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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tristan Bourlard's Film, 'Terra Masonica'

I've been remiss about writing about something very important for some time. Back in mid-May, my friend and brother Al McClelland from up in Fort Wayne passed along a DVD that is an incredible feat of documentary filmmaking: Belgian Freemason Tristan Bourlard's Terra Masonica. If you haven't seen it, waste no time and get it. Brother Bourlard is an award-winning director, photographer, author, and creator of scientific and historical documentaries, including the 2007 film, The Scottish Key.

I've considered myself extraordinarily blessed to have been able to visit numerous lodges across the United States, as well as in a handful of foreign countries. I've had Masonic experiences over the last almost 19 years that I've written about and shared, plus numerous others I cannot and will not write or speak of. But the Masonic world is filled with brethren who have traveled much, much farther and wider than I have, and I can't hold a candle to their accomplishments. In the 19th century, Rob Morris famously spent years raising money to fund his Masonic trip to the Holy Land to explore the Biblical origins of fraternity. Then, he spent more than two years writing a book about what he found, and the rest of his life speaking at lodges across the U.S., recounting his adventures. In the modern Masonic world, Pennsylvania's Tom Jackson may be the most well traveled Mason on Earth in his 16 years as the Executive Secretary for the World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges, hitting all 50 states and Canadian provinces, and an untold number of foreign countries. And I know Oscar Alleyne is doing his best to try to catch up with him eventually. It's very telling that both of these worldly brethren acted as advisors on Terra Masonica, as did Mark Tabbert and many others from around the world.

However, Brother Bourlard has achieved what only a very tiny portion of Masons have ever done themselves. Across two years, he traveled the globe and visited some 80 lodges in at least 14 different jurisdictions with his camera and drone. The result is a beautifully shot, two hour documentary of his epic journey. He visited lodges as far to the north as the tip of Hammerfest, Norway, one of the northernmost towns in the world in the region of Finnmark (St. Joanneslogen Ultima Thule 146), and as far to the south as Cape Horn on Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina (1st Vigilant Fin del Mundo Lodge 496). He met Masons on almost every continent (almost) and toured lodges of every size, from the most magnificent like the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's Philadelphia Masonic Temple, to the most humble surroundings of Mali and India. You will see the Mother Lodge Kilwinning "Number Nuthin'" in Scotland where our Masonic traditions first took the semblance of its modern form; the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Columbus, Georgia where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in 1959 because the area churches were too afraid to host him; lodges in Israel where the seal of their grand lodge contains the square and compass, the Christian cross, the Crescent of Islam, and the Star of David intertwined; a lodge along the Niger River where they keep their location discretely hidden, where it flourishes nevertheless with both Muslim and Catholic members; several lodges throughout India where a Mason can find five books of Sacred Law on their altars; the underground vaults beneath Solomon's Temple deep within the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where Freemasons have met countless times; and much, much more in between.

Bourlard's ambitious goal is to show both the universal spirit and material culture of Freemasonry from all over the world, so as it unspools, overlook whatever gaffes you might detect—or think you detect—in order to soak in the wider message and experience. Members who know only the "regular, recognized" world of Masonry may occasionally chafe over references to women in some French, South American, or Indian lodges, for instance. Or his misunderstanding of Prince Hall related Shriners in New York. And some grand masters may choke over spotlighting the Widows Sons in Georgia (never mind that they raise a million dollars each year for Shriners Hospital in Atlanta). Please get past that which you may find foreign or what you may personally object to and take in what exactly he has accomplished with this outstanding program. Terra Masonica demonstrates the worldwide reach and success of Freemasonry as a philosophy for bringing men of all faiths and walks of life together, and truly making the world a better place by building temples in the hearts of men. If you ever doubted it, or just didn't realize exactly to what extent it is true, these two hours will open your eyes. 

The shame of it is that this film is what the series that was done in England for SkyTV in cooperation with the UGLE should have been for the 300th anniversary of Freemasonry this year. It's that good. This program is well worth acquiring and showing as the Masonic education for your very next lodge meeting, wherever you may be. With luck, it will set off a spark of Masonic wanderlust in you and encourage you to travel far and wide, outside of your lodge, jurisdiction, state, country, and continent. Take advantage of that ability to go almost anywhere on Earth, where you will always find a society of friends and Brothers who can best work and best agree.

Terra Masonica is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), and Dutch. It can be had on DVD or as an On-Demand video download (iTunes).

In the U.S., it is available through the Masonry At The Speed Of Light website for $28.50 + $7.95 domestic shipping. 

For the rest of the world, check out the Terra Masonica website under DVD+VOD heading HERE.

Here's hoping it eventually gets picked up for wider release by a TV network or two around the world, as it is a huge cut above most of the shows done for History, Discovery, AHC, and others.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

When Supporting Columns Break

Illus. Brother Walter P. Worland passed to the Celestial Lodge on Thursday. He was 94 and passed away in his own bed at home. Walter spent 14 years as the editor of the Indiana Freemason magazine, after Dwight Smith stopped and before Bill Bissey started.

I spent time with Walter back in February at his impeccably kept house in Greenfield. Since he had to stop driving a while back, his garage had been converted into something of a private den and a personal museum of his past achievements. In his life, he was in the U.S. Army Air Force (and I'll swear the Navy at one point, as well), got married, served his community as a city councilman for many years, ran for mayor of his small town, eventually published a local newspaper—the Greenfield Daily Reporter—served on numerous town boards including the hospital board and led fundraising and planning commissions, and became a political party leader. 

As a Mason, he edited our magazine when it was monthly for all those years, was a Past Master of his lodge, headed his Templar Commandery, served as the state’s Grand Commander, was coroneted a 33° Scottish Rite Sovereign Grand Inspector General, and was on the Masonic Home Board committees. His gold-plated Commander's sword is still proudly hanging over his mantlepiece.

Oh, and it took him until 2014 to get around to graduating high school, because he had been too busy actually accomplishing things, since he joined the military before he finished school.

All Masonry is local, and all Masons once were local, too.

We once either attracted men who were the pillars of the communities, or we taught the ones who would become those leaders. Masons didn’t need to beg those guys to join, they were attracted to us because of our reputation—a reputation we’ve been living off of for over half a century now, that we don’t earn or even deserve any more. Where are our Masonic mayors and councilmen and school principals, and sheriffs and judges and business leaders, and congressmen and senators and presidents today? Much less, our philosophers who debated the issues of the Enlightenment that we were once living out within the walls of our lodge meetings? Not many of them can be found in our lodges now. The truth is that when we circulate lists of famous Freemasons, we’re lying. Those lists are like some phantom limb that our brain remembers from before it got blown off in our more recent past. We once demanded the very best in our membership, but we also created the best, too. The guys like Walter Worland didn’t start off his life out of the USAAF as a high school dropout being a great man. But he became one over time, in his family, his town, his state, his fraternity.

A Masonic service has been scheduled for 2:45PM on Tuesday, August 15 at Stillinger Family Funeral Home, Pasco Chapel, 1780 W Main Street, Greenfield. His public visitation lasts from 3 to 8PM. His funeral service will be held at 10AM Wednesday at the funeral home with calling one hour before the service. Burial is immediately following at Park Cemetery with Military rites provided by the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard.

Whenever a column like this one is broken, we brethren need to mourn very deeply indeed. His was a load-bearing one, not merely decorative. Then we need to get to work making damn sure we step up to stand in their place, in our fraternity and more important, in the world we are briefly inhabiting.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Knights of Columbus Finally Giving Up Their Chapeaux

Not to niggle an old tooth or anything, but fellow Knights Templar take note: our friends in the Knights of Columbus have made the decision at long last to make a major change to their Fourth Degree 'Patriotic Degree' dress uniforms (photo above). The KofC got sold essentially the same uniform that we did over a century ago based on Civil War-era military patterns with the incongruous naval-influenced 'fore-and-aft' chapeaux, complete with ostrich plume (known derisively in some circles as the "chicken hats"), along with similar ceremonial swords, just perfect for marching in drill team formations. In many cases, with the exception of different colored plumes and the addition of a cape, the KofC uniform looks from a distance virtually identical to the primary 'Class A' uniform worn in the majority of U.S. Knights Templar Commanderies.

Knights of Columbus

Knights Templar

Well, it seems the KofC has finally decided it's time to move on from the feathery past, give up their chapeaux, and adopt an all new look. And it sounds like the internal bickering is already raging, with a VERY familiar ring to it. Sounds remarkably like Masons...

From the Catholic Sun on 8/2/17:
The Knights of Columbus, long associated with swords, capes and chapeaus, will be going through a significant uniform change.
The traditional regalia worn by the Knights’ Fourth Degree members will be replaced, announced Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson during the Knights of Columbus 135th Supreme Convention being held in St. Louis Aug. 1. The address was available via livestream on EWTN.

In place of a tuxedo with a black bow tie, members will be wearing a blue blazer, an official Knights of Columbus tie and a beret, all with the Fourth Degree emblem on them, along with a white shirt and dark gray slacks. There was no mention as to whether the swords would remain a part of the uniform.
“The Board of Directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the Fourth Degree Uniform,” Anderson said. “On a limited basis, Assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for Color Corps at public events and Honor Guards in Liturgical Processions. However the preferred dress for the Fourth Degree, including Color Corps and Honor Guards, is the new Uniform of jacket and beret.”
Throughout the years, the regalia of the Fourth Degree, known as the patriotic degree, has gone through changes, Anderson said. When the Fourth Degree was first established, the uniform included white ties, top hats and tails.
Robert Earl, a member of Father Novatus Assembly 23, which serves Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Daniel the Prophet parishes in Scottsdale, welcomes the new changes.
“I feel it is significant that the Order changes to respond to changing times. The new uniform evokes an image of elite military corpsmen in my mind, and I believe this is the intent behind the change,” Earl said.
“Our former regalia was reminiscent of Navy officers and consistent with the nautical theme in the Patriotic degree, but it perhaps did not have currency in the minds of the general public,” he added, noting that in addition to the tuxedo, the other items collectively could cost approximately $500. “I think the new uniform creates a positive and striking image of ‘soldiers for Christ,’ which is, after all, what we are meant to be.”
Many members are not as thrilled about the pending changes which has generated some controversy among the membership. Joseph Meyer from Msgr. Bernard G. Collins Assembly 2899, which serves St. Bridget and Christ the King parishes in Mesa, said the new uniforms lose a sense of the pageantry associated with the Fourth Degree.
“I have been a Fourth Degree knight since 1978 and we have always had this regalia,” said Meyer, who was a color corps commander in Toledo, Ohio for 13 years before moving to Arizona. “We all looked great in the Fourth Degree outfits. These [new] outfits look bad.”
Meyer also expressed concern for members who own the current uniform and have to spend money on the new one.
“If we get a new uniform like this you will see a lot of knights leave the degree. A lot of your knights are retired and don’t have over $500 to spend,” he said.
Paul Lee, a member of the Iowa delegation who spoke to The Catholic Sun from St. Louis, said the reaction on the ground was “mixed.”

“The largest concern is people don’t feel that they have answers for the question of why the need for the change. They want something beyond a more modern look,” said Lee.

Lee said many members he’s interacted with are excited about the changes because it brings the uniform “more in line with other military service organizations because it connects us as patriotic organizations.” There are also members who “don’t like change, so they’re already up in arms.
In the 1870s and 80s, the old military uniform companies realized they were all out of a lucrative gig once the armies were largely sent home, and sent their salesmen forth into the hills, hinterlands, and cities to dig up new business. Either through deliberate coaxing or by happy accident, the war veterans and their sons were hankering for a whole new fad in fraternalism: the marching drill team. The Grand Army of the Republic didn't need any coaxing to jump back into uniform, and the Masons had the Knights Templar—we just needed some tinkering with our former outfits (then white suits and black, triangular memento mori aprons) to add swords and make it more military-esque; the Odd Fellows invented their Partiarchs Militant; both the Knights of Pythias and the Knights of the Macabees each developed their Uniformed Rank. And the Prince Hall Affiliated Knights Templar teams followed the same practice.
Knights of Macabees Uniformed Rank

Odd Fellows Patriarchs Militant

Knights of Pythias Uniformed Rank

Prince Hall Affiliated Knights Templar

The Red Men had a problem going all martial, since their highest degree, the Chieftan, literally culminated with "burying the hatchet," making it tough to rationalize the whole "carrying swords" business in a parade... but rationalize they did, and created their Chieftan's League drill teams. (Somebody send me a good photo - I can't track one down.)

The Forester's Team of the Modern Woodmen of America

The Modern Woodmen of America decided to ditch the moldy, old army uniforms, navy hats and swords, dressed their teams instead as forestry workers, and drilled in formation with long-handled axes. And so on...

Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Team

The Catholic Knights of Columbus were late climbing on board the 'marching in fraternal formation' train, and didn't get around to developing their Fourth Degree with its patriotic theme and matching drill teams until around 1898 or so. But that didn't stop them from buying out of the very same supply houses and ostrich plume farms. Now that they are abandoning their longtime uniform, I think that might leave only our Masonic-derived Knights Templar Commanderies who still wear the Class A style, and not all of them do.

Raper Commandery No. 1, Knights Templar, Indianapolis

My home team, Raper Commandery No. 1 in Indianapolis, has retained the right as the sole KT group in the state of Indiana permitted to wear the older style long-coat, instead of the shorter one the rest of U.S. Templars now favor (as well as others that use the optional 'cap and mantle' uniform). Our guys have earned it—Raper No. 1 is the most decorated drill team of Knights Templar in the U.S. (an achievement I have had zero to do with accomplishing in any way), and we predate the founding of the Grand Commandery of Indiana, being chartered by the General Grand Encampment, K. T., U. S. A. on October 16, 1850.

But for effect, we also occasionally go totally old school...

Levant Preceptory of Raper Commandery 1

Friday, August 04, 2017

George Washington's Master Mason Degree 264 Years Ago

“To enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthy of the benevolent design of a Masonic institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications, that discover the principles which actuate them, may tend to convince mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.”- George Washington, letter to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, January 1793
My own brother Tom told me that Fox News Channel's Shepard Smith wrapped up his afternoon news hour broadcast by observing that today is the anniversary of George Washington becoming a Master Mason in Virginia's Fredericksburg Lodge 4. It is indeed: it was 264 years ago, on August 4th, 1753. Washington was initiated as an Entered Apprentice on November 4, 1752, and passed to the degree of Fellow Craft on March 3, 1753.

The lodge at Fredericksburg was first established in the early autumn before in 1752 and was made up of mostly Scottish immigrants and merchants. It was self-created at the time—the lodge’s first secretary, Daniel Campbell, would finally get around to getting a charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland in July 1758. At its birth, the lodge met in a variety of places, but mostly the tavern's upstairs private meeting room. After the formation of the Grand Lodge Virginia, the lodge was re-chartered as Fredericksburg Lodge 4 on January 30, 1787. More than 200 years ago, they built the historic building in which they currently meet to this day.

For George's entire Masonic record and list of his other noteworthy activities related to the fraternity, Mark Tabbert has made an exhaustive list on the website of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.

Thanks for the reminder, Shep.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

A Belated R.I.P.: Brother Richard A. Vickery

This is a far too belated post, and one that I really didn't write with any enthusiasm, but I had been searching off and on for weeks through old files to find an old photo I had lost. My friend and Brother Richard A. Vickery from San Antonio, Texas passed away unexpectedly back on April 14th. I found out a few days afterwards, but I just received an updated message about his grave last week, reminding me to go dig deeper and look for that photo again.

For many years he wrote the "From Darkness To Light" Masonic blog, back when the world was young and dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Despite that some of his family and friends knew him better as 'Alex' (for his middle name), he always signed his messages to me as 'Vick,' and that was how I knew him. Brother Vick invited me to come and speak down at Perfect Union Lodge 10 in San Antonio way back in 2009, and he became a good, if long distance friend. (He's the tall drink of water in the photo on the left, next to me and WBro. Brett Doyle, who was the Master that year.) 

On that trip, he took me to see the Alamo and the Scottish Rite center downtown, and we shared drinks in the bar of the incredibly historic Menger Hotel, the same Victorian bar where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his first volunteers for the 'Rough Riders.' I even bought a special new pipe to commemorate the occasion. He and Brett saw to it that no expenses were too lavish, and they put me up at the Menger. With former guests like Presidents Grant, Taft, Wilson, McKinley, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and even Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, I didn't feel like I even had the right to put my head on one of their pillows. San Antonio was partying that weekend, and there was a huge street fair going on the whole time. It was a great experience, and I cherish the wonderful memories of that trip to this day.

In 2002, Vick joined The U.S. Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant and wound up serving two tours on the ground in the thick of things in Afghanistan. He was part of the Air Force Research Laboratory, and became fluent in translating Pashto. Far from being confined to just a lab, he wound up serving as a special intelligence advisor to the deputy chief of staff in Afghanistan, and he'd been specifically requested for the position by General Stanley McChrystal. Over the years, he provided briefs for the Secretary of Defense Gates, Secretary of State Clinton, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, and untold others. After his work at handling Congressional complaints from the battlefield, the Inspector General called him the "most effective Lt I've supervised in my 22 years." 

He seemed to do just about everything, from his work on developing new directed energy weapons systems, right down to sitting in Afghan and Taliban war lord tents and houses, bearded and dressed like a local, glad handing with slippery negotiators, and analyzing their every word and gesture to figure out the truth from their hyperbole. Throughout the course of his service, he received numerous awards and commendations, including the Bronze Star of Valor, and was eventually promoted to the rank of Major.

Click to enlarge.

While in Afghanistan, he was receiving the early issues of the new Journal of the Masonic Society as I was still trying to figure out how to pull that off four times a year, and he sent me the greatest photo (up top) that is the image of him I'll never forget. That's the one I wanted to find again.

I always worried that he and that tall, bald head would make an easy target for some Taliban sharpshooter, and constantly reminded him to keep it down, but he was a certified marksman himself. He was definitely not some laboratory desk jockey. A typically casual message from him would periodically come from him, like this bit of gallows humor-laced reporting while he was in Kandahar:
Afghan Border Patrol (ABP) discovered a stolen Afghan National Police (ANP) Ford Ranger. Not wanting to approach it in fear that it was booby trapped, the ABP decided to fire an RPG at the truck. In awe, the Coalition Forces mentors attempted to persuade the ABP in an alternate Course of Action.

ABP fired the RPG missing the truck and striking a tree just adjacent to the truck. The detonation caused a concealed, would be suicide bomber to fall out of the tree and onto the truck. The suicide bomber then accidentally detonated and caused secondary explosions from the rigged VBIED truck.
No CIVCAS, all forces 100% M/W/E.
He finally got to come home and stay home, but the last few years were rough on Vick. After all he'd been through, in 2015 he and his wife divorced, and his mother passed away. But he still had his rescue pups, Arnold and Annie. He was suffering from seizures and other afflictions from his battlefield days and standing too close to pesky annoyances like exploding IEDs and falling suicide bombers. Yet in spite of surviving all of that, he wound up taking a bad fall at home that caused major skull damage. After spending several days in ICU, he was eventually released, and returned home. But in a tragic and senseless end that no one could have foreseen, his new fiancé Melissa came to the house on April 14th and found him dead. They had just become engaged this year.

Major Richard Alexander Vickery, III was buried with military honors in Sam Houston National Cemetery on May 1st of this year. Lumps of silent stones in grassy fields don't tell the stories of the lives they represent. But maybe what they really do is remind us that it's our job to keep telling them instead—we have to do that for them. So I apologize, Brother Vick, for telling yours later than I should have. You traveled far and wide in those 40 short years, and you and Melissa got robbed of a life you both deserved to enjoy. You did indeed earn that happiness, and I wish it had been fulfilled. Thanks, my friend and brother, for letting me share in your circle of friendship and touching my life. You are not forgotten.

Richard Vickery and Melissa Alderman, 2017
Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Help Needed: Brother Still Desperately Hunting Kidney Donor

I posted this message about a young Brother in Washington D.C. back in June, but I wanted to put it up again, as he hasn't had many responses from it, I'm afraid. I very rarely ask for favors like this from brethren and other visitors to this site, but this is important, and I encourage everyone to circulate this appeal. Brother Christopher Stevenson became a Freemason at the age of 20 in Washington D.C. at George Washington University. He is a member of The Colonial Lodge #1821. But he is now in need, and this is NOT something that can be handled by writing a check or passing the hat. 

Christopher is now 26 and is an end-stage renal failure patient in need of a transplant. He is currently in dialysis, and is desperately seeking a potential kidney donor.

From a message sent out by his D.C. area brethren:
Along with his passion for politics, Chris spends most of his time active in volunteer work and working on social issues that impact his community. He is set to start graduate school this August back at the George Washington University to obtain his Masters of Public Administration and his Juris Doctorate.
Although Chris is an ambitious and active young man, he’s unfortunately plagued with kidney disease. Due to this, Chris is often unable to reach his full potential and has to commit himself to the painful and burdensome treatment of dialysis three days a week. As Freemasons, we have the chance to extend the hand of brotherly love and relief in this case.
Chris currently needs healthy candidates to get evaluated for a kidney transplant. Although many of you may believe this is a dangerous procedure, it isn’t. Millions of these surgeries are done every year and living with just one kidney instead of two doesn’t change a person’s quality of life as a single kidney compensates for the absence of the second. Brothers, if any of you are interested in helping Chris or in getting tested to see if you are a potential match please email him directly AT THIS LINK.
Additionally, I have Brother Christopher's cell phone number available if you wish to call him and/or text message him. Please email me at hodapp@aol.com and I will forward it to you privately.

So far, three people have stepped forward to be tested, and he is quite optimistic and hopeful for a positive outcome. But as wonderful as that is, considering the low rate of successfully matching a donor specifically to him, that's not a wide pool of potentials for Christopher to count on. You don't have to live in the Washington D.C. area—you can be anywhere in the country, and this can still be done if you are willing to take this step.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for kidney transplants at the present time, and more living donors are desperately needed. At least 10 people die every day waiting for a new kidney to come available. And everyone who finds a living donor to help them frees up a kidney from a deceased donor for another suffering patient. It shortens the wait time for both patients.

While transplants involving relatives have proven to be the most successful over time because of the blood relationship between donor and patient, that is not an option in Christopher's case. Donors must be healthy and match the recipient's blood type and antigens, so it requires testing to determine compatibility.

Recipients of living donor kidney transplants enjoy proper kidney function for an average of 12-20 years, much longer than if they receive a deceased donor one. This greatly reduces their need for another future transplant. The overall success rates of living transplants are higher than those from deceased donors, as well.

There are scores of questions that a donor will have answered if they are a match for Christopher, so the first step is to be tested to find out if it is even a possibility before considering going further. Live donation is not a decision to be taken lightly, because it does involve surgery and a recovery period. It's one of the greatest and most selfless gifts anyone can offer to make. Some very general questions can be answered on the UNOS website

But please contact Brother Christopher if you are willing to consider helping this young man.

HRH Prince Philip Retires Today

All the best to His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and our Brother, as he completes his final official Royal engagement this afternoon when he attends a charity parade by the Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace. After a lifetime of non-stop public service, he is retiring from performing royal duties today at the spry age of 96.

He has been at the side of Queen Elizabeth for more than sixty years.

HRH Prince Philip was initiated into Navy Lodge No. 2612 in 1952, and remains a dues paying member to this day. Navy Lodge has a storied past and an amazing roster of famous luminaries appear upon its membership rolls. The Lodge prides itself on being the premier Naval Lodge in the world, with an unparalleled history that encompasses four monarchs (HM Kings Edward VII, Edward VIII, George VI and George II of the Hellenes) and other members of the Royal Family (HRH Prince George, Duke of Kent; HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh); three winners of the Victoria Cross; more Admirals, Generals, Vice-Admirals and Senior officers to mention; as well as notables such as Shackleton, Scott of the Antarctic and many more.

The lodge meets in Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London on the first Friday in January, March, May, October and December.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Treasurer of Historic Lodge Commits Suicide

WB Dwight Riddle, Treasurer of Benevolent Lodge 3 in Milledgeville, Georgia, committed suicide at his lodge building on Sunday afternoon. He was 58 and and had served as Master of the lodge in 1994.

The case is being investigated independently of the local sheriff's department by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to avoid any potential conflict of interest, as the lodge has several police officers as members, including the local Chief of Police. 

From the article posted Monday night on the Milledgeville Union-Recorder website:
Joe Wooten, special agent in-charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 6 Office in Milledgeville, identified the victim as Dwight Riddle.

Wooten told the newspaper Monday morning that Riddle was pronounced dead at 3:40 p.m. Sunday from a gunshot wound. The shooting took place in the parking lot of the local Masonic Lodge, near the U.S. Post Office downtown.
The cause of death has been ruled a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
Wooten said an autopsy would not be performed.
Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee said he had received a call Friday night about a large sum of money reportedly missing from the Masonic Benevolent Lodge No. 3.

Riddle served as treasurer of the local Masonic Lodge, Massee said.

Massee said he requested that the GBI work the financial investigation, since he was a member of the local Masonic Lodge, along with Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord.

“We’ve got deputies in the lodge, too,” Massee said, noting he decided it best to seek the outside assistance of the GBI to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

The sheriff said he later telephoned Swicord to inform him of his decision and that the police chief agreed that seeking the GBI’s assistance was the best idea.

“On Sunday, the Grand Lodge of Georgia had requested that the local lodge here contact Mr. Riddle and ask him to bring the checkbook in because they wanted to do an internal audit,” Massee said.
After learning of the request, Riddle went to the local lodge and turned in the checkbook, Massee told the newspaper.
“He then returned outside to his car and committed suicide,” Massee said.
“Even with Mr. Riddle’s suicide, there will be a continuing investigation concerning the finances at the Masonic Lodge No. 3.”
The sheriff said when he learned that officials with the Grand Lodge of Georgia wanted to see the checkbook Sunday that he sent a deputy sheriff to the Masonic Benevolent Lodge No. 3.
“I called (Deputy Lt.) Nick Goddard and I said, Nick, can you go down and meet with them,” Massee said. “So, Nick was there when the shooting happened.”
Massee said after Riddle returned the checkbook that he reportedly said he had to get something else out of his car.
While the deputy was standing nearby, Riddle emerged from the car with a pistol and was told by the deputy on two different occasions to put the pistol down, Wooten said.
The case remained under investigation Monday afternoon by the GBI.

Benevolent Lodge 3 was established in 1817, originally as the ninth Masonic lodge in the state of Georgia. Their temple is the oldest Masonic building in Georgia that has been in continuous use as such since its construction. They are celebrating their bicentennial anniversary this year, but this is a certainly a doleful footnote to that chapter in their long history.

Funeral services for WB Dwight Riddle will be conducted at 11 AM on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 in the Chapel of Williams Funeral Home of Milledgeville.

Regardless of the outcome of any investigation, this is a senseless tragedy. A Brother's column has been broken, and his Brethren mourn.

UPDATE 7/26/2017:

Riddle's obituary has been updated HERE.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

NE Conference of GMs Wrap Up, and Masonic Renewal Essay Contest

I had the opportunity yesterday to address the Northeast Conference of Grand Masters here in Indianapolis at the Columbia Club. I don't often get the opportunity to lock a whole pile of sitting GMs in the same room and hector them for 20 or 30 minutes without interruption, so it was a treat and an honor (at least from my side of the podium—I can't answer for their side). Many thanks to Indiana's own Grand Master Rodney Mann, our Deputy GM Carl Culman, Grand Secretary Rick Elman, and my friend Roger VanGorden, PGM for letting me me be a part of the day. Plus, I got to spend some time with Simon LaPlace of the Masonic Service Association, which I always enjoy, along with meeting up with some old friends I haven't seen in a while.

(NOTE: I have updated several broken links for the MRC below as of 8/7/2017)

In the course of the morning, Roger spoke about his involvement on the Masonic Renewal Committee and a couple of programs they are working on. Roger presented a terrific Power Point program on 'Rethinking the Stated Meeting' at last year's Conference of Grand Masters in Ontario, and I'm sure he will be rolling out a touched up version at that Conference here in Indianapolis next February (frankly, it needs to be run and rerun every single year—see it HERE). So, yesterday he and PGM Gail Kemp gave overviews of some of that, as well as a discussion of the role of ritual in terms of educating members, presenting it in meetings, and how to more effectively communicate it to brethren. All of that is a work in progress, so I suspect it will have even more meat on it early next year for all of the Grands to hear.

The MRC has also got a program to develop and promote Academic Lodges—that is to say, lodges that base their membership on the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of a given college or university. An Academic Lodge has a special relationship with the university as a part of their family, to include scholarships, lectures, and participation in school events.

The concept is very similar to the United Grand Lodge of England's "Universities Scheme," which has had good success in their jurisdiction.

From the MRC's handout:
Academic Lodges are a wonderful opportunity for young people at the University (and older ones too) to experience all Freemasonry has to offer. They can also provide a new spark of energy and enthusiasm for Masonry, introducing the Craft to the university and the broader academic community.

When starting an Academic Lodge, a Grand Lodge should keep in mind that it must provide a quality experience for the brethren first and foremost. There is a temptation to focus on membership opportunities, but a quality experience at all Masonic meetings must take precedence over quantity of membership. This quality experience includes:

1) Masonic education, to include sharp ritual and stimulating continuing education. This is a must, especially for an Academic Lodge. There are many educational resources and professors to leverage at a university, which helps to provide a truly unique experience.

2) Good fellowship, to include fun events and good food.

3) Truly taking care of the Lodge brethren, to include regular follow up. These values correspond closely to the tenets of Freemasonry and must be the foundation of an academic, or indeed any new Lodge.
There are several existing Academic Lodges throughout the United States currently chartered:

The MRC website has a slide show that details the practices and goals of such a lodge, and provides successful examples of establishing and sustaining one for a college or university in your region. To play it, see HERE.

If you want more information to investigate the formation of an Academic Lodge (or to perhaps ally an existing local lodge with an academic institution in its community), contact RW Bro. Jon Shelton, PDDGM, Grand Lodge of Virginia at sheltonjv@aol.com

The other MRC program that was discussed is an essay contest. The Committee is trying to rejuvenate not only our lodges and the lodge meeting experience, it's also trying to rejuvenate itself as well. They have established the David Bedwell Memorial Masonic Renewal Essay Competition, and the 2017 topic has been announced.

Here are the details:
Enter the 2017 Masonic Renewal Essay Competition and share your thoughts and ideas on the theme: “Concept of Masonic Renewal – What does it mean to you now and in the future?”
“Concept of Masonic Renewal – What does it mean to you now and in the future?”

Your thoughts in conveying about the concept of Masonic Renewal are needed by the Masonic Renewal Committee to reunite and re-generate our efforts to revitalize Freemasonry. The MRC Committee has in the past published the following resources to assist Lodges in their efforts to revitalize Masonry in their Lodges: 101+ Ways to Improve Interest and Attendance in Your Masonic Lodge; 150+ Ways to Involve Your Lodge with the Family and in the Community; Leadership Development Program and recently a Leaders Resource Handbook. These publications are available and in use by Lodges today.
Also, in the 1990’s, the Committee was instrumental in the collection of data about Masonry and the profane. This survey was very useful by Grand Lodges and Lodges to pinpoint and concentrate efforts to expand the knowledge of the profane about Freemasonry.
This contest isn't just some idle exercise. If you think no one is listening, they are. Take note that this essay competition is offering cash awards to the top three entries. 
  • First Prize: $1,500
  • 2nd Place: $1,000
  • 3rd Place: $500 
To see all of the gory details, rules, and requirements, see the MRC website HERE. 

I haven't been on that Committee for many years, so I have no personal involvement with this. I do know I've been a noisy bellyacher myself for 19 years. But I've heard a whole lot more bellyachers who don't actually try to accomplish anything. If you have serious ideas about fixing what we all know is broken in so many lodges across the country, then don't just bitch about it, step up to the plate. Freemasonry doesn't need any more guys sitting on barstools or folding chairs in the basement, wagging their finger and saying, 'Ya know what's wrong with this fraternity?" Yep. We all know. We've all heard it to death. If you have a better way to do things, get to work, start typing, and maybe even get a little spending money for it. 

Speaking of essays, Simon LaPlace reminded me that the Masonic Service Association is ALWAYS in need of short, succinct Masonic papers/articles/essays for their monthly Short Talk Bulletins. These little gems of Masonic education have been published without fail since 1923, and they are sent to just about every single Masonic lodge in America, month after month. Your Secretary usually just holds it up and says "the usual MSA Bulletin came again this month, and it's in my desk if anyone wants to read it." 

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. 

"Somebody" (that means the Master, the Secretary, the lodge 'education committee,' or just plain YOU) needs to go and pick that little folded paper up and read it out loud without fail.  If the men in your lodge carp that there's never any 'Masonic education' in your lodge meetings, it's partially because things like that monthly envelope get ignored. it's mailed right to your lodge Secretary, so do something with it besides consigning it to the trash.

And if you think the latest one you read isn't very good and that you can do better yourself, by all means do so. If you can take a Masonic work of your own and cut it down or plump it up to about 1,100 words, then send it to Simon at the MSA. You will have a captive audience in a couple of thousand lodges just sitting there hearing it.

A reminder that the MSA has recently been collecting every one of these and compiling them into beautifully printed AND INDEXED hardbound volumes. Volume V is ready for preorder right now for a substantial discount over the final price, and all of them (except for Volume 1, which is sold out) can be ordered from the website HERE.

I hope all of our out of town Masonic visitors and their ladies enjoyed your visit to our fair city. Because 2018 is Indiana's 200th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM, there are going to be numerous Masonic activities and events around here kicking off in January. We're all looking forward to welcoming first timers as well as those of you who have been here before, and we have much to see and do here. Thanks to everyone who came yesterday and we hope to see you all again here soon.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Templar TV Series 'Knightfall' Releases First Preview

Knight Templars, Levant Preceptory members, DeMolay lads, medieval mavens, fans, and curiosity seekers can rejoice. A preview for the long announced History [Channel] program Knightfall has finally been released, and it looks well done, at least from the production standpoint anyway. It's been so long since development of this program was announced, a lot of folks assumed it had just fallen by the way side into typical Hollywood development limbo, but it turns out that it's going to come to screens after all. It will air sometime "later this year" on the History network is all they are saying at this point. 

From the Entertainment Weekly website today:

HISTORY’s new scripted series Knightfall follows the Knights Templar, a legendary organization of warrior monks, as they desperately search for the Holy Grail in France — and in an exclusive trailer, that quest gets bloody quick.
The show picks up in 1306, toward the end of the Templars’ run as one of the most powerful organizations in the Christian world. Thanks to the bloody battles of the Crusades, the Templars are losing allies at the same time they’re gaining enemies, such as the King of France. With the help of a special sword and the knowledge that the Holy Grail is somewhere in France, the Templars bet everything on this grand quest.
Knightfall was executive-produced by Jeremy Renner alongside showrunner Dominic Minghella. It stars Tom Cullen, Pádraic Delaney, Simon Merrells, Olivia Ross, Ed Stoppard, Sabrina Bartlett, Jim Carter, and Julian Ovenden. Watch the trailer above, and look for Knightfall coming soon to HISTORY.
The preview was released in time for the San Diego ComicCon weekend. According to the Inquisitr website today:
Not only has a new trailer been released, but fans attending San Diego Comic-Con can get their photo taken with a Knight Templar, have their valuables protected by a Knightfall-themed storage service, and pick up the comic which is a prequel to the television series.

Friday, July 14, 2017

PA's Thomas W. Jackson Honored on Brazilian Postage Stamp

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's former Grand Secretary of many years, Thomas W. Jackson has received untold awards, titles and accolades over the years, but this is a first for him. He is depicted on a new official postage stamp of the nation of Brazil, and solely in his capacity as a Freemason. I'm not talking about the kind of customized stamp you can have your grand kids or pet terrier printed on for your Christmas cards. I'm talking about a real live, national bureau of engraving-style, printed by the Casa da Moeda do Brasil, no-kidding postage stamp.

I don't even remotely pretend to know the first thing about philately, much less read Portuguese, so if anyone wants to chime in with more information, feel free. I did look over their postal service website (Correios) enough to know that any social or philanthropic group is welcome to suggest a subject for depiction on a stamp.

The local newspaper in Tom's home town of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania posted a long interview with him yesterday in which he describes his many travels during his 16 years as the Executive Secretary for the World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges. The position also gave him the opportunity to engage in his other passions of hunting and fishing in very exotic places. I recall seeing Tom get off of an elevator at Masonic Week one year and I asked him what he had coming up. He replied that he was scheduled for heart surgery in the  coming weeks and he hoped for a fast recovery, as he was planning to go big game hunting in Africa about 10 days afterwards. He's truly unstoppable.

“I've been to Brazil about 15 times,” he said. “I'm very active in Freemasonry, and that's the reason I'm generally in Brazil. Although, I do go down and fish in the Amazon once in awhile.”
The avid fisherman and hunter said he's been working for many years in trying to bring Brazilian Freemasonry together.
“There are three different Masonic groups, and although they relate to each other, they don’t acknowledge each other or recognize each other, and I’ve been working for years to get them rectified,” he said.
Jackson had attended a Freemasonry conference in Brazil last month, and on the conference’s last day, June 24, leaders presented him with the stamps as a symbol of their appreciation. On the stamp, it says in Portuguese that it is in recognition of his service in promoting universal Freemasonry.
“I had no idea they were doing this,” he said. “It really surprised me.”
Jackson is known across the globe in Freemasonry circles, a fraternal organization celebrating its 300th anniversary of its formal creation this year. Two rooms in Jackson’s home are filled with an array of medals that have been given to him over the years. Many of the items are in a room that has dozens of mounted animal heads, such as buffalo he hunted in Australia and Botswana.
He said the position took him to many countries. He didn’t know how many countries he has visited, but his wife of more than 50 years, Linda, keeps track by placing red pins on a world map at their home. Jackson noted he has visited all 50 states in the U.S. and all Canadian provinces.
“I'm generally out of the country half the year. I've been to 10 countries so far this year, and quite a few more to go,” he said. “I’ve really been fortunate. I have traveled to much of the world. I’ve been hosted by eight presidents, (and) several prime ministers.”
Jackson added he has met the presidents of Portugal, Chile, Romania, Mozambique, Mali, Gabon, Chad, and Congo. He has also met former U.S. President George H. W. Bush.
“In eastern Europe and Africa, they want to meet with me to find out what contributions Freemasonry can make to their developing societies,” he explained. He noted the executive secretary position didn’t have a salary, but his expenses were always covered.
Jackson also said he mediated disputes over the years, such as the three Freemasonry groups in Brazil.
 “One thing you’re dealing with, and you can’t avoid it, is ego,” he said. “You get so much power in Freemasonry in the hands of one man, and it really becomes an issue once in awhile.”
He said he has been fortunate to be able to mediate, and the key to the discussions is trying to listen to reason.
Jackson stepped down from the position in 2015, but he still gets calls to travel somewhere to advise on a situation.
“I’m supposed to be retired,” he said, with a laugh. “When I stepped down as executive secretary, I thought now I’ll be able to spend time on my farm. It hasn’t happened yet.
Read the whole article HERE