No Mason Left Behind : The Final Cut

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. "Doc" Gentry



This will be my final piece (for now) on this subject and I thank you for bearing with me, especially the Intenders and Mentors. In fact, Intenders and Mentors, thanks for all the hard work you do!Let me ask a question,  how many of you ever felt alone when there was a new Brother inducted into the fraternity?  Almost like the job of the lodge is to say, "Oh Brother Dan, you're the candidates Intender." And that is all the lodge does besides the ritual?  Well, let us address this now.

This piece is directed to the lodge as a whole, and especially the three principle officers. Let's address some lodge officers and see if we're doing all we can. Brothers Stewards and Brother Junior Warden, you see the lodge as a whole from your positions and offices, not just in ritual but in general. Brothers Stewards, your jobs are during times of refreshments and fellowship. You have seen the new Brother interact in all aspects of Freemasonry not only in the ritual. What does this new Brother bring to the table of Freemasonry as a whole? Did you explain your offices and what they represent as a whole, to the new Brother?  Brother Junior Warden, did you fulfill your purpose with this new Brother? Did you give the "New Brother Report" to the Senior Warden and the Worshipful Master? You three are the "Open Eyes" of the lodge, I pray you did your duties not only your rituals.

Brother Marshal, Brother Junior Deacon and Brother Senior Warden, how has the west impressed upon this new Brother? Brother Marshal, do you believe that your position is opening and closing the doors? Did you teach the esoteric purpose of your office?  How about you, Brother Junior Deacon? Have you have had the most intimate relationship with this Brother outside of his Intender/Mentor, what have you given him? What did you notice of worth from this Brother? Did you impart the new Brother with old knowledge so that he may grow? Brother Senior Warden, overseer of the West Gate, did you notice this Brother on each of his entries? What imprint did his comings and goings leave upon you? With the information from the Junior Warden, what information can you pass to the Worshipful Master so that he can perform his duties upon this new Brother? 

Finally Brother Senior Deacon and Brother Worshipful Master, you two most of all are responsible  in the development of the new Brother, your fulfillment of your duties are the most detrimental. Brother Senior Deacon, how did you follow through and guide this Brother in his actions outside of ritual? Brother Worshipful Master, did you take the advice and information as well as recommendations from the Junior and Senior Warden? Did you use that to create a plan of action to give this new Brother proper instruction? Do you know how to properly set him to work according to his passions and skills? 

Here's the secret my Brothers, it takes a lodge to raise a Master Mason. As he was given instruction and walked the path through the body, starting at the heart and ending as part of the soul, remember, he did it with the whole lodge.  Did we give him proper resources and instruction? Can we do better in raising a Master Mason? Will we?

No One Takes A Step In Freemasonry Alone! No One!

~Doc


Suspended NPD — for Twenty-Five Years!

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



Over the years I've seen my Lodge and other Masonic bodies deal with members who don't pay their dues in a variety of ways. It seems there has been a progression of sorts requiring less and less of a financial effort for a Brother to return. Years ago I recall the NPD Brother had to pay the dues for each year missed, plus the current year's dues, to become a member in good standing once again. Then there was a period when the member in arrears had to pay just last year's and current year's dues. Now, for one of the bodies where I am a member, a Brother can re-join just by paying the current year's dues. If things keep going this way I guess we'll have to pay them to come back.

Of course, these men are our Brothers and we do, in fact, want them back; and there are good reasons why some don't pay — hardship and illness being at the top of the list. Every Masonic body I belong to always takes that into consideration and I have seen many meetings where understanding members remit the dues of a Brother who simply cannot pay.

Still, I think we're pretty lenient with NPD. My personal opinion is we probably should be. I mean, how many times have we heard it... "It's easier to keep the members you have than to go out and get new ones." 

With all that in mind, I ran across something that really made me do a double-take — make that a triple-take.

I was going through records kept by a 19th century Grand Secretary in Missouri when I came across a list of suspensions for Missouri Lodge No. 1. The first half dozen entries were for a group of Brothers suspended July 2, 1868, for non-payment of dues. The first line made note that Brother William Stewart was suspended NPD for a period of five years.

"Wow," I thought, "five years — that's pretty stiff."

No, it turns out Brother Stewart got off easy. The next four entries were for members suspended for periods of 20 or 25 years. Twenty-five years for NPD! Now, that sends a message.

The sixth entry was for Brother Maximilian Eller, suspended for a period of 10 years. This line also contained a note that Brother Eller came back after the 10-year suspension ended and paid his dues.

In those records there were other Brothers suspended for 25 years, which seemed to be more or less the standard; but beginning in 1872, with only two exceptions, NPD suspension penalties were: "until paid." 

So apparently, "until paid" became the new standard. One of those original six Brothers, Charles Eager, may have heard about this. Originally suspended for 20 years, the records indicate he returned in 1876 and made restitution. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine he went back to Missouri No. 1 and said, "Hey, look, I got a pretty harsh suspension for NPD but today you're letting guys off the hook if they just pay up. How about cutting me a little slack, too?" 

I doubt he used that exact phraseology but they did, in fact, let him back in.

I have to conclude somewhere along the way Missouri No. 1 decided its penalties for NPD were excessive, and backed off. It's also possible the Grand Lodge somehow stepped in with different standards. Whatever the case, at that point those standards became more closely aligned with those we have today. We may never know why they made that change but it's possible they, too, discovered "it's easier to keep the members you have than to go out and get new ones." 

~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.

Bringing Back The Light Part 3: Hidden Treasures

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°
Part 3 of the Bringing Back The Light Series

We were well into getting the Lodge cleaned up.  The junk had been hauled off from that spare room.  Some of the painting had been done.  New carpet had been laid in the preparation room, and in that spare room as well.  And there was already a brand new roof on the Homer Temple!

It was time to dig into a project we'd been putting off.  We knew there was a lot of stuff in the attic of the Lodge--Greg Knott had seen it at one time.  We knew it needed to be brought down and gone through.  So one Saturday morning we gathered at the Lodge, and with the help of several Boy Scouts, we set about the task of bringing it all down.  We knew a lot of that stuff could have some historical significance, not only to the Fraternity but for the community as well, so we had two members of the Homer Historical Society, Molly Shoaf and Ray Cunningham, there to look through what we were bringing down. 

We set up a bucket brigade, and the ones that lost the coin toss and were up in the attic began handing down load, after load, after load, after load of stuff.  We filled several tables in the dining room.  We covered the floor of the Tyler's room . . . and it just kept coming.  I think we were all shocked at just how much was up there.
Left to right: Molly Shoaf, Greg Knott, Denver Phelps, and Jared Fritz
There were Grand Lodge Proceedings, newspapers, old movie posters, Lodge jewels, collars, hats probably belonging to Past Masters, etc.  There were records going back to the chartering of the Lodge 160 years ago--and since the building is only 124 years old, that means some of those records were moved from wherever the Masons met prior to building our current Temple.  There was framed art.  There were records pertaining to the York Rite Chapter and the Easter Star Chapters that had met there.  There were photographs and newspaper clippings pertaining to members of the Lodge from decades past.  There was evidence that a lot of entertainment was had in that old Lodge--there were many, many decks of old playing cards and poker chips.  It was a time capsule.
Molly Shoaf beginning the process of organizing the enormous treasure trove of records we discovered.
Most of the records and newspapers went with the Historical Society.  So far as I know, they are still going through those records.  Some of the things they've found were missing puzzle pieces of the town's history.  There were a few things we found up there that were pretty amazing--like old ceramic record albums with degree music on them that were recorded by the John Philip Sousa Band.  There was an old print up there so covered in dust we didn't even realize there was anything in the old frame when it was brought down--I've looked, and never found another Masonic print like it.  Every square inch of that 18 x 24 print is covered in tiny text quoting Masonic ritual and teaching.

As we looked at all this stuff, something changed . . . the purpose of our project seemed to change.  At least it did for me.  It was no longer about saving an old building, or even a Lodge.  It was about saving a piece of history that at least for the time being, was still alive and well after 160 continuous years. 

Once we got all that stuff down from the attic, the question was what we were going to do with it once we got through it all.  Put it all back up there to collect dust again?  How could we tell the 160 year old story of Freemasonry in Homer, Illinois that all these old artifacts represented?

Remember that spare room I mentioned?  It had three old glass cases in it--probably left overs from one of the businesses that operated out of the first floor of the temple at one time or another.  Kind of like the display cases you'd use in a museum.  Perhaps that's a story for the next installment--the story of the Homer Masonic Temple Museum.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  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, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Traveling from the South to the North

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Hosler, PM
Recently I had the distinct opportunity to attend what, I believe, was a near perfect Masonic event. One day I received a Facebook invite to attend the 2016 Spring Reunion of the Guthrie Scottish Rite in Guthrie, Oklahoma. I had heard so much about this Valley since I moved to the Southern United States and I really wanted to attend.

Maybe it was the Grand Architect of the Universe smiling down upon me, or it was just pure luck, but a few days later I was informed my Fiancé's niece was playing in a softball tournament in a town near Guthrie on the same weekend! We decided to book a room before we changed our minds!

This was going to be a unique experience for me. I was made a 32° Mason in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. I had attended a few reunions in my home valley but I had only seen a few degrees and a few of the ones I had seen, by now had been rewritten. My valley only shows a select number of degrees each year and for the remainder of the degrees the candidate is just given an obligation for those remaining degrees which aren't going to be performed. Guthrie was going to perform all 29 degrees over the course of this reunion. I promised myself I would see as many as I could over this three day event.

Last year I became a plural member of the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction within the Valley of Dallas. Due to certain issues in my life, I have never really been able to take advantage of this membership, so this was my first real Southern Jurisdiction experience.

As we pulled up to the front of the temple I tried to take in the entire building. I was in awe of the pure size and majesty of the edifice. I knew the building once served as the Capitol for the territory of Oklahoma but I wasn't prepared for it's beauty. I walked up the steps of the building trying to take in everything I could. I opened the heavy door and took my first steps into the ornate lobby.

I walked into the lobby and registered for the event. I then found the office and asked to borrow a prayer cap. Being a Northern Jurisdiction Mason I didn't own a cap. I was under the assumption only 33°’s and men who had been honored with a Meritorious Service awards wore caps, because that's kinda how it works in the north. I have been told recently it's up to the individual valley in the north. Either way I didn't have a cap so I needed to borrow one.

I found my way into the auditorium by the sound of the beautiful organ being played. In the cathedral was a Kimball organ which was installed in 1926. It still sounded brand new. I found an empty seat and waited for the event to begin. I spent the time looking all around me. The room was so huge, I couldn't stop looking at everything.

I was impressed by the number of candidates which began to file into the room. It was the largest class of any Masonic event I had seen. I was told (But I didn't verify) the class had 88 members. I don't know if that is typical in the south but to me, it was impressive.

The class was welcomed to the valley and was introduced to Illustrious Brother Jim Tresner. Brother Tresner is one of my all time favorite Masonic authors! I had hoped to see him there. I wanted to meet him but I was afraid I would say something silly like some Masonic groupie. (I know that sounds silly but I could see it happening.). Brother Tresner told the candidates to “Enjoy the degrees, because you will never be able to see them again for the first time”. Even though I have been a Scottish Rite Mason for over a decade I knew he was right and since this was my first time seeing the degrees of the a Southern Jurisdiction I felt like a candidate all over again.

I had seen as many of the degrees as I could that weekend. I was truly impressed with the meanings behind each one. They were well written and the actors did a fantastic job. I had heard the Scottish Rite considers itself to be “The university of Freemasonry.” I can totally see why now. I was motivated to dig deeper into the meaning and symbolism behind these degrees. The Valley of Guthrie has a correspondence course entitled the “College of the Consistory”. After seeing these degrees I know I will have to enroll in the "college" in the future.

I was totally blown away by the stage crew. They changed sets quickly and quietly while surrounded by the darkness and the stage effects were amazing. Almost like a Broadway show! Watching these men performing their duties in such a professional way, I was saddened to think how future candidates in the Northern Jurisdiction won't experience anything like this since they are giving up the stage craft and instead, showing videos.

I spent the rest of the weekend watching the degrees, wandering around the facility admiring the beauty and visiting the Oklahoma Masonic Museum and engaging with other Brethren in the Cigar room. I also got to meet Illustrious Brother Bob Davis who is retiring as General Secretary for the Valley of Guthrie. I have corresponded with Bob many times but this was the first time had the honor to meet him in person.

I have been told by several Brethren that Guthrie was on their “Masonic bucket list”. I was able to meet Brethren from all over the country. I spoke with Brothers from California and Massachusetts, Missouri and Texas. All of them had one thing in common; they all had either transferred their Scottish Rite membership to Guthrie or purchased a plural membership there. I was told they found something special in this small Oklahoma town. They attend the reunion every year as one brother put it to “Recharge his Masonic batteries”. I totally get that. I can honestly say the entire time I was at this event I heard not one gripe, complaint or negative word. I have had some amazing Masonic experiences but this is the first time I can honestly say that.

I also got to spend time with an old friend, Brother Lance Kates. Guthrie is Lance’s home valley and had a part in the 23° degree. We got to hang out and have an amazing dry aged steak at a local restaurant. It is always good catching up with Lance in person instead of reading his thoughts on the glowing screen of a cellphone.

As we drove home to Texas my fiancé and I were both in good spirits. I had an amazing Masonic experience and my Fiancé's niece won most of her games while showing off her pitching abilities. I am so glad I was able to attend and I would encourage you to visit if you get the chance.

By the way. While I was in Guthrie I decided to purchase my very own prayer cap. I know I will be back because I found a home in the Valley of Guthrie.
~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

Marking Our Temple

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Aaron Gardner, 32º, MPS


After one is exalted to the most sublime degree of the Royal Arch, a candidate is asked to leave his mark in the book (Traditionally this is done after the Mark Master degree). Very similar to the degrees preceding in which the candidate writes his name in the log of newly raised Master Masons. It is taught throughout the craft of Freemasonry, starting at the very beginning of the first degree that a Freemason must be vigilant of his mark. No, we aren’t talking about the mark Operative Masons use; instead, we are referring to the mark a Freemason will make on the world around him. The marks made within the Royal Arch Book of Marks is a symbolic representation of who the candidate was/is. It is a unique symbol only to that candidate. If my mark were to be drawn on a piece of paper, it is no doubt that brothers of my Royal Arch Chapter, Waukegan Chapter No. 41 under the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Illinois, will know that mark to be mine (hopefully, that is if Companion Johnson recorded it after my departure; a story for another time, perhaps).

Being that my mark is special to me, it reminds me of one characteristic that is, yet again, unique to myself. My thumbprint. During my entrance into the United States Army, I had to submit my finger prints to ensure that I was not on any national based list of criminals, terrorist, etc… After doing so, they permitted me to have a security clearance, gave me a firearm and told me what to do for the last 10 years of my life. After returning to the civilian world I was then submitted to another array of fingerprint analyses for the various police departments I was applying for. My unique mark is all over the country in various forms on many different databases. Needless to say, they they know I am not a criminal. They also haven’t found anybody in the country’s database with the same thumbprint. Like I said, it’s my unique mark on my temple… My body. 

In a recent trip to Philadelphia with my school’s clown troupe (another story for another time), I had the strict pleasure of visiting the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. I have been invited to speak at various lodges across Pennsylvania, and traveled clear across the state multiple times, without stopping in and seeing this beautiful master piece [Grand Lodge PA]. I have a lot of stories to tell about this specific Grand Lodges, like the evident flaw in it’s building, and I will tell these stories in due time. However, I would like to keep this on track of one thing that jumped out to me the most. Uniqueness. In the Grand Lodge there are many beautiful rooms with extrinsic and intrinsic value, deep rooted history, and a pure feeling of reverence that rushes over you. Yet, one room stands out the most. 

It’s not even a room as it is a corridor. This long narrow hall displays beautiful architecture of the Virtues that cement our brotherhood of man, as you walk the black and white checkered floor toward a gorgeous stained glass. In the top of the glass you can see a number of Masonic symbols; from the Sun in the left corner, the Moon in the right, Solomon’s Seal in beneath the Sun, Pythagoras’ theory across from that, and the All Seeing Eye above the Volume of Sacred Law. It is a magnificent piece that would wow anyone passing by the building. But, yet again, it isn’t the most interesting piece of the building. In that corridor sit’s this most beautiful stained glass artwork and is outshone by the little strip of paint along the edge of the wall. Circles painted in decoration, and if you look closely the unique mark of every builder that helped complete the temple— Their thumb print. 

Even if the builders weren’t Freemasons, their mark will live forever with that building. It makes me ponder, where have I left my mark? Will someone find it one day and it be in good nature, or will it bring negative thoughts about who I was as a man? We leave our mark everywhere we go, with everyone we meet, and everything we do. Can we hold proud that our mark is a part of building something beautiful; something that we built with our own two hands, a life others may look toward as guidance in their own conquests?

~ARG

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.

Bringing Back The Light Part 2: The Plan

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Part 2 of the Bringing Back The Light Series

It didn't take the members of Homer Lodge No. 199 very long to decide whether to merge the Lodge with another, or to work to keep it open.  The decision was made that we'd work to keep it open.  And we identified two areas to focus on first:

The Building
The building had solid bones, but it had been neglected.  The roof hadn't failed yet, but needed to be replaced.  As our District Deputy Grand Master had so painfully pointed out during his visit, the lodge was a mess.  The closets were full of junk.  There was a spare room full of junk.  The lodge was dirty and disorganized.  The lodge needed some plaster and some paint.  Several areas needed carpet.

But two members stepped up and lead the way--Denver Phelps and Dave Harry.  They took it upon themselves to begin the process of cleaning up the lodge, making some basic repairs, and start going through the junk that had collected for decades and begin hauling stuff away. A third member, Greg Knott, had some ideas about how to get some funds lined up to replace the roof.

The Membership
The other major issue was membership--there weren't many members of the Homer Lodge that were actually from Homer.  Most of the active members of the lodge were dual members from another local lodge--Ogden Lodge No. 754.  The idea from the inception was to build the membership of the lodge back up again, and then hand the keys of the the lodge back over to true Homer Lodge members.

The challenge of building the lodge back up was obvious--almost nobody in the community was even aware that the lodge was still open.  That's what we heard over and over again, "Homer Masonic Lodge?  I didn't even realize they were still in existence!"  So the first thing we did was to start letting people know we were still there.  We started a Facebook page.  We got a few small pieces about the lodge placed in the local papers.  And the community of Homer has a number of annual events in town--an annual Soda Festival that brings in around 10,000 people each year, an annual town celebration called Crazy Days, and an annual day-long Fourth of July celebration that included a parade and fireworks event.  Every time there were people in town for one of these events, the Lodge determined they were going to be there.  We poured sodas at the soda festival.  We had an open house during the Crazy Days celebration and gave tours of the lodge in the midst of its renovation.  

Once we got the dust flying during the initial clean up stage, and the buzz going as the local residents realized Homer Lodge No. 199 wasn't a thing of the past, we started building some excitement among our members that maybe, just maybe this was really doable.  And something similar began to happen outside the walls of the lodge as well--interest began stirring about our lodge in the little town of Homer, Illinois.

But that was just the beginning.  What we discovered next, hidden away in the attic, was truly remarkable. I'll tell you all about that in Part 3.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  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, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Does Vanity Trump Tradition?


by Midnight Freemasons Guest Contributor
Bro. Ryan C. Mercer

On Monday evening April 18, 1938 a group of twenty Master Masons met in the Speedway Christian
Church for the purpose of organizing a Masonic Club. On June 8, 1939 Speedway Lodge No. 729 was constituted. This is my Lodge. The Lodge I grew up 2 blocks from, the Lodge my father was a member of DeMolay as a child. The Lodge I petitioned and was raised in a decade ago.

Let me set the stage, we are in Speedway, IN just a few blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which celebrated it's 100th running of the Indy 500 shortly after I wrote this. Well my Brothers, some months ago lodge #500 merged with another and my Lodge was informed we could change our number if we so desired. I cringed, I cringed and panicked. Why would we want to change our number for the sake of vanity? Surely this would never happen! Right? Who would want such a thing?!

I'm in the minority. The last I heard in official Lodge communication is that we will be changing from Speedway #729 to Speedway #500 later this year when the GL has their annual meeting. 77 years of history down the toilet for the sake of vanity. Thousands of Brothers who were raised at Speedway #729, who's Bibles and aprons say #729, some who are multi-generational members of #729, plaques and photos that say #729, a charter that will need to be amended or reissued as per the GL's bylaws, obituaries-newspaper clippings-social media posts that all speak of #729, all made irrelevant for the sake of vanity. "...But Brother Mercer, it would be cool if we were Lodge #500 in Speedway where the Indy 500 is!". I see why my Brothers are excited, it's a novelty and fun but it casts 77 years of tradition to the side for what essentially is the Lodge equivalent of a vanity plate.

Brothers, this saddens me. This saddens me deeply. If you ever are in a similar situation of giving up tradition for vanity, please spend time reflecting on the situation before taking a side. Tradition sometimes, needs changing to stay relevant with an ever-evolving society but sometimes it's ok to leave things they way they've been.

~RCM

Bro. Ryan Carl Mercer 32° knew he'd be a Freemason just 12 days before his 13th birthday after seeing men that had never met his father show up for his father's Masonic funeral. The caring and love those Brothers showed lit a fire that would drive him to ultimately be raised a Master Mason seven years later in the fall of 2005 at Speedway Masonic Lodge No. 729, a lodge where his father spent his youth in DeMolay. In January 2015 he joined the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis in search of yet more light and is also proudly a member of the Masonic Society. His non-Masonic musings can be found at http://www.RyanMercer.com

To Learn. To Subdue My Passions.

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Hosler, PM




To learn to subdue my passions. As Freemasons we have heard this phrase many times. Chances are you have even recited it. Have you truly thought about it what it means? 

To be completely honest, when I asked a friend of mine for a petition to join the Craft, I really had no idea what Masonry was about or what it offered. I had never heard the slogan “We make good men better.”,  I just remember some friends of my parents who would come to the house when I was a small child, and several of them wore a Masonic ring. 

Many times since becoming a Master Mason, I've asked myself "How does attending lodge make me a better man?” It can't be the meal we serve or the opening of the lodge. It sure isn't the Secretary reading last months minutes or Brother Treasurer telling the members how much money we have in the bank account. I was beginning to think I was missing the point. 

It finally occurred to me one night while sitting in the lodge room as the lodge officers were opening the lodge. While my premise may be simplistic I feel it is fairly accurate. I also believe all Masons feel these things are important I think the different generations place the importance in different areas for different reasons. 

To learn: You have been learning since your mother gave birth to you. You learned to sit up, talk and eat without assistance before your first birthday. As you progressed in age you attended school. You never quit learning. The question remains, what can you learn from attending lodge? 

As you progress through your degrees you hear certain words and phrases. At first these words sound unusual because they are phrased in a way in which our language is no longer spoken. Understanding what is being said to you is difficult at first to understand because you aren't used to being spoken to in such an old tongue.  I believe this is why the Craft asks you to memorize the work. Repetition and memorization helps your brain convert these words from gibberish to a beautifully spoken and largely forgotten language. 

Sadly today in Masonry we are convinced that the only reason we memorize these works is so we can advance to the next degree or learn the remaining ritual so we can help with the performing of the degree work. I truly believe this is one of the reasons men find it so hard to find what they are looking for in our fraternity. 

In my opinion memorization for advancement is only a small part of the catechism or lesson to be learned. Whether we realize it or not our ritual isn't just a bunch of words thrown together to sound pretty and impress people. The ritual is a roadmap for our journey to the East to find that which was lost. 

Each word of that beautifully phrased script is designed to be studied. I feel the archaic language is designed not to just sound impressive but to peak your curiosity and encourage you to research what you've heard. Each word and syllable should be dissected and studied to find out its meaning. 

Floor work is also very instructive. If you have taken an office in your lodge or filled a chair for an absent officer, I know you have encountered the floor work. 

When I was a young officer I hated floor work. No matter how hard I tried after we closed I had a Past Master approach me to tell me how I was doing the floor work wrong. Sometimes I would have several approach me at the same time to explain my errors and would get into a big argument about how I screwed it up. They would stand there and bicker back and forth about my transgressions and I would walk away and they never even noticed I left! 

These Brethren who were trying to help me have been told since they were new in the Craft how important the proper execution of the floor work is and wanted to stress the importance of it to me. Proper floor work is important for several reasons. First it does impress the candidate and secondly, when properly done, is very beautiful to watch. These Brethren, while well meaning, in my opinion missed the importance of this essential lodge function. 

Whether it is within the opening or closing of a lodge or within degree work, the floor work was designed to teach our Brethren about symbolism. Each step you take or how the deacons and stewards hold their rods is designed to display symbols in which, when researched give you a nugget of information in which you can add to your knowledge and ultimately to your self improvement. Sadly, most of these subtle movements are lost on the brethren who it is meant to instruct. 

Expanding your mind through the study behind the ritual and understanding the symbolism which is hidden within the floor work of the lodge is the first upright step on your journey from the darkness toward the light of self improvement. 

To subdue my passions: The second upright step in your journey to become a better man is learning to subdue your passions. I feel this phrase means learning to do things in moderation. 

We all know the Junior Warden is supposed to watch over the craft assembled and ensure that no one converts “Refreshment into excess” or don't have too much of a good thing. This is a lesson that is important to everyone. I also feel we each have to subdue our passions for different things. 

For some people their passion is alcohol, for others it is relationships or tobacco. You can become addicted to many things. My passion was with food. 

When I was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason I weighed nearly 500 pounds. I lived a sedimentary lifestyle and The darkness made me feel truly miserable and helpless. 

As I came to light I started to study and read every Masonic book I could find and truly began to embrace the Fraternity and I realized that if I would simply “Try to subdue my passion” and just eat half of what I would normally eat at a meal I would take in half the calories. I started calling this my “Masonic diet”. Eventually, slowly, I began to lose weight and I am now down to a more manageable size. 

Each of us has passions we find difficulty in subduing. In my opinion the self reflection we learn through the study of Masonry and its symbols will help you identify the passion you in which you need to control and place you on the right path to gaining control. I'm not saying it will be easy but since your faith is in God and is well founded with prayer and self control, you will be successful. 

And improve myself in Masonry: Each of these upright steps will help us improve yourself in Masonry. Self improvement, like Masonry is a lifelong journey, one we will never complete. I feel the third upright step is continuing your journey by attending your lodge. 

Each of us, no matter who we are, need help in maintaining the progress we have made through learning and in our fight to subduing your passions. Interacting with Brethren who are on the same journey of improvement as you are should give you motivation to continue your work and help encourage another brother to work harder on his goals. Spreading the cement of Brotherly love does strengthen each of us. 

I know it is hard to see how sitting through a long dreary meeting of minutes and paying bills will make you a better man but if you can look past what Masonry has become and try to see “what has been lost” maybe you can find the working tools in the ritual to help complete your rough ashlar into something that's a bit more perfect.

~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.

Bringing Back The Light: Introduction

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) has many of the common problems Masonic Lodges struggle with today, but it's how the members of this lodge came to deal with these issues that make it an extraordinary story.

It's an old Masonic Lodge in a small town.  The membership aged, and hadn't brought in any new members in a long time.  As a result, it was suddenly faced with some very grime realities.  The Royal Arch Chapter of the York Rite that had met there for more than 150 continuous years lost its charter.  In fact, so strong was the Royal Arch in Homer, that it was the York Rite that had financed the building in Homer.  But they were no longer able to make quorum, and the Chapter's long history in Homer ended.

The members of the Lodge saw the writing on the wall, and fearing the same demise as the Royal Arch Chapter as it struggled to get enough members to a meeting to make the quorum.  Without new members, the Lodge would inevitably face closure as well.  There were enough dual members from another local Lodge, Ogden Lodge No. 754 to prop up the lodge--that bought time, but wasn't a permanent solution.

To make matters worse, during the annual District Deputy visit, the Lodge got a very bad report.  The work wasn't up to par.  The lodge was dirty, disorganized, and not in the best state of repair.  Of course the members knew the building issues well.  The roof needed to be replaced.  The plaster and paint hadn't been attended to in decades.  The floors needed work, the furniture was in bad shape, the entrance door needed to be replaced, some electrical work, carpet, insulation, windows . . . you name it the lodge needed it.  It seemed pretty hopeless.  There was a difficult decision that had to be made.  Do we try and bring it back, or do we let it go?  The conventional wisdom is to let lodges like that go--merge into a stronger lodge.

But Homer Lodge had a few things going for it.  Like three businesses on the first floor dutifully paying rent each month--including a United States Post Office.  The lodge had some money.  And while the membership problem was difficult--the town for the most part didn't even know they were still there!  It made them wonder what might happen if the town knew they were still there.

As I said, the problem is pretty ordinary--we've all heard stories like this before.  But three years ago, it was the decision the lodge made, and all the things that followed that makes this story extraordinary.  And that's the story I'm going to tell you over the coming weeks, with the hope that you'll take something from it. 

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  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, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

A Leadership Trap

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

”You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.” –Andrew Carnegie 


One of the traps of leadership is our desire to see people succeed. It is an essential characteristic in a leader, but a leader cannot create that desire in others. Success requires work, and work requires the desire to work, translated into action. Leadership is influence, not doing another’s work because we want that person to succeed. We cannot force action on our fellow Masons. We can only do what we can do, enthusiastically, offer opportunities, praise when praise is due, and act fraternally. In all things, we must lead by example. 

~MHS

R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.The author of several article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

Watch One, Do One, Teach One

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

For Bruce.


Growing up, I didn’t know I would be a Freemason, let alone a writer. I know that must come as a shock to you, but it’s true. I had plans to either be a preacher (until I learned how supremely unqualified I was), or a punk rock musician (again, supremely unqualified).

My closest friend growing up was Tom. Tom and I became friends pretty early in our lives, and our friendship continues to this day. He is not a Freemason yet because he isn’t ready to start that journey, but I know that the day he decides to join he will give it his all, and will far surpass anything I can hope to achieve.

This story isn’t about me, or Tom, but about Tom’s father Bruce.

Bruce terrified me when I was young. He was a very large, very strong man, whose wit was razor sharp. Being a stupid little hellraiser, I crossed paths with Bruce more than once, and disappointing him was the only thing worse than disappointing my own father.

As I’ve aged, Bruce went from being someone who terrified me, to someone I respected and admired, and finally to someone I was proud to say was my friend as well. He patiently guided me through some of the stupidest moments of my life, and never once gave up on me.

Bruce was not a Freemason either, but he should have been.

Last month, Bruce passed away, and I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking back at the lessons he taught me, and how they can be applied in my life, and in our fraternity.

Bruce was the king of one-liners, and one of my favorites was “Watch one, do one, teach one”. For the longest time, I thought he just meant that you would learn more by teaching than by watching, which is true, but he had a much deeper meaning that I’m only now discovering.

First, you watch how something is done to learn how to do it properly. We live in the internet age where you can watch anything (and I do mean ANYthing) instantaneously, but it is not the same as watching a master at work.

In lodge, we watch not only our own degrees, but if we’re wise we continue to watch degrees for other men as well, and learn both the words, and the meanings behind them. I spent many months watching degrees after I was raised, and didn’t realize how much I had learned until I started to do them myself.


Second, you do the task yourself. You won’t be perfect at first, but through repetition you will be able to apply the principles you learned from watching and become adept yourself.

I can’t speak for your experience, but once I started doing ritual work myself, I was hooked! Even though I started in small parts, helping bring men into Masonry built my confidence as a speaker to where I feel comfortable talking to total strangers (sometimes too much), and I look forward to the next opportunity to sit in lodge again.

Finally, you need to teach one. This is where I misunderstood Bruce for so many years, and I’m just now understanding the meaning behind what he was really saying.

If you teach someone else how to do something, you will become better at it yourself, because it forces you to work harder at it, so that you teach it correctly. This is true, but not what Bruce meant.

You should teach what you’ve learned as a way of giving thanks to the one who invested their time in you! After all, if you hadn’t had that teacher, you wouldn’t know what you know. In this way, the knowledge of countless generations is handed down, and preserved for future students.

Watch one, do one, teach one is more than a pretty catch phrase; if you actually apply it, you’ll be improving yourself, and equally important you’ll be improving the world around you. It isn’t simple; it will require you to put in effort and work, but everything good in life requires effort. The rewards you will reap in your life, both personal and Masonic, will increase tenfold if you spend the time learning the new skills, and equally importantly, teaching what you already know to someone else.

I watched Bruce for many years teaching other men how to do things, and I’ve done my best to do the same. Now, it’s your turn; who will you teach?

~AT

WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at adam@wcypodcast.com. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

What’s in Your Library?

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
W.B. Gregory J. Knott

Many new Masons are eager to learn all they can about the craft when they are first raised.  You hear many unfamiliar terms during the ritual and lectures that require further study to understand their meaning within the entirety of the ritual. One of the duties of a Freemason, is to educate yourself further on the craft by studying the history, meaning, and philosophy of this ancient and honorable fraternity.  Engaging in this course of study can be done in several ways and achieved through a large variety of available resources.   

I wanted to establish my own home library of Masonic resources.  I’ve always loved books, so this was an easy excuse for me to expand my personal book holdings.  But I really didn’t have any idea where to start.  I visited my local Barnes & Nobel bookstore and perused their offerings and bought a few titles and used Google Books to discover many older books that were available digitally.  I later found Masonic book publishers such as Macoy and Michael Poll’s excellent Cornerstone Book Publishers.
So the question comes down to, what are the basics to place in your home library?  I asked several people including some of my fellow Midnight Freemasons and here are some starting suggestions:
What’s in your Masonic Library?

~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. 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.

No Mason Left Behind Part 4

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. "Doc" Gentry


I promise there will only be one to twelve more after this one, so bear with me.  Your candidate/brother, whom you have walked this entire journey with so far, should be fired up! You should be seeing the fruition of the events up to now because you are doing it right. You have introduced him to places like this blog and podcasts like "Masonic Roundtable" and "Whence Came You". You have saturated his life with not only the reading material that he gains from the completion of each degree, but books that help him dive into simple understandings of the craft. If you don’t know any, Born in Blood comes to mind without getting up from my desk (I’m not showing off, I really am that lazy) and this is consuming his life. You are what you eat, remember that phrase.  It is given to not govern the food you eat, though in most cases it seems to be appropriate, but to let you know that you will become what you saturate your life with. Now if you are watching the Daredevil seasons on Netflix, you're not alone there, they are really good.  But you need to have a healthy balance of the everything else (50%) and Freemasonry (50%) in your entertainment.

You have now travelled to the door with your brother for the third time. He is ready and prepared because you have taken each step with him, as well as took the guidance from all these articles. You have parted upon him the simple yet mind blowing words, over all you've prepared to have him in the right mind for this prestigious event. So before all this, did you stop the giggling chuckles and jokes about live farm animals and any other non-serious venture other brothers brought to the brothers ears? Did you part upon him the solemn nature of this degree to which he is about to attain? Have you kept his anxiety down (trust me they are lying when they say they are fine, it is slightly nerve racking and that is a good thing) as well as reassure him that everyone, including yourself has taken this path? Again this is his night, all his, and more importantly this is THE night!!! He is about to become a Master Mason and finally erase all doubts about his equality in the lodge, if he still has any remaining.   

A few personal bits here, kind of close to my heart. If your lodge wants to do multiple third degrees at the same time, fight them! How can this be his day if he is sharing it? How can he feel the impact of the degree if it is being done to others at the same time? How can it possibly effect his life if he does not take the journey in a solemn fashion as to which this degree was intended to be performed? Do not bow down to "the rush"or rather, the push of candidates to brothers to Master Masons as fast as possible, you will do him a disservice!  Do not allow him, if he so chooses, to be pushed aside if he wishes to return his degree in open lodge (if your jurisdiction does this. If they don’t trust me, you are missing out on a lot of opportunity here). This should be his day and his alone. There is a lot to take in here, other meaningless distractions here should be tossed away. I have seen too many multiple third degrees to know that there is not any good to come of it for the brother, it only serves to the pocket books and per diem of the lodge/Grand Lodge. I don’t care about that or them, as a Mentor/Intender my job lay strictly with the brother and only the brother to whom was placed in my care. Then there is my biggest pet peeve and trust me I am close to taking them away and ripping them up in front of these people. DO NOT let that new Master Mason take a petition. I believe that this shouldn't even be allowed in lodge during this time, or before.  It should be a Masonic Offense to allow "Petition Vultures" to circle a new brother, pushing their petitions into his face. Let the man take in the fact that he is a newly raised Master Mason and everything that it entails. If you're one of those brothers who waves a petition in a brand new Master Mason's face, just stop. This is a time of celebration of a man's travels to the degree of Master Mason! Opinions vary, but I would personally like to see a two year waiting list to be able to jump into an appendant body. I digress.

When he is done with this degree, his path is not traveled, it is only beginning. His journey is not done, it has truly just started. This is not the end all be all. The goal is neither chair nor title. The goal of Freemasonry is the betterment of oneself, and that is all it ever is.

Again, make yourself available, and know that there is still much to do. Yes he is a Brother Master Mason on the level, but he is still new. He will have questions that  he doesn't even know yet, nor does he know to ask them.  DO NOT leave him behind now, once a Mentor/Intender always one.  No Mason Left Behind, ever!

~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