Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Masonic Friendship

I just read the latest posting by RW Tom Hendrickson (SGW of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota) in his blog All Things Masonic. In his article, he enumerated five things to consider when mentoring new candidates:

1. To Mentor is to instill in the new Brother a sense of purpose and to help them develop their Masonic identity.

2. The Entered Apprentice stands before you and may be thinking; "Here I am ...I am a rough Ashlar in need of improvement. Place your working tools in my hand and teach me their uses.

3. Coaching is teaching what a new Brother needs to know to be proficient. That’s pretty cut and dry. What we really need to do is support and nurture him and help him achieve his goals in Masonry.

4. Adding a new member to your lodge also adds to your circle of Friends.

5. Our teaching as Mentors will live beyond our lives. Our Mentoring is our gift to our lodge and to the Craft. It becomes our legacy.

Item number four (4) caught my attention and caused me to ponder whether ALL brethren are my friends? Do I truly enjoy being in the company of ALL Masons and would I consider expanding my circle of friendship to include them?

We are taught that Freemasonry is “a sacred band or society of friends and brothers”. Each of us is charged to befriend and relieve every Brother who shall need our assistance, to remind him in the most friendly manner of his fault, to endeavor to aid his reformation, and to defend his character.

During my travels through Masonry I have met brethren who are more than mere acquaintances and are fast becoming lifelong friends. These are men whose company I enjoy and who I call Brother. There are others, even within my own lodge, who I barely know, who I have not taken the time to become acquainted with, and to learn what made them seek out Masonry. This is an evident flaw in my character, and one through which continued study of Freemasonry and the assistance of my brethren, I hope to correct.

All Masons have shared in a common experience that binds us at a level which is greater than any filial, professional, or sacred bond. All Masons are my Brother and they should also be my friend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

North Pole Surprise

I visited North Pole Lodge No. 16 in North Pole, Alaska last night with the Deputy Grand Master, RW Johnnie Wallace. This was intended to be a surprise visitation and I had asked the District Deputy, VW John Johnson to see if he could encourage members from nearby lodges to also show up unannounced. As it turned out, word leaked out that the Grand Master was visiting. The brethren were on their guard and had actually practiced the opening and closing ritual before the meeting. My compliments to WB Mickey Harper and the brethren of North Pole Lodge for excellent ritual and floor work and a wonderful evening.

I brought greetings from one of North Pole’s own sojourning members who was unable to attend. RW Ed Weisser (PGM of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and member of North Pole #16) reported in an email that he often visits Pennsylvania Lodges wearing his Alaskan Past Master’s apron and signs the Tyler’s register as a member of #16. He said he enjoys telling those lodges about his Alaska Lodge and the Grand Lodge of Alaska. RW Weisser also noted that he made 42 surprise visits to his lodges when he was Grand Master of Pennsylvania. He said that when the lodges in his jurisdiction learned that he was doing surprise visits, their ritual and floor work improved substantially.

In addition to the DGM and me, there were three Past Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Alaska present, MW Lloyd Triggs, MW Gene Freeman, and MW Sam Medsker. WB Keith Herve (PM North Pole #16) who now lives in Florida was traveling in Alaska and also showed up for the visit. A great time was had by all.

Alaska is a very large jurisdiction and the distances between lodges is great. The drive from my home to the lodge yesterday evening was nearly 350 miles one-way and nearly seven hours on the road. That alone should have surprised the brethren of North Pole. However, it was not a hardship to drive to the lodge yesterday and return home today. The weather was absolutely beautiful with temperatures in the upper 60s to lower 70s. Beth and I had sunshine the whole trip with gorgeous views of Mt. McKinley and numerous wildlife sightings, including eagles, trumpeter swans, coyotes, caribou, and moose. I always tell visitors that the best time to come to Alaska is late May to early June. The second best time would be early February to attend the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Alaska.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grand Master's Reception - Mt. McKinley No. 5

It was cool and overcast when we arrived in Cordova, Alaska for the Grand Master’s reception. The warmth and sunshine of the past two weeks had raised our expectations and we hoped that we would experience similar weather in this Prince William Sound community. However, the warmth of the reception by the brethren of Mt. McKinley Lodge No. 5 more than compensated for the cool weather outside. We were received by the Worshipful Master, Harold “Bud” Moore, WB Bob Cunningham, Bro. Jim Getilesen, Bro. Brian Arnold, and their wives during a very enjoyable dinner at the OK Restaurant in Cordova. After dinner we all adjourned to Mt. McKinley’s beautiful old Lodge Hall for a brief program of presentations and Masonic education. RW Johnnie Wallace, DGM and my wife Beth accompanied me on this visit.

The city of Cordova was founded on the shores of Prince William Sound in 1908 as the terminus of the Copper River and Nonwestern Railway. Mt. McKinley was chartered under the Grand Lodge of Washington in 1911 as Lodge No. 183 and was primarily a railroad lodge. On September 21, 1925, MW Morton Gregory, Grand Master of Masons in Washington laid the corner-stone of the then new Masonic Temple being erected by the brethren of Mt. McKinley Lodge.

Thursday, the day of our arrival in Cordova, marked another special event for the city. It was the first opening of the 2009 Copper River commercial fishing season. The boat harbor was virtually empty, as the fleet had descended on the mouth of the Copper River in quest of the famous Copper River Red Salmon. Wild Alaska salmon are among the most prized of all the salmon in the world and the Copper River Red Salmon is the most prized among all wild Alaska salmon. Each season, the first of these fish caught fetch high prices in fish markets throughout the country. By Friday afternoon, fish caught on Thursday were sitting on ice in fish markets in Seattle, where they sold for $25 per pound. The fishermen, however, only received $3.50 per pound for their catch.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Matanuska Masonic Foundation

This evening, I had the honor and privilege of representing my mother lodge (Matanuska No. 7) during the academic awards night at Wasilla High School. It was my honor to present a check from the Matanuska Masonic Foundation to a deserving Wasilla High senior.

In the late 1990’s, Matanuska Lodge was given a small endowment, which they invested. In 2004, the they created the Matanuska Masonic Foundation as a 501 (c) 3 corporation whose purpose is to provide scholarships to Matanuska-Susitna Valley High School Seniors who intend to continue their education in the State of Alaska. There are no overhead expenses for the Matanuska Masonic Foundation, so 100% of anyone’s tax deductible donation goes entirely toward building the endowment. The money for the scholarships is taken from the earnings and not the principle, allowing the endowment to continue to grow. Since 2005, the Foundation has donated $14,500 in scholarships.

Grand Master's Reception - Valdez No. 4

Yesterday (5/12/2009), Beth and drove 260 miles from our home down the Richardson Highway to attend the Grand Master’s Reception at Valdez Lodge No. 4. We were accompanied by RW Johnnie Wallace (DGM) and his wife, Mary; RW Jerry Pinion (JGW) and his wife, Ginger; and W Van O. Chaney (Grand Chaplain) and his wife, Alice. The weather was absolute beautiful, and when we arrived in Valdez, the temperature was in the mid to upper 60’s. Valdez is on Prince William Sound and the temperature is generally moderated by its proximity to the water. It is referred to Little Switzerland, since it averages over 325 inches (27 ft) of snow annually. It was a surprise to see all of the snow gone and most of the town basking in the sunshine.

We were met in Valdez by VW John Johnson (Deputy for District 1) and Worshipful Brothers Karl Amundsen and Keith Herve (Members of the By-Laws Committee). We had great fellowship and a great dinner before served by the members and ladies of Valdez No. 4. Thank you to WB Jim Ujioka for a very nice evening.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chris Hodapp on Masonic Central

I have been listening to the Masonic Central Podcast for the past couple of months and thoroughly enjoy it. Actually, I have been downloading it to my iPhone and playing the episodes on my car radio as I drive to and from Anchorage. Sometime, I would like to listen to it live and possibly participate in the online discussions. Unfortunately, this podcast is scheduled Sundays at 6:00 PM Pacific Time (5:00 PM Alaska Time). I say unfortunately, because Sunday I ritually have dinner with my wife’s extended family. I don’t think Beth would appreciate it if I broke away from dinner with her family to sit in front of the computer for an hour. Anyway, this past Sunday was Mother’s Day and our normal Sunday routine was changed to brunch, freeing me for the 5:00 PM airing. Wouldn’t you know it, the Masonic Central hosts decided to take a break last Sunday to spend it with their own families.

Masonic Central will resume their normal podcasts this coming Sunday with guest Brother Christopher Hodapp. Chris will be discussing his book Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies. Chris was previously a guest on Masonic Central in November 2008. That particular show was excellent and this coming weeks show promises to be equally informative and entertaining. I would recommend anyone who has the time and is not constrained by family commitments to tune in. Otherwise, visit the Masonic Central site any time to download or simply listen to this and past episodes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Alaska Masonic Family Meets

Yesterday evening (May 9) the leadership of the Alaska Masonic Family met for a wonderful dinner and good fellowship for the first annual meeting of this group. The meeting was held at the Suite 100 Restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska. Those in attendance included:

Bette and Norm Gutcher, Royal Grand Matron and Patron of the Grand Court of Amaranth in Alaska
Joan Morgan, representing Claudianne Jones, Deputy to the Most Worthy Grand Matron of the General Chapter, Order of Eastern Star
Robin Hasty, High Priestess, Waheed Court No. 81, Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America
Gabrielle Hazelton, Supreme Deputy, International Order of the Rainbow for Girls in Alaska
Shawn Lopez, representing Dale Gillilan, Executive Officer of the International Order of DeMolay in Alaska
Johnnie L. Wallace, Most Excellent Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Alaska
Leonard C. Bibler, Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Grand Council Cryptic Masons of Alaska
Littleton F. (Buck) Buxton, Right Eminent Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Alaska
J.B. Carnahan, personal representative for William R. Miller, Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Washington and Alaska, Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction
David Worel, Chief Rabban representing Ken Krasselt, Potentate Al Aska Shrine
Bo Cline, Grand Master, Masons in Alaska

In addition to those mentioned above, there were several other officers of the represented organizations present.

Following dinner, I led the group is a short business meeting. I explained that the purpose of the Alaska Masonic Family Group (AMFG) was:

1. To provide a forum for leaders of the Alaskan Concordant Bodies to meet with the leaders of the Grand Lodge of Alaska and exchange ideas on topics which are of common interest to them.

2. To provide an opportunity for the leaders of the represented organizations to become acquainted with one another.

3. To promote an open line of communications between the leaders so that when communications of a formal nature are required they will occur in a pleasant and productive manner.

Each of those present was asked to present any issues or concerns that they were aware of, to support a shared calendar of events for all organizations to help prevent conflicting activities, and to decide whether continuation of this forum met their organization’s needs. There was unanimous consensus among those present that the AMFG was a concept which was a long time in coming. Further, they agreed that this activity needed to be an annual occurrence, scheduled for the first Saturday in October each year, and that the hosting responsibility be rotated among the membership organizations. It was explained that the reason to meet the first Saturday of October each year was for the coordination of each organization’s calendars for the following year. The next meeting of the AMFG was scheduled for Saturday, October 3, 2009. This meeting will be hosted by the Alaska Scottish Rite and the venue, time, and agenda will be proposed by them.

As the promoter of this initiative, I was excited at the response and have very positive expectations about the future relationship among the AMFG.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Log of the Week of April 27th

This past week was almost a duplicate of the week before, with Grand Master receptions, Grand Lecturer's Workshop, and Lodge Officer Training.

On Monday, April 28, I was received by the brethren of Eagle River Lodge No. 13. I was joined by many of the Grand Lodge officers and committeemen. What a great evening. We all shared in a wonderful potluck dinner prepared by the members of Eagle River Lodge after which we enjoyed an evening of presentations and speeches. With so many guests there and with so many wanting to share in the excitement surrounding Grand Lodge this year, the speeches went on quite a while and it was late when Beth and I finally got home. A special thanks to WB Nick Choromaski, who at 25 is the youngest Worshipful Master in the history of the Grand Lodge of Alaska. I would also like to thank the brethren of Eagle River Lodge for their gift of a ceremonial sword to Grand Lodge. In my copious free time, I may even find a moment to craft a stand for it.

I traveled into Anchorage on Tuesday to meet with the elected Grand Lodge officers to review the status of the initiatives we have set out for Grand Lodge this year and also to review the performance of the Grand Lodge committees. At that meeting, I announced the formation of two special committees, the Prince Hall Recognition and the Ritual Performance Recognition committees. The Prince Hall Recognition committee is chaired by the DGM and is charged with preparing letters to all North American Prince Hall Jurisdictions that been constituted longer than the Grand Lodge of Alaska and share their jurisdictions with their mainstream Grand Lodge. The letters will request mutual understanding, peaceful relationship, and amity between the Prince Hall Grand Lodges and the Grand Lodge of Alaska. The Ritual Performance Recognition committee is chaired by the Grand Secretary and is charged with developing criteria for recognizing superior ritual performance among our membership. The expected outcome is higher quality ritual performance among the officers of our lodges.

At noon, the DGM, SGW, and I met with WB Tad Dean (web master for the Grand Lodge web site) and Brother Dave Oaks for lunch and to explore ways of creating a “shopping cart” on the Grand Lodge web site.

On Wednesday, Beth and I again traveled to Anchorage for the District No. 3 reception of the Grand Master. This was a first, where all three Anchorage Lodges joined together in receiving me and the Grand Lodge officers. WB Monty Schefers (Glacier No. 10) sat in the East, WB Paul Gabbert (Aurora No. 15) sat in the West, and WB Raldo Estridge (Anchorage No. 17) sat in the South for this event. There was some lighthearted grumbling about combining the visits into one, mainly since there was only one festive meal provided instead of three. However, the Prime Rib dinner prepared by WB Clarence Keto (Grand Orator) was top rate and any other meal would pale by comparison. As with the Eagle River reception on Monday, the excitement and enthusiasm for the work of Grand Lodge this year was shared by the guests and speakers alike.

Thursday morning, I was joined by the DGM and SGW at the Finance Committee meeting. The meeting was conducted by MW Harry Koenen (committee chair) and Brother Dan O’Connell (advisor to the committee) gave a very informative overview of the current economy and the status of the Grand Lodge investments. Although, Grand Lodge (like the rest of the world) has taken some hits in our investments the future looks bright.

After the Finance Committee meeting, the DGM and I visited with Brother Dave Oaks and his wife Kim at there business, “Top of the World Graphics”. The purpose of our visit was to discuss the purchase of a line of distinctly Alaskan Masonic promotional products that we could sell on the Grand Lodge web site, as well as making the products available during our visits throughout the jurisdiction.

Finally, on Friday I traveled to Soldotna with WB John Bishop (Grand Lecturer). That evening, WB John conducted his Grand Lecturer’s Workshop with the brethren from District No. 2 at the Kenai Masonic Temple. On Saturday, we participated in the Lodge Officer Training event conducted by VWB Michael Eady (District Deputy for District No. 2). For our stay in Soldotna, WB Bishop and I were hosted by VWB Eady and his wife Pam. We had a very enjoyable visit and Pam outdid herself preparing delicious meals for us. Thanks Pam.

I returned home late Saturday night to prepare for another busy week.