Instead of My Own Hero’s Journey, I almost named this article An Education Trilogy in Four Parts, with a nod to my favorite percussionist and lyricist Neil Peart (RIP) of the rock band RUSH. Neil wrote his Fear Trilogy in four parts. Yes, that was purposeful. He also wrote the series backward with the last song (Witch Hunt) on the Moving Pictures album, then progressing through Signals (The Enemy Within) and ending with Grace Under Pressure (The Weapon). By design, there was no intended fourth part. I associated my curriculum reading assignment with Neil’s trilogy. I read the required reading material for the Middle Chamber out of order with Brother Chuck Dunning’s Contemplative Masonry well ahead of the other books, and I saw the second required movie Life of Pi many years prior to watching 12 Angry Men. I am forever grateful to the course instructors for a couple of extremely rare favors granted in order for me to attend.
The North Carolina Middle Chamber education program is sponsored by and through the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Brothers Ben Wallace and Shaun Bradshaw wrote A Path to Providence: The Creation of the Middle Chamber Program about their creation of the class, and I recommend it. The overall structure of the Middle Chamber is broken into three major courses each consisting of an all-day Saturday class. The course requirements include reading five prescribed books by well-known Masonic authors and critically watching two films. I went with the full intention of working hard to learn the material and earn the blessing of the creators: Brothers Ben and Shaun. I intend to bring Middle Chamber to Missouri and teach it myself.
I began this Winter engaging my good friend and Brother Matt Parker who is the administrator-facilitator for the Middle Chamber program. He is their backbone who gets the media setup prepared, sign-up sheets put out, hotel negotiations completed for discounts, and more work behind the scenes than you can imagine. Brother Matt assisted in my own out-of-state registration and kept me informed as to the hotel and schedule. In early spring I made the decision to drive the 800 miles from St. Louis to Greensboro.
It was a 12-hour drive in perfect conditions, and the Entered Apprentice session on a crisp, cool April weekend turned out to be a perfect drive. I left St. Louis Friday at about 4am, and after a couple of stops for food and fuel arrived at the Wyndham Garden in Greensboro not much after 5pm. Remember there’s an hour time difference. My drive was unknowingly well-timed both coming and going as I witnessed nature’s splendor through Kentucky horse country about mid-morning and majestic West Virginia mountains in the afternoon before driving out of the mountains into the rolling forested hills of North Carolina. I checked into the hotel, got about a 15-minute nap, then joined a dozen brothers at the hotel-attached sports bar for dinner. There may or may not have been a round of cigars and excellent Scotch a bit later in the seating area by the hotel swimming pool. The cool temperatures precluded us from anything more than a good 90 minutes. The North Carolina Brothers exceeded their amazing reputation for hospitality as I immediately felt as if I were at home with all of them.
After a quick hotel breakfast, we met at the Greensboro Masonic Temple, and I cannot do this temple justice in this short paper. It is a magnificent building, well maintained, and worthy of your time should you be in the area. The class began promptly, and with minor adjustments, we stuck to the schedule provided. The instructors are both crisp in knowledge and smooth in delivery, and they cycled through different sections with different instructors taking lead in different areas they obviously enjoyed teaching. Immediately the class bonded and the energy was just electric as we all knew why we were there, and together we focused on that goal of learning.
The Entered Apprentice class let out at 4pm with an hour of open Q&A following, and I went to dinner with another good friend and Brother Mark Bagley who traveled a couple of hours to meet me for the class. We had a great dinner at a small local restaurant, and we went our separate ways, Mark leaving for his two-hour trip home and me back to the hotel. Many of you know I’m a note-taker, and I shared my notes with Brother Matt and Brother Ben Wallace as a courtesy. I was surprised by a phone call from Brother Ben that evening telling me how happy he was to receive such candid feedback. We stayed on the phone for over two hours talking through the class and many other topics. The feedback was all positive with a few observations that I thought might be something I needed to keep in mind for my own classes, so I was surprised by the call. I decided to leave at about 4am Sunday morning and had a beautiful drive home through snow-capped mountains and a different perspective of the views I experienced Friday. The twelve hours of driving seemed to fly by as I spent much of the windshield time mentally reviewing the class content and wondering if I could do this material justice.
Next part: being tested
Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a bachelor's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30-plus years of teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.