From the Archives: The 50 Year Member: A Dirty Shame

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

“I’m telling you this whole thing is a downright dirty shame!” Pudge said loudly as he picked up a box, his deep voice sounding God-like with the reverberation coming from the marble walls of the large, empty lodge room.  “There has to be a way to stop this!”  The 50-year member slowly standing upright and wiping his face with a handkerchief from his back pocket. “I wish there was too, but after all these years it can’t be stopped. I'm afraid it's a done deal,” The old man said sadly. 

It was a sad day for our two friends as they were helping the Brethren of a nearby lodge remove the last of the items they had been storing in their former temple. It had become a familiar story. The building which had been erected at the turn of the 20th century had fallen on hard times. This edifice which had once been the pride of the city had begun to crumble in a derelict section of downtown. Once the site of chauffeur driven limousines bringing ladies dressed in their finest evening gowns on the arms of gentlemen in white tie and tails walking up the grand staircase of the temple to attend the opera or the symphony, sadly these days the steps are now covered in trash in a building which has become a shelter to homeless people trying to find a place to get out of the elements. 

After many years of struggling with the cost of maintenance and trying to come up with ways to pay for the monthly utilities the Brethren decided to sell their home and look for smaller, more affordable quarters. It was a sad day for them but they took consolation in the fact that they had done everything they could. For many years the Brethren tried having fundraisers. A fish fry in the fall and a pancake breakfast in the spring. Both events were sparsely attended. The members counted on word of mouth advertising to bring in customers. Rarely did the people come since the events were held on Saturdays when downtown was like a ghost town. Most people didn't want to drive into the city center from the suburbs when they could have breakfast at a chain restaurant down the road.  

Over the years as the older members passed away and the pool of volunteers willing to work the events got smaller. Younger members said they didn't want to give up their weekends working making food when the profit would net around a hundred dollars (If they were lucky to make a profit). To pay a monthly heating bill of over four thousand a month. Not to mention the cost  of maintaining a 90 year old 78 thousand square foot building. The younger members offered several alternative fundraisers which required less labor and produced more revenue but the board voted them down mostly because “We have never done anything like that before.”

Several years after voting to put their temple on the market the board decided to remove their listing.  In that time the Brethren received one offer which was so low they considered an insult. It was pennies on the dollar and much less than what they thought their property was worth and much less than what they needed to buy another property. 

Finally after nearly a decade of struggle an exhausted temple board threw in the towel and signed away the ownership of the building to the city and the members of the several lodges which met in the building either found a new venue in which to meet, consolidated with another lodge or turned their charter into the Grand Lodge. 

The city tried to find alternate uses for the building. They tried to make it into an art gallery and then a fine arts studio and several other ideas. None of the plans could be fulfilled either because of lack of funding or because the building wasn't suited for the purpose.  After nearly a decade of being abandoned the city decided to tear down this once magnificent edifice. The building had become, in the mind of the government, a health and safety hazard. Rodents ran rampant through the building while evidence of  prostitution and drug paraphernalia were discovered scattered across the floor of the grand ballroom which once hosted presidents and governors.  The place became the focus of several newspaper articles and TV reports showing the decay and the hazards caused growing pressure on the city council to eliminate what had begun to be called a symptom of "urban blight". Sadly the city council voted to have the building torn down and a parking lot put in its place. 

“What would it take to change this?” Pudge asked in desperation. “Well.  First you would have to get the city council to change their minds. You would have to come up with a viable plan quickly to save this building and then you would need the money to restore it. Probably between two to four million dollars to fix everything and bring it to current codes and standards.”  Pudge’s brow furrowed as his heart sank. The young man began to feel helpless. 

"I understand. It's just such a shame. Such a beautiful building. It's just horrible that it's going to become a parking lot! How does something like this happen?” Pudge asked. The old man took a deep breath and slowly lowered the box he was holding to the ground. 

“Well” the old man started “I can't speak about this particular building but sadly I've seen this happen too many times.” The 50 year member continued. “One building I'm thinking of had over one-thousand members in the 1950’s. Each one of them paid, I'm guessing, around twenty five dollars a year in per capita to the building every year. In those days twenty five bucks was a lot of money. Especially when you had that many men paying that amount. The money was rolling in. The leaders never gave a second thought to the fact that those numbers wouldn’t stay the same. They spent money like there was no tomorrow. Sadly there wasn’t. They put some money away but not enough. They also used the money to buy land surrounding the building. They paid a premium for that property thinking they would have enough members continue to pay dues. A few years later the real estate market downtown plunged and their investment was worthless. 

Around the same time membership began to drop. You already know that story Pudge. The numbers kept dropping and the lodge wasn't bringing in new membership to replace those that we lost. 

After several decades the membership had dwindled down to less than 500 members. It was the beginning of the end. The temple tried to rent out their beautifully ornate ballroom for weddings. There was a lot of interest at first until the customers discovered that, thanks to the temperance zealots a century and half before, the Grand lodge would not allow alcohol in the building. Once potential customers discovered this you never heard from them again. In desperation the board had no choice but to raise per capita on the members of the building. At first the leadership thought this would solve all their problems but they neglected to consider two things. One an increase of only ten dollars really didn't keep up with the inflation of the past fifty years and two, the worst of it was not everyone would have to pay the increase.”

The 50 year member elaborated “Out of the one 500 members in the building two thirds of them had been Masons for over fifty years. By Grand lodge law these Brethren did not have to pay anything. Including the per capita. The members were asked, (I'm thinking 'begged' might be a better word) to pay the thirty five dollars but nearly all declined with the rationale they had paid their dues for fifty years so they had done their part. So what you were looking at was around one hundred fifty men trying to take care of the expenses of the entire building. To make it worse the older men who had to pay nothing ran the building, so if the young men tried to come up with a way to make up for the shortfall they were voted down.”  

The 50 year member summed up his thoughts. “I guess Pudge, sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Some of us want to live in the past while not planning for the future. I am just glad our temple thought ahead and tried to make sure we planned for the rainy days we all know will come.” The men picked up their cardboard boxes and slowly started carrying them to the truck. 

“I'm glad we are in better shape. Even though I would hate to see this building demolished I understand. Still a shame.” Pudge said. “I know, I hate to see it too, but I heard a very wise Brother once ask the question “Are we a Brotherhood of men or real estate speculators?” He was right. Friendship, Morality and Brotherly love can prevail in any building we meet in. No matter how expensive or ornate a building, it isn't a lodge without the charter and the brothers. Just like the old saying “ Iron bars do not a prison make.” Neither do marble walls and ornate columns a Freemason make.” 

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

The Real Problem With Progressive Lines

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Scott S. Dueball


This is hardly a new topic. Many have written about the shortcomings of the progressive lines. They advance members poorly suited for leadership. They advance members who lack the skills to address the specific needs at that moment in time. They almost always advance members who are too new to the world of Masonry. I tend to agree with these criticisms (though I also see some advantages to the progressive line). However, these shortcomings do not address the main problem with the progressive line which is they place complete emphasis on the end goal. Servant leadership should be much less about reaching the top position than it is about the journey to that top position. 


I recently laid out the timeline of the years I would reach various presiding chairs barring any abrupt shifts. I want to make sure that I am around to watch my kids grow up and participate in the quintessential experiences of their childhood. But I recognize that each organization has events that are essential for the leaders to appear at and support. There are some organizations that would be so demanding of my time that I would need to miss key events if they overlap. You might say, “family first,” but that would be detrimental to many organizations and that is the commitment to short-term sacrifice officers make upfront. 


As I looked at my timeline, the time to reach the ultimate position in many bodies is significant. For example, the Rose Croix line in the Valley of Chicago has 7 progressive officers under the Most Wise Master. Two years at each chair means that a typical commitment is 14 years until one reaches the presiding seat (even longer for our Lodge of Research). Much more than the ~6 years the average Mason in my state takes to reach the East. My first thought was “that’s a lot of time to wait in the wings.” Consider how often we hear from an outgoing leader, “I wish I had more time. I was just getting started.” Perhaps, the time to be building your organization is now. Now is the time to work with each of the officers and craft a cohesive vision for the future. What is stopping you? The concept that the Master has the final say? In essence, this is ‘my way or the highway.’ 


It’s precisely this attitude that I posit is the larger problem with progressive lines. That is, the assumption that I won’t offer any value until I am the top leader. You might say, "sure you offer plenty of value; you should be volunteering and supporting the Master's plan." This is derivative of the same problem of focusing only on your chance to "run the show." In my experience, this often means ‘silently follow along, so you don't get removed.’ This is certainly not productive and may not be Masonic. Imagine if businesses believed that only the C-Suite executives (CEO, CFO, CMO, etc) were positioned to speak up and affect change. In the progressive system, neither the superiors nor inferiors are encouraged to learn and grow. The organization fails to establish recognizable continuity.


When the progressive line encourages one to sit on the sidelines, it doesn’t encourage anyone to learn much about the needs or potential of the organization. One’s early years working in any organization are spent learning how to function, where to find answers, and how to recognize problems (you are, ahem…an apprentice). You build rapport with colleagues who are going to move up with you. You learn to ask for help, pitch ideas, and build a common vision of what your organization could become.


The leaders in a progressive line commonly chart their own course without soliciting any feedback. Where in history, has a single idea been presented and taken as the best path forward? A community of diverse thinkers is much more likely to drive positive improvements. In our professions, many of us work on teams, challenging each other’s assessment and solutions. Then we present those to our leaders who repeat the process and prioritize projects for the goals of the organization. I’ll admit that I am beginning to see more inclusion from our top leaders, but given our unfamiliarity with such inclusion, we often don’t know how to respond. A tangential result of this solo leadership is individuals expect everyone to fall in line simply because they hold the gavel. I’m certain we have all seen this. The progressive line has taught that only he with the microphone gets to speak. It has failed to reinforce that it’s more often the rhetoric a leader pushes through his microphone which excites members into falling in line. In Illinois, our installation reminds us that “it is not by the strong arm or iron will that obedience and order are secured but by holding the key to the hearts of men.” 


Over years of watching new officers move into the top seat, I have developed an even more significant concern: giving full latitude to a single person fails to establish continuity. There's no consistent strategy or vision, just a series of abrupt course corrections year after year. Oddly enough, this should be the strength of the progressive line and a glaring weakness of every other approach. It isn’t. One should learn to conform to the collective vision and strategy as you climb while seizing opportunities to modify and craft that vision along the way. You learn to employ tools such as rhetoric and empathy to establish a strong reputation that offers you opportunities to inform policy and modify tactics to strengthen the organization. 


We need to be evolving the way we approach Masonic leadership. We have important gifts to offer to humanity that require all hands on deck to build. As leaders, we should be looking for ways to prepare future leaders to build the vision we presently hold. And as subordinate officers, we should be engaging our leaders more.


As I think about the next phase of my service to Masonry, I want to spend my time fully engaged. I recognize that I have something of value (just as each of you) to offer over an extended period, not just a year or two as head honcho. Quite frankly, if I wait to craft the future of our fraternity, it will be too late. I will not affect ANY change in those final years. And once I’m in the Past position, it is no longer my ship to steer. 


~SSD

Issues with Communication regarding our Petitions

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Jim Stapleton



When I submitted my petition to become a Freemason, I was filled with excitement. Personally, I didn’t know much about Freemasonry. Some Brothers are fortunate enough to have close friends or familial relationships that serve as their introduction to the Fraternity. Most of what I knew I had read online, and I wasn’t sure how much of it was even true. I was truly in the dark about the Fraternity, but I was eager to get started!


I went online and requested information through my Grand Lodge. I was referred to a local Lodge for further assistance. I promptly asked the Lodge Secretary what I needed to do to join. We arranged a time for me to pick up a petition. I enthusiastically completed the petition and proceeded to hand it in. I couldn’t wait for what would come next.


A week went by and I didn’t hear anything from the Lodge. Another week went by without any news. Weeks turned into months and still nothing. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with my application. Perhaps I gave an answer they didn’t like? Maybe one of my references said something bad about me? Did the Lodge just look at the petition and decide that I wasn’t worthy to join?


I finally received a call from the Lodge Secretary about two and a half months after I submitted my petition. He asked if I would be available to go through the Entered Apprentice Degree a couple of weeks later. I was thrilled that I heard back and that I was going to begin the journey. 


When I handed in my petition, I had no idea how long the process could take. Now, my time in Freemasonry has given me more insight. Petitions need to be read in Lodge, investigations need to happen, and ballots need to be held. The time of the year when a petition is received by a Lodge can certainly delay the process. For example, many Lodges do not hold business in July and August, and there are limits on what can be done to move a petition forward. Through the lens of an experienced Mason, I can understand why it took a while before I was able to be initiated. However, I have spoken with Brothers from other Lodges over the years and discovered that some of them waited far longer to hear back after submitting their petitions. This causes me to wonder if more could be done to develop relationships with potential members while they wait for initiation?


I believe that Lodges should make a concerted effort to engage with prospective members. Communication is vitally important. Checking in periodically with a petitioner can help to show that the Lodge is still interested, and provide an opportunity to answer any questions that arise. If your Lodge has dinner before meetings and Degrees, you can invite petitioners to dine with the Brethren. This is an excellent way to get acquainted with petitioners in a relaxed setting. If your Lodge has community service events, invite prospective members to attend. In addition to lending a hand, the opportunity will help them feel involved. We should be trying to strengthen connections between the petitioner and the Lodge to make them feel valued. Reaching out to a potential member does not take a lot of time or effort, but it could mean a world of difference to them.


(It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that our Lodge’s current Secretary is outstanding and I am not directing any negativity towards him.)



Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.

From The Archives: The 50 Year Member - Rest and Reflection

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

The air was crisp and cold as the fifty-year member locked his car. Slowly the old man walked down the sidewalk of his house to the front door, fumbling for his house keys in the moonlight.

The front door of the house opened into darkness with a squeak, the old mans footsteps echoed through the home as he found a light switch. “The place feels so empty” he thought as he removed his shoes. His wife was visiting their grandchildren on their Christmas vacation. The old man poured himself a glass of egg nog and quietly sat down in his study.

As the fifty year member slowly slipped into his overstuffed leather chair a smile crossed his face. It had been quite an exciting evening. Tonight was the annual Feast of the Saints Johns and the lodge's installation of officers. It made the old man's heart feel good to see such a large crowd at the dinner. Lots of the elder Brethren who rarely attend stated meetings came and broke bread with the lodge's newer Brethren. All of the generations seemed to enjoy the interaction with each other.

It had been such a long time since he had seen that many men attend the feast. The old man reminisced, “The last few decades we considered the event to be successful if we had a dozen brothers there. This year we had to add more tables!” The old man beamed with pride as they called the caterer to ask them to increase their head count. “ the caterer was probably as surprised as we were.” the old man laughed to himself.

When the time came to open lodge for the officer installation it seemed so shocking. For the first time he could remember not a single office, with the exception of the Secretary and Treasurer, was going to be held by a Past Master. The lodge was going to be in the hands of some very competent young men. The future of the lodge was never brighter.

Even the installation itself had a different vibe. The incoming Master decided he wanted the public section of the ceremony to be streamed live on the Internet. Who would believe people from all over the world would be watching the officers of our little lodge receive their jewels!

For many years the officers were installed to an empty room. After so many years of attending lodge functions the wives found reasons why they couldn't be present. The children of the Brethren had grown up and moved away. They were leading their own lives and didn't have the time to see the same old tired ceremony they were forced to attend all through their childhood.

When the Tyler opened the door to the lodge the room began to fill with young wives holding their children's hands as they were seated on the north and south sides of the lodge room. All the children looked so cute. The boys with their hair slicked back in their little suits complete with ties and the girls in pretty little dresses clutching their purses trying to look grown up just like their mummy. It brought a tear to the old man's eyes looking back to his childhood when he attended his fathers installations.

As the old man rested in his easy chair his mind started to wander in the silence of his empty house. “Tonight was the end of the previous year and the beginning of a new Masonic year. Upon reflection, last year was amazing but how can we make this new year better than the last? There is no reason each year the lodge cannot progress and be a little better than the last.”

The fifty year member yawned and slowly arose from his chair. “We as members are the lodge” he thought to himself. “We are the reason a lodge thrives or it dies. We have a brand new year to make our lodges and ourselves better than we left them in the previous year. Making our lodges better WILL help us become better men and isn't that the purpose of Freemasonry?”

~BH


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

There Are No “Perfect” Ashlars

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Erik M. Geehern


This past December, as the new year approached, I was discussing my actions and behavior over the past year when it comes to Masonry with a friend and Brother.  That discussion around our ashlars and the work of perfecting them led me to write what follows as a thought exercise and introspection on one of the key principles of our Craft.

As Masons, we are taught that we begin our Masonic journey as a rough ashlar. A stone from the quarry that is jagged, rough, unprepared, or undressed. This stone has tremendous potential, but in its current state, it is not quite ready to be utilized to build something magnificent. This is an allegory to an uninitiated man before he discovers any Light in Masonry. We are taught that by using the working tools, by chipping off the corners and rough edges we can transform ourselves, fitting our minds as living stones for that house not made with hands. Through Masonic education, service to the Craft, and Brotherly love we must strive to achieve an upstanding life and obtain enlightenment, becoming that perfect ashlar.

Being a relatively newer Mason, only being Raised a few years ago, I have already come to a realization… there are no perfect ashlars.

Our Lodge is almost 170 years old. The roster has stayed at about forty to fifty Brothers since I joined, on a great Stated Meeting night we might have twelve Brothers attend, we usually have six or seven. Realistically, as a percentage of active members that isn’t too bad. Over the past few years, we’ve had some internal disagreements, old guard vs new guard, building changes, and so on. The disagreements, from an outsider’s point of view, seemed to me to be more of the status quo contending with implementing change. I’m sure it surprises no one reading this that sometimes there are differences in opinion within the Lodge that cause strife. But what did surprise me was how each individual Brother within the Lodge handled themselves throughout this time.

Now that the proverbial dust has settled and we are in our new building and resuming the true work of Masonry, I have been reflecting on the past few years and their impact, not just on the Lodge, but on myself as a man and Mason. Our Lodge has members that range in age from their early thirties through their late nineties, consisting of Past District Deputies, Right Worshipfuls, Very Worshipfuls, Worshipfuls, DSA Recipients, and those of us newly Raised. In my observation none of us, myself included, acted in a way that was “perfect” over the past few years. Whether it be letting our egos control our behavior or reactions, speaking negatively about a fellow Brother, or some other negative response or action, not a single Brother truly subdued their passions entirely. Now, some certainly did a better job of utilizing their common gavels to divest their minds and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life better than others did, but in the end, we are all just men… imperfect, at times rough around the edges, with room for personal improvement.

There are a few Brothers specifically I look to as models of what a good Mason should be, mentors I look to for guidance, and Light. Yet, even they are not without the occasional rough edge, whether it be a disparaging comment, an acceptance of another Brother’s poor behavior when something should be said, or generally neglecting to whisper wise counsel when doing so could help another Brother grow as a man and Mason.

I am very cognizant of the fact that my ashlar in its current state has quite a bit of work to be done on it, that is why I am here, why I wanted to be a Mason. My ashlar will never be perfect, and that is alright, no Mason’s ever is. This temple we are building within ourselves will never be completed. The goal is to strive for continuous improvement. Continue to break off those rough edges, seek out more Light, show more Brotherly love, and help others learn and grow. The perfect ashlar is the target, not a goal. It can never be achieved, at least not on earth.

We have a lot of work to do in our Lodge to repair relationships, drive membership and make our new building our long-time home, and I look forward to the weeks, months, and years ahead with great optimism. Working with my Brothers, on the building, the Lodge, and our own individual ashlars is sure to be a challenge and a reward, we know these words to be true, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1.

Perhaps, at the end of our journey, when we finally lay down our working tools and the record of our life is read, those who continued to work in their quarry and refine their ashlar will be honored by the Great Architect of the Universe with those words “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”


Erik M. Geehern is currently Junior Warden of Goshen Masonic Lodge #365 in Goshen, NY under the Grand Lodge of New York. He was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in October of 2019 and since then has served as Assistant Secretary, Mentor, and Charitable Committee member and chairman. He writes and curates a newsletter for his Lodge quarterly which disseminates education, history, and esoterics. He is also a member of the Grand College of Rites and the Kansas Lodge of Research. He works in restaurant operations & consulting, and when not engaged in his usual vocation, or laboring in the Craft, he loves spending time with his wife and two children.

Masonic Education - A How To Guide

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


Editor's Note:  The below is a reworked article from the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F.&A.M. Educational Magazine, The Lyceum.  As that article was focused on how Education is structured in Illinois, I have edited it to make it more generic. 

One of the questions that Masonic Educators get asked most often is how to perform Masonic Education. Before I get started with that, I want to make a very important distinction between Masonic Education and Masonic Instruction. Masonic Instruction is learning the ritual, floor work, and everything else that relates to the work being performed within a tyled lodge. Masonic Education is learning about the meaning behind the work being performed within a tyled lodge. This includes the meanings behind what we say and sometimes why we say it. All the meanings of the symbols, floor work, ritual, and philosophical discussions about them fall under the realm of Masonic Education. Both are equally important; however, Masonic Instruction usually varies by Masonic District. Most districts that I am familiar with have a version of what is called a Worker’s Club, which is a separate meeting where the ritual and floorwork are being taught. 

Unfortunately, Masonic Education is not given such priority. It is usually reserved for the last item of business, assuming you even have it on your Meeting Agenda. What this has meant for me, speaking from experience, is that if your business meeting is not well organized, the Masonic Educator is forced to give a presentation or lead a discussion for a bunch of tired and cranky brethren.

The first thing that one must do to prioritize Masonic Education within their lodge is to move it to be the first item of business on the Agenda after the Pledge and Opening of the meeting. This will require a discussion with the Worshipful Master and in some cases, a Lodge By-Law change, if your lodge has the meeting agenda set by By-Law. I am writing this article under the assumption that your lodge is open to Education, so neither of the above should be an issue. If your lodge is not open to Education, then I would urge you to speak with your Worshipful Master, Lodge Education Officer, District Education Officer, or Area Education Officer (Assuming your structure is similar to Illinois).  In a worst-case scenario, you should visit other lodges in your district to see if there is a lodge where education is a priority and move your membership there. I hate to say this as a Masonic Educator, but there are some lodges where Masonic Education isn’t part of the lodge culture, and no matter how much one member tries, that lodge culture isn’t going to change. In these cases, it is better for one to move lodges or plural at a lodge where Education is a priority.

Once education is prioritized at your meeting, it will be incumbent upon the sitting Master to appoint a Lodge Education Officer, who will oversee preparing and presenting Education for each meeting. If you are the one who is pushing to improve the educational efforts in your lodge, don’t be surprised if this person is you. The question you are now asking yourself is most likely: Now What????

As Lodge Education Officer, you should focus on the below two things.

1. Providing Self Study opportunities for the lodge members.

2. Providing Educational Content for the lodge members.

I will explain each step in detail below.

1. Providing Self Study opportunities for the lodge members.

A. Providing self–study opportunities for your lodge members is probably the easiest way to try to get them engaged in Masonic Education. You should recommend podcasts from the below link to the brethren in your area.

https://masonicrevival.com/pages/podcasts

You can also recommend books from these lists some of which are public domain:

https://www.nhgrandlodge.org/suggested-reading-for-masons/

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HPiyPf2MYZKZAO59a2wQw9muq6Q72d_H/view

or direct them to https://countcagliostrosmasonicelibrary.wordpress.com/ and ask them pick out something to read.

2. Providing Educational Content for the lodge members

Providing Educational Content for the lodge members is probably one of the most intimidating things that faces a Masonic Educator.  However, it should not be. Here are some ideas as to how to provide Lodge Education:

A. Know your audience. Warning: If you are interested in Esoteric Studies but your lodge is not, the surest way to burn them out and wear out your welcome as an educator is to tackle a complex Esoteric subject. You will need to gauge the interest of your lodge when it comes to topics for Masonic Education. I would suggest the first Education be a discussion with the lodge members of what topics they would like to discuss at future meetings. Here are some topics that you can offer them: The History of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, The History of Freemasonry, The Deeper Meaning behind our Symbols and Ritual, The History of our Ritual, Contemplative Masonry (Basic Applications of Mindfulness and Meditation guided by Masonic Ritual), Self-Improvement, and lastly: American Masonic History. Get their opinions and try to cover the topics that they are interested in. You should also survey them to see how they might prefer to learn. Some lodges might have members that would prefer to watch a video instead of listening to a presenter. Be sure to make sure you note their preferences and try to cater your education to their preferences. Also, try to network within your district to find brethren that share similar interests to you so that you can have an outlet for discussing Masonic topics that you might be interested in but that your fellow lodge members are not.

B. Once you know your audience, you will need to pick your topic for your education. You can use any of the resources above to help you in creating your presentation. Also don’t be afraid to use the Intender Handbooks, Short Talk Bulletins, the Lyceum, or the internet. The Midnight Freemasons Blog has a lot of articles on various subjects that you can use (http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/) for Masonic Education. If you have a lodge that prefers video learning, don’t be afraid to use YouTube. The Masonic Minute series by Illustrious Bro. Steve Harrison is a good resource to use, as well as Refracted Light. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a speaker to see if they can present either in person or virtually if you can do so (https://illinoislodgeofresearch.org/speakers-bureau). Just remember the steps below when creating the presentation for the topic you have chosen.

C. Follow the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Any subject you present should not be too complex or at the very least have a way to translate it to be easily understood by all the members of your lodge. The topic or Topics that you choose to present should be thought of as a building block for future education. For Example, instead of trying to discuss the hidden meaning behind all the symbols given in the Third-Degree explanatory lecture during one education session, present them one at a time over the course of your stated meetings. When creating a presentation, imagine that you are trying to explain the topic you are presenting to a child. Just because you have a firm grasp on a subject does not mean that everyone else will also.

D. Lodge Education should not be a monologue. Lodge Education when done properly engages everyone present at the lodge meeting to participate in a healthy dialogue about the topic being presented. It is your job as the Masonic Educator to guide these discussions. The best way to do this is to have either a list of questions to ask your lodge their opinions about after your presentation or develop talking points for a discussion. Don’t be afraid to try to engage members of your lodge who don’t normally participate by asking them questions directly. The goal of Masonic Education is to make sure that everyone is participating and learning not only about the subject but also about the opinions or beliefs of their brethren.

E. You should try to have the educational program as well as the discussion involved around it last no more than 20 to 30 minutes. Any longer, you’re probably going to bore your brethren and/or push the time that the meeting closes back past many Grumpy Past Masters bedtimes. Be adaptable. Maybe your lodge is in the middle of a good discussion about the meaning of the term “Foreign Countries” in our ritual, don’t stop it just because the 30 minutes is up. On the reverse side, if you’re having a hard time getting members to engage in discussion on a topic, don’t be afraid to stop the education and move on with the meeting. There’s always the next meeting. You’re not always going to hit a home run. You’ll strike out some also. It happens. Don’t let it keep you from going back to the plate.

F. Use your DEO and AEO. Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off your District Education Officer or your Area Education Officer or ask them for help.

G. Lastly, Use your imagination. The sky is the limit. Don’t be afraid to try different things. If you want to plan a Burns Dinner, then don’t be afraid to do so. Similarly for a Festive Board, Table Lodge, Masonic Symposium. Again, try to network with brethren in other lodges as well to help plan bigger events with their lodges, many hands make light work.

I hope you find this guide useful to help you start meaningful Masonic Education at your lodge. I can’t stress point F above enough. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. If your DEO can’t assist you, then go to your AEO. Masonic Education is easy once you know how to do it.

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. 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 also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

From the Archives: The 50 Year Member: Part Fifteen - Masonic Memes

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Bill Hosler


It was a typical evening meal in the lodge's dining hall.  Frozen lasagna purchased from the local big box store was served on paper plates and eaten with clear plastic forks.  The bag of salad was sitting on the counter, uneaten and unopened, next to the store-brand ranch dressing.  Some members have often joked that the salad was bought during the first year the lodge had been chartered.  

The conversation at the tables was pretty much the same conversation that had been going on for decades.  The same old jokes and memories from years gone by.  It was pleasant dinner talk by friends who, over the years, had become brothers - as sure as if by birth.

The quiet, polite talk was stifled by the sound of the front door of the temple being loudly slammed.  Heavy footsteps coming down the hall revealed that the noise was coming from Worshipful Brother Carl Bauer.  His face was red with anger as he stomped into the dining room waving several sheets of paper in his hand.  Carl walked past the counter, and the lasagna, directly to the diners sitting at his normal table.

“Well hi, Carl! How has your day been?” another past master asked while the whole table erupted in laughter, which only further infuriated Carl.  

“How am I doing? How am I doing, you ask?” Carl said in a high-pitched, angry voice, “I'll tell you how I am doing.  I am beside myself with anger!!” 

“Well, I'll be darned!” the Past Master said as the laughter got even louder, matching the rise in Carl's blood pressure.  “What's got you upset, brother?”

“My Grandson was over and brought his computer with him so he could do some school work.  We got talking about how to search for things on the internet.  To practice, I asked him to look up Freemasonry.  His search brought up a lot of pictures.  Some were very nice:  Photos of lodge rooms, Brethren in their aprons.  Things like that.” 

“Then he showed me this website that got my dander up.  There were these pictures of various things with words written across them making fun of Freemasonry.  I had him print these for me.  Here, look at these!”

Carl threw the printed pages in his hand onto the dining room table and spread them all out to be seen.  Upon the pages were photos, some with still photos from movies or photographs from various pages of the Internet.  Various words were superimposed on the photos, much like word balloons on the frame of a comic strip.  These pictures were making fun of masons, ranging from what we wear to how we wear it, even insulting pancake fundraisers and past masters.

“I think these are created by anti-Masons.” Carl snorted in frustration.  “Who else would say such vile things about the Craft!” 

Pudge dropped his plastic fork and picked up one of the photos.  

“Oh, these.” Pudge said as he chuckled a bit, “These are called memes.  I don't think these are the work of “antis”.  “Antis” would be disparaging all of Freemasonry.  Most of these talk only about the way Grand Lodges operate, one-day classes, and things.  Usually, they are created by younger Masons to make each other laugh and to display their frustrations.  Some of them are very funny.”

Carl's eye widened as the vein in his neck bulged out “You are telling me MASONS create these things?” They say a such vile things about our leadership and our Grand Lodges! I refuse to believe a member of our Fraternity would stoop so low.  They should be found out and be thrown out of the Fraternity! Why this is unmasonic! It is blasphemy!”

The 50-year member placed the last bite of the toasted hot dog bun in his mouth. thinking to himself that hot dog buns which have been brushed with garlic butter make a terrible replacement for actual garlic bread, then looked Carl in the eyes.

“You know Carl, it is said for something to be funny it must contain a certain amount of truth.  These young brothers are frustrated.  They join our lodges looking for the thing we say we provide: Self-improvement and a way of making themselves better men.  They come in excited and full of hope then to have their hopes dashed by us older members with the usual clichés like 'We have never done that before' or 'Grand Lodge won't allow us to do that.'   We tell them we provide one thing and then provide another.  How can they not feel bitter?”

“To be honest, I am surprised any of them stick around long enough to vent their frustration.  Honestly, Carl, instead of cursing these young men you should be thanking them for making these, what are they called?” the 50-year member looked to Pudge, “Memes?” 

Pudge nodded to the old man with a little grin. Carl’s reaction, however, was that his blood pressure nearly reached the point of having a stroke. 

Thank them? You have got to be kidding, John! Thank these kids for making a mockery of the Fraternity I have loved and served for so many years? What’s next? Give them a medal for their heresy?”

The 50-year member laughed with a sly smile and said “Well, for one thing, for saving the Fraternity you have loved all these decades.” 

The old man continued “Carl, you, me, and every one of us sitting here has been saying for years that Masonry is dying.  The young people aren’t joining the lodge like they did when we were youngsters.  We went a few years without a single candidate and we were worried this lodge wouldn’t be around much longer.  Then, all of a sudden, those movies came out that made Freemasonry look cool, like something that young pups like Pudge and the others would want to belong to.  They put in a petition to join and then, once they are raised, Freemasonry isn’t like the movie made it out to be.”

The 50-year member looked Carl in the eye and said “The Grand Lodge and leadership of every other Masonic body have been racking their brains with ways to make the young men want to stay around.  They have tried everything: low dues, one-day classes, and loosening requirements to join. All done in hopes of bringing the youth in.  Nothing has worked; in fact, it made the situation worse.  They have done everything they can think of to bring these young men in except for one thing: Ask these men what they want out of the lodge.”

The 50-year member continued “We need to take these... memes... and read them, study them, and analyze them.  If we look past the jokes and the sarcasm we will see what these men want out of Freemasonry and, better yet, what they don’t want.  From what I read here they spell it out.  They don’t want long-winded meetings with arguments and the reading of minutes.”

“They want Freemasonry: To make themselves better men. You ask yourself, Carl, are we giving them that?  How would you feel if you were sold something, and paid your hard-earned money for it to find out it was nothing like you were told it was going to be? I bet you would be sore and complaining to high Heaven and everyone else who would listen that you had been ripped off.  These young fellas are doing the same thing, just in a different way.”

Carl stood still for a moment, staring at the floor.  The color in his face began to return to normal as he cleared his throat and quietly said “I must look like an old fool.  I see what you mean, John.  If I was their age and felt like I had been cheated, or my opinion disregarded, or worse yet, if I thought I was disrespected, I would have done things a lot worse than drawn cartoons with word balloons.  I guess if I were to think about it, these young fellas have a lot more reserve than I would have had.”

The 50-year member rose from his chair and placed his hand on Carl’s shoulder.  “They are good kids. I guess I mean 'young men.'  They are just looking for that which is lost in their generation.  Maybe once you get to know some of them You can help them work through their frustrations about Freemasonry and make this an organization we all will love.  As I have heard many times,  'Harmony being the strength and support of all societies, especially ours.'  Why don’t you sit here with us have some supper and we can all discuss what things we would like to see in our Fraternity.  Who knows, you might find some common ground.”

The Sight and Smell of Stale Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr


The intent of the following is to make one strict point: You must honestly know and understand where you truly are, before, you can contemplate how you can move forward. Anything else is what amateurs posing as professionals do. Period, full stop. 


Here’s the setup… 


Imagine for a moment you’re a person that’s never had the experience of going to a true authentic and artisanal bakery, let alone indulged in its offerings, which used to be commonplace many years ago.  


All you know has come from some supermarket bread aisle. i.e.,  plain, ordinary, sliced, plastic bagged, and tagged bread. 


But you know there’s more. You’ve even seen “fresh baked”  offerings in that same supermarket. But it’s all felt unleavened in both appeal and presentation, with the always lurking question: is this hard because that’s the way it’s supposed to be, or is it stale? 


So, for the umpteenth time, you put it down and seek back to the usual bread aisle to pick up old reliable “bagged and tagged”  because you don’t know how to differentiate and are afraid to ask for fear of appearances.  


But that yearning remains constant for “the real thing.”  


Then, you begin to get serious about wanting this unceasing craving substantiated. So you begin to research in the only place that allows privacy for your, now relentless and inquisitive,  pursuit: Books.

In these books you read about the wondrous properties and delights of creating fresh bread, then, the breaking of it around a  dining table with friends and family. 


You begin with immediacy to somehow smell the overwhelming fragrant aroma of its baking. You can sense the sheer anticipation of delight knowing what comes next with its accompanying rich creamery butter. 


You hear the sounds of satisfaction coming from others as they too partake in their first bites, yours joins them in chorus. 


Both laughter and serious voices dance in the air as conversations of past and future deeds are argued back and forth like fishing stories between friends. Everyone is consumed in conversations all while consuming the fare.  


And this is only the lead-in as you await with bated breath and tastebuds to partake in the main meal with all this near culinary religious experience.  


It’s there you begin to get a glimpse of understanding why the phrase “the bread of life” is used as a metaphor. Or said  differently - you are beginning to “get it.” 


Sounds pretty good, right? 


Now imagine you just went through the above mental exercise more times than you can count via different books and more which has now finally roused you to the point of true exploration.  i.e., reading moves to “knocking.” 


You venture out and find one of those old bakeries in what appears to be a once great building downtown that, maybe, has seen its better days a few years back. 


Undeterred, although with a bit of queasiness in your stomach,  you enter and ask “How to buy?” only to find out it’s a process that will take time, interviews, and more. 


Then, if you are “worthy,” you’ll be able to partake in all that richness you’ve been reading about (not to mention all the accompanying metaphysical drooling).  


Finally, your big day comes. It’s been a near agonizing wait with the suspense and anticipation you’ve created within yourself as you’ve read evermore, studying the founding and evolving processes of bread making from seed cultivation - through the milling processes, both past, and present. And more, much more.  


You can now nearly recite word for word the great artisan baker Alan Poke’s first chapter in “Recipes and Dogma.” i.e., you’ve truly committed honest time and energy to the craft. 


So, the big day has come. you’re told to do this and that in preparation. You’re hoodwinked, and you’re now wondering what all this ‘theater” is truly all about. Things are getting strange. 


You surmise the request for a change of dress is because they don’t want to get flour all over your nice, new dark suit.  


The blindfold must be to keep the secret of the “mother culture”  or “starter dough” that’s been used to keep centuries-old sour dough recipes alive and usable in bread to this day. i.e., Can’t let the “secret recipe” fall into the wrong hands after all, right? 


You keep affirming to yourself “This is so going to be so worth it.” 


Then, after all is said and done. You finally reach the point you’ve waited for with more anticipation than a new puppy about to venture into the great outdoors for its first time.


And the door opens… 


Now after all the preceding theater, either done once via the  “Instant Master Baker” ceremony or, via the traditional “Three and Done” method. It’s now come time for you to take your right place amongst the other Bakers and conduct the true bakery  business of “Baking Bread.” For you are now a fully recognized  “Master Baker.” 


This time you walk into the inner sanctum of the Bakery of your own accord and with eyes wide open. As you enter you’re adorned with your own apron. 


Then, after a bit of mumbo jumbo you needed to memorize and recite, you sit down. And with a wrap of a rolling pin by the head baker - you’re then served some form of generic sliced bread on a disposable plate along with paper tabbed margarine as an accompaniment - and a plastic knife. 


Then the conversations begin, but they’re not anything like the ones you’ve envisioned originally.  


No, now the conversations that loft in the air are about how there’s little gas left in the bakery’s propane tank to store any more bread from the supermarket.  


Arguments begin on why the bread being served is now on a  paper plate rather than china. Guys begin shouting things like  “Who decided we’re going to have no-name margarine instead of  ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®’ and why there was no vote on  the matter?!” 


As all this is going on you’re approached by a member you  haven’t spoken to more than once, if that, when he asks “So, the  next logical step for you now is to enter the ‘Baker’s line’ so you  can move up the process and gain the title of ‘Most Amazing.’  and run the bakery yourself!’ Are you in?”


You ask “Is there any real baking that’s to be done?” And the  answer comes back “Well, that depends on what you mean by  that, after all, ‘baking’ gives you what you put into it!”  


So you say, “Can I see the baking supplies and ovens, first?”  Only to be greeted with “Oh, no we don’t really do any of that old-time ‘baking’ stuff anymore. We, more or less, ‘Bake More Bread  Better’ via running pancake breakfasts, fish fry’s, and other stuff to raise funds to help those that can’t afford it to buy bread at the  supermarket for themselves.” 


“See, it’s all about being involved in ‘The Community.’ And what we need to help fill that role are people like yourself that can help with the upkeep of the bakery so we can do just that and serve said community. Remember the motto ‘Flour, Water, and  Charity?’ It’s our raison d’être, remember?” 


Then, you return those words that strike fear into every baker  that’s been in the “Baker’s chair” more times than they can  count, hoping you’re going to be the next to relieve them:  

“Um, let me think about it for a bit, OK?”  


Then comes the seasoned response of “Sure.” And they seem to not just walk away, but skulk. You can feel the disappointment,  yet, you don’t even know why. But you know it nonetheless. 


So, the meeting ends, you go home and you think about it.  Your conclusion? 


You end up going back to the supermarket and purchasing one of those “Artisan” loaves of bread that are marked as “Fresh Baked” at the sudo bakery within its walls. 


You take it home, slice off a few, throw them in the toaster, then open the accompanying package of “Grade A Butter” you purchased along with it.  


With an inconsequential “pop” you begin to paste your butter on the now warm, toasted slices trying to reimagine what you dreamt what might have been - but was not. 


But it’s better, cheaper, and far less time-consuming than what you just went through you begin to argue to yourself. 


And with that, you now decide it’s not worth returning, after all, it’s far easier to just visit the supermarket and get some sort of placebo effect at the “bakery” rather, than return to that supposed “real one” where the fare just seems like it been left out too long and gone moldy. 


And with that, another is NPD almost as fast as they joined.  What’s worse, is they’re never going to darken one of those  “bakeries” ever again along with that compound effect of they’ll probably discourage others should ever a conversation pertaining to the idea arises. 


Now here’s the truly frightful prospect to all the above in this… 


Our improvised character now believes the idea of that ideal,  which they searched for and longed for - was all but a long lost dead mirage of what once was - parading around as if it still is. 


Or said differently: Not only are they now encrusted with the blatantly wrong image of what Freemasonry offers. They’ll probably tell anyone who questions them regarding it that it was not only not what they thought it was, but actually, was all kind of weird and actually disappointing, suggesting those inquiring to rethink their query should they ever entertain a notion about joining. 


This is what the vast majority of American Freemasonry is doing to itself. Every. Single. Day. 


And for those arguing that those of us pointing this out need to just shut up, sit down and stop complaining.


All I have to say to you is this: 


Don’t explain to me… 

Explain to yourself how the above (both seeker and/or baker) is not you. 

It’s OK, I’ll wait. 


Mark St.Cyr 

Freemason