The following is the message of the Grand Master of Masons in Alaska, as published in the Annual Communication Message booklet.
To the Members of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alaska:
Welcome to the Twenty-Ninth Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alaska. It gives me great pleasure to extend a special greeting to the visiting Grand Masters and dignitaries from other jurisdictions. I know how busy your schedules are and I really appreciate that you have taken the time to come and share in the fellowship with us. Please do not hesitate to ask, if there is anything we can do to make your stay more enjoyable.
The following brethren were appointed to additional duties during the year:
W James M. LeFlore as chairman of the Fund Raising committee with all sitting Worshipful Master as committee members
MW Stephen L. Cox as my personal representative to the Grand Lodge of Kansas
MW John H. Grainger as my personal representative to the Grand Lodge of Russia
RW Johnnie L. Wallace as my personal representative to the Grand Lodge of Florida
RW Ronald L. Ackerman as my personal representative to the Grand Lodge of Idaho
RW Jerry W. Pinion as my personal representative to the Grand Lodge of Arizona
Brother Jerry W. Lewis as my personal representative to the Grand Lodge of Maine
VW William Goodwin as the Grand Lodge of Alaska Representative to the Masonic Service Association of North America’s Hospital Visit Program
RW Johnnie L. Wallace (Chair), RW Jerome P. (Jerry) Wasson, and MW Henry T. Dunbar as a special committee, working with a committee from the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska to survey U.S. Prince Hall Grand Lodges which are in amity with their mainstream counterparts
RW Jerome P. (Jerry) Wasson (Chair), VW V. Clifford Darnell, W James S. Zuke, and W David R. Oaks as a Ritual Performance Recognition Committee
MW Joe Dees (Chair), MW Charles Corbin, and MW Don Chaffin as the Segregations and Reference Committee
RW Philip S. Lee (Chair), RW Bobby W. Alexander, and VW James R. Herrington as the Grand Lodge Audit Committee
It is my sad duty to report that, since our last Annual Communication, 51 of our brethren have laid down their working tools and answered the call of the Great Architect of the Universe. We mourn their passing and share that sadness with their families. Our Grand Chaplain, Worshipful Brother Van O. Cheney, will conduct a memorial service later today.
STATE OF THE CRAFT
The Changing Face Of Alaskan Masonry – At the end of 2005, the average age of Alaskan Masons was 65 years old. At the end of 2009, that average age has dropped to 58½ years old. 12% of Alaskan Masons today have been members of the Craft for five years or less and are 42 years old on average. It is plain to see that Masonry in Alaska is getting younger. As I have traveled around the jurisdictions this year, I have experienced a renewed energy and enthusiasm in our Lodges. Our Lodges are branching out and becoming reconnected with their communities, their members enjoy each other’s company, they participate in more group activities, they are pursuing more Masonic education, and improving on their ritual presentations.
Fragile Lodges – On the morning of October 18, 1867 at Baranov’s castle in Sitka, the flag of the United States was raised over the territory of Alaska for the first time. The fellow who raised that flag was Frederick Sloan Sargent, a Freemason. Freemasonry spread throughout the territory, where Masons tilled the soil, mined the ore, caught the fish, and cut the trees. Along the way, those Freemasons built the villages, towns, cities, and created communities throughout this great state. In each of those communities, Masons practiced their craft and established Lodges, Chapters, Courts, and Assemblies. As Masonry grew throughout the Country, it also grew in Alaska. Times have changed, and with that change remote Alaskan communities have seen a more dramatic decline in their social, civic, and religious institutions. The impact of this decline on Alaskan Freemasonry is a degradation of Masonry at those locations at the end of the trap line. Over the past decade we have experienced the loss of Masonry in the communities of Adak and Nome, we have seen lodges consolidated in Ketchikan, Juneau and Anchorage, and today Masonry in the communities of Petersburg, Cordova, Seward, and Kodiak is on life support. If we don’t see a reawakening in those communities, we are destined to see a loss of Masonry there, as well. Grand Lodge cannot enroll new members in and reinvigorate our constituent lodges. We can and will continue to provide resource material, officer training, assistance in performing degree work, and encouragement. The success or failure of any lodge however is dependent upon the energy of its members and Masonry’s acceptance within the community.
Status of Law Suit – In November 2004, three members of the Grand Lodge of Alaska brought a civil suit against two elected Past Grand Lodge officers for actions they took while serving in their respective positions. At the Annual Communication of Grand Lodge in 2005, the Grand Master declared that Grand Lodge would assume responsibility for the legal fees of the two Past Grand Lodge officers. Also, at that Annual Communication, the members of Grand Lodge approved a resolution to make it a Masonic Offense to bring legal action against a lodge or Grand Lodge or against a member of the same without first complying with all of the provisions of the Alaska Masonic Code. In 2007, the suit was dismissed by the trial judge. In September of that year, the case was appealed by the plaintiffs to the State of Alaska Appellate Court. At the Annual Communications in 2007 and 2008, the members of Grand Lodge approved a $10 per capita special assessment to pay accumulated legal fees of the Past Grand Lodge officers. According to the State of Alaska Case Management System, the assigned judge has issued an initial draft of a judgment, which is being circulated for review by the entire court. As no legal fees have been accumulated since the last special assessment was approved by Grand Lodge, I will not be recommending any additional assessment this year.
This year with the assistance and recommendation of Mrs. Debbie Ackerman, I have directed the Grand Treasurer to purchase Director and Officers Liability Insurance to cover the elected Grand Lodge officers in the performance of their duties. This insurance will remain part of the Grand Lodge’s insurance portfolio to protect Grand Lodge from any future litigation.
Grand Lodge Endowments – In March of this year, the Grand Lodge received notification from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that the Alaska Masonic Foundation for Children (AMFC) had been granted charitable status under Section 501 (c) 3 of their code. AMFC is the Grand Lodge’s Charitable Endowment, which sponsors the Grand Lodge of Alaska Visual Arts and Music Scholarship (Edward O. Weisser Scholarship) and the Alaska Masonic Model Student Assistance Program. This year, I appealed to the members of our Grand Lodge for money to support the Scholarship portion of our endowment. Thanks to the generous contributions of Alaska Masons, Grand Lodge netted $10,614.07 for the endowment fund. When this money was added to the balance in the Scholarship fund, we now are in a position to distribute approximately $1,000 annually to deserving Alaskan High School Seniors to support their pursuit of further education in the arts and sustain the fund indefinitely. Additionally, I named a Scholarship Committee to develop criteria for selection of scholarship awardees, to promote the scholarship throughout Alaskan Secondary Schools, and to make a selection of the best qualified individuals to receive this year’s grant. As of this writing, the Scholarship Committee has made their selection and will present the award at the Public Opening of Grand Lodge. Future contributions to the scholarship fund will grow this endowment and make future disbursements even larger.
The Alaska Masonic Model Student Assistance Program (AMMSAP) makes resources available to train Alaska’s Public School Teachers and Administrators on how to identify children at risk from abuse and to help them identify the tools available to prevent that abuse, so that Alaskan children can live healthy and productive lives. It is the goal of the AMFC, as identified in the Grand Lodge Strategic Plan, to grow this endowment through grants, outside funding sources, and the generous donations from Alaska’s Masonic Lodges and their members to make this a viable and fundamental program to help stem the abuse of children in Alaska.
Internet – Our Grand Lodge web site was updated this past spring by WB Tad Dean. Subsequently, our site was reviewed by Greg Stewart of Freemason Information Blog. Tad made additional updates to address the suggestions made. Later, Tad informed me that, as he codes our web site using native “hypertext markup language” (html), he had reached the limit of his capability. He suggested that if Grand Lodge wished to have a more professional looking site with additional graphics, we needed to either contract out to have our site upgraded or purchase some sophisticated web authoring software with training to perform the upgrades in house.
The Grand Lodge of Alaska web site is gradually becoming our face to the world and the primary means with which we communicate with our members. In my opinion, we need to enhance it to make it more attractive and user friendly. We also need to make it more accessible for adding and updating content.
Alaska Masonic Family Group – I chose “Unity” as the theme for my year as your Grand Master and selected the trowel as the symbol to represent that theme. I figuratively wished to use the trowel to spread the cement of Brotherly Love and Affection among all Alaskan Masons, and had the specific goal of strengthening the bonds of friendship between the Grand Lodge of Alaska and our concordant bodies. I stand before you today to report that that goal has been met. On May 9, the Grand Lodge team met in fellowship with the leadership of each of the concordant Masonic bodies, at the first annual Alaska Masonic Family Group meeting. A major accomplishment of this meeting was a mutual agreement to share information between Grand Lodge and the concordant bodies and to create an Alaska Masonic Family events calendar. Additionally, the group agreed to make this meeting an annual occurrence.
Grand Lodge Records – The Grand Lodge of Alaska maintains member records of all Alaskan Masons. The information contained in these records is provided by each of our constituent lodges through monthly and annual reports. This information is essentially necessary to credit our individual members for their accomplishments on their journey through Masonry and is a historical record of our heritage. Currently the information necessary to maintain these records is contained in numerous different places. Within our lodges, it is contained in dusty file folders, in turn of the century card files, on slips of paper, and on various computers in LODGEiCal, Microsoft Excel and Word, and numerous other electronic databases. Within the Grand Lodge this information is contained in five separate and distinct Microsoft Access Databases, in Microsoft Excel and Word, in file cabinets and boxes, and in the ever-present 19th Century card file. The information provided by our lodges to update the information at the Grand Lodge is provided through the US Mail on various lodge forms, slips of paper, backs of envelopes and scrawled on napkins. It is provided through voicemail and in countless formats over email. Brothers, the information contained in our records is our history and the heart and soul of Masonry. Two hundred years from now, we don’t want our future brethren to lament that we didn’t have the foresight to protect this information from loss and inaccuracy.
Prince Hall Recognition – In April, while attending the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska, I noted that we are one of the youngest Grand Lodges in North America, and as such, I believe we should be extending the hand of brotherly love and friendship to all Prince Hall Grand Lodges who meet the standards of regularity and have treaties of shared jurisdiction. I requested assistance from our Prince Hall Grand Master in extending the bonds of brotherhood to those Prince Hall Grand Lodges that meet the criteria previously mentioned and proposed that we form a joint committee to explore this possibility.
The following day, 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.
I subsequently appointed RW Johnnie L. Wallace, MW Henry Dunbar, and RW Jerome (Jerry) Wasson to work with the members selected by MW Miller.
Proclamations, Edicts, & Rulings –
• Proclamation naming April 2009 Public Schools Month in Alaska
• Proclamation naming January 2010 Masonic Youth Month in Alaska
• Grand Master’s Ruling authorizing the Order of Eastern Star to place the Square and Compasses on their altar during their meeting in respect for their Masonic members
• Grand Master’s Ruling authorizing Master Masons to be clothed as Masons when visiting regular meetings of Masonic Youth in Alaska.
• Grand Master’s Ruling authorizing the Alaska Chapter of the Widow’s Sons Masonic Riders Association to operate within the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Alaska
Orders Issued – I issued the following orders this past year:
• To Seward Lodge No. 6 an order to file their monthly reports with Grand Lodge
• To Mt. Juneau/ Gastineaux Lodge No. 21 an order to have Chapter 21 of the Alaska Masonic Code read at a stated communication
Bylaws Approved – I approved the following lodge bylaw changes this past year:
• 3/9/2009, Kenai Lodge No. 11 – Changed the cost of Life Membership and the start time of stated meetings and designated the recipient of Lodge proceeds upon dissolution.
• 7/15/2009, Aurora Lodge No. 15 – Added the phrase “Non Profit Fraternal Organization” to the heading.
• 7/29/2009, Fairbanks Lodge No 12 – Designated the names of recipients of the Lodge’s charities.
• 10/27/2009, Eagle River No. 13 – Clarified of the wording in several sections.
Dispensations & Assessments – I approved the following dispensations:
• February 2009 – established a blanket waiver to allow Lodge members to be clothed as Masons when attending Church Services, Parades, and Community events.
• February 13, 2009 – granted Glacier Lodge No. 10 permission to change the date of their April stated communication.
• August 10, 2009 – granted Matanuska Lodge No. 7 permission to change the date of their September stated communication.
• August 20, 2009 – granted North Pole Lodge No. 16 permission to change their regular meeting place for the purpose of conducting a special communication.
• November 24, 2009 – granted North Pole Lodge No. 16 permission to change their regular meeting place for the purpose of conducting their installation of officers.
Restorations – I restored Jonathan Winchester to good standing as a nonaffiliated Mason from a sentence of indefinite suspension in response to an appeal for clemency.
Requests for Amity – I submitted requests for amity to the following Grand Jurisdictions:
District of Columbia, PHA
New Jersey, PHA
New Mexico, PHA
New York, PHA
Rhode Island, PHA
Scholarship Committee – This year, I created the Grand Lodge Scholarship Committee as a Grand Master’s Sub-Committee. The committee performed their task admirably and has established the Grand Lodge of Alaska Visual Arts and Music Scholarship as a sustainable grant to be awarded annually. I recommend that this committee be made a standing committee within Grand Lodge to promote the scholarship throughout Alaskan Secondary Schools and to make a selection of the best qualified individuals to receive the grant annually.
Code Review Committee – The Masonic Code Review Committee identified numerous errors, inconsistencies, typos, and omissions in the Alaska Masonic Code. To avoid future irregularities in the Code and the level of effort needed to correct them, I recommend that Code Review Committee be given the authority to review all legislation passed at all future Annual Communications. Further, I recommend that this Committee be given the authority (with oversight by the Committee on Jurisprudence) to correct errors identified in the passed legislation and change other sections of the Code affected by the passed legislation to ensure consistency throughout the Code.
Ritual Consolidation – I recommend that a resolution to combine the Grand Lodge of Alaska ciphers for the degrees of Masonry and the Alaska Monitor and Freemason’s Guide into a single Alaska Standard Work and Freemasons Guide be approved.
Disciplinary Code – I recommend that the incoming Grand Master for 2010 appoint a Disciplinary Code Review Committee to review, rewrite, and restructure Part IV (Disciplinary Code) and other Sections of the Alaska Masonic Code that might be affected by a new Part IV to make Part IV of the Code more straightforward, consistent, and just.
MORI – I recommend a $1.50 per capita increase in the Grand Lodge of Alaska annual assessment for the purpose of paying the annual recurring cost to access and maintain a Grand Lodge of Alaska “Masonic Online Registry Interface” (MORI). MORI is a unified lodge management system that integrates lodge records with Grand Lodge records. This system will replace the multitude of processes and management systems currently in use by our Lodges and Grand Lodge and ultimately lower the operating costs to both. The MORI system will virtually eliminate the deficiencies noted in the Grand Lodge Records section of the “State of the Craft” above.
This year I traveled throughout our jurisdiction and several Grand jurisdictions around the country. I also experienced the truly universality of Masonry through virtual travels around the globe by way of the World Wide Web.
I visited each and every lodge within Alaska at least once, with the exception of Seward Lodge No. 6 and Fairbanks Lodge No. 12. During my visits to Fairbanks, Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, and the Matanuska Valley, I consolidated my visits to two and three lodges at one time. This consolidated “Grand Master’s Reception” proved to be popular approach to meet with the brethren from more than one lodge in a geographical area. It effectively reduced both the financial burden on the Grand Lodge Officers and provided Masons from adjoining Lodges an opportunity for fellowship.
I represented the Grand Lodge of Alaska at several other Grand Jurisdictions and annual meetings of concordant bodies. In February, shortly after our Annual Communication in Kodiak, Beth and I travel to Garden Grove, CA to participate in the Western Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges and the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. In April, we attended the Grand Lodge of Hawaii in Honolulu and returned to Anchorage to attend the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska. June found us traveling to the Grand Lodge of Oregon in Bend, the Grand Lodge of Washington in Spokane, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon in Prince George, and Rainbow Grand Assembly in Fairbanks. In July, we traveled to the Imperial Shrine Session is San Antonio, TX. The last week in August I had the opportunity to attend the 50th Anniversary of my father’s lodge (TF McElroy Lodge No. 302) in Federal Way, WA. In September, we traveled to Dawson City, YT for International Days and London for both the Quarterly Communication of the United Grand Lodge of England and Taurus Lodge No. 3981. We traveled to San Francisco, CA for the Grand Lodge of California and Washington, DC for the Bi-annual Session of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction in October. Finally, we traveled to the Grand Lodge of Washington’s Landmark on the Sound for the International Night Banquet and Reception of Lafayette Lodge No. 241 and then on to Reno, NV for the Grand Lodge of Nevada. The visit to Lafayette Lodge for International Night was an event I will long remember. It was very special to be counted among the many notable personalities from presidents, stage and screen stars, and famous Masons who signed the historic Lafayette bible. It was also special because the Landmark on the Sound, which was once called the Masonic Home at Zenith, was the building where I first met Beth during a Rainbow installation nearly forty years ago.
My virtual travels on the Internet have had me visiting with brethren from all corners of the world over Masonic Forums like The Masonic Society, The Sanctum Sanctorum, and the Scottish Rite’s Freemason Network. I have also connected with Masons around the country through Facebook, Twitter, and several Masonic Blogs and Podcasts. One of my most pleasurable activities this year has been keeping a live journal (Blog) on the Internet called “Grand Master’s Musings”. I hope the brethren have enjoyed reading about my exploits this year as much as I have enjoyed posting them.
At my installation as your Grand Master, I remarked that I was going to work hard for you in the coming year. At that time, I also asked each Alaska Masons to work equally hard to help improve our Grand Lodge. I am exceedingly pleased by the time and effort that I have seen given in support of our Grand Lodge this year, I would especially like to recognize the following brethren:
MW Charles E. Corbin for your imagination and enthusiasm in conceiving the Alaska Standard Work and Freemasons Guide and for the time and effort you spent preparing a consolidated ritual, so that I could take it around on my official visits to share this exciting concept with the brethren.
VW Roger Hansen and VW James Herrington for your dogged determination and tireless effort in painstakingly scanning the Alaska Masonic Code for errors, omissions, and inconsistencies. It was Roger who remarked on many Grand Master’s visits that “the only thing consistent about the current version of the Code is that it is consistently inconsistent.”
Brother Stephen Wright and the Scholarship Committee for accepting the challenge of creating guidelines for the Alaska Visual Arts and Music Scholarship and for taking the bit in their teeth to promote the scholarship throughout Alaska, screen candidates, and make our first scholarship selection this year.
VW Ken Creamer, chairman of the Jurisprudence Committee, for your good counsel and your always thoughtful review of my proposed decisions.
VW Tom Schram for your uncommon work ethic managing the Grand Lodge office.
W John Bishop, the Grand Lecturer, for traveling throughout the jurisdiction on your own nickel to present Lodges of Instruction. John has been an excellent traveling companion, accompanying me this year, while we drove on many dark and winding roads across the wilds of Alaska.
W Tad Dean for completing the much needed facelift to Grand Lodge Web Page.
MW Jared Decker for graciously volunteering and dutifully publishing the Grand Lodge newsletter, “Light of the Great Land” this year. It should be noted that this is the first time we have published a Grand Lodge newsletter since 2004.
Juneau Valley Scottish Rite for their very generous contribution of $50,000 to the Grand Lodge permanent fund.
VW Russ Shivers and my District Deputy for taking on the responsibility and conducting Leadership Training throughout the jurisdiction.
W John Paul Jones and the members of the Sessions and Arrangements committee for your assistance in making this year’s Annual Communication a highlight of Alaskan hospitality. I extend a special thanks to the members of my mother lodge, Matanuska No. 7, for all their support and generous contribution to the refreshments in the hospitality lounge.
All Worshipful Masters for all of your hard work in managing your Lodges and your dedication to the Craft.
MW Jared Decker, RW Johnnie Wallace, RW Ron Ackerman, RW Jerry Pinion, RW Jim Grubbs, and RW Jerry Wasson for your companionship and your good counsel and advice this year.
All Alaska Masons who contributed to the Alaska Visual Arts and Music Scholarship and exceeded my wildest dreams by giving more than $10,000.
And, to my wife Beth for all of her companionship and her tireless work behind the scenes this year. Beth, you are my best friend and the love of my life. This would have been an extremely lonely journey without you.
This has been an extraordinary experience and one that I will never forget. I thank you, the Grand Lodge of Alaska, for your confidence in me and the honor of serving you as your Grand Master this past year.
John R. “Bo” Cline