I like to think I’m an optimist. Most of the time at least.
If you haven’t been paying attention, COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc around the world. In the U.S., the pandemic is and growing exponentially in the United States with a flurry of mixed messaging about gathering, wearing masks, and even arguing if the virus is real.
Wherever you land on the issue, the dilemma is the same–the pandemic is shaping the way gather. And in the absence of gathering it’s shaping the way prospective members see the (or don’t see) the fraternity.
As COVID spreads and impacts more of us, shuttering or putting limits on what we can do in groups, we need to figure out new ways to communicate what it means to be a Freemason and how someone joins Freemasonry.
If they can’t see Freemasonry in action, they can’t take action to become a mason.
Closed Lodge Rooms During COVID-19
How do you show someone what you do if you can’t SHOW them what you do? You have to talk about it.
How you talk about it might and might not matter in the ways you think it would. What’s important is the message and engagement that comes from leadership to the members. Public where possible. Inspiring when able. But frequent in a way that’s not obsessive but relevant to the evolution of what’s taking place in the news.
I think we take leaders for granted. They’re in that leadership position to “lead.” So, they should. This could be lodge line officers, lodge masters, well-spoken district leaders and grandmasters.
The messaging should be inspiring, encouraging, not preachy or assumptive of one bend or another. I say this as the messaging should be worthy of sharing OUTSIDE of social media. How exciting or engaging would a message about the great things Freemasonry is doing to help beat the pandemic be?
The goal would be to capture the attention of the secondary audience, the friends of friends on Facebook or Twitter who see the Liked or Reshared communication. A great early adopter of this idea is taking shape out of the Grand Lodge of Ohio who has been producing content at an amazing rate and posting to social channels.
This is just one example of what I’ve seen on Twitter:
I mention this as one example of what one Grand Lodge is doing to connect and communicate with the broader public. What an amazing sight that would be.
Members at a Distance During COVID-19
While engaging the secondary audience of non-masons with interesting content, the need to keep existing members connected is paramount. How you go about this seems to come down to a few avenues.
Host regular (tiled and/or untiled) meetings via Zoom or other online platforms.
Break the quarantine protocols and meet in person.
This may not be the normal everyone likes or even wants to operate in. But it’s the normal we presently exist within. Here, members under the United Grand Lodge of England has organized some amazing events with Masonic notables like Dr. Robert Lomas and the 2012 Prestonian lecturer W Bro. Tony Harvey. These are but a few of the activities coming out of the U.K.
This isn’t to say that activities aren’t taking place around the U.S.
With the proliferation of online meetings, it would be foolish to assume that they aren’t taking place as tiled business meetings. The point here is the lack of wider publicizing of the activities or hosting activities that may be of interest to a wider of both member and non can only help to bolster any interest that may exist in the area. It’s not perfect. It’s not the best possible world. But it’s something. It’s work in the direction of re-emerging into a newly vaccinated world eager to do something social.
Doing this work or seeing the need to do it is challenging.
But there’s still time. It just takes the energy and leadership to see the value and do the work. This pandemic will end. We’ll beat COVID-19 with a vaccine. Freemasonry needs to make sure it’s ready to get back into the world when the vaccine is in circulation and the world opens back up.
Postscript: I’d written this several days before publishing it. On the evening before setting this up to go live, NPR dropped a national story on the subject titled: Freemasons Say They’re Needed Now More Than Ever. So Why Are Their Ranks Dwindling? In the story, it essentially encapsulates this very problem quoting Chris Hodapp from Freemasons for Dummies. Chris was speaking on the loss of membership, saying “…something that’s scaring the hell out of me is this COVID shutdown thing. God help us all when we stand back and survey the crumbling wreckage that that has caused.”
It’s that wreckage that can be addressed, now, as best possible. The way to do that is to be present.
This question started as one of those silent moment thoughts: What will Freemasonry look like after COVID-19?
The easy answer is that Freemasonry will go on business as usual. Monthly stated meetings, degree evenings, appendant body meetings and the bi-annual festive board. The question is, will members be willing to return given the breadth of the crisis and the disparity in following safety protocols or safe distancing standards?
The question, as I’m thinking it through, isn’t so much about how Freemasonry will respond to the easing of COVID restrictions and the return to a semblance of normal, but how the members will. After a yearlong (maybe two) hiatus from activities around the fraternity, how do things restart?
I don’t think there is an easy answer to this.
Going into the pandemic, Freemasonry was already contending with a decrease in membership. This was illustrated in several stories on this site (The Death of Freemasonry: When Change Changes You, To Die Or Not To Die). Now, nearly a year into the quarantine, the old questions are compounded with having to figure how to re-engage and invigorate past members to come back and drive interest to new members to join–all while under quarantine and socially distanced.
My thinking is that now would be the time to start planning or rolling out campaigns to reinvigorate interest.
I see this happening in the content the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. They’ve been producing a stream of content around new members, virtual reunions and driving the message home that it’s still there, doing what masons do. You can catch a glimpse of the work in this one social post from Twitter.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
It’s impossible to say what the net impact will be of a campaign piece like this. But smart, and well crafted, and on point. It’s an interesting glimpse of the bigger picture of what they’re doing which is building the Scottish Rite brand and strengthening the reach. They’ve really done a stellar job with their digital footprint.
Imagine this footprint spread across the 50 states. And this is only one example of one organization on one social platform.
The possibilities are nearly limitless to broaden the reach of your flavor of local Freemasonry.
I started this post with the headline Freemasonry after COVID, but I suppose the better lead would have been Freemasonry in the middle of COVID. The issues aren’t insurmountable. How do you reach and keep existing members engaged when social distancing is restricting face to face gatherings? And how do you grow and add new ones?
If you’re a Freemason away from lodge, how interested would you be if your Grand Lodge did more to engage you? Are they doing enough already? Do you think it would help to retain your interest in this period of social distancing while we await a vaccine?
The following is a remembrance sent in by Archibald A. H. Crawford. Arch was raised in New York in 1964 and spent several years around the lodge taking his passion for the fraternity on a deployment to East Asia. His remembrance serves to memorialize his time there and capture the memory of his labor for the craft abroad in 1969.
On the Formation of a Masonic Square Club in Vietnam, 1969
I was under Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in a Mobile Advisory Team (MAT) in Four Corp (Southernmost) headquartered in/near Cần Thơ on the sacred Mekong river. Our team of four American soldiers were stationed at a mud outpost of Local Force South Vietnamese on a tributary East of the city and our HQ. We scrounged enough material from our HQ base camp to build a small house within the company-controlled patch of land. The local people were of a recent Buddhist subset called Hòa Hảo (pronounced Wa How).
We had become relatively good scroungers and lived well compared to everyone within a few miles (which is not saying much at all). Our pride and joy were having traded with a unit no longer needing their 50-caliber machine gun, which was the strongest piece of weaponry in our district.
As one of our best at finding ‘stuff’ that made our lives better, I ran into a substantial number of
Masonic brethren in our military and also civilian support staff in and around headquarters. Most important for this story was a Naval Lieutenant Silver from Pennsylvania. We discussed Masonic backgrounds and he also knew quite a few members from the area.
We thought about how we could get a few together, simply for fellowship and considered some sort of ‘square club’ might be the way to go. A handful of us got together to plan an introductory meeting at some point, perhaps a couple of weeks. I had heard about the only Masonic Lodge in Vietnam located in Saigon under the auspices of the Philippines, which were in turn under the U.S. Southern Jurisdiction, and had travelled to Saigon and met the Master there. I proposed that he might come down and give at least an atmosphere of respectability and semi-official sanction.
Lt. Silver had mentioned our goings-on to the Sargent-Major, (Highest level non-commissioned officer in the army), and personal assistant to the Four-Corp General in charge. The Sargent-Major offered to take a helicopter up to Saigon and bring down the Lodge Master to our humble get-together!
It all came together, and the meeting was accomplished in the Fall of 1969 with roughly 40-60 brothers in attendance. I was transferred out not long after and (sadly) did not keep in touch. That lapse caused lasting effect, whether if, or how long it lasted, remains deficient.
If you have a memory of this Square Club, or one like it, drop a note in the comments below. Do you have a remembrance of Freemasonry you’d like to share? Send us a note.
Submitted and written June 10, 2019, by Arch Crawford Past Master of Chancellor Walworth Lodge #271, New York City. First Lt. at the time, mustered out in 1969 as a Captain in the Inactive Reserve. Arch took the York Rite degrees in New York before Vietnam and the Scottish Rite degrees on R&R from Vietnam to Manila in 1969. He says that while he was in Los Angeles in late 1970 waiting tables at the huge Scottish Rite Temple he was introduced and shook hands with Bro. John Wayne.
The Moral Law is a foundational aspect of the Fraternity if Freemasonry.
Anderson uses the phrase in his Constitution of 1723 without any explanation of what exactly he means in his phrasing of it. And, increasingly, it is being used as a de facto totem of decision making in violation of litigation and jurisdictional disputes. But in the modern civic age were criminal, civil, federal, and state (and lets not even get into international) laws abound we have in many ways lost sight (if ever we had a clear one) of what exactly the ideas were behind the linking of the “Moral Laws” to the fraternity. The source is ancient without a doubt, and most likely a challenge to come to any consensus over. Is the Moral Law from a religious perspective, as in given to man by the Great Architect, or a man-made law constructed with religious ideas but applied in a humanistic manner to apply to our interaction with one another. And then, how does it apply to Masonry? Is it a religious injunction or an instruction for how to behave?
At the root are the question then is what the Moral Law is and what is its purpose to be invoked in any decision making.
The first step to see it at the time when it was adopted by Freemasonry is to trace the idea though the ages, and it’s clear that the idea of a moral law has been around for some time. Before we get to these first steps, however, perhaps we should explore what exactly the moral law is.
Natural law or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis) has been described as a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere. As classically used, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. The phrase natural law is opposed to the positive law (meaning “man-made law”, not “good law”; cf. posit) of a given political community, society, or nation-state, and thus can function as a standard by which to criticize that law. In natural law jurisprudence, on the other hand, the content of positive law cannot be known without some reference to the natural law (or something like it). Used in this way, natural law can be invoked to criticize decisions about the statutes, but less so to criticize the law itself. Some use natural law synonymously with natural justice or natural right (Latin: ius naturale), although most contemporary political and legal theorists separate the two.
It likens the essence of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to the ideas of the Natural Law, something any American reading should be intimately familiar with.
To better encapsulate the idea of the Moral or Natural Law, we need to borrow from the ideas of Thomas Hobbes (a late philosopher who codified it into modern times) who says of the Natural Law that it is “a precept or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or takes away the means of preserving the same; and to omit that by which he thinks it may best be preserved.”
Hobbes breaks the Natural Law down to 19 points which he illustrated in his work Leviathan.
The First Law of nature is that every man ought to endeavor peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all help and advantages of war.
The Second Law of nature is that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth, as for peace, and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.
The Third Law is that men perform their covenants made. In this law of nature consisteth the fountain and original of justice… when a covenant is made, then to break it is unjust and the definition of injustice is no other than the not performance of covenant. And whatsoever is not unjust is just.
The Fourth Law is that a man which receives benefit from another of mere grace, endeavor that he which giveth it, has no reasonable cause to repent him of his goodwill. Breach of this law is called ingratitude.
The Fifth Law is complaisance: that every man strives to accommodate himself to the rest. The observers of this law may be called sociable; the contrary, stubborn, insociable, forward, intractable.
The Sixth Law is that upon caution of the future time, a man ought to pardon the offenses past of them that repenting, desire it.
The Seventh Law is that in revenge, men look not at the greatness of the evil past, but the greatness of the good to follow.
The Eighth Law is that no man by deed, word, countenance, or gesture, declare hatred or contempt of another. The breach of which law is commonly called contumely.
The Ninth Law is that every man acknowledges another for his equal by nature. The breach of this precept is pride.
The Tenth Law is that at the entrance into the conditions of peace, no man require to reserve to himself any right, which he is not content should be reserved to every one of the rest. The breach of this precept is arrogance, and observers of the precept are called modest.
The Eleventh Law is that if a man is trusted to judge between man and man, that he deal equally between them.
The Twelfth Law is that such things as cannot be divided, be enjoyed in common if it can be; and if the quantity of the thing permits, without stint; otherwise proportionably to the number of them that have right.
The Thirteenth Law is the entire right, or else…the first possession (in the case of alternating use), of a thing that can neither be divided nor enjoyed in common should be determined by lottery.
The Fourteenth Law is that those things which cannot be enjoyed in common, nor divided, ought to be adjudged to the first possessor; and in some cases to the firstborn, as acquired by lot.
The Fifteenth Law is that all men that mediate peace be allowed safe conduct.
The Sixteenth Law is that they that are at controversies submit their Right to the judgment of an Arbitrator.
The seventeenth law is that no man is a fit Arbitrator in his own cause.
The Eighteenth Law is that no man should serve as a judge in a case if greater profit or honor, or pleasure apparently ariseth [for him] out of the victory of one party, than of the other.
The Nineteenth Law is that in a disagreement of fact, the judge should not give more weight to the testimony of one party than another, and absent other evidence should give credit to the testimony of other witnesses.
Interestingly, we can turn to a religious perspective, coming specifically from a Catholic perspective; where the Natural/Moral Law is applied when the exterior actions of the actor reflect their interior motives as their source. It links the theological virtues to the Law citing Thomas Aquinas in saying that lacking the Cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude and the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, that a moral choice is impossible. (See Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the second part of the Summa Theologica)
According to Aquinas, to lack any of these virtues is to lack the ability to make a moral choice. For example, consider a man who possesses the virtues of justice, prudence, and fortitude, yet lacks temperance. Due to his lack of self-control and desire for pleasure, despite his good intentions, he will find himself swaying from the moral path.
To fully appreciate this, we must first look to Romans 2:14 when Paul of Tarsis, speaking of the Gentiles says: Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. Interesting to note, this is something Pike picks up on in his exploration of the 10th degree of Scottish Rite Masonry as he points to the tenants of the “old primitive faiths.”
One has to wonder how this foundational statement from the church became the basis of the Moral Law in Masonry. It does seem a natural fit – the Cardinal and Theological virtues in conjunction to the other ideas beginning to take shape, but it seems that they were naturally woven in as reasons for being, rather than the basis of the Natural Law.
A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. is speaking to something else, which I suggest is towards John Locke’s idea of the Moral Law.
A statement, you’ll note, devoid of linkage to the Cardinal and Theological Virtues. Anderson’s idea of a Moral Law came from somewhere, but where?
Perhaps it can be traced back to the time of the Roman Philosopher Cicero whose contribution to the idea was to suggest that:
“…natural law obliges us to contribute to the general good of the larger society. The purpose of positive laws is to provide for “the safety of citizens, the preservation of states, and the tranquility and happiness of human life.” In this view, “wicked and unjust statutes” are “anything but ‘laws,” because “in the very definition of the term ‘law’ there inheres the idea and principle of choosing what is just and true.” Further that “the virtues which we ought to cultivate, always tend to our own happiness, and that the best means of promoting them consists of living with men in that perfect union and charity which are cemented by mutual benefits.”
But, to see the Moral Law in a contemporary context, we must look to John Locke, for several reasons, and not just his ideas philosophy.
Locke’s point of the Moral Law was to say,
“the nature of the world is governed by laws and so too is man’s conduct, and that without moral laws, men would not have society; without moral law, trust between men would collapse.”
“Though in a constituted commonwealth, standing upon its own basis, and acting according to its own nature, that is, acting for the preservation of the community, there can be but one supreme power, which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate; yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still “in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative,” when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them: for all power given with trust for the attaining an end, being limited by that end: whenever that end is manifestly neglected or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the Power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security.”
“…sense experience proclaims the existence of a supreme lawmaker, a wise creator of the world, which has made man for a purpose. Man, thus has purposes – to contemplate and to procure and preserve his life. Yet the moral law cannot be garnered from consent – from mass or democratic agreement, for the voice of the people is as likely to lead to fallacies and evil. Men’s actual morality may be highly relative, but differences do not undermine the existence of commonalities in the law, hence we should not obey (or follow) others blindly. Nonetheless, the conservative Locke continues to argue that we ought to obey our lawmakers as possessing rightful power over creation, but our obedience should not just be out of fear for the lawmaker’s power, but conscientiously too: we ought to obey it because the magistrate should request morally right action.”
Locke, formerly a firm believer in the Platonic ideal of a good captain steering the ship, came to the idea of leadership having a limit to the extent that he perceived as authority’s reach which we can see when he says “…it cannot be supposed the people should give any one or more of their fellow men authority over them for any other purpose than their own preservation, or extend the limits of their jurisdiction beyond the limits of this life.”
This is important in that It’s been posited that Locke was a Freemason and that perhaps it was his ideas of the Moral Law, especially as they pertained to governance and leadership, pertained to Freemasonry too.
“Was Locke a mason? The answer is probably yes. There is an entry on the “Leland Manuscript” in Albert Mackey’s “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry” in which he quoted a passage by the famous Dr. Oliver in the Freemasons’ Quart. Review, 1840, p 10, where Dr. Oliver said, “… this great philosopher [Locke] was actually residing at Oates, the country-seat of Sir Francis Masham, at the time when the paper [Leland Manuscript] is dated; and shortly afterward he went up to town, where he was initiated into Masonry. These facts are fully proved by Locke’s Letters to Mr. Molyneux, dated March 30 and July2, 1696.”
In his essay, Br. Ng talks on several levels about how Locke’s ideas may have permeated into the Freemasons, including religious toleration and the process of learning by experience. But, in this context, did Locke’s ides of a Moral Law follow him also into the Lodge, if not in the letter then in spirit?
The Moral Law
It seems that in combination of both the religious and humanist application, one which at the time they were adopted they were likely blurred lines of between, the two were combined into the ideals and principals of Freemasonry. The Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues tempered into the ideals of a Moral Law to give fairness in action and faith. Both the application of How to be Good Men, and in the principals of getting along in society, come into play now in issues of recognition, jurisprudence, and internal governance and the source of the Moral Law has to be of consideration in some way when acting in a way that invokes a Moral Law as the basis of the decision. Is it as Hobbes set down, remodeled by Locke, or is it in the manner of Paul of Tarsis in speaking of the faith of the Gentiles? Or, is it in a more oblique Catholic manner in applying the Cardinal and Theological virtues, something unmistakable to every Mason in his perception?
Further still, is it something older and less tangible like the ideas of Cicero in that the Natural Laws are laws that cannot in fact be laws, because to be so, they invalidate there very natural state if looked at as such?
What stands out in greatest resonance with Masonry is Cicero’s remark,
“the virtues which we ought to cultivate, always tend to our own happiness, and that the best means of promoting them consists in living with men in that perfect union and charity which are cemented by mutual benefits.”
This seem to best build the foundation of Hobbes and Locke to identify the Moral Law in Freemasonry and giving us a place to then make decisions from – perfect union and charity…cemented by mutual benefits.
Brother Upton was made a Mason in Blue Mountain Lodge No. 13 in Walla Walla, becoming its Master in 1892. He would apply his scholarship, his agile mind, and his industry to the study of Freemasonry. These combined with his rare gifts as a speaker and writer would soon mark him for Grand Lodge Leadership.
Upton was elected Junior Grand Warden in 1896, and would be elevated to the rank and station of Grand Master in 1898.
Our Most Worshipful Brother made many significant contributions to Masonry; his most significant being his committee report of 1897 on Black Masonry and his efforts as Grand Master passing a resolution recognizing Prince Hall Masons in the State of Washington. However the majority of the other white Grand Lodges in the United States and Canada withdrew Masonic relations with the Grand Lodge of Washington until the resolution was repealed. The resolution was reluctantly rescinded in June 1899. William H. Upton continued to write on this subject with conviction.
His work on Black Masonry was an important chapter in Masonic history. He died on November 3, 1906. Upton’s sincere interest was demonstrated by a provision in his will that no monument should be erected over his grave until “both colored and white Masons could stand over it as brothers.” In June 1990 the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington passed a resolution recognizing the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. On June 8, 1991 Both Grand Lodges gathered to lay a marker on William Upton’s grave.
Side by side Masons from both Grand Lodges marched in a huge long line. When they got to the cemetery there were speeches and prayers and hugs and recognition of William Upton’s surviving family that were there that day.
Above all there was the ceremony of the tombstone dedication where members of both Grand Lodges using the working tools of a Master Mason declared the work of engraved stone square, level and plumb. As the veil was lifted from the stone all could read these words inscribed thereon: “This memorial commemorates the fruition of the last will and testament of William H. Upton MW Past Grand Master Wash. F & AM who desired that all Masons regardless of color, should dwell together as recognized Masonic Brethren. This was accomplished in 1990 by actions of both Grand Lodges MW GL F&AM of Wash. and MW Prince Hall GL F&AM of Wash. Dedicated June 8, 1991 AL 5991”
If you go to the Internet you will find very little information about William H. Upton even though he authored the work “Light On A Dark Subject”. Neither the Grand Lodge of Washington Mainstream or The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington show any material to this man on their websites. One of the few places that has anything solid on the man is Phoenixmasonry, that well run repository of so much fraternal history and objects. See: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/light_on_a_dark_subject.htm
That’s a crime. This Mason that should be revered and talked about and written about so that his story is within easy reach of any casual observer.
There is a hot new book out here on the Prince Hall scene, THE LOST EMPIRE, Black Freemasonry In The Old West (1867-1906) by Brother James R. Morgan III. This book tells the history of African American Freemasonry in the Old West as seen through the lens of Captain William D. Matthews and the King Solomon Grand Lodge of Kansas.
Morgan is The Grand Historian for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia and an active and experienced genealogist among many other glowing accolades.
He cut his teeth doing research for two other distinguished D.C. Masons and authors, Alton Roundtree and Tehuti Evans.
The book came about when fellow genealogist Denessia Swanegan asked Morgan to help her in her ancestral research and Morgan began a research project which became an article which became a Research Paper which morphed into a full-blown book. Morgan said that once he started down this path the research information just kept coming and coming until a book more or less had to be written.
Very little had been written about Black Freemasonry West of the Mississippi River in the Wild West years. This is the first work that ties many separate facts together into a cohesive whole so that a complete story could be told. The Lost Empire has much to say about Black Freemasonry’s National Grand Lodge or National Compact. Although I won’t reveal the details so as to not spoil the story, one interesting tidbit from James Morgan really surprised me. Morgan said that one of the big reasons that the National Grand Lodge was formed was because many bogus and clandestine Black Lodges and Grand Lodges were spreading like wildfire eventually far outnumbering those Regular Grand Lodges charted by the Grand Lodge of England and tracing their heritage back to African Lodge No 459.
Into the fray charged this swashbuckling, charismatic character named Captain William D. Mathews and his King Solomon Compact Grand Lodge of Kansas. But that is all we are going to tell you. Buy the book.
The Lost Empire is a well written well researched book (It has 106 pages of Appendixes) that fills a void in hitherto unknown and unpublicized Black Masonic activity in this part of the country in the Wild, Wild West era woven into a complete story. It is as much a history book as it is a Masonic book. That makes it a must for your Historical and Masonic Library.
I have, in my position as an old Past Master, mentored a Brother through the Degrees for the first time in a long time. And as his raising is imminent, I wanted to “send him off” with a good new charge. I love doing charges and have done numerous ones over the years. The most satisfying, seems to be the “On Yonder Book” charge.
But I thought it might be nice to write and deliver a new charge. One that has never been heard before. Yet what I have to say seems somehow incomplete. I just can’t seem to grasp a coherent fullness to what I want to say.
So, never one to turn down assistance, I appeal to the vast erudite Masonic audience of this website to chime in and give me a hand. What do I need to add or subtract? What do you like or dislike? What would make it better? Or should I just scrap the whole darn thing. Rip it up and start over or rip it up and forget about it?
My brother, it might seem to you that you have reached the end of your journey in the quest for Light. But that would be far from the truth. Masonry is a life long journey of learning, discovery and application,- a way of life that has many rewards for you yet to come.
For the moment let us concentrate on the Third Degree which has just been conferred on you. Its theme is Immortality. And that theme is so important for you to understand where Masonry fits into the grand scheme of things and how does it interrelate with other disciplines that guide you through this journey called “Life.”
It is vital for you to understand that Masonry is not a religion. It does not have a path laid out for your salvation. It talks about the Celestial Lodge Above, but it does not tell you how to get there. It just informs you that it is there for the taking.
Those that claim Masonry is a religion or use the Lodge as a substitute for church are operating under a mistaken concept that man can make his own religion, construct it as the Builders built the Temple. That a new designer religion called Masonry has been constructed for the benefit of the Brethren.
Even more important is the idea that Masonry is in conflict with religion and its practice thereof, that there is some sort of battle going on between the Church and the Lodge and that we must pick sides and declare a winner.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I stand before you today to dispel any such notion.
Masonry is actually sending you to your religion. It wants you to subscribe to both the Lodge and the Church.
The Legend of Hiram Abiff and the lesson of the Third Degree, immortality, cries out for you to discover HOW through your House of Worship. There is no prescription for the path to salvation in Masonry.
Masonry places upon its altar the Volume of the Sacred Law for the rule and guide of your faith. It does not interpret the Holy Book. It is there to encourage you to use it.
Masonry has other symbols to encourage you to partake of your faith. One that comes instantly to mind is “The Point Within The Circle.”
Masonry deals with the here and now. It explains what a Brotherhood is all about. One needs only to review the “Five Points of Fellowship” to realize what Masonry is teaching.
The Lodge teaches you the ways to form relationships with your fellow man
The church teaches you the ways to form a relationship with God.
Masonry teaches you how to be Noble.
Your religion teaches you how to be Holy.
Masonry is all about building character.
Your religion is all about caring for your soul.
They both have a place in your life.
But here is the moral to this story.
THEY ARE THE BEST ONE-TWO PUNCH IN MODERN TIMES.
For if you practice Masonry and apply it to your daily life while at the same time practice your religion and nurture your soul, then you will lead a happy and fulfilled life. Evil will not overtake your way of life. Notice I did not say you will be sinless. We are all sinners. We all “fall off the wagon” now and then. But practicing Masonry and a practicing _____ (fill in your religion) will send you down the path of righteousness and up the ladder to your destiny. One without the other is like a carriage without a horse. It’s a train with no railroad tracks.
Take due notice thereof, my Brother, and govern yourself accordingly.
I attended my good friend’s installation as Master of Stockyard Lodge No. 1244, Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM, Worshipful Michael Cote. Brother Cote was the Grand Lodge of Texas Grand Musician until this year. He is the only Grand Musician who has not been a piano or organ player. Cote has his own Music Company and band and performs all over in many different venues.
In an age when Masonic membership and Lodge participation are fading, Brother Cote put on a truly heartwarming example of the Masonic community coming together to celebrate Freemasonry! That is something near and dear to my heart. If we celebrate our Freemasonry, we encourage others to join in and inspire the Craft to new heights. This in an open Installation where the public can come and can be a very important means of attracting new Brothers.
Michael Cote Installed as Master
Brother Cote asked the current Grand Musician, Past Master Carl Chalfant to install him and the complete line of officers. Chalfant came all the way from Houston to do this for his good friend. Chalfant is a well-known piano player and can really tickle the ivories when it comes to Honkey-Tonk music, although he is well versed in all styles. In addition, well known Fiddle player and another old friend of Cote, Brother Tommy Hughes, who is a member of Glen Rose Lodge No 525 and a member of the Michael Cote Band, attended the installation.
DeMolay was represented, most notably by Brother Michael Cote II who is Master Councilor of Malvern Marks Chapter in Fort Worth and District Deputy State Master Councilor of District 2 of the Texas DeMolay Association.
Brother Michael Cote II is escorted into Lodge by Sister Kendal Clark
Rainbow was represented, most notably, by Sister Kendal Clark, the Texas DeMolay Sweetheart as well as the Grand Treasurer of the Grand Assembly of Texas.
DeMolay Brothers presented the colors to the Altar, US Flag and Texas State Flag and we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance to both. The Rainbow girls escorted each officer to be installed into the Lodge Room as their name and office was announced.
Also present were a large contingent of Eastern Star Ladies who prepared a nice selection of light food and Iced Tea.
DeMolay presents the Colors
Two presentations were made to the newly installed Worshipful Master. Sister Clark performed the Gavel Ceremony below. She did a fine job and all from memory and showed her outstanding qualities as a leader.
Worshipful Michael Cote, this gavel I hold in my hands is the age-old symbol of the authority of this office.
When you accept this gavel, you will accept all its wrappings. These wrappings, just like the color stations, are seven in number. They are invisible. You cannot see them, but they are just as real as the gold and the enamel that cover the wood (or plastic) of which this gavel is made.
The first of these wrappings is that of responsibility. This Assembly is now your responsibility. Your responsibility is to see that it thrives and grows while you are in office.
The second wrapping is that of loyalty. Members of this Assembly will without doubt be loyal to you, but it is far more important that you be loyal to them.
The third is that of love. Just as you have been reared in love, let that same love flow from you to all members of this Assembly. Love is like a pebble dropped in a still pond. The waves of love will radiate from their origin and will spread to encompass everything and everyone around you.
Then there is the wrapping of humility. Do not be overly proud, for you occupy this office, not by your work alone, but by the efforts of all those assembled around you.
The next wrapping you will find is the wrapping of those twins that always go hand in hand, justice and fairness. Just as a judge wields his gavel with those two great virtues in mind, so must you always strive to be fair and just.
And then, down underneath, you will find the innermost and finest wrapping of all is that of reverence. Our entire Order is founded on God. Without Him, you can do nothing. With Him, there is nothing you cannot do.
It is with deep humility, and yet with great pride that I now present, this gavel to you.
Sister Kendal Clark presents newly installed Master with his gavel
The second presentation was by yours truly:
I am Freemasonry by Ray V. Denslow
I was born in antiquity, in the ancient days when men first dreamed of God.
I have been tried through the ages and found true.
The crossroads of the world bear the imprint of my feet, and the cathedrals of all nations mark the skill of my hands.
I strive for beauty and for symmetry.
In my heart is wisdom and strength and courage for those who ask.
Upon my altar is the Book of Holy Writ, and my prayers are to the One Omnipotent God.
My sons work and pray together, without rank or discord, in the public mart and in the inner chamber.
By signs and symbols, I teach the lessons of life and of death and the relationship of man with God and of man with man.
My arms are widespread to receive those of lawful age and good report who seek me of their own free will.
I accept them and teach them to use my tools in the building of men, and thereafter, find direction in their own quest for perfection so much desired and so difficult to attain.
I lift up the fallen and shelter the sick.
I hark to the orphan’s cry, the widow’s tears, the pain of the old and destitute.
I am not church, nor party, nor school, yet my sons bear a full share of responsibility to God, to country, to neighbor and themselves.
They are freemen, tenacious of their liberties and alert to lurking danger.
At the end I commit them as each one undertakes the journey beyond the vale into the glory of everlasting life.
I ponder the sand within the glass and think how small is a single life in the eternal universe.
Always have I taught immortality, and even as I raise men from darkness into light, I am a way of life.
I am Freemasonry.
Past Master Frederic L. Milliken makes his presentation
Past Master Frederic L. Milliken makes his presentation
Past Master Frederic L. Milliken makes his presentation
The installation being over we posed for pictures and retired to the dining room for fun, food, and fraternalism
While dining, Past Grand Musician Worshipful Michael Cote, present Grand Musician Brother Carl Chalfant and Brother Tommy Hughes entertained us with some real down home music. Cote sang “King of the Road” and many of us joined in to sing along with him.
Cote, Chalfant and Hughes entertain in the dining room
All that was left was the cutting of the cake, the thank yous and the hugs and the promise to never forget the good time had by all and then making the intention of gathering again with Stockyard Lodge No 1244.
I lingered as long as I could not wanting this moment in time to end. Alas, all good things must end, UNTIL YOU DO THEM AGAIN.
On May 22, 2019 President Trump presented Police Officer, and brother, Brent Alan Thompson the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor posthumously, the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer. “An attack on our police is an attack upon our entire nation,” Trump said.
Brother Thompson was a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officer on live duty July 7, 2016 in downtown Dallas, Texas where he was monitoring a peaceful demonstration. Suddenly, shots rang out and Brent was ambushed and killed by a sniper just two weeks before his 44th birthday. He took a position behind a pillar outside El Centro College after the shots. The gunman snuck up on Thompson and fatally shot him from behind.
Brother Thompson was just two weeks into a new marriage with fellow DART police officer Emily.
Brother Thompson was a former Marine and Police Trainer. The Website Heavy tells us about some of his accomplishments:
He was an international police trainer who mentored Iraqi and Afghan police in the concepts of “democratic policing,” training Afghan officers how to avoid an ambush, according to a 2006 New York Times article quoting him and his own LinkedIn page. He’d also previously trained American police officers in active shooters.
Thompson Taught Afghan Police Officers How to Survive an ‘Ambush’ & Also Mentored Iraqi Police in ‘Democratic Policing.’
Thompson was chief of operations for Southern Iraq for DynCorp International, a private military contractor. “I was responsible for the day to day operations conducted by our American police officers who trained and mentored the Iraqi Police,” he wrote.
“My area of responsibility was the Special Programs Units (Baghdad, Iraq), Training Teams located at the US Embassy (South), Camp Echo, Camp Delta, Basrah, and Babel. These teams covered Iraq from Baghdad to the southern border with Kuwait. I also worked in Northern Iraq: Mosul, Haman Al Lil, Duhook, Talifar.”
He also served in Afghanistan. “I also was in Afghanistan (Helmand and Khandahar Provinces); I was a Team Leader there and Lead Mentor to the Southern Provincial Police Chief. In all locations we mentored and taught our Iraqi/Afghan counterparts democratic policing, and assisted in the establishment of the police departments in those location.”
Thompson Taught Specialized Police Training Courses in How to Handle an Active Shooter
He wrote, “I patrol the Northwest sector for the DART systems. This area includes Lewisville, Texas; Carrollton, Texas; Farmers Branch, Texas; Irving, Texas; and Dallas, Texas.”
Thompson Wrote That He Was Motivated by a ‘Team Atmosphere’ & Finding Ways to Serve
On his LinkedIn page, Thompson wrote, “I am motivated by a ‘Team’ atmosphere. I enjoy working on challenging tasks and problem solving with my peers. I am constantly looking for different ways to serve the department, this helps to keep my work from becoming sedentary and boring.”
His funeral was held at The Potter’s House, a church that held 17,000 worshippers. Thousands off police officers from all over the nation attended in their dress blues.
His Pastor described him as a man who instinctively liked and was liked by nearly all who met him.
Emily Thompson told the congregation: “Tuesday, June 21, 2016 was one of the happiest days of my life. I married the most amazing, caring, loving, selfless man I’ve ever known. Brent showed me that even though I would doubt myself from time to time, I’m strong and can do anything. Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 8:58 p.m., that was all ripped from me in an act of senseless violence.”
Brent Alan Thompson was a Master Mason at Corsicana Lodge No 174, the Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM. He was also a former member of the Black Gold Chapter of DeMolay, Corsicana, Texas. The officers of The Grand Lodge of Texas performed his graveside ceremony.
As a DART employee myself, in customer service, I had the honor of meeting and talking to Brother Brent in person on several occasions. It was only weeks before his death in a conversation we had that I leaned that he was a Freemason.
Sandra Hughes, a retired teacher who knew Thompson, told The Washington Post: When he became a grandfather, he “just lived for those little kids.”
“…He was in every way, every way, that you would want your son, and that you would want someone that you knew, to be like. You’d want him to be like Brent. Because Brent, he was just that special,” Hughes said, according to the Post. She described him as calm, never agitated, and “down-to-earth,” the Post said.
And that is exactly the characteristics you will find in most Freemasons. We are a quiet, nonviolent, honest, patriotic lot. We are gentle, nonjudgmental men who build bridges across our communities and preach the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God.
That is the way I remember Brother Brent Thompson. He was an inspiration to everybody he touched.
In this final installment of the Faith Hope and Charity series, we consider the symbolism of charity, or perhaps better called love. It is this attribute that allows the fraternity to “find in every clime a brother, and in every land a home,” the subtext of which Mackey defines in his text from his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.
Charity in Freemasonry
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinth. xiii. 1, 2.)
Such was the language of an eminent apostle of the Christian church, and such is the sentiment that constitutes the cementing bond of Freemasonry.
The apostle in comparing it with faith and hope calls it the greatest of the three, and hence in Masonry, it is made the top most round of its mystic ladder. We must not fall into the too common error that charity is only that sentiment of commiseration which leads us to assist the poor with pecuniary donations. Its Masonic, as well as its Christian application, is more noble and more extensive. The word used by the apostle is, in the original, αγάπη (agápi – agapi) or love — a word denoting that kindly state of mind which renders a person full of goodwill and affectionate regard toward others. John Wesley expressed his regret that the Greek had not been correctly translated as love instead of charity, so that the apostolic triad of virtues would have been, not “faith, hope, and charity,” but “Faith, Hope and Love.” Then would we have understood the comparison made by St. Paul, when he said,
“Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.”
Guided by this sentiment, the true Mason will “suffer long and be kind.” He will be slow to anger and easy to forgive. He will stay his falling brother by gentle admonition, and warn him with kindness of approaching danger. He will not open his ear to his slanderers, and will close his lips against all reproach. His faults and his follies will be locked in his breast, and the prayer for mercy will ascend to Jehovah for his brother’s sins. Nor will these sentiments of benevolence be confined to those who are bound to him by ties of kindred or worldly friendship alone, but, extending them throughout the globe, he will love and cherish all who sit beneath the broad canopy of our universal Lodge. For it is the boast of our Institution, that a Mason, destitute and worthy, may find in every clime a brother, and in every land a home.