An Interfaith Homily

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Ken JP Stuczynski

{I was on deck a couple of years ago to fill in as the speaker at a Masonic Interfaith breakfast, and although the speaker didn’t show, they called off the sermon and invocation altogether. This unused passage is compiled from the notes intended for use that day.}

I’d like to share with you a puzzle. This is not the kind you hope all the pieces came with the box and have to protect from the cats, but something much larger — something that encompasses all of human experience throughout the ages. This puzzle is the question of the Holy versus the Profane.

All cultures have some notion of sacredness, or that which is “holy”, meaning, in its most basic form, “set apart.” Ritual of all sorts are used to create sacred space. We use ceremony to sanctify a building, or a room, or a vessel, for a particular meaningful purpose, or use ritual to make special a place for a gathering to set it apart not only from the outside, in space, but from the rest of the day, in time.

The mezuzah on my home’s door frame contains the passage of Exodus 25:8. “[H]ave them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” I bring this up because even if there were not religion, we would still have the first sacred space of a human being, Home. It becomes a place separate from the rest of the world, and as such it becomes a special act of trust and generosity to invite someone into it.

But there’s another side to the coin. By making our space special, it must be shielded from the outside world, other people. We build walls between us physically and risk building them spiritually as well. This is the puzzle: How do we find holiness in our own lives and hearts without marking everything — and everyone else — profane?

There is another conflict at work here. Wisdom is the ability to make meaningful distinctions, to not become confused with similitude or resemblances. But Love is the choice to NOT make distinctions, to be unconditional, to not compare or contrast others as more or less deserving of life and dignity. Distinctions can detract from our ability to Love, and the most dangerous distinction of all is THEM versus US.

But tribalism is natural. It is how we create the “sacred” in human societies. It gives an identity to a people as opposed to others we may not trust. We find it wise to distinguish between those binding themselves to certain values, rules, and traditions, and those who don’t, at least by our own estimations and assumptions. Those others go by many names: Foreigners, Gentiles, Heathens, Outsiders, Profanes.

The part of the puzzle Freemasons work at is to have the benefits of Sacred Fraternity without its pitfalls, as “Every human being has a claim upon our kind offices.” From one angle, we are always drawing a line between what is good and true and what is not. But is it to pretend we are different or better than others? Do we puff out chests, claiming the higher moral ground, being more civilized than others?

Or is it made in principle? Perhaps the line we draw is only supposed to be the “due bounds” of basic ethics, showing us that which we ought not do. Will we give in to fear and hate and say we must stoop to be evil to fight evil? Will we say our noble ends can justify any means? Or do we draw that line?

I ask a further question, more to the point: Can we protect the sacred by keeping others out? Any Temple we make can be knocked down, and someone eventually always does. But we, as Masons, are taught to construct a Temple that can’t be touched or even made by human hands — something worthy of the Eternity of the Soul, a Sacred space that transcends the need for “Us” and “Them”. We seek a circle without limits.
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”

(Edwin Markham)
Poetry is not unknown among Masons — Goethe, Kipling, Bobby Burns, Rob Morris, even George Washington has written a verse or two. But are flowery words forceful arguments? Or are they among other ridiculous sentiments, such as “Love your enemies” or “Pray for those who hate you.” In real life such notions are ridiculous — not because they are ridiculous in principle, but that they are ridiculously difficult to live by.

Consider a recent event — a school shooting where the killer was a child himself. We can’t help but see our own children when we look at the victims’ faces. But we refuse to even look at the face of the disturbed or tormented child who pulled the trigger as anything more than an animal. We cannot accept them as one of us; they may as well be an alien or demon.

On a larger scale, humanity has always used ethnic and ideological pretexts to wage so-called “Holy Wars”. Even atheistic Stalinism played upon this social psychology, and the death toll was mind-boggling. Perceived differences that break down trust and empathy become the very basis for identifying others as something less than human, consciously or subconsciously. After all, that is the only way to make calls to war seem palatable, and the atrocities that stem from them excusable.

Freemasonry was borne in part as a response to this continuing tragedy. The Reformation and Counter-reformation gave us hundreds of years of massacres, both politically executed and by unorganized mobs, based on denominational allegiances. In our Lodge rooms we forbade sectarian discussion and created a sacred space in which we could all sit, and pray together without fear. And we went a step further, borrowing the attitude of Rosicrucianism — a philosophy that prioritized those things of faith on which all men agree, rather than continue to denounce each other over theological details.

The puzzle is how to make the whole world sacred without losing the sacred. Perhaps the answer can be found within another question, another plight of human existence. Why are we missing so many pieces in our world, and in each of our own hearts?

Maybe we are supposed to have something missing, so we have to be dependent upon one another, not just physically, but spiritually and at every other level of our being. Maybe we need the answers to questions only others can ask, coming from places we cannot be, with knowledge we do not have, and understanding we cannot find alone. I believe God has entrusted each of us, however noble or broken a vessel we may be, with a unique spark necessary to light some part of the path for the rest of us.

And maybe it will take all the languages of the world to fill in our crossword. Maybe we must reunite the myriad tribes who split at the fall of the Tower of Babel, and finally hear each other again. And if will finally share those letters and syllables in our hearts, we might just form the Lost Word, recovering the true Law of Love and discovering it anew.

There’s only one time this can ever begin, for ourselves and the World.
The kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It is among us.
We can choose our fate together by choosing it within ourselves.
Never cruel or cowardly, never give up, never give in.
Embrace and enfold others without limit or prejudice, and all will be Sacred.

Grand Architect of the Universe, we ask for the strength to do what is right, rather than what is easy. Subdue our passions against one another, and may we always strive to Love one another as you have Loved us. Amen.


Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

Is Lodge My Church?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

Recently our good friend and Brother, Alex Powers, posted something interesting on the Kansas Masonry Facebook Page. For some background, Alex posts a question for contemplation almost daily. Sometimes they're deep philosophical questions, and other times they're more straightforward. If I'm scrolling through Facebook and I see the question, I stop to read it. Sometime's I answer them, and sometimes I stop and think about it--maybe I reply, perhaps I don't. 

I almost always answer straightforward questions about my Lodge experience or procedures and customs that we might use in Lodge. The reason being, it's hoped others might also read the replies and see where their own experiences and traditions are similar or different from the others that they are reading about. This is a great way to see the universality of the Craft and create more informed and confident Master Masons. 

The philosophical questions are a bit different. In fact, earlier this week, Alex posted a question that began with a little admonition:

"Let's start off with this week's theme being one typically avoided in Masonic circles: Religion. Obviously, we will approach this in due bounds and remind all to do the same. And, of course, our team of moderators will keep an eye on as well. 

Today's topic: 

In your personal experience, do you utilize Freemasonry as a supplementary factor (to add to or enhance) to your religious practice? Or do you view and treat Freemasonry entirely separate?"

In case you skipped the quote, I bolded it. This is what I am going to address here in this short article. And let me go one step further. I want to say that this blog's description is: 

"A group of Master Masons talk about topics of Masonic interest--each from their own unique perspective. You'll find a wide range of subjects including history, trivia, travel, book reviews, great quotes, and hopefully a little humor as well on topics of interest for Freemasons and those interested in the subject of Freemasonry."

My own perspective is precisely what I want to lay out. I began to answer Alex's prompt, and while doing so, I thought I would keep it simple, but that I would also lay this out for the blog because this is a question that is always out there, looming like some kind of storm cloud. I wish it was easier to talk about things like this without having tons of disclaimers, but alas--it's a hotly debated topic; in fact, what's more hotly debated about, is that the question itself shouldn't even be asked! But it was-- and here is my answer. 

I grew up Roman Catholic. I attended Church in Naples, Italy, with my mom and dad weekly. My dad was in the service (Navy) and had been stationed there. It was a wonderful experience. Later, when we came home to the United States, we settled in Illinois after my dad had passed away. I was young, and I attended a Lutheran grammar school for a year. My mom wasn't a fan and pulled me out. I went to public school after that. My religious beliefs until my early twenties could best be represented by the poster that hung in Fox Mulder's basement office in The X-Files. And in reality, that poster is laminated and hangs on my own office wall right now.

"I Want To Believe" was my motto with religion and just about anything else. And let's be honest, there would be a certain comfort or contentment in knowing or believing for those out there who don't believe. To be sure, some atheists will say that they are already content and comfortable--I believe you. This speaks for the rest of us. I wasn't an atheist--I was agnostic in those formative years. I found it audacious in a sense to declare it one way or the other. Who am I to say whether something like God exists or doesn't?

After reading much literature on philosophy with varied authors and really focussing on my collegiate studies, which were themselves centered on philosophy in religion, I had arrived. I did not have faith that there was more. I KNEW there was more. I did believe--because the evidence was surrounding me. The readings and authors that did the most to sway my mind were Giordano Bruno, Cayetano Ripoll, Thomas Paine, Spinoza, and even Albert Einstein. They convinced me that intelligent design was written as we say in this Fraternity, " the book of Nature."

I cannot be classified wholly as a Deist, although it sometimes fits. To answer the question placed above, where does someone like myself stand? In an age where fewer people are going to church each year, finding an organized religion as fulfilling or are willing to have faith--we ask why? And I think the answer is because they want to KNOW. And while I had the confidence to say that I knew absolutely that there was something else--that there was intelligent design, I also understand that having this mindset could be considered a gift. To others, it may be too rigid. For me, it's right. Whatever your path is, whatever lens you see the world through, or your particular religion,  as long as it hurts no one--follow it. 

So, where do I stand on Alex's question? I suppose I see Freemasonry as the living practice of Deism, maybe even Stoicism. While we have the Abrahamic faiths as a foundation for the allegory, or rather, it's the mode of transmission we've chosen to use--the tenets of our institution are universal in application. Not one part of it is specifically applicable to only one religion. Hence Freemasonry's secular stance--at least in words. Often times many members belong to Lodges that do have a specific religious "flavor." I don't mean to be derogatory. I just don't have a better way to describe it. Other Lodges stay as objective and "vanilla" as possible--multiple VoSLs on the altar, specially written prayers that remove themes of one kind or another, and more.

It really does span the gamut. At this time, Regular Freemasonry requires a belief in a Supreme Being or God. It does so for some precise reasons, which I'm not going to get into here. Deism is a philosophy that has changed over the years very dramatically. So much so that in some jurisdictions, Deists aren't allowed to join Freemasonry. Would this have barred members like Benjamin Franklin? Perhaps. But that is not the question asked above. Deism has no church or divinely inspired text or VoSL. It would be nice to have something, I suppose, but what would it be? A VoSL for a Deist is probably considered--"The Book of Nature." This isn't an actual book, of course, it's analogous to saying--"Look around you. This is my book. This is my divinely inspired text." 

Deism also has no church. There again, the Deist might say, "The world is my church." I'm wondering, though-- if Deism DID have a church, perhaps a Craft Lodge is it. Again, I'm not so sure I'm a Deist, and I don't go to religious services often. My opinion here might mean nothing to you based on that alone. I've said it in a room full of people to whom I was lecturing, "Freemasonry is my religion." Yikes! I just said that. 

You might say to yourself, "Freemasonry isn't a religion. It has no God." You're right. There is no God in Freemasonry--its members believe that whatever their individual God is, we can call it, "The Great Architect of the Universe" or hey, for me, "God"-- works. So I know there's something out there, something bigger, grander, incomprehensible. While I might not have a specific dogma, at times, I guess Deism is a good banner that fits me. The Craft offers me a place to meet others who can agree on a shared belief in an intelligent creator and interact with others who share the same universal beliefs regardless of their personal backgrounds. Maybe Lodge, for me, it's its own religion--even though folks might vehemently disagree. 

Lodge definitely adds to my dogma--it might just be my church. 

To quote an interview with Ernest Borgnine for "The Scotsman" in 2009:

"His religion now, he says, is Freemasonry. "I am very happy to say that I'm a 33rd degree Grand Cross Master Mason in the Scottish Rite. We believe in one thing, God. We believe in another thing: to help your fellow man. Be as kind as you can be to everybody."


More on Ernest Borgnine

The Scotsman Interview

Pew Research on Decline of Church

Fewer Adults Belong to a Religious Congregation

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. He is the current V:. Sovereign Grand Inspector for AMD in IL. 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", “The Master’s Word: A Short Treatise on the Word, the Light, and the Self – Annotated Edition” and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way.

Pythagoras and Taxes

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

There's a common meme going around saying, "I'm glad school taught me the Pythagorean theorem instead of how to do my taxes. It's come in really handy this Pythagorean theorem season." It's the ultimate extension of many a child's (and adult's) lamentation for being forced to learn anything other than survival or trade skills. Putting aside the fact that the physical structures of civilization are based on such formulae, it is a fair question to ask what personal value a thing can have if we do not believe we will personally use it.

Plato suggests that the only way to properly learn philosophy (the art of life) is to first become proficient in Mathematics, or as it was meant in the true sense of that time and place, Geometry. But who aspires to be a philosopher? Let's look at it another way: you can exist and survive without much knowledge or understanding, but how well can you really live without some level of contemplation and understanding of that existence?

We all start out with a square placed under our hands — a tool that anyone can use to measure the physical world right in front of us. It reveals nothing about the object's nature or place in the world. Someone else will have us prepare the stone according to a greater plan we don't need to know anything about. In fact, the tool used to draft such plans is hidden from your view. Imagination and intellect are waiting to be revealed only upon seeking more Light.

As we wind our way up the staircase of our Masonic progression, we are expected to at least touch upon the broad range of arts and sciences known to man. And if we deny the literal expectation of such learning in our Speculative state, we must at least admit that a Fellow of the Craft in Operative times was no longer a mere beast of burden – an Apprentice – by his learning more than just how to use his hands. He could not even rightfully ask for his wages unless he first advanced through such knowledge. He may be a material point or two shy of Mastery, but the guarded doors to a higher life have been opened unto him. He is no longer on the ground floor, working on stones. He is building his Temple with conscious effort — a deliberate design that can only be done using both Strength and Beauty moderated by Wisdom.

But is Plato right? Is the learning of the language of Creation required to truly have an educated opinion on the things of Creation, including the realm of Man and the World? Does plying the art of Geometry train one's mind to do more than add or subtract his hours and paychecks for the purpose of not getting audited by the IRS? Never mind being "good", if one can even know what that means. Can one become "better" by having a mind opened to the abstract world of pure shapes and forms? Can the ability to form and use models and modes of thinking translate to everyday tasks?

How many have never passed to a place where they can conceive Divine purpose instead of repetitiously take on the labor of a slave? Do we let the lessons of Masonry inspire us to see the bigger picture? And do we expect to receive the wages of that without expanding our life to include the skills of Mind and Spirit? Experience will provide an answer. Such a promise has been made to us. Ask, seek, knock ...


Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

Freemasonry-Teaching Men to Pay Their Bills

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Micahel Laidlaw

A little over a decade ago, I was admitted into the Craft. For those who have gone through this same rite of passage that made you a Mason, you understand one of two things about that evening-- 1. I have no clue what I just went through or 2. You knew there was much more. It took me a little over a year between degrees to progress and, ultimately, raised to the Sublime Degree. Now I don’t want to be that one guy that says “back in my day”-- but well….. Back in my day, we opened on the Third Degree. And we didn’t admit anyone in a Stated meeting who wasn’t a Master Mason.

I was always curious about what went on in the meeting, so I’d ask, “What do you do in there?” The response was usually the same, “you’ll find out once you’re raised.” After years of study, I was raised. FINALLY, I thought. I’m a full member. That next month I attended my first stated meeting. I thought to myself with excitement, “What is going to happen? What are they going to talk about?"

As the Lodge was going through its opening (a purification of space) we started the meeting. Over come with joy, I waited to hear what they would talk about. I heard some discussion about some lights, then some about carpet, then we got to the meat of the meeting. We paid our bills. Closed the meeting and went home.

YEP, all my hard work to learn to pay bills? Do we really just teach men to pay their bills and budget? I mean, this is what a fully functional adult is supposed to do anyways, is it not? The greatest secret of Freemasonry is to teach men to pay their bills?….. Most have come to the conclusion that the idea of Freemasonry is budget, bills, a few meetings and charitable outreach. We learn an elaborate ritual, floor work, and modes...all to pay bills? No! If Freemasonry is just paying bills, renovation to Masonic Temples (okay Lodge buildings), then the pandemic Zoom meetings have proved we can accomplish this via a Zoom meeting, no need to show up and open a meeting.

Freemasonry is a Journey, a lifelong study of self mastery. Granted, not all will see it through my eyes, but if I’m expected to sit back and pay those bills, I expect others to learn to accept Freemasonry is esoteric with a deeper meaning than paying those bills.


Bro. Michael Laidlaw was raised to the sublime degree in 2011 and is a dual Member of South Pasadena 290 and Southern California Research Lodge where he is Junior Warden and Pop Culture editor for The Fraternal Review Magazine. . Also is an active council member for Jobs Daughters Bethel 210 Arcadia (where his daughter is serving as Honored Queen) and serves on the Grand Lodge of California Youth Orders Committee. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason from the Valley Of Pasadena Orient of California where he has complete all three Master Craftsman Courses. He a member of San Gabriel Valley Chapter No. 100 RAM, Alhambra Council No. 25 CM, Foothill Commandery No. 63 KT. He also holds Membership in Cinema Grotto and Order of Eastern Star

A Night To Remember, A Preview Of Things To Come?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Brethren and Guests of Homer #199 

It started with a conservation between Illus. Bro. Steven Harrison, soon to be Illus. Bro. Greg Knott and myself.  Although it was derailed last year due to the pandemic, Steve Harrison has always been kind enough in the past several years to stop in Urbana, Illinois for lunch with Greg Knott, Todd Creason, Brian L. Pettice, and I (along with various other brothers who have shown up over the years) as he winds his way to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500 from his home in Missouri.  This year we were able to have this lunch, and Steve offered to give an educational presentation for us when he made his way through the area the following year.  As circumstance would have it, Steve contacted me about two months ago to inform me that he'd be coming through the area as he needed to conduct some research in Michigan. 

Initially, I looked at him potentially coming for a stated meeting of my mother lodge, Saint Joseph #970, but as fate would have it, Steve was going to Indianapolis for the Indy, Xfinity, and NASCAR races this past weekend.  My plural Lodge, Homer #199, was meeting on August 16, the day after the final race had ended, and Steve would be coming directly by the area. Steve was also needing to have a face-to-face discussion with the Midnight Freemasons co-editor, Robert Johnson; so once Robert was able to commit to being able to travel downstate from his home in Northeastern Illinois for the meeting, the date was selected.  Steve asked what presentation we would like to see, and after performing a quick poll of our lodge members, we decided that we would like him to present: "Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi", based on his book of the same name. 

With this, the wheels were set in motion.  I started heavily advertising the event on Social Media.  I started an Eventbrite event page to try to get a count of how many would be coming in so that I could accurately buy enough food for the pre-meeting dinner. Although, I'm Senior Warden currently, I informed the Junior Warden, Sam Shreeves, that I'd handle the meal for the event. I spoke with Robert, and agreed that he'd stay at my place, Steve would have his RV which he would be able to park in the spacious lot south of our Lodge building in Homer.  I will spare you the minutiae of the rest. 

The evening came and dinner was served.  I was amazed at the number of people that had turned out.   We had a total of Twenty Three brothers in attendance.  Now maybe that's a normal turnout for a stated meeting for you, but for someone who is attending meetings where we normally are struggling to make a quorum, that is incredible.  We opened the meeting on the first degree as we had an Entered Apprentice in attendance, and followed the opening with Steve's presentation which lasted approximately 45 minutes and was followed by a short Question and Answer session.  Immediately after the presentation, Our Worshipful Master, Dale Katterhenry, presented Illus. Bro Harrison with our Grandmaster's Pin.

WM Dale Katterhenry presents Illus. Bro. Harrison with MWGM Stephen Oakley's pin 

Homer Lodge #199 surprised both Steve and Robert with honorary memberships.  I presented the certificates and dues cards to both of them along with our Worshipful Master, Dale Katterhenry, stating that we wanted to honor them for their contributions to Masonic Education, but that from a purely selfish standpoint that I felt it would be so freaking cool to have them as members of a Lodge that Greg Knott, Todd Creason and myself already belong to.  

WB Darin Lahners and WB Dale Katterhenry present honorary memberships to Steven (background L) and Robert (foreground L)

To finish the presentations, the Midnight Freemason Blogs Founder, WB Todd Creason, presented  Midnight Freemason Senior Contributor, WB Greg Knott, with a gift to commemorate Greg being conferred the 33rd Degree in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite.  The gift was an illustration of Greg by the uber-talented Midnight Freemason emeritus contributor and fellow 33rd conferree, Travis Simpkins.    

Soon to be Illus. Bro. Greg Knott by soon-to-be Illus.Bro. Travis Simpkins

Following the presentations, the lodge business was handled, and after the meeting, we took the fantastic photograph that headlines this article.  We also were able to get a picture of the six Midnight Freemasons in attendance.  This made Robert jokingly remark that we should change the name of the lodge to the Midnight Freemason lodge.    

From L to R: Illus.Bro. Brian L. Pettice, Illus. Bro. Steven L. Harrison, Illus.Bro. Todd E. Creason, RWB Robert Johson, Soon to be Illus. Bro. Greg Knott, WB Darin Lahners

We also had our guests come in from across the state. WB Tim Thomason, (Fifth from the left in the headline picture above), who is the current Worshipful Master of Landmark Lodge #422, drove 128.5 miles from Plainfield, Illinois for the event. One of my fellow Area Education Officers, Bro. Jordan Kelly, drove along with Bros. Andrew Friend and Kyle Koestner drove 110 miles from Springfield Illinois to attend the event.  I want to thank them personally for taking the extraordinary effort of doing that.   I also want to thank everyone who came out, again from the bottom of my heart.  I also want to thank my brethren of Homer #199, especially our secretary, WB Stephen Hooper who jumped through multiple hoops to get the honorary memberships.  

Illus. Bro. Steve Harrison, Bros. Jordan Kelly, Kyle Koestner, Andrew Friend

After the event I was texting with Greg Knott and Todd Creason. Greg stated that it was an awesome event and I did a great job.  As much as I appreciate the compliment, what made it all worth while is all of my brothers in the headline picture getting together, enjoying fellowship and education.  But the funny thing is, it really wasn't that hard to do.  Maybe I was lucky because I had connections, but at the end of the day, it's something that can easily be replicated in your lodge. 

Here's the very simple recipe:
1. Get your lodges buy-in (if you can).  In my case, Homer #199 has prioritized Education, so when I asked, everyone agreed.  But if you don't think that your lodge would approve doing an event like this, then you don't really need them to.   You just need a space to hold the event. Work with other lodges in your area, and brethren that you know that have a passion for Masonic education.  I'm willing to bet that someone will give you the space for it.

2. Arrange a speaker.  Browse and find a speaker that you might want to bring in.  Reach out to them. 

3. Plan the event.  Make the event as simple or complex as you want. The sky is the limit. 

4. Hold the event.  If you build it, brethren will come. If you don't believe me, look at the above photos.   

This is the second event that I've planned, The first being the 2018 Illinois Lodge of Research Spring Symposium. Let me tell you, that event was a lot harder to pull together than this one, but it still wasn't too difficult.  It doesn't take an expert level planner to put something like this together.  If you need advice about how to do it, my email is in my bio.

In closing, I'd like to think of last night as the first of many.  My hope is that you read the article and you get inspired to do something in your own backyard. I'd also like to float the idea of having a Midnight Freemason Con.  I'd like to get as many of our contributors (past and present) into one room with a bunch of brothers and just have some fellowship, fun and hopefully learn some things along the way.  If you think that'd be a good idea and something that you might try to attend, please comment on Social Media or on the blog below.    


WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at              

Remembering a Hero

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

I was on a Sunday afternoon drive near Pembroke, Kentucky when I came upon a rural cemetery.  I love exploring cemeteries and learning about the life and history of those that rest there.   Rosedale cemetery is well kept, with a road in the middle of it with majestic maple trees on each side of it.  These trees were providing some wonderful shade on a hot August afternoon.

Working my way down the various rows, I studied a number of gravestones.  I utilize the website Find A Grave as a resource to learn about the cemetery and those who are there.  It is an amazing tool to have on your mobile phone.  

One headstone in the distance caught my attention as it had a square and compass on it.  I worked my way over to it and discovered it belonged to Earl George Collins.  Mr. Collins was born on 27 August 1888 and died on 23 October 1961.  According to his obituary, he was a retired farmer and a member of the Pembroke Baptist Church.  He was married to Clara Lanier Collins (1887-1962) and they had three sons, Tommy Collins, John David Collins, and James Earl “Jimmie” Collins.   While his obituary didn’t specifically mention it, I am assuming Earl Collins was a Freemason since there was a square and compass on the headstone.

As I examined the other headstones near Earl’s, I saw his wife Clara next to him.  Next to Clara was their son James Earl Collins.   

Jimmie’s tombstone indicated he was born 8 December 1920 and died on 7 December 1941, just one day short of his 21st birthday.   7 December 1941 is a famous date in American history with it being the attack by Japan on the American fleet at Pearl Harbour.   This was the beginning of the involvement of the United States in WWII. James' tombstone indicated that he had died at Pearl Harbour and was aboard the USS Oklahoma.

The USS Oklahoma was a Nevada class battleship, having launched in 1914, later seeing service in WWI.  On the morning of December 7, the USS Oklahoma was docked at Pearl Harbour along with numerous others moored in battleship row.  During the attack, several Japanese torpedoes hit the USS Oklahoma and it was eventually seriously damaged and capsized.  429 crew members perished in the attack, including James Earl Collins.

In a 2007 article in the Kentucky New Era newspaper, family members of Jimmie recounted receiving word of Jimmie’s death with a December 15, 1941 telegram that said “The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son, James Earl Collins, Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy, was lost in action in the performance of his duty and in service to his country …”

Jimmie was initially buried in a cemetery in Hawaii and on October 28, 1947, he was re-interred at Rosedale Cemetery in Pembroke.

The simple fate of my finding this cemetery on a Sunday afternoon summer drive, finding the square and compass on Jimmie’s dad’s monument, and then learning about Jimmie and his sacrifice for our freedom.  Rest in peace Seaman First Class James Earl “Jimmie” Collins, we honor and remember your sacrifice for all of us.


WB Gregory J. Knott is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a 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. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. You can contact him at

Call To Service

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

Authors note:

I began writing this piece before the Corvid-19 pandemic.  Since this writing, my respect for these people who work selflessly caring for patients, some of them have illnesses that could potentially affect the caregiver’s own health.  I have personally seen some of these people who have worked long hours, day after day trying to cope with material shortages and being away from their families, some self-isolating themselves from their families to keep them safe.  My respect for these people which was already high has reached an entirely new level.

I want to dedicate this work to all the first-line responders.  The healthcare workers and all of first responders, Police officers and firefighters, the dispatchers who watch over them, the truck drivers, restaurant workers, and store personnel who keep all of us fed, comfortable in our homes and everyone supplied.  None of us could survive this without you. I know this isn’t much, but I just want to say thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

A few months ago, I was invited to attend a corporate retreat my Fiancé’s company holds on a bi-annual basis.  Since I was a guest, I was not compelled to attend meetings and seminars the actual attendees had to attend. Most of my time was spent enjoying the beautiful scenery of Branson, Missouri, and what the resort offered. I had to endure such things as spending time at the spa and relaxing in the resort’s hot tub. (It was hard, but I endured).  The downtime and change of scenery allowed me to rest and reflect on many subjects.

My fiancée’s organization is unique to many of the organizations that other people work for.  Her group runs a series of nonprofit hospitals throughout the United States.  They hold a rich history of charity work that spans two centuries throughout the world. The corporation, which is a modern company, still runs on the beliefs established during those days by the order’s founder.  Each employee is encouraged to use these values in the career world and hopefully also in their personal lives.

During one of the dinners during the seminar one of the senior executives began to speak to guests assembled.  He began his speech by thanking all the coworkers assembled and reviewing some of the accomplishments the local hospitals have achieved and acknowledging some of the outstanding efforts of the individuals who went above and beyond what is expected of them in service to the hospital and their local community.

Once the applause settled down, the executive began to tell the crowd some of his experiences which helped him form his “Call to Service”.  The experiences included being able to help a lady, who had extraordinarily little money, receive medical care which helped, in the end, save her life.  The man told the assembled crowd how grateful she was and how being able to offer someone a helping hand affected his career and how it affected him on a personal basis spiritually. You could tell by his expression and the tone in his voice that the experience shaped his life positively.

Later, I asked my fiancé what exactly a “Call to Service” was.  She explained that when a person goes to work for her organization, they are encouraged to develop a call to service during their career. Which, when boiled down to its simplicity, is using the skills and gifts which are given to them by their creator into a passion and using this passion to serve the hospital, which in turn serves their local community and the world around them which will in the end serve God.

If you think about it, it takes many sets of hands to cure the sick. Naturally, we think of the doctors, nurses, and techs who use their talents to make people well again. However, behind these frontline people, there are people who work in the background, using their God-given talents and passions to ensure these people have the materials and proper environment to allow these people use their hands to heal the sick, comfort the hurting, and change people’s lives for the better.

This includes everyone else, from the cooks in the kitchen preparing nutritious food to the janitors who keep the hospital sanitary and free from germs that cause infections to the security officers who keep everyone safe. Even the people who keep patient records, which ensure a doctor can look at a patient’s medical history and see what treatments have been tried in the past and even give healthcare workers due and prompt notice of allergies a patient might have which if not known can cause more harm than good to a person they are treating. Each of these people, and many more, work every hour of the day, even weekends and holidays throughout the year to make sure their friends and neighbors and possibly their own loved ones receive the best care that a mortal can nobly give to their fellow man. In this case, I believe the old cliché is correct; “It takes a village”.

The more I have thought about it, I have realized nearly every successful company or non-profit group, whether it is a church or your jurisdiction’s very own Masonic home works in this way.  A person uses his God-given talents and abilities to do the best job his talents will allow.  So, my question is why don’t we do the same thing in our lodges?

Authors note 2: Before you start posting nasty reminders to me in emails and various posts reminding me “Freemasonry is not a religion”. I am totally aware of that.  Any comments of the sort will probably be replied to with an eye-roll and a sarcastic comment.

Last Sunday, while watching a sermon of a pastor from a local church, something clicked in my head.  I think it may be an issue lodges are having as well as many churches.  The pastor of this church is new.  She is trying to rebuild the congregation to the numbers it once had or even help it grow even larger.  One of her first acts after being hired was talking to each member of the congregation.  Asking them questions such as: “What are your strengths?”, and  “What are your passions?”. She wanted to determine how they would like to serve the church.  She then gave the congregation a questionnaire, aka an assessment test, which has been used by the denomination to find out where everyone’s strengths lie and how they best can serve. 

The pastor said she had done these years before at another church she was assigned to.  The church was barely holding on. All the members who had kept this church together for many years were aging and frankly very tired and were sure they couldn’t do it much longer.  After she gave the assessment to the parishioners, she discovered that all of them had been contributing to the organization in the wrong roles all those years. The grind of performing tasks they were ill-suited for or did not like to perform tired them out to the point they were burned out. 

They all declined when she approached the church’s leadership with her findings and gave them a proposal.  They all said they were “too tired” or “burned out” to try to contribute to the church in a different role.  The pastor finished her story saying after that meeting the church closed within two years.  Sound familiar?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I know why the Brethren of our lodges fulfill multiple positions within our lodges.  Our manpower is scarce. That is very true.  Unfortunately in some lodges, that will never change and sadly, their light will dim and eventually go out altogether.  But is it that way in every lodge? 

I truly believe in some ways the reason these Brethren are wearing many hats is our own fault.  I think almost every one of us can think of several Brothers who were brought to light in the last few years in a lodge only to quit coming in a few months to a year?  Ask yourself: How did you use that man?  Or did you use him at all? 

I would lay even money if he was given anything at all to do, he was given an officer’s jewel and brought into the progressive line.  Whether he planned on being an officer or not.  Within a few years (If he stayed around), he was staring at that Master’s jewel as if it were a noose to be placed around his neck and the Oriental chair as if it were the gallows. How many times have you heard a young Brother Senior Warden say, “I don’t think I am ready.” Then a Past Master ends up filling the chair for a year.  We find out all he wanted to do in the first place was join for the education.  We never did find out: “For that what are you in pursuit of?".  We didn't find out because we didn’t ask him.  We never asked him what his passions were or what he feels he could contribute to the lodge.  For some reason, we as Masons seem to want to take every man and put them in the same pigeonhole, fit every peg into the round hole whether it be square or not.  Depending on the lodge, we want our main priority to be some kind of “off the rack”, “one size fits all” Masonic experience. 

A few years ago, Brothers Robert Johnson and Jon Ruark wrote a book entitled “It's Business Time: Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry”.  Now before you get your panties in a wad and start gathering the tar and feathers listen with an open mind. Brothers Johnson and Ruark brought up the idea of adapting business principles to the day-to-day business of the lodge (They did not, and I am not turning our fraternity into a for-profit venture). Basically, what it means is we operate our lodges with some common sense and not with emotions and by legends that may or not be true. "But, We have always done it that way!".  Chances are if you read the history of your Lodge and Grand Lodge, it hasn’t always been done that way and it may never have actually been done that way... To survive, we must consider a few new ideas.  One of those ideas, I believe is to give a man in the lodge he is suited for.

For this article, I am talking about delegation of duties.  As we all know by now in our lives, not every man is the same as the man next to him. They have different likes, dislikes, talents, and abilities; so why not put them to use?

Instead of making a man who is a stockbroker the cook for the pre-meeting dinner for an entire year, (Or if you are in Texas the Stewards for two years. Your mileage may vary depending on your jurisdiction), why not find a man who is good at or enjoys cooking to make the meal? There is a good chance that a stockbroker if he must cook for himself at home, would probably just microwave a TV dinner, order a pizza or order something from a delivery service after a hard day of work.  I am sure after a remarkably busy day the last thing he is wants to make a meal for 20 guys who are going to complain about what he makes anyway.  So, he will arrive at the lodge and throw a frozen lasagna he got at the wholesale club into the lodge oven (if the oven still works) and serve it on paper plates and plastic utensils.  If you find a Brother who loves to cook and is good at it, and if he could really care less about being a lodge leader, then let him be your full-time chef.  He will take pride in his work and your stomach will thank you for it! (You will have to endure a lot less Banquet fried chicken or Salisbury steak if you do).  The money you will save on Rolaids would fund your dues for next year!

Sometimes a man is terrified at speaking in public.  His whole life he has avoided doing it and has no desire to do it in the future.  His day-to-day vocation is as a building maintenance supervisor that works on heating and air-conditioning.  He is trying to join the lodge to spend time with other men and make new friends.  He won’t stay long if his “new friends” are constantly on his back trying to get him in front of the lodge to perform our ritual. He will be out that same door he came in before you know it.  I’ll lay even money that new Brother would be more than happy to help the lodge help maintain the lodge building and seeing his “new friends” have a safe and comfortable place to meet. That is his passion and his gift.

I remember one year in my Mother Lodge, there was a Brother who could not memorize anything! He was a wonderful guy, but he just couldn’t remember the words to the ritual, so the opening and closing of the lodge took twice and long when he was Master because he had to be fed every word he had to say.  We all have seen degree work done by Brethren who either could not remember the words or delivered the work poorly.  Honestly, it reflects poorly upon us.  You always hear the old saying: “Well, the candidate didn’t know he screwed it up!” In some cases that may be true, but I am sure even a poor blind candidate can tell something is amiss when the Brother must repeat the same thing three times or hear another voice feed him the line. (I know I did!) Instead of putting ourselves and our candidates through this torment, find Brethren who enjoy acting or who find memorization easy or fun. 

On the other side of the coin, this Brother was a whiz at business and a very successful entrepreneur. He had all kinds of fantastic ideas for raising funds for the lodge, (Besides doing a fish fry), and if the: “We never done it this way” mentality wouldn’t have extinguished his fire he and a group of others would have put the lodge on a sound financial footing.

Freemasons are in a unique position, especially currently in history.  Men who wish to become Freemasons come from all walks of life.  Men that are Blue-collar or white-collar, highly educated men, and men who know how to work with their hands, men of every interest and field. Each man who is “Worthy and well qualified” to pass through that West Gate and knock on the door of a lodge is special and has a gift given to him by the Grand Architect of the Universe.  

Just like it took many specialized workmen to erect King Solomons Temple, the same holds true today.  We don't need the wisdom of Solomon to recognize we need the skilled workmen to keep our Masonic edifice strong. If we would put our God-given talents to good use and allow every Brother to follow their call to service, our Fraternity would be the strongest it has ever been.  (And by the way, we wouldn’t have a recruiting problem or as I like to say a member retention problem.)


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 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.

Coming to Gratitude

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

With apologies to The Eagles.... 

Well I'm a-runnin' down the road
Tryin' to loosen my load
I've got seven LODGES on my mind
Four that wanna own me
Two that wanna stone me
One says she's a friend of mine

The other day I was listening to The Eagles while driving.  While this isn’t unusual, the accompanying thoughts on recent esoteric education I delivered became amusing.  Several lodges, chapters, councils, etc. in my region are in various stages of merger talks, and I delivered my Lodge Anatomy lecture.  Thinking back, I probably hit on a few sore spots with some attendees of that onsite district meeting, because we discussed the need for more deep thought and consideration during any decision-making process.  I like to say play chess, not checkers.  Consider the consequences two or three moves down the road for every individual.  Better yet, directly engage the individuals for their opinions and reactions.  I regret any irritation I might have caused by any attendee thinking I was singling them out.  Quite the opposite!  I always point back to myself as the rough ashlar in need of some work. 

Over the next week, my amusement turned inward to contemplate where I fit into this bigger picture, and I often wonder about how we as individual Masons might help other lodges or Brothers in need more effectively.  I later realized I took the contemplation toward chess and checkers on myself, and I needed it.  Sometimes like the Eagles song, we just need to loosen our mental load and take things easy on ourselves.  Sometimes we just need to release our emotions and let someone give us a hand, even if it’s not a girl in a flatbed Ford.  

This contemplation continued over a few days finally shifting toward gratitude toward my fellow Masons for allowing me to assist even in small ways.  Then, after all the back and forth, I realized it was all about gratitude.  Deep down we seem to be drawn toward those who demonstrate gratitude.  Maybe not in the most overt ways, and there are plenty of arguments against the current climate of virtue signaling.  What I’m talking about is the inner sense when you just know that someone demonstrates gratitude in what they say and do.  Their actions demonstrate kindness and humility.  They work without worrying about credit and rewards.  They quietly demonstrate their leadership even without being in a leadership role.  They got the message on how to get from emotional circumscription to quiet contemplation to gratitude all via humility.  I’m still on my journey, and here is my gratitude to the many of you who demonstrate these qualities along with those of us still working on our ashlars. 

When we put our true selves out there for others to see, which lodges are going to want to own you, stone you, or claim you as a friend?  What does that mean to you?

~Bro. Randy

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.

Time for a Little Kindness

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Those who are kind benefit themselves, 

but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.

Proverbs 11:17 NIV

One of the fundamental tenets of our fraternity is that of brotherly love.  Within this concept, we are taught to treat all others equally with respect and tolerance.  Digging down further, we learn that we should use kindness towards others.  Kindness is the pathway to getting to know someone else, in a much deeper and meaningful way.

Any quick review of social media will reveal a lack of kindness towards one another.  I have long thought that if people were meeting in person, they would never say things or act so rudely towards one another. Hiding behind the computer screen provides an easy opportunity for people to be anything but kind. They are often downright cruel.

As Freemasons, we have the amazing opportunity to set an example for others.   Here are some easy ideas you might use:

  • Call your neighbor to check on them and see how they are doing

  • Volunteer at a local charity

  • Give blood

  • Tell a coworker how much you appreciate them and the work they do

  • Become a mentor

  • Hold the door for someone

  • Smile and say hello

  • Say thank you

The last couple of years have been tough on all of us, but with a little more kindness in the world, we can weather this current storm and soon arrive at a wonderful sun-filled day with the hope of a bright future for all of humanity.

Thank you.


WB Gregory J. Knott is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a 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. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. You can contact him at