Sunday, January 23, 2011

Are you a traveling man?

One of the most important rights and privileges of a Master Mason is his freedom to travel. In ancient times, this privilege permitted Master Masons to work and travel in foreign lands, unlike other craftsmen. This special privilege was afforded to our craft, because their labor was required in different locations depending on which cathedral was being built at the time. As Operative Masonry gave way to Speculative Masonry, this ancient right was retained and a Master Mason was allowed to freely travel from one lodge to another, even though he is not a member of that specific lodge.

In the modern day, "traveling" is the primary method by which a Masons expands his Masonic horizons, gains increased knowledge of our craft and meets new brothers. By visiting another lodge, a Mason gets to see variations in the work and gains insight into the different ways Masonic Lodges handle their internal business. This valuable experience will make the man traveling a better Mason and in return will make his lodge better by virtue of his experience.

For the past four years, I have had the privilege to serve as a Grand Lodge Officer, first as District Grand Lecturer and then as Associate Grand Marshal. During this time, I visited dozens of lodges in my jurisdiction. Each lodge had its own particularities, which I found fascinating. Here are some of the differences that you will find between lodges:

  • Differences in the "Work" (floorwork, additional lectures, different officers doing different parts, etc.)
  • How budgets are executed (Voting on standard items once annually, Masters discretionary funds).
  • How minutes are circulated (posted, emailed, read out loud, etc.)
  • Different lodge dress (Tuxes, business suits, come-as-you-are, Tails, Colonial Dress, Variant Aprons, etc.)
  • Different Programs
  • How candidates and new brothers are mentored
  • Lodge bylaws
  • How fellowcraft clubs, board of managers, temple building associations, etc. are handled
  • Much, much, more
Many of the superior differences in operations that I experienced in other lodges, I brought back to my mother lodge and helped to implement. Many of the programs that I implemented during my two years as Worshipful Master were taken from the best practices of other lodges. The majority of the improvements implemented at the local lodge level are the product of imitation after a brother has traveled to other lodges. "Traveling" is one of the primary methods by which we "improve ourselves in Masonry." Without it, your lodge and Masonry will grow stale. Unfortunately, I have met many brothers who have not traveled. Their only Masonic experience is their own lodge and their small circle of brothers. There are many brothers who sit as Worshipful Master, who have never even visited another lodge. It is important to encourage your brothers, from the youngest Entered Apprentice to the oldest Past Master, to travel. Here are some methods to get out there and to be a true traveling man:
  • Attend Blue Lodge Council or District Wide Meetings and meet other brothers/officers in your area.
  • Ask your lodge secretary for copies of local trestleboards to find out when other lodges are holding events and degrees.
  • Many lodges have websites and Facebook pages, check these out for information.
  • Meet brothers from your area at Appendent Body Meetings, such as the Shrine, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, etc.
  • If you're in the "line" of your lodge, personally contact brothers in other lodges that fill the same position and set up a time to meet them. These brothers will be your peers when you are in the East and are an invaluable resource.
  • Attend the meetings of your Grand Lodge, especially the night before. Grand Lodge events are filled with meet-and-greets and hospitality rooms, which are fantastic opportunities to meet other brothers.

Finally, "Traveling" is just plain fun! Brothers love to meet someone new and welcome them as a guest. So, get out there, travel some and have some fun. You'll be surprised at the adventures you will have and the friends that you will make!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Masonic Resource: The Website of the Masonic Renewal Committee of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America

Keeping with the theme started in the post Masonic Education Program Basics, I will showcase another great resource for Masters and Officers to use in their respective lodges, the Website of the Masonic Renewal Committee of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America.

According to their website, the purpose of the Masonic Renewal Committee (MRC) is:

"to provide continuity for Masonic Renewal efforts by Grand Lodges of North America and bring about the renewal of Freemasonry as an active, viable and relevant institution for the 21st Century."

In accordance with this charge, the MRC developed this website to help share information between the Grand Lodges of Canada, the United States and Mexico. This website is a virtual treasure trove of information relative to Masonic Renewal and acts a clearinghouse for documents from the member Grand Lodges of the CoGMoNA. The raw documents (policies, procedures, guides, slideshows, etc.) from the member Grand Lodges are available in their original form for visitors to download and use as they see fit.

The website is divided into the following sections:

  • Lodge Programs
  • Membership
  • Mentoring
  • Leadership
  • Community
  • Retention
  • Promotional
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Secretarial
  • Renewal

Each section contains dozens of documents, from a multitude of Grand Jurisdictions, relative to the topic. In addition, the website hosts documents written by the MRC with the collaboration of many Grand Jurisdictions. Of particular interest to incoming Worshipful Masters is the section dedicated to Lodge Programs. This section contains documents focusing on developing interesting programs to use during a stated communication. Here are a few of the more interesting examples that I found:

This is just a short sampling of the great documents that this website holds. Check it out, explore it and use this invaluable resource for the benefit of your lodge!

A special thanks to the Grand Junior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, Simon LaPlace, for recommending this website to be reviewed on Masonic Renaissance. RWB Simon is a shining example of a forward-thinking Grand Lodge officer, who strives to keep Masonry relevant through the use of new technology. Thank you Simon for your efforts and your continued support!

Friday, January 7, 2011

As the Grand Master rises in the Grand East, so rises his Son in the East

Tonight, Most Worshipful Brother Charles A. Buck, Jr, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, presided as Installing Master at Ansantawae Lodge No 89 in Milford, Ct.

MW Brother Buck had the privilege to install Worshipful Brother Christopher J. Buck as Worshipful Master of Ansantawae Lodge. In addition to being brothers of the same Mother Lodge, the Brothers Buck are also father and son. It is a rare occasion and perhaps a singular circumstance to have a sitting Grand Master install his son to the oriental chair.

In addition, Worshipful Brother Charles A. Buck, Sr., Chris' Grandfather and Charlie's father served as Worshipful Master of Ansantawae Lodge in 1968. The cuff-links and Tux studs worn by Worshipful Master Chris this evening were also worn by his Grandfather in 1968 and his father in 1985 when he was installed as WM of Ansantawae Lodge and in 2010 when he was installed as Most Worshipful Grand Master.

After the installation, the guests were treated to a fantastic dinner and to this wonderful cake made by the wife of Ansantawae's Senior Deacon, John Hanson.

Congratulations to Worshipful Master Chris and to his suite of officers for 2011!

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Location:Milford Masonic Temple

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Masonic Resource: The Short Talk Bulletin

Continuing with the theme of resources for Masonic Education Programs started in the previous posting entitled "Masonic Education Programs Basics", this post presents another resource for Worshipful Masters and other masons to develop ideas and content for education programs.

Since 1923, the Masonic Service Association of North America has been producing a monthly "Short Talk Bulletin" available to Masonic Lodges and brothers. These Short Talk Bulletins are designed specifically to be a resource for programs given during a Stated Communication and typically contain 10-15 minutes worth of content.

The categories for the over eighty years of content are:

  • Leadership
  • Entered Apprentice
  • Fellowcraft
  • Master Mason
  • About Individuals
  • Body of the Craft
  • Bypaths
  • Civic and Patriotic
  • Historical
  • Inspiration and Charity
  • In the Lodge
  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Religion and Ethics
  • Symbols and Symbolism
  • The War and After

During my two years as Worshipful Master, I relied heavily on these Short Talk Bulletins for education programs. They make great stepping off points for additional research or can simply be just read in lodge.

A yearly subscription costs $6.00 and is an absolute steal. Back issues of the bulletins can be purchased from the MSA for 50 cents per issue. Alternatively, you or your lodge can buy the entire set of past bulletins, all the way to 1923, for $417.60 plus shipping and handling.

If your Grand Lodge is a member jurisdiction of the MSA, then your lodge should already be receiving these Short Talk Bulletins, since each constituent lodge of member jurisdictions automatically receive them. If you haven't seen one before, ask your lodge secretary if he is receiving them. Many lodge secretaries receive the bulletins and just file them away. They do no good in a filing cabinet. They should be in the hands of the Worshipful Master, so he can use them for lodge programs.

In addition to the Short Talk Bulletin, the MSA also produces national Masonic statistics, CDs, videos and a few other items. Their full catalog can be found here.

Masonic Resource: Paul Bessel's Website

As a follow-up to my previous post Masonic Education Programs Basics, I will be writing a series of articles focusing on various Masonic Resources on the web. These resources should help brothers to get ideas for Masonic Education Programs and to serve as resources for these programs.

One of the best Masonic Resources on the internet is the website created and maintained by Brother Paul Bessel. Brother Bessel is a Past Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Washington DC and holds a multitude of honors (all of which can be found here). He is an author of a wide variety of Masonic books, articles, talks and papers. His knowledge of the craft is impressive, but his willingness to spread this knowledge to others and to take the time to make this knowledge available on the internet is truly extraordinary.

Since 1998, he has faithful compiled a site that pulls together his original Masonic research, statistics from the Masonic Service Association, information from Grand Lodges around the globe and much, much more. All of this information can be an invaluable resource for Worshipful Masters and other brothers who need to develop a program for a stated communication. Here are just a few papers and articles listed on his site that would make great presentations to a lodge for Masonic Education:

Overall, this is a great site with lots of information. As a warning, the navigation of the page can be a bit tricky at times and it still has the look and feel of a website from 1998 (No special CSS, social features or anything Web 2.0-like). A brother can literally spend hours or days looking through the site, finding out something new with each click of the mouse. Spend some time there, learn something new and bring it back to your lodge!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tis the season for installations

Today marks the beginning of the Masonic Officer Installation Season for me. Today I'll be attending Temple Lodge No. 16's Installation in Cheshire, Connecticut. Here is the schedule of Installations for this week:

Temple Lodge No. 16 - Sunday, Jan 2nd at 2:00 PM

Ashlar Lodge No. 332 - Monday, Jan 3rd at 6:00 PM

Adelphi Momauguin Lodge No. 63 - Tuesday, Jan 4th at 7:30 PM

Ansantawae Lodge No. 89 - Friday, Jan 7th at 6:00 PM

Annawon Lodge No. 115 - Sunday, Jan 9th at 3:00 PM

These are the installations on my calendar as of right now, which is subject to change. There may be a few more added by tonight.

I recommend to all Masons to go out and visit the installations of officers for the lodges in your area. You'll get to meet the new Worshipful Masters and their officers, and hear about the plans set for the coming year. In addition the excitement of a lodge is at its peak during an installation and excitement is contagious!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Masonic Education Programs Basics

In 2005 and 2006, when I was Worshipful Master of Adelphi Momauguin Lodge No 63, I added several education programs to our standard schedule of Stated Communications. If we were not doing a degree, then we were doing some sort of Masonic Education program.

Having the element of Masonic Education is essential to the lifeblood of a Masonic lodge. If all a Worshipful Master does during a meeting is read minutes and pay bills, why would our brethren want to keep coming to meeting after boring meeting? Masons join masonry to receive "light" and a Worshipful Master's job is to give "light". This is not limited to degreework.

Most lodges in Connecticut meet twice a month throughout the year with the exception of the summer. Removing degrees, the annual meeting and the awards night, it typically means that a Worshipful Master has between 10 and 12 nights that he must plan a program for. This can feel like a daunting task for some brothers.

In an attempt to help brothers who are apprehensive about putting together Masonic Education Programs, I have compiled the following list of tips to help:

  • The content of a program does not have to be original. Referencing someone else's work or reading someone else's content is completely acceptable. For example, reading Rudyard Kipling's The Mother Lodge and leading a discussion about it would be a fine program with no original content.
  • The content of a program does not have to be new. Although you may have heard the topic before, it doesn't mean your lodge has. Even if a brother has heard the topic before, you might have new information or a different viewpoint about it, which will be enjoyable for that brother to hear.
  • You can use the internet. Finding "good" Masonic Education is not constrained to dusty old books. The internet is literally filled with thousands of Masonic papers and topics. When in doubt, go to and type in "Masonic Education", "Masonic Programs" or "Masonic Papers". You'll find tons of resources at your disposal.
  • The Worshipful Master sets the schedule, but he can delegate the program to another brother. If your Senior Deacon is reading a book on King Solomon's Temple, ask him to lead a short lodge program on the description of King Solomon's Temple in the bible. Most officers and brothers would love to have the opportunity to lead a program in lodge. Delegation is a vastly under-appreciated leadership strategy in Masonic lodges, when it is by far one of the most important strategies there are in organizational leadership.
  • It doesn't have to be long. Many people believe that a program must be 30 minutes long or some other amount of time. A concise and interesting topic is much better than a long and boring topic. Some of the best Masonic Education Programs I've seen were less than five minutes long.

Overall Masonic Education Programs don't have to be difficult to put together. They can be recycled, borrowed, short and done by someone else. Don't get overwhelmed by trying to put together the "perfect" program. Any program is better than just reading minutes and paying bills.

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