Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oh, where, oh where can we be?

If there is one word that encompasses the internet and innovation, it has to be Google. The search-engine turned numerous-web-tool company developed a fantastic set of mapping applications a few years ago. The two most important apps are Google Maps and Google Earth. At face value, Google Maps can be compared to mapquest, however there is much more under the hood. Google Maps is a web-app that allows users to view street maps, plan routes and look at aerial photos. But the true power of Google Maps is the ability to make your own maps. A user can place a series of locations, both points and areas, over existing maps and share these maps with other people over the web. Google Earth is a client side piece of software that has the same abilities as Google Maps in addition to GPS mapping and 3D topographical and structural mappings. The functionalities I stated here are just the tip of the iceberg. These two software packages are very dense and have much to offer. Go try them out for yourself.

Now what does mapping software have to do with Masonry? Well, if you have an electronic address list for all the brothers in your lodge, you can easily import this list into Google Earth and create a map of where your brothers live. Now creating action plans that are geographically dependent are simple. If you have refreshments that need to be picked up from a specific location, bring up your map, see who lives nearby and have him pick it up on his way to lodge. If some of the younger brothers want to give some of the older brothers a hand with shoveling snow, they can map out their course of action using the membership map. If a brother needs a ride to lodge, check the map and see who lives nearby. You could map out all the lodges in your district and get a better idea of which lodge is where. There are an endless number of jobs this software can do. If you think of more, please add a comment and let the whole Masonic Community know!

Here is an example of a user-generated map. I created this map with the locations of a few of the Masonic blogs I frequently read. This map is nowhere near done, but I figured you'd get a good idea of its capabilities.

View Larger Map

To-do list item #8 - Completed

Since writing the To-do List Craze article, I have made some headway in terms of my to-dos. Each of these to-dos are larger projects and I have spent some time on each of them. However, it seems that I have actually completed one. To-do #8, aka "Convert lodge website into the new template supplied by the Grand Lodge" is complete and can be checked out at Tell me what you think. Given that I have the next week off, hopefully I'll complete a few more.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The To-Do List Craze

Sometimes the best way to find ideas for Masonic lodge productivity and organization is from non-Masons. If we constantly look inwards, without looking to the outside world, we will grow stale. Keeping with this idealogy, I'm always looking to expand my herizons and find new and interesting things. When I find something of note, I try to apply it to my "Masonic Life."

Today, I came across the To-Do List Blog by Sasha Cagen. I'm no stranger to To-Do lists. I have them everwhere (including in my now deceased Mac laptop :( ). I have shopping lists, christmas lists, long term goal lists, home renovation lists, all sorts of lists. I like them. I forget things. The lists keep me from forgetting things. Pretty simple system.

Sasha Cagen's blog and book, brings together people's love for To-Do lists. Needless to say, I was instantly hooked. Her blog was funny and cute, yet practical and thoughtful. As I was reading her blog, I was going back and forth between the recent developments in the Halcyon Lodge situation. This jumping between the "real" world and the "masonic" world got me thinking. What would my Masonic To-Do list be? What are the things I want to get done to help my lodge?

So, I decided to take a moment and write down what I want to do for my lodge to make it better. It will immediately follow this post. I invite all my faithful readers (this number may be up to 4 by now) to create their own list. Focus on the practical and keep it focused towards your lodge. This isn't supposed to be a spiritual or philosophical list, although I encourage these as well. Simply and quickly, write out what you would do to make your lodge a better lodge. Limit it to a small number and try to act on it. Remember, a building is made brick by brick. Find your bricks and build your lodge. Here I go:

  1. Scan in all the Past Masters and Officer photos into the lodge computer and post it on the internet.

  2. Complete the report of the Strategic Planning Committtee.

  3. Create my presentation for "Freemasonry and the Nazis", including Powerpoint.

  4. Organize the Lodge Library and finish the checkout system for book borrowing.

  5. Create the DVD for the Installation of Officers 2007 and distribute it to the brothers.

  6. Gather the names of all brothers who would like to receive electronic copies of the Treastleboard instead of snail mail versions.

  7. Ask for a vote on the lodge paying for the Masonic Education Course for all brothers who would like to take it, then sign brothers up for the course. (Updated - 2008-01-17)

  8. Convert lodge website into the new template supplied by the Grand Lodge.
    (Updated - 2007-12-30)

  9. Create the outline for next year's Candidate Education Program.

  10. Update the lodge history for the past ten years.

Many Masons want change. Change only occurs through action. Action begins in thought. A To-Do list is a vital bridge between thought and action.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Certain Point within a Circle

"Obligation", "Freedom", "Loyalty", "Blind Obedience", "severed ties", "broken oaths", etc! These are the buzz words being thrown around in several Masonic blogs and forums this week. For those of you who are unaware, Halcyon Lodge of Cleveland, Ohio turned in their charter to the Grand Lodge of Ohio and are now operating under an unnamed jurisdiction. In the past, Halcyon lodge was known to be a very progressive lodge with positive results. I would be remiss to say that many ideas that I stated on this blog were gained from the brothers of this lodge. More information regarding their activities can be found on their web site.

This blog, Masonic Renaissance, is fairly unique in the world of Masonic blogs. I do not focus on my personal opinions regarding current Masonic events, although my readers could gain a general understanding of my leanings. I also rarely talk about my personal experiences in my lodge. I tend not to focus on the philosophical aspects of Freemasonry. My posts usually focus on organizational structures or leadership principles. I also discuss new technologies being applied to Masonry.

With that being said, this post will be slightly different than my typical writings. I believe that the current events regarding Halcyon lodge reflect a general trend in Masonry, which I feel my blog attempts to dissect and analyze. I call this trend the "saddle" effect. Masonry lost the generations of the 70's, 80's and 90's. Freemasonry gained few members who were part of the Vietnam Generation, the Me Generation or Generation X. However, the beginning of the 21st century has been more positive in terms of Masonic membership. There has been an upswing in members that are currently in their 20's. Many lodge's membership distributions look like saddles with many brothers in age range of 20-35 and 60-80, and few brothers between 35-60. Many of these young brothers did not discover Masonry through their fathers or by its general effects. They discovered Masonry through the Davinci Code, the History channel and the Internet. They expected to find Warrior Monks, Enlightened Souls, World Rulers, Secret Knowledge and much, much more. However, they didn't find these things. They found an organization filled with normal people and normal problems. They found an organization filled with older members, who felt like they were the last captains of a sinking ship and were not open to change. The older brothers didn't have what the younger brothers were looking for. So many younger brothers turned to other sources. They read Pike and Mackey. They looked to the old landmarks and Anderson's Constitutions. They looked across the seas to European Masonry and their traditions. They looked to the Internet and the new ideas being generated by brothers across the globe.

In summary, the perception these brothers had of Masonry did not match reality, so they focused on changing reality. These new brothers wanted a different kind of Masonry, a more idealistic type of Masonry. In many lodges, this conflict between perception and reality created an "us vs them" mentality. I have seen lodges where the young guys sit on one side and the old guys sit on another side. One side votes one way and the other side votes the opposite. This is a typical expression of the age old conflict between innovation and tradition. This is not an isolated problem in an isolated lodge. It is occurring across the country. One side purports to be defending the principles of Masonry and so does the other side. Both sides believe that they are in the right, because they have different opinions of what are the true principles of Freemasonry. Is Freemasonry a philosophy? a social club? a service organization? Does the authority of masonry reside in the individual lodge or in the Grand Lodge? Is it important that Masonry has a board membership that has had a topical interaction with the lessons of the degrees or a selective membership of well educated brothers who are experienced with archaic Masonic writers?

Unfortunately, Masonry is reflecting the general trend of our nation. We're living in an increasingly polarized nation filled with radicals. We have Republicans vs Democrats, liberals vs conservatives, young vs old, rich vs poor, one religion vs another religion, homosexuals vs those who believe homosexuality is immoral, technologists vs traditionalists. For me, a radical is a person who is so set in their ideas and opinions that they are unwilling to listen to the ideas and opinions of others and will not accept that the ideas and opinions of others are valid. Using this definition, I believe that Freemasonry at its core is anti-radical. Masonry is built on the belief that people are different and believe different things, but they can come together to form a better world. Members have different religions and different political beliefs, yet they are all brothers. However, we now have more and more Masonic radicals, brothers who are unwilling to listen to the ideas and the opinions of their brothers. These brothers sit on both sides of the lodge room. We have young radical masons and old radical masons. This radicalism will destroy us. If we can not be brothers in the lodgeroom, how can we be brothers in the outside world and how can we spread the principles of the brotherly love, relief and truth?

People are inherently different. The principles of Masonry accept this fact. We are not meant to be homogeneous. We are meant to be brothers in spite of our differences. We don't have to agree, but we should accept our disagreements as disagreements and move on. Some of our brothers during the Revolutionary, Civil and World Wars were able to push aside their political differences and embrace each other as brothers. Why should the relatively minor disagreements of today divide us? To be cliched, can't we all just get along?

Our degrees teach us to be a certain point within a circle. This shows us the due bounds drawn by the compasses. On one side of the circle is St. John the Baptist and on the other is St. John the Evangelist. These two saints represent two radical sides of Christianity (innovation and tradition). We, as masons, are taught to stand in the center as the point. Masonry is about balance, not radicalism. Balance breeds understanding and tolerance. Radicalism breeds hate and division.

I hope that the brothers on both sides of this argument can see the positive benefits of balance. May brotherly love prevail and ever moral and social virtue cement us.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Masonic Spectacle...

For the candidate, masonic ritual is new and exciting, filled with wonders and thought-provoking allegories. For the newly initiated brother, seeing a degree on the sidelines gives them a different view of the experiences they just undertook and allows them to reflect on these important principles. For the masonic officer, performing in masonic ritual is exhilarating and allows them to discover the lessons that teaching can only bestow. But what about our other brothers? Sitting on the sideline for degree after degree can grow stale and placid. This lack of excitement can quickly lead to lack of interest, which will yield a lack of attendance.

Any brother who has been active for more than five years and says that he has never been bored by masonic ritual is lying to himself. This point of boredom may occur long before the five year mark, I stated, depending on the activity of the lodge, but it will most likely occur.

Now, I don't want brothers to get angry with me. I can hear it now. "Masonic ritual is the greatest thing in the world. No one can ever get bored of it!!!" Come on! Let's be real here. If the portrayal masonic ritual was always extremely exciting, why do most lodges only have a 10% active retention rate? Why do so many brothers seek further light in the apendent bodies, so quickly? Why don’t brothers volunteer in droves to perform in degree work?

The answer is our brothers are bored. Many of our brothers have seen dozens or hundreds of portrayals of the exact same degree, performed in the exact same way and with the exact same level of enthusiasm. This is the killer of our fraternity, boredom! But how do we fight boredom? Simple, change how we do ritual!

Once again, I can hear the screams of our brothers, “Masonic ritual is sacrosanct, we can’t change anything. It has always been done this way and must always be the done this way!!!!” Hogwash! First of all, I’m not suggesting an all out change to the ritual, I’m suggesting we change how we do ritual and to expand the ritual. There is a huge difference. Hamlet has been performed in thousands of different ways, but it’s still Hamlet. Second, Masonic Ritual is not sacred. It was not handed to us by God, that is a claim for religions. Masonic ritual was made by man and therefore can be changed by man. As long as we stay within the rules and regulations of our Grand Lodges, changes can be made. Finally, Masonic Ritual has been a dynamic organism over its several century development. The rituals performed for Washington, Pike, Kipling and Garbaldi were all very different. Ritual from one country will be different than the ritual in another country. Diversity is one of our greatest strengths.

Now, prepare for some Masonic Heresy. Masonic Ritual is like sex! Sex is great and wonderful. When it’s new, it’s exciting. But it can grow stale, if you do it the same way every time. Talk to any long term married couple and you’ll discover that sex can grow boring, even for people who love each other very much. So what do they do? Marriage Councilors and Sex Therapists have many suggestions to spice up a sex-life. Some of these suggestions are role-playing, bringing food into the bedroom, special costumes, change of location, different positions and acting excited to foster excitement. I will now prescribe the same solutions to help masonic ritual.

Now, get your mind out of the gutter. There’s no sex in the masonic ritual room (a pun on Chris Rock’s song “There’s no sex in the champagne room.”) All the aforementioned solutions can easily be adapted for masonic usage. Let’s begin:

Role-playing - I have heard too many brothers perform ritual like a robot. There is no emotion, no inflection, no change of tone, no acting. Masonic ritual should be exciting. Don’t be afraid to “ham it up.” I enjoyed acting in High School and now I attempt to add some of that acting to my degree work. You should act the part. When you do degree work, you’re no longer John Smith. You’re the Senior Deacon. So, act like the Senior Deacon. A prime example of this is the second half of the Master Mason Degree. This part is not ceremonial, it is a drama, so we should act dramatically. Add emotion to this section and the newly made Master Mason will surely remember this experience for years to come.

Bringing food into the lodge - The fellowship that occurs before a degree can make a huge difference. This fellowship can be amplified by food. Breaking bread with your brothers creates a type of bond that is truly unique and this feeling will only help the bonding occurring during the ritual. My lodge has been introducing a large dinner before many of our degrees. The smiles and laughter during this time sets the mood for the work we do upstairs. Also, the food doesn't have to be boring. I have been to too many meatloaf dinners at lodges. Try something interesting, like an international night, where all the brothers bring a dish from their families ethnic background. An Octoberfest dinner can easily be made or Creole food for Mardi Gras.

Special Costumes - The traditional dress for degree in my lodge is tuxes. However, I have attended ritual done in police uniforms, Scottish kilts, ancient builders dress, colonial garb and york rite aprons. There are many other variations of dress that Masonic Ritual can be done in. As long as your Grand Lodge's rules and regulations are followed, be creative! Visually changing the appearance of the ritual can make a world of different to the level of excitement that occurs. Check out Levant Preceptory for an example of interesting costumes for degree work. These brothers dress as original Knights Templar for the Commandary Degrees in the York Rite and I'm sure they have a blas doing it.

Change of Location - Lodges don't have to meet in lodge rooms! With dispensation, lodges can change locations. This opens the doors for a wide range of options. A lodge in Moosup, CT has a Quarry Degree, where the brothers hold their degree in an operative masonic rock quarry. My lodge over the past weekend, held an Outdoor Master Mason Degree. This simple change of location energized my lodge brothers in a way that I had not previously seen. Everyone had a wonderful time and we hope to make it an annual event. Joint degrees can also be held with a neighboring lodge, so your lodge can visit another lodge in their building. A change of place can yield a change of mind.

Different Positions - Many lodges have "Step-up Nights", where all the line officers step up to the next chair in the line. This gives these brothers a chance to experience what their next years will look like. Many lodges also have Past Masters' Nights, where the Past Masters of the lodge perform all the degree work. There are also Purple Apron Degrees, where all the positions in the lodge are filled by Present and Past Grand Lodge Officers. A lodge in my area has an EA degree called the Kiddie Corner, where the newly raised brothers of the lodge perform the degree. Degrees don't have to be done by just the officers of the lodge, everyone can get active.

Another change of position is what degree work is done. In my jurisdiction, we have many extended lectures that can be performed. The first lecture I learned in my lodge is the extended apron lecture. I throughly enjoyed learning a piece of lecture that added to the degree work of the lodge and my brothers enjoyed hearing it. There are many other additional lectures that can be learned, such as "The Bridge Builder" poem, the extended Middle Chamber lecture, charges from other jurisdictions, the Beehive lecture and many, many more. Another change to a lecture is the Walking Stewards lecture, where the brothers who perform the Stewards lecture, act out the responses to the questions being asked. This is a great way to recap the entire degree in short form. Once again, make sure that the rules and regulations of your Grand Lodge are checked before making these changes.

Acting excited to foster excitement - This is the most important change that can be made to Masonic Ritual. Act Excited! If you want people to enjoy themselves, enjoy it yourself and show it. Excitement is contagious. Always stay positive if you want to get other brothers involved. Don't speech negatively about other people's degree work or lack of participation. Guilt and talking behind someone's back will only yield resentment. Negativity will only sour the pot. One of the most important roles for a Masonic Lodge Officer is to be a cheerleader.

One of the draws of Masonic Ritual is seeing something new and interesting. A spectacle can be defined as " Something that can be seen or viewed, especially something of a remarkable or impressive nature." So make your degree work into a spectacle. Make it remarkable and impressive. Once this is done, you brothers will naturally want to attend more meetings.

These are the things that I have seen to make masonic ritual more exciting, but there are many other ways. I would love to hear what other brothers have done to make their degree work more interesting :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Birds of a Feather

Worshipful Brother Tim Bryce posted a great article on using recent internet technologies to form online discussion groups and networking for masons. Check out the post here.

The website this article is hosted on is also a huge wealth of masonic knowledge, so I would also suggest checking out

Friday, October 5, 2007

Actions speak louder then words

This is a post that a lodge brother and old friend sent me about what he feels is important in masonry. Brother Tom has a huge heart and uses it often. There is a difference between being a mason and living masonry. Brother Tom does both. I would suggest we contemplate his words the next time we're arguing over minutes or wasting time on bills. Masonry should be about what masons do, not what masons say.

"One of the things that I would change about Freemasonry is our level of community involvement. All to often, it seems like when a brother first enters the Fraternity there is a lot of talk about how we give so much money away. Now I’m not disputing this, but I think as a whole each lodge should and could do more. For example what’s to stop each state from having an annual or monthly soup kitchen run. We could assign certain members of each lodge to donate their time once a month for a period of 4 hours to help run a soup kitchen. We could do things like this and many other activities. For example it’s not just donating money that allows “Masons to help make men better ” Time is also a valuable asset. Many of us can donate time at the Shiner’s hospitals by just reading, educating and entertaining the kids that are in the hospital. I would gladly be willing to put more of my time doing something like, rather then waiting in lodge to hear the minutes read. There is also a lot of preparatory work that can be done on nights where we have meetings.

In our lodge we have an event called breakfast with Santa for the kids. Every year there are two of our lodge members slaving away the night before wrapping present for hours? Why? Why not have the whole lodge help out after the Stated Communication and wrap a couple of presents. Our members are there why not put them to work. We could help organize a phone-athon wherein we call other masons and family members to see if they would donate money for one of the many walk-athons. We could act on behalf of companies such as Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, or even help our own circle of brothers, like the Shiners Hospitals. We should be calling up big fortune 500 companies and small ones and getting them to donate time, money or both.

When you ask people about community service many say they would love to perform some but often never follow through with it for two reasons. One of the reason is people have never been shown the harsh reality that some people experience, such as elders eating cat food because it’s cheaper. Second, people are a bit intimidated by the fact that they don’t know how they can help. Just imagine for a minute if we could change our lodge dues to also include 12 hours of community service every year. That is just one hour a month. The lodge I currently belong to has 110 members that are dues-paying members. So if those 110 members did 12 hours of service each, that would leave you with 33 weeks of 40-hour community service workweeks. We also share the same building with another lodge. If we teamed up, it would amount to over one year of 40-hour community service workweeks. It’s one thing to say, “making good men better”; and another thing to see it put in action.

I understand that we must have ritual work and stated communications. I’m not disputing that. But I would much rather put some energy and effort into feeling as if I’m making a difference in the community rather then have to sit and listen to minutes read and people arguing over insignificant details.

What really bothers me is that we say we are so great and that we do all these great things. We do give a lot to in comparison to most. However, I think on the local level there are a ton of things that we can do with very little change. But it all starts with our ability to put these plans in actions rather then sit and rant about minutes from the last meeting.

My lodge’s Fellowcraft Club has a game night about once every other month. What’s to stop us from having these game nights at hospices or other community centers where we can interact with our elders? In high school I used to leave school during my study hall just to visit a local elderly care place. I often would be the only visitor some of these people would see for months.

In closing I’m not saying that we should denounce our current system. I just would like it if we did less talking and more action. It shouldn’t take us 30 minutes of arguing to deciding the condiments at a family and friends BBQ. Instead if we should put those 30 minutes to good use. We could spend that time creating something positive and avoid situations were two members are stuck wrapping presents for hours."

Brother Thomas Hardy

So mote it be!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Old School for the New School - Part 2

This is the continuation of the article I posted yesterday focusing on what "Old School" technology and methods are employed in a masonic lodge that work. In the previous post I listed five items of importance of masonry. This items were ritual, dues cards, scholarship, mouth-to-ear learning, and pen and paper. In this post the second half of this list.

I do find the second half of these two part posts to be more difficult than the first. Most of the items that freely come to mind I put into the first post and I have to struggle to find the latter half that I wish to include. However, I do enjoy the road less traveled. For the second half, I need to search and analyze, focus and think, observe and contemplate. Truly a masonic endeavor :)

With no further ado, items six through ten of "Old School for the New School"

  1. Ballot Box - It's a simple system for balloting. There is a box with two sides. One side is filled with uncast votes represented by white balls for yes and black balls for no. The other side is where the vote is cast. Quick and simple. No paper ballots. Voting without a trace. No hanging chads. This is a system that has worked well for centuries and will work well into the future. Although there are problems with the one vote and dismiss system, it is a proven method to keep harmony in the lodge by allowing any brother to vote no and keep a problematic new member from being excepted.
  2. Budget - Budgets seem old fashion in todays world of internet banking, ATMs and credit cards, but this is a wonderful planning tool. By laying out the financial year of a lodge, the organization of the year must also be planned. There are many lodges that don't utilize this tool and should. Budgets are forward-thinking items and should be used to help the Master, Wardens and brothers plan a successful year. The tool can also streamline a stated communication, because budgeted items may not require a vote. Old School productivity at its best.
  3. Visitor Book - Recently, I filled in as Junior Warden for the lodge that hosted the Master Mason degree where I was raised (I was raised at a Blue Lodge Council Meeting in 2000). I hadn't returned to that lodge since I was raised, because its geographically distant and I don't know many of the brothers there. When I recently visited, I went to sign their guest book. After signing it, I opened the book up to Oct 30th, 2000 and there was my name with the initials FC next to it. In that moment the breadth of my masonic journey washed over me. I was instantly aware of how far I had come and how far I still have to travel. It was quite a humbling experience. The visitors book is an important tool for recording benchmarks and realizing your place in time.
  4. Name Badges - Badges! We DO need some stinking badges! I know that lodge brothers should know each other on sight, but it doesn't always happen that way. This is especially true of new brothers and visitors. When I joined my lodge, I didn't know a single person. For the first year, I relied on name badges to learn who everyone was. The lodge should be a welcome place for its brothers. However, being uncomfortable because you don't know someone's name is quite unwelcoming.
  5. Speech- (This may sound like #4, but it is a quite different.) The oldest communication known to man, speech. We can have all the letters, trestleboards, calendars, emails, websites, IMs, notes, etc, but without using speech as a primary tool of communication, all is lost. Digital communication is a great, but meaning is lost in it. Masters need to talk to their officers. Officers need to talk the brethren. Brothers need to talk to non-masons. Disagreements and arguments often arise because brothers don't talk to each other. A brother may feel slighted because the Master did not personally contact him or a brother may be angered because he was not told about an important event. The 30 minutes before and after a stated communication is often far more important than the time spent within lodge, because brothers can freely talk. Most of the arguments I have seen arise in the lodge is because a brother didn't convey his thoughts and feelings or a brother did not listen to another's needs.
Those are my ten Old School technologies and methods for the New School. I know there are many more. Here are a few to come to mind that I didn't expand on; Past Masters, real candles, summonses, log books, tracing boards, lodge libraries, antique furniture, photographies, etc. The moral of the story is if it ain't broke, don't fix it. However, learn to recognize when something is broke. If you feel something in lodge is not part of the core of masonry and it isn't working, change it. But just because it's old doesn't mean that it isn't working. You should be that certain point within a circle. Look to one side and remember the lodges of old. Look to the other side and envision the lodges of tomorrow. But, always remember you stand in the present and that you must balance the old and the new.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Old School for the New School

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to introduce new technology and methods into the lodge to help with organization and productivity. I tend to beat this drum loudly, because I love masonry and do not wish to see it become obsolete. I will freely admit that there are many individuals out there that are progressive for the sake of being progressive. We all know that guy who has to have the newest gadget and the most shiney technology. I am not one of those individuals. I do not believe that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a good way to approach a problem. New does not always mean good.

Life is about balance. We, as masons, are taught that we are a point within a circle, which represents guarding our passions from extremism of all forms. To be completely new school means that you do not heed the lessons of the past and are doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. To be completely old school means that you are not open to the new ideas being developed by your contemporaries and that dynamic world we live in will push you to the side. I like to think that as masons we are the best mix of old and new school. We profess an admiration for ancient knowledge and revere the heroes of the past, while looking toward the future and presenting the modern world with the forward-thinking ideals of friendship, morality and brotherly love.

So, what's the point of this post? Because all ideals should be tempered with action, I will write about what old school methods still work in masonic lodges. What old school technologies and methods do we use that still produce positive results? I will now imitate my previous two posts and give a two part list of what I see in the lodge that has been around for awhile and still works.

  1. Ritual - Man has used ritual from time immemorial. Coming of age, holidays, religion, marriage, hunting prayers, rain dances, etc. are all examples of how mankind has used ritual since the dawn of civilization. Masonic ritual is a vast, rich and complex system that changes the mindset of the candidate and instills in him wise and serious truths. Knowledge and wisdom is bestowed in a way that can not be duplicated with a book or a computer. An iPhone or a plasma TV can not reproduce the experience of masonic ritual. It is purely a social situation and is the primary purpose of the lodge. A masonic lodge is there to make masons and masons are made through ritual. It sets us apart from the uninitiated, makes us better men and is totally old school.
  2. Dues Cards - I once heard a young brother in our lodge say, "Why do we need dues cards? Can't we just email the lodge we're going to visit?" That piece of paper is your traveling papers, gifted to you by King Solomon. It represents the lesson of the third degree, where through faith and trustworthiness you have earned your right to travel in foreign lands. It's true that a dues card can be faked, but so can an email, a letter and a phone call. But it's difficult to fake the look of pride a mason has on his face when he hands you his dues card and says "Yes, I'm a traveling man."
  3. Scholarship - The days of independent scholarship and reflection seem so far away for some. With the internet, satellite TV and cell phones, many people have forgotten how to think. Answers can be quickly gained by typing into a search engine, but are the answers you receive correct? Scholarship is about critical thinking, not about finding answers. True knowledge can never be given, it must be searched for and discovered. The halls of masonry are filled with countless texts, drawings and symbols to help the brethren in their search for knowledge. A lodge's most important physical asset is its documentation. Through years of painstaking transcription, masons can learn our history and therefore prepare for our future.
  4. Learning Mouth-to-Ear - A brother can sit at home, by himself and learn our ritual from a blue book. Although he is learning masonic ritual, is he practicing its tenets? Our brotherhood is about being brothers. Learning ritual through your brothers is the best way to learn. Freemasonry is still one of the few places in the world where people can find an oral tradition. Through our oral tradition, we not only learn ritual, we hear stories, learn about triumphs, experience downfalls and gain wisdom that could never be placed into a non-living receptacle like a book or a PDA.
  5. Pen and Paper - I almost never see masons taking notes during a stated communication. However, I do see many brothers forgetting meeting times, missing events and not being prepared for degrees, simply because they forgot. All brothers in the lodge should have a pad of paper and a pen at meetings. Trestleboards are not always correct and don't have all the information you need. Minutes from stated communications are difficult to get between meetings. The mind forgets most of what it hears. It sounds simple, but write down some notes, so that you'll remember it later. It's quick, easy and cheap and it will save on alot of headaches in the future.
Tune in next time for the continuation of this list of Old School for the New School.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.... But not the computer! - Part 2

In my previous post, I wrote about new technologies that would help a lodge with it's organization and workflows. The five technologies I wrote about were
  1. Email
  2. Wikis
  3. Web Calendars
  4. Video Editing Software
  5. Instant Messaging
In this post, I will continue with this subject, listing another five technologies that can be used. Although I specifically mentioned that these technologies would benefit the lodge secretary, they can really be used or implemented by anyone. Let's begin again :)
  1. Paypal - The younger generation barely uses checks anymore for personal finance. The internet and most businesses are based on using credit and bank cards. However, many lodges still only accept checks and in many cases take weeks or months to cash them. Some people believe that to do business by credit card, you would have to invest in a credit card machine and huge numbers of hours learning how to deal with cards. But, this isn't true. Since 2000, Paypal has been a cornerstone in internet credit card transactions. From individuals who wanted to auction something minor on Ebay to large businesses, many people and organizations have used paypal to move money from one place to another, with just an internet connection and a credit card. Why can't a Masonic lodge do this? Want to pay your dues? Go online and pay them with a Visa or Mastercard. The receipt for dues can then be emailed and the dues card will be waiting for the brothers at the next stated communication.
  2. Digital texts - Books! Most lodges are full of them. But they're old and delicate, so they're not allowed out of the lodge building. New masons have to either stay for hours at lodge reading this texts, buy their own or be relatively uneducated about the fraternity. Now, there is another answer. Digital texts that can be viewed in a wide-range of formats. Since much of freemasonry's texts were written prior to this century and all works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain, many Masonic texts have been converted to digital form and are freely available on the internet. Here are a few sites that offer Masonic texts for free: Sacred Texts, Project Gutenburg or Pietre-Stones. Many of these texts can be read on the computer or printed, but now many of them can be sent to your cell phone or PDA and read on the go.
  3. Websites - 1990 was 17 years ago. That makes the World Wide Web 17 years old. There are high school seniors and college freshmen who were born at the same time as the internet. Future masons around the world do not remember a time before the internet. Yet we still have lodges without websites. I don't think I need to make much of an argument for this one. Lodges need websites. Plain and simple. Many web technologies need a central access point, where brothers, friends, family, cowans, evesdroppers, prospective members, anti-masons can get information about that particular lodge.
  4. Digital Images and Scanners - As masons, we like our history. Each lodge has its own rich history, filled with lodge buildings, past masters, degrees, dinners, parades, visitations, etc. With each of these aspects of a lodges history comes handouts, photos and mementos. These are precious items that many brothers in the lodge should experience so that they may learn about their lodge history. But, often precious items are delicate and can't be freely given out. With digital images and a scanner, these documents can be recorded digitally and given out in mass quantities. Now all the brothers of a lodge can access those old minute books, past masters photos and degree handouts. Jewels and Banners can be recorded by camera and posted on the webpage. There are even free photo sites that will host all your photos, allow you to share them and allow prints to be ordered of them.
  5. Blogs - Last but not least! Blog is short for Web Log and if you haven't noticed, you're reading one right now. Blogs can have many purposes. Minutes can be posted on blogs. Officers can share their experiences with other brothers. Ideas can be posted and other people can comment on it. Go to Blogger and try making your own. Like most web technologies, it's free and easy!
There you go, ten great technologies! Most of these are simple and easy. Most of them are free and come in many verities. These ten techs are just the tip of the iceberg, the internet and electronics stores are filled with solutions to many problems facing your lodge. The key is to actively seek them out and have an open mind. Since I've spent so much time on the high tech solutions in the past two posts, I think my next post will focus on the low tech solutions that can help a masonic lodge. Paper and pens still have a place in the Masonic lodge and we'll talk about where that someplace is.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.... But not the computer!

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up and running. Things have been busy with work and life. Also, I've been living at my summer cottage, where there is no internet. I'll try in the future to be more prompt with my postings. Here we go.....

Many of my ideas for running a better lodge focuses on introducing new technologies and organizational methods to the lodge and its officers. Although all offices and positions in the lodge need updating, no officer is in greater need of a makeover than the secretary in most lodges. In many lodges, the secretary has been a fixture in the lodge for many years, if not decades. I have seen lodges whose secretary has been in this office for more years than the sitting master has been alive. This is a double-edged sword. These brothers bring a level of experience that is unparalleled within a lodge. However, for all that the typical secretary has in experience, they usually lack in dynamism.

Many lodge secretaries still use manual typewriters, abhor email and believe that the Trestleboard is the only means for mass communication. I have seen many new brothers scratch their heads in disbelief at the methods we use still for record keeping, communication and organization. I have stated in previous posts that I believe that we can adopt new methods and tactics without changing the core of masonry. This is one of those situations.

Some masons have turned to the internet to fulfill their need for brotherhood between stated communications. If you're reading this blog, then you're probably one of them. You crave knowledge and are using the tools of today to fulfill this craving. The search for knowledge and betterment is at the core of Freemasonry. Any means by which you search for these virtues are a good tool and the internet can be very useful.

So how can the internet help the lodge secretary? I'm going to name ten technologies the lodge secretary can use, however there are countless more that can be beneficial. This post will have the first five and the next five will be on the next post. Let's begin!

  1. Email - This is by far the most important innovation that the internet has brought, which can help the Masonic lodge. In the past, Lodges had phone trees to help propagate important information in a manner that didn't necessitate one person calling three dozen brothers. The phone tree would work like this, the WM would call the SW, JW, Tres and Sec. These four brothers would then call four more designated brothers. Then those brothers would call four more. However, if a brother down the line couldn't be reached or had some additional piece of information important to the purpose of the call, more time would be wasted going back up the tree so the WM would know. Now, if all the officers and regulars had email, then mass communication is easy. Write one email with multiple recipients and click send. Quick and easy. Email has changed the world, now it should change our lodges. Email has many uses and I could write several posts on email with ease.
  2. Wikis - Wikis are quick websites. In fact, wiki is the Hawaiian word for quick. These quick pages are great for collaboration. Many people can log in and make changes to it. Records of these changes are made so that a user can follow the "state" of the wiki and see what specific people changed. The added strength of wikis are that they are extremely ease to create. If you can type, you can make a wiki. The formating is either extremely easy to learn or has a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) interface. Wikis can be used by a lodge to collaborate on a project. The plans for the annual BBQ can be thrown onto a wiki. The list of parts for the next MM degree can be put on a wiki. The uses are endless. Here's a site that I use for my wikis, it's free and easy There are many other wiki sites and software packages.
  3. Web Calendars - This one is a no-brainer. Putting your calendar on the internet so many people can see it. Each officer in the lodge can have a calendar. The lodge can have a calendar. The fellowcraft club can have a calendar. The lodge website that my lodge has through our Grand Lodge has a calendar that syncs to the GL calendar, so that brothers from around the state can find degrees and events in one place. There are many software packages for online calendar, again most of them are free. Here are a few Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar or iCal.
  4. Video Editing Software - Recording an important event and sharing it with brothers who were not present can be extremely important. My lodge has several presentations on Masonic topics throughout the year, but some brothers can't make it to all stated communications. Why not record the presentations and give it to the brothers on DVD? Installations, Awards Nights and Ladies Nights can be recorded and shared with brothers, friends and family. Software like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker comes bundled with home computers
  5. Instant Messaging - Ever have a quick question for one of your officers? Then instant message them. Instant messaging and texting has become extremely important in todays world. It's not just for teenagers and internet romancers anymore. Many fortune 500 companies swear by it. IMing is a way to communicate with someone and not completely monopolize their time and energy. You can send a brother a question while at work and not have to worry that you are interrupting their workflow. A text message at dinnertime is far less obtrusive then a phone call. Not to mention that IMing and texting can be one-directional communication. You can send a message that does not require a response, just a note or a notification. Try doing that with the phone. Once again their are many free programs out there that are great from IMing on the net. Aim, ICQ, mIRC or Google Talk. Text messaging is primarily through your phone and has a cost associated with it, but plans are usually inexpensive.
Tune in for my next post where I will go over my next 5 technologies that can benefit the lodge and its secretary. Also be sure to leave some comments about any ideas that you have or experiences that you have felt helped or hurt your lodge.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Learning to speak, before we yell....

Masonry has begun to advertise. Go onto and you can find advertisements from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Some Grand Lodges have adopted billboards. The Grand Lodge of New York threw open their doors and had a front page article on the New York Times. My own Grand Lodge and many others have hired public relations officers to "boost our image." The MasoniChip Program has become the primary means by which we get our message out. Individual lodges are creating programs that allow their towns to see our brothers and our good deeds. We have flyers and brochures and websites. We have banners and signs and flags. We have parades and scholarship nights and thank you dinners. We have gone from the "Quiet Fraternity" to the "Screaming at the top of our lungs Fraternity."

Now, I don't believe that being open is a bad thing. I also don't believe that all the aforementioned methods are bad either. However, although we have so many means to spread the word, we have forgotten the most important method communication of them all. Our voice. Most of our brothers have no idea how to talk about the Craft. A simple question like, "What is Freemasonry?" or "What do you do in lodge?" can stump most brothers and ruin a first impression.

Personally, I'm proud to be a mason and I'm not afraid to talk about it. I don't go out there and bang the drum to get people to join, but I do talk about my lodge, my brothers and our brotherhood. If I believe a friend would make a good brother, I invite him to one of my lodge's events that are open to the public. I've never asked someone to join, but I've signed more than a dozen petitions since I joined in 2000. These friends of mine asked me to join because I talked about how much I enjoy myself in lodge and how important Freemasonry is to my life.

If you feel you know how to talk about Freemasonry, give some other brothers a hand talking about the Fraternity. Some brothers are new and are unsure about what to say. Some of our brothers come from a time when no one talked about Freemasonry. Assure them that talking about lodge is not only allowed, but recommended by our Grand Lodges now.

An old proverb states that "you need to learn to walk before you run." We need to learn to talk before we yell.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Don't buy this book!!!

Three months ago, my lodge placed a huge order at Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company. Most of this order was to replace aging ritual materials and to give our last ten Past Masters their PM aprons that we traditionally give. As my lodge resident bookworm, I was able to place a series of books on this list to help our lodge with leadership and organization. We pretty much bought every book on the subject that Macoy has and I've been slowly reading through them, gaining a fair amount of insight.

Then, I began to read Masonic Action Teams by Ronald J. Cottman. From page one, this book was boring and nonspecific. It approached Lodge leadership from typical management principles. It was very strange, every topic seemed extremely general, as if lodge was just a word. This book also completely lacked any of the proverbial masonic wordage and rhetoric. Page 3 of the book focused on how Lodge teamwork was a Biblical Theme, quoting several specific biblical pasages, none of which had a building or stoneworking theme. Again very strange.

Finally, I came to page 7 and the reason for the oddness became crystal clear. On this page, Cottman writes this line, "Further, the seven-day-a-week activity schedule advocated by Lyle Schaller in his book The Seven Day a Week Lodge^1 is becoming a reality." The book that Cottman references was completely foreign to me. I had never heard of it and I have read a far amount of books on Masonry. Luckly, Cottman referenced this sentence with a footnote, so I checked it out. Here is the footnote "Lyle E. Schaller: The Seven Day a Week Church: Addington Press, Nashville, 1992" Now, why was the book called "The Seven Day a Week Lodge" in the paragraph, but "The Seven Day a Week Church" in the footnote? I checked the web and in fact "The Seven Day a Week Lodge" doesn't exist, but "The Seven Day a Week Church" does.

That is when it dawned on me. I was reading a book on Church membership not Masonic membership! The author must have written a book on Church Membership and it couldn't sell, so he used a simple find and replace function in his word processor and replaced the word "church" with the word "lodge" and the word "paster" with the title "Worshipful Master." Find and replace usually doesn't work on footnotes, so it didn't get replaced. Now the book made complete sense.

He never talks of masons, he only spoke of "lodge members," which could have been "church members" previously. At one point, he mentions "lodge doctrine." I didn't know we had a real "doctrine." This sounded like the term "church doctrine" to me. Finally, I found the definitive proof that I had read before but didn't notice. On page 4, Cottman writes:

"In Corinthians 1:17 Paul states that Christ did not send him to baptize. He sent him to proclaim the gospel. In other words, Paul's job was that of a preacher. His statement here emphasizes that no single preacher or teacher is a complete link between God and people. Christian ministry should be a team effort that includes both Staff and Lay believers."

It looks like Cottman didn't use a find and replace on "christian" or "ministry." He also didn't bother to proof read his blatant mockery of scholarship. This was truly pathetic, it looks like he couldn't make money off of his religion, so he tried to make it off Masonry. Now here is the worst part, he says that he is a mason, when he thanks a Brother Bob De Santo for editing his "work" in his introduction. This was truly a scummy action, trying to pawn his non-selling book on church membership off on his "brothers" just to make some cash. Truly pathetic.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Brother Hodapp ain't no dummy

I read Brother Christopher Hodapp's introductory book to Freemasonry entitled Freemasons for Dummies about a year ago and was greatly impressed by his clarity and openness about our fraternity. I have frequently recommended this book to masons and non-masons alike, who are looking for a good starting point. In fact, several lodges I know of have been giving this book out to new Entered Apprentices as a general introduction to the craft. Although most of the material found in this book can be found on the internet or various other sources, Brother Hodapp compiles this material into one text, where brothers don't have to worry about their new EAs or FCs coming across a portion of the ritual or some anti-masonic rant. I have furthermore recommended this book to family members of applicants and new brothers, as a way for them to learn about the fraternity and to discover that we're not a closed off cult, boogie-men or devil-worshipers.

Recently, a brother left a link to the article Boring our Members to Death on the comments of a previous post and I had the pleasure of reading through this article. The focus of the article is that we're losing more and more members to boredom every year. The death rate of the WWII generation is beginning to slow and normalize, but the number of brothers we lose to demits and NPDs are on the rise. Therefore, it's no longer correct to blame our loss of members on the death of the members who joined during the huge rise in members between 1940 and 1965. In a nutshell, Brother Hodapp makes the argument that we're less attractive to our membership, because our meetings and events are boring. I couldn't agree more.

I wanted to expand on this topic a little bit. Today's society is filled with more and more forms of entertainment. In the past fifty years, we have seen the advent of television, video games, satellite radio, cell phones and the internet. These technologies have replaced the former community and locally based forms of entertainment that were necessary in the past. People don't expect to be entertained by fraternal and civic groups any longer. The Masonic Lodge used to be a primary means of entertainment, not just for our brothers, but for the whole family. Our brothers and their families used to go to the lodge to see plays, hear concerts, play cards and much more. But now the necessity of entertainment is fulfilled through other means. There are a wide verity of options for people wanting to enjoy their evenings or weekends.

We have also seen a change in the average family structure. Both men and women commonly work and this leads to time becoming the most precious commodity for a family unit. There are more and more single parent homes, where a mother or father fight to spend a few hours with their children after working a 8-12 hours at work, just to make ends meet. Finances commonly make it impossible for a family to be supported on a single income. Many of our brothers are students and have to spend long hours studying. Plus, many of these student brothers also work, which makes free time even more scare. When I was master of my lodge, I was taking six classes a semester, working 20 hours a week at my job and tutoring 10 hours a week to make ends meet. My time was precious and I didn't want to waste it.

All of this leads to two distinct assumptions that Freemasonry must make when thinking about our future; time is scarce and options are plentiful. When a brother works 50 hours a week and only has a limited amount of time with his family, what will he naturally choose to do with his limited spare time. Will he sit back and relax at the computer, spend some time watching a football game on TV or will he drive 30 minutes to sit in a stated communication where all that is done is the reading of minutes and bills, brothers argue over a few committee reports and an after-meeting snack of coffee and donuts are shared. Frankly, the last option sounds extremely boring to me.

Some brothers may brush off this type of criticism, saying that brothers who are bored "don't love the craft" or that they "need to set their priorities." I would say the exact opposite. I would say that brothers who allow Stated Communications to become boring and uneventful don't love the craft and need to set their priorities. Masonry isn't minutes, bills, committees, recognition, opening and closing. Masonry is special and our brothers deserve to find something special at our meetings. They should be excited about going to a meeting. They're minds should be challenged and they should be exhilarated by the feeling of brotherly love. The business of Masonry should always come second to the fraternity and philosophy of Masonry. Taking a line from A Laudable Pursuit, the tail cannot wag the dog. Business is a means to an end, not the end itself.

So, what can we do? From the Grand Master to the youngest Entered Apprentice sitting in the northeast corner, there is something for us all to do. Next time you see a stated communication where the Worshipful Master hasn't planned a program for the evening, volunteer to present something. If you don't know what to present, find something that interests you. It could be about Masonry. It could be a hobby of yours. It could be History. The key is to make it interesting. In my lodge we have had a defensive driving course, a memorization expert talk to us, a brother who reenacts civil war battles come in with his gear, presentations on Anti-masonry and the interest, coin collectors, etc. You could perform a play with some of your brothers as entertainment for the night. How about a roast of a past master. We've had Masonic Jeopardy in our lodge and Masonic Family Feud in our district. The possibilities are endless. The main point is that if you find your meetings to be boring, find a way to make it interesting. This will lead others to enjoy it and to then lead in a program. Excitement is infectious!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A call for papers...

I've started a list of papers, articles and websites in the right hand column of this blog. So far, I've only added a couple of papers that I have read there and plan to add many, many more. Several brothers across the world have been putting their ideas on paper and have written about how to better our fraternity. I do not necessarily agree with these papers 100%, but I do believe they make several good points and are aimed in the right direction.

One of the papers on this list, Laudable Pursuit: A 21st Century Response to Dwight Smith, can also be found on in spoken form. I think this kind of ingenuity is fantastic. By putting Masonic information in audio or visual format. It makes us appear more modern and allows the young adults of the information age to be introduced to Freemasonry. Furthermore, for our own brethren, it allows us to better multi-task. In fact, I'm listening to a Masonic podcast while I'm writing this. Here is a link to the youtube version of the paper and the first part of the article can be found below this post. So, go ahead! Click that link and listen to this article while you're sending out emails or updating your website. You could even plug your computer into your stereo and listen to it while you do dishes or laundry.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Renaissance.... Masonic Renaissance

From the American Heritage Dictionary:
- ADJECTIVE: Of or relating to Freemasons or Freemasonry.
- NOUN: A rebirth or revival.

We are in the midst of a Masonic Renaissance! I begin this blog with this simple metaphor, because it's the closest representation of the state of Masonic affairs that I can come up with at the moment. Public Masonic awareness is at a high that we have not seen in decades due to movies like National Treasure, books like the Da Vinci Code and the scores of documentaries on the History Channel. The tremendous decline in lodge membership numbers appear to be slowing within the United States and some grand jurisdictions are showing a positive growth. The average age of our new members is also lessening and the current generation is showing an interest in Freemasonry that was lost with the Baby Boomer and Vietnam Generations. Lodges are opening their doors to the public in new and interesting ways that allow our friends and families to see Masonry in a positive light.

The craft is no stranger to internal and external revolutions. In the early 18th century, Freemasonry came out of hiding and formed its first Grand Lodge. The structure of Freemasonry began to change and it became less of a "Secret Society" and more a "Society with some Secrets." This was due in part to an increase in religious tolerance and the ability for society to accept an order based on religious understanding. Freemasonry spread to Continental Europe and again changed to better fit within the culture it inhabited. The degrees that now constitute the Scottish Rite were first developed in France during this period, furthermore various forms of Templarism and the Rite of Strict Observance were developed in Germany. These are only a few of the various forms Freemasonry took during these early years in Europe. Each of these Masonic variants had a distinct feel that matched with its geographic location. Freemasonry likewise found its way to the New World. Here, colonial society had its affect on its lodges, culminating in the American Revolution. During the revolution, the colonial provincial grand lodges because independent of England and began a form of Masonry very unique compared to English or Continental Masonry. This period also gave birth to Prince Hall Masonry, which was shaped by the African American community it has served for more than two centuries. American Masonry was further shaped by the Anti-masonic fervor that overtook the country after the Morgan affair. During this movement, American Freemasonry became more open compared to European Masonry to answer the calls that Masonry was elitist, secretive and malevolent. In the later half of the 19th century, fraternal organizations were on the raise and men used these organizations as their primary social outlet. To answer this new call for social clubs, Freemasonry developed the Shrine as its social wing, where a less strict atmosphere allowed masons to do large amounts of charitable work. Following the Second World War, a flood of returning soldiers joined the craft seeking the brotherhood and camaraderie they had with their fellow countrymen during the war. In response to this nearly threefold membership increase, lodges changed their organization structure, broadened the number of leadership roles within the fraternity and introduced events geared towards the whole family.

This series of events and responses show that Masonry, as an organization, is dynamic, yet the principles, upon which Masonry is based, have remained the same. Freemasonry changes to fit the times, so that our principles and lessons can be learned by all men in all times and in all locations. Throughout each of these periods, Masonry was still making good men better and was still the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. It was always based on the principles of brotherly love, relief and truth, while being supported by Faith, Hope and Charity. The virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude were always found in the sacred halls of Masonic Lodge Buildings.

The core of Freemasonry has always remained the same, but several aspects of the fraternity has changed throughout the years. Freemasonry's organizational structure has been radically different from place to place and from time to time. The methods used by lodges to carry out their business has also changed depending on the technology of the time. The events held by a lodge vary depending upon the social demographic of its members. Even the landmarks of the fraternity change greatly from one jurisdiction to another.

Now I will discuss one of the key hurtles to this Masonic Renaissance, the resistance to change. The world around us is in a constant state of flux and the world is changing more rapidly today than it ever has. We are currently entering the information age, where messages are sent across the world in a blink of an eye, information is found more in computers than in text books and terrorism is fought in cyberspace. Yet most masonic lodges still depend on snail mail, paperwork, ineffectual committees and wasted time reading minutes. Many brothers confuse these organizational methods with our principles. They also confuse perpetuated mistakes for tradition. Just because this is the way it has been done for the last fifty years, does not mean it was always done this way nor should it always be done this way. In the past fifty years, we have had a fivefold decrease in membership and some brothers believe that we should continue with these same methods in the future. It is said that Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." Armed with this definition, I would say many of us are insane in the Masonic fraternity. If we want to continue being the world's oldest and largest fraternity with millions of members world-wide we need to accept that some of our outdated methods need to be thrown out and that we need new ideas.

The purpose of this blog is to describe these new ideas to help individual lodges grow their membership and to strengthen the lodge. I plan on starting topics that I have found important in my lodge and to have brothers from the world expand on these ideas. However, we all need to remember that every lodge is different and every geographic location is different. What may work superbly for one lodge, may not be a good solution for another lodge. There is no silver bullet answer to helping the state of Freemasonry. However, an open exchange of ideas will help all brothers come up with new plans of actions. Furthermore, this is not a forum to publish issues brothers have with their Grand Lodge or a place to talk about personal issues about the fraternity. The aim of this blog and comments left on this blog is to give individual lodges, their officers and members positive ideas, not to complain about other brothers or to attack the large scale organization structure of Freemasonry. The Renaissance in Europe flourished because individuals personally carried the banners of advancement and worked tirelessly to change the world. The Renaissance did not occur at the same time uniformly across Europe. It took decades to develop and began in small isolated areas. So think of your lodge as Florence, Milan or Rome and work hard at it being a shining beacon of our Masonic Renaissance.

Please drop me any ideas for future posts, articles you have read on lodge revitalization or events/programs you've instated that worked well with your lodge. Let's get those ideas flowing!

Let me end on these parting words from Steven Wright, "I was at this restaurant. The sign said "Breakfast Anytime." So I ordered French Toast in the Renaissance."