We want you!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


Visiting is pretty
Visiting is good
Seems that all they ever wanted was a brother
This can be a secret
We can keep it good
Even all they ever wanted had a problem
-Foo Fighters

The above lyrics are from the Foo Fighters debut single release, entitled "This is a Call", and I never pondered how Masonic the first verse is.  When thinking about writing this article, it popped into my head, maybe because this article is also a call, a call to action.  Over the past thirteen years, The Midnight Freemasons blog has brought Masonic Light to brethren all over the world. It was created by Todd E. Creason, who served as its editor until Robert Johnson came along and slowly Todd handed those duties over to RJ.  I started as a co-managing editor a few years ago in order to help RJ out, and now I'm the managing editor.  Over this time, we've seen our regular contributors come and go, become Emeritus, and unfortunately some have passed away.

I'm looking for the next batch of regular contributors for the blog, to help take it into the late 2020's and hopefully beyond.  It's really not that hard to write.  Heck, If I can do it, then anyone can.  Honestly, I never saw myself as a writer. Five years ago, I started down this path.  You want to know what keeps me going?  It's you.  It's knowing that the readers of this blog look forward to that next article to perhaps use as Lodge Education. You've been seeing me curate a bunch of older articles from the archives recently.  You're going to see this trend continue through December and perhaps into January 2023.  

My apologies for this, but I moved homes on November 30, and I have to get my old home ready to sell. I also have Gall Stones which means that my Gall Bladder is going to need to be removed.  I had been getting some weird random chest pains and they were discovered, unfortunately while investigating the chest pains, I had an irregular EKG, so I can't have surgery until my cardiologist gives the okay for me to do so.  I'm scheduled for a CT scan of my heart on Dec. 7, after which time, I will see what's going on with my heart, and I will hopefully have my surgery.  Normally I would not share this personal information with you, but as most of you readers are my brothers, I do so in the spirit of Brotherly Love and Truth.

If you are interested in writing for the blog, email me at the email address below.  The only commitment is that you try to write an article every month.  Ideally, my hope is that we can get enough contributors so that we have fresh material every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for you to consume.  

In any case, you've probably noticed the blog looks different.  I thought that it was time for a change, to look more like "Midnight" and less like "Mid-Day".  I think it helps the blog look a little more modern. I hope you like the new look.  I hope all of you have a happy and safe Holiday season. Until then, I hope you enjoy the holiday themed articles I have curated for the rest of December, as well as the reprints of WB Hosler's 50 Year Mason series. 

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.         

The 50 Year Member - Black Friday

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM



The 50-year member let out a weary sigh as he pushed his now empty plate which until a few minutes ago contained a large pile of whipped topping on top of a sliver of pumpkin pie. "Every year I say I won’t overeat at Thanksgiving dinner, and every year I break that resolution. I think instead next year I will just resolve to wear stretchy pants to this event."

Today was another successful Thanksgiving dinner the lodge provided to the public. As much work as it is to cook, serve and clean up after one hundred people it also was nourishing for the soul to know you provided a good meal to many homeless, poverty-stricken families or just local people with no family who otherwise would not have eaten or who was able to enjoy a dinner in a family like atmosphere. Not only do many people look forward to this annual feast many rely on it for a decent meal they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

Pudge who was sitting toward the end of the table muttered I’m not really sure if I am ready for a snap because I’m exhausted from all the hard work or from the entire turkey I ate.” “Maybe a little of both” Mike Bailey said with a sarcastic smirk. "What do you all say we finish cleaning up and head for home?" Everyone grunted in approval.

Herb Johnson said as he picked up a trash bag “It was a great day. I hope we get several potions from the dinner today. I passed one out with a Masonic pamphlet to every man who looked to be over eighteen. Between that and with the Grand Lodge’s new program to waive initiation fees and make a new Brothers first-year dues only one dollar we should have a line at the lodge door!” Herb said with a gleam in his eye.

The 50-year member shook his head in disgust. “Sounds like Masonry at bargain basement prices. It’s like we are having a Masonic Black Friday event! Maybe we could sell the rings and a lapel pin at no extra cost!”

Herb laughed "John, I know you are kidding, but I’m serious. I’m tired of constantly going through the chairs and taking turns being Master. We need to get new men in here or we are going to be in trouble!"

The 50-year member replied “I am not joining!! I’m deadly serious. Yes, we are in need of members but selling the Craft like it was a television set at a big box store isn’t the way to do it.” “We have been trying the cheap dues approach for seventy years with little success. So what makes you think this will be the magic pill?”

“Well, we need to try and do something!” Herb said meekly. “There isn’t anything else we can do.” The fifty-year member said “ You are joking aren’t you? There are so many things we can try. First, instead of raising dues, we can make the price of dues worthy of our fraternity. If we charge dues that actually make sense we won’t have lodges selling their buildings because they can no longer afford them. In fact, they might have enough to actually maintain their temple and make improvements. I know what you are going to say, Herbert, we will lose members and we have members on fixed incomes. I might consider this a valid excuse if these same men who refuse to pay dues more than the equivalent of eight dollars a month wouldn’t go on cruises or take their half-million dollar RVs all over the country for golfing trips.”

The old man continued: “If we do have a brother who is actually destitute and cannot afford to pay with higher dues we will have plenty of money to forgive their membership dues and maybe even help his situation to boot! We have been going at this wrong for all this wrong for a long time. Another thing we can do is instead of demanding our dues during the holidays when everyone is trying to buy festive food and presents we break the dues up and pay them over the course of twelve months. We could even automatically take them for their bank or even their paychecks. Men won’t have an issue with it if isn’t something they actually have to write a paper check for each December. It’s silly. In all honesty, the only reason I still have paper checks at home is for the one check a year I write to this lodge.”

Herb was exasperated. All this talk of change has his head spinning. “Well, where do we get all these guys who want this stuff? Why aren’t they here now?” The 50-year member laughed out loud. "They have already been here and you antiques ran them off!"

Herb, Think of all those young fellas Pudge has brought in here. We spent months in degree work for them. So many of the quit coming when we treated them like they were children. Each one of them joined with excitement and was really interested in our lodge. Did we welcome them? Nope! Once they were raised they sat alone at the supper table before lodge. The only time anyone talked to them was to ridicule their new ideas or tell them Grand lodge won’t allow it. We all know that is poppycock. It was a way to shut them up. What is even worse is the way we treat the one-day Masons. We call them “McMasons” or tell them they aren’t real brothers because they had the unmitigated gall to take their degrees in one day instead of over three days. The sad thing is if anyone ever bothered to pick up a history book Many of the men we refer to as “famous Masons”, along with thousands of others who did the same thing over the last few centuries. All these new Brethren sat on the sidelines barely acknowledged. After a few months of being ignored, they finally realized the Masonic education they were promised turns out to be floor work and getting a part in the degrees to keep the degree mill churning out new Masons who will soon leave for the same reason. It’s the circle of Masonic implosion.”

Herb stood frozen like a statue. Looking down at the ground with an ashamed look on his face. “I didn’t realize we ran off the very men we have been trying to recruit. Maybe we need to consider being mentors, not degree salesmen.”

John smiled “I know Brother. It’s hard to embrace change, especially for us old fossils who don’t really understand what’s going on when we turn on the television. I know your heart is in the right place but we all need to learn to work together to make the Masonic order the Fraternity tells these prospective petitioners are told we have and what they are seeking."

~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 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.

We’re Not “Making Masons” - We’re Creating Churn

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr


[Note: As always, please leave the yells and screams for later,  because it may not end how you think. Then - do as you will.]  

Like many of you, as we enter the wonderful seasonality of the year, another “seasonality” aspect arrived: Dues payment. 

What I did this year was far more different than I did last… 

Now, after five years since being raised: I contemplated both solemnly and earnestly about demitting.  

There, I said it.  

The reaction to the above will fall into two camps, more or less.  

The first will be initial recoil and condemnation for publicly stating it. 

Then, the other: initial agreement. And far too many dare not contemplate just how large this cohort may be. But need to. 

And yet, that’s not the real problem - that’s just a symptom. 

The glaring issue with the above is that the latter far outweighs in size, scope, and dollars of the former. Or said differently… 

If we are “Making Masons,” then why are so many leaving (or at the least, considering) in droves within such compacted time frames? e.g., myself ending my fifth year, most others - by their third. 

I have an answer, many are not going to like it, but here it is…

We are not making Masons - we are creating churn and calling it the former. 

Most readers will immediately understand the term “churn.” For those that don’t, it’s not derogatory or pejorative. It’s the term used for subscribers that come then go, needing to be replaced just as quickly, or the business dies in unison.  

We’ve all been part of the “churn” in our lives in one form or another. A quick example would be any subscription you had to some service. e.g., Netflix or others. You signed up, barely used it,  then canceled. Welcome to your turn - as churn. 

Our current state as a fraternity is acting much like this, only calling it something different. e.g., “Making Masons.”  

Sorry, but no we are not. We are creating churn. 

Sticking with the Netflix example for poignancy:  

What we’re now pushing is a forum (aka Lodge) for continual subscriber churn that is sold as offering something far greater than it does.  

Let me explain it this way… 

“Masonic values and fraternity.” Really? In most environments  here’s what is prevalent: 

Masonic parlance and theater signify a dues acceptance. Then  - a poor excuse for a social club.  

That’s about it, and I’m being kind. 

Another point is, as I have interacted with differing aspects pertaining to the fraternity. I am continually and constantly 

amazed at just how many complete and utter dysfunctional aspects I have been exposed to. It’s been horrifically consistent. 

I have been left completely dumbstruck, far too often than not, at the complete disregard or understanding concerning professionalism and more. It’s been sheer bewildering to someone like myself that had such high regard going in. 

Let me not be coy here: Far too many within the fraternity are still pointing to “the high water mark” of decades ago as a point of reference and reverence as if the seas are about to rise at any moment. All while simultaneously, incoherently unaware that the ship has run aground long ago and rusting into oblivion. i.e.,  water is the last thing that’s going to help for it might actually just hasten the rust. 

I know of a Lodge, quite close to me, which is about to suspend over 50 members for N.P.D. I also know that this is around 20%  of their current membership.  

Here’s what I also know - I believe I know why. i.e., They’re not  “making Masons.” They’ve been continually creating churn. I  know because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. e.g., It’s a wanna-be social club parading as a masonic one. And it’s doing both horribly. 

Personally, if I wanted to join a “social club,” I’ve had my pick of all of them over the years. Being fortunate to hold the positions I  have, more often than not, I was sought and chased but never joined. (Some were very exclusive with very high bars just to be considered. Not bragging, it’s just what it is.) 

But here? I sought, joined, and now seem to be inferring at every turn - I’m not wanted (i.e., Doesn’t care about fish frys so obviously doesn’t care about the lodge, so forget him!) because I  dare want what the fraternity offered prior: True Light. 

Again, said differently: Wants more than a Short Talk reading at a  meeting.  

Usual reaction?  

“We don’t need ‘his’ kind here! We’re doing fine without that stuff,  thank you very much. Oh, by the way, do we have a quorum to open? Has anyone counted? Hello? Anyone?”  

It’s maddening. 

So now the obvious question you’re asking is: “Then why did (or  are) you staying if this is the case?”  

(I would also assume many more might also be saying “Don’t let the door hit you…” And that’s fine also.) 

But again, it’s a great question, and here it is… 

I am a big believer in both serendipity and synchronicity. And I  believe I had a moment of both precisely when I was  contemplating (via contemplative masonic practices) my then  predicament, recalling a line by Joe Strummer of The Clash  “Should I stay or Should I go?” 

The words that came to me during this process (or thought, if you  will) were this: “You need to stay because you’re a keeper of the  Light, which is the All, important.”  

So that was my “serendipity” moment if you will and with that, I  renewed.  

(Believe what you wish, call it full of sh#t also, if you prefer, I  don’t care either way. Now back to the story…)

However, as all well and good as that was. In a way, I was still  left with a bit of “Was I really doing the right thing, or was I just  acting on some internal dialogue of my own creation that was  really nothing more than an echo chamber within my own mind of  what I hoped rather than what I was discerning as direction?” 

That’s when I had my synchronistic moment… 

I received out-of-the-blue a link to a discussion held at William O.  Ware Lodge of Research, now posted at the Rubicon Masonic  Society’s YouTube page. It featured WB Robert G. Davis presenting a keynote at their private dinner event.  

I was riveted by the content and the straight-shooting style he delivered it with. It was both precisely what I needed to hear and when. Hence, the synchronistic aspect. (There’s a link to it here  on the MF’s site posted earlier in November 2022.) 

Everything he pointed out and addressed I had inherently felt and been pondering. The difference for me going in was, I felt I was possibly falling more into isolation with it (i.e., this aspect of the issues) by overanalyzing and/or hoping for too much.  

This talk helped clarify many of these incongruences. In other words, “It’s not you - it’s me. Well, maybe it is you.” 

I am truly sick and tired of the so-called “reverence” and  “importance” regarding the fraternity mouthed by members who are far more concerned about ending meetings early as to get to somewhere else (cough) bar (cough) for a few before disbanding.  Or, have nothing more to offer than “Hey, let’s plan a _________  (fill in your own fish fry, pancake, golf, etc. here) to raise money for another scholarship or charity. Again, it’s all just maddeningly mundane on so many levels to anyone “who’s been around” if you will.

Recently in one jurisdiction, there’s been much fanfare about recent membership numbers and their affiliation to “One Day”  classes. Personally, I can be swung to either side of the argument about why these can be either good or bad. I get it. 

However, what I firmly oppose is the idea that “one day” Masons aren’t being robbed of the initial experience that true initiation practice (when done properly) provides. And the fervor to create more “Masons” via this method is doing nothing (in my estimation) more than creating churn.  

Sure, some numbers may indicate things are going up. But are they really? Especially since “the backdoor” is also quite busy with N.P.D.s.

Let me use another example… 

In a jurisdiction, there was an impending issue where thousands of members were about to be suspended for N.P.D. that year.  However, emergency action was taken to align the dues payment requirement for the suspension to align with one of the other concordant bodies (i.e., Blue Lodge with the others). 

If this had not happened - thousands (yes, not a typo) of members would have been suspended N.P.D. So, the reasoning was, this would be tragic so, if we align our rules so that the dues payments and suspension protocols align with each other - crisis solved! 

I’m going to ask you as you’re sitting here reading this just one question, but before you answer, a caveat. Ready? 

The jurisdiction that did this (changed, as in pushed back, the dates for suspension) was also the same one that was celebrating recent membership numbers.

Now, what do you think? 

I’ll tell you what I was: You read it at the opening. 

Becoming a Mason is not some right of passage that’s available  to any and all “wonderful guys.” It’s an initiatory practice that enables the route for great guy’s to become meaningful men. 

When I heard WB Davis discuss that very point, it was in that moment I knew precisely why I not only joined - but will now remain. i.e., I now know where I probably fit in best and needed the most: Preserving the Light that is, and what Freemasonry stands for, and will always remain.  

The social club aspect and its followers of this model are destined for the dustbin regardless if they know it or not. Sure,  there are positively good and great men within it. However… 

Unless they are practicing Freemasonry with the reverence and dignity it requires - then they are Masons in name only. Sorry, but that’s the cold hard truth, period. And I’m unapologetic in both my saying it, as well as believing it. Again, period, full stop. 

What I have now come to realize, with renewed vigor and focus,  is just how important the now ever-growing assortment of research lodges, masonic societies, podcasts, blogs, cons, and more are to the stability and well-being of the Craft going forward. 

They are where “The Light” is both being preserved, as well as allowed to show brightly with no apology. As a matter of fact,  with a bit of a healthy attitude.  

This is where I now find myself most comfortable. 

I will at some time return back to a Lodge with all the zeal and fortitude that I had when I first petitioned. But only when I feel I’m entering what is considered a Masonic Temple… 

Not a social club. 

As WB Davis argued in his speech - I’m ready for the Rubicon. 

My dues payment allows me to stay in the fight. A fight that is worthy of any and all that truly call and live their lives: as a Mason. 

What say you? 

Mark St.Cyr 

Freemason

From the archives: Black Friday - A Chance to Exercise the Art

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


Amidst the debates on whether or not stores and businesses should close for the Thanksgiving holiday, there are those underlying thoughts about the day after Thanksgiving -- Black Friday. Black Friday is a day for retailers nation wide, to throw open their doors and deliver savings so big, so amazing, so insane, that the public will be motivated to get up and go to those retailers at 12:01 am.

The days following Black Friday seemed to echo the sombre and sickening pathos normally attributed to that shroud, that color we typify with the color Black. We watch news clips on television, YouTube and cell phone videos of human beings, reverting to ferocious animal states as they battle one another over monetary savings.

Kids trampled to death, men and women alike suffocating in the thick of herds of what can now only be some distant cousin, some untamed, ungoverned, rapacious beast. But alas, it is us. It is human, although unrecognizable.

This year, stores did close and then decided to stave of some of the anarchy by opening later in the evening on Thanksgiving. I decided that for the first time since the last and only other time I had gone Black Friday Shopping, to go out to see what I could see.


What I saw did not disappoint. I don't mean that in any way to suggest I was looking for disorder, rather, I was hoping to see people being people. People caring and being courteous. Amid the sea of winter coats and red Starbucks cups, were the voices of happy people, saying "Excuse me", and complementing each other and of course, complaining about the long lines.

The moral fabric of humanity is a weave of altruistic principals, something we practice as Freemasons. It is something we are charged to do. To be courteous, kind, friendly, humble, to be the example. In the coming weeks we will be tried, Brethren. We will be taken to the edge and back again. Our patience, our affability will be put in the spot light. Use the stresses of the season to exercise our art of Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love.

I know it can be hard, but the stakes are as high as they've ever been, and the world is watching. Be Freemasons.

~RHJ

Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He also serves as the District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.