Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Lost Word Found

Its midnight and I just returned from my visit to Kodiak Lodge No. 9. I was expecting to return early this afternoon, but was delayed at the airport as several flights were canceled due to poor weather. Kodiak is a beautiful Island in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska and is regularly buffeted by storms that race across the North Pacific.

Other than the weather delay, my trip to Kodiak was very pleasant. I was accompanied by RW Johnnie L. Wallace (Deputy Grand Master) and RW Jerry Pinion (Junior Grand Warden). We had a wonderful Yankee Pot Roast dinner and presided over a very enjoyable Friendship Night presentation arranged by MW Jared Decker. I extend my special thanks to Jared and Suni Decker for a great evening.

Although we were stuck at the Kodiak airport most of the day, I did find one positive aspect about the experience. I was able to spend the day reading Dan Brown’s latest adventure, “The Lost Symbol”. For the last couple of years, I have been concerned about how this book might depict the Masonic fraternity and was anxious to read it. I picked it up at the train station in Norwich before I left England, primarily to get a book with the English cover. I have been avoiding blogs, pod casts, and other media reviews of the book until I had an opportunity to digest it and make my own conclusions about it. Overall, I have a positive impression about Mr. Brown’s latest offering. The book features Robert Langon (“Angles & Demons” and “The Da Vinci Code”), a Harvard symbologist, who must discover the secret of the lost Masonic word in order to save a friend from a horrible fate. “The Lost Symbol” paints Freemasonry in a very positive and favorable light. The fact that it introduces the craft of Freemasonry to millions of non-Masons creates a challenge for most Masons who will be required to respond to many questions about Masonry. Regrettably, many of these Masons may not be acquainted with the spiritual and philosophical themes presented in the book, themes which make Masonry more than just a social club but a sacred band of friends and brothers. My earnest hope is that “The Lost Symbol” will be a wake-up call to all Masons across the country to begin their own search for the lost symbol.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Alaskan Job's Daughters

“And in all the land were no women
found so fair as the Daughters of Job;
and their Father gave them inheritance
among their brethren.”

Saturday morning, I attended the meeting of Anchorage Bethel No. 1, International Order of Job’s Daughters. Bethel No. 1 is the only Bethel in Alaska, however among all of our Masonic Youth Groups; it is one of the most active and engaging. At Saturday’s meeting four young women were initiated into the Bethel and two petitions for membership were read. Although, a small Bethel, it is apparent that is growing. This was the first opportunity I had to witness the Job’s Daughters ceremony of initiation, and I was very impressed by its beauty of the lessons it taught from the Book of Job .

From Bethel No. 1’s web site you will learn that: Job’s Daughters help young women between the ages of 10 and 20 learn important skills needed throughout your life. They teach leadership, organizational skills along with how to work as a team, making friends and building confidence along the way while having fun in the process. Along the way they do community service such as; making blankets for shelters, cleaning parks and assisting at functions for community organizations in their fund raising endeavors. When not engaged in community service activities they have dances, roller skating parties, pizza parties and the like. Oh, that’s not all they do though! They get to travel a bit, doing ceremonies at public installations, Masonic Lodges and Concordant bodies throughout the state when requested.

I had a wonderful time visiting with these young women and their adult leaders, and I encourage all Master Masons to take the time to get to know the future leaders of our fraternity by visiting one of our youth organizations. For more information about Bethel No. 1, please contact Mrs. Susan Anderson, Bethel Gardian.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Taurus Lodge No. 3981

Taurus Lodge and the Worshipful Company of Butchers

One of the seven oldest Companies in the City
For one thousand and thirty years it has dwelt with impunity
At Butchers’ Hall, whence was express the closed shop,
And, on the retail sale of meat by “foreigners” was placed a royal stop.
Edward the Third ordained all craftsmen should choose a “Mystery”,
Like the Mason’s Word, a secret test of history.
No good honest Butcher would e’er be blackballed
Just as his meat would ne’er be forestalled.
Today’s Masonic lodge coincides
With the aims of the Company wherein it abides.

On Tuesday, September 22, I again found myself traveling by train, with WBs Robin Pooley and John Tuckwell, from Norwich to London. The purpose of our trip was to attend the Quarterly Communication of Taurus Lodge No. 3981. Taurus Lodge was chartered by United Smithfield No. 3176 and consists exclusively of members of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, one of the seven oldest livery companies in the City of London. Livery companies are trade associations or guilds which take part in the election of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, the sheriffs, and the other traditional officers of the City. John Tuckwell was Master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers in 2008. In 2010, HRH Princess Anne will be the Company’s Master.

Taurus Lodge was founded in December 1919, and continues to be one of London’s most successful lodges. They meet quarterly in Butchers’ Hall, Bartholomew Close, London. The feature of this particular meeting was the installation of officers for the ensuing term. The officers of Taurus Lodge performed excellent ritual for the opening and closing, as well as the ceremony of installation. W.Bro. M.P.J. Cahill stepped down as Worshipful Master and was replaced by W.Bro. J.M.P. Cooper.

In addition to me, guests included VW Richard Regan, Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master. As with most other English lodges, Taurus practices the Emulation Ritual. This ritual is somewhat different than the Preston-Webb ritual practiced by most US lodges, including Alaska. Some of the differences I noted were the inclusion of Master of Ceremonies and Inner Guard, officers which do not exist in our lodges. Officers and members of the lodge saluted the WM with the sign of the particular degree lodge was opened on. In fact, honors were given to the guests by saluting with the sign of the degree a number of times specified by the rank of the guest being saluted. In Alaska we do not salute the WM.

Upon arriving at the meeting hall, we were greeted with coffee or tea and cookies and of course sausage rolls. After the meeting we adjourned to the Great Hall for the festive board consisting of a three course meal with selected wines and a battery of 10 selected toasts. It’s no wonder Taurus Lodge is regarded as one of the best in London.

47 St Giles' Street, Norwich

Robin and Margaret Pooley led Beth and me on a tour of the city of Norwich on Thursday, September 10. One of our stops included a visit to 47 St Giles’ Street, which has been the home of Freemasonry in Norwich since 1881. St Giles’ is also the home of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Norfolk, which is celebrating its 250th Anniversary this year. Robin gave us a tour of this historic building, and we were greeted there by RW John S. Rushmer, the current Provincial Grand Master. Robin’s Norwich lodge which is one of several lodges that meet in St. Giles’ is Union Lodge No. 52. Union Lodge was constituted in “Kings Head” pub, in the City of Norwich in 1736. John and Robin shared several fascinating historical facts about this 273 year old lodge with us and showed us many of their artifacts.
By comparison, the Territory of Alaska was purchased from Russia and came under the flag of the United States on October 18, 1867. In 1869, the first Masonic lodge (Alaska Lodge No. 14) was constituted in Sitka, Alaska, a full 133 years after the constitution of Union Lodge No. 52. It’s hard to fathom the great heritage of Masonry that exists in this far off corner of England.

The United Grand Lodge of England

On Wednesday, September 9, along with my two companions Robin Pooley, OBE (JGD 2004, UGLE) and John Tuchwell (PAGDC 2001, UGLE), I caught the 8:30 AM train out of Norwich station for London’s Liverpool station. We were en route to the Quarterly Communication of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London. Upon entering the hall, I was directed to the robe-ing room to dress in my regalia and to await escort into Grand Lodge. Those waiting with me included Nikolaos Vourgidis, Grand Master and George Vassilogeogis, Deputy Grand Master Grand Lodge of Greece; Jean-Claude Tardivant, Deputy Grand Master Grande Loge Nationale Francaise; J.F. “Jeff” Webb, Grand Master Grand Lodge of Louisiana; and a large contingent from the Grand Lodge of Espirito Santo, Brazil. After a bit of waiting, we were marched into the Lodge room and watched as the Quarterly Communication was opened in ample form by MW Peter Geoffrey Lowndes, Pro Grand Master. It was a thrill of a lifetime to sit in Freemasons Hall in London and be introduced as the sitting Grand Master from Alaska. I owe a supreme debt of gratitude to WBs Pooley and Tuckwell for arranging my visit and looking after Beth and me during our stay in England.

Click here to view video of Freemasons Hall

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"To set the craft to work . . . and give them good and wholesome instruction for their labors."

I recently did a Google search on the phrase “Masonic Education” and received 1,910,000 hits or references to web pages that discuss this topic. Some of the sites listed were commercial sites which offered Masonic training for a fee; other sites consisted of articles providing the author’s opinion on what Masonic education consists of or should consists of and how it should be presented, and yet other sites provided tools to assist lodges in presenting their own Masonic education programs. When I saw there were nearly two million hits on this subject, I realized there were many others who share my belief that Masonic education is an extremely important aspect of the work of the Lodge.

Each candidate for our degrees and mysteries is promised that he will be given a Masonic education, and that that education will define how Masonry applies to his life overall, will improve his character, and make him a better man. Masons today expect more, they expect an in depth education beyond the catechisms. They also expect that established Masons will guide and mentor them along a path to further enlightenment.

As I have been traveling around our lodges this year, I have suggested that the time spent in the stated meeting should be divided into thirds; one third of the time devoted to business, one third to fellowship, and one third to the presentation of a program of Masonic Education. I have also suggested that the goal of such an education program should be to translate the lessons and experiences that one gains from Masonry into one’s daily actions.

Through the degrees of Masonry the candidate learns the signs, grips, and words that grant access to the Lodge, where he can begin to discover that there are many aspects to the society of Freemasonry, aspects which lead to the moral and character development of which he is in search. These aspects can be divided into three main categories—philosophical, historical, and organizational.

• The philosophical aspect of Freemasonry introduces the student to the profound subjects of initiation, symbolism and tradition, and their potential to impact his life for the better.
• The historical aspect teaches the student how the traditions and teachings that make up Masonry came to be, their central role in the spiritual search of mankind and the way Masonry has affected the world since its emergence.
• The organizational aspect helps the student understand how the organization is governed and perpetuated, and provides many opportunities for the development of leadership skills and personal responsibility.

By learning the signs, grips, and words, the door to the world of Freemasonry is opened to the student. In addition to participating in a program of Masonic instruction within the lodge, each student has an opportunity to begin a process of self development that now lies before him.

Freemasonry, if approached with humility, an open heart and an open mind will make one a gentleman, a better family man, and a better citizen. I therefore urge each lodge to expand and improve on their program of Masonic education, and I urge each mason to become a true student of our mysteries and continue your personal pursuit of Masonic enlightenment.

International Days, Dawson City, Yukon Territory

Beth and I just returned from a great weekend in Dawson City, Yukon Territory where we joined in on the International Days celebration with the brethren from Tanana Lodge No. 3 (Fairbanks, AK) and Yukon Lodge No. 45 (Dawson City, YT). Along with the community activities surrounding this event, our Canadian brethren arranged several fellowship activities including a banquet and barbeque for our enjoyment. Yesterday evening was the last stated meeting of the year for Yukon No. 45 and it was also the official visit of their District Deputy, RW Martin Allen. In addition to myself, the Grand Lodge of Alaska delegation included RW Johnnie Wallace (DGM), RW Ron Ackerman (DGM), W James Peasley (JGS), and VW John Johnson (DDGM Dist. No. 1) and several of the brethren from Tanana Lodge No. 3. This has been an annual event between the two lodges for many years to mark the bond of brotherhood between them. Yukon Lodge No. 45 was established by Masons who took part in the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1899. These same Masons also constituted Tanana Lodge No. 3, as they moved west to Fairbanks in search of more gold.

The Masonic Lodge building is a distinctive feature in Dawson City. It was originally built as a library under a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Endowment. The interior has several unique architectural features including “tin” walls and ceilings. The brethren of Yukon No. 45 spent several years restoring this building to its original glory.

Beth and I left Dawson City early this morning in order to repack and head out tomorrow morning on our trip to Norwich, UK and a visit to the United Grand Lodge of England. It was a 465 mile drive, which was suppose to take over 12 hours, but we made it in a little over eight.

My regards to the brethren of Yukon No. 45 and my sincere thanks for a wonderful time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Be Prepared

I just read Chris Hodapp's September 2nd posting, "The Dan Brown Effect Part II: What Next?" on his Freemasons For Dummies and believe there is no better time to practice Lodge Renewal.

District No. 1 Reception of the Grand Master

This time of year in Alaska is absolutely beautiful. We are just starting to get our first touch of fall coloring in the leaves of the birch and aspens. The berry bushes that cling to the mountain sides are showing a brilliant red. Although, we don’t have the variety of coloring seen in the hardwood forest on the East Coast, I am partial to our change of season. The yellow and oranges of the deciduous trees contrast nicely with the dark green of our native spruce, while the floor of our forests are a beautiful crimson.

This was the scene that Beth and I experienced as we drove from our home Wednesday morning, up the George Parks Highway to Fairbanks, to participate in the Grand Master’s reception in District No. 1 and enjoy friendship and fellowship with the officers and members of Tanana Lodge No.3, Fairbanks Lodge No. 12, and North Pole Lodge No. 16. This event took place in the beautiful Fairbanks Masonic Center, which was remodeled from an existing church building two years ago.

The evening began with a great barbeque dinner consisting of pork ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and chicken, with all the fixings. The meal was prepared by Worshipful Brother Kevin McKinley’s lady Beth and friends. Thank you Beth for a wonderful meal. Before moving upstairs for opening of lodge and introduction of Grand Lodge officers, we all enjoyed ice cream and a cake decorated in my honor. The evening concluded with speeches from the assembled guests in an open session enjoyed by Masons, family, and friends.

This was the fourth time this year that a joint reception of the Grand Master was conducted with two or more lodges. The event was well received by all who were in attendance and promises to become a new Grand Lodge custom. Lodge was opened by WB Kevin McKinley, Worshipful Master of Tanana Lodge No. 3 sitting in the East. Kevin was joined in the East by WB Mike Leroux and WB Mickey Harper, the Worshipful Masters of Fairbanks Lodge No. 12 and North Pole Lodge No. 3 respectively.

The Masters presented me gifts from each of their lodges and I, in turn, gave each Master of copy of “American Freemasonry” by WB Mark Tabbert. It has been my custom this year to give a signed copy of Mark’s book to each Worshipful Master with the instruction to read it and bring back the information to their meetings as Masonic education.

All in all, it was a great visit and I extend my sincere thanks to all of the Fairbanks and North Pole Masons and their families.

This afternoon, Beth and I left Fairbanks and drove down to Tok on the Richardson and Alaska highways en route to Dawson City, Yukon Territory to visit with our Canadian Brethren in Yukon Lodge No. 45. The scenery along our drive was a duplicate of the day before and we marveled at the beauty of the forests, mountains, rivers, and lakes all around us. Alaska is truly a glorious State.