Something I Probably Shoulda Wrote in My Journal

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



All I can think about right now is what is to come. I'm stunned. I'm dumbfounded at the world around me. Yeah, COVID-19--that's old news. We had a wild election. We had people breaking into the Capitol Building. Now, the vaccine is here, so I guess I'll be getting that as soon as I can. My kids are in school virtually with plans to return to a hybrid learning environment in the coming weeks. I just got back from the Mayo Clinic, and I am still undiagnosed. Oh, and my production computer took a crap. All this stuff...not all of it bad, not all good--but it's like life itself boxed me around, and I'm standing there, stunned, looking at the stars circling my head.

Am I thinking about these things? Only as much as they might be words floating around in my head. They're like objects getting in the way of a daydream. I see this future where I'm back at an amusement park on a hot summer day. The world spinning around me, my kids running to the next ride, and my wife is smiling. Everything about the moment is perfect, even the smells. The funnel cakes, the cotton candy, even the garbage cans.

Flash to another one. The backlot behind lodge standing around with my Brothers. It's too damn hot for tuxes, and we've all lost our ties. There's laughing, and talking and the stars in the sky are clear to see--a rarity for a summer night around my neck of the woods. Driving home, with the windows open and listening to good music.

Flashing to another one. Driving home from the office. The sun is starting to go down, and it's blinding the hell out of me. But I can't stop smiling. The golden light is just baking my left arm. 

All these things are gone right now. No amusement parks, no Lodge, no office. Someone asked me recently what the first thing I would do when this was over. I said, "Go to the movies with my kids and eat too much popcorn and a tray of those pretzels and cheese." That sounds to me, like a slice of heaven right now.

Freemasonry teaches a lot of things. One of those things is Hope. We use it in a pretty singular way in Masonry, "Hope for a future life." Or something to the effect. I sure do hope for the future. I'm not really concerned about my own "future existence", but I do hope that the future has some surprises for us that don't seem to knock us on our asses again. Make no doubt about it. We'll pull through, and we'll be stronger for it. 

For the first time in months, I've seen some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Reflecting on what this time has been like, spending it with close family, and really experiencing people I interact with--it's changed me. Hell, it's changed you too, I'm willing to bet. We needed this. When this is all over, maybe I'll see you at the amusement park, or at the movies. Until then, I'll be daydreaming on occasion.

Keep working hard. Keep hoping. We'll get there sooner than later.

"If you can't suffer joyously, suffer patiently."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

~RHJ


RWB Johnson is a Co-Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre, which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way.


The EA Degree and the Lodge Closing Ceremony

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


The other evening, I was honored to be included in an interactive presentation by North Carolina’s Past Grand Master Shaun Bradshaw. In this presentation, Most Worshipful Shaun described the Hero’s Journey and how it fits into Masonic initiation. Several of us described the travels of the initiate, the 12 steps the candidate takes in each degree, and even how the whole of the three degrees itself becomes the journey.

MWB Shaun skillfully guided the group in comparing and contrasting the Hero’s Journey and the Masonic initiation by listening to the participants and adding perfectly timed insight to the conversation. I highly recommend any opportunity you may take in listening and learning from the Most Worshipful in this and his other presentations.

A new Brother goes through the degree, takes his obligation, receives the lecture and charge, and is seated among the brethren. This was a powerful moment for me when I received my EA because now I was recognized as a Brother and had become a part of the Lodge. It was very exciting. I watched with wonder and anticipation as the Lodge conducted what little business needed to happen, then proceeded to close on the EA degree. How cool it was for me to witness the actual ritual of the lodge!

We as candidates hadn’t been a part of the opening ceremony of course, and the Lodge created the sacred space into which we were escorted by a friend, who we later came to know as a Brother. The lodge had prepared itself for us, and we were prepared, instructed, and escorted. As the evening progressed, we were included in the closing ritual. Included! This was a part of the Hero’s Journey in and of itself, but it didn’t end there.

The EA degree doesn’t actually end with seating the new Brother amongst his Brethren but actually ends with the closing of the lodge. That’s right, our initiatic experience isn’t over with the degree... Now we take an active part in the ritual in which we just received. The closing, in many jurisdictions, includes a closing charge, and the closing becomes a part of that initiation, of the circumambulation, the hoodwink, the lecture, and the EA charge. This closing of the lodge, of releasing the sacred space, of being challenged to go out into the world to be better men, all tie back into the degree we each received.

Brothers, this was another powerful reminder to me, a newly made Entered Apprentice, that I was a part of the Lodge. I could now be a part of the ritual, of the opening and closing, and it reminds me now that the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason degrees extend beyond the ceremonial degrees themselves. My point is to ask us to remember our own Hero’s Journey through the degrees such that we continue to help new Brothers in their own journey. So may we ever meet, act, and part.

~RS

Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live in O'Fallon, MO just outside of St. Louis. Randy earned a Bachelors in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in telecom IT. He volunteers his time as a professional and personal mentor, is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol. He has a 30+ year background teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy's Masonic bio includes lodge education officer of two blue lodges, running the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, active in York Rite AMD, Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis co-librarian, Clerk of the Academy Of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, a trained facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. As a pre-COVID-19 pioneer in Masonic virtual education, Randy is an administrator of Refracted Light and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy enjoys facilitating and presenting Masonic esoteric education, and he hosts an open, weekly Masonic virtual Friday Happy Hour. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Welcome Randy Sanders!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


I've known Randy for a long time. Way back...I decided to visit the closest Valley that was Southern Jurisdiction of the AASR (Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite). I pulled into the parking garage and began to walk to the entrance of the building. I was met by a gaggle of Brothers having some cigars and just talking outside. 

It was a muggy day. The kind we complained about then, but look back on and wish for right now. Chris Tully was out there, being Chris. Goofy and serious and joking--all smiles. Jacob Thompson was there with his astute bowtie, a briefcase, and a stack of papers under his arm. Jacob looked like a frazzled professor running late for his next lecture.

That weekend was something else. After one of the degrees, Jacob Thompson was teaching a class about what we had just gone through. This is why I went down there, why I drove 5 hours to a reunion. Education! 

So there I was, sitting at a long table, on a metal folding chair, drinking black Folgers out of a styrofoam cup. Sitting next to me was this really friendly guy. How do I put this? Have you ever just met someone and, bam! You have a new super close Bro? That was Randy. I'll never forget that weekend.

Fast forward a bit and I meet Randy at more reunions, more conventions, more educational conferences. This guy was/is learning everything. The day I met Randy, we were students together. Now, Randy assists and teaches the classes along with Jacob. He does so much, including looking after the Valley of St. Louis's library--something I can't thank him enough for.

A few weeks ago, fellow managing editor, Darin Lahners said to me, "You think Randy would consider becoming a regular?" And it was a brilliant question. I asked Randy if he'd be interested and of course, he was in.

Welcome, Bro. Randy Sanders to the Midnight Freemasons as a Regular Contributor! I'm excited to read what Brother Randy brings to the mix as I know you all will be as well. 



Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live in O'Fallon, MO just outside of St. Louis. Randy earned a
Bachelors in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in telecom IT. He volunteers his time as a professional and personal mentor, is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol. He has a 30+ year background teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy's Masonic bio includes lodge education officer of two blue lodges, running the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, active in York Rite AMD, Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis co-librarian, Clerk of the Academy Of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, a trained facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. As a pre-COVID-19 pioneer in Masonic virtual education, Randy is an administrator of Refracted Light and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy enjoys facilitating and presenting Masonic esoteric education, and he hosts an open, weekly Masonic virtual Friday Happy Hour. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Horticulture in Freemasonry Pt. 1

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Cory Missimore



Author note: Recently, I presented on how Freemasonry, both speculative and operative, can be found in the noble art of horticulture. This article, one of three, contains a more in-depth explanation of the presentation.


Who are Freemasons? When you Google what Freemasons are known for, often pictures of grand builders and architects appear. Other images populated include pyramids, temples, monoliths, spires, and buildings. While these are all true and applicable to a certain extent, I want to discuss another noble and practical entry that is often ignored: gardens. In this series, we will examine the aspects of a garden (to include its design, purpose, and content) and their ties to Freemasonry.

Gardens are as applicable to Freemasonry, as is the building of Solomon's Temple. For one, there are a myriad of types of gardens. Sculpture gardens, stone gardens, foliage gardens, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, etc. Further, all these gardens use tools (both operative and speculative) employed by Freemasonry, such as the trowel.

The trowel is one of the essential tools to a Freemason. As speculative masons, we are taught that the trowel symbolizes the "spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection; that cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work, and best agree." Further examining the trowel, the tool's versatility, and its depiction in use amongst Freemasons and gardeners are prolific. While Freemasons use the Masonic trowel, so is the garden trowel used by the Order of Free Gardeners.

The Order of Free Gardeners is a fraternal society founded in Scotland in the middle of the 17th century and later spread to England and Ireland. Like numerous other friendly societies of the time, its principal aim was to share secret knowledge linked to the profession and mutual aid. The Order of Free Gardeners focused on the best knowledge in gardening and horticulture. Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants as part of horticulture. Horticulture is the agriculture of plants for food, materials, comfort, and beauty for decoration. Horticulturists apply knowledge, skills, and technologies to grow intensively produced plants for human food and non-food uses and personal or social needs.

While Free Gardeners have always remained independent of Freemasonry, the two orders' history and organization show numerous similarities. For instance, their primary insignia is of the square and compass with a pruning knife. Coinciding with the rise of the Order of Free Gardeners was the rise of garden landscapes. Wealthy landowners, who are speculated to have been Masons and who were interested in Renaissance architecture and the design of formal gardens for their vast estates, became intrigued. These landowners commissioned Free Gardeners amongst others to design gardens that communicate with us today.

For Masonic garden designers, both architecture and garden ornament was just as important as the garden's planning; indeed, the three were inseparable.

A garden is an interface between nature and art, and there are many examples of gardens in which nature and art are combined to communicate with us to convey a message. That message may be moral, philosophical, spiritual, or esoteric. A message can be created in a garden in three different languages. The language of form and shape, the language of the plants and their symbolic meanings, and the language of the manufactured features that are placed in the garden. For Masonic garden designers, the plants, architecture, and garden ornaments were given equal importance.

When designing a garden, mathematics and specifically geometry become critical tools. For Freemasons, geometry, or more specifically, sacred geometry, which is that geometric order (shapes, curves, and constructs) that precedes all physical existence--that geometry invented by the Great Architect of the Universe as a structure through which to order all of creation.

Under this tradition, its symbols take on metaphysical and symbolic meanings. "Geometry, or Masonry, originally synonymous terms, is of a divine and moral nature," wrote William Preston, a seminal figure in 18th century British Freemasonry.

"By Geometry, we may curiously trace nature through her various windings to her most concealed recesses. By it, we discover the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Great Artificer of the Universe… A survey of nature, and the observation of her beautiful proportions, first determined man to imitate the Divine plan, and to study symmetry and order."

An example of the language of form and shape is the motif of the center, the idea that when one marks the center of sacred space, one is symbolically marking the center of the world, the axis Mundi. This concept found heavily in Georgian gardens is emblematical of the circle and dot picture found in Freemason lodges, where the point or center of the circle is the individual brother. The circle is the boundary line of his duty to God and man, beyond which a man should not allow his passions, prejudices, or interests to betray him. Like how people can relax, play games, and enjoy nature, yet should control how they behave. This design is known as the circumpunct.

The garden may also have multiple points of focus, where people may sit and gather and enjoy the scenery. Supporting the scenery are often works of art, statues, and central plants. The Renaissance garden designers filled their gardens with motifs from classical mythology, taken from Greek and Roman works. These motifs were put there to convey a message. For example, Hercules' statue in the garden of the Villa Castello in Florence was to denote courage and virtue, characteristics that Freemasonry honors and exemplifies. An even more direct influence of Freemasonry in garden design can be seen in the New Garden beside a lake at Potsdam, built by the Rosicrucian King Frederick William II of Prussia. One of the Rosicrucian motifs in the New Garden is an icehouse in the form of an Egyptian pyramid, which is emblematical to [Freemasonry's] pyramid and the all-seeing eye.


In reviewing this first part of the series, we can see Freemasonry is a garden's design. Some pivotal content of a garden applies aspects of sacred geometry and gives a focus of purpose--growing from the design and placement of motifs in a garden. In our next essay, we will look more at the structures in gardens, both at their design and in their message.

~CM




Bro. Cory Missimore Bro. Cory Missimore is a Freemason out of Silver Spring MD. He currently serves as the Senior Deacon of the Silver Spring Lodge #215. He is a husband and father of two, works full time in cybersecurity, and is also an amateur sleuth in masonic research. He can be reached at cmissimore@gmail.com.


The Show Must Go On

by Midnight Freemason Regular Contributor
WB Christopher Hathaway


The events that took place in Washington, DC has the United States shook. Emotions are high, morale is low. Friends are fighting with friends, family with family. Where does a person turn to when they do not know what to believe? Turn off the news, de-activate your Facebook, silence your text messages. Sit in silence and act like nothing is going on in the world? No, that is not the answer. The show must go on, but how? 

I found solace on Thursday night. It gave me hope and inspiration. The Scottish Rite uplifted my spirits as I came together virtually with 2,500 brethren as we witnessed the 10th Degree is an unheard-of format. It started off with the playing of “Proud to Be An American”. As the lyrics say

I thank my lucky stars
To be living here today
'Cause the flag still stands for freedom
And they can't take that away"

We have all witnessed things in our respective countries that cast doubt on our loyalty, but we cannot let single events affect our dedication and service to the country.  

The next song was “What a Wonderful World” This song gave me hope for our future. Imagine a world where we speak to each other with respect. Imagine a post-pandemic world where we can shake a friend’s hand and feel the warmth of love. The lyrics say it best: 

"I see friends shaking hands
Saying, 'How do you do?'
They're really saying
'I love you'"

The Degree itself was outside the box. It was a ‘radio’ version where the script was read instead of performed on stage. It was phenomenally done. The degree was timely, two groups pitted against each other arguing treason and justice, both believing they are in the right and neither side listening to each other. Sound familiar? Our degrees are still relevant to the modern man. 

I particularly liked the verse in the prologue from Daniel 9 Verse 15 “we have sinned, we have done wrong.” How often do we admit that to ourselves? How often are we unwilling to change our opinion even when given new information? Humility and self-reflection would go a long way in today’s climate. Even with all the evil in the world, I will always believe that humans are intrinsically good. We may tick different, but we all want the same thing. 

The enthusiasm for the craft, the positive attitudes of the members, and the overall production quality from this virtual event gave me hope that Freemasons will rise to the challenge of adhering to our lofty ideals. We all took the same obligations and listened to the same charges. You first become a Mason in your heart, but you were not raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason until after you had learned the lessons of logic and reason. 

Use both your heart and your intellect as you navigate these troubled waters but always remember you are a Mason. That still means something to me and I hope it does to you as well. 

~CJH

WB Christopher J. Hathaway was raised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is the current Worshipful Master of Bloomington Masonic Lodge #43. He belongs to the Valley of Danville, AASR where he is the Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix and Membership Chairman. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto, Mohammed Shriners, and the Illinois Lodge of Research. Outside of the lodge, he enjoys spending time with his wife Taylor and cheering on the Fighting Illini and Chicago Cubs.    



Subduing Your Passions

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steven L. Harrison 33˚, FMLR


"What come you here to do?

To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Freemasonry."


Sometime in the early '90s I met and interviewed Richard A. Pick. That's right. A result of parents who had either a cruel sense of humor or perhaps were a bit naive, his name was Dick Pick. He was and, still is, although he died in 1994, one of my technology heroes. Back in the mid-60s, the government funded his efforts to develop a comprehensive programming/database system, which he called Generalized Information Retrieval Language System (GIRLS) – Dick's parents weren't the only ones with a sense of humor. 


At the time of the interview the Pick System, as it came to be known, was a hot rival to Unix. In fact, in one article, Time Magazine observed, "If Dick Pick had worked at AT&T, there would be no Unix." Unless you have no knowledge of technology or live on the backside of the moon, you probably know Unix won that war. Regardless, Pick ran with his system and built an impressive company which, for a while, was an important force in the IT industry. 


After the interview, I attended a dinner and sat in nerd-vana along with a roomful of other geeks and listened to my IT idol give a scriptless, rambling speech. His technical expertise outweighed his speaking abilities. Nevertheless, he had a lot of good things to say, so I flew home, wrote an article and… if I do say so myself… turned the interview and his sow's ear of a speech into a silk purse, publishing it in a local tech journal.


Days later, I got a call from Pickworld Magazine wanting to reprint the piece. The magazine was the national journal for all-things Pick. They offered no money for it, but I figured it was good exposure and gave them permission. When the next edition of the magazine arrived, I opened it with great anticipation looking for my masterpiece – and there it was, word for word, presented as Dick Pick's own column, with nary a mention of me!  My brain exploded.


Our corporate attorney was a good friend of mine. I marched straight to his office and ranted about the offense I had suffered. He explained the ins and outs of plagiarism and cautioned me this was more of an ethical than a legal matter. In the end, he advised me there wasn't much I could do except protest.  Still, I wanted blood. Blood, the attorney couldn't give me, but he had some good advice. My wise friend looked at me across his desk, leaned forward, and said, "Steve, learn to choose your battles."


Choosing our battles has a lot in common with subduing our passions, doesn't it? We hear that admonition in every Lodge meeting; but subduing our passions does not mean letting people walk all over us. "Improve myself in Freemasonry" follows for a reason. It implies we should approach conflict not just as adults, but as compassionate, understanding Brothers. It tells us to think before we act and choose our battles, knowing when to act, when to back off, and not go for blood.


It's easier said than done. Learning to subdue your passions is a journey whose destination is a moving target. I recently shared with a Brother an issue I just can't let go of. That thing had cropped up in an incident unrelated to him, and instead of going completely off the rails, I discussed the matter with him.  I basically used him as a therapist. That's the great thing about our Brothers. We know when we ask they will keep things in confidence. Talking things through really helps. You don't need a therapist, you need a Brother who will listen or a friend who advises you to choose your battles. As a bonus, discussions like that sometimes lead to plans for dealing with tough issues; that's exactly what happened in this case.


As for that little episode with the magazine, I phoned Dick Pick and got his personal assurance that he was unaware of the magazine's actions. He actually made the magazine apologize and print a correction. That helped. But after all these years of hearing it in Lodge, I'm still working on subduing my passions. I'm not good at it. Maybe that's why, almost thirty years later, my library shelf still contains a copy of my original article, that edition of Pickworld, and the magazine's letter of apology.

~SLH

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

Freemasonry Thanks You 2020. No, Really.

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB:. Bryan Simmons


This year has been amazing for Freemasonry, more especially the future of Freemasonry. This year started out like every other, 4-5 nights out a week, mostly doing things we were obligated to do but not really enjoying ourselves. Then everything came to a grinding halt, no more meetings. Horrible right?

The pandemic realigned my priorities, my lodge’s priorities, and my family’s priorities. I completed several projects that I did not have time for around the house previously. My lodge formed work parties, created a beautiful social room in our building, and completed several other much-needed updates in the building. Most important to me, I reconnected with my family. I pulled myself away from Freemasonry to take a much more local vacation than we would have to Niagara Falls. A stop and smell the roses moment for sure.

Within a month or two, we were holding business meetings and lodge social gatherings online, and the fraternalism was still strong. Masonic Education became a focus of many. Several Brothers formed the Refracted Light Facebook group, where Brothers joined to explore a wide range of topics through presentations and panel discussions. One topic was equality, which several Brothers from Prince Hall and the Grand Lodge of North Carolina discussed and walked away with a stronger bond.

Freemasons adapt to live their ideals. Is it perfect? Of course not. But, our fraternity has not persevered for over 300 years because everything stays the same. We adjust and will continue to adjust. Now, of course, some lodges and bodies will not compromise. These are likely the same lodges that wait around for the next good man to come and fix everything for them. He may come. He may try. He won’t do it the way it’s been done before. So his ideas will be shot down, and he’ll walk on out the door.

Yes, Freemasonry will feel the aftereffects of the pandemic for years to come. The lodges that adapted have added tools to include out of state members, and speakers from around the world can now present from their living rooms. For the complacent lodges, the pandemic will likely have left you hurting for members and struggling for bodies to open your lodges. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s not your fault, though, I’m sure.

When we look back at 2020, we will view it positively, even though it doesn’t feel that way today. Let’s hope that when we can get back in the lodge and resume our degree work, we never go back to how it’s always been done, but instead that we create a new environment and actually become the premier men’s fraternity that we claim to be and lead our lodges into the future.

~BS

Worshipful Brother Simmons is, a U.S. Army Veteran and native of Massachusetts is a Past Master of Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Brother Simmons has held many pillar offices in several appendant bodies and currently serves on the several committees for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts as well as several standing and Ad-Hoc committees for the city of Attleboro. Brother Simmons thrives in behind the scenes work his most notable accomplishment is the founding of Masonic Con in 2016 at Ezekiel Bates Lodge, which has provided fraternalism and education to countless Brothers across the country. Brother Simmons currently co-hosts two podcasts Worthy and Well Qualified and Arts, Parts, and Points, An Exchange of Masonic Education and Ideas.

It's Not About You

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Brother Randy Sanders


While sitting in the East, the Master again reminded the Brothers he only needed one ritual prompter. It’s not so much that the Master’s ritual was perfect; he tried and worked on it as best he could before he was installed into the office. No, it was a half dozen long time Masons who loved the ritual so much they couldn’t help themselves but to correct it. 

 It was the officers in line that were studying their parts and were learning the full opening themselves. It was the Brothers on the sideline that picked up the ritual and knew the missing pieces but couldn’t yet put it all together to deliver themselves. The grumpy Past Masters who didn’t think they were grumpy and yet also didn’t see how their actions were perceived by the current officers.

Sound familiar?

How about “change your rod!” or “move over there” called out while the candidate is blindfolded? Other verbal ritual correction during an initiation? What about the two older Brothers sitting on the sidelines talking in loud whispers, enough to be heard across the lodge, during the degrees' non-speaking parts? Even wild arm waving and pointing for footwork or lighting queues?

Many of us witness such behavior and get annoyed or just pass it along as just another part of the meeting. However, after much contemplation on this, I disagree. We, at least in my jurisdiction’s ritual, are told we should counsel our Brethren in the most tender manner in their failings. We’re also told we’re all on the level with each other. I don’t see that happening, and I’m seeing a few honorifics being promoted as being above the level. It’s disturbing.

It’s not about you. It’s about the candidate, and it’s about respect for your Brothers. We have an opportunity post-COVID darkness to make some corrections in candidate and member experience.

Respect is respect, and I love all my Most and Right Worshipfuls, my Past Masters, and my lodge Brothers. I am grateful and fortunate my lodges (I belong to two), my districts, and my Grand Lodge jurisdiction have done well in guarding the West Gate. I’m even more fortunate that very few of my Brothers offer correction during the ceremony, but I see it happen too frequently to ignore.

Yet, who will walk up to a Grand Lodge Officer, past Right Worshipful, or even a sideline Brother and correct him after a meeting? Who would ask that officer or past officer to remain silent during times of silence, to observe the decorum and sanctity of the Lodge meeting? Yet, if we don’t observe the decorum, sanctity, and just plain good manners, then how do we make ourselves better for that?

Shut up. Well, there, I said it. Shush!. Although those are not the words I would choose to offer, the overall sentiment remains. Any and all coaching must be done AFTER lodge and definitely AFTER an initiation, preferably in private. Did I miss that part of the ritual where the initiatic experience is all about the officers and not the candidate? Did I miss that part of the ritual where our passions are to be circumscribed unless you have a title or have been a longtime member? I get it that we went through a period where many new Masons were picking up ritual parts for which they weren’t ready, but that’s never an excuse to correct ritual during the meeting or degree ceremony.

There are some coaching methods that I believe need to be taught, and every situation is different. I like to ask questions and make it light with a smile, such as, “Brother, did you mean for the candidate to hear you say, "change the rod?"” or “Brother, did you mean for us to hear about your fishing trip while the candidate was being escorted?” Often, a soft, kind word will get the message across. Don’t be offended if they get offended, and simply acknowledge their excuses, if any, to avoid an argument. The message won’t be lost, although it may take some repetition. Be kind, and know that you make mistakes too.

Again, it’s not about you. It’s about the candidate, and it’s about respect for your Brothers.

~RS

Bro. Randy Sanders lives near St. Louis and is active in Missouri and Oklahoma Freemasonry. He is Co-Librarian of the Valley of St. Louis, MO., Clerk of the Academy of Reflection based out of the Valley of Guthrie, OK., Lodge Education Officer of 2 Blue Lodges, and develops and delivers Masonic education across the region in blue lodges, AASR SMJ, and York Rite AMD. Randy works in IT/Telecom, mentors IT and business professionals, and also teaches Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer. Randy and his wife raise Great Pyrenees dogs, enjoy gourmet cooking classes, and travel internationally. He has been involved in search and rescue, community response, and disaster mitigation for over three decades. He served as Logistics Section Chief on a federal disaster team and deployed to the Oklahoma City Murrah Building bombing and St. Thomas, USVI, for Hurricane Marilyn, among many others.

The Widow

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Judy Gordon


“You look out there and there are people that, their day is changed because of your contribution to it.” Brad Paisley

July 20th 2019, was a day that will forever stick in my mind. It was a day that took my status as a wife to a widow. It was a day that also took away my title as a caretaker.

A lot of you knew my husband. When we married, he KNEW I was very involved with Job’s Daughters and Eastern Star. Ray was always sitting home alone, and I casually mentioned him joining the local lodge and he said NO. Well, my dad had other plans. So, in 1999, Ray joined his local lodge, York Rite, Scottish Rite, etc…well, you know the rest of the story. Now I was the one that was staying home, and he was on the go. He really enjoyed his time with the Masons and met a lot of Brothers throughout his time as a Mason. Everyone loved him. Since he was a graphic designer, he was asked to design many a pin, or design an ad or two for the York Rite ad book.

As we know, when we get older, our body wears out… his body wore out…

I contacted Dave Crew, MM, Otto’s Monuments for the gravestone. I was told due to COVID-19 it wouldn’t be done until April. Which would give me time to save the money to pay. At the time, I was told, don’t pay anything until the stone comes in. On a Saturday afternoon in December, I received a text stating the stone was in. All I could think was, I will have to beg from Peter to pay Paul.

One of the obligations Masons have is to HELP, AID and ASSIST within the length of our cable-tow, to provide for the necessities of worthy Master Masons, their wives, and children, widows and orphans is the most sacred obligation resting on every Lodge and upon every Master Mason worthy of the title which has been conferred upon him.

The next thing that Dave said to me was, “I want you to listen very carefully.” In other words, Judy shut up and don’t talk, which is very hard for me to do. So, I was informed the stone had been paid for. I found out some of the Brothers paid for the stone. Words cannot express how much I feel from your generosity—and I was speechless. To my Masonic Brothers, if you are reading this and made a contribution, thank you.

My day was changed.

~JG

Three Wishes For 2021

by Midnight Freemasons Founder

Todd E. Creason, 33°

Midnight Freemasons (left to right) Greg Knott, Darin Lahners (back), Bill Hosler (front), and Todd E. Creason at St. Joseph Lodge No 970 (IL) over the summer.  We're also your hosts of the Meet, Act, & Part Podcast and this was the first time the four of us had met in person.
 

2020 has been a tough year all the way around, and Freemasonry has certainly not weathered the storm any better than anybody else.  But I think we’ve learned a few things as we’ve gone along, and my hope is that as we all pick up our tools and get back to work in the quarry in this upcoming year, we take a few of the things we’ve learned with us. 

Use The Tools We’ve Learned

I just turned over 100,00 miles on my odometer.  My car is less than five years old.  I’ve about driven the wheels off of it, and the vast majority of those miles were Freemasonry-related.  I drive and drive and drive and drive.  Many of us do this.  For instance, I get up on a Saturday, I’ll drive two hours for a meeting that lasts an hour and drive home thinking that meeting could have been a phone call.  And my Saturday, by the time I get back home, has a giant hole in it.  I could have spent that time with my family—maybe taking my grandson fishing.  I could have spent that time with my friends having a cookout.  I could have spent that time volunteering at the community trash pick-up.  I could have done a lot of things, but I burned gas and put miles on my car for a meeting that could have been a call. 

That was before COVID—that was before we really had to rely on other communications tools like Zoom calls, etc.  And I hope we keep these tools and use them.  Our time together in Lodge and face-to-face should be when we have our regular meetings or ritual instruction, or when we do events, or social gatherings, or most importantly—when we’re doing our degree work.  But that’s not what most of my travel is about.

If we want new members to get involved, we’re going to have to respect their time.  We’re competing with a lot of things.  We want that next generation to join us, but the Fraternity is going to have to learn to fit into their lives.  We can’t waste their time.  We can’t say on one hand we want you to be better husbands and fathers and community leaders while on the other hand asking them to drive two or three hours and attend a meeting that would be just as effectively given online.  When we want our members to be somewhere, we need to be sure they’re going to be able to participate, that they’re going to get something out of it, and that they’re going to enjoy the experience and want to do it again—not drive home wondering why they blew a huge chunk of their free time on that waste of time. 

My first wish for 2021 is not to fall back into old habit—continue to use the tools we have discovered to make the time we dedicate to Freemasonry more productive.

Get A Handle On Social Media

I’ve written on this topic over and over again.  I’d like to see the Fraternity start setting some standards of conduct for social media.  The first argument I always get when I say this is that every person has the right to an opinion, and that it’s a free country and people have a right to do what they want to do. That’s true, but my argument back is that if you want to do that, do it as an individual and not as a representative of OUR fraternity.  When you’re representing yourself as a Mason with your Fez, or your apron, you represent us all—you are no longer a ME you are an US!  As Masons we represent individuals that fall on both sides of every conceivable topic on this earth.  Republicans and Democrats.  Cubs and Cardinals.  Ford and Chevy.  And it’s not just divisive conversations.  It’s posting pictures of events or conduct that are unbecoming of a Mason.  I think a few highly visible Masons are doing irreparable harm to our Fraternity through nothing more than their activities on social media.  I’ve thought so for a long time, and it’s not getting any better.

I’ve probably told this story—I can’t remember if I have or not:  A few years ago I had a guy asking me about joining the Lodge.  He was very interested, and every time I saw him he asked me about it.  I’d given him a petition, and I fully expected him to petition our Lodge.  He was exactly what we’re looking for in a member.  He was young.  Married with a young family started.  He was active in church and in his community.  He would have been a fantastic addition to our Fraternity.  But he never returned the petition.  I called and asked him about it, and he said he was thinking about it—I never heard back, and I had a bad feeling about it.  I ran into him and his wife a couple months later, and I asked him again about it, and it was pretty obvious that he was uncomfortable talking about it in front of his wife.  A few days later he shows up at my house to explain.  His wife had some friends that were Masons, and she looked them up on social media.  He showed me the pictures—a group of Masons holding their hands up so you could see their rings while at either a strip club or a bar somewhere.  Women sitting on their laps that weren’t their wives.  Huge pile of beer cans on the table.  You get the picture.

Now you may know that most Masons don’t act like that.  I may know that most Masons don’t act like that.  But you’ve got almost no chance of ever convincing that guy Masons don’t act like that, and zero chance of ever convincing his wife that he should join.  I’ve seen them a number of times since and they completely avoid me.  You know why?  It's because they think I’m a member of some club that parties and drinks in strip clubs and they don't want to be associated with me.  I’m not, but that’s the perception.  I wonder how many other people out there see stuff like that and think that about Masons they know.   

I’m studying for Christian ministry, and my wife runs across this stuff on social media every so often—so do I.  It concerns us both.  She asked me not long ago if I was going to have to demit from Freemasonry at some point—are people going to think Freemasonry is some far left or far right political group based on the vitriolic political debates a few very visible members engage in?  Are people going to think Freemasonry is some kind of drinking or party club based on the behavior of a few very visible members.  It’s a good question, and one I don't have an answer for right now.  We live in a different era now, and the conduct of a few can have such a huge impact.  I hope the answer is no, but if I have to choose between serving God in the future or remaining a member of the Fraternity, the decision will be extremely painful, but easy to make.

My second wish for the Fraternity in 2021 is we start taking our reputation more seriously and start managing it better before a few bad apples spoil the entire barrel. 

Get Back To The Membership

I wrote a piece years ago Freemasonry’s Obsession With Empty Chairs.  Sadly very little has changed.  We’re always looking around our meetings at all those empty seats and wondering why there aren’t Masons sitting in them.  We wonder why our new Masons come to our meetings and then stop showing up.  Every year at this time as I’m sending out dues notices for my Lodge and go over all those Masons I have on my roster that used to be active and now owe more than a year or two worth of dues I wonder why they stopped being active.  I’ll even call these members up and touch base with them.  I never get a real answer.  I know that.  It’s always “well, I got busy” or “it conflicts with another obligation I have.”  But it comes down to the same thing.  Whatever they were getting out of it before, they were no longer getting.  Like a wise member of my Lodge has said for years, “when they stop having fun, they’ll stop coming.” 

And with our new members—those ones that we just raised and are so excited in the beginning, and then vanish all the sudden.  That’s easy to figure out, too.  Whatever they thought our Fraternity was about didn’t meet the expectation.  I totally get that.  It didn’t meet mine either, but with friends like Greg Knott who joined the Lodge about the same time I did, we found a niche.  We made our expectation a reality by bringing a little less boring meeting and a little more Masonic education to the Lodge.  We were lucky because our Lodge was open to it, and wanted to encourage us in our journey—in many places that simply isn’t the case.  I’m sure if it weren’t for that bit of luck and that openness to allowing us to share what we were reading and learning neither of us would be active Masons today. 

I was appointed the State Masonic Education Officer serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. back in October—haven’t done a lot yet, but the Grand Master put me in that spot knowing I had a heavy class load and wouldn’t really get started until after the finals were over in December.  But we’re going to get rolling now.  The focus of the majority of our efforts will be on that brand new member—getting that new Master Mason engaged.  That's the starting point right there.

Every active Master Mason I know was engaged from the moment he knocked on that door.  Masonic education was almost non-existent when I joined my Lodge (and my definition is education that falls outside the realm of ritual instruction).  What we did have was ritual instruction given by a grumpy and meticulous man name Jackson Cline.  We not only learned when to turn right and when to turn left, and how, but we also learned why.  And it was fascinating.  And we had a few young guys that were all about learning that ritual—the name that comes to mind is Sean McBride.  He was more than a decade my junior, yet became and still remains a mentor of mine.  About every Masonic organization I’m a member of right now you can track back in one way or another to this young mentor of mine, Sean McBride.  And this enthusiasm of Jackson Cline (WWII era) and this young guy Sean McBride lead me, and a few others to dig in and learn more about that ritual, and the history, and our values, and the application of those teachings . . . and we discovered vast libraries of information that almost nobody else in my Lodge had any interest in at all--until we started sharing it.  And when you get even a couple two or three or four guys enthusiastic about learning, it becomes a snowball rolling downhill. 

And that’s my final wish for 2021.  That we get back to the basics—back to bringing in new members and getting them engaged, getting them excited about not only improving themselves, but in helping others do the same thing.  When you can do that, the good that comes as a result reach far outside the walls of that Lodge.  

Have a great 2021!

~TEC 

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 a Past Master Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary. 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). He is a charter member of Admiration Chapter No. 282 and a Past EHP.  He currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M. as the Chairman of the Masonic Education Committee and State Education Officer.