Friday, January 19, 2018


The Masonic Memorial has spurred me to write numerous entries on this blog in regards to the final tribute we pay to a deceased brother.

Last night we had the privilege and honor to pay those respects to one of the elders of our lodge. WB Keith Hilliker served as Worshipful Master in 1961.....which was a very good year.

I can remember when acting as the Master of Ceremonies for our annual installation of officers, I made note that on the back of the program was a list of Past Masters. The left column of Past Masters had asterisks by all of the names except one; the asterisk denotes that those Masters had answered the summons of their God. The one name in the left column belonged to Keith, in my remarks I informed the attendees that it was not a typo and that WB Keith was with us that evening.

Unfortunately for us WB Keith earned his asterisk. Fortunately for the Master's bouquet Keith is a shining fresh flower.

Truly the measure of a Masons contribution to the craft over the years is demonstrated by the affection that the brethren show at his memorial. WB Lenzy read the history with the dates of Keith's advancement through the degrees and his year as Worshipful Master. One thing that WB Lenzy added was that Keith was a Masons Mason, a very true fact.

WB Keith was probably a Mason before taking his various obligations. He was definitely a fixture in our lodge and in latter years as a resident at the Masonic Home in Alma. Professionally Keith was a local insurance man, and everybody knew him. One of the qualities that Keith possessed was the skill of listening. He always had a warm greeting for everyone he met.

I remember shortly after he moved to the Masonic Home, we had a board meeting there in the conference room on the lower level. When I arrived about 15 minutes early, there was WB Keith in the lobby looking at his watch and after greeting me he said, "I was wondering when you were going to get here." He knew that there was a board meeting and that I would be attending and there he was waiting to greet me, that's brotherly love and affection in action.

As with most cases, the brothers who attend Masonic Memorials always seem to reconnect with brothers they haven't seen in a while. This was true last night for me and for others as well. WB Roger Kaufman was in attendance, Roger has had some health issues and hasn't been travelling the last couple of years, but he was there for Keith's memorial. They may not come out for a degree but if they can in any way make the memorial, they make it. Now that's brotherly love and affection in action as well.

One brother who was slated to assist with the memorial discovered after taking off his winter coat that he had neglected to put his suit coat on. Out of respect for Keith he gave his part to another brother in attendance. Too often in today's society, respect is seldom makes me proud to be a part of a fraternity that still offers up respect to one another.

It truly is a breathtaking sight to see a multitude of Masons gathered together to honor a deceased brother, and what a joyous sight it is for one's family and friends to witness the brotherly love bestowed upon their dearly departed.

The Masonic Memorial is designed to pay respect and honor to a fallen brother, but one of the hidden jewels of the service is the impact it has on the surviving brothers. One can't help but to reflect on their own life and service to the craft; to remember those brothers who have gone before us and the influence those brothers had on the craft and us as individual brothers. Fare thee well brother Keith and may we live up to the shining example you have set for all of us.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The State of the Craft

Merry Christmas to all. The current weather situation I like to call "installation weather", yes it's that time of the year again. The occurrence of the annual auspicious solemnity......the Masonic lodge installation of officers.

One can not attend an installation and not reflect on days gone by.'m officially old with that line.

While attending a few installations thus far, I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of attendees. This is certainly refreshing. I do recall in very recent memory that there were very small numbers of attendees, it seems that this year is better.

Open installations seem to be making a comeback. Four of the five lodges in my district have had or are having open installations. Recent memory also is full of closed installations and this is a nice departure from recent trends.

As I mentioned early on it's hard not to reflect on days gone by. There is one disturbingly notable difference in the installations of today versus those of yesteryear.....the absence of family and friends.

It makes one wonder if the absence of family at these notable events is reflective of the current state of the craft.

Going back to my DeMolay days and my early days in lodge......the annual installation was a really big deal. It seems that the majority of the officers had their wife or significant other in attendance along with other family members, children, siblings, and friends from work or neighbors.

Admitting that this is in fact a current situation; what is the do we get to the root of the problem?

The absence of family in our fraternity is a challenge and one that our new brothers are craving; they want activities that involve the family. Another determining factor is that our brothers are not excited about things and this affects their family wanting to witness or be a part of certain activities.

Again, back in the day....the officers were proud to be installed and wanted their family and friends there. My mother lodge had a "family" night once a quarter. The lodge provided the meat, potatoes, and sides. The members depending on the first letter of their last name brought either a salad or a desert. This was a great avenue that allowed the brothers and their family and or friends to get together at least every 3 months, and it was always well attended. Today, I'm not sure if they still practice this tradition.

In DeMolay and when I first became an officer of the lodge in 1984, being installed as an officer was a big deal. It was a festive event. Family and friends in attendance. Boutonnieres for the officers, corsages for the wives of the officers. The majority of the officers being installed were accompanied by their wives, and children, from small kids to adult children. Also, often times they had friends, neighbors, and co-workers and such.

This year I've actually heard some officers offer up explanation of why their wife and kids aren't in attendance. Such as my daughter had dance and my wife took her to the dance lesson. This is an illustration of another challenge facing the lodge, and that is kids are crazy busy in this day and age. The number of extracurricular activities are astounding. Again, the installation is planned weeks and usually months in missing one night's activity that much of a tragedy to support dear old dad?

I suppose why support dear old dad....when the lodge does nothing to support dad's family and giving them some nice experiences throughout the year. Some lodges are always doing things for the families of the brothers but also doing good in the community. Recently I've heard many fine ideas....for example Easter Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, Breakfast with Santa, donating to a local charity that provides Christmas presents for the disadvantaged, donating food to a local pantry, presenting poinsettias to the widows of the lodge or fruit baskets to the widows, of course many lodges participate in books-for-bikes....the list can be endless with very little creativity.

Last night I attended an installation that was very reminiscent of days of yesteryear. There were many in attendance with wives, kids, siblings, etc. The Jobs were there, the DeMolay pulled chairs and this lodge is extremely active in the community. After the installation, desert and coffee was served. While many were enjoying the refreshments, there were a few brothers along with their wives working on the next project, because today is breakfast with Santa.

It was very refreshing that this lodge supports the family, the youth, the community and each other. In addition to keeping our members engaged, we need to engage with the community....the old adage of do unto others as you would wish that they would do unto you. Several lessons can be drawn from this event and many lodges could profit from modeling this lodge with their own flair. This annual event of this lodge is truly an auspicious solemnity to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Here We Go

Brothers, I hope the summer was enjoyable for everyone. Once again, it's been several months since my last writing and I apologize for that.

As one ages it seems that a longing for certain things of the past becomes more and more evident.

This is a special time of the year for the lodges in our area....election time and installation time. I remember the days of having hundreds of people attend open installations of officers for the local Masonic lodges.

Yes, "open" installations, it was a time of celebration and a chance for the lodges to demonstrate to their family and friends a little flavor of what actually goes on in a lodge. First, the memorization work performed by the Grand Installing Officer and their suite is always mesmerizing to the average person attending an installation for the first time. Secondly, the amount of cars in the parking lot surely stood out to passers by who normally only saw a few cars there at any given time. It was an outward sign to the community at large that there really was something going on in the building, and those family and friends on the inside could feel the bustle of the occasion and the fellowship displayed.

Today, it seems that there are far more closed installations than of days gone by. A couple of reasons is that there are so many recycled Worshipful Masters being installed for another time,.and one of the other reasons....a sad that some poor brother was voted into the position without enough time to plan for an open installation, therefore a closed installation is far easier to "throw together" on short notice.

Both of the instances mentioned above are sad reflections on the current state of the craft. I truly believe that we are taking in a fair number of new brothers we are doing a sub-par job of getting them engaged and giving them a sense of belonging.

This leads into another thing that I long for.....the days of actually having to work one's way through the chairs one station at a time and enjoying all of the rich learning experiences each station provides. From actually having to serve a couple of years as steward and learning what the JW does behind the scenes, to escorting the SD and the candidate around the lodge room as that man is beginning his Masonic journey, then moving to JD and observing the whole scene and listening intently to the Wardens as they do their work, and the most rewarding job in lodge....Senior Deacon, truly a learning station in the lodge preparing one for the south, west and east.

Another observation after a few years in this craft, is the woefully unpreparedness of the line officers, not all but many. There is another longing of mine, to visit a lodge at this time of the year and have the line particular, the wardens be so proficient in their work that everything moves with clockwork accuracy......not just knowing their ritual part, but owning it. Seldom does this occur in the current Masonic times we are living.

The above situations offer up some illustrations of the rebuilding pains that the lodges are currently encountering. We seem to be taking in many new brothers. In talking with the majority of these new brothers they are curious and begging for more information about the craft, it's beliefs and mysteries. When I speak of officers being unprepared, I'm referencing many aspects; the ritual, running an efficient business meeting, having the majority of the upcoming year planned out, facilitating learning for the new brothers, encouraging fellowship among the brothers, ensuring that mentoring is taking place, getting involved in the community, keeping in touch with the members, taking care of the widows of the lodge by letting them know they are not forgotten, raising funds to pay the bills, ensuring that the building is in good repair and displays a nice appearance to the community, and the list goes on and on.

Yet too many times WMs are elected in a moments notice and don't have the time necessary for a successful term, so they fly by the seat of their pants......and the new brothers coming in are not a focus because the Master is playing catch-up to keep up with the demands of his office.

As I've said many, many times the fraternity is currently at a pivotal point. The challenges facing all lodges can at times be daunting. Freemasonry is so much larger than any one man or one lodge or one Grand Lodge......but the fraternity could be stronger and more viable with leadership, communication, and education. To lead, communicate, and educate requires planning and action....being engaged and delegating the tasks required for the job.

To do any of the above requires commitment and action. We can talk until the cows come home but nothing will transpire until there is movement and action. Throwing together the leadership of a lodge at the last minute will not do justice to any of us or the fraternity at large. It's tough getting old and longing for the things of yesterday....but I'm convinced that the greatest days are ahead of us, the new brothers of today are thirsty and yes....longing, to learn more of the tenets, history, and mystery of our fraternal history and are fascinated by it's prospective future.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


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 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;

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

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

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 about more light in 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
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 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" 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 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'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 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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's still in the large manila envelope it came in with his name written on 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, the challenges have always been there.

We hear much today about Social 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 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 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 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.