The Meeting

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


The Lodge room looked better than I had ever seen it. Magnificent, actually. The officers' chairs were solid walnut with gold filigree inlaid designs of the working tools. An Italian marble podium sat in front of each of the warden's chairs with an intricate swirling design that matched marble insets on the walls around the room. New deep blue wall-to-wall carpeting covered the floor. A crystal chandelier illuminated the altar and an ornate Letter G hung above the Master's chair in the east.

I was encouraged by the size of the crowd at the meeting — probably over 100 Brothers. I couldn't help but think how great it was that the Grand Lodge had voted to change things to allow lodges to make every use of the technology available, a move I was certain had everything to do with the large number in attendance.

I saw Joe, an old friend, across the room and went over to greet him. "Wow," I said, "I haven't seen you in years. When did you get back in town?"

"I didn't, Brother Steve." he replied.

"Me, either," I said and we chuckled at our little exchange.

The Master called the meeting to order and we all took our seats. Some things change and some don't. After the opening ceremonies the Secretary read the minutes and the Treasurer gave his report. During the business part of the meeting we discussed the sad state of our Lodge furniture, something which seemed inconsistent with the gorgeous view I had of my surroundings. Based on the Treasurer's report we decided we didn't have the funds to do anything about it now, but with participation up under the new rules, maybe we could do something next year.

The reason I go to meetings these days is the Masonic education, and that meeting did not disappoint. We took a walking-tour of the Loge des Neuf SÅ“urs as it appeared during the time Ben Franklin was a member. Then, the main speaker, Brother George Washington, spoke on his thoughts about the fraternity, a presentation based on his writings and experiences during his lifetime.

The Master closed the Lodge and I greeted several more old friends before leaving. Conversing with them after the meeting we agreed it had been an inspirational evening and would look forward to more of this kind in the future.

A great evening at an end, I popped the Virtual Reality contact lenses out of my eyes, and re-acclimated myself as I looked around the bare VR room surrounding me. "I'd really like to go back home and visit that Lodge," I said to myself, "Gosh, I don't think I've been back there since about 2025." Then, I leaned on my walker and slowly made my way back to my room at my retirement home in Florida.

~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and 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. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

My Masonic Ring - A History

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM



There are thousands of designs and variations in Masonic rings. Much like a fingerprint, each ring is as distinct and different from the next as the individual who wears it on his finger. From an inexpensive ring made of a dull material to a custom ring of fourteen karat gold designed by its owner, to an heirloom passed down through a family for generations, a Brothers ring not only tells the world he is a member of the world's oldest fraternity but also tells a little about the man himself. Each ring has its own story, and listening to these stories can be quite fascinating. Each one, no matter cost of the ring to the owner, is priceless, because of its story and what the ring signifies. 

My ring is no different. In 2002, after my petition for membership was voted upon and my degree work scheduled, I began to look at Masonic rings. I must have sent away for every Masonic catalog I could find. Sitting alone at night, I would look through each one like a kid at Christmas time. I would look at each ring and dream of how it would look on my hand. Finally, after months of debate, I settled upon a design. In my mind, it would be the perfect ring for me to display my pride of being a member of the Fraternity. 

In October of 2002 I was finally raised to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason. The next morning I went to a local jeweler who also happened to be a member of my new lodge and placed the order for my ring. I took the catalog to the jeweler with me so I could show him the exact ring I wanted, and so there wouldn't be any mistake.  It was a large gold ring with a big blue stone. The Brother smiled (I'm not sure if he smiled because of my enthusiasm or because he made a sale) and he assured me it would be perfect when it arrived…in three weeks. 

THREE WEEKS! How in the world would I subdue my passions for three weeks until my new beauty arrived? I kicked myself for waiting so long in ordering my ring. I finally convinced myself that waiting to receive my ring after my Master Mason degree was much easier than waiting to wear a ring I had in my possession for months before I was entitled to wear it. 

After a very long and tortuous twenty one days, I got a call from my jeweler telling me my ring had arrived and I could finally pick it up. I'm sure it really wasn't like this in real life but when I look back at that moment in time my memory goes to an event in a movie; I remember looking at my new ring with an angelic type heavenly choir singing in the background, and as I moved my fingers the rays of light which appeared from the Grand Lodge above made it sparkle.  It had finally arrived. 

Like a young girl who had just received an engagement ring, I walked around thinking everyone was looking at my new status symbol. The Brethren of my lodge complimented my purchase. One of the Brothers complimented it (I think) by saying “Oh my, it is really…large.”  Ok, so it was a little showy, but I felt that the purpose of such a piece of jewelry so that the world would know I was a member of the world's greatest fraternity. 

After several years of wear, my beautiful, shiny ring began to lose its luster. Wearing it twenty four hours a day garnered nicks in the gold. The blue stone received several chips in the cuts of the facets and some of the enamel in the middle of the square and compass had fallen out. I had also began to lose some weight, and my well fitting ring now was too loose, and I even considered not wearing it for fear it would slip off and become lost. While I'm sure I was the only one to see these flaws, in my mind they were glaring. I decided that once I became Master of my lodge, I would consider replacing this ring with a Past Masters ring. 

In the fall of 2006 while I was Senior Warden of my lodge, I attended the Indiana Masonic Home Festival in Franklin, Indiana. It was a beautiful day. I got to visit many friends I rarely was able to see since we all lived so far apart across the state. After a long day, I was sitting down to rest when I heard a familiar voice and a hand upon my shoulder. Standing behind me was my friend and Brother James Barkdull, Grand Master of Masons in Indiana and Carl Cullman, then the Grand Photographer for the Grand Lodge. 

The three of us started talking. It had been a fine day and we all commented on the success of the day's event. Brother Barkdull asked me if I would do him a favor. Of course I agreed; Most Worshipful Barkdull was a good friend, and one doesn't say no to a Grand Master. 

Brother Barkdull asked me if I had heard of the song “Masonic Ring” by Brother Howie Damron. At that point in my life I had not heard it yet. Jim told me about it and how they wanted to get photographs of brothers shaking hands to show show on the screen while the song played at the next Grand Lodge session. We started shaking hands for the camera but Brother Cullman suggested we switch rings. Apparently the swap would make the picture better. 

I gave Grand Master Barkdull my ring and I put on his. It was a simple gold ring, average size, and fit me perfectly. Once the photos were taken, we were commenting on how we liked each other's ring more than the ring we wore to the festivities. Jim suggested “Why don't we swap rings until I install you as Worshipful Master in a few months.” In my mind it was a great idea. I would wear this ring which I preferred, and once I was Master I would look into getting my Past Master ring. It was the perfect plan. 

Over the next few months I really hated the idea of giving up that ring.  Pardon the pun, but the Grand Masters ring fit me like a glove. It was beautiful, and I didn't need to worry I would lose it because it was too loose. And I must admit, it felt good when a couple of Brethren I knew who had aspersions to be Grand Master someday were green with envy at the thought of me possessing the Grand Master’s ring. 

In December, the date arrived in which I was to be seated into the Oriental Chair of my lodge.  Grand Master Barkdull had agreed nearly a year before to install me as Master. It was a great honor.  The evening went very well. I was the first new Worshipful Master of my lodge in nearly six years. It was a great celebration!

Once I was in my chair in front of the group assembled, Grand Master Barkdull and I told the audience about our little swap. Jim asked me if I wanted my old ring back or did I want to make our swap permanent. With a smile on my face I agreed to the permanent swap. I have worn that same ring since then. Several years later, Jim told me he had picked up the ring from a pawn shop in Elkhart Indiana. I never asked him what he paid for it but I'm sure it wasn't a lot.

I never did purchase a Past Masters ring or any other Masonic ring. I will always treasure the ring I have. To me, it also proves that behind every piece of Masonic ring there is a story, and that the sentiment behind the piece makes it more valuable than the precious metals it was made from.

~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.

Which Bible Will Trump Use?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

This week Donald Trump will take the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States of America. It has been a tradition since George Washington was sworn in that the President take his oath of office while swearing (or affirming) on a bible of his choice.

The story goes that all the preparations for the first inauguration were made, when at the last minute the realization was made that a bible had not been brought for President-Elect Washington to use in taking the oath of office.

St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in New York City was nearby and they describe on their website the actions in detail:

Everything was ready for the administration of the oath of office to the President of the new government, when it was discovered that a Holy Bible had not been provided on which the President-Elect could swear allegiance to the Constitution. Jacob Morton, who was Marshal of the parade, and at that time Master of St. John's Lodge, was standing close by. Seeing the dilemma they were in, he remarked that he could get the altar Bible of St. John's Lodge, which met at the Old Coffee House on the corner of Water and Wall Streets. Chancellor Livingston begged him to do so. The Bible was brought, and the ceremony proceeded. The stately Washington took his oath with his right hand resting on the Bible which had been opened to Genesis XLIX and L. His head bowed in a reverential manner, he added in a clear and distinct voice, "I swear, so help me God!" then bowing over this magnificent Bible, he reverently kissed it, whereupon Chancellor Livingston exclaimed in a ringing voice, "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!"

George Washington Bible at the Annual Communication 
of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in 2009

The constitution does not require that the President take the oath on a bible, but nearly all of the President’s since Washington have done so. Those that have not include; John Adams who used a book of the law to take his oath, Teddy Roosevelt only used a bible for his second term, and Lyndon Johnson who used a Catholic missal. The St. John’s bible has been used by four other Presidents since Washington; Harding in 1921, Eisenhower in 1953, Carter in 1977 and Bush Sr., in 1989.

In 2013 CBS News did this excellent story on the Washington Bible.

So which bible if any, will Donald Trump use to take the oath of office? Or as some have suggested might he use his book “The Art of the Deal”? We will soon find out.

~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.

Craft Saturation and Acceleration

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Dan Gentry



What a weird day and age to be in the craft, don’t you think? A lot of saturation of lodges within a relatively small area. No more following the path with only a few lamps and the light of the full moon as you work your wagon to get to the lodge a long distance away, now we have motor vehicles and at least 3 lodges within 30 min drives from our houses (in many areas). In some area’s you have 2 or even three lodges that meet at the same building just different days. Would that not just blow the mind of the brothers that were in lodge in 1776. Populate the state with so many lodges, each with 100 to 250 members, but cannot get 7 to open, stretching their coffers as thin as they can all the while saying they cannot raise dues because it will stop brothers from coming out to lodge, or god forbid cut their per diem. We often talk about things like which light bulbs to buy and how to pay the bills if raising dues should happen, and then there are other "logistical" issues sometimes discussed likeif someone’s religious beliefs make them a brother or not.

I remember when I petitioned a lodge for degrees, I had no idea what I was doing. “Hi I’m Daniel,” I said as I came into the lodge, man I think I signed a petition for degrees that night, and I think that two out of the three men that signed my petition knew me for a very long time, I mean years so I had that going for me. I was in lodge as-soon-as-can-be, learning verbiage and lines, memorizing catechisms and not really understanding a damn thing of what was going on. Whew! Before I knew it I was a Master Mason, and it was during my third degree that I realized I had missed a lot during my first and second degree. "Man, I wish I could go back and really learn what… wait what? You want me to sit in a chair with a title and special what nots? Ok sure but what about… ok yeah got it, burnt out past masters, ok yes doing it every other time between two guys, right but I need to learn… oh he almost lost his wife because of how much he was doing here, huh... I mean could we just go over… I mean yeah I could be the Intender but what about, you know what never mind." And here we are now, I have moved WAY out of my jurisdiction, and I am taking my time finding a new lodge here in the great State of Washington, why? Because I am done with the go fast do fast get home fast attitude. Now that I am a more seasoned Master Mason I can go to these lodges here and feel no pressure as long as I am paying my dues at my old lodge. Great part is, they don’t know me, I get to just sit on the sidelines and take it in, because apparently so far, the Midnight Freemasons is not such a big thing here in the Seattle, Washington area.

If you get anything out of this, I beg each and everyone of you, slow down. Take your time and if anyone says they need time, give them time. Be patient, and more importantly, if you are burnt out, the answer is not burning out the new guy coming in, very few three year Master Masons can be successful Past Masters. Also, get out and travel as Master Masons, it amazes me as I travelled to Indiana and Wisconsin lodges when I lived in Illinois to find out that more Master Masons do not get out of their own districts let alone their own lodges, what else did you become a Master Mason for if you do not travel?

~Doc

Brother Daniel "Doc" Gentry is a Brother Master Mason under the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Mason's of the State of Illinois, in the 1st Northeast district. His sign is Leo, and has been known to enjoy long walks in blizzards. He is stubborn and has no plans of joining the York or Scottish Rite anytime soon. Also in his spare time, he is a great DM for D&D games. Sacred Geometery! You can reach him by email at doc@midnightfreemasons.org