Friday, December 28, 2012

Heading towards the East Again....

The past eight years as a Freemason has been a rollarcoaster.  I served my lodge as Worshipful Master for two years and my Grand Lodge as District Grand Lecturer, Associate Grand Marshal and District Deputy for the following six years (two years for each position).  As April and the next Grand Lodge Annual Communication approaches, I find myself entering a situation where I have no position of authority in the Blue Lodge and it is truly exciting!

Come April, I will be able to rededicate my efforts to being a brother among the craft and to continue chipping away at my personal rough ashlar.  I am grateful for the several years of service that were granted to me and for the myriad of experiences I had while traveling throughout my district.  However, my focus during this time was on the terrestrial rather than the celestial, the mundane rather than the sublime and the practical rather than the spiritual.  The "business" of Masonry had to be my primary focus to fulfill my accepted duties.  Now, I return to the quarries, no longer an overseer of the work and once again labor with my brethren.  This is a time for celebration!  Laborare est Orare!

I titled this blog post "heading towards the east again...".  Many Freemasons may believe that I was alluding to reentering the progressive line to become Worshipful Master again.  This is not the East I refer to.  I'm referring to that spiritual East, for which we all should strive.  It is the East of knowledge and wisdom, the East of the devine.  It is the direction that all Freemasons should be traveling towards and I am blessed to be once again counted among the pilgrams traveling in the oriental direction.  Guided my the mourning sun, we all travel for the light.

I have been truly blessed to be accompanied by so many diverse brothers in my Masonic travels over the past 12 years.  Some of these brothers no longer walk the Earth and I am grateful for having known them.  Some of these brothers are now separated from me by geography and I hope that we will once again be reunited.  As the rolls of the craftmen decline, so too do they rise.  I have met many new brothers and am happy to continue my travels with them.

As the year draws to a close, I am bolstered by the company I keep.  These brothers, young and old, give me wisdom to find the truth, strength to persevere and continue to show me the beauty that is our gentle craft.  I thank them all for their company as I continue heading towards the east again.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A New Brother's Experience with Quinta Essentia Lodge U.D.

Brother Paul Speranza recently wrote about his experience at the latest meeting of Quinta Essentia Lodge U.D. (Connecticut's First European Concept Lodge) on Corinthian No. 103's website. Brother Paul is a relatively new Master Mason who has tremendous energy and is enjoying his Masonic Journey. It was great to read his perspective on our labors!

I had the pleasure on Saturday, February 18th, of attending a stated communication and festive board with the brothers of Quinta Essentia UD (Under Dispensation). This is Connecticut’s first European Concept lodge so check out their website and their beautiful Spring 2012 Trestle Board. Some of the things that make them different are, from their website:
• Meetings and festive boards will take place at a local restaurant with high quality food in a private dining space, instead of a Masonic Building.
• The lodge will meet only six times a year and each meeting will be an outstanding event.
• Every lodge meeting has an accompanying cocktail hour, festive board and open discussion topic during the dinner.
• Our discussion topics are typically philosophical in nature.
• We require excellence in dress. All brothers are required to dress in tuxes or dark suit and dark tie. Lodge paraphernalia will exemplify simplicity in an effort to symbolize the equality of our brotherhood.
This was actually my second communication with QE. The first time was on the day that we had a home make over for Brother Ted Doolittle, who also happens to be the Junior Warden of QE. When we finished working on his home, we all kicked in for a steak and lobster cookout and held a stated communication in Brother Ted’s living room. That was cool, and as I was an Entered Apprentice at the time and never experienced a communication outside of a temple, I had a grin on my face for days.
This time the communication was held at Mory’s on York Street in New Haven. When I walked in the hostess walked me up the stairs to the “Governor’s Room” but stopped in the hallway, handed me a stack of menus and said that she wasn’t sure if she should go any further. I told her it was ok but she turned and left anyway. I guess the mystique surrounding Freemasonry is very much alive and well.
I walked in and our Worshipful Master, Kristian Maiorino, who is the Senior Deacon for QE, was there with Brother Ted Doolittle. I made the rounds introducing myself to some and reacquainting myself with the others. The Worshipful Master of QE, Brad Cooney, shook my hand and immediately tasked me with coming up with a toast for the topic of commitment. I wasn’t sure where that was going but I was game.
The room is small but looks like something from colonial times and the mood was starting to take shape. We held a short communication and closed. Next, the waitress came in and took our drink order. Once the drinks arrived the toasts began. I was the third toast so by the time it got to me the Pino Noir started working its magic. I guess I did ok and so did the other brothers. There were 5 toasts in all, one for each of the 5 Essential principles, which are Enlightenment, Service, Commitment, Excellence and Dignity. What a great way to get the momentum started.
We had a delicious meal and then Brother L. Scott Brand gave a lecture on charity followed by a wonderful discussion. This is a great way to spend 4 hours with a group of brothers, which included a brother from New Jersey that heard about this meeting and decided to drive up. I was made to feel right at home and felt very comfortable participating in the various conversations that took place.
Now I need to buy a tuxedo. Although the dress code states that a dark suit and dark tie is acceptable, I am so enamored with attending the QE get-togethers that I feel it is the least that I can do to show my appreciation for being able to participate in such a wonderful experience with the brethren. I could have stayed longer and gone downstairs to the lounge for further merriment but I had to leave.
Brothers, Quinta Essentia is a class act and I would encourage you to try to attend their communications. In my limited experience as a Freemason I would have to say that both of my experiences with QE have been great and I intend on attending as often as I can. This meeting cost $75 to attend and that included the drinks, meal, desert and gratuity. In my opinion it was worth every penny. The atmosphere at Mory’s fit perfectly and the only thing we did not do was write on the floor with chalk, although I think I did hear someone say not to rule that out when I mentioned it.
Brother Paul Speranza

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is our Fraternity just a little too common? - By Most Worshipful Brother James T. McWain

This piece was written by Most Worshipful Brother James T. McWain, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut and posted to the Connecticut Freemasons Website.  Currently, I serve M:.W:.B:. McWain as his District Deputy of Masonic District 4A and have been deeply awed by his vision of our great fraternity.  Brother Jim has worked tirelessly to remind the brothers of our state that we can be better and that as Freemasons we should set an example for the rest of society.  I hope that my readers will take a moment to read this article and reflect on some of his points.

Is our Fraternity just a little too common?
Thoughts about the fraternity from the 19th Century---------
“A real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of Mankind by the uniform unrestricted rectitude of his conduct. Other men are honest in fear of punishment which the law might inflict; they are religious in expectation of being rewarded, or in dread of the devil in the next world. A Freemason would be just if there were no laws, human or divine except those written in his heart by the finger of his Creator. In every climate, under every system of religion, he is the same. He kneels before the Universal Throne of God in gratitude for the blessing he has received and humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates the good men of all religions. He gives no offense, because he does not choose to be offended. He contracts no debts which he is certain he cannot discharge, because he is honest upon principle.”
— The Farmer's Almanac, 1823
Are we ashamed today to think that our fraternity is an elite organization? Or, perhaps, we do not believe that it is!
We have high standards; admit no one who is not moral, upright before God and of good repute before the world. We do “good works” throughout the United States that are worth billions of dollars. The secret is that it is okay to be elite; but we should not be elitist. Elite is to have high standards; elitist is to consider yourself better than everyone else and to let them know it.
To be an elite organization requires constant effort. It can never be satisfied with the status quo; the standards can always be lifted.
Masonic meetings are places of learning, a fostering of ideas, and the lodge is a sanctuary for nurturing and developing friendship. It is where we go to celebrate our brotherhood. In the 18th Century, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, Mozart all joined a Masonic Lodge to be with gentlemen who would debate the great questions of the day.
We must understand who we are and the road we’ve traveled. The philosophy of Masonry required centuries to develop and should be understood and venerated by all members of the fraternity.
Each lodge should have high standards. We need to foster the joys of gentlemanly behavior. Not phony gentlemanliness, but genuine fraternal good behavior. Consequently, at times, it may be necessary to give good counsel to a brother. This can be difficult, especially when it is misunderstood as criticism.
As gentleman, we should advocate a minimum standard of dress. When initiating, passing and raising a candidate, think of just how important an event that new man will consider it to be if the entire lodge membership looks first-class and is dressed for the occasion.
Good behavior is essential. We should not allow rude, coarse behavior among Masons. There was an Internet discussion recently regarding whether a brother, who showed up at a funeral home in jeans and a golf shirt to perform the solemn Masonic funeral service, should have been excluded. It should not be necessary to even discuss proper dress at a funeral, and it is sad that lodge members would condone such a lack of respect to a deceased brother and his family.
One may rationalize that society is more casual now. And some would add that it is "the internal, not the external qualifications of a man that Masonry regards."
We also say that our providence is to make good men better. If we are to polish the rough ashlar into a perfect one than we must conduct ourselves as the BEST men in society.
I have previously written that the Masonic fraternity is “out of step” with current society because we have higher standards. In other words, we should not lower ourselves to the behavior of the common group. If we are to be elite, when the world around us is rude and common, it should be our stated purpose to improve that world by improving men.
In Europe, Freemasonry is taken seriously because Freemasons take themselves seriously. We should also feel that our fraternity is solemn, noble, exclusive, dignified and special.
I am not advocating that our lodges should be stern, joyless places of strict, dreary ritualists. Not at all! A lodge should be, first and foremost, a place of brotherhood, of friendships, and close personal bonds. It is not a degree mill to be opened, closed and fled.
The degrees of Masonry should be formal, sincere, instructive and enlightening.
The business meeting should be brief.
The Feast, Philosophy and Fellowship should be the centerpiece.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Quinta Essentia Lodge U.D. - Connecticut's First European Concept Lodge

At the Grand Lodge of Connecticut Annual Communication on April 4th, 2011, a dispensation was granted for the formation of Quinta Essentia Lodge. This dispensation is the product of two years of hard work by brothers in the Southern Connecticut Region to create a European Concept Lodge. These brothers have been meeting as a dinner club during these two years and discussing their plans for the formation of a new lodge.  The structure and format of the lodge is similar to Lodge Vitruvian and other highly successful European Concept Lodges.

R:.W:. Brother Brandley K. Cooney will serve as our first Worshipful Master and I will serve as our first Secretary. Although our by-laws are not yet set, here are some of the concepts that the new lodge will be based on:
  • Meetings and festive boards will take place at a local restaurant with high quality food in a private dining space, instead of a Masonic Building.
  • The lodge will meet only six times a year and each meeting will be an outstanding event.
  • Every lodge meeting has an accompanying cocktail hour, festive board and open discussion topic during the dinner.
  • Our discussion topics are typically philosophical in nature.
  • We require excellence in dress.  All brothers are required to dress in tuxes or dark suit and dark tie.  Lodge paraphernalia will exemplify simplicity in an effort to symbolize the equality of our brotherhood.
  • The dues structure of the lodge will be significantly higher than most blue lodges.
  • There will be no long introductions of past masters, officers from other lodges or appendent bodies. The only brothers to be recognized are the District Deputy, the Grand Master and his suite.
  • The lodge will never have a large, inactive membership.  Brothers are required to regularly attend meetings unless there an acceptable reason not to attend determined by the Worshipful Master.  Brothers who do not regularily attend will be required to demit and join another lodge.   We will cap membership at about 35 members. Once we hit the maximum, a new lodge should be formed.
  • We will demand ritual excellence.
  • We will not elect officers based on a "progressive line". Brothers will be elected based on their abilities and may repeat several terms in the same chair.
  • We will actively participate in community service. This lodge will not simply write a check. The mason's place is in the world, not separate from it.

The list of petitioning Brothers are as follows:

  • Bro. L. Scott Brand
  • M:.W:. Bro. Charles A Buck Jr.
  • R:.W:. Bro. Bradley K Cooney
  • W:. Bro. Paul L Chello
  • R:.W:. Bro. Theodore J Doolittle
  • W:. Bro. Martin Ede
  • R:.W:. Bro. Kenneth I Greenhill
  • M:.W:. Bro. Alfred J Lobo
  • Bro. Kristian Maiorino
  • W:. Bro. Randy S Stevens
  • R:.W:. Bro. Charles H Tirrell
  • W:. Bro. James A Tirrell
  • Bro. Howard D Turner
  • W:. Bro. Jordan T Yelinek

The date of our first meeting has not yet been set and will be publicized once it is.  We are currently working on a lodge web site that will have more details.

For more information about Quinta Essentia Lodge U.D., email Charles Tirrell (chtirrell at gmail dot com)

Using Technology to help with my duties as District Deputy

During the orientation of the new District Deputies and Associate Grand Marshals on Saturday, we were supplied with a CD containing a digital copy of all required manuals, documentation, rules, regulations and protocols required for District Deputies to have possession of and be familiar with. In past years, this was supplied in paper form and was sizable. I'm extremely excited to see the Grand Lodge move in this direction for two reasons; it saves the Grand Lodge money and I can transfer the documents to handheld devices and not carry them around in massive paper form.

Today, I transferred all the documents to my iPad. Now instead of carrying around several books and storing them in the back of my car, I have my single digital device, which I carry everywhere. Woot!

My First Week as District Deputy

On Monday, April 4th, I was installed as Right Worshipful District Deputy of Masonic District 4A in Connecticut, along with my Associate Grand Marshal, Wayne G. Bailey. Attending Grand Lodge came on the heals of a last minute business trip to Montreal for three days. Grand Lodge was a lot of fun and before the banquet on Sunday, I was given the opportunity to give a technology talk to an audience comprised of most of the several Worshipful Masters, Grand Lodge officers, the outgoing Grand Master and the incoming Grand Master. The presentation went very well!

On Tuesday, I attended my mother lodge where I currently sit as Tyler and on Wednesday, I performed my first visitation as District Deputy at Cosmopolitan Lodge No. 125 in New Haven. Cosmopolitan Lodge is one of the lodges that I formerly visited as Associate Grand Marshal, while accompanying Right Worshipful Brother Ted Doolittle. They are a bunch of great guys and I look forward to frequenting their meetings in the future.

Thursday was a night off, which I spent with my wife (an important part of my schedule that I can't forget about). On Friday, Illa and I (along with a brother from the Valley of New Haven) went to Lexington, Ma to attend the Scottish Right Leadership Conference. We got to meet up with brothers we haven't seen in a while, attend some great talks/workshops and had a wonderful time.

After rushing back from Massachusetts Saturday afternoon, Illa and I attended the Grand Masters dinner and orientation. We got to meet some great brothers and their ladies from around the state. At this event, we were informed of the new programs that the Grand Master, James T. McWain, is instituting. I'm looking forward to helping him implement his programs in my district and assisting the brothers of my district with keeping our fraternity the great brotherhood it is.

Overall, the past week has been very busy and this coming week will be likewise busy with a business trip to Boston, an awards night and a social event at my local lodge. Although busy, it's also extremely exciting and continues to fuel the fire in my soul for our great fraternity. Masonry is about establishing personal connections and meeting new people. This is why I love being a Freemason.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Bridge Builder

The Bridge Builder is a poem written by Will Allen Dromgoole around the turn of the 20th Century. This poem is used by many fraternal societies to teach the importance of building for future generations. In fact, this poem was extensively used by my college fraternity and I have heard it used during additional lectures of masonic ritual.

Please take a moment to read this humble poem and reflect. What bridges have you built in your life?

The Bridge Builder

"An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim, near,
"You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You've crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head:
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him."