A Midnight Freemasons Road Trip

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°
 
left to right: Senior Warden Greg Knott, Katie Creason, Junior Warden Darin Lahners, and WM Todd E. Creason
We’ve been talking for some time about the possibility of starting a Masonic Library at our Lodge—Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL).  Our Lodge over the last several years has gained a reputation as a Lodge that puts a particular focus on education.  We even have a museum room in our Lodge, so a library seemed the next reasonable step. 

The focus on education is what saved our Lodge.  Homer Lodge was chartered in 1856, and our building was built in 1892, but in 2011 we about closed it.  The building needed an enormous amount of work, including a new roof, and there just weren’t many members left to help.  In fact, we had a difficult time getting enough members at our regular meetings to open. 

Fortunately, since the Lodge had nothing to lose but closing, we were able to try a few things to save it, and one of those things was to improve the meeting experience, and put a major focus on providing good quality education at every meeting.  Our thought was that eventually, Masons from other Lodges might come to our monthly programs.  We also hoped that a few might join our Lodge as dual members as well. 

Here it is six years later, and the Lodge is beginning to see results.  We’ve got a new roof, and a new mission.  The entire Lodge has been cleaned and restored inside and out (less a little more work to do on one exterior wall).  It is certainly one of the grandest Lodges in our area—the Lodge room itself is around 2,500 square feet with towering ceilings.  We even turned what was once a room full of junk into a museum, where we’ve displayed many of the artifacts from our long history we found stored in the attic.  In addition to that, there’s a new Royal Arch Chapter that has been formed, Admiration Chapter No. 282, with the same focus on education as the Lodge.  The building is in use constantly.  It’s been used by other local Lodges, the Knight Masons, the Allied Masonic Degrees, the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Shriners.  Masonry has returned to Homer, IL in a big way.  The Officers of the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. even came and rededicated the Lodge two years ago. 

So we began talking about a library.  As you know, books are expensive, and books on Freemasonry can be very expensive.  We had just started talking about how we might finance a library, when I got a call—an email actually.  It was from Noel C. Dicks, who was the Grand Master of Illinois when I became a Mason.   He wanted to know if we’d ever thought about starting a library at Homer Lodge, because he knew a Mason, WB Bill Henry, that was looking to make some room in his basement by getting rid of a bunch of books he’d collected over the years on Freemasonry. 

Sometime it happens that way!

left to right: Darin Lahners, Todd E. Creason, Greg Knott, and library donor WB Bill Henry
Shortly before Christmas, three Midnight Freemasons, who also happen to be the three principle officers of Homer Lodge No. 199, went on a road trip to pick up a load of books—over 70 volumes.  It was an incredibly generous donation.  Bill Henry’s collection will form the core of our new library that will be enjoyed by members of Homer Lodge for generations to come.  And we plan to continue to add to our collection with the hopes that our library will become a place where new members and old can come and enhance their knowledge of our beloved Craft.

Saving a Lodge is a lot of work, but as I’ve said before, once the light of Masonry goes out, it never returns.  Sometimes it’s worth the hard work and effort to preserve that heritage at all costs.  And I’ll give you one good reason why.   

We have a young Fellow Craft that is about to be raised a Master Mason.  He wanted to join our Lodge in particular—it was a family tradition he wanted to bring back.  When I gave him the tour of the building before he petitioned, he found photographs of his great grandparents hanging on the wall in our museum—both involved in an Eastern Star Chapter that met at Homer Lodge many years ago.   
If Freemasonry changes that young man's life in the same positive way it has changed the lives of many of my Brothers, every drop of sweat has been worth it.

~TEC 

For your added enjoyment, here's an episode of "Masonic Curators" that featured Homer Lodge No. 199 presented by Senior Warden (and Midnight Freemason Senior Contributor) Greg Knott.
 


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning 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 the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

What If We Actually Did Masonry?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


We’ve all been there, a meeting where everyone has to put in their two cents regarding a charity event or a lodge repair. A discussion that lasts twenty minutes too long. Men informing the lodge that they “know a guy.”, who can do it cheaper, or perhaps raising the dues $5 a year is too expensive, or still yet, perhaps it's about how much money is going to be earmarked for the upcoming scholarships.

I commend these brothers who dig into the nitty-gritty of lodge minutia. It’s something I’ve just never cared much about or felt I needed to contribute to. These guys are into it though, they do it without being prompted, they take ownership and are made sure their voices are heard.

The title of this article alludes to the core mission of Freemasonry, to make good men better. Yes we’re charitable, yes we serve our communities, but what are we teaching our members about actually improving men? I addressed this concern in a previous piece which you can read HERE.

What if though?

What if, that same gusto for discussing these things--building maintenance and pancake breakfasts, was had when we introduced Masonic Education? What if Masonic Education wasn’t met with eye rolls from around the lodge? What if people cared as much for Masonic Education as they do about the minutia? What if Worshipful Masters didn’t buckle under the stress of the membership, requiring Masonic Education to be a mere five minutes or less? What if we did what we’re supposed to do, and fulfill the membership in the Masonic way, through improvement and education? What if instead of being told that we should start a study club on off nights for Masonic Education, we embraced the present opportunity to affect all present?

What would happen if we ALL changed the order of business, so that Masonic Education came right after the opening? What would happen if we spent twenty, thirty, dare I say an hour on a topical presentation complete with questions and answers with discussion from the brothers? Maybe we just change it so that it’s all education and only a couple bills? What would happen if these brothers were as engaged in the educational topic as they are about replacing the toilet seat, or procuring the free pancake mix from the local restaurant? Would the previous discussed minutia be then seen as the five minute bastard of the meeting? Relegated to the end, much like education is in too many lodges?

The chances are we would lose a lot of members by doing this. In fact, because Freemasonry is many different things to many different people, the least of which is an educational system. To do these things would require some sort of drastic change within the organization. Perhaps the way to experience this for those interested is to start a new lodge based on these principles.

Recently there’s been some great conversation about members who are unsatisfied, starting their own lodges. In some cases, a Grand Lodge has asked the members, “Rather than walk away, why not start a new lodge?” Members took that advice. Members across the USA are taking that advice.

Perhaps something that needs to be considered here is that Freemasonry should serve to fulfill its membership. Instead, what occurs is that the membership is largely guilted into not giving up on the current lodge, not walking away and actually to double and triple down and urged to join all the other appendant bodies. These extra organizations which are looking for anyone at all to convey the degrees upon, many times in an abbreviated form, just to get a warm body in a position. Bro. Scott S. Dueball made a case for this in his piece, “Blue Lodge First”, read it HERE.

Above I asked a whole lot of questions, and in my imagination, I thought about the response I would likely get online and the things which would be talked about, if at all. I just couldn’t help but think to myself, that the response would be something like, “I wouldn’t go to lodge anymore.” or perhaps, “By doing education first or by pushing hard for Masonic Education like this, you’re being unbrotherly.” I don’t know how that would be true, but that's basically what I think I’d hear.

I think those imaginary but prophetic responses I mentioned earlier are why the idea would never work. It’s why the membership that’s out there should just go ahead and start a new lodge if they want the educational kind of experience. Focus on what you want and leave the rest behind until they learn to attract you through additional fulfillment, not by begging you to show up. Have doubts about how this works? Check out Admiration Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in Eastern IL. Or ask Homer Lodge, also in Eastern IL about having education right after opening and letting it go for "...as long as it goes." according to Todd E. Creason, founder of the Midnight Freemasons. In fact recently, Todd had let me know that one of their chief detractors in the beginning of this effort, recently came to him and Greg Knott to tell them how much he now looks forward to the meetings.

While some reading this might belong to an education focused lodge and have no issues, I assure you, you are the minority.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. If Freemasonry is indeed a system which teaches good men to be better, then we better start having more education meetings than degrees and business combined. If we’re not doing this, we’re just lip service.

~RHJ

Sacred Feminine?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Darin A. Lahners

Upon a recent viewing of the movie, The Da Vinci Code, I discovered something that had alluded me up until now. Dr. Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) was discussing the symbol of the sacred feminine with Sir Leigh Teabing (played by Ian McKellen). The feminine V which was presented reminded me very much of the Square displayed proudly daily on my Masonic Ring, which is intersected by a compass, with the Letter G in the middle. Is this accidental? Or like other symbols in Freemasonry – is there a hidden meaning to be found?


In Illinois, The blazing star is described as one of the ornaments of a lodge, as being a hieroglyphic representation of Divine Providence. In more ancient traditions, it is represented as consisting of two equilateral triangles interlocked. The triangle with the apex pointed down was emblematic of the Creator, with the apex pointing down toward the created universe, whereas the triangle pointing up was representative of man, pointing toward God, the Creator. When intertwined as a six pointed star, they would form a single figure, the symbol of unity between God and his creation. However, even more ancient was the hexagram being representative of sexual union between man and woman. The triangle pointed downward representing the feminine and the other triangle representing the male.


I know what you’re thinking. Don’t take my word for it. 


So what does this have to do with the Square and Compass? The Square and Compass is a representation of the Blazing Star. You have the Feminine Square intersecting with the Masculine Compass. Within the Square and Compass, a diamond shape surrounds the Letter ‘G’. This diamond shape also is similar to the double pointed oval used to represent the Yoni, or female sexual organs. This is more easily seen in the symbol of the Knife and Fork degree. G-D being the seat of creation of all things, he is positioned within the overtly feminine symbol of the Yoni, which is also representative of creation. 


In Albert Mackey’s “The Symbolism of Freemasonry: Illustrating and Explaining its Science and Philosophy, Its Legends, Myths and Symbols.”, he explains: “All the deities of pagan antiquity, however numerous they may be, can always be reduced to the two different forms of the generative principle—the active, or male, and the passive, or female. Hence the gods were always arranged in pairs, as Jupiter and Juno, Bacchus and Venus, Osiris and Isis.
But the ancients went farther. Believing that the procreative and productive powers of nature might be conceived to exist in the same individual, they made the older of their deities hermaphrodite, (having both male and female genitalia) and used the term man-virgin, to denote the union of the two sexes in the same divine person.”

Even in ancient Babylonian myth and early Hebrew myth, El , “God” – the supreme god of the Sumerians) and Yahweh shared the same consort, Asherah. According to Ronald L. Ecker, in his book “And Adam Knew Eve”:

“In the Bible her name often appears as ha asherah, meaning "the" asherah. In such instances the reference is not to the goddess but to a symbol of her, an object (in the plural asherim) that was apparently a sacred pole, tree, or group of trees (hence the translation "groves") at Israelite sanctuaries or "high places" as well as by altars of Baal. The erecting of asherim was among the "evil" deeds of kings like Ahab and Manasseh, and cutting the things down was a regular chore of "right" kings like Hezekiah and Josiah.

The presence of Asherah or her symbol at places where Yahweh, the biblical God of the Hebrews, was worshipped raises the question of whether the Canaanite goddess was considered also to be the consort of Yahweh.

We know from references to,
"the sons of God" (Gen. 6:1-4; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7)
"the host of heaven" (1 Kings 22:19)
"angels" (Gen. 19:1; Ps. 103:20)
God’s statement "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26),

...that Yahweh was not alone in his heaven.


We know also that Yahweh supplanted the Canaanite El to the extent that God’s other names in the Hebrew Bible include El, El Elyon ("God Most High"), El Shaddai ("God Almighty"), and the (originally) plural form Elohim (as in Gen. 1:1).”

But the Square and Compass isn’t the only symbol within Freemasonry that refers to this idea. If we go back to Mackey’s "The Symbolism of Freemasonry: Illustrating and Explaining Its Science and Philosophy, Its Legends, Myths and Symbols..”:

Now, this hermaphrodism of the Supreme Divinity was again supposed to be represented by the sun, which was the male generative energy, and by nature, or the universe, which was the female prolific principle. And this union was symbolized in different ways, but principally by the point within a circle, the point indicating the sun, and the circle the universe, invigorated and fertilized by his generative rays. And in some of the Indian cave-temples, this allusion was made more manifest by the inscription of the signs of the zodiac on the circle.”


Mackey goes onto then give the following explanation: “So far, then, we arrive at the true interpretation of the Masonic symbolism of the point within a circle. It is the same thing, but under a different form, as the Master and Wardens of a lodge. The Master and Wardens are symbols of the sun, the lodge of the universe, or world, just as the point is the symbol of the same sun, and the surrounding circle of the universe.

But the two perpendicular parallel lines remain to be explained. Everyone is familiar with the very recent interpretation, that they represent the two Saints John, the Baptist and the Evangelist. But this modern exposition must be abandoned, if we desire to obtain the true ancient signification.

In the first place, we must call to mind the fact that, at two particular points of his course, the sun is found in the zodiacal signs of Cancer (June) and Capricorn (December).

These points are astronomically distinguished as the summer and winter solstice. When the sun is in these points, he has reached his greatest northern and southern declination, (a gradual falling off from a higher state) and produces the most evident effects on the temperature of the seasons, and on the length of the days and nights.


These points, if we suppose the circle to represent the sun's apparent course, will be indicated by the points where the parallel lines touch the circle, or, in other words, the parallels will indicate the limits of the sun's extreme northern and southern declination, when he arrives at the solstitial points of Cancer and Capricorn.


But the days when the sun reaches these points are, respectively, the 21st of June and the 22d of December, and this will account for their subsequent application to the two Saints John, whose anniversaries have been placed by the church near those days.”

Is it so far-fetched then to imagine that our mysteries then refer to the Great Architect of the Universe as being similar? Isn’t it possible that the ‘G’ within the Square and Compass refers to this more ancient understanding of the creator as encompassing both the Masculine and Feminine?

Before your blood begins boiling, I want to point out that this wouldn’t be the only place in Freemasonry where we have symbols that refer to genitalia. As this isn’t a tiled page, I would just point out that all Master Masons should know what this refers to within our rituals. However, it also has a further allusion which should be clear to everyone in the context of this article. Yes my brothers, it is sublimely referring to the act of creation.


Of course, there are many explanations for our symbols. I’m just pointing out some coincidences between them and how the feminine has been represented. Many of these coincidences that Albert Mackey also understood. There are obviously many explanations for the symbols I’ve presented here. It is my goal to educate my brethren and for them to ultimately decide for themselves what they think.

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

Freemasonry and Fatherhood

by Midnight Freemason Contributor 
WB Adam Thayer



I have a two year old daughter… I should probably start by telling you that, or the rest of this article will seem entirely like conjecture. If you have a child too, I hope yours came with better instructions than mine, because so far the only real advice I’ve received is “Try not to kill her, and you’ll figure the rest out as you go.” The fact that this was given to me by a total stranger (a nurse at the hospital), told me that I was in for a real challenge.

Freemasonry has a lot that it can teach us when it comes to raising our children. For instance, sitting through the reading of the minutes can teach us about patience, which is an invaluable skill when it comes to your two year old arguing with you about watching Finding Nemo for the twentieth time this week. And haven’t we all seen a grumpy Past Master throwing a temper tantrum that could rival a child?

Now, I’ve never really been what you would call an overly emotional person. Sure, I cried tears of joy when the Cubs won the World Series (didn’t we all?), but never at weddings or a funeral, or even at the beginning of Up (which, I’m told, is incredibly sad for most people). I’ve noticed, however, that since Quinn has been born, there are many emotions that I hadn’t considered before. Seeing her try things for the first time, or solve a problem for herself, or even just the times that she wants to cuddle on the couch and watch cartoons (currently, her favorite is the 80’s run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), has put a near perpetual lump in my throat.

Freemasonry teaches us that our emotions are a normal part of our existence, and that (when handled properly) can make us more well rounded people. In addition to teaching us to keep our passions circumscribed, it teaches us that while traversing that circle we can and should experience the whole range of emotions, instead of staying safely at the center point.

I’ve also found myself contemplating my own mortality more than ever before. Being a bit morbid, I’ve always had a fascination with my own demise, however death has generally existed more as something that happens to other, weaker people, people who weren’t strong enough to keep fighting for their existence. Of course, on an intellectual level, I knew that I, myself, would also die one day, however I never truly accepted the reality of the situation until having a child.

You see, children force us to think about the future, and in the future lies a time beyond our existence. For all of us, that day creeps closer and closer, so we start to make plans, and backup plans, contingency plans, worst case scenario plans, and even “if everything goes just perfectly, this could work” plans, to prepare our children to be able to live without us.

While having a child has made me focus on the future, it has also helped me to gain a greater respect for the past. I’ve been lucky in my Masonic career to meet men from so many different generations, and each has taught me something valuable when it comes to raising a child. Watching everything going on in the world, I definitely appreciate a simpler time with less things to worry about; I know my parents never had to worry about what I was watching on a tablet...

Children are, Masonically speaking, rather expensive. Money that was once going to our Masonic habit is suddenly being redirected to things like clothing, diapers, food, and whatever the heck an aspirator is. So far, my experience has been that as they age they become more expensive, and I see no reason to expect this trend to change until the time comes that I’m entirely destitute.
Of course, money is only part of the expense, while the larger and more important expense is time. Time is the currency that Masons use to best improve the world around us, and children require a LOT of time. The paradox, from what I’m seeing, is that the more time I invest into my daughter, the more she will go on to improve the world, thereby accomplishing our goals.

Finally, I’ve found that having a child makes it very difficult to ever get around to finishing anything that I start. This article, for instance, was started nearly five months ago, and no amount of editing has made it read any better than it did when I first started writing it. The ending, which tied it all together both intelligently and eloquently, was unfortunately overwritten by the Troll Holiday special (no, I have no idea how that’s possible, let’s just go with it, or this will sit on my computer for another five months before being revisited).

~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!

The 24 Inch Gauge – Size Does Matter

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson


I was on a business trip, first one I've taken in a long time. Taking advantage of the 'free' time I had, I decided to catch up on some reading. There was a specific article that needed to be shared with my wife….an article entitled "It's not Masonry, he's just an (expletive)-hole." Her immediate response was "Is this for you or me?" I thought that was a good question, and I was thankful to this article for helping initiate a very difficult conversation…was I risking too much? How out of whack was my 24" gauge? As happens from time to time, my wife helped me view my situation from a different angle.

Throughout the discussion, I was trying to explain that I was trying to balance my responsibilities, but I felt that as Master, I needed to support each event on our calendar. Most frustrating was the fact that only a very few Brothers really stepped forward to help with the various endeavors. When they don't show up, my internal demons start theorizing…do they care? Is the latest episode of 'Dance Moms' really more important to them than our Lodge? What I didn't see, without her help, is that it is entirely possible that those men are active in their own way…being coaches, colleagues, fathers, husbands. Could it simply be possible that these men have a better handle of their 24 inch gauge?

I still joke, on occasion, about that working tool in our repertoire. Yes, we know of the even 24 divisions, but any further divisions aren't claimed to be divided evenly! As a self diagnosed workaholic, this lesson really resonated with me, and resurfaces every time I work late or find myself wasting time. Much like our political persuasions, or spiritual beliefs, a major strength of our Fraternity is our diversity. This includes the diversification of our priorities. For many of our Brothers, their family does come first. For others, their jobs come first. It isn't our position to judge, but it is our position to learn. The management of our time is a life skill, one that we must continue to hone each and every day. Unless, of course, your name is Brother Alessandro Cagliostro.

~REJ
Robert Edward Jackson is a Past and presiding Master of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he's busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at info@montgomerylodge.org

Reflections on a Long Year - 2017 edition

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer 


“Brethren, as the year is drawing to a close, I, like many of you, find myself reflecting upon the challenges and achievements of the past year and turning an eager eye forward to see what the new year will bring. While my year has been full of many joys, there have been many trials that I did not believe I was prepared to handle and obstacles that seemed impossible to overcome. I feel relatively safe in saying that when you take the final tally of your year’s events, you will find a similar sentiment.”

I said that… two years ago now? Wow, two years has gone by so fast, it seems like I’m still preparing for my year as Senior Warden, not looking back at the end of my year in the East.

For anyone who has not yet sat in the East, it’s an interesting mix of feeling like a king and being convinced that you’re actually the jester. It’s a lot of work, no doubt, and a lot of reward, and if you’re really lucky, you’ve managed to do something that will improve your lodge for the future. For me, I hope that at least one of the old traditions that we brought back will continue into the future, and that the speech competition we’ve started will be a very successful program for years to come.

Some people enjoy being in charge, and are very good at it; I don’t. Somehow, I keep finding myself in leadership positions, when I would much rather spend my time writing, and editing my local Masonic newspaper, occasionally helping out with degree work as needed. If I could go the rest of my life without running another lodge, I would be perfectly happy, however the sad reality is that there are not enough qualified people around to handle all of the positions that need filled, and part of being a Mason is stepping into things you’d really rather not do.

We’ve spoken about Masonic burnout a lot on the site. I mean, a LOT. I’ve read every one of the articles, because I’m a huge fan of the writers here, and I read every article that gets published. After every burnout article, I always told myself “man, that’ll never happen to ME, I’m much stronger than that.” If I could sit down with that smug bastard right now, I’d smack him right in the face. After that was accomplished, I’d explain that burnout has nothing to do with strength, or a lack of strength, it’s from being strong for too long against overwhelming odds without any reprieve from the stress. Once I was certain that he understood, I’d smack him again, because let’s face it, he deserves it.

“For those of you who, like myself, have had a very painful year, I hope you can find comfort in the words of Ovid: Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim. (Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.)”

I wrote that too. (See, I told you, smug) I don’t disagree with what I said, because I still believe it to be absolutely true. I don’t believe, however, that it was nearly encompassing enough, as it didn’t address the issue I’m facing now: I’m tired. Green Mile, “like pieces of glass in my head, all the time” tired.

For those of you who have been long time readers, you may have noticed I was absent for a while; believe me, I’ve missed being here and writing so much that it eats away at me in those late hours when I really should be sleeping, and I apologize for being gone so long. For so long, writing was my inspiration, and what recharged my battery when it was running low; unfortunately, when times get tough, we often give up those things we should be holding like a life raft, and that has been my downfall this year as well.

It’s been a long year, but in the history of long years it surely hasn’t been the longest. It has been exhausting, trying, and at times overwhelming, and that’s just a typical evening with my two year old!

The best part of being a writer for this site is that when things are going well, I have all of you to celebrate and share the joy with, and when things have all gone pear shape I have you to commiserate with, which leads me to the last thing I said two years ago, and which is no less true today:

“I love each and every one of you, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it!”

~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!

"Oh Brother where art thou?"

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners


The first article I wrote for the Midnight Freemasons was about my trepidation on becoming Worshipful Master of my Lodge. I wrote out my mission statement and emphasized how I wanted to make the lodge a place where brothers and their families wanted to spend time. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to arrange some events for the brethren to get together socially. My last two attempts have had attendance from myself and one other member (and Midnight Freemason). Our November stated meeting barely had enough members for a quorum to open lodge. Granted, I knew that we had a few members that had other obligations due to their familial obligations, but I still wonder, is there something I’m doing wrong?

The writing has been on the wall for some time. We have seen declining interest in events such as Worker’s Club. My Junior Warden has received a wonderful opportunity to continue his education, the downside being that his class meets on Thursdays, which means he’s been missing some of our stated meetings. My Senior Warden has a job which requires a lot of travel, so I’m lucky that he can make the stated meetings, but he doesn’t have much time to make other events. On top of this, we just won 2nd place for Lodges under 80 members in the State of Illinois for our Grand Masters Award of Excellence. All this adds pressure to try to make sure we do equally as well next year. But still it makes me wonder, why aren’t many of my other brethren as concerned about keeping the high level of excellence we’ve set?

Worshipful Bro. Scott Dueball just wrote a really interesting article regarding this: Read it HERE.

He challenged the incoming leadership of his lodge as outgoing Master regarding creating a membership-centric plan for their lodge. His main points were eloquently summarized as:

  1. Identify where the lodge has gaps in what needs to get done.
  2. Identify brothers with those talents.
  3. Identify ways to attract the interests of those brothers.

In my home lodge, we are particularly lucky to have 3 members that work in the kitchen of a local restaurant. Our food when we have degrees is spectacular. I’m not taking advantage of this as Master. We should have food before our meetings at the lodge, instead of me meeting a few brothers for dinner prior. Masons like to eat right? But this only really applies to brethren that want to be active in the lodge.

The question remains for me: “How do I attract inactive members to come to lodge?” I came up with a short survey. As I just sent it out. I have no idea how it will be received. I have no idea if anyone will reply to me. I’ll share the results in a future article. However, the survey is below:

1. If you are not currently regularly attending the stated meetings, what is keeping you from coming?
  • Personal reasons. (Work, Family, Etc.)
  • Lodge is boring.
  • I've forgotten the passwords and I don't want to embarrass myself/I feel awkward attending by myself.
  • I have better things to do with my time.
2. What would make our lodge more attractive to you?
  • More family events like dinners, picnics, etc.
  • More Educational programs.
  • More fellowship activities (going bowling or other group activities, dining together, socializing as brethren).
  • Focusing on doing community service/charitable works in our community.
3. What would attract you to come to a stated meeting?
  • A nice dinner prior to the meeting in our dining room at the lodge.
  • Guest Speakers (Notable Masonic scholars and the like).
  • A short meeting followed by fellowship off of lodge property at an establishment that serves Adult Beverages.
  • Nothing, I'm fine just paying dues.

My struggles led me to think about how we select members. There seem to be two fundamental philosophies regarding prospective members at play within Freemasonry. The first philosophy is based upon a fear that we are dying as an organization, and we need membership. If a man meets the basic criteria for joining the lodge and petitions for membership, assuming he meets this criteria, he should be allowed to join. We need bodies to pay dues and to pay per capita, and as long as they are doing this, it’s fine if they don’t engage in the lodge.

At least once a year I hear one brother in lodge talk about how electing a candidate to receive the degrees of Freemasonry should be a mere formality. The same brother thinks that we should never throw a black ball (black cube in Illinois), because by the time a candidate has his petition balloted on, that he has been thoroughly vetted by at least six other brothers. The 3 brothers that have signed the petition as well as the 3 or more members that have served on the investigation committee all have essentially vouched for the petitioner. So the petitioner’s election at this point should be a given and anyone who has an issue with the candidate should have addressed it to the lodge prior to the vote.

However, I think we all might have a regret of not throwing a cube at some point during your Masonic journey. I personally have two candidates that I thought long and hard about black balling. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it because their top line signer was and still is a personal friend and a masonic mentor. But I often wonder, should I have? The two candidates in question now are absent from lodge and we are chronically chasing after them to pay their dues. I regret, not doing it in retrospect. But what does that make me? I feel complicit in the situation.

The other fundamental philosophy is that we need to make Masonry somewhat elitist. This idea is based upon a thought that we should only admit men that have a desire to improve themselves and dedicate themselves to the craft. It also argues that we are not maintaining our historical identity by letting every man of good character join. It believes that we are essentially causing the status quo to be lowered because we should only allow men that are going to act towards being morally and intellectually superior. If we institute some form of entrance prerequisite, we will separate the wheat from the chaff. We must Guard the West Gate against men who do not share these ideals.

This idea has come up again in discussion recently due to this recent post by Illus. Brother Chris Hodapp. If you’ve not read it, I suggest you do so (click)-> HERE:

While I caution against elitism, I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing to re-examine ourselves as a Fraternity. Sometimes a good hard look in the mirror reveals flaws that we’ve been ignoring for far too long. Yes, we need to attract a certain type of member, but I wonder if the West Gate had been strongly guarded when I joined, would I have made the cut? Would you have? But then again, had it been guarded more strongly after I was a member, would I have the same issues with lodge participation that I have today?

I guess these are questions that can’t be answered because the past is set in stone. We can only decide for ourselves at our local lodge level, what we want to be going forward into the future. Each individual lodge is different. Each member is different. I can only state for myself that I have become a better person due to the lessons of my degrees. I can only say that I feel blessed for the friends and mentors that I have made along the way. I can only state that Freemasonry has unlocked a desire to write and to create that lie asleep in me. I would hate to take that opportunity away from another man who is just as qualified as I was for Freemasonry. However, I also believe that I need to be protective of the craft. So I will end with this, we are given the power of the ballot as a Master Mason for a reason. Don’t be afraid to use it to protect Masonry if you feel a man is unworthy or will prove himself to be so. Just be sure to use it responsibly.



-DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.