Thursday, April 30, 2009

Delivering the Promise of Freemasonry

The reasons men become Masons today are the same as for all generations, i.e. to become better men, husbands, fathers, and citizens. However, those who are seeking Masonry today know a lot more about our craft than those who joined a decade or more ago, and in many cases may know a lot more about Freemasonry than those who have been Masons for a number of years. As such, they have great expectations about what Masonry has to offer them.

What is it then that Freemasonry is promising these men who seek us out, and how do we as Masons deliver that promise?

Every man who signs a Masonic petition is promised that he will be given a Masonic education, which defines how Masonry applies to his life overall, that will improve his character, and make him a better man. Masons today expect more, they expect an in depth Masonic education beyond the catechisms. They also expect that established Masons will guide and mentor them. These men are not satisfied with the status quo and want meetings where the is discussion of history and philosophy of Masonry is the rule rather than the exception.

Freemasonry has to be ready to except the challenge of meeting the expectations of this new generation of Masons and to deliver the promise. First and foremost, each man who is currently a Master Mason should continue his own education by seeking further light in Masonry. In order to share our history and philosophy, to guide and mentor these new Masons, we must expand our knowledge over and above the first three degrees.

We need to share what we learn with our candidates, guiding them through the catechisms and augmenting those lessons learned with more Masonic Light.

We need to establish a program of Masonic education and instruction within our lodges to improve ourselves as well as our candidates for the degrees.

We need to focus on quality in our ritual, in our lodge buildings, in our fellowship, and in ourselves.

Finally, we need to seek the promise of Freemasonry for ourselves and deliver that promise to our newly made Masons.

There is a renaissance occurring in the world of Freemasonry today. Information about what we do is no longer hidden behind the tiled doors of our lodges and is readily available to anyone who might be curious about us. There are more and more people writing about our history and philosophy than ever before. Major universities are creating departments of Masonic studies, headed by renowned Masonic historians. As such, many more men are seeking the promise of Freemasonry. We as Freemasons must be prepared to deliver that promise.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Log of the Week of April 20th

After kicking back for a couple of weeks in Hawaii, where I visited their Grand Lodge’s Annual Communication, I am now back in Alaska. Last week turned out to be a very busy one and this week is shaping up to be about the same.

On Monday and Tuesday, April 20 – 21, I visited with the brethren of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska. I rekindled old acquaintances and we shared some very good fellowship (see Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska posting below).

Tuesday evening found me visiting my mother lodge (Matanuska Lodge No. 7) and the one lodge of which I am a charter member of (Iditarod Lodge No. 20) for the joint reception of the Grand Master. After a wonderful potluck dinner arranged by Brother Dennis Oakland (thank you Dennis), we all moved upstairs to the lodge room for the reception of the Grand Lodge officers and a short program. A great time was had by all. Thanks to Worshipful Brothers Tad Dean and Richard Grant for a very enjoyable evening.

On Friday evening, WB John Bishop reprised his Grand Lecturer’s Workshop for District No. 5 at the Matanuska Masonic Temple. There was a lot of good information offered about lodge floor work and ritual presentation. There was also a lively discussion about lodge customs and the written ritual. John presented an excellent program, and all those present came away with a better understanding and greater appreciation for the Alaskan Ritual.

On Saturday, April 25, I participated in the District No. 5 Lodge Officer Training event at the Eagle River Elks Club. This training activity was facilitated by VWB James Herrington (Deputy to the Grand Master for District No. 5). Unfortunately this event conflicted with the Anchorage Valley Scottish Rite's Spring Reunion, which impacted the turn out. Although the group size was smaller than expected, those present received an excellent review of the duties of the various officers of a lodge and discussions on committee assignments, lodge programs, and planning. Those who participated in this training shared the view of previous training events and praised it. VWB Herrington indicated that, if there is enough interest, an additional combined training event for lodges in District 3 and 5 will be conducted this fall. To see the outline of this training and view a copy the Lodge Officer Training Handbook, go to the web site of the Masonic Renewal Committee of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America.

To cap off this week’s events, Beth and I traveled to Anchorage to enjoy a delicious meal and great fellowship at the occasion Anchorage Lodge No. 17’s annual ‘Ladies Night’ celebration. Thank you to VWB Tom Schram for our invitation and hosting this event.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska

On Monday and Tuesday of this week (April 20 – 21), I attended the Fortieth Annual Communication of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska. Unfortunately, because of my visit to the Grand Lodge of Hawaii, I was unable to participate in all of the festivities marking this milestone in the history of Alaskan Freemasonry.

Alpha Lodge No. 61 in Anchorage (under the jurisdiction of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma) became the first Prince Hall Lodge in Alaska. In the subsequent years that followed, four additional Prince Hall Lodges in Alaska were granted constitution from the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge Washington. In September 1969, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington organized the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the State of Alaska with Alpha Lodge No. 1, Mt. McKinley Lodge No. 2, and Midnight Sun Lodge No. 3. In 1971, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska established Castle Rock Lodge No. 4 in Big Delta, Alaska. Also, in 1971, Pillar Mt. Lodge No. 5 and Summit Lodge No. 6, both previously under the jurisdiction of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, joined the Alaska Masonic Family.

As accounted on the web site of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska:

“One of the most significant events while in office was the ceremony of mutual limited recognition between the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Alaska and its Jurisdiction, Free and Accepted Masons and the Grand Lodge of Alaska, Free and Accepted Masons, which occurred on 10 May 1997 at the Fairbanks Masonic Hall (Non-Prince Hall) . . . in Fairbanks Alaska. Most Worshipful Brother Stanley Foulke, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alaska and Most Worshipful Brother Michael Boone, Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alaska officiated at the Ceremony. Over one hundred and thirty Freemasons and their spouses attended to witness the signing of this document. Many in attendance shed tears of joy as the two Grand Bodies join hands in hands to end segregation of Freemasons within the state of Alaska.”

Today, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska is comprised of five lodges, which include:
Alpha Lodge No. 1 (Anchorage, AK)
Mt. McKinley Lodge No. 2 (Anchorage, AK)
Midnight Sun Lodge No. 3 (Fairbanks, AK)
Summit Lodge No. 6 (Anchorage, AK)
Arctic Lodge No. 7 (North Pole, AK)

On Monday, in my message to the brethren of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska, I acknowledged that, in the 12 years since Mutual Recognition was established between our two bodies, the Grand Lodge of Alaska has unanimously granted full recognition to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Connecticut; the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Inc.; and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Each of those occasions where the Grand Lodge of Alaska has granted recognition to a Prince Hall Grand Lodge has been at the request of that particular Prince Hall Grand Lodge. I noted that, since the Grand Lodge of Alaska has only been in existence for twenty nine years, we are one of the youngest Grand Lodges in North America, and as such, I believe we should be the ones extending the hand of brotherly love and friendship to all Grand Lodges who meet the standards of regularity, have treaties of shared jurisdiction, and who have existed longer than us. I requested assistance from the Grand Master in extending the bonds of brotherhood that the Grand Lodge of Alaska enjoys with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska to all Prince Hall Grand Lodges that meet the criteria previously mentioned and proposed that we form a joint committee to explore this possibility.

On Tuesday, in his message to the craft, the Grand Master, Most Worshipful Edward Miller recommended that a committee of Past Grand Masters be formed to work with the Grand Lodge of Alaska to expand on the brotherly love and friendship between our two jurisdictions. This recommendation was unanimously approved by the members present.

The election of officers for the ensuing year was held and the following brethren were elected to serve the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska for 2009 – 2010:
MW Clifford Hastings, Grand Master
RW Timothy Mullins, Deputy Grand Master
RW Curtis Harris, Senior Grand Warden
RW Joe Rogers, Junior Grand Warden
RW Kenneth Holmes, Grand Treasurer
MW Doyle Williams, Grand Secretary
RW Lawrence Hicks, Grand Lecturer

I wish to thank Most Worshipful Edward Miller and the Brethren of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska for the many courtesies and honors extended to me. I would especially like to thank Most Worshipful Ruben Jackson for the many years of friendship and brotherly love that has existed between us for much longer than I have been a Mason. I hope to see them all again at their next Annual Communication, which will be April 17 – 21, 2010 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Lewis Masonic

Lewis Masonic was founded in 1886, and is the largest and oldest Masonic publisher in the world. Well-known to the English Freemasons, Lewis produces many of the ritual books used by United Grand Lodge of England lodges and Holy Royal Arch Chapters. Nowadays Lewis Masonic publishes Masonic texts of all kinds. Lewis is today opening up shop here in the American market with a new on line store featuring their exciting collection. you can find the U.S. store at

Monday, April 20, 2009

Grand Lodge of Hawaii

At 7:30 am Sunday morning, Beth and I arrived home after a six and a half hour flight and one hour drive back to the Matanuska Valley from Anchorage. We were dead tired from traveling all night, although I suspect I will not garner much sympathy, as we were traveling from Honolulu where I attended the Grand Lodge of Hawaii’s Annual Communication. The session began at 2:00 pm on Friday, April 17 at the beautiful Scottish Rite Cathedral in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. The following is a list of Distinguished Guests from other jurisdictions that were present:

MW John R. “Bo” Cline, GM (Grand Lodge of Alaska)
MW Thomas O. Mickey, PGM (Grand Lodge of Alaska)
RW Donald Frizzell, PDDGM (Grand Lodge of BC/Yukon)
MW Richard Hopper, PGM (Grand Lodge of California)
W Cline “Cub” Jack Jr., Asst Grand Lecturer Div VI (Grand Lodge of California)
MW John Livie, PGM (Grand Lodge of Oregon)
RW Michael Sanders, JGW (Grand Lodge of Washington)
MW Fredric Collins, PGM (Grand Lodge of Japan)

It was great to visit with many old friends like Past Grand Masters Phillips, Skinner, Hager, Wieckowicz, Bonnell, and Jayme and to make many new friends. I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to MW Dennis S.A. Ing, Grand Master of Masons in Hawaii for the many courtesies extended during my visit.

At 11:00 am on Saturday, April 18 the elections of Grand Lodge Officers for 2009 – 2010 was completed and found MW Marty P. Alexander advanced to the Oriental East. RW Charles Wegener was elected Deputy Grand Master, RW Monty Glover was elected Senior Grand Warden, and RW Antonio Ligaya was elected Junior Grand Warden.

Following lunch, the new Grand Lodge Officers were installed into their various stations and places. A highlight of the installation was the Hawaiian Blessing ceremony, performed by members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha. This was a beautiful and moving ceremony where water was poured into koa wood bowels held by the Worshipful Masters of each of the constituent lodges, while the Royal Order cantor sang. The water was then poured by each Worshipful Master into another bowel held by the newly installed Grand Master, symbolizing unity.

My only regret is that Beth and I were unable to stay for the Installation Banquet which followed. We were off to the airport for our flight back to Alaska.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Keep Your Tools Sharp

The following is a reprise of a message I shared with several Alaskan lodges a couple of years ago:

I am a woodworker. Over the past ten to fifteen years, I have been honing my skills and have achieved a modicum of success making small pieces of wood out of bigger pieces of wood. Along the way, I have gathered together various special tools that have greatly enhance my ability to craft wood.

Sharpen, maintain, and practice
Some of the things I have learned about woodworking, over the past several years, are that my ability to do good work is dependent on the quality of the tools I use, the condition in which I maintain them, and the amount of time I spend practicing their use.

Freemasonry is a bit like woodworking, in that we have tools that require our attention and continual use, so as to advance the principles of Freemasonry and grow our fraternity. Some of the tools we use are physical objects like the Great Lights of Masonry and the other furniture of the Lodge, including the Lodge building itself. Other tools are more esoteric like our Working Tools and Masonic ritual. Some of our tools are even more obscure than our ritual and may be hard to recognize as tools at all. Among these tools are our Newly Made Masons.

Furniture of the Lodge
When you walk into your Lodge, are you met by a cheery atmosphere, where the building is fresh, clean and in good repair; where the Masonic regalia are well maintained and the visitor aprons and candidate robes are clean and pressed; and where the interior is bright and inviting? Or, on the other hand, do you find your Lodge dark and uninviting, where there is a musty odor associated with age, the paint is cracked and peeling, the floors creek, and the regalia in obvious need of repair? If the latter is true, it is time to address the needs of your physical tools. These tools are critical to creating an inviting atmosphere, where your members and potential members will want to come and participate. We need to sharpen the appearance of our Lodges, keep them well maintained, and practice habits of regular cleaning and maintenance.

Working Tools
We are all ambassadors of Masonry. Those outside our fraternity know us by how we dress and behave. As such, we should heed the lessons taught to during our various degrees and sharpen, maintain, and practice the use of our “Working Tools”. Treat everyone you meet with honesty and respect, subdue your passions, and practice the principals of diligence, temperance, prudence, and discretion. Likewise, each initiate knows us by the manner in which he is received during his degrees. Therefore, our ritual presentations should be sharp in their performance, the text should be recited as written with decorum, and each degree should be well practiced. Masonry can and should be fun, but levity and humor have no place in the presentation of our ritual. Remember, we are trying to make a positive impression on our candidates.

Newly Made Mason
Don’t forget our newly raised masons. They are tools with which we can use to attract even more men to Masonry and grow our fraternity. They are the future of Masonry and will soon become its leaders. However, they need as much, and in some cases, even more attention than all of our other tools. We need to sharpen and hone their knowledge of freemasonry, so that they may carry on our heritage. We need to maintain their enthusiasm for our craft by involving them in all aspects of our lodges, and we need to solicit their ideas and support for improving our lodge activities. We can no longer leave them sitting on the sidelines, while we continue our business as usual. Finally, we need to practice patience and understanding for their issues and concerns and provide them with guidance and mentoring in order to sustain Freemasonry as the preeminent fraternity in this country and the world.

Final thoughts
There is an unwritten law in woodworking that I have finally convinced my wife is true. (She says that I have hoodwinked her.) The unwritten law is “Every new project requires a new tool”. This rule applies to Freemasonry, as well. We need to be continually on the lookout for new tools to assist us in spreading the principals of Freemasonry. Rely on your newer Masons and learn the new technologies that sprout up daily to communicate Masonry to your communities and the world. And, don’t just keep the new tools and ideas to yourselves, but share them. Finally, when you become skilled at the use of the new tools, remember to keep them sharp.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Grand Lodge Web Site Updated

Thanks to Worshipful Brother Tad Dean, the Grand Lodge of Alaska web page has been updated and has received a much needed facelift. Visitors are now met by a clean crisp page with a sunrise banner across the top, symbolically promising “More Light in Masonry”. The center of the page greets you with the Grand Master’s theme, the Grand Lodge mission and vision statements, and news of interest. The Grand Master’s Trowel pin design is in the middle of the page. When you click on the trowel you are linked to the Grand Lodge newsletter, “Light Of The Great Land”, which is being published anew under the editorial assistance of MWB Jared Decker. Under announcements there are a links to the Grand Master’s travel schedule, this Blog, and the Juneau Chapter of the Widows Sons Motorcycle Club’s Memorial Day ride. Along the left column are the usual links to information about Masonry and the Grand Lodge of Alaska, Events, Grand Lodge Officers, Constituent Lodges, and Appendent Bodies. Special note should be made of the Events Calendar, which is updated regularly and contains information about Masonic activity within the Jurisdiction of Alaska, including the times and dates of the stated meetings of all of our lodges. Your assistance is requested in exercising the links on this web page to determine if they work correctly and to review the web page for errors, typos, and omissions.
Tech Note:
I recently downloaded and installed Mozilla Firefox web browser and Adobe Flash Player. They appear to be a better fit for viewing this Blog and the Grand Lodge web page.

Log of the Week of March 30

On Monday, March 30 I visited Eagle River Lodge No. 13 where I participated in the Master Mason Degree and Drama for Brother Jeffery Wasson. This was a very special occasion, as Brother Wasson was obligated and raised by his father, RW Jerry Wasson, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Alaska. Brethren from Aurora Lodge No. 15 were again present to assist in the degree conferral. This event was well attended and great fellowship was enjoyed by all.

I attended the Tuesday morning coffee, donut, and fellowship at the Anchorage Masonic Center on March 31. While there, I received a call from MW Don Chaffin who reported on his contact with Brother Howie Damron (see “The Masonic Ring” under Featured Video on left). MW Don reported that Brother Damron wished to support a fundraising activity for our Grand Lodge by recording the Alaska Mason Song he wrote and performed during our Annual Communication in Fairbanks in 2008. I hope to be reporting more about this initiative in a later post.

Wednesday, April 1, found Beth and me winging our way from Anchorage to Kona, HI for a well deserved two week break before heading over to Honolulu for the Grand Lodge of Hawaii on the 17th and 18th. Most of the flights out of the Ted Stevens International airport had been canceled the night before our departure due to the eruption of Mt. Redoubt. On Wednesday, the mountain remained subtly quiet, however and our flight departed on time. Unfortunately, I brought along a pretty good head cold that I picked up in Fairbanks last week and have been suffering from it ever since. I’ve decided it is far better to be recovering from a cold here in Hawaii rather than in Alaska during spring break-up.

I doubt there will be anything to log the next couple of weeks, however, when we return on the 19th, I will be hitting the ground running. The week of April 20th promises to be a busy one with Prince Hall Grand Lodge (April 18-21), Grand Master’s Reception with District No. 5 (April 21), Grand Lecturer’s workshop in Palmer (April 24), and Lodge Officer Training in Eagle River (April 25).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Welcome to Pleasantville

Just the other day I watched the 1998 movie “Pleasantville” once again. This movie features David (Tobey Maguire), a disaffected 1990’s teenager obsessed with a "Leave it to Beaver" style 1950's television show. David, along with his sexually active sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) suddenly find themselves mysteriously transported to and trapped in Pleasantville along with its loving parents, old fashioned values, and an overwhelming amount of innocence and naiveté. The introduction of David and Jennifer to Pleasantville, with their 1990’s attitudes and sensibilities has the unintended consequences of disrupting the status quo of this two-dimensional world. Influenced by these two teenagers, especially Jennifer, the citizens of Pleasantville become more self aware and begin to change. This transformation is represented in this movie by the characters and their surroundings changing from black and white to color. All is not well, however, as the leaders of the community find themselves powerless to resist the changes occurring around them. David becomes the reasoned leader of this revolution, since he has an understanding of both worlds. He guides and counsels the characters on both sides of the cultural gap, which helps smooth the transition.

In a recent interview, Professor Margaret Jacob (The Origins of Freemasonry) described Masons of the eighteenth century as the vanguard of a remarkable social, cultural, and political change in the Western Europe and North America. Masonic lodges taught their members how to vote, stand and speak before others, and lead an organization. They were driven by the ideals of truth, justice, and democracy. New ideas about individual rights and freedoms were discussed openly in Masonic lodges; and the Masons who were having these discussions participated in the revolt against the ruling monarchies and ultimately became the leaders of the democracies that replaced them. Professor Jacobs surmises that Freemasonry thrived because Masons were the leaders of this new social, cultural, and political experiment. She argues that, if Masonry is to continue to thrive, it must embrace the social and cultural change occurring around us today and become its leaders.

Masonry outside of North America is beginning to grow and thrive as the ideals of democracy spread in their regions of the World and as each of their repressive regimes is toppled. North American Masonry, on the other hand, has become complacent and bound to the status quo. We are now confronted with a new crop of young Masons who, like David and Jennifer in Pleasantville, have different attitudes and sensibilities. These Millenial Masons tend to be more tolerant of other societies and cultures and have a desire to be more inclusive. A scan of the several Masonic Blogs and Forums on the Internet shows us that these young men are also angry and incensed at the perceived inequities which exist in some jurisdictions and the apparent resistance to new ideas.

Like Pleasantville, North American Freemasonry is in the throes of a generational change. This change is precipitated by the generation gap between the current leaders who are the stewards of Masonry and the new masons who will become the future leaders, a gap which exists because of the failure of the Baby Boomer generation to become Masons.

Our challenge, as Professor Jacobs suggests, is for Freemasonry to embrace the societal changes occurring today and to again become the advance guard leading society toward a new utopian future. However, I fear that this is beyond the capabilities of any Grand Lodge. Grand Lodges by their very nature are monolithic organizations who represent the will of the majority of their members. For Grand Lodge attitudes to change there needs to be a generational shift in the Grand Lodge membership. This shift is starting to occur in jurisdictions which have large urban populations and are experiencing growth as younger men become Masons. In more rural jurisdictions, the change may not be as pronounced. Such an asymmetrical shift has created the situation where change is occurring faster in some jurisdictions than in others, and like Pleasantville, all is not well.

As I see it, the question before us is not necessarily to become the catalysts for change but to determine how to manage the changes that are occurring in the world and their impact on Freemasonry. I believe that Masonic leaders need to become “reasoned leaders” like David in Pleasantville. We need to have a foot in both camps and understand the perspectives of our “Legacy” Masons as well as those of the Millennial Masons, we need to observe and listen to both sides, we need to expand on our communication skills in order to become aware of the issues and concerns facing Masonry, and we need to be the bridge that closes the gaps in understanding between those who have been the stewards of Masonry and those who soon will be.

The ways and means of communication have changed dramatically over the past 50 years. In order to become the bridges between the old and the new, we need to at the very least embrace the new technologies that allow us to connect with every Mason. This is not an easy task, and for those who are still tied to the culture of the 1950’s, the learning curve is the steepest. But, as Masonry is a life long process of educational enlightenment, the challenge of learning new technologies is well worth the effort.

In Pleasantville there was no great epiphany or final resolution to the problems created by the presence of David and Jennifer. There was, however, an accelerated shift from the status quo toward a more positive growth and development of the individual and the community. Like Pleasantville, Freemasonry today is faced with similar challenges, and like Pleasantville, I predict that the changes happening in Freemasonry will also begin to accelerate. Not changes to our principals and Landmarks, but changes to the way Freemasonry is practiced throughout North America; changes to the way the lessons of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth are presented and received.

As Wordsworth lamented, “The World Is Too Much With Us; Late and Soon”, or as Bob Dylan crooned, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. Welcome to Pleasantville.