian churches are preaching on every Sunday. The Fraternity gives me opportunities to apply those principles. It gives me instruction on how to incorporate those concepts into my life each day. It encourages me, like my church does, to continue to work at improving myself and my moral character. I don’t see any conflict at all . . . for me.

But getting back to my original question. Can you be a Freemason and a Christian? I clearly can and am!  But whether you can be a Freemason and a Christian is between you, God, and your church. But any Freemason will tell you that you should never put the Lodge before your relationship with God. And if that means you don’t join a Masonic Lodge because of a prohibition against membership, then you should respect that.

I can only answer this question for myself, and you must do the same.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series.  He is the author of the the From Labor To Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary.  He is a a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR).  He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP.  He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Reruns

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
RW Dan Lort


In a recent short essay, I expounded on the word “convenient” as it relates to our duty and obligation of heading out on any particular evening to attend a lodge meeting. What drives us to go or what holds us back one might ask.

Perhaps at the core of what makes a Lodge thrive or what contributes to their slow and deliberate death, we should look at why our Brothers are staying home. Why are they resisting their duty to answer and obey a regular summons to a meeting? Could it be that, outside of our wonderful degree work and ritual that we’ve become BORING? Is every meeting a RERUN of the last one?

Every day, we witness the consolidation of Lodges and Masonic Districts as they shrink in size. Why are we seeing Masonic districts comprised of 15-20 lodges 20 years ago with 5 now remaining? What makes a Lodge of 40+ members ask to turn in their Charter? What causes a Lodge that had 150 members 10 years ago to wither to 30 members today?

Across every jurisdiction we hear Grand Masters, District Deputies, Staff Officers, and Worshipful Masters talking about the works on their Trestle boards. How many trestle boards are distributed with the date of the meeting followed by “TBD” for the work of the evening? To Be Decided. An acronym for “beats me”, “I’ll wing it”, or “we’ll make it a business meeting only”? Who among us has worked through the “convenient” hurdle as we watch our early evening TV or dine on an early dinner and decided it’s time to get suited-up and head to lodge only to arrive, sit through an opening, business meeting, and closing and be home and back at the TV within an hour? We then ask ourselves the question, “why”? A great many Lodges have taken this to heart and are presenting interesting and diverse programs each meeting. Many others struggle to have one or two speakers or programs during their lodge year.

Yes, it was good to see my brothers who, like me, came out tonight to attend Lodge. We had plenty of time for a program of some sort. Not even a Short Talk Bulletin. Maybe Bro. James talking about his bee-keeping. Hey! What about asking the local precinct commander to come and speak about crime fighting efforts in our neighborhood? So many possibilities. How do we make these happen?

One very simple but underutilized word---PLANNING. Interesting and engaging events seldom happen on their own. Sure, every now and then we’ll look on the sidelines and see a brother who has a particular skill or vocation that we could ask him to speak about “off the cuff”. As Worshipful Masters, we owe it to the Brothers who have elected us and to the Lodge as a whole to do everything in our power to see the Lodge not just survive but to thrive and grow. To do this we need to exert a certain amount of EFFORT. This effort may involve everything from putting together a Trestle Board during the summer before our Lodge comes back in session to personally calling our officers the day before a meeting to let them know the plans for the evening (and to gently remind them of the importance of their attendance). Perhaps a summer meeting with the Wardens to put together a Trestle Board and brainstorm about programs for evenings with no degree work.

Of course we sometimes hear comments from some long-time members saying things such as “We don’t need to do something special every meeting.” or “Some of us...” just like to have a meeting and get home. The Brothers we don’t hear this from are the ones who are so bored with the program-less meetings that they stop coming to Lodge in lieu of other options. These are the Brothers we need to target. They are the future of our Fraternity. They are the ones who will take the place of our senior members as infirmity and the Celestial Heavens take over.

Keeping our meetings vibrant, contemporary, and interesting is vital if we are to keep our new andseasoned members engaged. Being now enabled in the NY jurisdiction to open and close our Lodges on any degree has become a wonderful tool to maintain the connection with our EA’s and Fellowcrafts as they progress through the degrees. Keeping our regular communications interesting is a mandate we need to understand and put into practice if we are to stem the flow of those leaving us because we’ve become “boring”. NO MORE RERUNS! What could be easier?

~DGL

RW Bro. Lort is a Past Master of Alexandria Lodge #297 in Alexandria Bay, NY and a plural member of Gasport Lodge #787 in WNY. He is also a member of the NYS Grand Lodge Committee on Consolidations as well as several other GL committees. He is a 32°member of the A.A.S.R Valley of Syracuse, serving as CH for the Sackets Harbor Chapter RAM, & a member of the Divan of Media Shrine, A.A.O.N.M.S. RW Bro. Lort is a past DDGM of the Jefferson-Lewis District, Grand Lodge of NY and currently is a Grand Lodge Regional Asst. Grand Lecturer. He is a retired Law Enforcement officer and enjoys many outdoor activities. He attributes his successes in Freemasonry to his early days in DeMolay in Western NY.





Masonry is a Progressive Science?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


Sometimes it is hard which phrase to believe. “Masonry is a progressive science.”, which means the Craft has been changing since time immemorial. On the other hand,  some Brethren say, “Freemasonry has been the same since time immemorial.” and still yet, others say, “The landmarks of Freemasonry can never be changed.” So, which do we believe?

If we stop and really think about it, anyone who has studied the history of our Fraternity for any amount of time knows we aren’t the same groups as we were three hundred years ago. If James Anderson or Benjamin Franklin were to have the ability to visit a Masonic lodge of the twenty-first century, I truly believe they would not recognize it as the same organization.

Lodges are meeting inside their own buildings or grand temples instead of above taverns, regalia made in a factory instead of by hand at home…etc. The changes we don’t think about which have occurred since the founding of the grand lodge system have been numerous. So why do we as Freemasons find it so hard to embrace change in our Fraternity?

In this instance I am not talking about the usual force against change, the stereotypical elderly Past Master we envision sitting in the North of the Lodge room with a scowl on his face, reminding all of us how things used to be-- but a larger group which, until recently I included myself in.

This week I was listening to the current episode of the Scottish Rite Journal podcast. The piece entitled “The Purple of our Fraternity: Caring for our Material Culture” which was an article written by Heather Calloway published in May/June 2014 Scottish Rite Journal discussed how the House of the Temple cares for the priceless artifacts of our past. At the beginning of the article, Heather describes how the Scottish Rite has changed the way the group communicates over the last two centuries.

In the beginning, the Rite would confer degrees by just reading the ritual to the new members. Once he heard the story, the Brother attained that degree. The current system of degrees didn’t come about until the Albert Pike era. With the advancement in theatrical technology and a larger membership valley, they began to have the manpower and budget to produce beautifully done degree work for new members, with actors in beautifully ornate costumes and with props and backdrops obtained from companies which specialized in fraternal merchandise. This period of degree presentation has lasted for over one hundred and fifty years.

Today in the twenty-first century we live in a fraternal world with a lot fewer members. Those members we do have are either elderly and can no longer do the work involved in putting on a large production of twenty-nine degrees like acting, lighting, costumes, stage crew, sound whatever their specialty was, or they have retired to a warmer climate and are no longer active. The younger men in many valleys are trying to balance family commitments, their job, and their other Masonic obligations, because chances are, they are also active in their Blue Lodge, York Rite or other Masonic bodies. 

They can only fold that twenty-four-inch gauge so many ways! Even if they had more time to commit, the number of young members would still be difficult to fill all the positions it takes to put on such elaborate productions. They might even have the issue of where to hold these large reunions. A good example of this is the Scottish Rite Valley in Fort Wayne, Indiana where I took my degrees. A few years ago, they had to sell their beautiful auditorium and now has a small office in a business park. Degree work must be done at a different location. It no longer has the luxury of a place to store large backdrops, enough costumes for many men and twenty-nine degrees.

I know many Valleys have begun to just perform a handful of degrees every year and communicate the remainder of them by the officers coming out on stage and perform what some have called “a blessing" on the others (Kind of like, "Okay, you have now just received such and such degree because I said you have.) Lots of Brethren were against this because it took away from the degree work and the candidate didn’t get the moral and the meaning of the degree intended to be conveyed. Sadly, I believe this was done out of desperation of the circumstances mentioned above, and the officers of the bodies couldn’t come up with a better way to accomplish the task.

The last few years, there has been much crying and gnashing of teeth of the collective Masonic world because The Scottish Rite Northern Jurisdiction has begun the practice of filming their degree work and presenting it to the candidates in a smaller venue on a movie screen instead of an elaborate stage show.

This degree work in the films is performed by Masons in various valleys around the jurisdiction in full costumes and with theatrical effects, much like seeing the work performed in person, on stage but in a movie format. No shortcuts are taken, and nothing is left out. The candidate still receives the same message by watching the degree performed in this form versus our current system of degree delivery. I know this isn’t what many of us believe to be the way a new Brother should receive these degrees, but after some reflection, I think these series of videos might be more beneficial to the Rite on several levels.

FINANCIAL: I’m sure this is obvious but without the need to maintain and upkeep a large theater (Not to mention the heating and cooling of such a building) which is only used a few times a year, Valleys can better use the funds they collect for such things as an almoners fund for members and their widows and orphans who are in desperate need of help in hard times.

The funds can also be saved for rainy days when their building needs emergency repairs or other unforeseen expenses. Instead of passing the hat or endless fundraisers that require manpower the body doesn’t have or rarely and barely break even instead of providing much-needed revenue the group could be on a solid financial footing.

MANPOWER: Anyone who has organized a reunion weekend, or any large Masonic event knows how frustrating it is trying to find Brethren who will commit (and show up) to assist in putting on an event, can attest to how frustrating it can be. Back in the day this usually wasn’t an issue. You would have multiple men volunteer or just show up to help. But today many times you begin to feel like a one-man band.

Rehearsals no one shows up for, finding members to fill roles and then asking them to fill multiple roles because no one either volunteered or was a no-show. Hoping you can find people to set up tables for lunch…etc. In the end, it will get done but not to the standards or vision you had at first perceived it would be, and those few volunteers you had will eventually burn out and begin not to show up anymore.

With a scaled down reunion, a handful of Brethren can set the room up the night before and have everything in place for the next morning. Not only will the candidates have a pleasant experience, but your crew will also! No one will have to wake up at 4am on Saturday morning to set things up. They will be able to enjoy themselves and go home that night without being exhausted. They might enjoy it so much they might volunteer for your next event!

RETENTION: The two reasons I listed above are pretty much common sense. But I don’t think many people have really thought about how we can retain members with the model I am discussing. But I feel this could be an important point and so far, (as far as I know) has been overlooked.

As we know most incoming members have no idea about the degrees, how they are performed, what they contain, whatever. From many studies we have heard about over the years they are just looking for education, deeper meaning for life. They don’t care about “How it used to be done.” They just want to become better men, as we tell them can be done, by putting on a Masonic apron.

As it is now, a man sits down in a theater seat, watches a couple of plays, sees some officers tell him the plays you didn’t see are “communicated” to you (Whatever that means) and BAM! You are a Scottish Rite Mason! No explanation of what he just experienced-- just a dues card and a lapel pin. "Thanks for coming! Make sure to come back again and see the same degree next year or visit a reunion in another city and hope they present different degrees than your valley does."

One hundred and fifty years ago it was common for a young man to attend a vaudeville show or a play as a form of entertainment. For today’s twenty-first century man attending a live stage show (Other than a concert) is a rare event. In this age of “Netflix and chill” if a man does venture to a theater it would be to see a big screen special effects laden movie. In my opinion, live plays, with amateur actors might be a new concept for him and the message of the play could be lost just because of the novelty of the experience.

We all know that the society of today is heavily influenced by movies and television. We constantly quote movies in our daily lives. We as Freemasons know movies influence young men thanks to the joining boom after the National Treasure movie was released. Video can be a tremendous influencer on our incoming members.

When the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction polled its membership and potential members one of the top things, they said they wanted was Masonic Education. They didn’t specify how it was delivered. They just asked for Masonic light (Sound familiar?) I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Brethren wish they could have seen all the Scottish Rite degrees instead of just a few at a reunion. (Or all of them crammed into a weekend).

Video allow for so much more Masonic Education than a stage play. During a reunion men can be seated comfortably in a Lodge room and after each video an instructor or leader could lead a group discussion on what the candidate believes the moral of the lesson way, and what was the symbolism used. The group can interact amongst themselves with guidance of the leader before they move on to the next lesson. In this way, a candidate has an idea of what the Rite is trying to teach him and what Masonry expects from him. It also helps the candidates get to know each other as they progress through the degrees, building teamwork and friendships. It also eliminates the constant complaint of degree work “being taught like drinking from a firehose instead of a garden hose.”

Videos also allow for Scottish Rite bodies to take degree work “on the road” to lodges in areas that are difficult for Brethren who live a great distance away from the Scottish Rite Temples. This could spark interest from Brethren who feel driving to the city for a meeting every month isn’t worth their time or gas money. If the Brethren see that a meeting is more than just the reading of minutes, that they actually could benefit from attending they might be more apt to attend meetings more regularly.

These videos would also be a great way to hold Masonic Education nights for interested members. They would be fantastic if they could be incorporated into study clubs which work in conjunction with the Master Craftsman program or The Hauts Grades Academy. Think of the discussions and positive Interaction among members!

Brethren, these are just a few examples of ways this small change could lead to a positive effect on our Fraternity. I’m sure creative minds who gather together could come up with even more benefits and uses for this new way of doing things. Like I said before, nothing I propose is a “Masonic landmark” and has not been done since “time immemorial”. It was once an innovation to the way things are done in the new age, just like what I am proposing. I am just asking you to sit down with an open mind and consider what I have laid out here.

Like the book by Alan Deutschman entitled, “Change or Die”, if we don’t change the course of how we are doing things, eventually there will be a time when we can no longer continue with our current methods. If and when the time comes it might be too late to try and change. I’m sure one thing we all can agree on is no longer having a Scottish Rite body to be a member of is a change none of us wish to see happen.

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

In Darkness, Wishing for Light

Expanding the Definition of Masonic Relief

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro Erik Marks

*Disclaimer: The following article cannot be used to diagnose or treat any condition, nor is it intended to imply, impart, or provide a clinical training process or be a substitute for professional care.*

In darkness, wishing for Light: expanding the definition of Masonic Relief. Erik Antony Marks, 32, LICSW (Originally published in a modified form in the Fall 2018 issue of Trowel Magazine for Massachusetts Masons: http://tiny.cc/TrowelMagazine).

Brethren, when we first kneel at the Altar of Freemasonry, we acknowledge we are in darkness. Ignorant to the teachings of this Gentle Craft, we supplicate the Worshipful Master and Brethren to aid our Psycho-Spiritual development by providing Light in and through Freemasonry. At other times in our journeys, we may know we are in a different kind of darkness, though perhaps uncertain as to how that darkness descended. As the rough ashlar, no person is immune to the ruffians of the mind and spirit, the mental or emotional afflictions of life: anxiety, depression, shame, trauma(s), substance abuse, loss, existential crises or those of faith, financial or relational distress can affect any of us, at any time. Any one of us may be experiencing these presently or know others who are or have. 

Within Freemasonry, the Charity and Relief we hold dear affirms to our Brothers there is always hope; that help awaits. I propose we support each other by providing a non-monetary, and possibly far more enduring, form of relief. Through discussion, education, and support about emotional and psychological distress it is my hope we will co-create stronger light to shine into the lives of our Brothers, their families, and our communities. To be clear: This missive has multiple purposes, 1) proposing an expansion the definition of what we consider charity or relief; 2) to help one another recognize signs emotional and mental health distress that manifest as part of our humanness and how to help by talking about these openly; 3) as a starting point to look for resources to be of assistance to those in need and 4) to identify when a Brother, Family Member, or Member of our Community may be at risk for death by suicide and direct them towards help. Approximately 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016 and is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States according to The National Institute for Mental Health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, rates are rising and offered this Technical Package on Suicide Prevention. I have heard it said suicide, a public health epidemic, is one of the most preventable. We are in a unique position to fulfill one of our primary missions and assist in prevention by sharing and expanding upon about what follows.

In Masonry we build, with ancient tools and modes of recognition, a trust and bond sufficiently solid to offer a strong grip to our brothers in distress. We could endeavor to lift (br)others back to the possibility of Light, so they, and we, may enjoy greater ease and efficacy in daily life. In the discharge of our obligation of relief to one another, I think it is essential to develop fluency in this conversation. The more we practice the words and phrases, the easier they become to perform. Consider these starting points toward an expand use of our tools:

First, gather information and have a plan. Notice changes in someone’s behavior and routine. Some changes or states may be obvious, some may be subtle depending on the person. It is more important to notice and respond than to try to figure out the reason someone is in darkness: a diagnosis or label is unnecessary for the provision of relief. In this expanded form of relief, our perception or notice of changes in their mood or behavior is the other’s “application,” to us for relief. Look for any of the following changes in (but not limited to): very high or low mood, sleeping too much or too little, appetite increase or decrease, isolation, irritability, too little or much energy, loss of interest in many or previously cherished things or activities, increased substance use, reckless behavior, statements of hopelessness or giving up.

Second, respond. One of the greatest gifts we can give is to listen deeply and attentively; one of the most valuable resources we provide is our time. Actively listen by making eye contact, emphasize phrases they use, ask for clarification, and paraphrase to confirm understanding. It is better to engage not knowing what to do than to not reach for the person at all. If you worry the person is such distress, they could be having thoughts of suicide, it is probable they already are and therefore essential to ask. Inquiring will not put the idea in their minds. To the contrary, knowing you are willing to say the words and ask the question signals to the person that you care enough to step into darkness with them and seek Light, together. It exemplifies, though word and action, that you have done your work to meet them on the five points: walk to where the person is, emotionally and/or physically. Steady their gait with yours. Stay in contact using beauty of your authentic words and strength of an open Heart. Then…speak the word(s). 

I’m allowing you to attach each point without saying them outright. Statements are sometimes made by people in distress that they or those around them might be “...better off if I was gone” or dead. This kind of statement, even if made “as a joke,” must always be taken seriously. Sometimes people will let such statements accidentally or unconsciously slip out and can be an opportunity to ask more. Other times, it is a direct request for help: our inquiry about what they feel and what they mean may not come in the public moment they make the statement, it may be prudent to step aside to inquire in a low breath. Asking in private increases the probability the person will feel comfortable and take your intention of care to heart. Though we are sworn to secrecy with regard to modes of recognition, do not let yourself be sworn to secrecy with regard to this information!

It may feel strange or uncomfortable at first, to ask about things more personal and private. Yet, we already have a method for this type of catechism. However, in this conversation, only our part may be practiced, the responses will be as unique and varied as each individual. Practicing with a brother or brothers before the words are needed, trading parts, will help with fluency, authenticity, integration, and ability to stay present when it counts:

“Hey, haven’t seen you in a while…could we get together this week?

“I’ve noticed you’ve seemed down lately…how’s it going?

“I get the sense something is really bothering you…”

“On the third…what’s going on?”

“Sometimes, when people are feeling what you’re describing, they can also feel hopeless, like giving up. Sometimes the idea of dying crosses their minds. Are you having thoughts like that?” If there are clear signs or statements of imminent threat to self or other, calling 911 is appropriate and caring.

Third, stay in contact and begin to seek more help using the following tools and ideas. Connecting with others and/or getting back to Lodge, Lodge of Instruction, other Fraternal events could be a good start. Share a meal, at home or out. Scaffolding the person and sharing the work with other Brothers lightens each individual’s labor. Psychotherapy or counseling are effective ways to address many of life’s challenges—though I think of the two as different, for the present purpose they can be used interchangeably as many people use them that way already. The premise behind this tool is to have a consultant who is practiced in addressing the complexity of how thoughts, emotions, and relationships can become painful or debilitating. With the therapist/counselor, two people pool their life experiences and expertise to consider how to improve things for the one seeking assistance. It’s a protected conversation to allow for more self-exploration and developing more personalized tools to help oneself. For some, clergy trained in a similar manner may be a more comfortable path to find assistance. A useful on-line resource to begin the search for a psychotherapist/counselor is https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists. (Disclosure: I have no financial interest in this resource and am not listed as a provider on the site).

Medicine is a tool to be used in conjunction with psychotherapy or counseling. Many find that a combination of both simultaneously has the best outcomes depending on the presenting problem(s). Unless clearly indicated, I usually start without medicine and encourage people to introduce it when all other avenues are exhausted or if the person makes the request at the start or along the way. Some people prefer to start with medicine rather than talking. Psychiatrists or Nurse practitioners who specialize in mental health issues are the preferred provider. Alternately, many primary care providers now have experience prescribing medicine for anxiety or depression, and the pre-existing relationship may make it easier to start with this person; the primary care physician can also facilitate a referral if needed or recommended. Exercise and mindfulness-meditation are excellent self-interventions with little to no start-up cost and can be especially potent when enjoyed with a family member or Brother. There are numerous on-line or on-phone apps or resources with which to experiment to move towards healing. I’ve known people who have used a variety of alternative or adjunctive methods to help with symptoms or changes in mood—though beyond the scope of this article.

As Masons, we labor to manifest Charity through Brotherly love and affection. Reaching into the darkness to offer companionship and light might be one of the most powerful expressions of Relief we have to offer. Who would not come to the aid of a Brother? Not letting him sit alone at lodge is analogous to not letting him sit in the metaphorical north of his inner lodge or temple. If we suspect or notice distress and know that stepping into darkness is further than our cable tow will allow, we communicate, alert other brothers, family members, and/or professionals who may have resources of time, means, or experience to respond. I encourage commitment to having this conversation with one another in an ongoing way to extend how think of what is Charitable. We can exchange information and experience about the previously secretive topics of emotional and mental health throughout our jurisdictions in the service of greater relief. I have faith that we can work together to build a stronger structure from which to shine The Light for our Brothers and Communities.

Brother Erik A. Marks, 32ยบ, LICSW, is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org