The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

Brick Mason’s Cipher at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

This is another photo I found at The Library of Congress. It shows some familiar figures etched into a brick in a church in St. Stephens, SC. The story, according to some history posted at RootsWeb, is that a builder, William Axson, a member of Wambaw Lodge, left his mark on the interior east wall of the church, above the chancel window. Imagine that – a brother who knows something about setting bricks!

Brick Mason's Cipher

Managing a Resurgance in Masonic Ritual

sheep-350A resurgence in brothers wanting to learn the Masonic ritual, whether to sit in a chair, return a catechism, deliver a lecture, or simply just for their personal edification, is a good thing. That is where we, as an organization, want to head. However, it is not always easy to manage. It can be a bit like herding sheep, trying to keep them going in the same direction and making sure they do not stray too far off course but also making sure none of them gets left behind. Overall, though, this is a great problem to have.

I can only speak from my own observations and experiences on this topic. When I joined my lodge, we seemed to be at a low point in terms of ritual proficiency among the line officers. What I observed was that the officer positions changed frequently and that those who sat in for the officers seemed to struggle quite a bit with what to say and do. Our senior wardens for two years in a row did not advance to the East and did not receive their certificate of competency that would allow them to preside as masters of the lodge.
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Group portrait of Freemasons of Anglo-Saxon Lodge

I found this photo at The Library of Congress. I can’t quite figure out what ceremony all these costumes would be used for together. Any ideas? The Master Mason degree is the obvious answer but I see too many people for that. The other obvious choice would be the Royal Arch degree but that does not work either. Maybe they pulled out all the costumes they had and showed them all off. What do you think?

Anglo-Saxon Lodge

Life Membership Plans – Are They Worth it?

LifeMembershipDifferent jurisdictions have different plans in place for life membership in lodges and the appendant bodies. In Virginia, where I am, the plan makes a lot of sense to take advantage of and I opted to do that a while back. Here we have not just a life membership plan but it is actually life membership in perpetuity, meaning that my lodge will get money on my behalf from the plan even after my demise.

The way dues work in any of our organizations is pretty simple. We pay our yearly lodge dues and the lodge is assessed a certain amount for our membership by the grand lodge. What this means is that the lodge only keeps a percentage of what we give it each year. Under my grand lodge’s Life Membership in Perpetuity Plan, the lodge will get that portion of my dues that it would normally retain from the grand lodge, in return for my having given the grand lodge a large lump sum that is invested in an endowment.
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Back in the Scottish Rite

wpid-IMAG0637.jpgI had demitted a couple years ago from one Scottish Rite valley but have since found what I hope will be a better fit at the Valley of Washington, DC. This particular valley has a different body conduct business on each of the first four Tuesdays of the month. Fifth Tuesday? Sandwich night, I guess. I look forward to getting involved again when I have time and am especially eager to get back to the Master Craftsman II course that has been sitting around for nearly three years. Something that especially attracted me is that they have four meetings per month, as opposed to just one. More opportunity to attend meetings.

In the meantime, I do not expect to have a lot of time to go to many of the Valley’s meetings for a little while but at least I know that when I do go, I will be in the presence of some pretty warm and welcoming brothers. The funny thing is that, given where I work nowadays, I would have to drive pretty close to the Alexandria Scottish Rite to get to DC. Oh well. I don’t suppose that should enter into any decision about my membership.

The Masonic Order of Athelstan

athelstan250At the Masonic Week activities in Reston, VA last week I had the opportunity to join The Duke of Cumberland Court No. 101 of The Masonic Order of Athelstan. The Masonic Order of Athelstan is a relatively new order, founded in England in 2005, and is open to Masons who have attained the Royal Arch degree. A new candidate does not go through a degree, but receives instruction, using various symbols as tools to promote further thought and research.

The order is still new to me, as you might imagine, but I am excited to learn more. The teachings of the instruction are not new. If you are a Mason already, or even just a moral person, you know these teachings as being universal, as all the Masonic teachings are. However, the Order of Athelstan brings a different feel during the instruction, and a different take on what it means to be a good man and true.

This is an invitational body. I was able to join because a new Court was being formed in Winchester, VA and they were taking letters of interest from guys who would want to constitute the Court. If you find yourself in that situation, I recommend investigating joining this group. Anything that brings more light is worth doing, in my book.

Update on the Grand College of Rites

I was at Masonic Week events this morning and spoke with the incoming Grand Chancellor of the Grand College of Rites about the issues they have been having processing payments, getting dues notices out to the members and processing petitions. Of course, he was very aware of these issues already and informed me that this Saturday there would be a new Grand Registrar elected and installed, so things will start to ramp up again after a while.

Be patient though. The new guy will have to make a rather lengthy drive to Illinois at some point to get all the records and documents, and then organize them for his use once he brings them home. And then there is a backlog of information to sort through going back at least a year and probably more.

Have faith, my brothers. When the Grand College of Rites was in full swing, many said that it was the best $15 in Masonry, and I feel that is true. It will be great again.

Why I Demitted from the Shriners

I requested a demit from the Shriners at the end of last year. I had waited until it was time for dues payments to be sent in because it was not an easy decision for me to make.

I loved being a Shriner. I was first sold by the mission of helping children in need. It does not get much better than that. Then the excitement of getting my fez made me feel like a real members of the organization. It was pricey, but it was worth it. Then I started a homebrewing club and felt good about growing the body of my Shriners temple.

Then something happened. I won’t go into specifics because I have already discussed this with the temple administration and they indicated that they did not want to change their tack on a few issues that I thought were important – things that would encourage membership growth and retention. They weren’t interested. Fair enough, I guess. That is their choice, I suppose.
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Masonic Veteran’s Award from the GL of Maine

MedalI had the privilege this morning of presenting a Masonic Veteran’s Service Medal to a brother from Portland, Maine, who resides within my Masonic district. This is one of the singular joys of being in my role and this one event is a highlight of the Masonic year so far.

The Masonic Veteran’s award is a special recognition for our members who reach 50 years as Masons. Something that interests me about this type of recognition is that different grand lodges do things differently. Maine apparently gives a breast jewel and lapel pin (seen attached to the ribbon). In Virginia there is a lapel pin, certificate and life membership card, which absolves a person from having to pay dues anymore. I guess Virginia has figure that if they got 50 years of dues, that should be enough.

Fun stuff. I look forward to doing this a few more times before the year is up.

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