The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

My Mother Lodge is a Pokestop

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I don’t really understand the Pokemon Go craze but I think it is pretty cool all the same. I think having our lodge as a Pokestop is going to raise visibility. Maybe not membership but that is secondary. One step at a time.

In other news, I have collected a number of these little critters and don’t know what to do now.

From the Department of Redundancy Department

wpid-IMAG0700.jpgI was looking at the charter for the A. Douglas Smith Jr. Lodge of Research recently and noticed that the name is apparently – according to the charter provided by the Grand Lodge – A. Douglas Smith Jr. Lodge of Research Lodge. Funny. As you can see, it is just an accident of a good name not fitting the prescribed format of the charter, and nobody has ever tacked on the final word Lodge onto the name, as far as I have ever seen. There are all sorts of things waiting to be discovered in Masonry, from the esoteric to the downright amusing.

The Lodge is not the Temple

UglyLodgeI wrote before about the difference between lodges and temples. To review, the lodge is not the building. It is the group of members. Okay. Glad we got that behind us and we are on the same page now.

All the same, the temple matters, as does its appearance. I was thinking of this recently when President Obama commented on the health reform website by saying that the plan was not broken just because the website was. Note: This is not political commentary. I am not commenting on the plan itself and do not care for most people’s opinions at this point on either side of the discussion. However, to say that a plan like this can be cleanly separated from how it is accessed, and have the two dimensions evaluated separately, is crazy. “Sure, the website doesn’t work and few people can sign up, but that does not reflect on the plan itself.” I call shenanigans. Continue reading

Visit to Springfield Lodge

20120505-102425.jpgMy good friend and brother Alfred Tecson had me visit Springfield Lodge last year to give a talk on Masonic charity in the Book of Ruth. I do not get down to Springfield nearly as often as I would like to because it is not particularly close to where I live and spend my time, but it is always a pleasure to be with that particular group. Thank you, Wor. Bro. Tecson. I enjoyed visiting your lodge and was honored to be asked to speak. Thank you for the opportunity, as well as for the mug you gave me. I send my thanks late, but this is the type of thing that helps make my mornings complete – a memento that holds my coffee. You can never have enough mugs, in my estimation.

As master, it is a sign of class to have a gift or token of some sort to give visitors and those who make presentations. Those of you who are aspiring to ascend to the oriental chair, definitely invest in mugs, pens, pins, or some sort of trinket for your visitors. Wor. Bro. Tecson did it right. What I especially like about this mug is that it has the Square and Compasses on the other side, so it is easily recognizable to all, but also has the lodge and master’s name and year of service. Even better is that the master had a theme, which is clearly indicated on the mug: “Spreading the Light.” I do not know what all my good brother did that year to spread light other than have me visit, but I know it was good because he was at the helm, making sure it happened. I just hope that I was able to add something during the visit.

Now to check my calendar for the next meeting…

Academic Lodges – Good or Bad?

There’s something I learned of recently called an academic lodge. No, not a research lodge, which is typically a lodge under special dispensation for the purpose of conducting Masonic research. A research lodge usually cannot work in the degrees and thus has a special mission.

An academic lodge, as I understand it, is a regular lodge in all ways that is set up in an academic community specifically for that community. Harvard has one and now George Mason University may be getting one on campus. These lodges are set up so that only members of the university community – that is, professors, students, alumni, etc. – can join. My understanding is that the university staff, such as janitors, cannot even join.

I have a big problem with this.

First of all, let’s get out of our minds the idea that because Harvard does something that it’s necessarily good or intelligent. Having worked in the education world and many other places, I can tell you that a fancy-looking degree is just that: fancy-looking. What a person knows and can do is much more important than where he or she went to school.

What makes Freemasonry special and beautiful is that it unites and equalizes different groups of men from all walks of life. In my own lodge we have generals, admirals, presidents of banks and corporate leaders. We also have plumbers, police officers, HVAC mechanics, waiters and even lowly photographers and writers – the lowest of the low – like me. We can all shed those outer selves and sit together in unity, all members of the same organization, meeting on the level.

Academic lodges are reserved for a group that seems to see itself as an elite class. Membership is restricted based on social status. This is a step backward in the progress we have made as a fraternity and society. People used to say that the lodges were havens for white men only but now more and more of our lodges are integrated, and that makes the fraternity stronger. Now are we going to say that some lodges can restrict their membership based on educational status?

That’s not meeting on the level. That is the opposite of one of the things I hold most dear about Freemasonry.

I asked last night at our lodge meeting about this issue and was told that I would be welcome to attend the lodge meetings but that I would not be able to join. I have to ask myself whether I would even want to visit an organization that would not have me as a member based simply on my social standing. The answer is no. I want no part of such an elitist group where only some of the brethren can meet on the level.

The really positive part to all this is that it will be a great way to attract some younger Masons. For that I think the lodge will be very valuable. We aren’t just a bunch of old guys, as some may think, but I suspect the median age is still quite high. We can use some younger blood in our midst.

Overall, the whole idea left a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose I can be swayed to accept it but it might take some selling. What do you think of this idea?

5 July 2013. Correction: Bro. AJ of The Patriot Lodge informs me that Masons who are members of other lodges may affiliate. Only the candidates nee be from the university community. In addition, the candidates may come from any part of the university community. This is contrary to what I had earlier been told. Thank you, Bro. AJ.

Lodges in New Mexico

I had the pleasure of traveling to New Mexico about six months ago. It’s amazing to me how time flies sometimes. It seems like I just got back but the bite in the air tells me otherwise. I got to visit a good number of lodges, although I did not get to sit in on a meeting because the days I was there simply did not overlap well.

My first stop was to the Grand Lodge of New Mexico, where the Grand Secretary, M.W. Bro. Callahan, was good enough to show me around their museum and let me bend his ear for an hour or so. I have said before that I enjoy taking photos of the lodges in places I visit, so here are some cool ones from a hot state out west.

The Grand Lodge building. Note that I did not get the whole building in the picture. That is because I could barely see the image in my camera’s LCD, so I took a guess at what I was getting. The sun was almost directly overhead, as you can tell by the shadows, and everything in New Mexico reflects the sun much more than I have seen elsewhere.

Grand Lodge of New Mexico

This lodge was an outbuilding behind the Grand Lodge, like a trailer you might see on a school’s grounds. Sandia Lodge #72.

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The sign looked funny so I took a closer shot. It looks like scorch marks. Maybe my brother Leroy, who grew up in Albuquerque, can explain what the heck happened to that sign. We don’t have that type of thing happening back east.

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Another one: Temple Lodge #6 in Albuquerque. It was in a small strip of offices near the edge of town. You can tell you are near the edge of town very easily in New Mexico because the buildings stop and desert starts.

Temple Lodge No. 6

Temple Lodge No. 6

They also had a neat stone marker by the front door:

Temple Lodge No. 6

In Santa Fe I got to see Montezuma #1 and Cerrillos #10, which are now housed in the same building:

Montezuma Lodge No. 1 & Cerrillos Lodge No. 10

Montezuma #1 is Kit Carson’s mother lodge and in the lodge’s safe is Kit Carson’s rifle. I didn’t get to see it, but I was told it was right behind that safe door. Yep. What surprised me about the lodge was the five seats in the East. In Virginia we typically have two or three but I had never seen five before.

Montezuma Lodge No. 1

Cerrillos #10 used to be in the town of Cerrillos, which is along the Turquoise Trail – a lovely drive between Santa Fe and Albuquerque known for its – you guessed it – turquoise. As the cities grew and work dried up in the rural areas, a number of towns like Cerrillos closed up shop. There really are ghost towns in the state, like you used to see on Saturday cartoons. here is the new Cerrillos #10:

Cerrillos Lodge No. 10

Finally, I got a tour of the Santa Fe Scottish Rite building. It was a fantastic place to behold. It was quite dark inside, though, even in the middle of the day, so I was unable to get a good shot of the interior. if you are ever in the Santa Fe area, though, I recommend stopping by to see the place. I am not in the Scottish Rite so some of the symbolism was lost on me but I did note the 29 stairs leading to the front door and a few other features.

Santa Fe Scottish Rite

Santa Fe Scottish Rite

Struggles with Bureaucracy

Square and CompassesOkay, let’s get one thing straight. This is life and nobody said it was going to be easy as pie. The Masonic world is sometimes a difficult one to navigate because there are extra levels of bureaucracy at every turn. For instance, I have a gentleman from Maryland petitioning my lodge. The process is that we get his petition, send a letter to the Grand Lodge of Virginia, which sends a letter to the Grand Lodge of Maryland, which contacts the lodges near where my friend lives for their permission, and hopefully they say it is okay for us to accept his petition. This is common practice and everyone knows how it works and tries to speed it along, but in the past this type of thing has taken two to three months. Laborious, yes, but effective. Plus, that’s how it has always been done. Tradition is the rule as much in Freemasonry as in Tevye’s world in Fiddler on the Roof.

So now I have another hurdle to overcome. I recently met a man who was a Mason in a lodge holden under the American-Canadian Grand Lodge, which is holden under the United Grand Lodges of Germany.  This fellow was raised 40 years ago in a lodge that  no longer exists. So of course I agreed to help him figure out all this and get him a demit from that grand lodge so he can affiliate with a lodge where he currently resides and thus sit in lodge with his son, who is about to start his degree process. At least that grand lodge is an English-speaking one. I can’t imagine what we would do if he said it was the Grand Lodge of Slovakia or something.

At any rate, I emailed the grand secretary to see how we should proceed. Hopefully he will be affiliated and a regular dues-paying member somewhere before long and he can see his son get raised. That’s the hope, anyway.

Cherrydale Lodge Installation

Cherrydale Lodge CakeCherrydale Lodge just had its installation of officers and I was installed as the senior warden. One more year until master, if everything goes well. I am looking forward to this year and the challenges it presents, including preparing for next year. That means getting programs together for 20 meetings for next year, fine-tuning our promotion system for attracting members of other lodges, getting a program in place for public relations, which our lodge desperately needs, and a million other things. And I thought this year would be easy.

But back to the installation. It’s always a lot of fun to get the brethren together and see the officers, especially the new ones, dressed up in tuxedos and white gloves. In our society, even within Masonry, there is a movement to take the formality out of what we do and slide into a business casual way of dressing and conducting ourselves.

Let me come down now and say that I prefer the more formal way of dressing, at least for Masonic activities. For one thing, we have a good number of younger members, college-age guys, who can use the practice dressing up. I know it’s not rocket science but unless you went to a military academy, formal dress was probably never emphasized in your college experience.

In addition, I think the formal dress we usually have – suit and tie – adds to the solemnity and formality of the evening’s activities. We sometimes get the complaint that it’s hard for people in some lines of work to wear a suit. Personally, I don’t buy it. Our last master was a police officer and the one before him was a plumber. Both these men managed to put on a suit. Sometimes it was in their vehicles or in the lodge bathroom, but they always managed it. We had a member who died a few years ago whose life’s work had been in the world of trains. I have heard stories of him getting off work looking like he rolled in coal dust but somehow getting it together enough to look good for the meetings.

Dressing up can go a bit haywire though. Alexandria-Washington Lodge #22 has its officers dress in tuxedos for each meeting because they have certain strong traditions they want to keep in place and want to attract certain types of members. I was talking to one of their officers about this one day and mentioned that I would not be attracted to that type of lodge partly because of the dress required. Of course, I may not be their target member. That’s a self-correcting issue, I suppose.

At any rate, we have another year of officers installed and ready to go for our first stated communication on January 7. come on down and join us!

Travels in Toronto

Rameses ShrinersI was in Toronto last week to visit my father-in-law, who has been in poor health and is succumbing to the hardship of Alzheimer’s. It was an important trip to take, albeit a hard one. One of the things I got to do while in town, though, was to visit Victory Lodge #547, a daylight lodge in the north end of the city, not far from where I was staying.

When I got to the Rameses Shrine Center, where the lodge met, the brethren welcomed me quite warmly and seemed surprised to see someone as young as I was as a visitor. Most daylight lodges are attended by brethren who are retired and many of the members have trouble driving at night, hence the benefit of meeting during the day. The brethren were upset because the junior warden was going to absent that day.

I spoke up, jokingly saying that I would normally be glad to sit in the seat, as that was my station at my mother lodge, but that more than likely, Ontario ritual was sufficiently different from Virginia ritual that I would not do a good job. They said no, they were sure it was similar enough, and maybe I should sit there. wouldn’t it be fun to have a visitor in a station?

Luckily, somebody else piped up and volunteered. I was glad, as I saw the meeting open and realized that I had no idea what was going on. Completely different from what I was used to.

On another note, for those of you who travel somewhere, please learn from my mistakes. First, never volunteer to do anything or else you could be caught with your pants down. Second, bring an apron with you. The brethren at Victory Lodge were friendly enough to lend me one but they had to look for one to lend me. In Virginia it is customary to have a set of plain aprons outside the lodge door for people to grab and wear, should they not bring one of their own. I forgot that this is not a universal custom!

A Traveling Traveling Man

I have yet to be able to formally visit any lodges while traveling away from home. However, I try to drive by the lodges if I have time and snap a couple photos because I think it’s interesting to see the different types of construction. Some buildings look like little more than small industrial buildings while others are large and grand, breathtaking. I was in Toronto a couple months ago and snapped these photos.

York Masonic Temple:
York Masonic Temple

Cornerstones in a memorial garden at York Masonic Temple. These are probably from different temples whose lodges merged.
Masonic Cornerstones

Rameses Shriners:
Ramses Shriners

And at the other end of the building is the Scottish Rite:
Scottish Rite

And Thornhill Masonic Temple, which had graffiti on the doors but did not appear to be in a bad area. Probably just neighborhood kids.
Thornhill Masonic Temple

This is not Masonic, but should you be traveling through Toronto and want what I consider to be the best authentic Chinese food ever, try out Buddha’s Vegetarian Restaurant on Dundas, between Bathurst and Spadina. Yum!
Buddha's Vegetarian Restaurant

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