Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction Looks Forward

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


Illustrious John Wm. McNaughton 33°, the immediate Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (AASR-NMJ) has written a new book titled Reclaiming the Soul of Freemasonry. It is available online in the Scottish Rite store or on Amazon in the Kindle version.

Brother McNaughton lays out his opinions on the current state of Freemasonry and in the forward writes:

“Today, many Masonic leaders no longer prioritize the same lofty ideals as did our forefathers. Focus has turned from the timeless principles of our craft to the ephemeral practice of arbitrarily enforcing rules and regulations. It is painful to think about what happened to the golden age of Freemasonry, when our members cared more about each other than about edicts and procedures. Today, it seems that some leaders of the fraternity are more concerned about the needs of the institution than the needs of the members. Buildings come first. Ritual comes first. Procedures come first. Everything but our obligation to each other has been given priority.”

In many ways, I believe McNaughton is spot on with this assessment. Think about the meetings of your local lodge or appendant bodies. What percentage of time is spent on topics such as the roof on the building, planning the pancake breakfast or reading the mail? What percentage of your meeting is spent on education? My bet in 99% of the cases is that education is a very small part, if any of your meeting.

AASR-NMJ commissioned a study whose purpose was to examine the issues within the fraternity and solicit input from both members and non-members. The survey itself was not included in the book, but McNaughton makes several references to what was found.

He writes that the survey makes an examination of the Millennial and Boomer generations, finding both generations share similar priorities such as wanting to be part of organization that makes a difference and the desire to be heard and respected. Common shared values included loyalty, authenticity and equality.

The conclusion is drawn that the Boomer generation should be the target market for recruiting new members into Freemasonry. That by doing so will ignite a generational interest that will in time also attract the Millennial generation to also join.

The book then explores what the survey said was the right message to attract new men to Freemasonry. Respondents essentially said they were much more interested in an organization that espoused the values they stood for and not long dead historical Masons.

The internal membership survey asked what current Scottish Rite members expect from the fraternity. Three primary areas were identified: first was that Scottish Rite members want more interaction with their leadership, more engagement with one another, and the ability to dive deeper into the craft (education). Second members stated they wanted to see more modern communication methods to enhance the member experience. Finally, the biggest challenges facing the Scottish Rite are related to interpersonal conflicts. The last point is explored in detail.

Brother McNaughton then explores the topic of ritual memorization and its relationship to leadership within the fraternity. Does the ability to memorize equate to the value a member can bring to the fraternity? Again, he explores this at some length.

The book looks at technology, member education and the Scottish Rite membership’s desire to have more of both and integrated together. Not for supplanting social gatherings or interpersonal relationships, but to further build their individual masonic knowledge.

AASR-NMJ emphasizes brothers caring for one another, which McNaughton argues is a critical step into keeping our obligation and as a key element for attracting new members into our ranks. He concludes that it is this obligation that should be emphasized and that the survey results verify this is where the organization and Freemasonry should go.

I agree with much of what Brother McNaughton has written. However, I do have concerns that the Boomer generation should be the primary target of membership growth. While I agree that many in this age group may have more free time than younger generations who are engaged in careers and/or raising children, I personally have found that these groups are also ripe for membership growth.

It was unclear to me the role member education will play in attracting new members in the new plans, but I am hopeful it will be a center piece, not only for attracting new members, but also for the existing membership. I firmly believe that masonic education is vital to both attract and retain members not only in the Blue Lodge, but also in the local Scottish Rite Valley, where it is virtually non-existent today.

I concur with McNaughton in regard to ritual memorization. Yes, I understand that ritual when done right necessitates having the parts memorized. This has been a timeless means of portraying our degrees to the candidate. But too often the ability to memorize is considered the key attribute to providing leadership within Masonry. While I am impressed with the ability of those who can memorize long passages of ritual, I often wonder if they have any idea what it means.

Overall, I think this is a well written book. I have seen comments questioning the methodology of the membership survey and as stated earlier the detailed survey results are not included in the book. But I will reserve my final opinions until I have an opportunity to see what the AASR-NMJ will be rolling out. Without a doubt, there will be many critics of what comes forth and that is OK, good civil debate is sorely needed within our fraternity, especially about our future.

Regardless I think we owe Brother McNaughton a debt of thanks for getting this process started and sharing his thoughts on how the fraternity, both the Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite should go into the future.

He cares deeply about our fraternity and so do I.

~GJK

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.

Unsung Heroes

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR


Publishing is hard. Just ask Robert Johnson, the Managing Editor of this blog. Every week you can come here and read three new articles on Freemasonry and then go about your business. Very simple. There is a lot, however, going on behind the scenes to bring those articles to you. He faces some of the same problems publishers have had since Gutenberg's brainstorm gave us movable type. That said, Right Worshipful Brother Robert has a "leg up" on some publishers when it comes to getting those articles to you. Once he has gone through the process of reading, editing, spell-checking and making sure an article is appropriate he heads for his computer and… presto-change-o! He hands it to you on the Internet, that land of science and technology with a bit of magic thrown in.

Given that, consider the life of a Brother… say… a quarter-century ago. The Internet was there but not for him and not for his Lodge. For that Brother to get a Masonic publication at home it was going to come to him through one portal… his mailbox.

This method of delivery presented a few extra steps and challenges for publishers back then. Still, it was kind of an easy process for the Brother receiving the publication. He brought in the mail, grabbed his pipe and slippers, sat back in his easy chair and spent some quiet time reading the latest Masonic magazine or newsletter. When you think about it, given the frenetic lives people live today and the fact they always seem to be staring at some kind of screen, getting publications that way can be a nice change of pace; and some of them still come that way, don't they? Many state magazines, The Royal Arch Mason, Knight Templar magazine, The Scottish Rite Journal — are hard-copy publications. They are also larger-scale operations with budgets, and in some cases a staff, that can get the job done.

It's also likely you receive other publications like newsletters and bulletins from smaller Masonic groups. Consider the work it takes to get those to your mailbox. The people who distribute these smaller publications face the same issues as bigger publishers, but have to rely on volunteer help, a bit of creativity and hard work to get those items to your door.

Judy VanVickle edits one such publication, the High Twelve Highlights, in St. Joseph Missouri. Her sixteen-page monthly newsletter has a circulation of 260 and what she does is typical of the work other small-publication editors have to do.

"I use Microsoft Publisher for most of the work," she says. "Some of the articles come in Microsoft Word format while some are in longhand. I have to type the handwritten articles myself. I have a standard layout and Publisher usually handles the formatting. I get clip-art from lots of places and use that and cartoons to fill any empty spaces."

Once the layout is complete she sends the file to a professional printer who prints and collates the pages. "Then," says Judy, "we have a 'stuffing party.' We fold, staple, crease and stuff the envelopes and get everything ready for bulk mailing." She says she serves donuts at the party, which seems to be as much fun as work. Judy always includes the names of her helpers in the newsletter.

The Highlights newsletter is ad-supported. This helps defray the cost of the printing and mailing but adds more work to the process. Individual members divide up the work of selling the ads then the group's Treasurer, Brother Al Patterson, sends the artwork to Judy, ready to insert in the newsletter.

Judy realizes the newsletter would be less work and expense online, "but," she says, "so many of our readers just don't make use of the Internet."

So the next time you go to your mailbox and find one of these small publications, remember the men and women getting the newsletters and bulletins out are some of the unsung heroes of our craft. Then, with or without pipe and slippers, enjoy the product from these small but important Masonic quarries.

~SLH


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

My Visit with Brother Harry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


Several months ago we had to visit Saint Louis for a business trip. We had a great time seeing the sites, visiting museums (and eating barbecue). On the way home I was asked where I would like to visit.

It was a hard decision. There are so many places we could have visited. I finally decided on a destination. I want to visit Brother Harry Truman in his hometown of Independence, Missouri.

The drive to Independence was fun. Missouri got to “show me” much of their state on that day. I regretted my health wasn’t better during that trip so we could have stopped in Fulton, Missouri and seen a museum dedicated to another one of my boyhood heroes, Brother Winston Churchill.

In 1946 Churchill visited the tiny little Westminster college in Fulton after being invited to speak there by the college’s president and Harry Truman. It was in this speech Churchill first used the term “Iron curtain” when referring to the Soviet Union and the other countries which made up the Eastern block. The college has a small museum dedicated to Churchill and that historic day. I would have also liked to have visited the graves of Ray and William Denslow.

After checking into our hotel (and eating more barbecue) the next morning we traveled west to the Harry S Truman Presidential library.

This was my second visit to the library. When I was in high school we visited the library on the way to Kansas City to attend the National FFA convention in 1982. At that time I was young and although I was a lover of history when I was 16, the trip, while interesting, didn’t have the impact on me at the time that it’s memory had on me as I learned about the man throughout my life, reading such books as "Truman" by David McCullough and "Brother Truman" by Allen Roberts.

The library has lots of wonderful exhibits. From his birth through his life and presidency all the way through his later years. We really enjoyed the many multimedia exhibits that I’m sure wasn’t there during the early eighties.

I was very excited to see they had an exhibition containing Brother Truman’s Masonic history and included such possessions as his Masonic apron (I know. I wondered why the apron wasn’t with Harry too. The exhibit didn’t say.) His Shrine fez and lots of photographs of the mans Masonic career were on display.

Once done touring his artifacts we went into the garden and paid our respects to the Past Grand Master of Missouri and the 33rd president of the United States and his wife, Bess. I was surprised that Truman’s daughter Margaret, is also now buried there along with her husband, Clifton Daniel.

After our visit (and even more barbecue), we decided to drive by Harry and Bess' home which is near the library. I wanted to tour the house but, much like in Fulton, my health wouldn’t allow it then. We were surprised how “normal” the house was. Just a common home for a common man who just happened to become president of the United States.

It’s interesting to note Harry was never the actual owner of the house. The white Victorian home was owned by his wife Bess' family, (Bess' father,  David W. Wallace was once Grand Commander of Knights Templar in Missouri).

Politically Harry and I couldn’t be more different. But I can admire a man who came from nothing and kept working until he became the most powerful man in the world. All the while, speaking his mind and standing by the principals he believed in. And doing so leaving us many powerful (and some very funny) stories to remember him by.

Now that I have read my friend and Brother (and most importantly fellow Hoosier) Steve Harrison’s book “Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi”, I have realized there is so much more for the “Show me state” to show me!

Luckily Brother Harrison has just released a new book entitled Masonic Memoranda of Frederick L. Billon. Billon was a pioneer in Missouri in the 1800’s and kept a Masonic journal about what happened within the Craft in a time where much of the Fraternity’s history has been lost or destroyed. This should be an interesting read.

From Brother Mark Twain, Harry Truman to Frank Land and many other famous Masons, some world famous and others who are famous only to Masons that called Missouri home (including the first grand master of my mother Grand lodge, Alexander Buckner), I plan on visiting the state again! I hope you will consider visiting it too!

~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.

The Highest Level of Valor

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor that our country bestows upon those serving in the armed forces for action against an enemy force.

I recently had the absolute privilege of having a Congressional Medal of Honor in my office at the University of Illinois Library. This medal was awarded to Major Kenneth M. Bailey of Danville, Illinois who was killed in action during the battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands on September 1942.

Bailey was a 1935 graduate of the University of Illinois and is the only Illinois alumni to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor. After graduation from Illinois, Bailey joined the United States Marine Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant on July 1, 1935.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor Hawaii and our participation in WW II had begun. The 1st Marine Raider Battalion, of which Bailey was a member, were ordered from San Diego to Tutuila, American Samoa, arriving there April 30, 1942

By the summer of 1942, the Allies had made plans for a major offensive in the Solomon Islands, which were held by the Japanese. These Islands were vital for supply lines which the allies needed to resupply and support their troops.

On August 7, 1942, 8 months to the day after Pearl Harbor, the allied forces invaded at several locations in the Solomons under an offensive designated Operation Watchtower. Part of Operation Watchtower included taking a very small island known as Tulagi. Company C, 1st Marine Raider Battalion under the leadership of Bailey was given this task. The allies had surprised the Japanese and fierce fighting ensued. Bailey was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his heroism at Tulagi.

As Bailey and company C were fighting in Tulagi, other Marine units had invaded Guadalcanal and could take the airfield which was later named Henderson Field. Guadalcanal was a small but strategic location within the Solomon Islands. The Japanese forces had been building an airfield and base that was intended to cut off vital Allied supply lines.

But the Japanese were determined to retake Henderson Field and attacked the Americans’ relentlessly. Company C having left Tulagi was sent to Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal to help the allies hold and defend Henderson Field.

September 12-14 saw fierce fighting with the Japanese who had penetrated some of the American lines on Bloody ridge near Henderson field. Bailey led his men in repulsing a Japanese attack on their position. Two Japanese bullets pierced his helmet. Exhausting hand to hand combat continued for 10 hours. The Marines had repulsed the Japanese attack and held Henderson field.

On September 27, 1942, Major Bailey was killed by a Japanese sniper as Company C was fighting along the Matanikau River. For his actions in the battle at Bloody Ridge he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Holding Major Bailey’s medal was a humbling experience. I couldn’t help but think about his tremendous story of service and sacrifice to ensure that our country and freedoms would endure for future generations.

Thank you, Major Bailey, for your dedication, service and personal sacrifice to ensure the United States of America remains a free nation and beacon of light for the world.

~GJK

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.