Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Relevance

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Master Mason degree with a very attentive and thankful candidate. The degree was conferred in the usual fine manner.

A couple of things really caught my attention that evening. One, the quest for knowledge and rewards without paying ones dues, the second was a term I've heard hundreds of times before....basely assassinated.

Presumably most of you are well acquainted with the allegory of Hiram Abiff, if you're not then it is openly available on Wikileaks. In the story, workmen in the temple are desirous of obtaining the secrets and pass words of a Master Mason. By being in possession of these things the workman, who were fellowcrafts could move on and earn Master's wages in all areas.

The three fellowcrafts who were premature in their quest were told by Hiram Abiff that they were not ready for that level and if they would patiently wait and earn their due then they would surely receive what they most desired....the ability to freely travel and earn Master's wages.

That part of the story dovetailed nicely with my latest post on this blog. In that post I had mentioned that in today's society we have become overwhelmed by the notion of instant gratification or instant rewards without working through the ranks and paying ones dues.

Also in today's world we are bombarded by steadily changing options.....from our car radio which now has satellite reception with hundreds of stations....to the TV with thousands of channels and choices....even the phone which is now carried with most people and they can be in immediate constant communication with others.

I've heard of instances where a man becomes a Mason and immediately wants to be Secretary or a newly made Mason is thrown in line as Junior Warden.....or a man petitions a lodge and wants to be a Mater Mason in a matter of days. When this happens the new brother is really being cheated out of valuable experience which will aid him in his journey....and we are cheating ourselves by denying tremendous opportunities to get to know the brother and actually teach him about our traditions, heritage and ritual. It's been said that the teacher often learns more than the student.

Isn't it odd that the ritual is still relative all these years after it's completion. It could be argued that it is in fact timeless. Many lessons in the Bible have the same characteristics....the behaviors are the same today as all those years ago...situations are similar....and the lessons taught are the same....the only change is the technology.

Recently the Regional Grand Lecturer and I had a discussion about our ritual. If you've read any of the posts on this blog then you know that I feel the authors of our ritual were very precise and measured in their choice of words. The words and phrases used get the utmost out of each phrase. WB Gil mentioned that he had read an article in which the author felt that the writers of the ritual had merely got lucky by having some words, phrases, lectures, etc. fall into place and give the impression that they had been thought through....the author of that article felt that "purpose" has been read into the words of the ritual.

Both of us agree that we believe nothing could be farther from the truth. When one breaks down phrases into the words comprising those phrases it becomes very apparent that the words were chosen very wisely. Upon researching those words one learns the true meaning of those words and their clear intended meaning and representation.

Back to the allegory of Hiram Abiff and one phrase that really made me take notice....whom we have basely assassinated.

Basely is a word not commonly used today, but was very common in days of old, it comes obviously from the word....base. Upon researching basely we find that it means;




1.
morally low; without estimable personal qualities; dishonorable;meanspirited; selfish; cowardly.
2.
of little or no value; worthless



Assassinated is another interesting word...one comedian said what level does one have to attain to move from murder to assassination...well according to the meaning of the word...it deals specifically with certain criteria we see it defined as follows;

1.
to kill suddenly or secretively, especially a politically prominent person;murder premeditatedly and treacherously.


The story of the ruffians who basely assassinated the Master Craftsman Hiram Abiff were described through two very wisely chosen words. I've always thought that basely assassinated meant that they basically killed the Grand Master...which they did but the words describe their character and their actions as well.

The three who did not recant from their murderous desires are aptly described as morally low, without estimable personal qualities, they were dishonorable, definitely mean-spirited, cowardly because they hid by the three gates and launched surprise attacks.....all for selfish reasons to gain the Master's word to enrich their personal wealth.....and I think we all agree they were of little or no value....worthless members of society....oops that's the behive from the EA degree....see what I mean.

As we move on to assassinate we learn that it means to kill suddenly....the murder did happen in a very short span of time.....and it was definitely secretive in nature as they remained behind when the other workers left the temple to eat their noon time meal.

Obviously the Master Craftsman was a politically prominent person....he was one of the three Grand Master Illustrious Artisans and held the third element of the Master's word. We also learn from the 12 Fellowcrafts that his demise was premeditated and the fatal blow was treacherous for it split his skull.

It's always fascinating to me to research a phrase that jumps out at me to find that I had absolutely no idea just how much is conveyed by such seemingly simple phrases.

My brothers I encourage you to venture out on your own, find a phrase that makes you think and do some thinking and researching to discover for yourself just exactly what the ritual says....talk about more light in Masonry...my brothers I'm afraid we have barely struck the match.






Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Is Technology the Right Path ??

It's amazing that when thoughts occur to me that I simply sit down at the PC and start typing away....or should I say keyboarding away. This leads me into the topic I wish to address....technology.
As a youngster nerd status came naturally....and as my girlfriend will argue is still firmly in place.

Being that nerd, the typewriter was a mystery to me that needed to be unlocked. The mysteries became unlocked thanks to a spinster neighbor and "typing" class in both junior high and high school. I realized that computers were going to come into age and that typing would be a useful tool not only for that technology but for typing papers in college.

When my sons were in school I insisted on typing classes....but they are now referred to as keyboarding. There was something about the clicking of the keys and the striking of the letters on the paper that made the whole mysterious process even more alluring.

How does this all relate to our fraternity must be the question in your mind. I read many articles about the supposed demise of our craft, many are written by very young Masonic bloggers, writers, and students of the craft. By very young I mean those in their late twenties and early thirties...by Masonic standards that is very young.

They do raise some good points about what the "lodge" does other than degree work. They claim that there are not enough activities outside of the usual meetings and degree work. I have to concur with that observation.

Those same articles seem to always get around to talking about how the younger generation communicates and the types of activities they desire and seek out. At some point in most of the articles they spend a fair amount of time discussing the various "hi-tech" devices and means which are an integral part of the younger generation's life.....I have to add, that age line seems to be increasing....everywhere I go there are people with their head bent down toward their phone.

A major theme of the articles also point out that membership numbers are declining and they tend to place the blame on the lodges for not being relevant to the needs of prospective members. While I am willing to partially accept that blame, I can't go along with that theory 100%.

All organizations are experiencing a decline in membership and another factor....participation of those who are already members. The last generation and a half were not joiners....many studies say that this is going to change...that the now young generation will be joiners.....time will tell as they say. I'm not sure if we can become relevant enough to help change and shape an entire generation...and by we I mean all organizations....churches, civic groups, fraternities and the like.

One factor affecting our local area is the decline in population. We have approximately 16+ lodges in our "local" area....this seems to be too many for the amount of membership of those lodges. Due to keeping the buildings going and the bills paid....much of the extra effort and time is devoted to raising money to keep the doors open.

So back to the "hi-tech" theme.....these articles talk often about social media and other hi-tech ways of communicating with members of the lodge and also prospective members as well. They speak of new brothers doing exhaustive research on line before joining only to find out that all too often they know more than many of the existing brothers.....because their needs are not met in regards to learning more of the history, tradition, and meaning of the craft, so they move on to other ventures.

Another disturbing trend in some circles is negative talk regarding the ritual and degree work. To me the degree work and the ritual work is what separates us from the animal groups, the moose, eagles, elk, water buffalo, etc. Freemasonry is rich in tradition, teachings and symbolism. The Supreme Commander of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction has made some speeches and wrote some articles about how he feels that the degree work of the Scottish Rite is hampering it's efforts at recruiting and retaining new members....that went over like a lead balloon in Bay City.

Social media has a huge footprint in society today. My contention has been that Freemasonry was the original social media. It provided then and provides today,  a vehicle for social interaction, education, and the betterment of man. Unfortunately today many rely on the various social media outlets as a means of social interaction. A few are realizing that they need to get their head out of the electronics and be around some living breathing humans.....thus was man made for the social and active life, the noblest part of the work of God.....there's that darn ritual, written hundreds of years ago and it's still relevant....imagine that.

I acknowledge that we as a fraternity need to take the lessons we espouse much more seriously, I'm not advocating to not have fun, but we need to re-educate ourselves so we can educate the newly made Masons and this will meet one of their needs.....but it requires dedication on our part. 

Communication is always bantered about as a concern....and that famous pop culture line...." what we have here, is a failure to communicate".....in our area we are very fortunate...several years ago a Yahoo group was formed for the communication of upcoming events, sickness, death, etc. The idea has been shared with other Masonic groups but many have a hard time grasping the concept. We here in the local area are so used to it that it is referenced almost without thought by the brothers of the area....it has become a very reliable and useful tool.....but many other groups can't grasp how it can be beneficial.

Contrasting the process of becoming a Mason today to that of 34 years ago, things have changed drastically. When I joined we were told what time to be there, what to wear, etc. We followed it because we were joining them and we were to conform to their rules and customs. We had a six page one letter key lesson to learn to become proficient and we were assigned a teacher, a mentor to guide us through the process. Today a man is voted on to receive the degrees of Masonry, he tells us when he can take his degrees, nobody recommends what the candidate should wear, often they show up in shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops.....I'm sure he is real comfortable when we are all in shirt and tie or suit or tux,. he spends about a half an hour with a brother before doing his proficiency and he is rushed through the next two degrees....the whole process can be done in 3-4 weeks......then more cases than not he's never heard from again. That is the reality....it's not how it is designed to work by the Grand Lodge....but that is reality in more lodges than I care to acknowledge. No real studying, no real mentoring, just a rush to the mighty Master Mason degree.

Sadly that is a reflection of our society today.....today is the age of instant gratification...instantaneous results....nobody wants to start at the bottom and work their way up the ladder, learn the tricks of the trade as they say, they want to come in as Chairman of the Board....me, me, me.....nothing is earned it's given on a silver platter. The days of telling a candidate when and where to be, what to wear and what to expect seem to have fallen by the wayside. The mention of starting as a steward and working ones way up is practically unheard of in today's Masonic environment. One of my pet peeves is that a man comes in and takes his EA degree and after the lectures is afforded a seat in the East, that new brother now has less to look forward to. I believe the first time I sat in the East was during my first term as JW on advanced officers night or it might have even been as SW....I remember thinking that it had taken some time to achieve and that moment meant so much more to me, because I had worked for it and paid my dues, I didn't start my journey there, it was a stop made much later and it meant a lot to me.

The Grand Lodge of Michigan has implemented several plans, two very important ones are the 6-step program and the Mentor program. The 6-step allows the lodge to get to know the potential candidate and also allows the petitioner to get to know the lodge. If there seems to be a fit between the potential candidate and the lodge, the last step is to hand the man a petition......lodges can't seem to get away from the old theory of shoving a petition in a man's face, at the first hint of a question about joining the lodge. Many of us brothers who have been around for a while dream of the day when a candidate actually worked at becoming proficient....I think those days are gone for good and will never be returned to....thus the need for Mentors. The Grand Lodge has a terrific Mentor program and encourages every lodge to assign a Mentor to the newly made Mason....unfortunately this too falls by the wayside for whatever reason.

It seems almost ironic that the majority of the articles talking about the demise of the craft always reference the lack of activities outside of meetings and degree work. I've been approached by brothers who seem to preface their remarks with why doesn't the Grand Lodge or why doesn't the district do such and such. My response is always, wow, that sounds like a great idea....why don't you put some things together, get some organization to your ideas, then I will help you get it implemented, invariably their response is I can't do that, or I don't have the time to organize it. Great ideas are usually great, terrific ideas start with great ideas with the originator being the catalyst to make it happen.

Another topic always bantered around is family oriented activities, which can include the wife and kids. The argument is that if a brother is going to take time away from his wife and children then the lodge needs to offer activities with the family in mind. What are those types of activities....obviously Lodge picnics don't meet the criteria, most I have attended are usually light in attendance. Several lodges and other apendant bodies have baseball trips, the challenge there is the price...taking 4-6 to a ball game adds up rather quickly, there are several minor league teams in the area which are more affordable, would that work? I wish I knew what the magic answer is.....the sad part is that there isn't a magic answer.....one never knows what will motivate people to action, to actually show up and participate. The key to any activity is to motivate people to "make" time for the activity....all the planning in the world can not guarantee a great turn out....it seems all the planets need to be aligned to pull off a successful event.

I've read plenty of articles talking about the condition of the craft, even the potential demise....but rarely are any viable solutions offered up. In our local area we are blessed with King Solomon's Club, in recent memory we would always have 100+ for big events......now we are lucky to see 50....why is that....I feel we can attribute the low numbers to one thing....leadership....or more aptly said the lack of leadership on the local lodge level.

Leadership is also motivation of the members....one should be strong but fair in leading a lodge, but being a motivator is also a key attribute for a good leader. Planning is a must but motivating the members to actually participate in activities is the key to success. This is where some good old fashioned networking comes in....press the flesh...shake some hands, make some phone calls, send some text messages, blast it on Facebook, Twitter and such...face to face contact along with some flyers and word-of-mouth advertisement can lead to success for planned events.

The challenges facing our fraternity today are challenges facing all fraternities, churches, civic groups, etc. While I agree that the lodges need other activities beyond boring business meetings and degree work, I'm unclear about what type of activities will motivate the brothers and their families to "make" time for any activity. It's hard to compete with the constantly moving electronic fodder that is called entertainment these days. Back in the day, many lodges and apendant bodies had entertainment shows of various kinds, but variety shows were very popular on any of the three channels available on TV. Today there are hundreds if not thousands of channels available on TV, not to mention video games, computers, laptops, tablets, phones and the list goes on.

Our challenges are real....but there comes a time when people realize that they are truly created to be social beings and eventually come from behind their electronics. Maybe that's how we should market ourselves....as the original Social Media....with real-live humans interacting with one another in a "social" setting. It's odd that the term Social-Media is bantered about without even thinking about what the term means...."Social" meaning to interact with one another....the Media is simply the medium used for socialization.....we tend to use the most powerful form of intelligence....the human mind, body, and soul.....even the most powerful computer with the most advanced software pales in comparison to the human brain, add into that the body and soul and it's the most advanced machine known to man......after all it was divinely created.

I had the pleasure of catching the tail-end of a Fellowcraft degree last night at my home lodge. In addressing the candidate during the closing remarks, I mentioned that if he talked to some old-timers that they will often say that the Fellowcraft degree is considered the education degree. This title comes from a time hundreds of years ago when a formal education system was not in place. For many brothers during those times the education they received at a Fellowcraft degree was their only education regarding the 5 human senses and the 7 liberal arts and sciences along with a short lesson on the 5 orders of architecture which was much more prevalent then as opposed to modern building techniques.

My short talk could very well be the only talk that some brothers ever hear about our history and tradition. This aspect about our craft needs to be talked about much more frequently. In the majority of the articles I've recently read about the younger members seeking more substance to the degrees and meetings they attend....most of the comments come around to a thirst among these brothers seeking more knowledge about this great craft. Many of the older brothers know about this history and tradition but for whatever reason tend to dismiss it or can't communicate it to the newly made brothers of this marvelous fraternity.

Again, the Grand Lodge of Michigan has strongly encouraged a Lodge Education Officer be put in place to offer up short talks at the regular meetings of the lodges throughout the state. I have found that many lodges do have an active LEO and many of the short talks are very good. This should be a requirement for all lodges in my opinion. Too often these programs have cold water thrown on them by the overall membership of the lodges.

Indeed all of this is quite puzzling. Why do men seek out joining the fraternity? Is it because they have one or more friend that always talks about the great time they have with craft? Is it because they learn that a family member is a brother or maybe a relative who has passed on was a brother? Is it because of the mystery surrounding the craft? Is it a love of history and tradition? Is it plain curiosity?  By following the 6-step program, my belief is that we will find out.....when the man becomes a brother and has an assigned mentor, he will be more likely to return.....if we meet his needs and open ourselves up to "listening" to his thoughts and desires.....we may try some new things that will lead to increased interest.....if we back up the process with continuing education about the craft it may just excite his curiosity to do some studying on his own about the craft.

It's easy to point out the deficiencies of the craft.....but it's extremely difficult to develop programs and activities that will appeal to a broad spectrum of the brothers and their families. Actually I would wager that if they were posed that question they would not have an immediate response. Somehow it all relates back to the process of getting to know the men who are joining the fraternity, to pick their brain and assess their wants and desires.....if we can make that assessment, will we be willing to respond vigorously to their ideas and meet their expectations???










Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Last Offices

The Masonic Memorial is a very touching ceremony and as is stated it is the Last Offices We Pay to the Dead. We have all been to some memorials with low attendance and others with a very large attendance.

The grand aim of the Memorial service is to pay honor and respect to a fallen brother, thus displaying to his surviving family and friends a demonstration of our past esteem for him. We are also taught that it matters not to the fallen brother whether two or three or hundreds have assembled to perform his Memorial service.

I had the pleasure of attending a Memorial service last evening for a friend and brother to many. There were 78 Masons standing and a hand-full sitting with wives, friends, etc. It was such a display of fraternal love and I'm convinced made quite an impact on relatives and friends not associated with the fraternity.

My point is that when there is such a large turnout for such a Memorial that many brothers become reacquainted with brothers they haven't seen in some time. It was such a joy to see so many brothers that I hadn't seen in several years. Most of them were members of other appendant bodies.

One of the highlights of the evening for me personally was reconciling with a brother who is very active in another fraternal group. Things happened in the past and I had been holding a grudge against this brother for twelve years. We began talking and he asked if we could be friends again, he apologized for his actions, said he was wrong and wanted to start fresh. My response of course was yes, his reaching out and apologizing meant a lot to me.

The whole evening made me wonder just who we are there for......of course we are there to honor a fallen brother, but the occasion provides a vehicle for the brothers to mingle, converse, get reacquainted and in my case reconciliation.

Somehow brother Don would be very pleased with the fellowship that resulted from his Memorial, I think it is what my brother Don would have wanted....and he would have been delighted for my personal situation.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for men to dwell together as brothers....Fare thee well brother Don....and thanks for the opportunity to grow in the fraternity....So Mote it Be

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Hidden Gem of Freemasonry

Several years ago WB Mike Burt uttered a phrase which I've have quoted on numerous instances. "Traveling is one of the hidden gems of Masonry." Whenever I have spoke these words, credit is always given to WB Mike.

Recently a very active traveler asked me the question, "Why is it that the number of brothers traveling has decreased so much over the past few years?"

Unfortunately, I don't have a real good reason for the recent decline. I suppose like all things in life it goes in cycles. Masonry is on the cusp of being great again, in my opinion.

Leadership is a main driving force in most things in life. Traveling needs leadership, whether from the elected officers of the lodge or a small catalyst of brothers who know and recognize the benefits a lodge receives from traveling to other lodges.

Traveling is responsible for a multitude of things that benefit any lodge. Good attendance at the regulars, good attendance at degrees, good attendance at district/regional meetings, good attendance at fund raisers, good attendance at installations.

During this time of the year, installation time, it's very evident by the number attending the installation as to the dedication of that lodge traveling to other local lodges throughout the year.

If a lodge has a WM that is able and willing to travel and takes the initiative to invite all the brothers of the lodge to travel with him, the lodge will thrive in many different areas. If the lodge has good fellowship among it's members, that is infectious......regardless of what lodge they are at.

Too often brothers and the leadership of lodges tend to throw cold water on some of the Grand Lodge plans and programs. Two that are coming on line now, need to be utilized to the utmost; the 6-step process and the mentor program.

For years when a man approaches us about membership, our first reaction is to put a petition in his hand, rush him through the process, raise him, all in a hurried fashion, then we never hear from him again. The 6-step process moves the petition to the last action taken after getting to really know the man and for him to get to know us....in other words we are seeking to discover if it's good fit for him and for the fraternity.

When the man is approved to receive the degrees of Masonry, a mentor needs to be assigned to that man. One of the things that the mentor should do is to expose the new brother to the art of traveling.
Imagine that, after taking the EA or FC degree your mentor invites you to travel to another lodge and see the degree and experience what you've just went through. Not only does the degree take on new meaning but you get to experience a new building and a new set of brothers.....hmmmm....imagine that.

Another factor in our local area which is causing all of us to pause and contemplate the current position of the fraternity is the constricting of lodges. As Genesee county and surrounding areas have lost population base and job base....our lodges are in a position of reexamining their position in the communities where they have been for decades.

Due to the diminishing membership rolls, the increased costs of maintaining a building, the tax rate, the cost of insurance, and the cost of utilities have caused all Masonic lodges to take a hard look at the financial feasibility of remaining in their building.

One Past Master's favorite saying was, "All of these problems could be eliminated with 300 or 400 new members." One thing that I always hear from the old-timers(which I am beginning to fall into)are stories from long ago about men standing in line to join and how the numbers of active members is staggering compared to today's numbers. An odd side note to this; one of my customers brought me an apron which belonged to his wife's father.....it's still in the large manila envelope it came in with his name written on it.....in examining the apron, I lifted the flap and there was only one date, for the EA degree. When I questioned my customer about it, he remarked that his father in-law started and his job changed and he was unable to finish....the date, 1955.....so the challenges have always been there.

We hear much today about Social Media.....my position is that Freemasonry is the original Social Media....through the ages it has provided an outlet for men of like mind to socialize outside of the norms of conventional society. With all of the "electronic media" available to  us, young men are discovering the need of social interaction away from their computer screens is a tremendously valuable asset which fills a basic human need......thus was man formed for the social and active life, the noblest part of the work of God....

Mentoring is a key element for the new Mason, leadership is a key element for the three primary officers of a lodge, not just for the new members but also for the pre-existing members too. True leadership adopts the proven methods of the lodge and helps foster their continued growth....implementing change for the sake of change can often be fatalistic....one has to question how will this make things better. In the example of traveling, if the new Master recognizes a lack of traveling.....then changing that behavior will result in many positive results....thus change toward a more active traveling agenda helps all involved.....but it requires work, dedication, and leadership.

One of the sad duties we must all perform are Masonic memorials....this is a form of traveling but is also a means of honoring a fallen brother. Believe it or not it's also a source of Masonic friendship...and like it or not the attendance at a Masonic memorial is directly proportional to the amount of ....you guessed it.....traveling that the departed brother took part in.....sad but true.....however, we should always strive to attend memorials as a small token of honoring the fallen brother and to display the affections of the fraternity to his family and friends.

WB Carl Davis gave a great explanation several years ago about how the various lodges in our area function on a monthly basis. For sake of discussion lets say we have 15 lodges and let's say 11-12 lodge buildings. We meet during the first week for the regular, at this meeting we pay the bills, plan how to raise money to pay the bills, then we travel among the lodges and perform degree work and at the beginning of the next month we go our separate ways back to our home lodges....pay the bills, work on ways to raise money....and then disperse and "travel" from lodge to lodge performing degree work.

Wow...obviously it's very slow today, given my long rant. If we are to weather the storm we are currently in, several things must occur to preserve this fabulous fraternity. One is to adhere to the 6-step program, next we need to adopt the mentor program in every lodge, and last we need to resume our once vibrant traveling in and out of our area. We need to support each other and teach our new brothers the joys of one of the hidden gems of Freemasonry....traveling.

Safe travels my brothers, I look forward to seeing you in lodge......this is a good wake up call to myself because I know I have strayed from this vital part of this great fraternity.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Brotherly Love

We speak quite often of brotherly love in the teachings in lodge. From time to time we have the pleasure of seeing it exemplified in real life. This past Monday I attended the Eastern Star installation of officers at Mt.Morris.

The installation was very nice and very well done. Literally just minutes before the beginning of the installation, a young woman rushed into the Blue room and left her purse with a brother and his wife. When the corps of officers came in this young woman was in the lineup.

If I'm not mistaken she assumed the Star point of Ruth, which was formerly held by the late Sharon Trarop, who was the mostly lovely, giving woman one could ever meet.

After the installation I was near the door of the dining hall talking with another brother. WB Bill Trarop, Sharon's husband, excused himself and said that he would be right back, he was running home quickly and would return.

When WB Bill returned, he had a purple Eastern Star blouse which had been Sharon's. Bill wanted the young woman who had just been installed in the Star point of Ruth....incidentally the young woman who had been installed, is a very new member and didn't have the purple blouse like most of the other officers.

WB Bill presented the blouse to the young woman who was sitting at our table.....I'm sure that it was difficult for Bill to let go....yet he knew the young woman needed it and would make Sharon proud.

I doubt if there was a dry eye at the table.....what a wonderful example of brotherly love from a brother to a sister in the Order of Eastern Star. Without a doubt it was one of the most touching things I've ever seen anywhere period.

My hope is that we can all experience this first hand, and even be the giver instead of the observer.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes

My favorite Country singer, George Jones, had a great hit called "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?"
It talks of his wondering, just who is going to fill the shoes of all the great stars who had blazed a trail and went on to the great stage in the sky.

In Masonry if we've learned anything at all, we should be aware of the symbolism all around us. In songs, written word, and everyday life experiences.

One can make the case that this song parallels our Masonic life. Just who is going to fill the shoes of the great leaders and legends in their own time in this great fraternity. There will never be another WB Bennie King as just one example. Bennie in his humble manner would never own up to the fact that he is a living legend in this world of Masonry.

I've had the pleasure of knowing many of the fine brothers through the years that were what brothers consider to be a Mason's Mason.

WB Howard Durbin is one that comes to mind whenever this subject comes up along with WB Bob McClellan and a whole host of others.

The challenge to those who are now active in the fraternity is, who is actually going to fill the shoes of the greats who have gone before us. Not that any of us could ever dream of replacing them, but to carry on the tradition and legacy that greats prepared for us. It is incumbent on all of us to carry on that tradition and to ensure that the legacy continues.

As I've mentioned many times before the fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons is far greater than any of us would ever dream of being. Freemasonry has endured through all the years because it, the fraternity, is far greater and more complex that any man, now or ever since the inception of the fraternity.

Currently we are blessed with a number of what I consider to be Living Legends in our Masonic world. However, as we are taught....we are all born to die. This presents a huge to challenge to those younger brothers.....who is going to do the FC lectures......who is going to present the apron.....who is going to do the history of the MM degree.....I wonder....who's gonna fill their shoes.

Who's gonna fill their shoes....Who's gonna stand that tall.......Who's gonna give their heart and soul to get to me and you....Lord I wonder....who's gonna fill their shoes?????

Monday, August 22, 2016

S-th

For fear of being reprimanded I will exclude the actual spelling of Shib**ol**h.....but we will take a look at the origin and meaning of this word.

From the Bible in the 12th chapter of the Book of Judges....that in fact the battle of the Gileadites and the Ephramites did occur and that the mighty people of Gilead inflicted great victory and pain on the invading Ephramites.

When the Ephramites attempted to cross the Jordan river back into their home country, they were tested to determine if they could properly pronounce S-th....and we have learned that because of their trifling defect, they were unable to pronounce the word and met with death......we also learn from the ritual the number was forty and two thousand.

In our rituals we learn that it is represented by ears of corn hanging near a waterfall. This ancient Hebrew word literally means the part of a plant containing grains...such as an ear of corn....in other contexts is can mean a stream, a torrent....thus the waterfall.

For anyone that has been near a waterfall.....the word torrent is very good description of the power of the water.

In latter years the term S-th....is used to distinguish the in-group from the out-group.....thus in our fraternal use of the word it is to separate the brothers from the profane and the Fellowcrafts from the EAs.

We also learn that the wages of a Fellowcraft are the corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment, and the oil of joy....which denote plenty, happiness, and peace. Corn has many references in the Bible and is mentioned a number of times in our ritual. Corn of Biblical years can be interpreted beyond corn as we know it today.....in the old times, corn could also mean grain of many varieties or sustenance.

Wine of refreshment....a part of the wages was used to refresh....back in those days, drinking water could kill you....which seems odd to us today, but wine and later beer was used as a way to purify water which was notoriously unstable.

The third part of the wages of a Fellowcraft was and is the oil of joy.....again during Biblical days oil was a very special component of society.....not only was it used in food but in soothing the body from the heat and toil of the day. We learn in our ritual that the oil which ran down upon the head of Aaron to his beard and so on. In the bible we learn that Jesus was anointed with oil and also used oil on his followers as a way of expressing joy and to bring comfort.

So the next time you have the opportunity to attend a Fellowcraft degree......look for the painting of ears of corn hanging near a waterfall.....or pay close attention to the slide if the painting is not near the Junior Warden's station. S-th.....has a historic meaning....and the ears of corn and waterfall are accurate descriptions of the ancient Hebrew word.

Once again, the creators of our ritual packed so much meaning into very few words.....those words are there waiting for us to discover the true meaning.....the question remains, how many of us will seek out those meanings.....or as we like to banter around......further light in Masonry.