Thursday, February 6, 2020

Religion or Religious.....really?

This topic has come up over the years, lately it seems to come up quite often and with varying results. I can remember through the years that various Masons had to give up the craft to satisfy the wants and requirements of their religion.

A very good friend and former clown moved out of state and began to get very active in his church. One day they were discussing clown ministry, this brother told the group that he could help with makeup and teaching the participants about clowning. He was a retired Shrine clown and had plenty of experience. This prompted his priest to call him in for a private meeting. At this meeting the priest questioned how one became a Shriner and the brother told his priest that first one has to be a Mason then they can join the Shrine.

The priest told him that he had a decision to make, it's either the fraternity or the church. This brother chose the church because of his wife and grand-kids and the fact he was new to the state.

My mother lodge had Jewish brothers, Catholic brothers, and many other denominations. The one Catholic brother is still very active in lodge and church.

Another brother in a lodge came across the same thing....the priest found out that he was a Mason and made him choose between the lodge and the church, he chose the church. He was completely out of all Masonic groups but still attended events, fundraisers, etc. When the church received a new priest this brother asked the new priest about it.....this priest said no problem, now he is back in and happy again.

When I began dating my girlfriend her mother had apprehensions about me being a Mason because the Lutheran church does not approve of Masonry. Great, I was from Flint, a car salesman, and a Mason....the true trifecta. Fortunately my actions, intentions, and love for her daughter won her over. It's funny because my girlfriend asked her mom, "What about the Lutheran League for Men?"

Now very recently I learned that another great man, a Mason, and Past Master was asked to make the decision between the craft and the church. This message was delivered just before this brother read some scripture to the entire congregation, seriously. This brother has decided to look for a new church that is favorable to the craft.

In doing some reading there seems to be a hangup with some religions that Masonry teaches a belief in a Supreme Being of the individual brother's belief system, but does not necessarily teach the trinity or in other words....father, son, and holy ghost.

I believe the reasoning behind this is that Masonry allows...Jews, Hindus, Muslim, Christians, Protestants and any one who believes in a Supreme being and eternal life to become a Mason. My feeling is that this is done to not intrude on other peoples beliefs....sure the majority of members in our area are Christian and the brothers are free to practice that and in fact are encouraged to participate in their worship the way the see fit.

In the third degree we are reminded of the Jewish hierarchy and the Christian dispensation. The York Rite requires that only Christians belong and they send many pastors yearly to the Holy land.

One of the disturbing things that I found in my research is that they put a lot of weight into a television evangelist, John Ankerberg. When I was married a relative of my wife gave me a copy of his book describing the evils of Masonry....after a few pages I tossed it in the trash. That man has many things wrong and wrote the book to make money above all else.....in my opinion that is.

In one of the Scottish Rite degrees, the fourth, we learn that Masonry is not a religion but promotes the freedom of it's members to practice their religion in the way that they choose.

I've only been a Mason for 37 years but have yet to witness anything contrary to one's ability to worship as they see fit. Most of the lodges in small towns have 1 or 2 churches that most of their members attend. In Clio and Mt.Morris as well the local Methodist churches have many members of both the lodges and the churches.

It's truly a shame that the church headquarters deem Masonry as a religion and it's teachings contrary to the doctrine that they promulgate. It seems to me that many of these beliefs and doctrines were set forth many years ago before people became as mobile as they are today.

In addition I have never been asked to give up my own religious beliefs for the Masonic fraternity. It saddens me that so many good men are asked to make such a difficult decision. Of course no organization is without those who tarnish it's reputation but they are such a minute percentage that they really bear no weight on the whole. Perhaps through our doing the right thing this perception will one day change. God bless the brothers who find themselves in this difficult situation.



























Tuesday, October 1, 2019

It's your last time

Once again I was able to enjoy a tremendous night in Masonry at Lapeer Lodge #54. Another unusually large crowd of brethren including 2 Grand Lodge Officers and 6 Grand Lodge Representatives. The purpose of the evening was to raise two brothers to the sublime degree of Master Mason.

Outside of the Lodge room I was putting on my apron and collar while listening to a "mature" Past Master talking with one of the brothers who was about to be raised. The Past Master said to this soon to be Master Mason, "Well, it's your last time, huh?"

I'm convinced that this Past Master didn't mean what it sounded like he was saying.He surely meant that this is the last time he would receive a degree in the Blue Lodge. However, when I heard the small talk it was one of those moments that sparks one to think about words and how we choose them.

It made me think that so many of the new Masons that join the fraternity, their Master Mason degree is their last time in lodge. Too often when these new brothers receive their degrees, they are left to flounder on their own. This is where our mentoring program becomes so important.

Somehow these brothers need to be taken under a brother's wing and encouraged to participate in their lodge activities and travel to other lodges. As evidenced by the unusually large turn outs at Lapeer's degrees this year, traveling is one of the hidden gems of the fraternity. To me travelling and interacting with other brothers at other lodges is what our fraternity is all about.

Then as a means of contrast to the above thoughts, a young Mason from Vienna lodge who had traveled to Lapeer gave the working tools nearly flawlessly, a fine example of young man who is eager to learn and to share that knowledge with others.

Another thought that ran through my mind(a very small journey) was that the phrase I overheard illustrates the feeling of so many of our brothers.....that the glass is half empty." Masonry is dying". is bemoaned often....yet there is always plenty of degree work to be done, help me understand.

For the first time in many years we may just see a positive number in growth over loss of members. Our Grand Master Mark Manning has said many times these are historic Masonic times we are living in.

Many of the younger brothers are extremely hungry for knowledge concerning the esoteric meanings of the craft. The challenge is that too many of our senior members are lacking in this knowledge as well. Wouldn't it be amazing to have a resurgence of knowledge within our craft.

Wouldn't it be terrific to over hear this conversation, "So, you're getting your Master Mason degree, my brother you are just beginning the journey of a lifetime, your very own Masonic journey!"

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

It's Yours My Brother

With the overwhelming influence of social media in today's culture, one can join a group concerning almost any subject. The same is true with Freemasonry. I belong to a couple of these groups one being the "Winding Stairs".

 This group seems to be a lot of younger Masons and they are very inquisitive about topics from which way to wear ones ring to the wearing of the lambskin.

The discussion about the lambskin proved to be very interesting. The question was whether it was permissible for a brother to wear his lambskin to lodge.

Usually the responses to the questions posed are much more entertaining to read and think about than the point in question. In reading the responses I'm reminded that there are as many opinions as there are Masons.

Among the responses were things like; no definitely not to be worn but to be put aside until death, death is the only time this apron should be worn.....should be taken care of and worn only on special occasions....worn only during installations, etc.

If I remember correctly we are instructed as follows; it is yours my brother yours to wear through an honorable life and at your death for we are all born to die it may be placed upon the casket that encloses your lifeless remains and with them lowered beneath the silent clods of the valley.

One of the senior Past Masters of Fellowship Lodge, WB John Gilmore wore his on a regular basis, and his PM's apron only on special occasions. WB John's lambskin showed the work of a craftsman. He said, They gave it to me to wear and at my death I want it to show the labor I've done for the craft."

The reason I raise this topic is to illustrate that Masonic Education must be ongoing. With the way brothers are indoctrinated in today's lodge, Masonic Education can't go too far. Some of the young men coming in will seek out knowledge others will accept only what is given to them, in other words they are not going to go out of their way to learn.

We old timers take too much for granted. We tend to think that if a new brother wants to know they will search it out like we did. Today's generation have two factions, seekers and receivers. There is still curiosity and yearning for the seekers but many will take the knowledge when presented but figure if they want me to know they will tell me.

With Masonic Education perhaps we can convert some of the receivers into seekers. Sometimes a little knowledge is enough of a spark to ignite a fire of seeking and yearning for knowledge.

Again, there is something to be said for the old way of  doing ones proficiency. We lost a big element of teaching, explaining, and most importantly learning. Today we are supposed to mentor the young Masons coming into lodge, regrettably I think that falls by the wayside way too easily.

We need to foster these brothers coming into lodge and build friendships and brotherly love with these young Masons regardless of their age. We saw this illustrated at Eureka Lodge when we visited their Prince Hall Lodge. They still require the old style proficiency and there seems to be a bond there.

Regardless of all the social media and knowledge that can be learned from various avenues on the internet, the age old method of socializing and teaching face to face seems to still be one of the most effective and accurate ways of communicating our rituals, history, and traditions. When was the last time someone explained "So Mote it Be" to a new brother???????  That's just the tip of the iceberg as they say.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

How Easily We Forget

As we move forward with the Fraternity of Free & Accepted Masons, it seems that we are now at a point to focus on quality rather than quantity.

There seems to be more instances of...."I gotcha moments" than ever before. Perhaps it's just a sign of the times and societal behaviors leaking into the fraternity.

In years gone by it was a rare instance that a brother was brought up on "charges"....now it seems that the first conclusion is to bring charges against a brother. Admittedly there are times when that is the only course of action to rectify certain situations. For the most part it's an over-reaction to a brother's conduct....believe me, nothing good happens when charges are brought, it can tear a lodge apart and cause separation among the brethren that may never heal.

While attending a Master Mason Degree this week, I was reminded of one of the most powerful things we are taught......to whisper good counsel in the ear of a brother.

It seems that rather than whisper good counsel to a brother about his actions or lack of actions he is allowed to continue on until there is no return. There is a total breakdown in communicating what is expected or perceived to be acceptable. I've experienced this myself on more than one occasion during my Masonic journey. It can be very hurtful and a huge blow to endure, and make one question one's position in the fraternity.

On a much smaller scale I'm reminded of WB Bennie King and the way he would correct a brother's use of a wrong word or phrase during a degree. During a break or after the degree WB Bennie would take the brother aside away from everyone else and correct the brother. The only people who knew of the corrective counseling was the brother and WB Bennie, he fully understood the concept of whispering good counsel. So many are so quick to correct and interrupt the degree in the process, why?

We are taught to "ever" whisper good counsel....ever means at ALL times; always; continuously; at any time; in any possible case; by any chance. I think the word ever pretty well sums up when we are supposed to whisper that good counsel. Too often we forget this basic lesson we are taught in the Master Mason degree.

Whisper is used intentionally in this lesson to demonstrate that the counsel should be between only the two brothers and not for everyone to hear. To whisper is to utter in soft, hushed sounds. In other words a private low key conversation between two brothers.

The whispered words or counsel consists of advice, instruction, or opinion.These words are delivered in a friendly manner. Friendly is defined as helpful or supportive, and manner is the way of doing things. This is done to remind the brother of his errors.....as the writers of the ritual knew and we also know if we are honest with ourselves, most of the time we know of our errors and sometimes need to be reminded of them.

We are to "aid his reformation".....in other words help the brother to improve what is wrong, to abandon the wrong way of conduct. All while giving him "due", or what is owed to him....and "timely notice", an opportune or well timed communication. That he may "ward" off; protect, guard, avert, repel, or turn aside...approaching "danger"; a liability, harm, risk, peril, or bad situation.

This is a very special time in Masonry....our numbers have shrank but the fraternity is greater than any of us and has a unique way of surviving. The fraternity of Free & Accepted Masons has survived through the ages and has been challenged in many different ways. We are now in the information age and the men that are joining seem to want to learn the true meaning of Freemasonry. The meaning is right there for all of us to enjoy and learn from.

Too often the basic lessons taught are the ones most easily forgotten. We need to take brothers aside and in the most friendly manner remind them of their errors and aid their reformation. We also need to be man and brother enough to receive counsel from another brother....to listen to his whispered counsel and accept his friendly manner of correcting our errors. Sometimes it's better to receive than to give.

We need to step away from the Ah, I gotcha moments.....and remember Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth......if we get back to the basics and truly practice brotherly love we will surely grow personally and the numbers will come as a result.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Thoughts from A Country Mouse Attorney

The following article was written by our current Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master of Masons in Michigan, WB Mark Manning.

To use his often used phrase, WB Mark is a simple country mouse attorney. In addition to being a fine attorney he will soon be our Grand Master of Masons in Michigan.

In his brief article which was posted on social media, he delves into the cyclical nature of fraternities and societies as a whole.

It is indeed refreshing to see retrospection and a vision of where we need to go and how to get there as a fraternity.

Well said WB Mark.


Freemasonry my Brother, arose out of of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Age. In each epoch of history Freemasonry has led and we have had an impact. It is the oldest Fraternal Organization.
We are now, my Brothers in the Information Age. That began in the late 1950’s and Freemasonry has struggled in this age, as have all traditional fraternal, church and social organizations with declining membership and participation.
Contrary to popular conceptions that the Information age would “bring us together” , we have become more polarized, more tribal, less apt to join, less accepting, less civil, more divided by race, creed and economics, less respecting of differences of opinion, more isolated.. Civility and good character have fallen victim. Materialism reigns. According to public polling and surveys common respect for institutions of law, government and business have fallen. i submit this is in direct correlation to the decline of participation in our Fraternal organizations and community character.
The time to change this is now. Restoring the Fraternal character of America is imperative. We have a mission to rise to. Obviously, no one is perfect, but striving to be better as a human being and doing the right thing is paramount.
Freemasonry since its inception in 1717 or before strives to bring good men of every race, color, creed, economic and social position together on the level of equality, under a fatherhood of God, for at least a short period of time, to set aside their temporal differences, to act as Brothers, to seek a more humane, loving and charitable existence for ourselves, our homes, families, workplaces and communities. We seek to improve our character, to be better sons, fathers, husbands, co-workers, and citizens. To strive to make the world we live in a better place to be. We can disagree, yet not be disagreeable.
Regardless of fraternal affiliation, Knight of Columbus, Freemasonry, Elks, VFW, Moose, FOP, Eagles, don't we all seek to make our members better and to seek a newer and better world? We need to promote better men, husbands, fathers and leaders.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Reflecting

Reflecting upon our recent visit with our good brothers of Eureka Lodge #16 PHA, several things can be learned from their traditions and ways of conducting themselves and their business. I am hesitant to write this, but surely our brothers and leaders have mad similar observations which are outlined below.

The first and most prominent thing that stands out to me is their manner of dress. Black suit, white shirt, black tie, and white gloves. This was true when Eureka visited Fellowship as well as on our visit to Eureka. I remember when I visited the other Prince Hall Lodge, John W. Stevenson the brothers there were also in black suit, etc.

It's not just the officers, it's every brother in attendance is in a black suit. Too often when attending lodge I don't see suits or even sport-coats, I see casual wear. I sat by the Marshal of Eureka Lodge and his job is to ensure the proper dress of all the brothers, right down to pointing out if a brothers apron is out of adjustment or the flap is turned up.

The next thing I found intriguing is the respect of the officers toward their Past Masters. The Past Master with the earliest term of service is referred to as the "Senior Past Master", a way to honor that Past Master and his dedication to the lodge. He is the last of the Past Masters to speak, again a way of honoring his wisdom.

Now the biggie......full form proficiency. We witnessed an excellent examination of their candidate, the young man did an absolute fantastic job. Later in the evening he thanked his teacher for all of his help in learning the lesson. We stopped the full form proficiency probably close to 30 years ago. This provided an opportunity for men to become brothers without the difficulty of the lesson. But our candidates have lost that relationship with the teacher and actually learning about the fraternity and it's teachings.

Another lesson to be learned is that these brothers truly are brothers, they actually know and support one another, not just by name and lodge, they truly know about each other and each other's lives. It really shows through as they interact with one another.....something we need to be much better at.

In certain ways I think we've become too relaxed in our traditions, our dress, and in our respect of the leaders who have gone before us. Then the matter of the proficiency, we will never see our Grand Lodge going back to the "old way" of proficiency I'm afraid, but there is definitely something to be said for the experience, I think the new brother has a much better knowledge of the craft. To me the whole evening was like going back in time to an era that was much more formal and respectful of the fraternity and it's meaning to the lives of it's members. So mote it be.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Brotherly Love







Last night completed the first of many visits between Fellowhip Lodge F&AM and Eureka Lodge PHA. Both of these lodges are in the city of Flint and have functioned independently of one another for many years.

A few weeks ago I visited Fellowship Lodge for a Master Mason degree, upon arriving I realized that our brothers from Eureka Lodge were visiting to witness the degree. If memory serves there were 11 brothers from Eureka Lodge visiting that evening, including the Worshipful Master and most of his line officers. It was a joyous evening and a great night in Masonry. It provided the opportunity for the brothers from Eureka to visit the Flint Masonic Temple and witness the degree how we portray it.

Last evening we had the opportunity to return the visit by attending a Master Mason Degree put on by Eureka Lodge. The degree was well attended by Prince Hall brothers and many brothers from Fellowship Lodge and other lodges throughout the county.

One thing that particularly caught my attention when Eureka visited Fellowship and during our visit to Eureka was the manner of dress by the Prince Hall brothers. They all wore black suits with white shirts and black ties, and every brother wore white gloves. One of the brothers did not have on a tie and apologized for not having on a tie because of recent carotid artery surgery. I'm afraid that we have become very lax about our dress standards for our meetings.

After getting their lodge opened on the Fellowcraft Degree, the candidate stood his proficiency in that degree.....in long form as we used to do. up until the mid to late eighties. The young brother did an outstanding job on delivering his proficiency. This certainly touched the hearts of many of our older brothers who remember the good old days.

Eureka then changed degrees and voted on the young brother's proficiency and proceeded on with the Master Mason degree in fine form. The obligation was given by a Past Master of Eureka Lodge and was perhaps the finest I've ever heard. The emotion and feeling portrayed by this Past Master added to the meaning of the obligation not only for the candidate but for every brother in attendance.

Obviously the rest of the degree was equally well performed. A variety of Past Masters delivered the lectures and were introduced before delivering their portion of the lectures. Everything went extremely smooth and the knowledge displayed was fantastic.

The secretary of Eureka Lodge and I worked together back in the mid 80's through the early 90's. His dad was a Past Master of Eureka Lodge, so it was only natural that Greg join the same lodge. He was so excited when he joined, and we worked on his lessons on the down-low at work. This was at a time when the Grand Lodge of Michigan F&AM and the PHA Grand Lodge of Michigan did not recognize each other. However, Greg and I acknowledged that we were brothers even if our Grand Lodges did not acknowledge it.

Thankfully a number of years ago the two Grand Lodges agreed to recognize one another, unfortunately it's taken a while to get to this stage of our relationship....but we are now there. For these two lodges to coexist in the same city for so many years and only now are coming together is a shame, because of the number of years that have elapsed. But the future is bright and I am sure that our relationship will only improve and strengthen in the future.

If we look to our early teachings in the very first degree, the Entered Apprentice degree, we learn that; by the exercise of brotherly love we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family, the high and low the rich and poor, who being created by one Almighty Parent and inhabiting the same planet are to aid, support and protect one another. On this principle Masonry unites men of every country, sect and opinion and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.

There are differences in how we portray the work but there are far more similarities. By these visitations we find that we are united in the same purposes, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. We discover that we have similar values. similar visions, and similar goals. We both have a love of the fraternity and the active brothers realize that this fraternity is a life long endeavor.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethern to dwell together in unity.