A Night at the Johnson's

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Aaron Gardner

Note from the editor: This piece originally came to me a while ago, but had been pushed back due to some pertinent posts and dates which were promised to other articles. Better late than never. I also want to acknowledge my gratitude to Aaron for his kind words. ~RHJ

While traveling to Michigan from Oklahoma I was forwarded the opportunity to stop in Illinois and visit with Brother Robert Johnson. It was planned ahead of time to visit with him the first opportunity I had. It was long over due considering we have been writing for this blog together, quite sometime now. The opportunity just never presented itself with me being overseas when I started contributing to The Midnight Freemasons and being stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma for the remainder of my Army career. When I called Bro. Johnson I was already in Missouri traveling North ready to meet with him and his family. He answered and propositioned me to stay over the night and go to the first ever Masonic Symposium in the Midwest being held at Pleiades Lodge # 478. The trip to see Bro. Johnson, turned into an educational experience where I was able to meet many different faces of the Craft including Bro. Brian Schimian and the newest Midnight Freemason, Bro. Robert Walk. 

The first day I was in Illinois, Brother Johnson had to work and was going to be gone well into the night. I came to the Johnson’s house to be greeted by a couple rambunctious kids, RJ’s mom and the awesome Cori Johnson. With all the action going on in the house, I wonder how Brother Johnson finds time to work on Whence Came You, Iron Mike Magazine and this blog. He is truly talented when it comes to balancing family, work and Freemasonry.

A short while after I was welcomed into the Johnson home Bro. Schimian walked through the door and gave me a nice Fraternal hug. It was a pleasure, yet again, to meet him finally; especially after our long conversations starting back when I was deployed. He took me out to dinner to celebrate being a free man no longer in debt to the United States Government. Of course, while at dinner we couldn't stray away from talking about the Craft. We talked about everything under the sun but it always came back to the thing that brought us together in the first place: Freemasonry.  

When RJ got home, it was the same story. He greeted me with a Fraternal hug and we began talking; all three of us, about the wonderful Fraternity we are a part of. It is amazing how meeting with two men (and a lady), we could feel like we have met before. There was no such thing as awkward pauses, no worrying of offending one another, just three brothers getting together under one roof. We talked about everything from the esoteric, to ritual, to our personal lives. When brethren get together under one roof, regardless if you haven't met them in person before, there are no secrets. Being with RJ and Brian was as close to home as I could get without Emily. There is no way I could express how grateful I truly am to the Johnson’s for allowing me into their home, and to Brian for keeping good company until we were all together. I was about as comfortable as I could get. Just ask Bro. Schimian when he came down to the basement to wake me for the next morning, I didn’t even hear him on the stairs. (I hear everything while sleeping)

The next venture for us in this great friendship we have built was the Symposium. I am not going to take away from Brother Brian Schimian’s article, his article explained it quite well. It was a great time and met some great people that I have talked to for a long while, almost as long as I have been a Mason. It was humbling when talking with brethren, who I have never had the privilege to meet or speak with before, talk to me about things that I have written. When Brother Charles Harper Sr. shook my hand and greeted me like we have been friends for years, despite our differences and beliefs. The whole experience in itself was enlightening and opened my eyes to different ideas in the world of Freemasonry. Opened them so much that Brother Robert Walk and I talked about an idea that we both came up with separately. Granted, we had different thoughts about the idea but overall we had the same idea and just needed to discuss what our plan of action was going to be. 

With so much happening in the world of Freemasonry, I am blessed and honored to be working with some of the greatest minds in the Craft that I know today. From those who spoke at the Symposium, to those who write their own blogs, and to the men and lady who write for the Midnight Freemasons. Thank you all for showing me how great this Fraternity is and can be in the future with us working together. 


Bro. Aaron Gardner , an American Soldier who just recently transitioned into the Reserves after 8 years serving the Active Duty Army. He dedicates the majority of his free time to Freemasonry with his constant studies, writing and traveling from lodge to lodge to learn as much as he can regarding Freemasonry. He likes to relate his everyday life to the Craft and anything he finds he wants to spread to the world. It is his passion to study people, religion, history and Freemasonry. When he isn't working as a Soldier he is dedicating his time to the amazing and supportive Emily, writing about Freemasonry and writing his very own novel. His blog page is Celestial Brotherhood.

Memorial Day

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian Schimian

Originally called Decoration Day, a day of remembrance, was established in May of 1868, 3 years after the end of the Civil War.  The head of the Grand Army of the Republic declared that this day would be May 30th and celebrated by decorating the graves of the dead soldiers with flowers.

The first large observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery.  After a number of speechs, service members and children made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves as they recited prayers and sang hymns.

By the end of the 1800’s, “Memorial Day” celebrations were happening all over the Nation on May 30th.  After WWI, the celebrations were expanded to include all service personnel from any war.  Memorial Day as we know it today was declared a National Holiday by Congress and signed by President Nixon in 1971.  That same act is what moved the day of remembrance to the last Monday in May.

Gen. Logan’s (according to my research online, Logan was a Master Mason from Illinois, having been raised in Mitchell Lodge No. 85 in Pinckneyville, Illinois) order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 are as poignant today as they must have been hundreds of years ago: “with the choicest flowers of springtime, We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

To ensure that America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “Encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity.”.

All Americans are encouraged to pause at 3PM local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.  As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

So from all of the Midnight Freemasons to every Service Member, past & present, Thank You and may the Supreme Architect of the Universe forever be your guiding light, in this life and the next.  We would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the families of all the service members for the sacrifices that they make on a daily basis while their loved ones are off defending our freedoms here at home.

To those whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice, Thank You and may you rest well.  We have it from 


Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a father of two children. "Start Square, Finish Level"

63.8 Miles and An Endless Brotherhood

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian Schimian

This past week was relatively boring by my count. Even the last day of an Incident Command class I was taking had been canceled and the final exam rescheduled for toward the end of the month. Silly barricaded subjects…

As I went through my “ho-hum” routine as I was waiting to begin my new employment venture into outside sales, I begrudgingly removed myself from the horizontal position on the couch and fired up my laptop to play around on the inter-web. That just happened to be a few minutes after Brother William Hussey Jr. posted a link to about the “Illinois, Iowa & Wisconsin Tri-State Chapter Day” that was happening the next day, Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 in Freeport, IL. Bro. Hussey stated in this post, “Be there and see me!” Well, it just so happened that I was particularly vulnerable to a challenge at that exact moment. Besides, THE (Larger Than Life & Living Legend) William Hussey Jr. was going to be a mere 30 minutes from me! Not only was it a mission of mine to receive the York Rite degrees, but it would have been simply incomprehensible to allow such a “Legend” to be in the proximity of my home and not make every possible attempt at being in his company.

I immediately responded to Bro. Hussey’s post inquiring what I had to do. This sparked a tirade of private messaging and text messages to get things lined up. Being that I had yet to join a Blue Lodge in WI (my home Lodge is in IL), I was not able to petition a York Rite or Scottish Rite body. Jurisdictional… “issues”… However, in just over a week I would be attending my local Blue Lodge, Becknell #94 F&AM and seeking a Plural Membership. This brought Bro. Johnson into the plan. I would be petitioning the York Rite under the Charter of Waukegan RAM #41. It was short notice, but hey, they always order more green beans than they need for Masonic events. There should be plenty of room for one more.

Suddenly I went from extreme boredom to uncontrolled excitement. It probably didn’t help that I was getting coy messages from Bro.’s Hussey and Johnson… After all, I should have been done with all that goat nonsense years ago! But Brethren being as they are, I had a “surprise” waiting for me Saturday, I just didn’t know what or when. Kudo’s Brothers! I was up well past 2 AM that night. Several things contributed to this, but I won’t go into them here. We will just say that if you ask, you shall receive. I even ended up hearing from an old friend from my DeMolay days that I had recently been thinking about. “This thing of ours” really never ceases to amaze me.

Sometime long after midnight, I remembered that at some point in the initial degrees of the York Rite that I would have to create a “mark”. This would be My Mark for eternity, so I wanted to get it right the first time. I began crafting different designs, researching different things and scratching different ideas. After all, if a “Mark” doesn’t mean something, what is the point of making it, right? Well, eventually I was able to cobble together several different symbols and create something that would stand the test of time while meaning something to me, as well as any other Mason that saw it. Beginning with an early version of the Crusader’s Cross, I added Pillars, a Right Angle, Parallels and a Perpendicular. To me, it is all encompassing of our Craft.

At just after 6 AM, my eyes popped open and I saw the light coming in around the shades. I was wide awake and refreshed. I got cleaned up and donned my favorite pin striped suit and shirt, French Cuffs, of course. I jumped in my truck and headed south not knowing what to expect, other than another adventure in Brotherhood. As I entered Freeport, I was struck by the architecture and age of some of the buildings. Being that I had made the trip a little faster than I should have, don’t judge, I took a few minutes to ride around and take in the sights. As I parked in front of the Freeport Masonic Center, I was taken aback, like I am every time I see a majestic building that is dedicated to the Craft. The towering stonework and pillars are always beautiful to me.

Bros. Schimian and Hussey
I made my way inside and got registered. When I say everyone knew Bro. Hussey, I mean EVERYONE and there was no shortage of jokes to go around. I hung around the lobby saying hello to many new Brothers and checking out the regalia in the halls. Eventually, Bro. Hussey decided it was time to grace us with his presence at the Temple. I will admit, as I saw him enter the lobby, I did say to myself, Cripes! He is larger than life! Even though this was the first time taking Bro. Hussey by the hand, it felt as though I had known him for an eternity. Even if he may wear his ring upside down… Bro. Hussey even took his 2014 IL RAM pin from his own jacket and presented it to me. To say I was thankful or even humbled would be the understatement of the millennium.

The degree work began and I was intrigued from the get go. I love “this thing of ours” and take every opportunity to absorb as much as I can. Up to this point, aside from the Shrine, it had been almost 16 years since I sat in a Lodge Room as a “candidate”. The Fourth and Fifth Degrees were interesting, to say the least. Then we broke for lunch. This was the first time I had a “Masonic Meal” and there were no green beans. Just Saying. I must say though, there was still the looming “promise” from Bro.’s Johnson and Hussey. When they were asking for volunteers I happily obliged and said I was willing. The Brother just laughed and said that, “you are already taken care of”. What in God’s name does that mean?!?! Suddenly I had second thoughts about that potato salad I had just ate!

At the Valley of Freeport
After lunch was the Sixth Degree, which was interesting, and then, “go time”. It was the Seventh Degree and those promises were coming to be. I was instructed, along with two other Brothers to “be ready” and meet in the preparation room. As “luck” (or divine “Hussey” intervention) would have it, I was the number one exemplar, the first of three in line. We were tied to one another with the Cable Tow and eventually hoodwinked. as the blindfold was paved on me, time seemed to stand still. The conversations of the others behind me faded into the distance and I began to reflect. I was taken back to my childhood, helping my father and the rest of the great men making ready for a parade. The multitude of installations, picnics and Brethren from days gone by flashed before me. I could have swore that if I reached out, they would have been there. Suddenly I was 13, in the preparation room, wondering if I would be voted in to the Order of DeMolay. Then, peace. I don’t recall hearing anything that called my attention, just a calming peace with memories of my father and his father.

It had been 16 years since I knelt at an alter and took the solemn vows in the presence of my Brothers. Today it was a very humbling experience and an honor to have been again on bended knee, my hands upon a Volume of Sacred Law, swearing an obligation to the Craft and my fellow Companions of the Royal Arch Masons as I began my journey through the York Rite. Surely to most, this is just another example of earning that masters wage. But I, for some reason, as I am sitting here reflecting on the day, can't help but be overwhelmed by the Brotherhood that just continues to prove itself to be endless. “Blessed” does not even begin to describe how I feel at this moment. The only thing I would change about today, the one thing that is unchangeable, would be having my father beside me for this journey. Even still, I know he was with me in Spirit.

Brothers, I come before you as a humble person with simple beliefs. I could go on and on with analogy after analogy about this life, certainly my own past six months. But let me just narrow it down to this, “If It Is Meant To Be, It Will Be”. If you have read my past entries, you will know that many opportunities associated with the Craft have presented themselves to me, basically at the last minute. I always try to truly think about my actions before I do anything. These instances, when I really think of them, give me nothing other than a feeling of peace. As if I was talking directly to the Supreme Architect of the Universe and Hiram himself was leading me by the Cable Tow.

As I breath air into my lungs, I would give it all for you to have spent today with Butch. He understood more than he let on and certainly enjoyed the Brotherhood of the degrees more than anyone. But, being that I have been burdened with traveling without him at my side, I must pause and give thanks that you all have welcomed me. Brothers... Nay... Companions, Thank You. I am beyond humbled to have been received and included in these degrees of York Rite Freemasonry. I look forward to continuing my Journey into enlightenment with you. I may live by myself, but I surely never feel as though I am alone.

Virtue has united us all, and nothing shall take that away. Until we are able to again meet upon the Level, may the Supreme Architect bless you and be with you on your journeys.


Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a father of two children. "Start Square, Finish Level"

Becoming a Catechism Instructor

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Rob Walk Jr.

As I turned onto Orville Road via Eastern Avenue I was only a tad bit nervous. Just enough to grab the shifter of my bean can of a car with three white knuckles tightly clenched around it. As I rounded that corner I felt the caffeine stimulating my hyper-sensitive nerves to the point where I could feel my heart nearly beat out of my chest. At least it was pretty outside. Today is the day that I would return all three degrees' catechisms, in a row, to the Deputy Grand Lecturer, Past Master Gus Vorvoulas.

I always saw him as sort of a mythical creature. Not dissimilar to a jade Buddha statue in the deep thick of a middle-of-nowhere forest. I only saw him during officer line practices, and maybe one stated meeting every two months. Somehow everyone always spoke of this Past Master. One Brother that I met far and away from our lodge even told me to tell him, "hi Deputy" in his name! Who was this man, really? And just the fact that the first time we would have a serious one-on-one would be a very brain-tingling return of the degrees was nerve-wracking!

Up until now I was highly dedicated to the catechisms. Word-for-word I would repeat the answers to the questions during my breaks and downtime at work. I knew them like I knew my own face. What would save me on this day, however, was the fact that I also memorized the questions preceding them. I was able to go through the whole series, open to close, on my drives to and from work…but then I was Raised.

I became proficient in the 3rd Degree and more or less dropped the work. I became dedicated to what was happening within the walls of our building. The socializing, prepping for dinners, and learning the floor work for Senior Steward became my primary focus. The catechisms were, in so few words, behind me. I was then approached by the Worshipful Master to do catechism instruction. I had confidence I could completely it, but several weeks went by before I could meet with the Deputy Grand Lecturer to "certify" with him. By the time I was able to schedule our appointment with Past Master Gus, I very hurriedly had to look over my ritual monitor again. His only chance to meet would be -- you guessed it -- that very day.

I panicked inside, heart trembling, because I knew that enough time had gone by that I wouldn't remember all three 100%. I sat in the parking lot of the high school, waiting for my wife to come out. It was nearly the end of her day. I enjoy taking her to work on my days off. Today however I must have texted her four times trying to figure out if she was on her way. I nearly flew home and scarfed down my dinner in anticipation of my meeting with Gus. I drove down I-95 onto Eastern Avenue and right onto Orville Road. This was it. I came around the turn, eyes wide open staring at the rather ornate square and compasses that adorn our lodge hall. And as soon as I saw that I also saw the front end of Past Master Gus's car. He was outside waiting on me. ::Gulp::

We both stood up out of our cars, gave a rather "healthy" grip, and he finagled the door of the lodge open with his very "janitorial" looking key. This really could not have gone any slower. I felt the beads of sweat drip down my chest under my windbreaker. We took three steps into the lodge as he said, "would you lock that door behind you?" And his words reverberated through my skull like a judge telling a thief he would be sent to prison for the next 10 years. "Past Master, I'll be honest with you. I'm really nervous." He laughed a little bit and told me not to worry about it. He asked me about how I was enjoying my experience. Did I enjoy the 3rd Degree? And the topic at the forefront of my mind lately: Masonic Education. We must have sat there for 25 or 30 minutes simply bantering and bickering back and forth! And I'll be darned if that didn't near-immediately calm me down.

"Well, are you ready," he asked.
"Am now. Let's do it."

Now I'm sure you think I'm going to tell some fib about going straight through them without stopping. Well, I didn't. I had to eat some humble pie that day, because the latter half of the 2nd Degree was nearly lost to me.

I did the Entered Apprentice. "Good."
I did the Master Mason. "Good."

I tripped over the Fellowcraft, but I called him the very next day and we did it over a phone call. I finally found myself able to do the work that was so generously passed onto me. This Thursday evening I'll visit another lodge with Past Master Gus to witness the Knights of Mecca Raise a Brother to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. There he'll serve as the Worshipful Master. It will undoubtedly be a sight to behold.


Bro. Robert Walk Jr. is the creator and sole writer for On Freemasonry and Humble Pie: a Wordpress blog dedicated to his experiences and journey from being a petitioner, to Initiation, Passing, and to being Raised. A dialysis technician being his main work, he enjoys writing, rock climbing, drumming and craft beer in his free time. He is a Master Mason at Jephthah Lodge No. 222, A.F.&A.M. in Essex, MD.

Rediscovering The Lost Treasures Of Homer Lodge No. 199

by Midnight Freemasons Contributors
Gregory J. Knott
Todd E. Creason
The attic access at Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL)
Remember Geraldo Rivera when he was on live TV to open Al Capone’s vault to reveal all that treasure?  Homer Masonic Lodge No. 199 (IL) recently had our own version of this show.  We all knew there were a lot of things in the attic of the Homer Masonic Lodge.  The building was constructed in 1892 and has been used continually by the lodge since that time.  But what was exactly up there was generally a mystery.
Homer Historical Society Member Molly Shoaf and Homer
Secretary Denver Phelps look over some of the treasurers
On a Saturday morning, with the help of the Homer Historical Society, members of the lodge decided to bring down all the treasures from the attic and see what they were.  We had much better luck than Geraldo did!  It was like opening a time capsule from the past with items from 1856 to 1950.

There were Lodge by-laws from the 1850’s, copies of the Homer Enterprise newspaper from the late 1800s and early 1900s, petitions, old Christmas decorations and a large library of Illinois Grand Lodge Proceedings.
Some of the old papers and lodge items found stored upstairs in crates and cubby holes
Homer was also was home to Royal Arch Chapter No. 94 that finally gave up its charter in 2009 and the attic held a large amount of amount of Royal Arch petitions, annual proceedings and minute books.  An Eastern Star chapter was also at Homer and there were treasurers from these years as well.
Through the careful guidance of the Homer Historical Society, we are now going through all of the papers to get them organized and to be stored in manner that will preserve them for future generations.
1857 Lodge By-Laws
Homer Lodge No. 199 is now in the process of converting a spare room into a museum so that some of these items can be displayed in glass cases.  There were many interesting relics found in the attic that will be featured in this collection, including glass degree slides, phonograph records, a very old top hat worn by one of the Masters, several collections of officer jewels and regalia, old movie posters, etc.
We found more than one set of beautiful glass degree slides
There are also some unique lodge furnishings that will be displayed.  Ogden Lodge No. 754 recently donated an old altar that belonged to Broadlands Lodge (no longer in existence) that will be set up on display in the museum.
Entered Apprentice Degree music by the Sousa Band
Homer Lodge is going to have the music on this old phonograph record, one of several discovered, digitally mastered and preserved by the University of Illinois Library.

What was most likely the original collar worn by the Master of Homer Lodge
Like Homer Lodge No. 199, many of our old Masonic buildings have been around for a long time, and very few probably know all the hidden treasures they contain hidden away in desks, attics, basements, and cupboards.  So take a little time, and have a look at what your lodge may have tucked away in boxes and file cabinets.  And if you're not sure what you have, contact your local Historical Society, and I'm sure they'll be anxious to help you go through what you find.  What looks like junk to many people may contain very important lost pieces of history.  The Homer Historical Society has already found a number of newspapers and documents that were up in the attic that they didn't have in their collection.  Some of those items may very well shed new light on what life was like in our part of Illinois more than a century ago.


Todd E. Creason, 33°  is the founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is member of Homer Lodge No. 199, and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL). He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL).  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org
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.  He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana.  He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society.  Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. You can contact him at gknott63@gmail.com

How Many Freemasons Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

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

Q: How many Freemasons does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. Freemasons never change anything.

Oh, how we laugh when we hear that one, and how we lament hearing, "we've never done it that way," or "in my day, we..." or "the bylaws prevent it." That last one, of course, usually comes from someone who's never read the bylaws. It's true — we gather in our meetings and leadership conferences and vow we will change, or at least accelerate from our usual glacial pace to the breakneck speed of an aging snail.  Then we go back to our daily routines and, seemingly, nothing happens.  We're in a rut; and many of us... sometimes I think most of us... like our little rut.  Here are a couple of examples I've seen in my time in the advancing line of the Missouri Lodge of Research:

Brother Tom ended his tenure as a Grand Lodge official. Instead of sitting back and taking it easy, he became passionate about a longstanding project.  He wasn't "put in charge;" he took charge.  He spearheaded an effort to produce something that has become an important part of the Grand Lodge of Missouri.  He would be the first to tell you he didn't do it alone.  I'm not talking about that... I'm talking about leadership.

Brother Bill was a Past Master of a failing... well, faltering... Lodge.  During his year as Master he managed a complete turnaround.  At one point during his term I attended an event there with hundreds — hundreds — of Brothers in attendance.  I watched as he turned that Lodge into what another Brother called, "a shining star of Missouri Freemasonry."  Given his demonstrated leadership ability, the Lodge of Research called on Bill to coordinate a project.  That project succeeded beyond my expectations; and like Tom, Bill will insist he did none of it alone.  He's just a guy who knows how to get things done.

Kudos to Tom and Bill, right? 

Wrong!  Both were criticized relentlessly.  Tom "overstepped his bounds."  He "moved too fast."  He didn't "do things the right way."  Bill "bullied his way in" and "attempted to take over the Lodge of Research." (Not on my watch, Brothers. You can take that to the bank).

We can't have it both ways, guys.  We can't change, we can't get things done, we can't increase our visibility and attract members by turning key players into pariahs; but in a lot of instances, we do.  It makes it difficult to work within the system.

I'm not advocating us all becoming loose cannons.  Rather, I'm suggesting we recognize we have a lot of work to do to realize some of the goals we have all set for the fraternity; not the least of which is to mold the organization into something that will attract young men.  We don't have to give up our core values to do that.  We do, however, have to take action and honor, not vilify, the Brothers who step up as leaders.


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, will be released later this year.

What I learned at the Heartland Tournament of Champions

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

I don’t much care for long car trips, but sometimes they’re necessary. In November, my son, Jacob, quite to his surprise, came in first in Illinois DeMolay’s Fall Fest competition in Preceptor Five, Junior Division. He was, of course, delighted and proud, as were his mother and I. As state champion, he became eligible for Heartland Tournament of Champions, which was held on April 25 in Michigan. So, on Friday, Jacob and I, with his sister Kate and four of her stuffed animals, drove about eight hours to the hotel where the tournament was to be held, checked in with the Michigan DeMolay advisors, and found our room. The kids spent some time in the hotel pool, we had dinner, and then went to bed. The next morning, we found a Panera, had breakfast, got Jacob into his suit and robe, and went to the room where the individual Preceptors were to compete. Jacob was the first one there, and, after the judges explained the rules to him, he performed his ritual. We couldn’t stay till the awards ceremony, since I had another meeting on Sunday back in Illinois, so we hit the DeMolay store, bought a few things, packed up, and hit the road for the return trip, arriving back in Tuscola at 5:30, with a stop at a Bass Pro Shops store in Indiana, where the kids had a wonderful time without buying anything (although Kate begged). Jacob was happy it was over, and both kids were glad to be home.

I found out the next evening that he’d placed second, which he thought was just great, and he was ready to tackle some more ritual for the next Fall Fest. I figure he’ll be ready for the Magnificent Three (three Preceptors, recited  one after the other), and he agrees. He’s looking forward to it, and he’s learned a lot. So have I. I’ve learned that I probably need an attendant chiropractor if I’m going to drive more than about 400 miles in a day. I’ve been reminded that Bass Pro Shops has a toy section that Kate has demanded that we visit again, with money. I’ve learned that Jacob is capable of amazing things. I’ve discovered again that DeMolay is the best organization for young men I can imagine. And I know without question that my own Masonic career is a pale second place to what I can help my children accomplish. I drove nearly 900 miles in the space of thirty-three hours so that Jacob could do something for five minutes. With any luck, I’ll get to do it again.


R. W. B. Michael H. Shirley is Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M, as well as a Certified Lodge Instructor and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. A Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332, a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua Wisconsin and he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

Infallible Love

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian J. Schimian

From the day I knocked at the outer door of Lakes Chapter, Order of DeMolay, seeking light in the Masonic family there has always been one reoccurring theme: Love.  There are many references to our mothers throughout Masonic education, however none seem to touch on the love for our mothers the way that the DeMolay ritual and ceremonies do.

In a Lodge room setup for DeMolay, you would notice seven candles standing as sentries about the altar.  In the Light Ceremony, we learn that “the first candle is representative of the love between a parent and a child, even prior to being born”.  This unconditional love was called Agape.  In the Nine O’clock Interpolation, it is in the first line that the Master Councilor references “mothers bending above the beds wherein lie the children they love”.  During the initiation, candidates take charge of the Crown of Jewels, and learn the first jewel placed there on is the Jewel of Filial Love which is dedicated to our mother’s and the debt to them that we could never repay.

When we are initiated, passed and raised into the Light of Freemasonry, we build bonds with the Brethren around us and inevitably, their families, becoming part of the “Masonic Family”.  In the obligation of a Freemason, we learn that a man's duty to his family is paramount.  Given that we consider one another Brothers, so should we consider their Wives our Sisters.  A Brother’s Mother is revered as much as you revere your own.  Their children protected as though they were your own.

In the true Masonic Family, just as sure as night follows day, women must be considered an important and equal contributor to our Fraternity.  And I don’t just mean tolerating us being away for stated meetings, practices and Grand Lodge Sessions.  Without Women, there would be no Man, and thus no Masonry.

If you are ever blessed with being able to witness a DeMolay Chapter preform the Flower Ceremony, it will not soon be forgotten.  There is rarely a dry eye to be found. Below is an excerpt from that ceremony.

“Dedicated to our mothers, whose love never fails. You may rise to positions of great influence in commercial, political, or professional life, but you can never reach the heights of your mother's secret hopes for you. You may sink into the lowest depths of infamy and degradation, but never below the reach of her love. The memory of it will always stir your heart. There is no man so entirely base, so completely vile, so utterly low, that he does not hold in his heart a shrine sacred and apart for the memory of his mother's love.

Were I to draw you a picture of love divine, 
it would not be that of a stately Angel, 
With a form that is full of grace. 
But a tired and toil worn mother 
With a grave and tender face.

It was your mother who loved you before you were born--who carried you for long months close to her heart and in the fullness of time took God's hand in hers and passed through the valley of shadows to give you life. It was she who cared for you during the helpless years of infancy and the scarcely less dependent years of childhood. As you have grown less dependent, she has done the countless, thoughtful, trouble-healing, helpful and encouraging things which somehow only mothers seem to know how to do. You may have accepted these attentions more or less as matters of course, and perhaps without conscious gratitude or any expression of your appreciation. You are rapidly approaching the time in life when you will be entirely independent of your mother. The ties with which dependency has bound you to her may be severed as you grow older, but the tie of mother-love can never be broken.

Thinking back upon the years of your life when you have reached the threshold of manhood, your mother might well say in the words of the poet:

"My body fed your body, son, 
But birth's a swift thing 
Compared to one and twenty years 
Of feeding you with spirit's tears. 
I could not make your mind and soul, 
But my glad hands have kept you whole.
Your groping hands 
Bound me to life with ruthless bands. 
And all my living became a prayer, 
While all my days built up a stair 
For your young feet that trod behind 
That you an aspiring way should find. 
Think you that life can give you pain 
Which does not stab in me again? 
Think you that life can give you shame 
Which does not make my pride go lame? 
And you can do no evil thing 
Which sears not me with poisoned sting. 
Because of all that I have done, 
Remember me in life, O son. 
Keep that proud body fine and fair. 
My life is monumented there. 
For my life make no woman weep, 
For my life hold no woman cheap. 
And see you give no woman scorn 
For that dark night when you were born."

The flowers which adorn the altar are symbols of that mother love. The white, the love of the mother who is gone. And the red, the mother who still lives to bless your life.

Far in the dim recesses of her heart 
Where all is hushed and still, 
She keeps a shrine. 
'Tis here she kneels in prayer 
While from above long shafts of light upon her shine. 
Her heart is flower fragrant as she prays. 
Aquiver like a candle flame, 
Each prayer takes wing 
To bless the world she works among, 
To leave the radiance of the candles there.”

May we everyday, strive to make good on that debt that can never be repaid.

Happy Mother's Day.


Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a father of two children."Start Square, Finish Level"

The Critical Challenges Facing Masonic Leadership

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Edward A. Rund

Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of the State of Illinois April 27, 1996 (Revised April 24, 2014)


The challenges facing leaders of any organization today are particularly daunting and, given the scope and accelerating pace of changes impacting everyone, these challenges are likely to become even more demanding in the years ahead. And yet, both leaders and organization theorists continue to struggle with issues such as:

  • What is leadership and how is it to be distinguished from management?
  • How do we best define the purposes of an organization?
  • What draws people to particular products and services?
  • How is a good following to be achieved?

As I have grappled with these questions over the years, both in theory and practice, I have come to develop an image of what I believe to be the essence of good leader behavior. If you will imagine a large sheet of plate glass floating horizontally before you, upon which I toss a handful of iron filings, you can see how these filings would fall upon the glass in every conceivable direction. This is similar to the manner in which people work together in most organizations, each attempting to achieve his or her own agenda. However, if we were to take a strong magnet and pass it under the glass from one side to the other, we would observe how each of those filings, polarized by the force of the magnet, would all orient in one direction along the path of the magnet. To me, good leadership comprises those magnetic attitudes and behaviors which cause followers to orient all of their efforts in the chosen direction. Those combined energies then move the organization progressively toward accomplishing its mission and goals.

But what leader practices will accomplish such a feat? My research over the past few years suggests that it must begin with the clarification of purpose or mission, and the creation of a shared vision. A vision that stands clearly before all members of the organization such that they are powerfully drawn toward it and are willing to work diligently to bring it to fruition. Is it easy, certainly not or there would be a lot more successful leaders. This is not easy, but it is do-able with patience, persistence, and continuity over time.

As Burt Nanus states in his book entitled, Visionary Leadership, “There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared.”

Societal Forces and Change

Few aspects of modern society seem more pervasive and persistent than change. It has been well documented that the pace of change that we experience in both our personal and work lives is accelerating. The scope and pace of this change, although progressing at different degrees in both developed and developing nations around the globe, has reached a level and an interconnectedness that can best be described as turbulent. Formal organizations, such as ours in particular, are subject to the effects of frequent changes in our environment, whether they appear as threats or as opportunities. Almost everyone is affected by the changes occurring all around him. Just consider the explosive energy released in the past few years related to the Internet. All of a sudden people who would never have thought of owning a home computer are clambering to figure out how many megs of this and how many mega-hertz of that they will need.

Forces of change are often perceived as coming from the job, the community, the market place or even the government; however, many of these forces are societal or cultural in origin. Emil Durkheim, a nineteenth century French sociologist was one of the first to recognize, for example, that suicide which was always believed to be an individually triggered response was in fact a societally determined behavior. That's right; given a particular time period and nation, it was possible to statistically estimate the number of suicides that would occur based upon the turmoil faced by that nation. Closer to home, consider the effect that demographics of our aging population is having on American society, or the preoccupation we have all experienced with the entertainment revolution. Whatever one's particular preference, it can become an addictive escape from life's problems. Raised on video games, our young .adults find baseball and probably Freemasonry a bit too slow moving.

In response to this pervasive change, businesses and service organizations, as well as associations are findin g they must continually adapt to a multiplicity of the socio-technical, economic, and political changes if they are to survive and thrive. As Richard Beckhard suggests, "This 'white water' turbulence is forcing most leaders to examine the very essence of their organizations. They must examine their basic purposes, their identities, and their relationships with customers or members, competitors, and communities.

The most prevalent way for organizations to adapt is through a process of planned change. When that process includes a time perspective of four to six years, and assesses both internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external threats and opportunities, it is called strategic planning.

Current Problems and Issues

In examining current problems and issues, I thought it might be instructive to use a “force field analysis” approach, whereby we determine some of the forces that are keeping men from joining and other forces that are promoting their candidacy in our Fraternity. As mentioned earlier, changing demographics in regard to age distribution; life spans; gender ratios; milestone ages such as entering marriage, becoming a parent, career moves, and retiring are having a powerful impact on American society and the way we are evolving. Increasing ethnic and cultural diversity, single person child rearing, as well as breakdowns in such developmental institutions as schools and churches are generating significant changes in our system of values. Many of these changes are producing forces which work against becoming a Mason.

There is the growing pressure of time-demands as seen in the following examples:
  1. Two wage-earner families that must share in housekeeping and child rearing
  2. Pressure to become a careerist, sacrificing many life activities for the job, and even returning to school for
    advanced education in order to achieve promotions
  3. Increasing competition for a person's attention coming from the need or interest in joining certain organizations, the
    drive for personal fitness, or the allure of entertainment in its all forms.
All of these consume the limited time available in our 24-hour days. Additionally, the cultural encouragements to be self- centered and to push for immediate gratification tend to diminish the perceived values found in "joining" others or undertaking longer term development activities, especially of a moral nature. Finally, the flare-ups, as we have seen lately in anti-masonic communications or news of abuses within other philanthropic charities that clearly cast aspersions on organizations such as ours.

Should all this seem to make growth in Masonic membership appear hopeless? Let's look at the forces that might, prompt a man to join our gentle Craft. Given the hectic pace and growing pressures of modern life, many men are looking for a place of solace and relief from interpersonal politics. They are looking for the missing meaning or purpose in their lives and a way to replace the values that give guidance, values that our superficial, throw-away society didn't provide them as they were growing up. In essence, whether verbalized or not, they are searching for the means to construct a life philosophy. Surprisingly, many men describe the need to be of service to someone or some group other than themselves or their immediate family. We see this confirmed in the growing number of volunteer activities across the United States.

Remember, humans are social beings at the core of their nature. Men, especially, long for attachment and the positive affirmation that comes with “safe and dependable fellowship”. They enjoy being with like-minded people, yet having the opportunity to experience new ways of seeing things. Obviously we, as members, have come to know that Freemasonry provides an environment and opportunity to meet many of these deeper needs. As such, we can take advantage of these forces. We can propel our association if only by increasing our effectiveness in spreading the word.
Finally, given the above considerations, it would be helpful to look at just what men do with their time at difference ages and when they might be most receptive to our message. The Masonic Renewal Committee has done a fine job in identifying and presenting this data. The important point to consider is that while we cannot eliminate the forces working against us, once they are identified, we can work together to counteract them.

Freemasonry as a Partial, yet Viable Solution

Let us begin by reviewing the purposes of Freemasonry. At the heart of our Craft is the drive for moral development, i.e., building individual character. To this I would add functional development. That is first, the practice of lifelong learning, not just in Freemasonry, but across the arts and sciences and beyond. Secondly, it includes the use of critical thinking, or the capacity to regularly examine the assumptions underlying what we read and hear and question the validity of these assumptions. The next level of purpose relates to the practical methods of changing and improving behavior. This is done through regular fellowship with brethren, observing their good deportment and patterning ours thereafter. Lastly, are the purposes of applying Masonic standards of behavior in the community, being a good citizen, and extending charity and acts of kindness wherever possible. Herein lies what I believe to be one of the ultimate purposes of Freemasonry as it is practiced today: The collective good will and exemplary behavior of more and more Masons in the community, so as to raise the general level of life quality throughout the world, making it a better and better place through the leadership and inspiration of a multitude of Masons.

If we now line up these principles of behavior and the environment they create where Masons are gathered, we will find they match fairly closely with the needs of the typical fellow as outlined above. Some examples might be, when men meet on the level and enjoy the benefits of brotherly love, they no longer need to spend time and energy keeping up their protective defenses. They can relax, be themselves, and enjoy true companionship and the solace they deeply seek. Also, they can immerse themselves in a rich and meaningful life philosophy and are likely to plumb its depths throughout the remainder of their lives, thereby sustaining that guidance before them. Such guidance will assist in making so many of those life choices which we all must face.

Now, it is unrealistic to expect that Masonry can meet most of a person's needs, but it certainly can meet many of the deeper, more spiritual ones. And there is no reason why Freemasonry cannot work alongside other institutions also providing moral development and solace.

Strategic Management for Grand and Local Lodges

For Freemasonry to do its good work on an ever-increasing scale, it must survive, thrive, and become more consistently visible as a force for good. As we continue to struggle with the overall size of our membership rolls, we often hear the debate about the importance of numbers. It is quite true that we need active, committed, and increasingly exemplary members in the Craft. Without a turnaround in the number of active Masons, we may survive, but we will not thrive and will not become the positive force we need to be in the communities of our troubled world. How can we begin to achieve this turn-around, especially in light of the hindering forces presented earlier? I think one answer must be the application of a process, which has, in many ways, brought American business back to the forefront in a world of global competition. That process is strategic management. A concept that is not difficult to define or explain, but can be a challenge to successfully implement for organizations typically resistant to change.

If you have spent even one active year in Masonry, you know we are not adverse to borrowing ideas from one another nor from the world at large, so I suggest, "Why not explore the potential benefits of strategic management at both the local and Grand Lodge levels?" Regrettably, most of us are familiar with and quite comfortable with thinking at the operational level. We plan our Lodge year or establish an annual budget, but strategic thinking takes some added effort. We will only become comfortable with it through practice.

What makes the process strategic? First, it often incorporates a time frame of four to six years, a period even in our turbulent times that permits reasonable forecasts of coming events. Secondly, and quite importantly, it takes careful consideration of the forces and circumstances in the external environment beyond the organization's boundaries. Third, the process then compares this condition with that which is internal to the organization, its strengths and weaknesses. Fourth, the process calls for the identification or refinement of the mission and creation of a vision or a word pict ure of what the members would like to see their organization become at the end of the time period. A series of change strategies are then developed to move the current organization toward its vision. This is often done by identifying strategies that will best position the organization for the future, i.e., building on its strengths and attempting to correct its shortcomings, in order to take advantage of external opportunities or to avoid the effects of outside threats and to consistently achieve its mission. Strategic management, which combining this planning with implementation, is not a mystical rite, but simply a series of practical steps.

When leaders permit their organizations to languish and decline both in membership and effectiveness, they can har dly be considered leaders. Unfortunately, this is the all too familiar case at all levels in Masonry today. We are suffering from a critical lack of creative and results achieving leadership. I fervently believe that if both Grand Lodge and lodge- level officers diligently commit to a strategic management philosophy and practice, we would see the improvement results we all dream of. It will not be easy. Freemasonry is a volunteer organization (difficult to manage for results and usually having limited resources) and filled with apathetic and untrained leaders. Even more complicating, those leaders have a year or possible two in the "sun"; the sun of ego-inflating pomp, ceremony, and fawning flattery. But, with due diligence, it can be done. It can be done through professional leadership such as the insertion of a trained executive director for a Grand jurisdiction, or it can be done by committing your lodge to the practice of training your upcoming leaders and requiring them to carry out strategic practices.

How to get underway? Following the analysis of the jurisdiction's or lodge's environment and the internal strengths/weaknesses, it seems best to start by clarifying the mission. It should be member oriented, feasible, motivating, and specific in terms of answering such questions as:
  • What is our purpose?
  • Who are our current and potential members?
  • What value do we bring to our members?
For improving the image, functioning, and well-being of the jurisdiction or lodge, an invigorating, achievable vision needs to be created through the participative involvement of as many active members as possible. In this way, the essential ingredients of commitment and ownership are obtained from the outset.

As with so much of life in the market place today, the jurisdiction's or lodge's orientation must be fully customer (member) driven; satisfying their needs and exceeding their expectations. We must realize we are competing for their time, dollars, attention, and commitment.

Will strategic management work for Masonry? Believe me; we need to make it work. I think Charles Darwin put this message most succinctly, “Those who adapted best, found they replaced the rest .”


Bro. Edward A. Rund is a life member of Wilmette Lodge # 931 in Illinois, where he has served as Master in 1986, 1996 and 2006. He holds several honorary memberships of various “Blue” lodges around the area. He has worked in several areas of the Grand Lodge of Illinois including; District Deputy, Representative to the Grand lodge of Minnesota,  Committee member, Chairman and Director of Masonic Education and was awarded the Grand Masters Award of Merit in 2011. Brother Rund is also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago, the York Rite bodies including; the AMD, the Sovereign College, Knight Masons and the Red Cross of Constantine. He belongs to the OES as well. Brother Rund served as the Worshipful Master of the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2001 and is a member of numerous other Masonic related clubs and societies.